"All sons of old gods, die!"

  The voice was full of tremendous force, something the heavens themselves had obtained. Strider Hiryu, on the first floor of the Third Moon, riding on the back of Ouroboros as it climbed, heard the loud laughter and its accompanying scream.

  "Die, child of old gods!"

  So declared the Emperor Meio, Grandmaster.

  This man had, 5 years ago appeared in the Milky Way and conquered the entirety of Earth. He built in this Earthbound orbit the Third Moon, powered by the lifeforce of everyone on Earth.

  The destiny of the Third Moon, visible from Earth, depended on the success of the Strider. There were no especially deep emotions in Hiryu's heart concerning that. He had fulfilled his assigned duty. The fact that it was by his own hand was of little consequence.

  He was a Strider, an agent of an organization known for intelligence, espionage, assassination and the like. He was a member of an elite soldier group which hailed to the Japanese ninja as a predecessor, though the group did not belong to that nation. They responded aggressively and professionally to every kind of intelligence request.

  He had surpassed the physical abilities of ordinary men the moment he had made class C, and had lost his own individual name. It was said that the names of the super-A Striders no longer existed. He, Hiryu, had obtained super-A grade at an age younger than any other Strider had in history.

  Overhead, Hiryu saw something like footholds that were not supported by any structure, but merely floated in the sky. On the far side of those footholds, the Grandmaster sat on his throne.

  The Grandmaster appeared to be a medieval wizard, his body cloaked by a red-trimmed black mantle and hood. His eyes glowed sharply beneath the shadowy hood, piercing Hiryu's conscience.

  Ouroboros gradually approached the throne. Hiryu inspected his only weapon, a Cypher. This was an abnormal place. He gripped the Cypher's handle strongly in his right hand. The optical sword, "Cypher," is the ultimate weapon. Only super-A grade Striders are permitted to use it. Highly pressurized plasma particles are accelerated and discharged through its blade, resulting in an edge that cuts through all objects. It takes a special person to wield this weapon at its full potential. Even the super-A grade Striders do not use it to its full potential.

  Hiryu's basic strategy, based on his own physical skills, consisted of attacking the enemy and slicing him in half with one blow. Perhaps the footholds were built knowing the Strider's strategy, as an attempt to disrupt it. It is impossible to know what the Grandmaster thinks, but rather than fighting on the back of Ouroboros where he had limited freedom of movement...

  The odds of his being victorious in this battle were uncertain.

  Hiryu arrived at the last stage that the Grandmaster had prepared. He attacked Ouroboros' head while it was still airborne. It lost balance, scattering sparks randomly, and fell. Hiryu landed on one of the footholds, looking up at the throne.

  The Grandmaster was no longer there, expecting him. He felt a sign, looked behind him, saw the Grandmaster extending both his hands in an attack on Hiryu.

  Hiryu's muscles tensed. He ran towards the Grandmaster, whose palms were fully extended, intent on intercepting his attack. Green lightning shot out from the Grandmaster's hands; at least, it appeared to be lightning, but the electrical shock was excessively slow. No attack feels good to the one who receives it, though.

  The electricity, despite being slow, would overtake its target if left to its own devices. Hiryu attacked, drawing close to the Grandmaster, swinging his Cypher and slashing at him. The Grandmaster rapidly ascended, sliding skyward, passing by Hiryu on the left side and putting some distance between them.

  The Grandmaster extended his hand again and shot the same lightning out, this time somewhat faster. However, this time the distance prevented Hiryu from immediately extinguishing the Emperor's conjurings. He darted towards the Grandmaster again as the lightning completed creating the new decoy. Hiryu destroyed it as soon as he was within range.

  And the Grandmaster's third attack commenced.

  It was not the same attack as before, but rather a legendary torpedo attack, a movement faster than thought. The torpedoes did not attack him all at the same time, but rather in order, flying precisely one at a time, to corner Hiryu. He did not even think to counterattack but devoted himself to evasion.

  Eight meters away the torpedoes crashed into the ground and the Grandmaster's third-wave assault stopped. Somehow, the attack's range was limited by the amount of torpedoes in the air. Did this give Hiryu a fighting chance? He did not think so, but wisely decided to counterattack and rushed the Grandmaster once more.

  Running at full stride, the distance between them shortened swiftly, but Hiryu's strike did not come. After getting within attack range, an idea occurred to him. The Grandmaster attempted to catch Hiryu in his lightning but the Strider easily countered that, stepping onto a foothold for the second time.

  The Emperor, floating through the air, assumed he would be able to counter Hiryu's attack as easily as the Strider had countered his own. But Hiryu did something unexpected. He hurled something into the Grandmaster's face.

  Somebody's sickle. A Strider's. The instrument they used to scale sheer vertical surfaces, to climb, to dangle from the ceiling like monkeys. It was one of the more indispensable instruments Hiryu owned.

  He threw that.

  The Grandmaster parried the attack, shacking his head. The Strider chose this opening, the most exquisitely perfect moment, to attack. As he ran, he was unaware that it was possible to control the Third Moon's atmosphere. To take away oxygent is to halt Hiryu's movement and thwart all plots, whether offensive or defensive.

  The Grandmaster controls this.

  The Strider does not overlook the opening.

  Hiryu pointed his Cypher at the Grandmaster and crouched. The Emperor did not take evasive action.

  Just as he was about to attack, Hiryu's heart began to murmur. "What?" He uttered many curses, which was fitting since they were made to be spat out.

  Something had struck him in the back rather severely. He did not know what. He turned to verify what it was, and it was no longer there. He lashed out with his Cypher at random, dispatching one of his assailants as it completed its duty. He knew he was not attacking mere phantoms, as his Cypher vibrated when it swiped through one of the assailants.

  Finally, Hiryu turned around to find a suspicious-looking biological organisim similar to a fish, several of them in fact, forming a group. Piranha. These had attacked him. Where did it come from?

  He thought about it for a moment and remembered a spark that had flashed just beyond the reaches of his peripheral vision before the school of fish had appeared. This had produced the piranha, one after another.

  Once he understood this, a chill ran down Hiryu's spine. How did the Grandmaster's green lightning produce these living things? The Emperor spoke, saying, "You are probably wondering how I can produce these living things? This attack is merely a foreshadowing of what I can do. You are not even an expert warrior; others who have attacked me have lasted longer."

  Ten or more piranha attacked Hiryu's body, knocking him off the foothold. He plummeted to the floor of the chamber, towards the blue planet that was visible from the Third Moon. Under no circumstances should Hiryu be sucked into its gravitational pull, but he was anyway.

  He fell through Earth's atmosphere, his body burning up in the atmospheric friction, his consciousness fading away. Eventually his consciousness left him completely and Hiryu's body exploded in flame, instantly becoming the dust of the atmosphere.

  His body disappeared to a secret place, in anticipation of gravely evil times. That is the rule of the Strider.

  Because of Hiryu's failure, the request for the Grandmaster's assassination was ended. Due to the fact that the strongest Strider was defeated, the person who could defeat the Emperor does not exist on Earth anymore.

  The Grandmaster roared, his laughter resounding in the world and signalling the arrival of the world of darkness.