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[Utsuwa Sentai Seitenger] Vessel 1: Awakening Of The New Vessels

For the past 5,000 years since the last great battle, there was a force that travelled through space and time to ensure the world’s safety from an inevitable danger and destruction. The humans didn’t know anything about it. Or at least, most of them didn’t know.

Only a few selected individuals knew the truth about those chosen to defend the world. It was a hard task but in the end, those chosen people left the world with the knowledge that the world will continue their lives safe from harm.

But there is still the fear that a certain person’s soul had carried in each of her reincarnations for the past 5,000 years. She knew right before her death that the battle will not be over with just sealing the dark force that once threatened to destroy the world. Their battle will only be over once the dark force had all been destroyed completely.

In the present times, her fear had begun to come to life.

XXXXXX

Somewhere in the mountains…

It was indeed a very beautiful day. Many had gone to do their ways of spending that day to the fullest. In fact, there was one elementary school that had planned a mountain trip for the students that day. From 1st grade to 6th grade, they went to that mountain. Though for each grade, they had different areas in the mountain that they must traverse.

But let’s just take a look at the 1st graders’ tour to the mountain.

Besides having a tour at one of the most revered mountains in the area, the 1st graders also had plans of doing tree planting activity there. Some of the kids were excited, while some where… not exactly giving a care about it. In short, there were kids who looked absolutely bored with it.

There was a boy among them who was just sitting, looking displeased and bored, on one of the big boulders there. He was just looking over his classmates doing the tree planting. But as he did so, he couldn’t keep feeling something weird on the boulder he was sitting at. He stood up to have a look. The weird thing was, he saw some sort of characters vaguely etched on it.

The boy wasn’t so sure but he knew it was in Kanji. And being a first grader, he wasn’t exactly the smart one to be able to read Kanji at his age—especially if it was a Kanji that he could say as difficult as this one. But that wasn’t the only thing he noticed. The characters were actually written in the middle of an etched lotus flower on the same boulder. All were crossed out by a big X mark and there was a hole in the intersection of the X mark. The hole was also situated in between the two Kanji characters.

“This field trip couldn’t get any weirder…” the boy commented with a shake of his head. Just as he said that, his eyes caught something that somewhat looked like a glare from a glass. It came from below the boulder he was sitting at.

Well, no one could help it if it was out of curiosity. The boy crouched down and searched the ground for the source of that glare. After a few moments, he found it. To his amazement, it was a dark purple crystal—similar to that of obsidian.

When things couldn’t get any weirder and boring for the boy, he decided to do something to save himself from dying of boredom.

“Kouta-kun, what are you doing?” From out of nowhere, the boy’s teacher called out.

“Nothing, Sensei!” Kouta shouted back but didn’t dare turn around to have a look. He was too busy etching the Kanji characters clearer and deeper that he saw on the boulder. Kouta did it as careful and exact as he could.

He couldn’t tell why but Kouta felt that there was nothing wrong with doing it and something will happen if he retraced the characters to make it clear. As soon as he finished etching the Kanji characters along with the lotus flower shape, he even etched the big X mark, as well. Feeling satisfied with his own work, there was one more thing he felt was the only thing left to complete it.

But then—

“Kouta-kun!”

The boy turned around this time to see who it was. Much to his disappointment and displeasure, it was his homeroom teacher.

“What do you think you’re doing? You’re not supposed to vandalize anything from this forest.”

“I-I just found it like this, Sensei.”

“Kouta-kun!” Well, that only proved one thing. The teacher didn’t believe him. Then she frowned as she eyed the item on Kouta’s hand. “What is that you’re holding?”

Kouta looked at what the teacher was talking about and that’s when he remembered. He was still holding the crystal that he used to etch the characters and the other drawings clearly.

“Kouta-kun, put it back where you found it. RIGHT NOW!”

For his teacher to use that loud tone, meant that she’s really not in a good mood right now. So instead of putting the crystal back to where he actually found it just like what his teacher wanted him to do (which was on the ground), Kouta decided to place it to where he thought it was originally placed.

Kouta inserted the crystal into the hole situated between the two Kanji characters which was also the intersection point of the big X mark.

At that point, the teacher noticed the characters etched on the boulder. She frowned at the sight of it.

“Kanji…? ‘Binding Seal’?”

Kouta fully inserted the crystal into the hole.

But that’s when something extremely weird started to happen. The X mark glowed bright and the Kanji characters for ‘Binding Seal’ looked like they had shattered from the boulder to where they were etched. The big boulder started cracking in half as the ground violently shook. The others who were on that mountain began to scream and scramble in fear.

“What’s going on, Sensei?” Kouta still managed to ask despite the fear he was feeling as he was holding on to his teacher’s leg.

“We’ll try getting out of here. Okay?”

Kouta nodded as he and the teacher tried to get out of that place. But before they could even get further away from the area near the boulder, both of them stumbled upon tripping onto a big tree root. They were about to get up when they felt something moved from behind them. When the teacher looked back, her eyes widened in surprise and fear as the tree root which stumble them had moved and wrapped the cracking boulder.

The tree root wrapped the boulder completely and soon after, it solidified and formed an even bigger version of the boulder with the wrapped tree root impression. It looked as if the root was trying to seal the cracking boulder. Yet the struggle didn’t last long. The solidified tree root cracked and shattered almost immediately. The glow from the original crack intensified before it got covered by several more magical forces of nature that made both the teacher and Kouta gawk at it. Gust of wind, stream of water, beam of light, and burst of fire—those forces accompanied the revived tree root into binding the dangerously cracking boulder. The intensifying glow from the boulder changed from bright gold to dark purplish black. It was definitely an ominous aura.

Though the two witnesses wanted to see how the events would unfold, the teacher decided to ensure the boy’s safety first. They stood up from the ground and started getting away from that place.

The dangerously magical event continued on as the five forces tried to seal the dark force that was about to be released from the boulder with all its powers. But the struggle this time didn’t last for too long. The dark force was too strong for the other five to contain any longer. The energy that the dark force from the boulder released resulted in a big explosion enough to create earth tremors to prevent people from even standing or sitting up.

The rage of the explosion dissipated after a few more seconds. The scene later revealed a halved boulder now covered in black soot from the recent explosion. But the most terrifying scene revealed was that the area around the boulder had black armored skeleton-like soldiers roaring and cheering like madmen. All of them held large black swords and spears that they waved around as they continued cheering.

A deep dark voice soon echoed from the hole that formed from where the boulder was originally erected. It stopped the soldiers from cheering as the voice caused the ground to shake slightly.

“Soon enough, we’ll be completely freed from all of the five wretched seals, my minions. Now… it’s time! Let those humans have the taste of our powers now that we’re going to be fully released!” the voice roared and the cheering resumed.

Both the deep voice and the cheering loudly resonated all through the areas surrounding the mountain.

At that moment, the terror began.

XXXXXX

Same day, Tsukikage Town…

Everyone knew it was a clear day since the weather had definitely created a lively atmosphere for everyone. They were all doing their own stuff to enjoy the clear weather.

But unbeknownst to the five individuals residing in that town, that clear day would become the deciding moment for their seemingly peaceful lives to change for good.

Hiwara Shuichi, a young man of 23 having his black hair spiked up as he wore leather jacket and jeans, was at the top of the cliff overlooking Tsukikage Town. He could have smiled at the breathtakingly beautiful sight greeting him. But he didn’t show it on his face, even though he was alone at the moment. He was currently resting from a long morning of motorcycling with a few of his friends. He was looking at the scene while leaning on his favorite motorcycle.

In fact, it was his father’s gift to him when he was nine years old. But he was only given permission to ride it when he turned 18 and had his driver’s license courtesy of his father’s friend and current guardian. It wasn’t obvious to most people but he really took really good care of that red motorcycle. It was one of the things that reminded of his family, particularly his father who died during the hotel fire 10 years ago. No one knew why or how the fire started. But Shuichi clearly knew it did a lot more damage than just burn down one of the largest hotels in Yokohama.

The fire also took so many lives that left internal scars to the survivors. He was one of the survivors who had that scar that hadn’t healed from his mind—even in his heart—ever since.

“Hiwara, come on! You’ve been looking at that scene for an hour already. Let’s head back!”

That voice from one of his bike friends brought Shuichi out of his reverie. A sigh escaped his lips and wore his helmet. Upon securing it on his head, Shuichi hopped on to his motorcycle and fled the place, with his friends trailing behind.

“Hey, Shuichi! Wait up!”

A chuckle bubbled up from his throat and looked behind him.

“Race you back to the town!” Shuichi dared and accelerated the speed of his motorcycle driving.

Surprised and disbelieving with the sudden declaration, the rest of Shuichi’s friend accelerated their motorcycle’s speed and tried their best to catch up with the man. But they knew it would be a futile effort since they knew that no one had ever defeated Hiwara Shuichi in terms of motorcycle racing at all.

After all, Shuichi was known as the fastest racer in town.

XXXXXX

Back to the town, another young man (but two years older than Shuichi) with russet-colored layered hair who actually looked younger than his age was busy tinkering his DSLR camera as he sat on one of the park’s benches. It looked like he wasn’t aware of his surroundings at all. But it was only for a few moments. After he was done tinkering his beloved device, a wide triumphant smile became visible on his face.

“You really love your camera so much for you to even forget your breakfast, idiot? I’m not even your nanny, Eichirou! Get up there before I decide to throw your bentou to your face!”

A familiar girl’s voice snapped Mizuhashi Eichirou from his thoughts on his camera that faded his smile for a short moment. When he saw that the girl beginning to fume in anger in front of him was his childhood friend having chocolate-colored long wavy hair that she always put up in a ponytail Tsukimori Kanako, that wide—yet childish—smile appeared on his face this time.

“Kana-chan! That was fast. I thought I wouldn’t have my early lunch anymore.” And there he goes again, tinkering his camera.

Kanako puffed her cheeks in frustration and annoyance to this camera-freak childhood friend of hers. Seriously, all this guy could ever think of was his camera and food to eat. But her frustration and annoyance gradually faded when she saw Eichirou’s genuinely happy expression on his face as he continued looking at the pictures he took during the whole morning.

But Kanako didn’t know something about Eichirou’s pictures.

Eichirou knew that Kanako would go and have her own picture-taking at the park that day. He insisted on coming along using the reason that he also need pictures for his current project—a photo mosaic with a theme of tranquility. But for the whole morning, all he did was to take pictures of the girl he accompanied—albeit he did so in secret.

Weird… but for some reason, the word “tranquility” for him reflected Kanako taking pictures without a care in the world. But he didn’t give a care for that weird feeling he had. All he knew, he had taken enough pictures for one day.

Now it was time for Eichirou to enjoy his beloved early lunch. Doing so, however, started to prove itself hard as Kanako wasn’t giving it to him. He pouted at that.

“Mou… Kana-chan’s mean! I want my lunch!” he whined. Seriously, there were times he really acted like a child naturally.

“After you take it from me. Put some effort in taking it from me or else I’ll let you die in hunger.”

Geez! Kanako didn’t have to be mean to him. But if that was what Kanako wanted, then so be it! He’d take his lunch from her whether she liked it or not.

And so the chase was on for those two.

XXXXXX

On the other hand, an even younger man (just two years younger than Shuichi) having short but thick black hair and skinny body built—which was also obvious on his features—was sitting on a big boulder near the town’s famous lake. This lake, however, was located just below the cliff where Hiwara Shuichi was standing at. The teenage boy was armed with his trusty guitar, notebook, and a pen. And what else was there to do with those things?

That’s right. Hoshiyama Itsuki—despite the stoic look laced with disinterest he always show to people—was one of the upcoming stars in musical composition. Well, many people said that he took after his mother who was one of the best composers in her times. And up to now, he wanted to live up to it. After all, it was one of the few ways to remind him of his dead parents who were both raised with music around them and had actually made them famous even now that they weren’t residing in the world of living anymore.

The composition that he was currently working on was another that bothered him a lot of times. The lake he was looking at was actually one of the places where he could see a mysterious girl calling for help. Well, he only saw her in dreams. And in those dreams, his sister Erika was there as well, assuring the mysterious girl that everything was going to be okay. Weird enough, Itsuki could feel that his sister had actually spoken those words to someone before. But he just couldn’t tell when and where.

The continuous ringing of his phone snapped him out of his trance. He took the phone out of his pocket and immediately opened it as soon as he saw the name of the person calling now on the screen.

“Hello? Is there something wrong, Erika?” he started, with slight hints of worry on his tone. He was always a worrywart for his sister, anyway.

“No. I’m just calling to say that I’ll be practicing at the conservatory instead of the music hall.”

Itsuki frowned. “What made you decide to practice there?”

Erika’s groan was heard on the other line. “Construction noise. I forgot that they’re going to extend the Kawazumi Hall’s east wing starting today. The conservatory is the only area right now where the construction noise won’t distract my concentration.”

Itsuki sighed. Well, Erika does have a point there. “Fine. Do whatever you want. I’ll just finish my composition here for a while before I pick you up. Hideoki-san wouldn’t want us to be late for dinner or else, we’re both dead.”

“Well, you’re the one who’s always coming home late. Not me. I’m not the one who gets scolded most of the time.”

Geez! Does she really have to bring that up again? “Shut up! I’ll pick you up so don’t go anywhere else, okay?”

“You’re one insisting brat, Onii-chan. Bye!” And the line went dead.

Itsuki could only sigh as that action before putting his cellphone back in his pocket and continued on with his song writing. But his hand was somewhat stuck in one position. His mind was travelling somewhere else again.

“If I’m going to be reborn, I only ask for one thing. I want to be with you again in my next life…”

Itsuki felt that those words were actually spoken to him and it was the mysterious girl in his dream who had said that. He knew full well that it was a promise spoken by a girl who was actually determined and hopeful to be with the one she loves in each of her next lives if she were to be born again.

But if those words were really spoken as such, how come he could sense something strange from it? How come he could feel like something important will be taken from him if he decided to know more about those dreams?

Right now, Itsuki chose not to let those wordsbother him. And so he focused on his song writing business for now.

XXXXXX

Meanwhile, on the other side of the town, a petite girl with waist-length brown hair wearing hakama and armed with a longbow and quiver of arrows was walking towards the practice area. Her focus leaned on towards her training for the upcoming archery competition that was about to happen two weeks from now. And for Fuumiya Misae, failure was not an option. After all, she had been undefeated in that field for 5 years in a row. Defending her title for one more year would make her a legend in the town. In other words, a Hall of Famer.

Archery, both western and eastern archery, had been a part of Misae’s life for as long as she could remember. It was one of the things that reminded her of her parents who both died in the hotel fire 10 years ago. After all, they were the ones who taught her a lot about archery since it was their proficiency, though her father leaned more on horseback archery. Coming from a family of legendary archers in the country was something that Misae wanted to continue living up until the end.

Okay… That’s enough reminiscing the past for now.

What she had to focus on at the moment was her training. Well, she had been doing that all morning ever since she asked permission from her guardian early in the morning. But practicing alone in the afternoon was actually the one Misae looked forward to. That way, she could concentrate more and she could actually do more to make sure her shots during the tournament would be precise and her control wouldn’t be a problem. It was something she was famous with, after all.

Upon setting up her garments and materials, especially her bow and arrow in place, Misae’s gaze towards the target board hardened and was calculating. She positioned to her stance and started pulling the string of the bow with an arrow in place. A few calculating moments later, she released the arrow and watched it carefully. A triumphant smile showed on her face when the arrow she launched hit the center. Bull-eye!

She gave herself a satisfying nod and did target shooting for a few more times. Almost all of her shots hit the same place—the center of the target board. Upon realizing that she used up almost all her arrows for that practice, she decided to proceed to the target area to retrieve all of it. But the sounds of someone actually clapping alerted her senses and made her pull the last arrow from the quiver.

“Woah! Before you decide to hit me with that, make sure I have my safety vest to protect me from it.”

Misae seemingly froze to her spot for a few moments before exhaling a sigh of relief that it wasn’t actually an enemy, but her childhood friend.

“Shuichi, next time you decide to surprise me like that, I’ll make sure you’ll end up with more than one arrow poking out of your body,” she warned with a narrowed stare at her biker friend.

Yes, the one who was in front of her was Hiwara Shuichi.

“How long have you been standing there, anyway? Were you watching me practice?”

Shuichi nodded. “Since you started practicing here alone. I had to make sure you go home before dinner or Hideoki-san will kill us. I can’t ask that favor to Eichirou since he was busy arguing with Kanako-chan over his lunch.”

Misae couldn’t help sighing and shaking her head over his other friend’s childish acts again. “Eichirou-san’s really hopeless over as simple as food. No one could actually tell he’s a renowned photographer in town whenever he acts like that.”

“We can’t do anything about it. He’s already like that.” Shuichi’s face became serious. “What time are you heading home, anyway?”

Misae faced the target area where her other arrows landed. “One more round and then I’m done.”

It was the approval Shuichi needed before he placed himself somewhere he could still see Misae’s practice and not disturbing her. He knew full well how Misae valued archery in her life, the same way he valued bike racing in his life.

True to her words, Misae wrapped up her practice after one more round of target shooting. Of course, she left the place with a satisfied look on her face. Now she knew she was ready for the competition, although she couldn’t let her guard down just yet. A lot of things could still happen that might cause her to lose concentration.

Shuichi’s favorite red bike was waiting for them as Shuichi handed Misae his other helmet. No one quite knew but Misae was the only girl so far that had rode Shuichi’s motorcycle and Misae was really proud of that fact, even though she doesn’t actually show it.

With smiles on their faces, Misae and Shuichi rode the motorcycle to head home before their guardian chew them on for being late.

XXXXXX

At the Tsukikage Town’s Music Conservatory, a teenage girl wearing white summer dress over a light blue cardigan with her black hair which length only reach three inches below her shoulder was busy practicing her chosen musical piece on one of the grand pianos there. She chose to practice using the grand piano on the stadium. Only a few people were given permission to use that piano for practicing. Hoshiyama Erika was among them, but she was given permission for one special reason.

That grand piano once belonged to her father who was a famous pianist in their town. His talent in piano was so impressive that it actually earned him several more performances throughout the country. It would have lived on for a long time if his father didn’t die along with her mother in the hotel fire 10 years ago. She and her older brother Itsuki were some of the few survivors of that tragedy.

It had been 10 years, and right now, she was quite happy with her life even though her parents were dead. Her parents’ friend was their current guardian who raised her and Itsuki like his own children.

Erika continued practicing without a care in the world since she needed to do her best for the upcoming piano recital she was going to participate into a month from now. It would also provide her access to study in one of the prestigious music schools in Japan if she did her best and impressed the sponsors. But since she was still having a hard time to decide on whether or not she would actually leave Tsukikage Town for her dream, she would just play the piano to her heart’s content.

She was almost done playing the piece when she suddenly heard footsteps coming from the backstage. Of course, she got startled with that which made her almost immediately stop playing the piano. She was about to leave the stadium and get her things when a familiar voice spoke.

“Geez! It’s just me, Erika. You don’t have to be that scared.”

Erika exhaled sharply when she heard her brother Itsuki’s voice. “Urgh! Do you seriously have to scare me like that, Onii-chan?”

But the answer she got from his was a noncommittal shrug and approached her. Itsuki wordlessly took her bag and started walking away from there. He stopped to his tracks for a short while before turning to face her.

“Come on. We need to head home fast. I don’t want Hideoki-san to scold us when we get there late.”

“Is that all you have to say? Shouldn’t you be saying something to me about your composition?”

No words came out of Itsuki’s mouth after Erika asked those questions. At that point, he really didn’t want to talk about it.

“I’ll show it you when we get home. I’m done composing it, anyway. You can even try playing it, if you want.”

Erika’s face brightened at his words. “Really? I get to play your latest composition?”

Itsuki nodded. This time, with a smile on his face. He rarely smiled in front of everyone but not to Erika. After all, she was one of his reasons to smile.

With those words, Erika followed her brother and clung to his arm. She always does that whenever they go home together. It was a habit ever since the fire that took their parents’ lives 10 years ago. And it was always a gesture that calmed them both, that gave them strength.

“I wonder what Hideoki-san would make for dinner. I realized that I didn’t even have lunch a while back,” Erika suddenly blurted out.

Itsuki frowned. “You didn’t eat your bentou?”

“No. I gave it to the old man selling scraps on the way while I was heading here. It’s better he ate it since he was working very hard.”

Itsuki couldn’t comment anymore about it. He knew Erika was like this, always thinking of others more than her. He could only smile at it.

“Well, I’ll just give you a big portion later before Eichirou-san gets all of it to fill his bottomless stomach.”

The siblings laughed at it before Erika let out an agreeing sound and nodded.

XXXXXX

Taiyou Family Restaurant, 6:03 PM…

The restaurant was already closed at around 6:00 PM, but only on that particular Wednesday since that was the day that Mizuhashi Hideoki would do a certain ritual. But it was a secret ritual that only his cousin knew.

Before he decided to do the ritual, he was in his own working station to prepare the ingredients needed by the next day. As he did so, he was also watching the 6:00 night news. But a certain headline caught his attention. He wasn’t too sure about it, though.

Hideoki stopped slicing the vegetables and increased the volume of the TV for him to be able to hear the news clearly.

“This afternoon, at 1:30, a strong earthquake with a magnitude of 8.7 struck the area near Mt. Kumamoto, killing 312 people…”

But Hideoki wasn’t busy concentrating on the report but on the series of footages overlooking the damage of the aforementioned earthquake. Not only did the scattered bodies of the victims shock him, but also the other damages around the scene. What put him in a state of disbelief was the fact that the damage was something the earthquake didn’t do.

“This can’t be…” were the only words Hideoki could ever utter in shock.

But despite being in shock, he clearly knew one thing.

The victims… moreover, the children… They didn’t die because of the earthquake. Whatever caused the earthquake to happen became the catalyst for their perpetrators to kill them.

It was the terrifying truth which lies in it that Hideoki had been afraid of ever since.

He felt weakened at the truth flashing in his mind with regards to the news. He collapsed to his knees as he kept shaking his head.

“Don’t tell me… It’s time already? Mariko… don’t tell me you knew this would happen?”

XXXXXX

Hoshizora Bookstore, same time…

The owner Kinmura Nanami, cousin of Mizuhashi Hideoki, was busy putting newly-arrived books to their designated shelves. She had already closed her store so she wasn’t worried about incoming customers—most of them were either bookworms or just people who wanted to read a few books to pass the time. As she did so, she was watching the news on TV.

But the currently airing news headline about a field trip that went bad caused Nanami to unconsciously drop the other books she was holding. Her eyes were wide open as she watched the news in shock. She proceeded to increase the volume of her TV to hear it even clearer. It was for her to know that it wasn’t a dream or maybe even a nightmare at all.

312 people, including elementary students, die in a field trip mishap. Cause of 8.7 magnitude earthquake, still undetermined.

It was that byline that made Nanami knew something was weird. What supported her theory was the series of footages with regards to the disastrous event. Being the one familiar with different types of wounds, the sight of the injuries of the victims made her know what exactly killed those teachers and students in that mountain.

“Someone… broke one of the seals?” Nanami managed to utter before continuing to watch the news about the disastrous field trip. After watching related to that, she went to a cabinet on the counter and took a decorated chest box from there.

Nanami carefully looked at the crest engraved on the top of the chest box. It was a fully bloomed lotus flower with its five visible petals having five different colors, starting from red, blue, green, yellow, and white.

“Mariko… if that time had come already, I want you and the others to guide them all the way. Don’t let them suffer even more than they all had been for the past 10 years since that fire…” she whispered as she touched the chest box as careful as she could.

With a distraught expression that gradually changed into a determined one, she decided to finish what she had to do first before heading to her cousin’s house.

XXXXXX

Well, if one could describe disaster, the death of almost 400 people and counting in one day would have been one of the best pictures for it. Too many bodies scattered everywhere around the mountain area. Rescuers, police, even nearby villagers were doing their best to find at least a few survivors in that area.

But there was no such luck.

The police did state to the reporters that the earthquake killed the students, along with their teachers. But they purposely left out one important piece of information and decided not to mention it to the media at all.

Many of the victims actually died not because of the earthquake. Their perpetrator wasn’t the nature’s wrath but a ruthless murderer wielding bladed weapons sharp enough to slice their bodies open, killing them instantly. What was even weirder was the scorched boulder near the scene where they found two more bodies—one belonged to a boy (Kouta) and a teacher.

Even normal humans could feel that something ominous was lurking around the area.

If only they knew, that ominous feeling would soon spread out to continue an ancient agenda—one that threatens to destroy everything…

XXXXXX

Mizuhashi Mansion…

Things couldn’t get any weirder.

Before finding out one by one that Hideoki wasn’t in his working station of the Taiyou Sweets and Pastry Shop or in the kitchen of the mansion, Shuichi, Eichirou, Itsuki, Misae, and Erika had actually found themselves arriving at the house’s gate almost at the same time.

“This has never happened before… AT ALL!” Eichirou stated with a laugh.

Shuichi nodded. “I agree.”

“Well, maybe because we’re all hungry,” Misae said.

“…or we’re just afraid of getting scolded by Hideoki-san if we come home late for dinner,” Itsuki added placidly.

Erika sighed. “And we’ll be scolded even more if we stay here any longer. We have to find Hideoki-san first since he wasn’t at the restaurant.”

“That rarely even happens,” Misae commented.

But Eichirou immediately stopped to his tracks that the others noticed.

“What’s wrong, Eichirou-san? Did you forget something?” Erika asked.

Eichirou shook his head. “Nothing. I just remembered that today is actually important to us. Especially for Dad…”

The other four exchanged glances at each other. At that point, it all hit them.

“Mariko-san’s death anniversary…” Shuichi muttered.

“…which makes tomorrow a especially sad day for the four of us, as well,” Itsuki stated. “After all…”

“…it will be our parents’ death anniversary,” Misae finished.

“Well, before we all become gloomy around here, let’s just do something about dinner. I guess Dad left without even cooking dinner for the five of us,” Eichirou said, breaking the gloomy atmosphere surrounding them.

Agreeing to that, the rest entered the house to follow Eichirou.

For the past 10 years since the hotel fire that took their parents’ lives, the Mizuhashi mansion had been the house that Shuichi, Misae, Itsuki, and Erika resided and where they had grew up. They grew up together like siblings, and Eichirou treated them as such. Among the group, only Eichirou wasn’t the person whom one would call a total orphan. He still had his father who, in turn, had become the other four’s guardian. Hideoki saved them from the fire and raised them all these years. But Eichirou’s mother Mizuhashi Mariko died of a terminal illness 2 years prior to the hotel fire.

In a way, Eichirou knew what it was like to lose someone important in life. He was a Mama’s boy, after all.

The five of them were surprised to see dinner actually served and ready to be eaten on the dining table.

“I guess Dad didn’t forget our stomachs, after all,” Eichirou commented.

“You’re the only one who thinks like that, Eichirou-san,” Itsuki retorted which earned him a pout and a slight glare from Eichirou.

“Mou! Itsu-chan’s mean to me again!”

Misae and Shuichi just smiled while Erika giggled.

“Then stop acting like a baby if you want Itsuki-kun to treat you nicely,” Misae said as she began to help the others serve the dinner.

When the five of them already sat to their designated seats, Shuichi looked around one more time. “I hope Hideoki-san wouldn’t mind if we eat dinner without him.”

“We’ll just ask forgiveness if he did get angry about that,” Erika said.

“Itadakimasu!”

And the dinner started without Hideoki who usually sit on a chair designated for the head of the household. It felt weird, that the other family jester wasn’t having dinner with them. Now, it actually felt sort of incomplete without Hideoki.

“I wonder what happened. Dad doesn’t usually forget to have dinner with all of us, even during Mom’s death anniversary,” Eichirou started in the middle of their dinner.

“That’s not the only weird thing that happened today,” Misae said as she was done munching her food. “Did you guys see the news? The one about the earthquake at Mt. Kumamoto.”

“You guys saw it, too? It was a total disaster,” Eichirou commented as he resumed eating his food. This time, he put a spoonful of it right in his mouth.

“But if it was in Mt. Kumamoto, shouldn’t we have felt it, too? I mean, we’re only a few kilometers away from the site,” Erika stated.

“Something’s really off about it,” Shuichi added.

“About what?” Misae asked. “The earthquake? It’s a natural disaster. Mother Nature can be extremely surprising sometimes.”

“Not the earthquakes. The deaths,” Itsuki answered nonchalantly while busy slicing the meat on his plate.

“I only saw a few about the bodies lying in the mountain where the field trip took place. But Itsuki’s right. The earthquake isn’t the one considered weird. It’s how the victims died,” Shuichi added.

Erika shrugged. “The earthquake is still considered weird to me, Shuichi-san. I mean, they couldn’t actually locate the epicenter of the quake even after using all of their instruments to determine that.”

“What could’ve caused it, I wonder?” Misae mumbled.

XXXXXX

Tareus Dimension…

Eternal darkness filled with ominous aura… This was probably one of the most concrete descriptions for this place. In the center of that dark evil dimension lies a large mass used as a platform by the crystalline fortress the floated there.

It was a fortress called the Fortress of Dark Screams.

For the past 5,000 years since the dimension was last opened, it had been the realm where the dark force that once threatened the world’s safety was sealed. But revenge could be a very powerful drive for those who were determined to destroy the very world they once wanted to conquer.

A child’s curiosity rendered one of the ancient warrior’s seals to be broken.

“Foolish humans… Who would’ve thought that a boy’s curiosity will break one of the five seals that the wretched Priestess of Life and her retainers had cast upon our kind?” the Dark Shadow Emperor Darshao muttered with a maniacal laugh. He was sitting on his throne inside the top tower of the Tareus Castle inside the Fortress of Dark Screams, ever proud of his demonic-looking subjects as he eyed them all with a smile—or maybe it was more of… a smirk?

“I guess she’s not really as powerful as we all thought she was,” one of the 7 Great Shadow Defenders, the revered deadliest Assassin Alvre, stated.

“She is powerful, Alvre. We wouldn’t have been sealed for the past 5,000 years if she wasn’t,” the Wise Orcus, another of the 7 Great Shadow Defenders, said.

“But now, one of the seals was broken. We wouldn’t have to worry about her appearing before us to stop our plan of rising to the surface and destroy the Earth for good,” Nemia, the Shinobi and a part of the 7 Great Shadow Defenders, responded.

The rest of the Defenders faced Emperor Darshao and bowed.

“What is your plan, Your Majesty?”

No words came out of the leader’s mouth… at least for a while.

“We need to make sure that no one will ever stop us from destroying this world that she protected.”

“That’s already possible, Your Majesty,” Commander of the 7 Great Shadow Defenders Karkino said. “The Priestess of Life was already dead. She died right after sealing us 5,000 years ago. No one will be able to stop us from implementing our plan.”

“Do you really know the Priestess’ ability that much, Karkino?” Orcus interjected. “Her body might have been gone but her powers weren’t.”

Karkino growled. “Just do your own business, Orcus! Stay with your precious scrolls and rot with them.” After that, he stormed out of the Throne Room.

“Tsk! Karkino… He’s ever the short-tempered,” Nemia commented before facing Orcus with a calculating stare. “Are you sure about what you said earlier, Orcus?”

“Orcus had never been wrong, Nemia,” the most aggressive Defender, General Siriso, stated. “Five thousand years of stealing the scrolls using the small gaps from the 5 seals and studying all of those related to the Priestess of Life provided him the knowledge we need to continue our plan.”

“Hmm… It seems to me you have your own plan, General,” Alvre said with a knowing evil smile.

Her words caught Emperor Darshao’s attention. “Is that true, Siriso?”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” Siriso replied with a bow. “I’ll do the initial plan to ensure that no one will try and be reckless to defy us and our powers. If there are such beings, I’ll immediately proceed with the plan to destroy them forever.”

Darshao nodded, seemingly agreeing with the General’s plan.

“Thank you, Your Majesty!” And with that, Siriso vanished.

Darshao’s grip to the hilt of his sword tightened as he recalled the humiliation he received from the wretched Priestess 5,000 years ago.

Everything you’ve protected all this time, Priestess… I’ll make sure to let you see the destructive end of it!

A growl of frustration and determination resonated throughout the entire Tareus Castle, causing the ground where the fortress stood to tremble badly.

XXXXXX

Back to the Mizuhashi household, it wasn’t true that the head of the family—Mizuhashi Hideoki—left the five children in the house all by themselves. The truth was, he was staying in the family room—located outside the mansion separate from it—the entire time after watching the news.

He was sure his cousin Nanami watched it, as well. It wouldn’t take him a second to know that both of them had concluded one thing upon realizing the truth behind that horrific incident. The cause of the earthquake wasn’t something natural. The damage alone proved it.

At that moment, though, it worried him to no end. Hideoki had to do what was right. It was his wife’s last wish to him before she died, after all.

“Hideoki, you don’t have to worry about me. Just concentrate on what we had vowed to protect. I made everything ready for those kids. All you have to do is raise them to become the warriors that they’re destined to be. When the right time comes, they’ll know the truth about their duties. I’ll do my best to guide them to the right direction. Please… protect them for me… Protect our son… and the others. I’m begging you, Hideoki…”

It was his wife’s pleading words that he last heard from her before she left him and their son Eichirou. But it was those words that propelled him to do what she had asked him to. Those words became the premonition of a duty he had to fulfill not just for his wife, but also for the people who still believed that they couldn’t stop those children’s destiny.

In fact, two years after Mariko’s death, Hideoki learned that his wife had predicted a “disastrous enemy that will engulf the fate of the world in an inferno” as she had put it. That “disastrous enemy” was the hotel fire where he rescued Shuichi, Isae, and the Hoshiyama siblings…

And to think all of those events happened in that predicted hotel fire 10 years ago…

While watching Hideoki as his eyes were closed, Nanami couldn’t help feeling worried. Ever since her husband died in that fire, she knew that the danger they were all bound to face was about to come. Just as how Hideoki did everything he could to protect Mariko’s wishes, Nanami was also the same. She would do all that she could to help Hideoki protect Mariko and Eisuke’s final wishes for those five kids.

But she never realized that the moment they all had feared to arrive would come this soon.

“Hideoki.”

The said person opened his eyes and faced Nanami with an unusually solemn look on his face.

“Is this really the right time for them to know the truth?” Nanami queried worriedly.

Hideoki didn’t say anything as he looked at the chest box that Nanami brought with her upon going to the dojo. A sigh from him followed.

“There was never a right or wrong time to do what was needed. But all we can do is open a path for them to take. The rest of the journey is up to them whether they accept it or not.”

Nanami’s hands on her lap clenched to a fist as she looked at the chest box as well. So it’s still up to them, huh?

XXXXXX

“Ah!” Eichirou exclaimed with a gleeful and satisfied smile on his face as he leaned on the backrest of the chair and rubbed his tummy. “I’m full! Dad really makes the most delicious meals ever!”

Itsuki rolled his eyes and started helping Isae cleaning the table. “Everything’s delicious for you, Eichirou-san, whether it was Hideoki-san’s cooking or just plain street food.”

“Why do you have to be mean to me all the time, Itsu-chan?”

Itsuki twiched at the sound of Eichirou’s nickname to him. “As far as I know, being honest is completely different from being mean.”

“Well, you’re acting mean,” Eichirou retorted.

“Seriously, you’re going to start this again? Put it on hold for now and continue that tomorrow—” Misae said but Erika soon cut it off.

“—and do it outside the house, please?”

“Do it AFTER we visit our parents’ graves. Give us a break from your arguments, okay?” Shuichi added as he started helping, as well.

Eichirou was about to say something when they heard the bell clank coming from the back door. He frowned.

“Wait a minute… I thought Dad was out.”

They all exchanged glances to each other.

“Did anyone check the family room?” Shuichi asked.

The rest shook their heads.

“I didn’t even think Hideoki-san would stay there, especially on this particular day,” Erika answered.

“Is it me or everything that has happened today keeps on getting weirder and weirder?” Itsuki added. “The earthquake, the five of us arriving at the same time, Hideoki-san going missing…”

“Maybe it was just a coincidence,” Misae speculated but her voice proved otherwise. “Besides, what could possibly happen on this particular day to us and even to Hideoki-san?”

That is, until Erika decided to do something. “I’ll go check whoever entered through the back door.” She left the table mop to Itsuki and proceeded to the back door.

But even before Erika could fully leave the kitchen, she stopped to her tracks and frowned at the sight of the person who had come from the back door. “Nanami-san, don’t scare us like that.”

Nanami smiled at the girl’s words but Erika noticed that it didn’t actually reach the woman’s eyes.

Weird. Her smile isn’t like this whenever she comes here and greets us. Did something happen?

“Auntie!” Eichirou exclaimed and frowned soon after. “What made you come here?”

Instead of answering Eichirou’s question, Nanami looked around and saw that the five kids were already done eating their dinner. “I see you’re done eating.” She faced the five kids. “Hideoki wants all of you to go to the family room.”

After that, Nanami left them all frowning in confusion. Things sure had gotten a lot weirder than ever.

The five of them looked at each other to get answers… perhaps. But what could they possibly be? They were all clueless about all this.

“Let’s just hope we’re not in trouble or hell in this house will surely break lose if we made Hideoki-san angry,” Itsuki said that broke the silence.

The rest just nodded. If there was one thing they never wanted to face, it was Hideoki’s wrath when mad. In trouble or not, it was for the best that they face the head of the Mizuhashi household.

XXXXXX

But upon entering the family room, the five couldn’t help feeling something weird about the atmosphere inside. It was actually somewhere between tensed and overly scary—for the lack of a better word.

What could have possibly made this kind of atmosphere?

“Mou! Dad, you should’ve told us you’re here all along,” Eichirou was the first to talk that gradually lessened the tension.

But Hideoki didn’t falter. He was still looking at the youngsters with serious expression that even Eichirou considered being totally weird.

“Dad… Are we in trouble?”

“Wow! He really asked that to the point,” Itsuki commented.

“Onii-chan!” Erika hissed. Itsuki did shut up.

Hideoki sighed. “Just take a seat and I’ll tell you the reason soon.”

The youngsters obliged to that and sat on the cushions laid in front of Hideoki and Nanami.

“This is going to take a while so I want you to listen. And please, you must listen to me carefully,” Hideoki said with hints of plea in his voice.

The rest, though completely confused towards Hideoki’s actions, just nodded to assure the man. This was a completely different Hideoki for the five of them and to be honest, this was the first time they saw him like this.

“I don’t know if you’re really aware of the truth but I believe I told you that I was your parents’ friend. But I guess it’s time for me to tell you the real reason why your parents died that night 10 years ago. And it’s time for me to tell you the truth why Eisuke and I had desperately save the four of you from that fire,” Hideoki started.

Of course, it surprised Shuichi, Misae, Itsuki, and Erika upon hearing that. Eichirou only eyed his father in confusion. If that was the case, then he must have nothing to do with the issue since he wasn’t at the hotel fire that night.

“You’re still involved in the issue, Eichirou, if you’re thinking of leaving—” Nanami paused. “—since it was your mother who predicted the deaths of your friends from that fire.”

Eichirou froze at those words. His mother? “Auntie… What do you mean she predicted their deaths?”

Hideoki heaved a sigh before he started talking. “Mariko’s last wish to me was to save Shuichi, Misae, Itsuki, and Erika from dying in that fire. It was supposed to be the fire that will end everything that those who knew the truth had fought for in the last 5,000 years. Those people include us and your parents.”

“Mariko predicted the deaths of this world’s last hope to defeat the enemy that will destroy us if we don’t do something to stop it,” Nanami added.

“Hideoki-san, I don’t really understand what you mean,” Misae remarked.

“You’re telling that our parents died for us to continue… whatever they were fighting for?” Shuichi queried in confusion.

“You’re talking as if we’re some world savior here,” Itsuki said in slight disbelief.

But the others couldn’t see even the slightest hint of joke from Hideoki’s words. They couldn’t tell if he was starting to go crazy or what.

“Vessels…” Erika suddenly muttered that caught everyone’s attention. “Could it be that… you’re talking about the Vessels of the Heavenly Spirit Guardians’ Powers?”

“You know about it, Erika-chan?” Nanami inquired. Erika hesitantly nodded. “But how?”

“It’s actually… from a dream…”

Hideoki frowned. “What do you mean a dream?”

“A woman… spoke to me in my dream… about the fate of the world if we died. She looked a lot like…” Erika trailed off.

“A lot like who?” Itsuki asked even though he couldn’t help feeling frustrated that his sister never mentioned anything about that to him at all.

Erika looked around as if she was trying to remember something by looking for something from her surroundings. It was like that for a few moments until her eyes widened at the sight of a portrait that she had only seen at the moment.

“Like her!” Erika exclaimed as she pointed at the portrait of a regal woman wearing an elegant celestial robe. It was painted in a scroll that was hanging above Mariko’s framed picture.

The others looked at the portrait. Confusion filled the four youths, but extreme surprise appeared on both Hideoki and Nanami’s faces upon seeing that.

“It can’t be…”

XXXXXX

As the discussion was going on, they had no idea that a sinister plan was about to be put into action in continuation to the terror that was released during the devastating mountain incident.

“Daytime… that should be the perfect spotlight for me to do what I have to do,” Siriso mumbled as he stood on the rooftop of the tallest building of the area.

He was eyeing the peaceful town with a grin.

“Juman!” he growled as he called the name.

Soon after, a rune circle appeared behind Siriso followed by a black-armored monster materializing in the middle of it.

“You called for me, Siriso-sama?” Juman politely inquired as he bowed.

“We’ll proceed… as soon as the sun rises. I want to hear everyone’s screams of despair, fear, and pain the moment they start their days.”

A maniacal laugh soon followed it as thunder roared and lightning struck through the sky.

XXXXXX

“Now that I think about it, who is that woman, anyway?” Eichirou asked as he eyed the portrait on the scroll. “I’ve seen you and Mom hanging that portrait near the family shrine for as long as I can remember. But I never really know who she was.”

“Come to think of it, I have a similar dream the night before the fire,” Misae suddenly declared. “But it wasn’t a woman who told me about the Vessels.”

“Then who did?” Nanami asked.

“It was a falcon.”

Well, that wasn’t exactly the answer they were expecting.

“A falcon? Are you serious?” Eichirou asked incredulously.

Now even Itsuki and Shuichi tried to recall the events before the fire that might have been similar to what had happened to Misae and Erika.

“Would ripples of water considered to be a message giver?” Eichirou queried all of a sudden.

Itsuki groaned that made him slap his forehead. “Great! Now Mother Nature could talk to you. How is it possible for water to actually give you a message about these Vessels whatsoever?”

“I’m serious!” Eichirou insisted.

“Since when?” Itsuki retorted.

Eichirou exhaled before he got close to exploding and actually beat up Itsuki. “I had that weird dream the night before Mom’s 2nd death anniversary. Actually, I think I even heard Mom’s voice from the ripples.”

Hideoki listened carefully to what the kids were saying. As he listened to them, most of the question he had tried his best of looking for answers were slowly being… well, answered. “What about you two, Shuichi, Itsuki?”

The two boys didn’t say a word for a few moments. Until…

“The fire surrounding me and Misae that night…” Shuichi answered in a soft tone. He closed his eyes, perhaps trying to get a clear picture of the event. “They were increasingly hot. But instead of scorching us like what it did to the others, the fire only surrounded the two of us. It was as if… it was forming a circle to protect us. I don’t know how, but I think I even heard voices saying ‘we will protect both of you, so do not worry…’ or something like that.”

Hideoki nodded, as if saying he understood. Then he faced Itsuki. “It seems to me you’ve also experienced weird thing similar to this before the fire.”

To Itsuki, he felt that the way Hideoki said those words were a statement that the man knew about it. “The trees… particularly those that were near Kawazumi Hall and Prince Palace Hotel… The way they rustled with the wind made it as if they were actually talking to me.”

“Did they say something in particular?” Erika asked.

“They were all muffled to me. I don’t know. I can’t really tell.” Of course, that was when Itsuki noticed something. “Wait a minute… If all of these weird events happened before and during the fire ten years ago, how come we only remember it now?”

Realizing that Itsuki had a point, the other four youngsters exchanged glances at each other before trying their luck in finding answers to the person whom they felt could provide it for them.

“They were deliberately blocked from your memories… until such time that the truth about your destiny and its accompanying responsibility shall be revealed to the five of you,” Nanami was the one who chose to speak for Hideoki. “Your dreams, your visions—they were all warnings to all of you about the life that you are destined to face when the time comes.”

“Then those dreams, visions, and whatever weird events that had happened to us before and during the fire…”

“Nanami-san said that our visions are warnings about our destiny. That means… the five of us are the current chosen Vessels of the Heavenly Spirit Guardians’ Powers…” Misae finished Itsuki’s words.

Hideoki nodded as soon as he sighed. “Your parents discovered ahead of time of the future that lies ahead of you. They were told about your destinies the same way you learned about the Vessels’ existence. And it is those destinies that made them do what they all could to protect you. It even includes risking their lives just to make sure you wouldn’t die.”

Having all those information absorbed by their brains was definitely an overloaded task for them. But the five of them knew one thing. Hideoki wasn’t showing on his face that everything he was telling them was a mere joke. To be honest, they really didn’t know what to think about all of the revelation.

“Why did our parents have to do that? What could possibly happen if we did die along with them?” Itsuki still managed to ask the older man despite the confusion he felt from the entire information overload.

“If the five of you did die before the formal awakening—” Nanami paused as she emphasized on the word ‘die’. “—the passing of the souls and powers will not happen anymore. The cycle will be cut. There had been a legend that if the chosen Vessels die before the awakening, it will become the end of everything that our ancestors and your predecessors had fought for and protected for the past 5,000 years.”

No one could tell why, but somehow, the youngsters could actually feel the fear coming from Nanami’s voice. But even though they could feel it, it wasn’t going to help them at all. If they wanted to know the whole truth, they had to deal with this.

“It’s the powers that came from the Heavenly Spirit Guardians that chose you as Vessels. They’re informing us about it through various visions of your destinies. That’s how your parents knew that you’re the chosen Vessels,” Nanami answered.

“Was that the reason… they all died that night?” Shuichi softly uttered. “The fact that they knew we’re the so-called Vessels… they died in order to allow us to fulfill it?”

No one said a word to answer Shuichi’s question. At the time, no one could tell if that was the reason of their parents’ deaths or if there was more to what Nanami and Hideoki had already known.

“Hideoki-san, why tell this to us now? And why at this particular point in time?” Itsuki managed to ask.

It took a while for Hideoki to decide on the matter of answering the composer’s question. But since it already came to this, he might as well tell the truth. The situation called for it. He took a deep breath before speaking. “You all have watched the news about the recent incident, right?”

The five youngsters frowned in confusion as to why Hideoki would ask such a random question. They nodded, anyway.

“But what would that got something to do with what we’re discussing now, Dad?” Eichirou inquired.

“Someone… or something in that mountain broke one of the five seals that had imprisoned the dark force that once threatened to destroy our world 5,000 years ago,” Nanami informed.

It wasn’t long for the five of them to realize what exactly was going on for the two elders to decide on telling them about their destinies as the chosen Vessels.

“Though we still want you to continue living peacefully and far from danger, the current situation refused to let us allow all of you to do so,” Hideoki said before any of the five could say anything.

The finality in the tone of Hideoki’s voice had told them that the two elders were already in a pinch. Accepting the situation or not was not the option anymore. None of them would be able to do something as declining the task that would go with the revelation.

Soon after, Nanami took something that was placed a few paces behind her. It was a chest box that had a silhouette of a lotus flower painted on it. Colors of the five visible large petals of the flower were shown in red, blue, green, yellow, and white representing the elements of fire, water, earth, wind, and light respectively.

“Isn’t this… Mom’s chest box?” Eichirou uttered in confusion and slight surprise.

Hideoki took it from Nanami’s hold and placed it in front of him. After that, he opened it for the five Vessels to see its contents. Deep frown was the only visible expression on their faces upon seeing that. There were two sets of items laid in that particular chest box—one looked like cylindrical in shape and the other looked like balls—and all were bearing the same symbol that was on the chest box, only gold in color.

“They’re called Celestial Shifters, and Mariko made them using the last of her life force in order to protect the Heaven’s Medallions inside each of it,” Nanami explained.

Of course, hearing Mariko’s involvement in the creation of those items caused another surprised reaction from Eichirou. “Why would Mom do that? Use the last of her life force to create those things?”

“Just like what we told you a while back, Mariko predicted the deaths of the next chosen Vessels before the awakening. Eichirou, your mother only wanted to prevent that from happening,” Nanami stated gravely.

Hideoki pushed the opened chest box towards Eichirou and his friends. “Please… I know it will be hard. But I’m begging you. Assume your responsibilities as the new chosen Vessels.”

What surprised the five youngsters was the fact that Hideoki wasn’t only begging them to do the task, but he also bowed deeply just to convince them further. They couldn’t tell if it was done out of desperation or something more. But the sight was indeed surprising. Even Nanami did the same.

Reluctance was still evident on each of the Vessels’ faces. But in order to assure their guardians who had taken care of them all this time, they took what they felt was their respective Celestial Shifters.

The five of them knew that accepting these Celestial Shifters meant that they had accepted the responsibility that went with it—and that was to become the new Vessels. It was the responsibility—and most of all, the destiny—that their loved ones had protected with their lives.

But somehow, having that kind of thought in their minds seemed to be a heavy one for them to bear.

What could possibly happen now that they chose to do this?

XXXXXX

Apparently, the thought of assuming their alleged responsibilities as Vessels proved itself to be extremely disturbing. And the five of them hadn’t managed to sleep well the other night because of that.

That was why, the dawn of the next day, they all headed somewhere to clear their minds before they start their days. But they did that in two groups.

The first group was consisted of Misae, Shuichi, and Eichirou. The three of them came up with an idea of taking a stroll down the beach in hopes that the sea breeze could calm their minds. It was originally Eichirou’s idea. Shuichi and Misae just tagged along since biking and archery would only make them sad since those hobbies reminded them of their respective parents.

And to think it was their parents’ death anniversary on that particular day, as well…

Surely, things couldn’t get any gloomier for Shuichi and Misae.

“Eichirou…” Shuichi ventured upon noticing that the eldest of the group appeared to be in deep thought ever since they arrived at the beach.

“Hmm…?”

Shuichi eyed Misae and the girl seemed to have understood what it meant. She sighed and walked alongside Eichirou. “What made you decide to come here?”

But they hadn’t gotten any answer from him. It was only for a short while, though. They saw him stop walking and faced the sea as Eichirou smiled wistfully at the slowly rising sun.

“Mom told me before she died… that if I want to talk to her or if I want to fade my worries away, the sea would wash it away for me. The sea breeze would comfort me just as how her hands would wipe my tears away and would embrace me when I was feeling lonely and lost. The sun rising from the horizon would make me smile just the same way her smile was able to lift up my spirit whenever I’m down.” Eichirou chuckled at those words afterward. “I never even realized that she died in order to fulfill something that big. I always thought that she died because she had been sick for a long time.”

Shuichi and Misae glanced at each other upon hearing that from Eichirou. So even the energetic and the person with the most childish personality among the group had long kept this kind of thoughts in his mind.

The biker soon approached Eichirou and tapped the latter’s shoulder. “You know, I still envy you for that.”

His words made Eichirou frown and face him. “What’s there to be envious about?”

“That you still had the chance to talk to your mother like that before she died,” Misae was the one who answered it. “We never had that chance when our parents were killed that night.”

“They just told us that no matter what happens, they’ll always be with us. Whatever it is that lies ahead of our paths, they would do their best to protect us,” Shuichi added with a sigh. “I should’ve known that there was more to that fire than just a freak accident.”

Misae nodded. “And to think Hideoki-san would save us from that fire.” Then she faced Eichirou with a smile. “I guess that’s how Hideoki-san really loved your mother, Eichirou-san. Even though it was extremely dangerous, because of her prediction about Shuichi, Itsuki-kun, Erika-chan, and I dying in that fire, he charged towards the burning building just to save us. He still values her wishes more than anything else.”

Giving it a careful thought, Eichirou had to admit that Misae had a point on that. His father only thought about on how to protect them and ease the pain of losing the people they loved, never his own sacrifices and pain. “To be honest, that was the first time I’ve seen Dad that serious and had begged us to do something.”

“That’s because it is a task that he couldn’t do for our sakes,” Shuichi stated. “I can tell that if there’s such ability that could take away our duties as the new Vessels from us and place it to him, I know he would do whatever it takes to have that ability.”

“This would be the first and the last favor that—” Misae paused, closed her eyes for a few seconds, then opened them again. “—that I will fulfill whatever it takes. At least… this is my way of thanking him for saving us from that fire and taking care of us for the past ten years.”

“Misae…”

“Mi-chan…”

The archer took a deep breath and smiled at the rising sun. “I guess being unable to sleep a wink last night and feeling the sea breeze today helped me come up with that decision.”

The two boys eyed Misae for a few moments before ending up chuckling. Shuichi just shook his head in slight disbelief while Eichirou smiled widely. But before they could say something about that, the three of them heard beeping sounds coming from their respective Celestial Shifters.

They noticed that the lotus symbol on their Shifters’ covers were… blinking.

“What could this mean?” Shuichi queried.

But the answer they all got was a series of explosion coming from the main plaza.

XXXXXX

Meanwhile, the second group consisting of the Hoshiyama siblings decided to go to the Music Conservatory in order to think what Itsuki and Erika heard the other night was definitely something that was out of this world. But the fact that their parents died in order to protect the truth was enough for both of them to think that the world was really unfair.

For 10 years, they’ve lived with the fact that the fire did take something important away from them. But now, they realized that the fire also hid the reality that they were destined to face as the chosen Vessels.

Itsuki touched the keys of the piano on the stadium—the very same piano that Erika was using the other day to practice.

Erika could only look at her brother whose mind was surely wandering aimlessly somewhere. She couldn’t even say anything to make him snap out of it. But what could she possibly say to him? Even she was shocked upon hearing the revelation. And yet, learning all that made her realize that her parents knew she and her brother could be more than being musicians.

“Onii-chan…” Erika called in hopes of distracting Itsuki and stop him from spacing out even more. “Are you angry?”

For a few moments, it was total silence that surrounded the siblings. Then Itsuki sighed and started playing a few notes onto the piano. But abruptly, he stopped.

“Whether I’m angry or not, it doesn’t even matter. Mother and Father were already dead. They died protecting us and our true reason for existing in this world,” Itsuki stated with his hand bawled into fist.

“But that doesn’t mean we had lived for this long just because we are the chosen Vessels,” Erika said in understanding before holding Itsuki’s fist. She felt Itsuki loosening up at that gesture. “Hideoki-san said it last night. The current situation prevented us from continuing to live our lives peacefully. It only means that even though we are Vessels, he still wanted us to live like normal people.”

Itsuki exasperatingly sighed and looked at Erika incredulously. “How in the world can you still think like that?”

“Like what?”

“Like you’re not even bothered by what we learned at all.”

The pianist looked intently at her composer brother before answering. “Even if I admit that I’m really bothered, how will that change the fact that we’re destined to fulfill this? It won’t change anything. But it will be enough for us to realize that Mother and Father defended our destinies with their lives so that we could protect the world that they immensely cherished till the day they died.”

“You’re talking strangely formal again,” Itsuki commented to which Erika just replied with a giggle. He looked intently at his sister this time. “Are you sure about doing that?”

Erika covered Itsuki’s hand with both of hers. “Onii-chan, I won’t be able to know how far I’ll go if you constantly hold on to me like this. I know you’re worried and scared to death—”

“Hey! I’m not scared.”

“—but the moment I was told of my destiny as one of the five Vessels, I realized that this is my chance for me to know that.”

“Erika…”

The girl smiled to assure Itsuki. “I’ll be alright, Onii-chan. You just got to believe that. Okay?”

Well, if Erika started giving speech like that which discussed faith in her, then Itsuki knew he couldn’t say anything to retort to that. He nodded as an answer to that which made Erika’s smile widen.

“Thank you so much, Onii-chan!” And because of excitement, she tackled her brother in a big hug.

But that brother-sister moment was interrupted upon hearing something like continuous beeping. Realizing that they brought their Celestial Shifters with them, and it was possibly be the ones beeping, both of them immediately checked their pockets where they were placed. They were right, the beeping came from their Celestial Shifters with which the lotus symbol on the covers were blinking.

The siblings looked at each other with a frown.

“No one’s possibly calling us using this, right?” Itsuki uttered. “I mean, we just got them from Hideoki-san last night.”

Erika shrugged and started walking away from the stage. “Maybe we should head home.”

But before any of them could move further, they saw the Music Conservatory’s caretaker Kawabata entering the music hall. They saw him panting and in slight panic. Worried, Erika approached the said person.

“Kawabata-san, are you alright?” she worriedly asked.

“Did something happen?” Itsuki followed suit and approached the adult man.

Kawabata took a deep breath after recovering. “It’s better if you two should stay here for a while just until the commotion is over.”

“Commotion?” The siblings repeated almost at the same time that deepened their frowns. They looked at each other again.

“Don’t tell me…?”

But a loud explosion coming from the main plaza only heightened their suspicion of what could possibly make their Celestial Shifters react.

XXXXXX

One big explosion… followed by another one.

But that wasn’t the only horrifying scene that shocked the people and caused chaos in the main plaza of Tsukikage Town. Those explosions were caused by monstrous beings-the Gargonema-mercilessly killing people one after another.

“That’s it! That’s the way to do it!” the Triske Monster Juman yelled as he continued laughing maniacally while killing people using his thorned arms that could extend quite far.

Juman continued swinging his arms towards its victims, immediately blasting them away the moment the thorn arms hit them. The Gargonema killed the other citizens with their swords without mercy.

In less than ten minutes, lifeless bodies of the humans were left scattered on the road and at the plaza.

This was the horrific scene that greeted the five Vessels upon arriving. Gaping at it didn’t seem to be enough as an expression of surprise for them.

“You’ve got to be kidding…” was the only words Erika could utter.

“Just who in the world are these guys?” Eichirou exclaimed but immediately clamped him mouth upon realizing that the weird-looking beings killing the citizens one by one mercilessly might hear him. But in the end, he doubted that it would even happen.

The area was filled with screams of the citizens blending with the growls and battle cries of the creatures attacking them.

“They could be the ones responsible for the deaths at Mt. Kumamoto yesterday,” Itsuki concluded. “That means…”

“They were the enemies released from one of the broken seals. That means these guys are the ones that the chosen Vessels had been trying to destroy for several millennia,” Shuichi added. And for him, it was a dreadful fact that they needed to start dealing with.

“We need to do something. I can’t take this anymore!” Misae said desperately.

Shuichi exasperatingly sighed. “Even if we want to help, what in the world can we do?”

“Use your Celestial Shifters to transform and access your powers.”

Upon hearing that, the five Vessels turned around almost immediately and saw Hideoki approaching them with the same grave look he had since the night before.

“Dad! What are you doing here?”

“I figured you will have a hard time knowing what to do,” Hideoki answered. “I used the Hasureiki from the Heaven’s Medallions in your Celestial Shifters to locate you. So don’t be shocked that I immediately figured out where you are.”

“Then how are we going to stop all these… whoever are these bunch of weird creatures?” Eichirou immediately asked.

“They’re called the Gargonema, Eichirou. They’re the foot soldiers of the Dark Shadow Defenders… or they’re most commonly known to the people who knew their existence as Tareans,” Hideoki stated, rolling his eyes for his son who still had a nerve to joke around at a time like these.

“I don’t care who they are. If we stay here a little bit longer, everyone in this town will be eradicated,” Itsuki added in desperation.

Hideoki wasted no time and immediately told the five of them the actions they needed to do. Well, he figured that the situation would definitely be turned to something worst if nothing was done.

And so he told them. It was about time, anyway.

XXXXXX

Meanwhile, the enemies continued to strike down the helpless citizens.

“That’s it! That’s the way! Don’t leave anyone out! Make them suffer!” was Juman’s continuous encouragement to his soldiers with a cackle.

Just as they desire for humans’ screams and suffering to increase the dark powers of the Tareus Dimension in order to fully destroy the other four Tarean seals, the Gargonema heeded their master’s words. They would not allow anyone to stop them from fully getting out of the Dimension and take over the world just as they had originally planned 5,000 years ago.

Juman was about to strike down an unfortunate salary man who had stumbled down on his way to escape with the Triske Monster’s thorn arms. But icicles thrown towards Juman distracted the said monster in his work. In fact, a few of the icicles didn’t only distract Juman but it also struck the Triske Monster’s thorn arm that was about to kill the man and froze it.

“Who dares disturb my fun?!” was Juman’s enraged reaction who was still trying his best to release himself from the ice spell that obviously enveloped the icicles thrown at him.

Juman, and even the Gargonema, frantically looked around to search for the caster of that ice spell.

“That’s the last fun you’ll ever going to have, Tareans!”

Upon hearing that, Juman immediately found the source of it. On one area of that park stood 5 young people.

“Who do you think you are to disturb my fun, huh?!”

Shuichi clenched his fist at that and stepped up. “Let’s see if you’re still going to have fun when we defeat you and your disgusting minions!”

“I don’t know how we’ll be able to end this, but we have to do what we can,” Eichirou said in a serious tone, which was nothing like they’ve ever heard of from him before.

But he was right. The others nodded in agreement. Soon after that, they’ve faced their enemy with hard stares towards them and full of determination.

The five Vessels opened their Celestial Shifters and placed their respective Heaven’s Medallion onto the slot and pressed the gold button that has the word ‘Transform’ scribbled on it.

“Spirit Power, Cross Shift!”

They crossed their arms in front of her as they recited the command phrase. With conviction, they brought their arms with their Celestial Shifters forward. As soon as they did that, their Shifters emanated a bright glow with their respective color representations.

That glow covered their bodies with rune lotus circles appearing beneath each of them in their respective colors. Those entities soon formed the Seitengers’ colored suits (red for Shuichi, blue for Eichirou, green for Itsuki, yellow for Misae, and white for Erika) with gold and silver color accenting it. The girls gained skirts with gold stripe on the hem over their colored suits. The five of them gained white fitting gloves with lengths that reached their forearms along with boots of their respective colors. Silver versions of the lotus symbol had become the crest accenting their chest over their elemental symbols. Their sidearms soon materialized along with their black belts—which were the cylindrical item they found alongside their Shifters in Mariko’s chest box—before the golden silhouette of the coin medallions covered their faces and heads that formed their masks with the same lotus symbol placed on the forehead of their masks.

After that transformation, all the Gargonema-and even Juman-began fidgeting and moving from their place in shock.

“It can’t be! They’ve returned?” Juman muttered along with the surprise he initially felt.

Despite the confusion over the situation, especially about what had just happened a few moments ago, Shuichi and the others could feel something like knowing what to do even though they were considered to be first timers in this field.

“Heaven’s Hundred Blaze, SeitenFire!” Shuichi announced as he did his stance.

“Heaven’s Hundred Outpour, SeitenWater!” Eichirou followed suit.

“Heaven’s Hundred Tremor, SeitenEarth!” Itsuki also announced.

“Heaven’s Hundred Howl, SeitenWind!” Misae did the same right after Itsuki.

“Heaven’s Hundred Shine, SeitenLight!” And lastly, Erika did her part of the announcement.

“The Hundred Heavens’ greatest victory! Utsuwa Sentai Seitenger!”

SeitenFire pointed towards Juman and the Gargonema. “It’s time we set up the right stage for you!”

The Seitengers positioned themselves to a stance as Juman started laughing madly as if something had indeed amused him to the extent of making him laugh as such.

“For you Seitenger brats to appear before me… You sure have asked for your funeral.” After that, he faced the Gargonema behind him who were just waiting for Juman’s orders. “Get them!”

With that, the Gargonema charged towards their new targets-the awakened Vessels of the Heavenly Spirit Guardians’ Powers, the Seitengers!

And for the Vessels, this was definitely the start!

“Let’s go!”

Upon that command from SeitenFire, the rest of the team prepared themselves to deal with the creatures that they must defeat. And with that resolve, they charged towards the enemies with each of them bringing out their primary sidearm that had five-colored buttons surrounding it–the cylindrical item called Hyakureider that had a retractable blade which they activated upon pushing the green button. All of them didn’t have a background on how to wield swords but maybe they could think of a way to wield it properly.

But right now wasn’t the time to think of maybe’s. They had to do what they could to fight these guys.

All five of them started striking and slashing the Gargonema that kept coming at them. On the blade-less end of their Hyakureider, they also learned that they could fire laser beams from it as they pushed the yellow button. They fired it toward their enemies which made it easy for them to eliminate the other attacking Gargonema. They were newbies in terms of actual combat like this. But surprisingly, they were all dealing with them without a problem. It was as if they already knew what to do when it comes to fighting the enemies.

But despite the team’s effort to fight well, there were still too many Gargonema coming after them. After a few more fights, the enemies started cornering the Seitengers.

“This is crazy! They just keep on coming at us!” SeitenWater exclaimed in frustration as he kept doing what he could to fend off the Gargonema, especially some of those that were coming after SeitenWind and SeitenLight.

“Our Hyakureiders aren’t enough! We need more firepower to deal with this much Gargonema,” SeitenEarth suggested as he also fended off the enemies on his side. “Physically fighting them like this will take us a day to finish.”

“Oh, come on! I don’t want to face them for a whole day!” SeitenWind blurted out as she fended off many more enemies attacking her.

“Onii-chan, do you have any ideas? You’re the one who suggested about having more firepower,” SeitenLight inquired as she continued fighting the Gargonema.

Well, the white warrior does have a point. But thinking of a source for more firepower? Just where in the world would SeitenEarth be able to have that? And seriously, he couldn’t do that on the spot-especially right now that they were all in the battlefield.

But at that point, he recalled a certain part of their conversation with Hideoki a while back about something from the Heaven’s Medallion placed in their Shifters. What was it called again?

Hasureiki… It’s not only the Heaven’s Medallions that have them, but also the Spirit Power Medallions.

Okay… How come it was called like that?

“Oh, forget it!”

“Oi, Itsu-chan! What are you planning to do?”

“Adding more firepower… by summoning something important that enables us to draw forth more of our Heavenly Spirit Guardians’ Hasureiki,” was the green warrior’s reply and pushed the lower button with the word ‘Summon’ on his Celestial Shifter near the ‘Transform’ button. “Come Forth, Heaven Tiger!” With that command, the Shifter immediately emanated a bright glow that soon materialized a green coin medallion with a tiger’s head etched at the middle. The item was the size of a large coin that SeitenEarth took.

At that point, SeitenEarth also noticed something like two coin slots on the top end of his Hyakureider. So that’s why there was a slot there.

“Okay!” SeitenEarth placed the Heaven Tiger on the aforementioned slot and assumed his stance as soon as he pushed the blue-colored button which soon made the sword glowed in green light. “Hyakureider, Form Shift!” Almost immediately, the glowing sword began morphing into another form–obviously a claw-like weapon. “Tiger Earth Slasher!”

At that point, the form of the weapon became visible. SeitenEarth’s Hyakureider became a scissors katar-like weapon bearing the same symbol of the Vessel Medallion he summoned–which he had placed on the slot of the Hyakureider a while back-on the blade of the weapon.

“Wow… Itsu-chan really thought about that. But I wonder what does it do,” SeitenWater said as he watched the progress of the situation.

“He asked for additional powers. Now he got it. So it’s our turn now to have our own, as well. I think that’s the Vessel Medallion that Hideoki-san was talking about a while back before we started fighting the Tareans,” SeitenFire said as he followed SeitenEarth’s lead. The two girls agreed with a nod.

While the rest were busy summoning their respective Vessel Medallions to call out their weapons, SeitenEarth went ahead on destroying as many Gargonema as he could just until the other Seitengers were ready. Of course, he used his Tiger Earth Slasher to do that. No enemies had ever managed to escape its blade the moment they came in contact with it as SeitenEarth kept on striking it towards his opponents. As SeitenEarth, he figured out that dealing with the Gargonema with this weapon proved to be much easier, despite having an initial thought about it being heavy. But one thing he knew, his weapon was surely a deadly one to handle.

SeitenFire pushed the required button on his Celestial Shifter. “Come Forth, Heaven Lion!” His Shifter immediately emanated a bright glow that materialized a red coin medallion with the head of a lion etched at the middle. As soon as he took it, he placed it into the slot of his Hyakureider and pushed the blue button. “Hyakureider, Form Shift!” His sword began to glow bright red and morphed into another form. “Lion Fire Blade!”

The Hyakureider took its second form and when the glow vanished, the new weapon appeared. It was a naginata-like weapon with blades about 2 meters in length with the same symbol of his Vessel Medallion on the blade near the two hilts.

As soon as it appeared, SeitenFire headed out to battle and began striking groups of Gargonema with ease. The Lion Fire Blade had also somehow increased his speed and it was evident on how fast he was taking down the enemies. He could also split the naginata into two to form twin swords.

SeitenWater nodded with determination and began doing the same thing as SeitenEarth and SeitenFire.

“Come Forth, Heaven Shark!” His Vessel Medallion appeared right after the Celestial Shifter emanated a bright blue glow that materialized the said item. It was a blue coin medallion with the head of a shark carved right in the middle of it. SeitenWater placed the item to its designated slot on the Hyakureider he held.

“Hyakureider, Form Shift! Shark Water Spear!” The command that SeitenWater recited as soon as he pushed the required button caused his Hyakureider to glow bright blue and morphed it into a polearm weapon–a yari-like weapon with his Vessel Medallion’s symbol etched on the blade of the weapon.

“Alright! Time to take down the Gargonema with this!” And with that, SeitenWater headed out and destroyed another batch of Gargonema heading towards him. He was pretty much enthusiastic in dealing with the black-clad enemies using his new weapon. Slash after slash, he didn’t miss a single enemy with his spear.

As for SeitenWind and SeitenLight, they followed the boys’ lead and called forth their respective Vessel Medallions using their own Celestial Shifters.

“Come Forth, Heaven Falcon!”

“Come Forth, Heaven Dove!”

Their Shifters glowed bright for a few second before vanishing and was immediately replaced with the Vessel Medallions they summoned. SeitenWind’s Vessel Medallion was a yellow coin-shaped with etching of a falcon’s head while SeitenLight’s was colored white with the figure of a dove with its wings spread wide etched on it. Both of them placed it on the slots of their Hyakureider.

“Hyakureider, Form Shift!”

At that point, their sidearm began glowing bright with their respective color representations of their Hasureiki.

“Falcon Wind Arrow!” SeitenWind’s Hyakureider morphed and became a long bow which, of course, had made her quite excited. Her longbow had the figure of her Vessel Medallion on the arch. “Woah! Now this is more like it,” she commented with a giggle and positioned herself to fight.

“Dove Light Striker!” At that command, SeitenLight’s Hyakureider started morphing and after a few moments, her sidearm changed into a 3-bladed land shuriken with the figure of her Vessel Medallion molded on the intersection of the blades.

“Here we go!” the two girls exclaimed and both of them headed towards the enemies that were about to strike them.

SeitenWind, with her expertise in archery in her civilian form, was able to use her weapon with ease. In fact, she was able to merge her wind powers-despite not knowing how it actually worked yet-with her arrows she kept on shooting towards her targets. Upon doing that, she was able to take down groups of Gargonema with just a few arrows at hand. Anyway, she was using magical arrows.

As for SeitenLight, even though it was her first time to wield such weapon, it didn’t take her long enough for her to be able to use it. Much to her surprise, she was able to use it to take down multiple Gargonema with so much force as she threw the shuriken towards them. She could actually command its path so she managed to destroy a few more enemy group that were even located a few more meters away from her.

Upon taking down the last of the summoned Gargonema, the five Seitengers gathered and faced Juman. The Triske Monster obviously didn’t like the turn of events in front of him.

“You’re the only one left, Juman,” SeitenFire said with conviction as his grip on both handle of his Lion Fire Blade in twin blade mode tightened.

“Prepare to die!” SeitenWater added.

“As if I’d let you kill me!” And with that, Juman charged towards the Seitengers as he growled. He extended his thorn arms and tried to strike it to them but the team managed to evade it in time.

Being together for a long time sure had its advantage as words weren’t needed for each of them to know the plan. SeitenFire headed to strike first.

“I’m counting on you, my blades,” he mumbled as he raised it. With one swift move, he leapt to the air and delivered his first strike.

“I hope I get a lesson on how to use a spear after this commotion,” SeitenWater muttered and decided to attack, as well. Right after SeitenFire, he followed in delivering his final attack to Juman who still hadn’t recovered from SeitenFire’s blow.

“Never thought I’m actually meant to do something like this. But right now, that doesn’t matter,” SeitenEarth readied himself and poised to deliver his attack using his weapon. Full concentration was what he needed but he was actually surprised that he could do so in the middle of the battle. But since he was doing it to prevent further casualties, he might as well go with it.

And with that thought, he headed out and charged towards Juman.

The two girls decided to attack following the first 3 ones. After all, their weapons were meant to deliver mid-ranged attacks to their enemies. Now both SeitenWind and SeitenLight were going to attack simultaneously using the Falcon Wind Arrow and the Dove Light Striker respectively.

At SeitenFire’s signal, SeitenYellow shot one arrow that immediately multiplied followed by SeitenLight throwing her shuriken. All of it struck Juman multiple times that he couldn’t even do anything to fight back or counter the Seitengers’ simultaneous attacks. In fact, the Dove Light Striker delivered the fatal blow to Juman that rendered the Triske Monster unable to move faster.

“Shuichi, now!” was SeitenWind’s scream while looking at a certain direction.

From that direction, SeitenFire came out charging towards the motionless Juman with the blades of his Lion Fire Blade blazing in red fire. With that, he delivered his heavy final attack to Juman.

It didn’t take long before Juman exploded and got destroyed as his scream echoed for a while before he got blasted to atoms.

SeitenFire’s weapon reverted back to being a Hyakureider. The same goes to the other Seitengers who approached the exhaling red warrior.

“Wow! Shuichi, you’re really good out there!” SeitenWater exclaimed as he tackled the red warrior despite the latter’s effort to get away.

“Wait a minute! Eichirou-san, you’re going to kill him like that!” SeitenWind could only say as he tried to pacify the two older boys.

But SeitenLight couldn’t help noticing SeitenEarth’s tensed silence in the midst of her enjoying the interaction between SeitenFire and SeitenWater. It didn’t take long for the said two Seitengers and even SeitenWind to notice that, as well.

“Is there still something wrong, Itsu-chan?” SeitenWater asked as he approached the silent green warrior.

“Don’t you guys feel it? That dark energy hovering around…”

SeitenWind didn’t waste any more time to figure out SeitenEarth’s source of worries. “He’s right… The dark energy’s still here.”

The other 3 Seitengers tried sensing the dark energy that SeitenWind and SeitenEarth was talking about. A few moments later, they later realized that it was true.

“But where could that be coming from?” SeitenLight inquired as she looked around.

Though before any of them could begin searching for the energy’s source, SeitenFire and SeitenWater saw a black orb coming from the reeking dark energy of Juman’s remnants.

“Don’t tell me…?”

The orb absorbed the remaining dark energy reeking before any of the Seitengers could stop it. In a flash, they saw it expand to the point where it could even surpass the size and height of the tallest mountains and building in the country. The orb immediately vanished after a few more seconds and revealed an enlarged and revived version of Juman.

“I told you! This will get even more interesting!” The Triske Monster growled in a deep voice.

Of course, this was a shock to the Seitengers.

“Are you kidding me? We can’t fight that Triske Monster with that heck of his giant form!” SeitenWater exclaimed as he kept flailing around.

“But how did that happen?” SeitenLight muttered despite the surprise.

SeitenFire heard SeitenLight’s question and at one point, he recalled something that his mother once said to him.

“There will come a time wherein you’ll be facing an enemy that has two personas. You might be able to defeat the first persona easily. But in order for you to defeat that enemy completely and erase it from this world, you need to destroy its last persona-the seed of all its evil nature…”

“The seed… of all its evil nature…” SeitenFire immediately looked up to face the giant Triske Monster Juman. “So the enemy she was talking about at that time… was a Triske Monster…”

“Hey, Shuichi, what are you talking about?”

The said red warrior faced SeitenWater. “My mother… She said something about defeating an enemy that have 2 personas. I think at that time, she wasn’t talking about a mere human enemy.”

“Well, we just defeated Juman and now he’s revived and grown to the height of two skyscrapers on top of one another in mere seconds. I wish I had that kind of ability to increase my height.”

“Your mother already knew we’re going to face this kind of enemy,” SeitenLight looked up and examine the enemy. “So now, we need to defeat the second persona.”

“My mother called it as ‘the seed of all its evil nature’.”

“In short, just call it the Triske Seed,” SeitenEarth deadpanned. “Did your mother mention anything about the way on how to defeat the Seed, Shuichi-san?”

But SeitenFire shook his head. “She didn’t mention anything about that, unfortunately.” With that, he sighed dejectedly.

Before any of them could think of a way, their respective Vessel Medallions still placed on the slot of their Hyakureider suddenly emanated bright lights that caught their attention. Even Juman got distracted at the sight of it.

“Summon us… and together with your powers, we’ll defeat the Triske Seed completely…”

That voice, as SeitenWind heard it, actually came from SeitenFire’s Vessel Medallion. “The Spirit representing the Vessel Medallion… Could it be that they’re also…?”

“That’s right. We also represent the powers of the Grand Vessel Spirits protecting the Earth along with the Seitengers.”

“And we’ll be with you today to fight and destroy the Seed, just as your predecessors had done before.”

Of course, with that confirmation, the Seitengers felt as if they’ve gained new hope on how to deal with the Triske Seed. Especially since it was the team’s first time to actually face that kind of enemy.

“Then lead us,” SeitenEarth said before he paused and looked at the Vessel Medallion on his Hyakureider.

“Just call me Terraiger, Itsuki. I am what the Heavenly Spirit Guardians call as Terraiger, the Rumbling Tiger of the Tremulous Heavens.”

SeitenEarth nodded. “Nice meeting you, Terraiger.”

“I’m envious,” SeitenWater suddenly said. “Itsu-chan’s already friendly with the spirit of his Vessel Medallion.”

“We’ll have a proper introduction later, Eichirou-san. Our priority right now is the destruction of the Triske Seed.”

Reminded of the task to be done, the Seitengers readied themselves to face the Triske Seed. They poised their Hyakureider with its blade retracted and with its respective Vessel Medallions still placed on their slots in front of them. After that, they all pushed the red button on their sidearm.

For the final part, they thrust their Hyakureider up in the air.

“Soar Forth, Grand Vessel Spirits!”

The command allowed the team to summon their respective Grand Vessel Spirits as a portal opened before they saw five-colored animals (Firion, the red lion; Sereo, the blue shark; Terraiger, the green tiger; Skylon, the yellow falcon; and Dovight, the white dove) descend from the sky. When the five Grand Vessel Spirits landed, the Seitengers wasted no time and leapt in order for them to go inside each of it they summoned. As for the Grand Vessel Spirits, they looked like the creatures they represented, only metallic and more mechanical. The only common factor of the Grand Vessel Spirits’ designs on their bodies were the accent colors of black and gray aside from the golden silhouette of the lotus flower in full bloom on each of their foreheads.

It was the same golden silhouette that made up the crest found on Mariko’s chest box where the Celestial Shifters were kept for more than 10 years.

Once inside each of the Grand Vessel Spirits, the Seitengers noticed that each of them looked a lot like they were placed in clear egg-shaped chambers/cockpits. And these chambers (which they knew had all the control mechanisms needed to operate the Vessel Spirits) appeared to have been placed in holsters that had each of the Seitengers’ symbols-their respective Vessel Medallions.

“Seriously… Never in my life have I thought of controlling something as enormous as our Grand Vessel Spirits,” SeitenLight could only comment as she engrossed and at the same time, focus herself on the next action.

“Well, we already accepted the task. Let’s just get on with it so we can go home already and do what we have to do today,” SeitenFire said as he took his position in front of the small podium-like control mechanism in front of him. He inserted the Hyakureider into its slot-letting it become a control rod for Firion.

The other four Seitengers didn’t take long to do the same.

And doing so, they knew it was time for them to do what they had to do-and that was to defeat the Triske Seed.

“Let’s do this!”

The five Grand Vessel Spirits, upon the control and command of their respective partners, began charging towards Juman. Three of the mecha did so as they soared the sky (Sereo, Skylon, and Dovight) while the other two were on land (Firion and Terraiger).

“This is going to be interesting, indeed. I finally got the chance to destroy the Grand Vessel Spirits myself,” Juman said with a sneer as he threw his stretching thorn arms towards the charging mecha coming after him.

“Great! Not those thorn arms again!” SeitenWater complained but chose to just counter it with a spell in his mind instead of actually evading it. “Shark Icicle Ray!”

Light blue-colored particle beam with large icicles thrust towards Juman’s thorn arms as soon as Sereo that SeitenWater controlled had opened its mouth. The icicles cut the thorn arms and hit Juman at the same time as the beam actually froze him to the spot.

“It won’t last long, though. Guys, it’s your turn to deliver your finishers on this one. The ice spell isn’t that powerful enough!”

“At least not powerful enough… yet,” SeitenWind muttered.

“It did give us an opening, though,” SeitenLight stated. “Dove Crosser Thrust!” And on SeitenLight’s control over Dovight, her mecha charged towards Juman in an unbelievable speed as she continued hitting the Triske Seed with its wings and head from different directions.

“Falcon Dive Strike!” From above, as soon as SeitenWind made Skylon halt to a stop, it came diving downward fast and struck Juman head first. SeitenWind’s mecha did it in almost the same speed as the Dove Crosser Thrust.

“Itsuki, we’ll fire our finishers from our positions,” SeitenFire ordered that SeitenEarth only answered with a nod accompanied by an agreeing sound.

As soon as they both prepared their finishing shots, SeitenFire faced Terraiger’s direction. “On my count! 3… 2… 1!”

“Tiger Ground Blast!”

“Lion Blaze Crusher!”

Green colored beam from the eyes and mouth of Terraiger and red colored beam from the mouth and mane of Firion all headed straight to Juman who wasn’t even given a chance for a counterattack. All the Triske Seed did was to scream in pain before it faded into nothingness as soon as he got blasted into atoms once again.

When the rage of the explosion finally subsided, it made the Seitengers knew that Juman was gone–this time for good as they had not felt anymore dark energy hovering around the area.

“Stage set!”

XXXXXX

“It seems to me they did great for first timers,” Hideoki murmured in satisfaction as he watched the progress of the battle from beginning to end from one of the high-rise buildings in the town near the battlefield.

He looked up to the blue sky as he smiled upon seeing the image of his smiling wife, Mariko.

“The children had already chosen this path, Mariko. But I still need you and the others to guide them to this journey wherever you all are right now. I can’t do this alone, you know…”

The wind blew soft that made him close his eyes. It felt like it was his wife’s hand, caressing his face with those gentle hands. When he opened them again, the sun began to shine bright. Come to think of it, it would already be near noon. He might as well prepare something special for those kids to eat when they get home.

Though he doubted that they would be eating it anytime soon.

XXXXXX

“Thank goodness, that’s over. I thought I have to deal with those Gargonema all day,” Misae said as the five of them walked together.

Erika took out her Hyakureider from its holster on her side as she looked at it alongside her Celestial Shifter on her wrist. “But surely, it was quite an experience, right?”

“It nearly got us killed, though! Never in my life have I thought that I would actually deal with those weird-looking jerks,” Eichirou complained.

“But it did open our eyes to the truth and the battle that our parents had faced for so long. It opened our eyes to the new life that we have to live now,” Itsuki added without looking at any of the other Vessels as he continued walking.

Shuichi was watching Itsuki as he trudged along with Misae. “But what did you feel about that, Itsuki? About the fact that we learned from all these commotions?”

It made the said composer stop to his tracks. The others soon did the same. No words were spoken for a few moments. But they patiently waited for Itsuki to answer.

And he did… after heaving a sigh and faced the biker.

“We can’t change the past that took the lives of the people we cared for more than anything else,” Itsuki started before taking out his Hyakureider from its holster on his side. He held it tight as he eyed the lotus symbol etched on it. “But our parents gave us another chance to live and protect each other. They gave us a chance to help the others using the powers that we inherited from them. Their deaths opened the path for us to take. Hideoki-san and Nanami-san nudged us to walk toward it. Now it’s our turn to choose whether to stay on that spot that made us unable to do anything, or to start moving forward to put an end to this once and for all.”

The other four exchanged looks at each other before smiling upon realizing that Itsuki was right. A simple nod from each of them was enough as an answer.

“Now that settles it. I think we should head out to the place we need to go today,” Shuichi suggested as he started walking again. “After all, we can’t keep them waiting for us today, right?”

XXXXXX

It should have been a normal day for the five Vessels. But right at that moment, they all knew it wasn’t going to be that way starting that day… and it would never be anymore.

Not after all that they’ve learned on that fateful day.

Right now, they were all at the cemetery with all of them bringing bouquets of their respective deceased family members’ favorite flowers.

Shuichi brought a bouquet of azaleas upon visiting his parents’ graves. He placed them neatly on top and cherished a few moments of silence with them.

Eichirou–with a bouquet of white lily on his hands–visited his mother’s grave even though her death anniversary was the other day. He didn’t get to talk to his mother that day so he would take this opportunity to do so. He placed the bouquet atop the gravestone with the engravings of Mariko’s name, date of birth, and date of death on it. A bittersweet smile curved the man’s lips as he faced the gravestone.

Misae went to her parents’ graves bringing along a bouquet of pink and white carnations with her. They were actually the flowers that started her parents’ relationship, besides the fact that the white carnation was also her favorite flower. She placed it on their graves before lighting up some incense she brought and started praying for them.

Itsuki and Erika each brought a bouquet of stargazer lilies which was the flower emblem of the Hoshiyama family. With a wistful smile and unshed tears, they began praying for the two people who had deliberately risked their lives to protect the siblings at all cost.

But their deaths had indeed opened a path that those five individuals were destined to take. Their parents’ deaths made them realize the destiny that lies ahead of them and it was bound on the mission that was passed on to them.

On that fateful day, the five of them knew their lives would change drastically from that day onwards. After all, they were all now resolved to face the responsibility of becoming the new Vessels. Now, they were all honor bound to face a new life filled with the power and desire to pursue justice and ensure the world’s peace-though it was also going to be a life of bloodshed and battle for the sake of the protection of the world.

But it doesn’t matter.

They were going to do all that they could to defeat the Tareans, and no one could stop them.

End of Vessel 1

Next time on Utsuwa Sentai Seitenger:

Vessel 2: Courage Within The Fear

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