Chapter 1: Prologue
Rock Spider, Re:Shocker’s newest cyborg creation, crashed through the wall of a warehouse. He stumbled to get up, having taken quite a beating from the attack. He looked to see his opponent, Re:Shocker’s sworn enemy and ally to justice:
A man in black padded leather with what seemed to be a hard plastic-looking crimson shell, segmented into four sections. He had matching crimson gloves and boots as well as a green scarf that bellowed in the wind. Rock Spider could see the green compound eyes on top of the blood red helmet. Its silver mouthpiece was comprised of a jagged top lip that hung over its curved bottom lip. The costumed man gripped his hands. Along the shoulders, arms, and the center of the chest, there were five metallic pieces, beveled out to look like an exhaust vent. To Rock Spider and the people who fight for Re:Shocker, his name was clear:
“Kamen Rider… DANTE!” He held out his arms in a fighting pose. Rock Spider merely growled.
“Today will be the day you fall, Kamen Rider! That belt will belong to its rightful owner!” It rasped as rocky tendrils that acted as spider legs came out of his back.
“No. I may fall, but not like this. It won’t be by your hand! The blood of the woman I loved, Yuna, is stained by your organization’s hands! Her cries for justice will not be silenced until I destroy you all!” As Dante gripped his fists, Rock Spider could see fire erupt from the vents. Rock Spider recognized this. When Dante’s hot blooded quest for justice fuels the Volcano Belt as much as regular fire could. When the belt gets overfueled by his burning passion, it vents out the fire, powering him up. To many followers of Re:Shocker, this is the last thing they’ll ever see before being finished off by Dante, but to Dante, the name he gave to this burst of power was appropriate to his drive to complete the goal of destroying Re:Shocker: Endeavor.
His body was consumed by the flames as they found any hole, any sort of place to escape from… The eyes, the mouth, the vents, until he was nothing more than a person on fire. “SHOTO!” He shouted as he leaped into the air. First, by doing the signature attack that has haunted Re:Shocker and all its past incarnations… “RIDER KICK!” His right leg hit Rock Spider as his flaming boot left an imprint on his rocky shell. As he is propelled into the air, Dante readied his fist. “RIDER PUNCH!” This was his signature finisher, the Rider Punch, using the vents on his arm to engulf his fist into a blazing fist to deliver a powerful blow to the monsterish cyborg.
Fist hit rock… But to Dante’s surprise, it didn’t faze Rock Spider. That’s when he noticed the armor of Rock Spider’s was notably blacker than when he had used the Rider Kick on him. It wasn’t until Rock Spider unfurled the armor that he realized what had happened.
“HAH! You thought your Rider Punch can affect me? I went through a modification build to withstand that attack!” Rock Spider began to flap his newly unveiled bat-like wings seemingly made of a thin obsidian. “Now you will die, Kamen Rider!” Rock Spider laughed and cackled as he took off into the air…
Only for a sword to fly forward and impale him.
“W-what the!?” Rock Spider fell to the ground. He got up to investigate the sword that pierced him, only for two more to stab him. As he got onto one knee, three more dealt the final blow. “H-how!? How am I beaten?” Rock Spider grunted. “No matter… Re:Shocker will grow stronger by the day and soon, even the Seven Legendary Riders won’t hope to beat us!” He cackled and spread out his arms. “VIVA LAS VEGAS!” Those were the final words most cyborg soldiers say before they explode, a side effect of when their implants are far too damaged. As the smoke cleared, Dante turned behind him and saw a woman in a black and gold military uniform with long white hair. The bird symbol on her coat caused Dante to grip his fist.
“YOU! You’re a general for Re:Shocker, aren’t you?” He pointed at the woman. She merely smiled and shook her head.
“No. Re:Shocker does not exist in this world.” She said.
“What?” He then looked around. It seemed weird that he and Rock Spider managed to go from the rock quarry to a warehouse, though it happened so often that he didn’t seem to mind it.
“And this is not your world, Dairou Hotaro.” Dante glared at her. The flames died down as his armor turned to ash. It then crumbled away, revealing a man with short black hair, a brown suede jacket over a white button shirt, and black leather pants.
“How do you know my name?” He asked.
“I know many things, like the world you have been brought to.” She then extended her arms outwards. “Welcome to the Land of the Gods!”
“Gods?” Hotaro lowered his guard and looked at her with a raised eyebrow. “I assume you’ve brought me here?” The woman merely clapped her hands.
“Yes, yes, you’ve got that right.”
“And I’ll also assume you’ve called me here to help you.” Hotaro merely flexed his arms.
“Right again. Like you, I too lost someone I loved and now I’m on my own warpath.” She looked to the hole made by Rock Spider, a hole that expanded out to a pleasant park view as the moon shown down onto a river. “The Gods who live in this world have rejected her and caused her to die. In a way, these Gods have killed Yuna as well.” Hotaro gritted his teeth. That wasn’t true. Yuna died at the hands of Re:Shocker’s leader, tricking her into believing that robotization would cure her illness. “Which is why my mission is to bring punishment to this horrible land of the gods. And you, Hotaro, will join me in exacting revenge.” She said.
“Revenge? Do you assume I only fight to get revenge? Yuna may be the reason I began this fight as a Kamen Rider, but it’s my burning passion to protect the world and fight for justice that helps me continue the fight. Even on the day Yuna can rest in peace, I will not. I’ll continue living life as a Kamen Rider to make sure no one else has to suffer like I have.” He said.
“And if you help me, no one will have to. Every day, people suffer for the entertainment and pleasure of others.” She said.
“That may be true, but even if I am a Kamen Rider, I cannot save everyone. However, I will save as many as I can.” He said.
“It seems we are thinking on two different tracks of mind. You seem to believe that I mean problems that affect this world. No... This affects many worlds. Many people across many worlds suffer and it’s all the Creators’ faults. They gave these people great pain and only we can save them from their wrath.” She said.
“… Every part of me wants to help you with this. I too feel the pain of loss. But… There is one thing I will not do.” Hotaro stepped forward. “Bringing punishment is not what I do. I do not punish Re:Shocker for their crimes but merely stop them. Someone who describes their fight for justice as ‘punishing others’… It is an indicator that their heart is corrupted with the desire for revenge. I almost walked that same path as you when Yuna died, but I refused to.” Hotaro held his hand over his waist, summoning the Volcano Belt. “This power… It is not meant to be used for selfish desires like revenge or greed. That is what Re:Shocker would have wanted to use this for. Instead, I use it for justice. I will help you in your quest to save those people… but I will not bring punishment to the Land of the Gods.”
“… So I take it you will not ally with me, even though we share the same pains?”
“My pain for Yuna is a deep wound, yes, but I use it to fight for justice. You’re using your pain as an excuse to destroy!” With that yell, the woman silenced herself.
“… Seems I’m wrong…” Several swords began to appear and floated by her side. “You really don’t know my pain! You have no idea!” She screamed as she flung several swords at him.
“RIDER HENSHIN!” Hotaro shouted as flames erupted. Fire began to burst from the hole in the warehouse as the sound of crackling flames and clashing swords rang out from the building.
A Rider wreathed in flames, having just siphoned some of them into his belt, waked towards his sister who begged to be free from her torment.
He readied his fist, preparing to grant his sister eternal peace. With a scream that could be defined as hot-blooded rage towards the system that turned her into a monster in the first place, he gave her a burning Rider Punch.
Looking back, this was definitely the inspiration to the Rider I wrote. A rider who embodied this entire scene. One who always is wreathed in flames, sparing all from the torment that evil would give to them. Though had I known the torment he'd give onto others, I might not have written the story. At the same time, I did not regret it, especially when I looked at the art she drew of him…
I am not a hero. I am not a villain. I'm not even the main character who is the center of every event. I'm just an ordinary person who happened to become a Kamen Rider. Remember that, as I will be the narrator for this story…
However, you would probably like to know just how I became a Kamen Rider. Well, before we get to that, let me introduce myself.
My name is Hoshi Fujioka. Most people see me as Hoshikigami, the Piclive user who wrote a series of fanfics that served as a throwback to the classic Showa era Kamen Rider shows. The story followed a hero by the name of Hotaro Dairou as he uses the Volcano Belt to fight the evil forces of Re:Shocker, yet another restructuring of Shocker that ended up killing his girlfriend Yuna.
I had just finished rereading the thirteenth chapter of the story, which depicted the first monster to give Hotaro a hard time, Rock Spider. I had left it on a cliff-hanger in which Rock Spider revealed a secret modification to his body: obsidian wings that blocked Hotaro's signature move, the Rider Punch. Most Riders were known for the Rider Kick, leaving its fist-related counterpart without much love.
My joy upon reading the shocking twist faded as I had went into my word processor. My eyes narrowed a blank white page. Of course, I would have a scene where Hotaro would retreat and recoup, but I had no idea where to go from there. There were many options to go from. A commonly recurring idea was to have Tobei Tachibana, the sort of mentor figure to the other Kamen Riders, come to Hotaro's aid and give him an upgrade to his bike, the Trail Blazer, thus giving him the ability to ram the bike into Rock Spider, or a Rider Break as some fans call it.
I opened up a horrid sketch drawing of another idea. The Rider was covered in a thick smudge that, at the time, I decided would be his armor. While I did want to make it more akin to Showa-era riders where they relied on their strength and skill rather than power ups, I had an idea of a charged up form for Hotaro to use, much like what Stronger had. I never gave it much thought outside of the belt being so overloaded with fire and hot blood that it starts spewing lava instead, making it true to the belt's name: The Volcano Belt.
It's actually how I came up with the name for Kamen Rider Dante. Most people say that I based the name of Dante's Inferno but I instead based the name off an old American movie my sister's boyfriend watched with me: Dante's Peak. Speaking of, my phone rang as I closed the picture. I picked up the phone and put it close to my ear.
"Hello?" I asked.
"Heeeeey~!" The cheery voice of my sister always put a smile on my face.
"Hey, sis, how's it hanging?" I lived alone in my apartment while my sister remained in our old home in Akihabara.
"Pretty good, nyan!" As soon as she said that, I chuckled.
"So I guess this week's cat themed again?" I asked. My sister works as a maid in a café. The motif changes every week. Some weeks it's a tsundere café, other weeks it's cat themed, and even some end up being combinations. I grinned as I recalled the time they did a catgirl yandere theme. It was weird.
"Yep yep yep! People really love the cat ears! People pay good money for us to meow at them, nyan!" She said. "O-oh! That's right! I'll send you some money later this week." I shook my head.
"No need. I've landed that job I told you about."
"Wooow~! You're growing up, little bro! So you're a delivery guy, right?"
"Yeah. We're trying that thing people are doing in the USA where they order food online and couriers are assigned to deliver it to them. Can't really pronounce the name of the original program… Um… Ooble Eats?" I could hear my sister laugh.
"Ah, nyeah. Oooh, I should tell Akagi that! He'd totally call it Obular Eats!" I gave a sigh. I wasn't sure what was more lame, the old reference that no kid will get or the fact that it was a pun. I soon felt my phone buzz.
"Ah! I think that's them right now!" I took the phone off my ear and looked at the screen. Sure enough! It was the company I worked for, Uchuu Eats. "Yeah! Gotta go, sis."
"Alright, love nya, my little stary!" With that, she hung up as I opened up the app. My eyes widened at the amount of food that was ordered. Pizza, sandwiches, sushi, all kinds of drinks and deserts… What kind of madman would eat all this!? What makes it worse is that it's ordered across so many restaurants. I'd literally have to bust my ass to get across town and give whoever wanted this supposed all you can eat buffet their food in under thirty minutes!
… I'm gonna hate this job.
I gave out a sigh of relief as I placed the last paper bag onto the back of my bike in a way where it wouldn't topple over. I counted just how many bags there were.
Not even a hikikomori would order this much food. Either there was some massive party or this is one person with a serious eating disorder. I checked my phone.
It had been ten minutes since I left the house, not counting all the times I had to stop and give myself a breather. I was thankful for the fact that the recipient's apartment was not too far from the pizza store I just left from. But still, if I was just one minute too late, my pay would be at risk. I got on the bike and began to pedal.
I didn't have a license to drive a car, mostly because I was raised in a community that relied more on public transit than using their own. Perhaps it was better that way. I only would want the license just to learn how to ride a motorcycle, much like a Kamen Rider. But, as it currently stands with money and time, I don't exactly have either to learn. So I just resigned to riding what was the hand me down bicycle. Surprisingly, I managed to maintain the bike perfectly for the past five years.
A few minutes later, as I pedaled down to the apartment, I heard a rustling from the nearby bushes. I looked over and checked my phone. Five minutes. I then looked ahead. The apartment was right in front of my face. I didn't want to risk being late, but before I could even continue, I heard a grunt.
"Forgive me… Yuna…"
As if that wasn't enough, I smelled something that reeked. Took me a while to realize what the smell was:
I got off my bike and ran over to the bushes. Someone was definitely hurt. As I pulled away the brambles, I saw the injured person. As he looked at me, my heart raced.
It… was me. H-how was this possible? Did I have some weird doppelganger? He had my black hair, my blue eyes, even my face. The only difference was that he was wearing a brown suede jacket, almost akin to a biker's jacket. He coughed out some blood before grunting.
"You… You're me?" My heart froze. This man was just as confused as I was… What made this worse was that his voice was not mine. His voice was more akin to a superhero's voice. The kind that boast about everlasting justice. In contrast, my sister often joked about me sounding like the protagonist of a harem anime. I remained silent as he smirked. "I see… So that's what she meant by the Land of the Gods…" He then groaned as he clutched his stomach.
"H-hang on! Let me call an ambulance!" I took out my phone, but before I could call someone, he just grabbed my hand.
"There's no… time…" He struggled to reach for something. "This world's in danger... And you're the only one who can stop her…" I heard a belt unbuckle as his arm trembled. "The fate of all the Gods rest in your hands…" He then shoved the belt onto my chest. I looked down as my heart did its third mini-cardiac arrest in a row. The belt was black, textured to look like cooled down magma. In the center was a red eye that glowed profusely. Almost like the center of a…
This was the Volcano Belt. The belt I had designed when I was writing Kamen Rider Dante… Which must mean…
This dying doppelganger was none other Hotaro Dairou, AKA Kamen Rider Dante, the Rider I wrote about.
"Please… Take my Belt… Stop the Military Uniform Princess… And… save this Land of Gods…" Those were the final words he said before he went limp. Before long, his body began to dissolve into a series of blue cubes that began to float upwards. I just stood there, wondering what had just happened. I gripped onto the Volcano Belt. That was real. My own creation dying in my arms? Not exactly sure if that was real.
"Found you…" Unfortunately, it seemed my night was just getting started. I looked up and saw a woman in a black army uniform floating up above me… Uniform… Is this the Military Uniform Princess Hotaro talked about? "Seems you're still breathing… Allow me to fix that." She flung her hand as a series of swords began to swirl around her. Almost instantly, I ran to my bike and rode off to what I would probably consider my only safety now.
As I pedaled, I could feel the swords slam into the ground. I could feel each tremor getting closer and closer. I went faster and faster, just as my heart did. By the time I went to the apartment, I just bolted into the room and quickly punched in the code at the lobby. After waiting for, by contrast to the pedalling, what seemed to be hours as I heard a long, monotonous ringtone, I heard someone's voice.
"I GOT YOUR ORDER! LET ME IN! CRAZY PSYCHO BITCH IS GONNA KILL ME!" I screamed. It was the middle of the night, so no one was in the immediate area could hear me. I looked outside and saw the woman loom in closer.
"Eeeeh? What's he yelling about?" I could hear what I presumed to be her friend on the other end of the line. Great. They're gonna pass me off as a crazy person, I know it.
"He's screaming about someone chasing him…" The recipient responded.
"Hmm… Perhaps we should look into matters, just in case-" I heard another voice. She seemed cold, distant, a sort of analytical type from her tone of voice. It was the kind of voice that invites hesitance. And right now, I don't want hesitance.
"PLEASE LET ME IN! SOME BITCH IN A MILITARY UNIFORM IS GONNA STAB ME!" I was on the verge of tears, praying for a response. Fortunately, it seemed I got more than that.
"It's her. She's right outside."
"I'm going!" Almost instantly, all three girls reacted. It took a moment to see the results. I looked outside as the Military Uniform Princess closed in on me.
"HURRY!" I screamed. Just as she approached the doors, I saw another figure rush in and block her. I saw that she was wearing a set of stylistic, albeit weather inappropriate wear. The detail was pretty intrinsic, almost like this woman was a cosplayer… Though if that was the case, she wouldn't be flying at the same height as the Princess. What set her apart from a regular cosplayer was her hair. It just seemed out of place. Two shades of red and orange, with the red being the majority of the color. As I looked at her navy blue and burgundy colored jacket and matching uniform, I began to realize that this woman was familiar.
"Don't worry! Help's on the way! Hurry! Get inside!" The recipient said as I heard the most wonderful sound: the buzzing of the apartment door. I yanked the handle and ran into the apartment, quickly scanning the number of the floor and unit. I didn't bother to wait for an elevator and just ran up the stairs. By the time I reached the unit, I dropped onto the door like a corpse. The door opened as I slumped onto someone's arms.
"I got you!" The recipient said as she carried me over to a couch. Finally, I took time to recover. "You alright?" Perhaps it was my heart trying to calm down, but time stopped as I looked at the woman who helped me.
She was a little unkempt with her chocolate brown hair, had bushy eyebrows, amber eyes behind thick purple rimmed glasses, and was somewhat chubby, with her plain gray shirt showing off the curves. I took this time to exhale.
"Y-yeah… T-th-thank you…" My body trembled. I had been running for so long that my body just gave up and fell onto the armrest of the couch. My head relaxed onto it as I had a strong feeling to sleep. My feet began to hurt as my heart ached. I breathed so heavily I worried I'd just die right there.
"Hang in there! I'm going to get you some water!" She went to the kitchen while my body took its time to relax. I began to think about the past few moments; Hotaro's death, the Military Uniform Princess' appearance, that girl coming out of nowhere... All of that happened in the same hour. My mind began to unravel of who that redhead was… But for some reason, my mind kept going back to the Military Uniform Princess… Something about her was… familiar.
My body calmed itself down for me to get off the couch and sit upright as the woman returned with a cup of water.
"I know this may be a bit confusing, but…" She took the time to find the right words. As she did, my mind began to fire off all the places I could have seen the Princess. As I took a sip, the water began to lodge in my esophagus as I began to think of a video I saw a while ago. I coughed. "T-take it easy!" She patted me on the back as I breathed.
"World Etude…" I said.
"What?" The woman asked. Of course, World Etude as a term would be a confusing term to a – and I hate myself for saying this – normie. However, for me and people who are net savvy, World Etude was a brief music video starring a woman who looked exactly like the Military Uniform Princess. It gave rise to a memetic character by the name of Altair, one who was constantly featured in short, animated videos, almost akin to skits. I merely got up and looked to the window where the two girls, now joined by what was obviously a gray-haired mage wearing a green cape and dark blue robes, were fighting. The window looked to be open. I stepped forward and looked at the fray.
"C-careful!" She warned me. I merely looked to the belt in my hands. I never once let go of the Volcano Belt. Maybe I took Hotaro's last words to heart. I felt the cold breeze touch my sweating face. I stepped forward, looked into the battle and shouted:
"ALTAIR!" With that, the Military Uniform Princess stopped in her tracks as the redhead managed to strike her with her sword. She winced and glared at me with her signature red and blue eyes, further confirmation that this was indeed her.
"Why did you say that name!?" She growled.
"Because that's your name." I smirked.
"How… How do you know that name!?" She just glared at me. I never really saw Altair as an angry person, though that's mostly because all the videos I've seen of her were her doing cutesy dancing moves. I placed the belt onto my waist. For a moment, I felt calm. And I know exactly why:
This was obviously a dream. I must have napped by accident and that I'm currently living out a power fantasy. I cleared my throat and spoke out:
"Justice will always find a way, Altair! The knowledge of your name is well known to the underground. In my time of recovering from our fight, I have learned it." I had assumed that Hotaro died fighting her and that she was chasing him, mistaking him for me in the process. I decided to play along with the story I was given. "Your evil stops here and now! I swear by Yuna's grave!" I felt some strange burning sensation in my heart. Chest pains most likely.
"HOW DARE YOU SAY THAT NAME!" She yelled as she flew towards me. I did a running start and leaped into the air. Suddenly, my body set itself on fire. I didn't panic. This was exactly how I wrote Hotaro's transformation. His body would burn, eventually changing into armor.
"RIDER PUNCH!" I shouted as I landed a red gloved fist right onto her face. I hovered in the air as the flames died down, showing off my Rider Form to the group.
"What the?" The redhead commented.
"Could it be…" The mage replied. I smirked and struck a classic pose in the style of Ichigo.
"KAMEN RIDER… DANTE!" I roughened my voice to sound like Hotaro.
"Jeez, you've gotta be kidding me." And it seemed the redhead is the peanut gallery. Altair took some time to recover from the punch before she grunted and flung her swords at me. I dodged each one before I took a sword myself. Instantly, the sword ignited and burnt up, turning into a crisped version of the sword. I recalled this being a feature I wrote in for Kamen Rider Dante, sort of as a nod to how Ichigo was the first rider to use a weapon, that of his enemy's.
I flew towards her and slashed with the sword. As she used her sword to stop it, I could feel the heat seep from my sword onto hers, causing the steel on hers to melt and making the blade bend backwards. While I could continue to see her glare at me, I saw from the way her lips creased that there was also a mixture of confusion as well, as if she was asking me how this was possible. I smirked and began to be a smug, cocky hero.
"Do you see this, Altair? This is the flame of great justice! Passed down from Professor Minos to deliver judgement onto those who would threaten the earth! Even if I die, this flame will be passed down to others, and thus it shall be eternal!" As I spoke, I began to feel even hotter. I saw air vents on my gloves as they began to blow and shoot out fire.
"W-what is this?!" Altair shielded her eyes. I merely glared at her.
"This is the divine inferno of hell! Like how Prometheus stole fire to give onto man, so did Professor Minos as he stole it from Re:Shocker to give onto me! This is my Endeavor against those who would commit injustice!" I let the flames erupt from the vents as I shot upwards into the air. "SHOOOOOOOOOTO!" I somersaulted and went into a diving kick.
"RIIIIIIIIIDER KIIIIIIIIIICK!" I shouted. Altair defended herself with a pile of swords, all revolving in a circle, but my foot impacted right into the shield, causing a huge explosion that did not affect Altair. I back flipped onto the air and just hovered as Altair began to pant. She tried to move, but she jerked back in pain.
"This ends now!" The redhead shouted as she flew to her. Altair, however, blocked her sword with her bare hand.
"No… This is just the beginning…" She glared before pushing the redhead away. She then stared daggers into my eyes. "We'll meet again, Hotaro Dairou, and when we do, you will die." With that, Altair turned into what appeared to be a blue hologram and faded away. With the fight over, I began to breathe. I felt dizzy… I felt this way after staying outside in the long hot summer days back at my aunt's house…
I felt my body give up as my vision began to black out.
"Hey! Little bro! Guess what?" My sister called me as I laid down in my bed.
"Yeah?" I droned a bit. While my sister's cheery voice would make me smile any other day, I felt too drained to smile.
"Guess what they're making! You know those light novels I liked? Vogelchevalier?" I tried to remember, but so many things clouded my mind. "They're making an anime of it! I wonder how they're gonna do the Vogelchevalier. My boyfriend's pretty hype for it as well. Hey, just got an idea! We should get together in Akihabara and watch the premiere! It'll be like the good ol' days!" She said.
"… Thanks, but I think I'll pass." I said.
"Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh? Why?" She sounded so cute and concerned that I decided to muster up the energy to explain what happened…
My eyes opened up. Vogelchevalier. That's where I remembered that girl from… Was my dream some sort of guilty conscience telling me to get myself caught up on the anime? I guess so. Well, I decided to give my sister a call as I reached for my phone…
As I did, I touched literally nothing… Nothing but someone's lap.
"Huh?" I blinked as I saw the bespectacled woman from the dream.
"You're awake!" She smiled. My body froze. No… It's still a dream. I looked around…
No. It wasn't. I saw the redhead and the mage sitting by my bed… No… This wasn't even my bed. Green sheets… a drab brown wall… an unfamiliar ceiling… I was in the hospital…
Which meant that the dream was real.
"W-what's going on?" My heart raced as the woman grasped my hand and clenched it.
"Calm down. We'll explain everything." She told me.
"No! This is still a dream!" With my free hand, I pinched my stomach… only to find the Volcano Belt on my waist. "WHAAAAAT?!" I winced. The doors opened as I saw more people step in. A group of people with glasses on, two of which were men, one old and another young, and another, a woman, in a business suit. There was one more person, a kid around my age with blue hair wearing what appeared to be some sort of odd futuristic jumpsuit. Needless to say, this just made me panic even more.
"WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE!?" I shouted. "AM I BEING PRANKED OR SOMETHING!? THIS ISN'T FUNNY, HONOKA!" I shouted out for my sister.
"This is probably the worst reaction I've ever seen." The lady in the suit just fixed her glasses. I could see the boy in a school uniform look at me with a bit of concern, like I was gonna attack him or something. The older man just stroked his stubble.
"Eeeeh, it was probably bound to happen." Were… Were they making fun of this? I just realized that yesterday's events were real and that not only have I became Kamen Rider Dante, but that people are now looking at me funny and some internet meme was out to kill me. I began to hyperventilate. My body went cold, as though my spirit had left my body. I wanted to go home.
That's when the chubby woman held me. I began to tremble before letting out some tears.
"Shhhh… It's okay… We'll explain everything soon…" She soothed me and stroked my back. I could feel her neck move a bit and I heard some people leave. When she let go of me, we were the only two in the room. "What's your name?" She asked me.
"…Fujioka … Fujioka Hoshi …" I said. She smiled and held my hand.
"I'm Marine. This might sound overwhelming, but..." She bit her lip. "How do I put this?" The door opened as I saw the mage walk in.
"If I may, I can explain everything to him." She said in a calming tone. Her whispered voice made me feel a little calmer. I nodded, as if giving her approval as she sat down next to me.
"Recently, there have been a chain of events that have caused people from various stories to come to this world. These people are called Creations. It seems that the Military Uniform Princess, who we can now confirm is named Altair, mistook you for one such Creation." She said.
"K-Kamen Rider Dante." I said.
"Which is weird. I was unable to find any information about this Kamen Rider Dante. If anything, the Rider we would be seeing would be Ex-Aid or one of his allies or enemies." She said. I simply shook my head.
"That's because Kamen Rider Dante… It's… It's a fanfic. A story on the internet that I wrote." As I said that, I could see the two girls move back their heads, even if the mage's was more subtle about it.
"So… You're his Creator?" She asked.
"… I… guess? Look, I don't know what's going on… I just found Hotaro in the bushes and got his belt, then Altair found me and I ran…" I said.
"Altair… She's the reason why this Hotaro appeared. She must have tried to recruit him." She said.
"She's done so with some other Creations. Their aim is to eventually cause the Great Destruction." I merely gripped the sheets as I saw Marine look at the mage with a bit of concern. The mage cleared her throat. "Sorry. I understand this is a lot to take in." As she did, I saw the door open and saw the businesswoman walk in. "This is Kikuchihara Aki. She's in charge of a response group dealing with this phenomenon."
"As you might realize, this is a very dangerous situation we're in. We've formed a task force to handle the locating and protecting of Creators and their Creations, and in your situation, Fujioka, you qualify as both." She said. I realized that the suit she had was not for any business, but rather for the government. I felt a little sick, but I kept focus.
"W-what will happen to me?" I asked.
"You'll have your normal life as usual… but as far as we are concerned, you're involved in this situation, as are the rest of us. Ergo, you will be given access to our phone numbers and we'll keep you informed of the situation." She said.
"Information goes both ways though. If there's something happening that has to do with this situation, I expect you to inform us." The mage said. I wasn't exactly sure who was in charge now. On one hand, Kikuchihara looks the part, but on the other hand, it felt as though the mage is the one in chage, since she's giving me commands. I looked down to my Volcano Belt.
"… Will I have to fight?" I asked.
"If you wish." The mage responded. "I advise you restrain yourself, though. We're trying to minimize our impact on this world as possible. A flaming bug that can blow up into a burning man is obviously blatant." She closed her eyes. "However, there is one thing I wish to know." She then opened her eyes and glanced at me. "You know who Altair is. How?" She asked. I took a moment to think of that.
"She's from a series of videos on the internet. Um… How do I put this… You know what a meme is, right?" I asked.
"A commonly shared joke among a group of people, remixed over and over with different themes and meanings." She said.
"Erm… Yeah. Altair is sort of like that. She's from a music video and people just liked her designs enough to draw inspiration." I said.
"You mentioned something… World Etude? Is that the name of the video?" Marine asked me. I looked at her, hesitated, and nodded.
"Yeah. That's the name." I said. The mage smiled.
"Well, that's one mystery solved. Now we just have to find her Creator." I froze. My body shook as I recalled the conversation with my sister.
"What?" Honoka responded.
"Yeah… I… I don't know what to do…" I said.
"How long ago did it happen?" She asked me.
"I… I heard about it yesterday." I responded.
"Are you alright?" She asked.
"… I haven't gotten up from this bed since I got the call." With that, I began to shudder and weep a bit.
"Hold on! Akagi and I will be on our way! Don't worry! We'll help you!" She said.
"Okay…" I smiled… While I was sad, I was glad to have Honoka help me out…
Yes, the memory I had to recall was painful, but if I didn't tell them this now, I'd feel more awful.
"… Don't bother trying to find her." I said. The mage stopped and looked at me. I could already tell in Marine's face that she's piecing together what I was going to say.
"What exactly do you mean, Fujioka?" The mage asked me. I sat up and looked at her. Ever since that day I found out, I had buried that pain deep inside myself, only bringing out to flesh Hotaro's goals out. In a way, my pain became his pain. It took me a while to realize that Hotaro suffered, just as I have, if not worse than me. I realized that I wasn't just doing this to help them. I was doing this to hopefully atone for unintentionally ruining Hotaro's life. This gave me even more of a drive to give them this piece of information.
"Altair's Creator…" That said, it was difficult to say. I could see in the mage's eyes that she's starting to understand. "She's…" I couldn't bring myself to say it. But I had to continue. I had to help. I had to atone. I had to get out of this pain. In the heat of the moment, I shouted out what had happened to Altair's creator:
"My friend killed herself!"
If you're wondering about the voices, my headcanon voices are that Hotaro is voiced by Tetsu Inada and that Hoshi is voiced by Natsuki Hanae.
Chapter 3: You Don't Have To Fight Alone
I had to be wheeled out of the hospital. Not because of my heat stroke, but because after revealing how I knew of Altair, I couldn’t move from my bed. Marine pushed my chair as I just looked at the tiled floor. I tried to make sense of the whole thing.
My creation died in my arms… I then had to confront the creation of a friend of mine… I then was saved by some random woman from… Vogelchevalier. I remembered her from that.
Speak of the devil. I saw her converse with the school boy. I waved over to her. The boy just looked at me then clenched his teeth. The hell did I do to make him so scared? Marine wheeled me over.
“Hey. You must be that lady who saved me yesterday.” I said. She merely scratched the back of her head.
“Yeah. I guess you know who I am?” She asked. I just shook my head.
“N-no… Um… I haven’t really seen a lot of Vogelchevalier… Um… You’re…” I tried to think of a few names for her. “Asuna?” As I said that, she merely closed her eyes and gave a soft chuckle.
“Eeeeh, not even close, kid.” She then opened her eyes and shook my hand. “My name’s Celesia.” It felt weird. My hand was touching the hand of a fictional character. And it felt like a genuine human hand, with smooth skin and a warm sensation. Our hands stayed stuck together for a while before she chuckled again. “W-well, we should probably continue on.” I nodded and let go of her hand.
“Aaaaand you are?” I asked the boy. Although, come to think it, the boy looked familiar. I squinted at him. “… Do I know you from somewhere?” As I asked that, I could almost sense his body tense up, though he managed to hide it pretty well.
“N-no! We haven’t met… Sorry.” He then bowed.
“Well, in that case the name’s Hoshi.” I smiled. The boy hesitated.
“S-souta.” He said. I heard someone approach us. I didn’t know who it was until she opened her mouth.
“We’ve confirmed the identity of the Military Uniform Princess.” The Mage said.
“Good! Who is she, Meteora?” Celesia asked.
“Altair. Fujioka’s managed to give us some vital details.” She said. I could see Souta dig his fingernails into his palm and grit his teeth. I decided not to comment on it, since it just felt weird. “For one, her Creator, Shimazaki Setsuna, is dead.” Although I had told them about this and I had known about it, the information hit me like a ton of bricks. “I propose an impromptu meeting discussing what to do now that we know locating her Creator is an impossibility.” She said. I could see the two people nod as Souta just frowned.
Marine proceeded to place her hand on my shoulder. As I looked into her amber eyes, I realize why she seemed to be concerned for me.
I was gonna have to feed Meteora more information about the friend I lost.
We had gathered into a large room, lights just coming back on as we finished watching World Etude on a large screen. The view count was a seven-figured number. It didn’t hurt me as much to see the final message from Setsuna as I had thought.
“It’s quite surprising how a small video can make such a large impact…” A new person, one fatter than most of everyone combined, sighed.
“But as we can see, Altair was able to fight. If she was truly summoned from this video, the most she could do is stand there and look pretty.” Meteora muttered. That’s when she noticed something. “But… Hoshi, you said she was a meme, right?”
“Erm… Yes…” Meteora nodded to the fat man, the one who had set up the projector, as he scrolled down to a list of related videos. He clicked on one of them as it showed a brief clip of Altair using one of her swords and a gun like a violin, thus reducing a gang of men into nothing more than flower petals.
“That’s…” Celesia spoke up as we turned to her. “That’s the move she made that destroyed Vogelchevalier!” It took a moment for us to factor that in. Meteora just inhaled as she looked over the video.
“This was not a video made by Shimazaki, however. At most, it’s a secondary creation… This is concerning.” She said.
“What do you mean?” Souta asked.
“I don’t have enough evidence to confirm this, but this implies that Altair is getting her powers from these secondary creations.” She glanced over to the bunch of other videos related to World Etude. “And if her being a meme is the case…” She face palmed. “This is a serious opponent. I’ll adjourn the meeting for now and discuss matters with Kikuchihara.” Before Meteora could walk away though, the fat man clicked on something.
“Actually, there’s something else I discovered while we were setting up this meeting.” He then clicked on a tab. It was Setsuna’s Piclive account. While there were a bunch of wonderful drawings she had left behind, one stuck in particular for a lot of us, especially once he clicked on it.
The image was of a man in armor standing in a blazing building. Red gloves, red boots, red helmet, charcoal spandex… Everyone looked to me, especially once my eyes scanned the name of the art:
Kamen Rider Dante.
“At least we know why Hotaro was summoned to this world. If Altair really was Shimazaki’s Creation, then so would Dante in the same sense that Marine is Celesia’s Creator. We still don’t know a lot about her, but this information is substantial enough. Thank you for your time. We’ll contact you again when needed.” As she said that, I noticed my phone. When I had last had it on me, it was at 50 percent… Now it’s at 90. I hit the contacts list, just on a gut feeling, and I now had at least a dozen new numbers.
“We’ve taken the liberty of connecting your number with the others’. I apologize for the invasion of privacy, but we felt it’d be better adding the numbers while you were recovering from your fight than to just ask you out of the blue.” Kikuchihara said. I just groaned while smiling. It was weird they did that, but considering that I have more information than anyone in the room now, it was safe to say I was their inside man.
“Th-thanks…” I muttered.
“I’ll drive you home, if that’s okay.” Marine asked me. Since waking up, she had been quite literally the only thing that wasn’t actively making me sad or uncomfortable. In fact, she was doing the opposite, making me feel relaxed and comfortable despite being forced to confront the fact that my friend killed herself.
I guess that’s why I nodded to her.
Throughout the ride, Marine explained to me who she was and how she factored into the situation. She was the illustrator for Vogelchevalier and was brought in to try and test out a theory of Meteora’s.
“So… Um…” I looked to her dashboard and just blushed a little as she looked at me. Her seemingly cat-like smile made me smile a little myself. “How did you react when you met Celesia?” I asked.
“Oh… Well, I got kinda confused like you did.” Her smile creased into a frown. “Though I wasn’t chased by some woman with swords…” She then took a moment to ponder. “Had it not been us that ordered…” She stopped the car at a red light and took the time to let the words impact me.
I turned my body to the side and folded the seat back. I didn’t want to entertain the idea of just how lucky I was that the customers I was bringing the food to just happened to be anime characters.
“S-sorry! I didn’t mean to make you feel bad!” She gripped her hands on the wheel as the light turned green. “I’m just counting the blessings.”
“It’s not a blessing. It’s a coincidence. Like how I came across Hotaro.” I said.
“Meteora would say how this is fate. So… Perhaps that’s the case here.” She said. I felt the car come a slow stop. At first, I thought it was another stoplight until I felt Marine nudge my side. “We’re here.” I got up and saw my apartment. I looked to Marine and hesitated. I didn’t want to leave. As much as I wanted to go back and pretend this never happened, I also wanted to stay inside this pleasant aura she gave off. However, the surprised look she gave caused me to raise an eyebrow. She then dug into her purse.
“Right, I almost forgot!” She then pulled out a 10,000 yen note. My jaw dropped as she handed it to me. “For the order.” I had no idea what the overall price was, but quick calculations in my head have told me that this was more than the total price of the deliveries if they had ordered twice, barring tips, of course.
“T-this is too much…” I muttered.
“Part of it’s your tip… And another part is for the trouble you went through. Take it. It’s my thanks for giving us some food… And also an apology for getting you mixed up in all this.” She said. It took me a moment, but I held the note for a while before she let go of it. I took it and stored it in my pocket.
“Umm… Thank you, Marine…” I smiled before opening the door.
“Oh! One more thing! Um… I think they added my actual name instead of my penname on your phone…” Marine said. I looked at my phone and entered the contacts. “It’s…” She took a moment to speak up. “Ayano Koura.” I found the name almost instantly.
“Yeah, they did. If you like, I can change it to Marine.” I said.
“Oh… Well, if you like…” She said. I just smiled for a bit. After a moment looking back to her, I got out of her car and got into the apartment. I waited until the car drove away before I went up.
I stared longingly at Setsuna’s drawing of Kamen Rider Dante. Such a beautifully drawn picture. The flames had been touched up with just the right amount of color, the Rider’s dark appearance contrasted the overall backdrop in a way that made him stand out, and best of all, she pretty much captured how I imagined Hotaro.
It gave me a brief moment to smile. Any other day, this would give me inspiration to write the next chapter, as if she’s telling me to keep going. I closed my eyes and let the tears fall onto the desk.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I reflected on everything that had transpired…
“Please… Take my Belt… Stop the Military Uniform Princess… And… save this Land of Gods…”
“We'll meet again, Hotaro Dairou, and when we do, you will die.”
“My friend killed herself!”
As soon as I remembered that, my head immediately hit the desk and I began to sob.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
“You don’t have any drawings. How come?”
“I can’t draw. I can only make stickmen, www.”
“Well, what do you love doing then?”
“Then you should do that!”
She was the reason I began to write. She was the reason Kamen Rider Dante was a thing… She was the reason I was in this mess. I reached for my phone. Before, it was easy to find my sister’s name, but now, I had to wade through a combination of actual and made up names. At one point, I literally stopped scrolling and realized I had Nakanogane’s number.
I remembered watching Mono Magia with Akagi, my sister’s boyfriend. We were so pumped when the Gigas Machina appeared. It was one of the few times 3D was pulled off well in an anime. And now I have the writer’s number. Any other day, I’d be happy with this… But as I leaned in, I could feel the Volcano Belt press into my stomach. I looked down.
Just another reminder of the fight I was thrown in. But… This is supposed to be a dream come true for a Kamen Rider fan, right? Becoming a Kamen Rider and fighting monsters? So why then do I feel like taking the belt off and tossing it across the room? As I thought of that, I did experiment with something. Pinching a clip on one side of the belt, I heard a small click and the belt loosened. I was able to take off the belt with ease. I sighed in some form of relief.
When I wrote Kamen Rider Dante, I did so with the intent of throwing back to the old Showa Riders of old. Though I never wrote Hotaro to be like the others, a human modified by cybernetics or bioengineering for at least one of them. Instead, I with a more pseudo-mystic origin story. While I did name Dante after the movie, the Divine Comedy had me thinking of incorporating some sort of mysticism into the story.
Thus, the Volcano Belt was born. As opposed to most of the main Rider’s belts or drivers, which usually are suited for only one person, the Volcano Belt could be used by anyone, created with the intention for evil. Hotaro was just the unlucky sap who had his love taken away from him and, in his quest for vengeance, ended up coming across the belt thanks to Professor Minos.
He wasn’t selected to be given a treatment to be a Kamen Rider. He was just given a belt because his motives aligned with Professor Minos’, that of wanting to betray the Great Leader and move up in the ranks. Thus, I didn’t need to worry about stuff like having the belt be fused into my body or living the rest of my life as a cyborg.
This, along with Marine, was the only bright spot in this otherwise cloudy day.
Well, I can make it shine brighter…
I pressed my sister’s name and it began to ring. As soon as I heard her voice, I knew things weren’t exactly back to normal.
“Hey, ya little fuzz-nugget! You totally played me for a fool!” She said.
“Erm… What?” I asked.
“That job! It wasn’t a delivery service! You just wanted to keep that internship a big surprise!” I blinked, shook my head, and just squinted as though my sister was right in front of me.
“Okay, stop pretending. I know about your internship with Matsubara.” Matsubara? Who the hell was he? “Maaaan, I am so jealous! You’re working under the legend himself! Did you meet him in person? Or is it one of those cases where you spoke to his agent?” I was pretty silent, but I decided to play along with it.
“How did you know?” I feigned a chuckle.
“I got a call this morning from some woman… Kiku-Kiki… Uuugh, long name, but she explained the entire situation. Sorry she ruined the surprise.” She said.
“Erm… That’s okay. I was gonna tell you myself.” I bit my tongue. Already I knew she was talking about the government lady.
“Oh man! I am excited to hear all your stories! Oh, yeah, back on topic: you met Matsubara?” She asked.
“… No. I didn’t see him.” Obviously he’s part of the group I essentially got drafted into. I sighed and spoke up. “But I did meet someone. She’s a nice lady, very kind, super cute…” I caught myself at the last descriptor and blushed as my sister just giggled.
“Daaaw, you have a crush on someone! What’s her name?” She asked me.
“Well, her name’s Ayano Koura, but she apparently goes by the name Marine.” That’s when my eardrum nearly shattered as Honoka gave off the loudest shriek.
“OH! MY! GOD! You met Marine!? No goddamned way! Shit! You didn’t meet Matsubara, but you met Marine?! And you called her cute? Ooooh! You need to tell me all about your internship once you get to Akihabara! Leave no detail behind!” She said. I had a smile, albeit briefly, before realizing that my ‘internship’ probably would want me to keep certain things on a classified basis. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was pretty much stuck here.
But there was an out.
“Actually, if you like, I can go to Akihabara right now. I got the train fare ready.” I said.
“Oh! Cool! Alright, let me know when you’re heading and I’ll get ready! Moving on up in the world, kido! Love ya!” With that, she kissed the phone and hung up. I just looked to my phone. There was no hesitation in my next move:
I rushed over and picked up a duffel bag, one that I use when going over to my sister’s. There, I stuffed the bag with as many t-shirts, underwear, and pants as I could, not caring for stuff like toothbrushes and combs. Once I zipped it up, I pocketed the yen note and was about to head out…
That’s when I saw the Volcano Belt that I had left on the bed when I was waiting for my sister to answer. I wanted to leave the stupid thing behind and go off to forget its existence and the pain it brought me.
But then I remembered Altair. She’ll be looking for me. If not her, then possibly people she’s recruited. And if she finds me, she’ll probably try to kill me and those I love. The belt was perhaps the only thing that could protect me…
So I grabbed it and placed it on my waist. At best, people will mistake it for a fancy belt. At worst, people will assume I’m some weird kid with a delusional mental condition. I didn’t care either way. I was gonna meet my sister, and that’s final.
I walked on my way to the Tokyo Station. It was a bit of a trek, though. As my legs began to tire out, I took a break and sat on a bench. I looked at my phone to see how far I was.
About ten more minutes to the station, though I could take a shortcut that could get me there in half the time. I took the moment to catch my breath. While I know taking a bike would be easier on paper, the last time I biked to Akihabara, the duffel bag I took caused the bike to be top heavy and constantly tip whenever I felt the need to make a turn.
As I sighed and got ready to continue the trek, I heard some girls giggling.
“Yeah, the robot’s this big and… Hey!” As I looked to see what the girls were laughing about, I saw a boy wearing grayish clothes, such as a jacket, a hoodie, a white shirt, and a cap. I noticed his hair was significantly blue.
There was a game me and Akagi played whenever we watch a random anime: guess the main character. It was an easy game for most anime since the main characters are the only ones allowed to have vibrantly colored hair. Anyone else would just have a brownish color or just outright brown. And seeing this blue-haired boy, I can definitely guess that he is such a character.
Though, come to think of it, a blue-haired boy talking about a robot… I blinked. The boy looked pretty real, but he had a passing semblance to the protagonist of Mono Magia, Rui Kanoya. Intrigued, I decided to play along and go up to him.
“You must be that Rider dude everyone’s talkin’ about.” He then looked down to my belt as I instantly knew he was talking about the government and its ‘internship’. “Sweet! You have the belt!” He said. He definitely had Rui’s voice. The two girls, who were no doubt around Rui’s age, if not a year or two younger, just looked at me and smiled.
“You mean like a Kamen Rider?”
“Could you transform? Please?” The two girls looked to me as Rui just shrugged and gave me a bit of a glance. I sighed and remembered what I used to describe the transformation pose.
“Rider…” I crossed my arms in front of me before setting both of them to my side and slowly bringing them up, almost like a fire that’s building up. “HENSHIN!” I shouted as I then placed my left hand out, palm outwards as my right hand rested below the elbow of the left arm.
Almost nothing I felt from when I first used the belt occurred. No heart burn, no searing flames, not even heat stroke. I basically stood there like an idiot.
“Eeeeh? Nothing happened.”
“He’s probably just faking it… Let’s go, Natsumi.” With that, the two girls left. Rui groaned.
“Way to ruin it.” He muttered.
“There you two are!” I turned to see Celesia waving to me and Rui. I hesitated before waving to her. She wore more traditional clothes than when I saw her. She wore a dark red dress with black stockings, and that was with a jacket she wore over it. “I’ve been wondering where you were, Rui.” I saw Rui pout at her.
“I had better things to do than attend a meeting.” Rui said.
“It’s alright, I’ll give you the cliffnotes of what we learned.” Celesia pretty much confirmed that Rui is in the same ‘internship’ as I was. “Anyways, Kikuchihara wanted me to give you two this.” She then took two letters out from her jacket and handed one of each to me and Rui. I looked at mine… It was from the government. I opened it up and looked at it. It was cheque for…
Rui’s eyes also opened as he saw the amount.
“Kikuchihara said that she’d help with funding us Creations so that we can better integrate in the real world and get help with living arrangements, among other things.” As she said that, I looked at her with a raised eyebrow.
“But I’m not a Creation.” I said.
“Well, yeah, but in your case, your job might get bogged down with helping us, so you’re also getting this compensation.” I just looked at her and sighed.
“So! Shall we get something to eat?” Celesia asked me. I soon realized why and took out my phone. “There was that pizza that was good!” Celesia said. Ah yeah, the pizza shop. I scrolled down and found the exact place where I got the extra-large salami and cheese pizza, then had it give me directions.
It felt weird to sit at the same table as my sister’s favorite character. It was awkward for me to eat the same pizza that the hero I cheered for ate. It felt like I was still in a dream, knowing I was with people who were outright fictional characters.
The people who passed by us remarked at how they were either cosplayers or foreign. Had I not been informed, I would have just passed them off as mere cosplayers.
But no. I was told from the word go that they are indeed the real deal.
“So, how come you weren’t able to transform?” Hearing Rui directly talk to me ripped me out of that idea. He sounded exactly like he does in the anime.
“Wait, you were getting him to transform?” Celesia asked.
“Y-yeah, just to show off…” Rui looked away as Celesia just face palmed.
“Well, it was a good thing he didn’t. Who knows how we were gonna cover that up.” Celesia asked. I raised an eyebrow.
“Oh, yeah. Meteora’s theory is that the more disturbances we Creations cause, the more likely we might cause the Great Destruction, so best try to keep them to a minimum.” Celesia said.
Great, now I get this pressuring shit added onto my plate? I bit into my pizza, only to spit it right back out.
“Ah! It’s hot!” I shouted. Celesia and Rui gave a brief chuckle.
“Well, I’m still a little curious as to how you’re able to become this… Dante guy.” Rui said.
“… Well, I’m not sure myself…” I thought back to my cliff notes when I began writing up Kamen Rider Dante. I took out my phone and went onto Piclive. After brushing aside yet another user’s demand for the next episode, I went to my very first chapter where I had went into detail on the belt. I began to read it carefully.
The Volcano Belt is one of the eighteen belts made by Professor Minos to help Re:Shocker take over the world. It draws from the element of fire, and thus, open flames are what are necessary to transform a person into Kamen Rider Dante.
I said this out loud so that the two could hear.
“Fire? Wow, if I had that flame chant, I’d probably be able to help you out with that.” Celesia said. “Though, come to think of it…” She then ate her slice, chewed it, then swallowed it. “How were you able to transform last night?”
“… Well…” I continued to read.
However, the fires of the Volcano Belt seek out those who share a hot-blooded desire. These flames settled with Hotaro Dairou’s own inner flame, causing them to ignite whenever Hotaro’s flame ignites.
“… What does that mean?” Celesia asked.
“Oh! Oh! I know! He just has to act all cocky and brave and stuff and wham! Rider form! Right?” Rui doing heroic poses was probably the only thing aside from Marine that gave me a smile right now. And, for the most part, he seemed to get the right idea. I nodded. Then I looked down at the food and ate my, now cooled, piece.
“Shame I can’t exactly feel hot blooded.” I said.
“What was that whole speech you gave last night, then?” Celesia asked.
“I thought it was a dream!” I sighed. “Though I should have known it was too good to be true.” Celesia just blinked before holding up her hand.
“What do you mean?” Celesia asked.
“You and Rui… You two were made to be heroes. Your role is to save the world, right?” I asked. I bit my lip. What if they hated being made to save their world? What if I somewhat offended them?
“Yeah. So?” Celesia asked.
“I wasn’t given a role. My day-to-day life? That’s my story. I can’t fight like you can or pilot a giant robot like Rui could… I only deliver food, write some sappy story about a fiery bugman, and that’s it. In the end, I’m just some nobody. I’m not even supposed to be here...” I began to stand up. Celesia, however, stood up with me and held my hand.
“It’s true, you’re not like us… But…” She eyed my belt. “Your Creation handed that belt to you. Your own son has faith in you. And you proved his faith with that fight.” She then looked at me and smiled. “In a way, you are like us.” I turned my head away to avoid looking at her.
“In what sense?”
“You may be just a human, but,” she placed her hand on my shoulder, causing me to look into her ocean blue eyes, “you can be a hero.” I merely sighed and walked away.
“I’ll… consider it.” I said before leaving the building.
I returned to the walk for Akihabara. The night was pretty warm and the lights of various buildings gave such a welcoming glow that I didn’t feel worried about going out at night. The lights made me momentarily forget the sadness that I felt. It made me feel like yesterday never happened, like I never talked to Celesia or Rui.
It made me feel normal. I decided to take the shortcut regardless. The sooner I got to my sister’s the better. The park was pretty lovely this time of night anyways, so it got me to visit the scenic route…
Though, instead of the nice quiet, I heard a gun being fired. Multiple times.
I ran closer to the sounds of gunfire.
“This is it, old man!” I heard a cocky voice in the middle of the fighting. My heart pounded. This entire situation of gunfire and what appeared to be elderly abuse was something I would never get myself involved in…
So why am I running towards the fight instead of away?
I busted through a bush as I saw the two combatants in the middle of a grassy field. One looked to some sort of delinquent carrying a wooden sword. The lack of lights had me be unable to discern any facial features or the color of his hair, though I did see what appeared to be purple-to-orange tinted sunglasses.
I looked to the person he was attacking, a detective by the looks of things. I noticed the gangster swing his sword and create a shockwave that came towards the detective.
“WATCH OUT!” I dove towards the sheriff and knocked him out of the way of the oncoming attack. The shockwave instead uprooted some trees, knocking them over. I began to tremble.
“Hey… What do you think you’re doing?” The gangster said as he pointed his sword to me. The sheriff simply groaned. “Do you have any idea what you’re stepping into?” He asked me.
“You’re gonna kill him, aren’t you?” I asked him.
“Heh. And what if I am?” He rested the sword against his shoulders and stretched his arms.
“Then I’ll stop you!” I felt it. The burning in my heart. It was a slight warmth, but enough for me to know that this is what I needed to become Kamen Rider Dante.
“Boy… You should do what he asks.” The sheriff placed his hand over my shoulder as he pushed me to get up. “I can handle this.” The sheriff was about a head or two taller than I was, and while I could take his word for granted, that warmth began to overheat.
“No! I’ll help you! You don’t have to fight alone!” There. That fire in my chest. I felt it. I could hear the fire roaring inside the Volcano Belt. It was time.
“You? Hah! I doubt you can beat me.” The gangster said.
“… I can… And I will.” I stood up and glared.
“You saw how powerful this thing is, right? How do you think you can defeat it?” He leaned against the sword.
“You’ll find out. Please, watch my…” I began to do the arm motions. They weren’t really necessary for the transformation, but it just felt cool, especially when I shouted out: “HENSHIN!” I could feel the fire overwhelm my whole body, yet never feeling burned to a crisp. Instead, I felt as though the fire bonded to me like a warm suit of armor. I then did the classic Ichigo pose of holding my arm up to the left side and shouting out: “KAMEN RIDER… DANTE!”
“… Geez, you’re really gonna fight me? Uuugh, two on one isn’t fair, you know… But if you insist on joining… HANGAKU!” Suddenly, the purpleish ghost of an old samurai woman decked out in tattered armor and ragged clothes holding a naginata came out and slashed at me. I dodged out of the way as the sheriff pointed his gun at the woman.
“No way…” Her appearance was unlike the sheriff or the delinquent. If anything, she definitely came out of an anime. Could she be a Creation that allied herself with the gangster? I tried to take out my phone to try and call Marine, Celesia, or even Meteora, but then I realized the armor was blocking my pants. “Run! You’re not dealing with some punk!” I called out to the old man.
“I knew as such… I’ll consider you my ally, just this once…” What did he mean? I couldn’t dwell on it right now. I glared at the ghostly Creation. I knew that I’d have to stop her and detain both her and the person she’s partnered with.
This was my battle. And there was no way for me to back out.
Chapter 4: Why Are You Fighting?
I stood and stared at the summoned apparition. The cool air of the night clashed with the heat of my armor, which made me feel all the more uncomfortable with the fight in question.
"Hey hey, you gonna act like a coward after all that buzz?" The gangster asked me.
"Do you have any idea what you're dealing with?" I asked him. I could try and talk him out of this apparent partnership he has with that Hangaku person.
"Tch. You're just as clueless as that girl. I oughta beat ya senseless right now!" The gangster readied for a strike only for the sheriff to aim his pistol. Wait, that girl? Did… Did he beat up a girl before picking a fight with the sheriff? Speaking of, he spoke soon after.
"Boy, I'll take him on. You focus on that spirit of his." Spirit? Wait, he can see it too!? I had so many questions about him, but I just nodded and looked to Hangaku.
"Look, I don't know what you're doing here, but there are people who can help you! You don't have to work with thugs like him!" I tried to talk to the ghost as she gave no response to me. The way she looked at me was off, almost like a doll than an actual person.
"A thug like me?" A moment later, the gangster laughed. "I see how it is… This boy didn't get his proper introduction, did he?" He asked the sheriff. Huh? What introduction? "Well, guess it's my job to inform ya, since that Military Uniform Punk didn't seem to do that job. Hey kid! Welcome to the Land of the Gods!" He told me… Wait? Military Uniform Punk? Land of the Gods?
They were the exact same words Hotaro gave me when he died.
"What the!?" I tried to inquire more information, but that's when Hangaku struck me with her naginata. Sparks flew as I was knocked back into a tree.
"Allow me to introduce myself proper. The name's Mirokuji Yuuya. And that person beating your ass is my partner, Hangaku." The man said.
Yuuya? Where have I heard that name before? I couldn't think now… I glared at the ghostly woman as the sheriff's gun began to fire off.
I had to fight.
I recalled Meteora's words to me regarding Altair recruiting new members to her cause. It was obvious that this man was part of that group now that I remembered.
"Why? Why are you seeking to destroy the world?" I asked while I pushed the naginata away from my body, only to feel it cut through my armor.
"Me? Oh, you've confused me with that other group of Creations. I don't give a crap about any of that." Yuuya said.
"T-then why are you fighting?!" I shrugged off another slash from Hangaku. As I rolled across the grass, he responded.
"Why? Because it's freaking fun!" Another gun blast and another deflection from the sword. How the hell does that stick not break? Again, Hangaku's naginata swung forth and slashed my armor. I fell onto the ground as my armor began to fade in color. I struggled to get up. Hangaku simply floated to me like a ghostly apparition and swung once more…
That's when I noticed something. I looked to Yuuya as he seemed to be occupied with the sheriff.
I placed my hands up where the naginata struck me before…
My gauntlets hit the blade. I knew it. Hangaku has decent range and effective attack but it's more akin to a drone, only allowed to do one specific task, especially when its controller is too distracted to hand out new orders. I smirked. She presented an open target for herself.
"RIDER PUNCH!" I shouted and punched Hangaku…
Only for the punch to not do a devastating blast like I had hoped. Instead, the punch landed like a soft tap on the back for her. Hangaku just gave me a blank look, as though she were just a doll, and impaled my armor with the naginata. I felt the blade rip through my armor and into my gut. I looked down at my completely ash colored armor. I remembered how one Kamen Rider would have a white form that was weaker than the other forms, even his most basic form.
I guess that's what I had in mind when I wrote in the Ashen Form. Much like a candle, I figured that Dante's powers only last a while before the flame flickers out, and thus needing to reignite the flame. It was only seen once when Hotaro first put on the belt and didn't find his will to avenge Yuna and stop Re:Shocker. I never thought I'd be able to go through this phase.
Unfortunately, I didn't have the willpower to reignite the flame, so I needed to find an actual fire. Until then, the best I could do was run.
Where do I run to is anyone's guess. The area was large and open. If I were to run away from the fight completely, Yuuya might get the idea to use Hangaku to double team the man or even finish me off right then and there. The massive pain in my gut caused my vision to darken and darken until I couldn't see anything and instead feel a pulsing in my eyeballs.
As I nearly blacked out, I remembered a conversation I had with Setsuna, back when I finished my first chapter of Kamen Rider Dante.
"I'm nervous… It's my first chapter…"
"It's okay. I got nervous when I shared my art on this site…"
"Wouldn't it be better if the story's just between us?"
"Where's the fun in that? Your story needs to be seen and loved by everyone!"
"Will it though?"
"Yeah. If your feel like the world's troubles are burning your heart, take a deep breath and believe in yourself."
I gripped my fist as I took Setsuna's advice to heart. I can't leave that poor cop like this.
"RIDER PUNCH!" I threw another punch. Nothing. "RIDER PUNCH!" I continued. "RIDER PUNCH!" And again. "RIDER… Punch…" My last punch drooped onto Hangaku's armor. I could see some blood slipping from my knuckles.
"Tch. Why don't you just run with your tail between your legs?" Yuuya spoke to me. I struggled to stand as Hangaku readied her naginata for one last stab…
Suddenly, a bullet blasted through and knocked Hangaku away. I looked and saw the cop holding his gun.
"Hey, kid…" He put down his gun and took out a lighter. "Catch." He lobbed it over. I eyed the lighter and wondered what I was supposed to do with it…
That's when I remembered my analogy… Dante's like a candle… It needs…
I clutched the lighter with my uninjured hand and proceeded to run my thumb across the match. I struck a flame. A slow, steady flame, but one that I could suffice with. I lowered the lighter to my belt and it instantly began to absorb the flames from the lighter, right down to the vapors of gas once it was done sucking in the fire. All of it happened in five seconds. When I dropped the lighter, there wasn't enough fuel to light the grass on fire.
As Hangaku tried to strike again, I leaped over her and clenched my fist.
"RIDER PUNCH!" My fist struck Yuuya's face as it exploded into flames. My entire armor returned to being the bright red Fuji Form again as I landed, the grass beneath my feet singeing. Keeping with the theme of volcano names, I gave the primary form the name of the highest volcano in Japan. Made sense to me. I held a boxer's pose as the sheriff just reloaded his gun and went to fight Hangaku. I saw Yuuya reeling from the punch before facing me. Outside from a brief scorch mark on his face, he was fine.
"So, you finally gonna play hardball?" Yuuya asked. I didn't give him an answer. I wasn't supposed to be fighting anyone. I looked back to the sheriff as he fired at Hangaku. Yuuya seemed to brush off any question I'd ask him, so I'm just left to assume he's some punk wanting a fight.
So that's what I'm gonna give him. I held up my fists and ran in. I swung one fist and as it reached Yuuya, I swung with the other. He bobbed and weaved through them before hitting me in the gut with the end of his stick, right where Hangaku impaled me. I clenched my teeth as the wound was poked. He tried to strike again, but I grabbed him, using the fires to sear his wrist. He pulled away, pushing me onto the ground.
I flipped over and kicked him in the back of the head. I used it as a springboard to jump up to one of the trees, stomping my foot against a tree branch. It was a loud creak as the branch pulled away from its tree. As I began to fall onto the ground, I grabbed the branch. The powers of the Volcano Belt activated as the branch began to turn black with red veins of fire seeping out of it. Using the trunk as a springboard, I leaped forward to deliver a strike at Yuuya.
Yuuya responded with a slash, though with my newly crafted lance, the two weapons clashed, creating a small shockwave. As I landed, I ran to slash and swipe with my lance as Yuuya parried each one. I pushed him back with each strike as small flames flew from the lance as I swung.
"Do even know how to hold that kinda weapon?" Yuuya asked me as he parried one of the blows. Truth be told, no. I never held a lance in my life nor have I fought with one. My only experience was watching a compilation video of Kamen Rider fights. I never really gave myself time to watch the newer Kamen Riders, so I was fuzzy on a lot of them. I did remember one such rider who held a lance, a knight that seemingly looked like a banana. He used the lance exactly like how I was, though now that I noticed, perhaps he wasn't the most skilled in using it either.
I decided a stab would be better than using overhead slashes, though Yuuya managed to catch it with his hand. Good. I took this opportunity to headbutt him… Rider Headbutt… Is that even an attack worthy to be named? I held the lance and ran to him, giving him a slash while he was disorientated with the attack. With one turn, I gave him a roundhouse kick to his back, knocking him onto the ground. Yuuya spun around, as though he were a break-dancer, and tried to trip me up, though I leaped into the air.
That's when I noticed I began to hover. I looked to the ground and, sure enough, I was sustaining a sort of flight. I looked at my hands and realized one thing I didn't factor in when I made Dante. Because his powers are themed around fire, that would mean that the heat from the armor is propelling me upwards.
"Come down here and fight!" Yuuya shouted as he swung his sword, creating a current of wind that knocked me down onto the ground. Yuuya approached me before he began to deflect some gunshots from the sheriff. "I'll deal with you later, old man. This kid's tickin' me off." The sheriff reloaded, though I could see Hangaku making her move to attack, drawing his attention away from Yuuya. Yuuya pointed his sword to me.
"Heh, looks like I knocked your lights out… literally." I noticed my red armor slowly fading in color. I felt his stick pressed against my shoulder. He looked specifically at my wound. "Tch… You still fight me with that wound Hangaku gave? You really are stupid." I struggled to get up, only for Yuuya to press the kendo stick into my shoulder, pinning me down. He was right. I'm stupid. I should have ran when I had the chance. Now I'm gonna die.
My body got cold as I thought of that.
I'm going to die.
My first night as a Kamen Rider, fighting crime… And it's gonna end in me dying. I began to think about what'd happen after I'm dead I'm going to cause trouble for the poor officer, knowing he had a kid die while he was on duty. That's assuming he'll survive the night. Marine's probably gonna be devastated that I died. I know for sure my sister isn't gonna recover from this. Losing mom was hard enough, even if sixteen years had passed since then. I hate to see my sister cry for me. I began to cry inside my helmet.
I looked to the night sky… It's pretty. Very pretty. So full of stars. I smiled. I could see Aquilla, one of the three constellations that form the summer triangle. There was an old story behind it, of a girl and a boy who loved each other, but were separated by a barrier. On a certain time of the year, magpies would form the bridge for them to reunite.
I thought about Altair, Setsuna's last published drawing before she died. Was she trying to convey a message? Perhaps my death would be a bridge, reuniting me with Setsuna. Yeah… That doesn't seem so bad. I tried to be a hero and paid the ultimate price, yes, but at least I know I tried and that I could rest.
I felt my heart race.
Yes, I'd welcome this death if it meant I'd see Setsuna, but there are so many factors weighing against it. I need to save that cop. I need to be there for my sister. I need to help Marine and the others stop Altair.
I need to be a Kamen Rider.
I took the makeshift lance and used the secondary feature of Dante's ability to enhance weapons. I smashed the lance against the ground, shattering it into a fog of ash. This was Dante's main power: the ability to turn whatever he touches into cinders and ashes. Dante would take whatever he can use as a weapon and turn it into something akin to charcoal, using the flames until it eventually becomes ash.
Yuuya coughed as I took this opportunity to get up and ambush him. First, a punch across the face. Once he realized where I was, I ran to the other side and side kicked his gut. I then leaped into the air as he cleared the ash with his sword slash. This was my one chance to finish the fight.
"RIDER KICK!" I shouted, using the last of the fires to create a flaming foot as I flew towards Yuuya and kicked him in the chest. He was knocked into the tree as I landed. As I did, Hangaku faded away. I panted as the fires died down, now fully back into Ashen Form. A moment later, the armor disintegrated, flying away like dust in the wind.
"Good. Good. Nice work." The cop clapped his hand as he walked over. He unloaded his spent bullets. "I'm surprised you managed to put up a good fight," I smiled to him, "Hotaro Dairou." As he said that, my smile instantly died as I had a chill go up my spine. As if it wasn't enough for my brain to send warning signals, he began to load his gun. "The Military Uniform Princess had informed me of you and has given me orders to kill you. I thank you for defeating the other guy. Makes my job and her job a lot easier with two obstacles out of the way." He pointed the gun, barrel pressed up against my helmet.
"W-wait! There's a mistake! I'm not Hotaro! I'm just a guy who got his belt!" I held up my hands. "I-I only pretended to be him because I thought I was dreaming!" I looked into the man's eyes. There was light from the fires caused as Dante for me to get a good look at his face.
As I guessed from his tone of voice and the way he addressed me as a child, he looked very middle aged with short brown hair, with part of his sideburns graying out. He wore silver-framed glasses and had a mustache and short beard. His gun, however, was the interesting part. It looked like a revolver, but the way it was designed, it looked like it was mashed up with a pistol, almost like something out of…
I then remembered a series of OVAs that I remembered watching when I was in Akibahara during my grieving of Setsuna. The OVAs revolved around a cyberpunk setting where two detectives go out of their way to hunt down cybernetic monstrosities. He was one of those two.
"B-Blitz?!" I asked. As though to answer my question, he raised an eyebrow.
"Hmm? How do you know that name?" He took a moment to ponder it. "Unless… No. You're not Hotaro… You're-"
A current of wind knocked him away and causing him to fire into the air as he fell. I turned around and saw Yuuya run and grab me. I could see a mishmash of foresty colors, dark shades of green and black as I heard gunfire.
"There's just no limit to how stupid you can be, is there?" Yuuya asked me as he ran. Eventually, after one large leap into the air that caused me to almost lose my dinner, we landed in the middle of the street. As Yuuya let me down, I began to wobble. "There. We should be far from the old man." He said.
I straightened myself out, my dizziness fading as I saw Yuuya. As I thought, he dressed like a delinquent, but it was the impossibly styled short purple hair that caused me to remember who he was.
Mirokuji Yuuya was the rival and eventual final boss in the long-running manga Underground Dark Night. I never kept close to the manga, just knowing that he's the typical "moody prick that every girl wants to redeem with their love" that every Shonen fighting manga had. I merely pinched the bridge of my nose.
"You gotta be kidding me…" I then hunched over from the pain. I lifted my shirt and…
There was no wound. There was a mark where Hangaku stabbed me, but no actual cut. As though the cut was… burned. Well, now I knew that the armor can cauterize wounds on the fly.
"Just so you know, I coulda left ya to die there. But somethin' interestin' came up." Yuuya took me to a nearby bench and had me sit down there. "You know who I am. You knew who that old man was. That can mean only two things: One, you took the time to read about us, which I highly doubt considering your," he took the time to snigger, "conversation with Hangaku. And the most logical option two… You're a Creator using your Creation's powers." He smirked. I merely glared at him.
"How do you know that's my Creation? What if I said is true and it's just some belt I got?" I asked.
"A Creator knows everything the Creation knows about their powers. If that was truly someone else's Creation, I doubt you'd be able to figure out half the stuff you did in that battle." Yuuya sat down next to me. It was the middle of the night, so nobody would be passing by at a time like this to see that a manga character is sitting right next to me. "So, where's your Creation, then?" He asked me, though as soon as he saw my frown, he grunted. "Figured that'd be the case. I'm guessing he crossed that Military Uniform Punk and now she has her hitman out for you." I nodded. "Sucks to be you then." He got off the bench.
"Though, with a Creator being his own Creation… Have you ever considered revision?" He asked me.
"What? Revision? Like… revising Dante?" I asked.
"Yeah. You made his world and gave him his powers. There's the possibility that you're able to give yourself more powers by changing how they work." He stretched. "Though, I wonder of those other people considered that hypothesis."
"Other people?" That's when Yuuya tilted his head to look at me while he had his back turned. It was so inhuman that I'd probably break my spine if I did that.
"Yeah. You didn't happen to come across a redhead and her mage friend, did ya?" I got up.
"You met Celesia and Meteora?" I asked.
"Yeah, yeah. Not sure how their experiment went though." Yuuya said. I recalled Celesia mention something about a Flame Chant and how Marine mentioned being brought in to test a theory out. Did those things have something to do with this revision idea?
"Oh. They never told me about anything regarding that." Even if that were the case, I'd have no idea how it went outside of it possibly failing, but I didn't wanna take that chance in case Yuuya is prying for information so that he could revise his own powers. I'd rather not invite his wrath if what I said turned out to not be the case.
"Well, if you meet 'em again, ask 'em. Might save you the trouble of having to experimenting on yourself." With that, he left, lighting up a cigarette… Lighting up. That gave me an idea.
I entered a convenience store and went to the cashier. Taking at least a dozen lighters and dropping them on the counter, I took out my wallet and the yen that Marine had given me. I would definitely be needing the lighters in the figure if I were to ever run out of fire like I did back there.
"Wooooah!" The shopkeeper's eyes widened at the lighters as I gave him the cash. With only a moment of hesitance, he took a plastic bag, stuffed the lighters in, took my money, and gave me both the change and the bag. "Not even a compulsive smoker buys that many lighters. What's the occasion?" He asked me.
"Well, you know, stocking up for the winter." I replied. He nodded.
"Ah. Not enough money for a kotatsu?" He asked.
"More like not enough room. I live in a studio apartment."
"Ah, that sucks. You considered moving to somewhere bigger?"
"Nah. I like the space. Plus it's affordable." The shopkeeper just sighed.
"Yeah, I agree with that, but you're not worried about being cooped up in your place? It can get lonely living on your own."
"Yeah, but I have my sister and her boyfriend in Akihabara."
"Any friends?" He asked me. I thought back to Celesia and Rui. I took a moment to consider if they truly were my friends. I just shook my head.
"Nah, just co-workers." I said. The shopkeeper just hummed.
"Hmm… Having co-workers is better than having nothing, though it's better if you live with people you know and even better if you live with people you love." With that, he took one more lighter and placed it in my bag. "Here, on the house."
"Thanks…" I pondered the advice that the shopkeeper had given me as I eyed the tag. Tachibana. As in the mentor to the Seven Legendary Riders. I gave a brief snicker as he smiled.
"No problem. You have a safe trip hope, alright?" He said to me. How about that? My very own Tachibana.
"I will." I got out of the store with the bag in hand.
Getting home… That'd be the tricky part. I looked around. No streets that I recognized, not helped by the fact that it was mostly pitch black save for the lights. I took out my phone to get a map, only to find that my battery was almost dead. Using the map and its built in GPS to guide me home was practically suicide for that battery. I could always try to walk back to the park, but I'd fear that Blitz would wait for me. So, I began to wander around.
I scrolled through the names on my phone until I found Meteora. I figured, at least, that she'd benefit from knowing of me encountering two Creations.
"Hey, I came across two Creations. I think you know one of them, Yuuya, and the other is this guy named Blitz Tokar from Code:Babylon. Not sure if you've heard of it, but that's where I come in, I guess. Also, that whole revision thing, did you guys try that out yet?" I had half a mind to call Marine and ask her for a lift, maybe even stay over at her house.
"It's better if you live with people you know and even better if you live with people you love." I recalled Tachibana's words and sighed.
"Daaaw, you have a crush on someone!" It's true that I felt something for Marine. It obviously wasn't a romantic kind of love, as she's half a decade older than me. However, she saved me when I was being attacked by Altair, comforted me when I was confused and frightened at the hospital and when I confronted the fact of Setsuna's suicide, and even drove me home and gave me some money.
There was certainly no doubt that she'd help me out in this situation and that I would certainly not mind sleeping at her place for the night. But what if I disturb her sleep? I didn't want to burden her with me after she gave so much.
So, I continued to wander the street until I found a more familiar landmark, like a park or even the Tokyo Station. I walked around the city enough for me to know base locations, though I only took the route to the station going to Akihabara. What didn't help was the night and the low lights. It almost made the area I'm walking in look like a whole new world.
Only ten percent left on my battery. Do I risk it dying on me to get an idea of where I am? Do I just bail out and call a cab or even a Creation, assuming they don't sleep? I groaned at my options. Fortunately, there was one deciding factor…
I was tired and I need a place to rest for a while.
So the journey became less of figuring out where to go home and more where to stop by so that I may sleep, even if I risk looking like a hobo in the process.
I spent the better chunk of my hour looking for such a place before I just figured: "screw it", and went to a path leading to underneath a bridge. I could still feel the pain from Hangaku's naginata, but it's a dull pain rather than a sharp one. My body began to go limp as I could hear what appeared to be crackling fire by the bridge. Wait, that must mean there's people there. I wondered what kind of people they were. Kind hearted? No. Not out here. Especially in the middle of the night.
I expected the worst. Beggars who were pushed to the curb and are willing to do anything for even one yen. I wanted to keep my guard up, especially if I could use the fire to power up my armor, but my body had hit its limit.
I approached what looked to be small campfire with three rocks holding up a red kettle. I could see two people, but couldn't make out who they are before I fell, face first onto the grass, as my body began to shut down.
I heard the two figures approach me. I didn't have the energy to get up and fight them off should they decide to rob me. The only passing thought I had was that I still had the Volcano Belt on my waist. If these two wanted to steal it from me, they could do so without me being able to fight back. Then they would just take the belt and, if they put two and two together, use it to be Kamen Rider Dante.
It seemed my brain is the last to function as my body shut down for the night, as it went through many scenarios that I was unable to prevent. What if these people used my belt to cause a disturbance throughout the city. Altair might mistake them for me and kill them or have Blitz kill them for her. Hell, they might not even know how to use it and just run off with the belt, leaving me without a defense or a means to fight Altair.
I couldn't do anything about it. I was dead tired. I needed to sleep. I needed this sleep. The only thing I could do was listen to the two as they examine me and pray to whoever is listening that they don't take the belt. They may take anything else, even my money or lighters. So long as they leave my belt, I'd be fine with being broke.
I felt my body being flipped over. My eyelids were too heavy to look at the two, and thus I could only hear their voices.
"He's breathing. That's good." I could hear what appeared to be a woman's voice. A bit gruff sounding, though.
"Alice… What are we gonna do?" The other voice was a contrast, that belonging to a girl. The voice also gave me a name. Alice. A foreign name… Yet she's able to speak fluent Japanese. I couldn't process any more information as my brain just went blank. I passed out, my last thoughts praying that these two women would leave me to sleep.
Chapter 5: Interlude
The dead of night. As a child, Kirameki Mamika always had been told by her parents not to be out this late at night. Unfortunately, circumstances had caused her to live out in a small park underneath the bridge, a small fire used to boil the water being her only source of warmth.
That wasn’t to say it was lonely. She had company and protection in one package: Alicetaria February. She could remember how she saved her life from that man with the purple ghost. The two just finished a conversation regarding a new possibly ally and what merits they would look for in him, leaving Mamika somewhat puzzled at the compliment that Alicetaria gave her.
Though the peaceful moment was soon interrupted as Alicetaria got stern.
“W-what is it, Alice?” Mamika had a problem pronouncing complicated, foreign names like Alicetaria, and thus she decided to shorten it to just Alice. Alicetaria just stared at a man who had stumbled onto the scene, carrying a plastic bag and having a duffel bag over his shoulder. He wore a simple red shirt with black colored jeans.
“Halt, who goes there!?” Alicetaria summoned a lance and pointed it at the man. The man was unresponsive, only walking forward like a zombie before falling face first onto the ground. Mamika was the first to run to him.
“Are you okay!?” As she approached him, she knelt and placed a hand on him. Alicetaria was the next to approach the man. She crouched and placed two fingers underneath his nose.
“He’s breathing. That’s good.” She said.
“Alice… What are going to do?” Mamika asked Alicetaria. Alicetaria flipped the man on his back and looked at his body.
“He doesn’t seem to be injured. Probably just overtired. We’ll set him up on a bench and leave him be. We’ll find another place for the night.” Just before Alicetaria attempted to pick him up, she noticed something on the man’s waist. A belt with the center being in the mold of a volcano. Alicetaria hesitated as Mamika looked at the belt as well.
“Mamika, you should go.” Alicetaria’s hands struggled to hold the lance.
“Is he… Is he the guy the Military Uniform Princess told us to kill?” She asked. Alicetaria gave no response. Mamika wasn’t invited to the meeting where they were assigned to kill Hotaro. It was obvious why she wasn’t there, especially now when it came time to kill him. It wasn’t until Mamika laid her body over the man that Alicetaria elicited a gasp. “Don’t! Please!”
“Mamika…” Alicetaria sighed.
“It’s not right to kill someone! It’s cruel to just… kill them in their sleep…” Mamika started to cry. Alicetaria bit her lip before setting down her lance.
“You’re right.” It was a clever tactic, yes, but in terms of morality, she’d never forgive herself. “We’ll let him rest. When he wakes up, we’ll talk to him. But Mamika, if he is a threat…” That’s when Mamika glared at Alicetaria.
“Then I’ll do it. I’ll get him to see where we’re coming from. I’ll make him an ally for us.” Alicetaria just gave a faint smile.
“… Alright.” She said. Mamika got off the man and looked at him for a moment. As Alicetaria picked him up, Mamika went to get something. “Mamika, what is it?” Alicetaria asked.
“He might know who we are, right? It’d be better to pretend we’re people from this world.” Mamika smiled as she unfurled a white sweater. She showed it to Alicetaria and lightly giggled. Alicetaria smiled. She hoped that the eventual meeting with this Rider would be a peaceful chat.
Chapter 6: Do You Have The Courage To Ride With The Devil?
I awoke to a warm morning light, a feeling of just a tiny bit of adrenaline kickstarting my heart as lifted my back up and looked around.
I was still at the park. I sighed in relief and looked down to see the Volcano Belt was still on me. My duffle bag was within sight. I smiled. Seemed the hobos left... As I picked up the bag though…
"Morning." I heard what could be the cheeriest voice besides my sister. I turned to see a girl wearing a white hoodie with tiny cat ears stitched onto them. The hood was over her head, preventing me from seeing her hair. It took me a moment to realize this was one of the two voices I heard last night. I looked around for the second, Alice.
I didn't need to look for long though, as I could see a woman a head taller than her with long blonde hair tied into a ponytail. She wore a blue tunic lined with golden fabric, a red skirt and what seemed to be golden boots. Her foreign appearance along with her attire has me convinced that this is Alice. But I didn't wanna guess.
Neither of the two looked like they were with no home. They looked rather well-kempt, especially with Alice's curly hair. Perhaps they were just camping?
"Um… Morning…" I feigned looking around a bit, to give off the impression that I was lost. I then looked directly at the girl. "I passed out here, didn't I?" I knew that I did, but I wanted their side of the story.
"Yes, you did." Alice spoke. Contrasting to the girl's voice, Alice's was much more refined and even a little noble sounding. "Luckily, we were here to help." Despite her foreign looks, she was fluent in Japanese.
"Thanks…" I got off what I found was a makeshift bed made from planks of wood. I looked around. No signs of sleeping bags or backpacks for either of them. There wasn't even a tent. I stretched a bit while I heard my back pop a bit. "I'm sorry if have caused you two trouble." I said.
"No, you didn't. Actually…" The girl hesitated to speak. I looked to Alice and to the girl. Something wasn't sitting right. What were two girls doing in the park if they weren't camping here? Were they truly homeless? I decided to get more info.
"S-sorry to interrupt, but… I can't help but notice the situation you two are in." That's when the girl lost her train of thought and looked to me, eyes widened and mouth agape like I just presented her a hard math question.
"What do you mean?" Alice kept a glare that's as sharp as daggers on me.
"I mean… Well… It's rare to find girls… erm… women… like you two out here… living like…" That glare was beginning to make me choke. What if I was wrong and they're not homeless? What if I'm offending them by claiming they're homeless? The girl began to frown.
"Well… We don't exactly have a home. In fact… We're trying to go back." She told me. They don't have a home? They're trying to go back? Was she a runaway? My heart began to pound. It was that same feeling that pressured me into helping Blitz. I attributed it to what I could consider a sense of good will. I got up and walked over to the girl.
"I'll help you." I said. I've never seen a girl so happy in my life with a smile that wide.
"You will?" She responded.
"Yeah. My name's Fujioka, Fujioka Hoshi." I said to her.
"Fujioka?" Alice asked.
"Y-yeah… Something wrong?" I asked back.
"… No. It's nothing." I don't really know why Alice seemed to dislike me so much.
"Um… My name is… erm… Miyuki." The girl said. There wasn't a lot to go from. Just Miyuki. I'm not even sure if it's her family name or her given name. But, nonetheless, I wanted to help them return home.
"Miyuki, I know someone who could help you." Kikuchihara has ties to the government. I'm willing to bet my bottom dollar that she has connections to a missing persons division.
One thing that bothered me as I saw Miyuki's happy face was her eyes.
I've never seen such an exquisite shade of purple in my life.
The problem was finding Kikuchihara. I only met her in the hospital and while I could pop by Marine's apartment, I felt as though I might complicate things by involving the wrong people. The easiest solution was to go home and charge my phone, which was now fully dead, and contact her.
With the sun lighting the area I was at last night, I was able to determine where I was. Yuuya took me pretty far from the forest, and by extension, the station where I intended to go. It was gonna be a long trek home, roughly an hour of walking, less if I took a shortcut, though I worried I'd come across Blitz again.
I looked back to Miyuki and Alice. Alice seemed to be the least winded of us all. Even though I had recovered my strength, I still felt some of the strain of yesterday, most of that due to my fight as Dante. Alice, however? From the way she was walking about on the streets, striding across with nothing to distract her, I presumed she's used to this amount of walking, maybe even more. Miyuki, however, was pooped out fifteen minutes into the walk, prompting Alice to carry her on her back.
"So, where is this Kikuchihara person?" Alice asked me.
"I don't know. I have her number, but my phone is dead and I can't reach her." I was tempted to ask her for her phone, but even if I did that, there was still the problem that I didn't exactly memorize her number. I mentally kicked myself for not writing down her number, though considering how many numbers were added, I guess it couldn't have been helped. It would have been easier to go to the cops at this point…
That's when I saw several cops lined up around an alleyway. Yellow tape lined the area with a blue tarp covering the entry way of the alleyway. I stopped and just looked. That's when I saw her. Kikuchihara. She was talking to one of the cops. I turned to Alice.
"That's her. Wait right here." I then proceeded to run to the crime scene. The cops began to panic as I rushed straight for them. I stopped just shy of the yellow tape, calming them slightly. I turned to Kikuchihara. "Ms. Kikuchihara! I need to ask you something!" I said. Kikuchihara just looked to me and simply nodded.
"Let him in." She told one of the cops. A moment of awkward silence later and he lifted the tape for me to slip underneath. We both entered a slip inside the tarp...
As we entered, I saw that the entire alley was filled with a collection of white strands of silk, all clustered together.
"Woah…" I muttered. I marvelled at the display for a bit before I found its main feature.
There was a fat, chubby man intertwined in the white silk, hanging from just small strands that surprisingly held him up. From the pale color of the skin, his bloated skin, and the sheer stench, I concluded that he had been dead for quite a few hours. Over him was a spider's web, though, that's when my blood ran cold. There were a series of thicker silk strands that made it stand out from the web. Looking at the strands, I noticed how they ended up spelling the katakana for two words:
In the history of my reading, there had been only two cases where writing can be seen on a spider's web. The first was in a novel that I had to read for my middle school's English class, a novel I had long since forgotten. The second, thanks in junction with what I learned recently, was what got my heart pounding.
There were a series of light novels that were a mix of supernatural horror and murder mystery. In it, a boy named Sakagami investigates strange goings on in his neighbourhood, usually murders committed by reality-bending demons who took human form.
This was the work of one of those demons.
"As you can see, this is the work of a Creation." I heard the emotionless voice of Meteora as I saw her brushing away some of the silk. I didn't even recognize it was her from the appearance alone, wearing a casual shirt and jeans instead of the baggy robe she wore. "Of which story, we've yet to determine."
"Yasoukiroku." Meteora took a moment to understand what I was saying. "The story… It's Yasoukiroku. There's a villain in the fourth installment who is a serial killer. Her method is taking a victim, reading their minds with her silk while draining their blood, then hanging their corpse underneath the web." I took a moment to look at the corpse. "You identified him?" I asked.
"Midorikawa Kiyoshi. He was a yakuza, placing several restaurants under his protection in trade for free food for him and his friends. Police were trying to build a solid case against him before this incident happened." Kikuchihara said.
"… Some pig. She was calling out his gluttony." I said.
"What?" Kikuchihara asked.
"Her M.O. is that she kills her victims and then displays them underneath a descriptor of their true nature. In a way, she weaves the truth." I said.
"You wouldn't happen to know her name, do you?" Meteora asked me.
"I think it was… Jorougumo?" I said.
"I'll have the others notified ASAP." Kikuchihara walked off. I turned to call to her, though Meteora cut me off and looked to me.
"I got your text. It's good that you provided us with the information regarding one of the Creations." Meteora said.
"I heard Yuuya met you and Celesia… He wants to ask-"
"However, you caused a commotion last night. Not to mention the property damage caused by the fires." Meteora said.
"The two were in a fight and I had to stop them! I didn't even know they were Creations!" I said.
"We can only cover up so much before things start to leak out. For instance, we may not be able to pass this off as any regular murder, even if we said that the killer borrowed the method from reading Yasoukiroku. Admittedly, your little scuffle is easier to cover. They could say that some teens were fooling with a lighter and burnt some patches of grass." Meteora took a moment to walk past me. "However, if a similar incident happens, people might begin to wonder about it. The more people are curious about the true goings on, the less trust they would put in the government's authority and in turn, make this world's balance more unstable."
"I'm sorry. I thought Blitz was a cop and he was about to be killed…" I was about to get on my knees before Meteora held my shoulder.
"You're a good kid, Fujioka, but fate's given you a hard path. People may call what you become a Kamen Rider, but whenever you transform, you become a human torch, a burning man… A fire, if left unchecked, can cause untold amounts of damage. That's why your powers have the potential to be the most destructive of us all." As she said that, I lowered my head.
"I… I don't want to fight… But… Last night, when I saw Blitz…" Meteora merely patted my shoulder.
"And that's why it's a hard path. You have the heart of a hero, and yet your idea of being a hero involves fighting and using that power to help others. Using those destructive powers to protect... It's almost kind of tragic." Meteora then stepped back. "Fujioka, you can choose whether to fight or not, but I'll warn you now. I have not accounted for us to encounter a murderous character like Jorougumo and I doubt she'll cooperate with us. She's too risky to let loose, especially if these murders prove hard to cover. That's why if you are to encounter Jorougumo…" Meteora closed her eyes and considered what instruction to give me, even if I knew full well what she'll really say.
"Stop her." Kill her.
I got out of the crime scene and looked for Kikuchihara… Damn, she must have left while Meteora was lecturing me. Most of the cops left, with only one of them standing by, obviously to make sure no one comes and disrupts the scene.
When I got back where I left Alice, she was already a block ahead of me. I ran to catch up to her.
"Sorry, I tried to talk to her, but things got in the way." I said.
"How do you know this Kikuchihara person?" She asked me.
"Well…" Time for the lie. "I have this internship. I'm learning to be a social worker someday and Kikuchihara's my mentor. She was at the crime scene since part of her job revolves around law enforcement."
"I see…" There was a bit more to walk before we got home, so I decided to pry.
"Um… Alice. I think it'd help me if I knew how you and Miyuki came to know each other." I could see Miyuki sleeping peacefully on Alice's back. She hesitated to answer, though considering what her response was, I could see why.
"I saved her." She saved her life. So many questions flooded my head. Some I knew Alice might be uncomfortable to answer. The obvious came up though.
"How?" I asked.
"… A man was about to attack her and I stepped in to save her. Ever since, she seemed to be thankful to me." She smiled a bit. "I'm sort of happy. Before she came into my life, I was all alone. She might seem naïve at first, but she's a good person." All alone? I can only imagine how shitty Alice's life was. Though, that's when I remembered something…
"You're just as clueless as that girl." I instantly asked her a question.
"How long ago was the incident?"
"A few days." That gave me some information to confirm who the assailant was, but I had to confirm.
"What did the man look like?" I asked her.
"He was a young adult who had purple hair and-"
"Hmm?" Alice asked me. Crap. I had to think of something, fast.
"I probably saw him in the news somewhere. I don't think you should worry about him though. I think the police have it under control." I said. Alice took a moment and smiled.
"I hope so." I decided to finish my interrogation with one last question.
"So… You have any idea where Miyuki lived before you met her?" I asked.
"No." She answered right away. I felt as though this was a question to ask Miyuki once we got home.
Took less time than I thought. I entered my bachelor, took off my shoes, and looked around. The entire unit I was in was about ten square meters. Just stepping into the apartment would put you within arms reach of the kitchen. Two steps forward and you'd enter my bedroom. I frowned and bit my lip.
My sister never came over to my apartment and for good reason. The living area is just one hallway, the kitchen hogging the space needed to sit and relax. We would have to retreat to my bedroom just to have breathing room and even then, my computer, bookshelf, and bed choked what little room the apartment had left.
This was the first time I ever had people over and my face instantly went red.
"I doubt you're accustomed to this kind of living, Alice." I told her as she let Miyuki off her back and got her to wake up.
"How do you live in this place?" Alice asked me.
"Usually alone. It's made for one person in mind. Come, there's some room over here…" I led her to the bedroom where Miyuki followed. I went over to the computer desk and plugged my phone into the charger, then proceeded to sit on my chair. My phone began to charge up as I noticed a text from my sister.
"Hey, everything alright, Starry? I tried reaching you but you didn't answer." I began to text back.
"Phone died. Had a long night working with Matsubara." Another white lie. "I'm not coming for a while. Something came up." With that, I set down the phone. I casually searched from my phone for any missing persons website, hoping I can find Miyuki's face somewhere. Of the few I found, none of them listed a Miyuki and those that did were too old to fit the bill. I sighed and closed the browser on my phone. Nothing. No lead. I turned to face Miyuki, who was already sitting on the bed as Alice looked at my bookshelf with curiosity.
I only had a few light novels, manga and even a DVD of Mono Magia. I wasn't a massive fan like my sister and I was more into tokusatsu. Even then, most of the DVDs I had were of the old Showa era, hand-me-downs from Akagi, almost all of them were Super Sentai, Kamen Rider's sister show revolving around five heroes in multi-colored spandex.
"Miyuki, you told me earlier that you didn't have a home. Mind telling me what exactly you meant by that?" I could see her fret a little.
"How… How do I put this… My home's in Tokyo… but…" She took a moment to figure out what to say. That's when her body jolted up. "Ah!" She smiled a bit before reaching into a bag she had been carrying. She pulled it out and handed me what appeared to be a curry mix. There was a girl on the cover of the mix.
She was obviously a magical girl with pink pigtails and wearing a pink sailor uniform with baby blue ribbons and a heart-shaped jewel on the center of the bow.
"Cuuute~!" I took the mix and looked at it closely. Seems the magical girl's name was Mamika. I could see Miyuki blush just as she was playing with her hoodie.
"I-it's… I…" As Miyuki fidgeted and Alice looked to me, I just smiled.
"It's okay to like things made for children. So long as their story is good, that's all that matters, right?" I then thought of something. I woke up the computer, remembering full well that I had left the art of Kamen Rider Dante up. "I like Kamen Rider, personally." Miyuki got off the bed to look at the art.
"Wow!" That's when I noticed her eyes stared at something that wasn't the art itself. "Setsuna?" As soon as she said that, I gave my hardest to turn the frown I was about to have into a smile.
"Yeah. That's who drew him." I said.
"You… wouldn't happen to know her, do you?" As soon as she asked that, I froze. How would anyone know I'd have a connection to Setsuna? Yeah, she drew my character, but it could be any kind of connection at that point. A paid commission, an art exchange, even plagiarism. It was easier to come up with those conclusions than conclude that we were friends.
"Your face confirms it." Alice said. For some reason, she gave me a glare that was angrier than usual. I caved.
"Yes, I know Setsuna…" I gave a pause. I needed to mentally prepare. "We should eat first. Then I can tell you if you wish." I looked at the curry mix and noticed that Mamika…
Had purple eyes. I looked back at Miyuki and noticed that I could see a bit of hair hanging off her head. Pink. Like Mamika.
"Okay…" Miyuki said. I got up and slowly got to the kitchen, closing the door on my way in. I began to hyperventilate as I prepared the pot for cooking the curry. As I placed the water and curry into the pot on the stove, I sighed.
"Okay… Calm down, Hoshi. You're just delirious from that fight with Yuuya… You're just helping out a little girl who ran away from her home and her surprisingly tall friend and you did not invite a magical girl over to your house and are now cooking the curry she has her face printed on. That's impossible, even though you survived fighting a gangster with the spirit of an ancient samurai woman and conversed with a mage over using your hellfire powers to murder a serial killing spider demon." I chuckled in a high pitch as I got a wooden spoon.
"Oh! It gets better! Afterwards, I'm gonna tell the girl and her angry friend how my best friend killed herself! Like I did before…" My body trembled as I remembered the past two days. I dropped my spoon and tried to hold back tears, desperately breathing as though I fell into a pool with no way out. That's when I heard the door open.
"Hoshi?" I turned to see Miyuki look to me. Her hands were on the edge of the door frowned. I noticed her hood was down, showing to me the pink pigtails that confirmed that I was indeed talking to Magical Slayer Mamika. I just smirked.
"You heard everything… Didn't you?" I asked. She just nodded and approached me.
"I can handle the rest." Mamika said. I complied and fell onto the ground. I sat there as tears began to flow. "I'm… Sorry about Setsuna."
"How do you know about Setsuna?" I asked.
"I heard someone say her name and seeing it on that site..." I sighed.
"… Fine… Let's get it over with." I said. The only person who knew Setsuna outside of the Creations I told was Altair. Chances are, she's allied with her.
"Eh? What do you mean?" Mamika glanced at me before looking back at the curry.
"You got her orders, right?" That's when I heard Mamika shriek a little.
"No! I won't do that to you!" She took the pot off the stove and proceeded to sit next to me. "Her orders were to… hurt," kill, "Hotaro Dairou. But… you're Hoshi Fujioka. You're just using Hotaro's belt." She said.
"I wonder if she'll even care." I said.
"I'm sure she'll understand the mix up… And you said you're Setsuna's friend? The Military Uniform Princess is also her friend! Perhaps you two can help each other." Mamika said.
"I doubt it. Last we encountered each other, she wanted to kill me." That's when Mamika placed her hand on top of mine.
"She'll understand. Trust me." She gave me a smile that lifted my spirits for just a moment.
"So, when you said you were trying to go home, you meant go back to your world." Mamika just nodded. I just scoffed. "This whole time I thought you were a runaway. Looking at it now, it all makes sense." I then chuckled as Mamika laughed. We both got up as she prepared the curry. I saw Alice walk towards me. I approached her and smiled.
"Alice, I didn't realize you were protecting a Creation… That's why you traveled with her. You should be proud of yourself, Alice." I offered her my hand… Only for Alice to gnash her teeth.
"DON'T YOU DARE TOUCH ME!" She slapped my hand away so hard, I could feel my bone about to break.
"Alice!" Mamika shouted as Alice proceeded to grab me by the collar.
"You… You try to pass yourself off as a nice person, when in reality, you're just as bad as everyone else… No… You're worse!" She then slammed me against the wall, my back nearly broke into one of the closet doors.
"Alice! Stop!" Mamika ran to hold Alice, almost going into tears as she did. I tried my hardest to get up.
"Mamika, I took the time to read Hotaro's story while you were comforting that… monster. He made Hotaro's life a living hell… A never-ending battle against evil. Tell me something, Hoshi. You felt awful when you lost Setsuna, right?" Panicked, I nodded. "Then why did you make Hotaro suffer that same feeling!? Do you think that you'll feel better if you gave someone else despair?" I began to slowly realize something about Alice, but her sheer rage towards me caused my entire body to be drained.
"You're worse than a God. You're a Devil!" She held out her arms. "Mamika, there's one question we forgot to ask him. If you aren't Hotaro Dairou…" Soon, glowing dust appeared around her right hand as it soon materialized into a large steel lance that she pointed right to my neck. "Then why do you have his belt!?" I looked down at the lance. How was she able to summon one? The only person I knew that could do that was…
That's when I looked at her face. It was a familiar face. The face of a berserker in battle, waging her own never-ending battle against the forces of evil. I felt so stupid not realizing it sooner. The woman in front of me was indeed Alice, but her full name was Alicetaria February, the hero from the Seinen manga, Alicetaria of the Scarlet.
"I… I…" I realized why she was so angry when she looked at my bookshelf. I had almost every volume of her stories. Most of which showed her fighting a losing battle. In that moment, I can understand Alicetaria's anger and fury.
"Alice! Let him go!" Mamika sobbed. Alicetaria just pushed the lance deeper into my neck, to the point where I could feel the cold steel about to pierce my skin. That's when I remembered what Hotaro said.
"So that's what she meant by the Land of the Gods." I now realized what he meant, especially with Alicetaria calling me a devil.
"He gave it to me!" I shouted.
"What?" Alicetaria asked.
"He gave it to me before he died! He knew I was his Creator and he gave me the belt regardless!" I closed my eyes, ready for Alicetaria to end me.
But I felt the lance get off my neck. I opened my eyes and took a breath. Alicetaria still had that death glare on me, but at least I can breathe.
"He trusted me. He knew I made his world. He knew I killed his lover. He knew I was responsible for everything bad. And he gave me his belt. He trusted me to save this world." I said. There were a few moments of silence, with us hearing Mamika's crying as our only sound.
"He might trust you… But I don't." She turned to Mamika. "We'll eat, stay over, then leave in the morning." Mamika just frowned.
Like with Rui and Celesia, my dinner with Mamika and Alicetaria was awkward. But this time, it was in a whole different sense. And not in the manner that we were eating where we would be sleeping, all three of us sitting on the same mattress like we were school girls on our first sleepover.
Here it felt like I was eating dinner with that stereotype of someone's parents. The kind where you'd have the kind, always defensive mother and the angry, pissed off father ready to rip into their child. Though while that father would rip into the child's life choices, namely why they chose to be an otaku rather than a doctor.
Here? That dad is ready to rip into the child over pretty much playing God. I had never thought of the fact that, when I created Hotaro, that I gave him life and that I made his world what it was. I was responsible for Re:Shocker. I was responsible for Yuna's death. I was responsible for Hotaro's transformation into Dante.
I pondered this as we ate curry together. Alicetaria just glared at me. I wanted to find the right words to say. Alicetaria probably chose them for me.
"So, that internship you had with Kikuchihara… Was that a lie you fabricated?" She asked me.
"… At the time, I thought you were normal people. Yes. It was a lie." I said.
"So… What is your connection with Kiku… Kika… Chichi…" Mamika broke some tension, though I wasn't sure if her mispronunciation was intentional or not.
"I'm working with her and some other people, even other Creations, to try and stop the world from being destroyed." I said.
"What? H-how is it gonna be destroyed?" Mamika asked me.
"I'm not sure myself. I think it has something to do with what we do as Creations. If we cause enough of a disturbance, we cause the world to collapse in on itself." I said.
"That's what the Military Uniform Princess has told us. In that process, we would be able to get our Gods to save our worlds and eliminate anything that threatened." Alicetaria said.
"Even if our world is destroyed in the process?" I asked.
"This isn't my world. Nor was it Hotaro's." Alicetara said.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"He would have had you save Yuna's life. He would have got you to destroy Re:Shocker. If you had a chance to meet your God, you would most certainly have asked him to-" That's when I banged my hand against the wall. I could hear Mamika let out an eep.
"That's not how life works!" I stared at Alicetaria. "I'm not like you two. I'm not some drawing given life! I'm just some kid! I don't have a chance to tell my God to save Setsuna. And even if I did, I doubt it would even work! Because that's not! How life! WORKS!" With that last scream, I punched again. I felt heat in my arm. I looked and saw my hand on fire. I gasped and shook it, putting out the fire.
Was that… Was that Dante's power just now?
"But if it did… If there was a miracle that allowed for Setsuna to come back… Then… You would take it, right?" Alicetaria asked.
"…" I looked deep within myself for that answer, but I didn't need to look long to say the answer. "Yeah. If I could, with no strings attached, I would gladly turn this world upside down to save Setsuna."
"That's why we're here. We're trying to get our Gods to save our worlds." Alicetaria said. I breathed in. "But even if we told you, it wouldn't matter, would it? You mentioned a mage in your rambles. I presume you mean the Seeker of a Thousand Miles?" She asked.
"Who?" I asked.
"Oh! That robed lady back at Sunshine!" I noticed Mamika smiling, only for her smile to fade as I noticed a sort of thousand-yard stare as she placed a hand on the side of her stomach. I remembered the stab from Hangaku. Even if it's completely gone, I could still feel it. I then remembered how Alicetaria saved Mamika from Yuuya… That bastard. He must have cut her.
It seemed Meteora has a moniker, much like how Altair has the nickname of the Military Uniform Princess.
"Yes, I do mean her." I said.
"Then aren't you then naturally opposed to us?" Alicetaria asked.
"In a way, I guess I am." Crap. I need a way to divert Alicetaria's potential wrath. That's when I remembered… "But there's a way we can work together."
"No way. I won't work with you." Alicetaria said.
"A-Alice!" Mamika then looked to me. "Hoshi, I'm welcome to the idea of us working together! What exactly do you have in mind?" She asked.
"There's a Creation that's murdering innocent people. Alicetaria, I know you don't care for this world, but I also know you stand for making murderers face justice. Kamen Riders also fight for justice. So tell me, Alicetaria of the Scarlet…" I felt that warm fire in my heart as I smirked and asked her:
"Do you have the courage to ride with the devil?"
This went in a completely different direction than what I originally planned. Initially, I would have had Alicetaria and Hoshi sneak off into the night to find Jorougumo while Mamika slept and Hoshi wouldn't know that they were Creations until later on. Also, decided to make a new OC for this story: Jorougumo from the Record of the Night Window Demon stories.
Normally, I wouldn't go out late at night, but it seems that, recently, I've been doing that more and more. First it was the delivery, then it was the fight in the park, and now it's a manhunt for Jorougumo. I could see Mamika already acting drowsy. Mamika was the youngest out of all of us, so it was only natural for her to sleep at earlier times.
Alicetaria lifted Mamika up and had her on her back. Mamika was still awake for the time being, but given how late it is, it's inevitable that she'd sleep for a bit. Mamika was wearing her hoodie up and I can understand why. Whereas Alicetaria can pass for a foreigner, Mamika was pure Japanese. Not only that, but she's also in her early teens. Kids her age wouldn't be going around with brightly colored hair unless they want to ruin their reputation. Rui was able to get away with this since people could mistake his blue hair for black, but Mamika's cotton candy hair would not go unnoticed.
As I began to walk beside the two girls, Mamika looked to me.
"H-hey… Hoshi…" Mamika weakly spoke.
"Yeah?" I looked to her and bit my lip. She looked so cute hanging off Alicetaria's back like a child on her mother. Never would I think that these two would be so close together. Then again, given the wars Alicetaria fought and how Mamika, like most magical girls, are simply therapists with magic wands, it seemed to be a good match. Alicetaria needed Mamika's presence in her life.
"Can… Can you try to… calm down?" She asked me.
"Huh?" I raised an eyebrow.
"When you were talking to Alice, you got angry and… your hand caught on fire." Mamika said. Alicetaria turned to look at me, though thankfully it wasn't a glare. I just frowned, however. I remembered how scary it was, seeing my hand suddenly go into a blaze as though I was transforming into Dante. Especially with how short my fuse was at the time. "I knew one other girl who was like that… Someone who was very angry. Her anger was so potent that the Akumarin took notice of her and gave her the power to use fire." Mamika frowned. "In a way, you remind me of her."
"Mamika, my situation and her situation are different. I never asked for this belt. I was given the belt. I only have it because it was either that or get killed. I'm only out for my own survival." I bit my lip. Saying that out loud, it really makes me sound cowardly.
"I once knew a person like that. A man who did whatever he could to survive, even selling his soul and becoming an Unterwelt." I knew who Alicetaria was talking about. He used to be Alicetaria's leader before he became the king of a country called Nevahthorne and began fearing for his life when he realized he'd have to face constant Unterwelt invasions and made a pact with the Unterwelt's god to be spared from the attacks in trade for betraying humanity and becoming an Unterwelt himself. An Unterwelt for Alicetaria would be what a Kaijin would be for a Kamen Rider, only bigger and demonic.
"I assure you, Alicetaria, I'm not like Petoria. I'm only in this because I was at the wrong place at the wrong time." I said.
"If that were the case, why keep the belt?" Alicetaria asked.
"I wanted to give up. I wanted to run, but then I came across one of your allies. He was attacked by that Yuuya guy and I felt an urge to step in. The Seeker told me that I have the heart of a hero. Yet… I don't feel hero material. It's… It's only when I'm in the heat of the moment do I become that hero I cheer for." I replied.
"So, you fight only for the thrill? For the rush of having power?" Alicetaria's fists tightened. I never thought of it like that, but if I agreed, I'd fear that I'll have a lance through my gut. So, I played it safe.
"I'm not sure. I only had this power for a few days now. This is all new to me. Especially that burning hand thing." I said.
"Well, I guess we'll see what you truly are in the heat of battle." Alicetaria said. Interacting with the Alicetaria February would have been the best thing that could ever happen to me. But now? I dread every moment I walked next to her. I feared that one wrong move will have me killed. I doubt Alicetaria would do that in front of Mamika, so I was at least safe in that regard.
Though, as I saw Mamika on her back, I can't help but think of the child Alicetaria made friends with in the village of Magratz.
Namely how that friendship ended when the Unterwelt destroyed the village and killed everyone in it.
I wasn't exactly sure where to go to find Jorougumo. Her modus operandi revolved around grabbing criminals and exposing their dark natures before killing them and presenting their corpse to the others as a calling card. To be fair, though, Sakagami had a tough time trying to find her too. Though, that was more because he was a child investigating murders that took place late at night. He had to rely on his friend Takafumi, a detective who helped with the investigations, to stake out late at night.
It had been a while since I read that volume, though, and I hadn't the foresight to have brought it with me. The best I could do now was make haphazard guesses.
"If what you say is true, then we should investigate where the rowdy gather," Alicetaria, thankfully, gave me a suggestion, "I'd suggest a tavern, but…" She looked around. "This is your world, not mine." She shook her head.
"Well, I know the next best thing…" I pointed to a building covered with bright neon lights. It was the only beacon in this dark, dirty street and yet the brightness wasn't enough to rouse Mamika from her sleep. It was a bar, notorious for being a hive for Yakuza members of different clans to come together and discuss matters peacefully, a neutral ground for them. Considering how one of their own had died, there'd no doubt be a meeting for what to do about his killer.
As I walked in, I noticed a burly man step out and crack his neck. I hesitated before Alicetaria stepped forward and gritted her teeth. Despite the man's sheer muscles and mass, Alicetaria was clearly the taller of the two. He backed away.
"No funny business, you hear?" He muttered. I nodded as Alicetaria walked ahead of me.
As we entered the bar, I noticed that a large chunk of the tables were occupied. Several men in varying shades of white tuxedoes stood and talked amongst themselves. They were all in unison, so I couldn't pick out what they were saying.
"Alice, go ahead and try to listen in, I'll try to talk to some of the people about our perp." I said. Alicetaria just gave a scoff.
"Don't order me around, devil." She said before she sat at a table a few feet from the yakuza. She set Mamika down on a seat next to her, well hidden from most eyes. I, on the other hand, picked out a free seat and went to sit on it. Next to me was a man in a biker jacket. I could smell smoke from him.
"You must be new here." His voice seemed… off. I expected a gruff voice from him, but it seemed light.
"Eh, I'm…" I needed to make up an excuse. I turned to Alicetaria who seemed to be staring intently at the yakuza. I could only hope Alicetaria remained undercover.
"Ah, I get it. You wanna hook up." The biker looked at Alicetaria as well. "Mmmm, she's a keeper. Surprised a foreigner came here of all places." I soon realized what he meant.
"Aaah! N-no! It's not like that! W-we're just… I mean, I'm just…" I felt my face burn up, though not as though I were becoming Dante, rather in the sense that I was blushing. That's when I took a good look at the man next to me. His jawline was smoother than most of the men in the bar, there seemed to be a lack of any Adam's apple, and I noticed some long eyelashes and ear piercings. I blinked, then looked away. "S-sorry." I realized I had sat next to a woman this entire time. Coupled with how she thought I was looking for women and my heart raced. Yeah, I was trying to find a woman, but this was not what I had in mind.
"What's there to be sorry about?" She shrugged. She just smirked and her eyes darted to the yakuza. "Word of advice though, if you wanna hit on her, do so now. Bag her before they do. If you catch my drift." I soon realized what she meant as I saw a yakuza member walk up to Alicetaria.
"What are you doing?" He growled. Alicetaria stood up.
"I was told a spider monster was murdering your kin. I want to help you vanquish this creature!" I slapped my face and groaned.
"Heh, get a load of this, boys! She thinks she can help us with our… bug problem." There was a bit of sniggering going on between the crowd.
"Yoshi-san, return to our group immediately. The woman is not worth our time." One of the old yakuza heads said.
"She's made herself worth our time. Ain't that right, girlie? You think you can waltz in here and tell us what to do!?" Immediately I trembled as several yakuza approached Alicetaria and the sleeping Mamika.
"Tick tock, boy." The biker said. I heard Alicetaria growl as she gripped her right hand. I knew what she'd do. On her arm is the sacred gauntlet of Gotz von Berlichingen, a magical artifact passed down in her family lineage. Among the magical powers was the ability to summon her armor. Not only would this be bad news for me, but she'd be exposing herself to anyone who has read her story. That unneeded attention could upset the balance.
The only other option was for me to step in and become Kamen Rider Dante… but I'd also be running that same risk of exposing Creations to them. I bit my lip… That's when the biker just sighed.
"Time's up." With that, she got off her chair, grabbed it, and tossed it to the yakuza member. It shattered as splinters went everywhere on the man. I ran over to grab Alicetaria's wrist.
"Come on! Let's go!" I heard the rabbling of men and the cocking of guns. Alicetaria jerked her hand back and grabbed Mamika. We ran off as the yakuza got ready to chase us. As we ran out, Alicetaria put two fingers onto her lips and let out a whistle.
I saw a white horse adorned with silver armor and slender, pink glowing wings sprouting from the flanks. This was Alicetaria's mighty steed, Weisspherd. I nearly screamed both in a combination of excitement and fear. On one hand, I'm about to ride on Alicetaria's legendary steed. On the other, this is surely gonna get on the news. Weisspherd landed as Alicetaria immediately hopped on, with me following suit. We rode off into the sky as I saw the biker just exit the bar. She gave a smirk before she got on what appeared to be her bike and drove off.
Soon, the bar became a blur as we flew high into the air, above the city skyline. It was serene, peaceful, I could look down and see the bright lights that filled the city of Tokyo. For a moment, I felt calm.
"You didn't need to save me." Alicetaria muttered.
"… I know. But, I couldn't let you attack them." I responded. My hands didn't grab onto anything and were free, but they subconsciously waved about looking for something to hold onto. I didn't want to grab onto Weisspherd for fear of frightening it and I didn't want to hold onto Alicetaria for obvious reasons.
"They're criminals, are they not?" Alicetaria asked.
"Yeah, but we needed to be undercover. We're not gonna find Jorougumo if we start picking fights with the yakuza. If anything, we'd have a bounty on our heads and we'd have even more reasons to hide." I said.
"I refuse to hide. I would have stared them all down until they either fled or died by my spear." As she said that, I gripped at her sides.
"That's not how it wor-" I realized what I was about to say and how the last time I said it, I had made a burning dent in my bedroom wall. I let go. "That's not how it works." I said quietly.
"That may be the case in your world… but in my world? Strength is key. There's no need to be sneaky or cowardly. You only need to face your foe head on. I never felt the need to resort to such cowardly tactics before, and I won't need it now." Alicetaria said. I began to remember the first few chapters of Alicetaria of the Scarlet, how she was in an analogous situation where she confronted a band of thieves in a bar. She didn't run or hide from them. She merely attacked the strongest looking member and the rest just fled. I soon began to think more about that manga and the first impressions I got.
My hands reached down, gently tugging onto the sides of the saddle.
"That's… really good advice." I smiled. Alicetaria said nothing as I looked down and shed a few tears. "Truth be told, I look up to you."
"You… look up to me?" Alicetaria asked.
"Yeah… When I lost Setsuna, I was stuck in a very dark place. I hated myself for being a coward. For abandoning her in her time of need. I kept thinking that, had I stepped in to defend her, she would still be alive. I regretted what I did and… I almost followed her." I bit my lip as I said that. It was the first time I ever openly disclosed that. "However, before I was able to do so, I saw an advertisement of your manga. There you were, a strong and confident woman who strode through her battles without any hint of fear in her eyes. When I saw you, I felt something other than self-loathing. I felt hope."
"You… felt hope from me? Don't make me laugh. There isn't a single day where I fear the day I'd fall and the Unterwelt destroy my world and kill my people. I too failed to save lives. I too regretted what I have done, but I'm not so much of a coward as to take my own life." Alicetaria said.
"Because you were too brave to consider it. I read your manga and when I got to the part where Magratz fell, I thought about Setsuna. I felt your pain, Alice. The remorse of not saving everyone? The regret of not being strong enough? That was what I had went through. You chose to power through that though. You didn't wallow like I had. You soldiered on and that helped me soldier on." I said.
"Hmph, you think I believe that? You and everyone else only read my story to enjoy my suffering." Alicetaria said. I just shook my head.
"You're wrong. It's true you suffered, but I was never entertained by it. In fact, I never read your stories to be entertained. I read them to be inspired. Whenever I felt like I can't make it through the day, I would read a chapter from your manga. When I think about what Hotaro would do, I would think about what you'd do. It's where his sense of justice came from. You're my hero, Alice. And… being able to say that to you…" I closed my eyes and shed a tear. "That's worth everything to me." For that brief moment, I felt fulfilled…
"HELP!" That is until I heard a scream. I looked down and saw… It was that shopkeeper, Tachibana! And… a young girl? No… It was far too late for a girl like her to be walking around. It had to be…
"There she is!" I shouted at Alicetaria.
"Alright! Let me fly down!"
"There's no time! I'll meet you on the ground!" With that, I leaped off Weisspherd and plummeted down towards the two. I could see the girl sprout out web-like tendrils from the back of her shoulders… Yes, this was her alright… And I needed to stop it.
"RIDER PUNCH!" I landed a huge blow on her head, my fist erupted in flames as I pushed her down. As I landed, more flames built up from my now burning hand until I was entirely on fire, though only for a brief time before the flames died down. I was now Dante. Tachibana began to stammer.
"K-ka-kamen… Kamen Rider!" He shouted. I looked to my opponent, Jorougumo. True to the description, she could easily be mistaken for a grade schooler with her short stature and short black hair. She had a white school uniform that was similar to Mamika's, though it was very old and tattered, with several holes on the back of her shoulders.
"Kamen Rider?" Jorougumo got up, the punch barely making a dent into her skin. She tilted her head. I gave a chortle then posed.
"Kamen Rider… Dante!" I said.
"Dante!" Tachibana smiled. I turned to him.
"W-wait, you know who I am?" I said. He just nodded enthusiastically, then got up and walked around me, looking at every nook and cranny of my body.
"Oh wow! Such intrinsic detailing! That smooth steel! It's like an actual suit that Toei would make!" He said.
"U-uh…" W-wait, is… Is Tachibana a fan?!
"Aaaah! That's the Exhaust Flares! Those activate when you go into Endeavor mode, right?" He looked at the vents on my forearms.
"Y-yeah…" Oh God, he is a fan.
"Coooool! I never thought I'd see the day! H-hold on! Let me get my sketchpad!" As Tachibana ran off to his shop, I saw Jorougumo summon her web tendril.
"A truth wrapped within a truth, unravel and reveal yourself!" Sure enough, Jorougumo was about to make her move. Most of the demons in the series have a catchphrase they'd say when they activate their power. I knew I had to stop her from hitting Tachibana.
I leaped right towards Tachibana as the tendril hit me. It exploded as webbing began to seep into me. My vision soon became black.
I heard the droning of tinnitus and muffled voices. If I recalled correctly, this was Jorougumo's power: forcing me to relive a memory that would eventually lead to the 'word' that will be spun into a web when she kills me and prepares my corpse. I stood around as I saw blurs coming into my vision…
As soon as I felt something fall on my scalp, my vision suddenly became clear and the tinnitus stopped. I massaged my head as I began to gather my surroundings. I was in the middle of what seemed to be a convention. There was a crowd of people in front of me. I saw a large screen presented before the crowd, which showed what appeared to be a sketch in progress, like a draw stream. I wasn't really into those since they tend to take up a lot of time and drawing was never really a hobby of mine.
I then noticed what fell on me was now by my feet… A pair of red framed glasses, specifically one made for a…
I looked up and saw a person looking down at me from the scaffolding above. I subconsciously waved them.
"Hey! You dropped these!" As I said that, I blinked. I never thought of saying that and yet they came out of my mouth. I knew I was living through a memory, but I had no idea it would feel so surreal. It felt less like I was in the driver's seat and more like I was an outside spectator looking in through the only window I could find: my own eyes.
"Thanks! We'll grab them soon!" The person on the scaffolding said. I knew full well what this memory was, and I had to mentally prepare myself for when they came to get the glasses. As I blinked, I could feel a breeze and I was suddenly face to face with her.
Though my face never showed it to her, the thoughts of me crying to her and apologizing about what I had done clouded my mind. These were new thoughts though. The old thoughts I had when I met her were different.
Wow… she's beautiful. She might be cuter with these glasses.
But… I think she's already spoken for.
As those thoughts went through my head again, I stopped. Wait… What did I mean? My eyes went to her left as I saw a boy next to her. I was blown away by how cool he looked while wearing blocky-shaped glasses. He pulled off the blue jacket and black shirt masterfully. While my initial thoughts were "this is her boyfriend", the new thoughts sang a different tune.
This was Souta, the boy I met who panicked when I spoke to him. I now realized why that was the case. Not only that, I was able to realize just why I didn't recognize Souta. This was the only time I met Souta and Setsuna in person.
"My name's Setsuna, and this is Souta." Setsuna introduced Souta to me as we shook hands.
"So, you like Megalosphere as well?" Souta asked.
"Well, I'm waiting for Akagi, my kinda big brother. We were gonna meet up and check out that new Super Hero Taisen mobile game." I said. I couldn't believe I had the balls to say that in front of two people.
"Oh! Like Super Sentai?" Souta asked.
"Yeah. Though, I'm more into Kamen Rider…" I said.
"Do you have a PicLive account?" Setsuna asked me. At the time, I didn't. I shook my head. "You should get one. Souta and I have accounts of our own, so we could interact with each other. It would be like our own little clubhouse. You can reach me at Setsuna and you can reach him at Souta." She gave the most heartwarming smile I ever seen. While it had worked for a while, before Setsuna died, Souta and I just drifted apart and before long, he was just another name on my friend's list.
"Huh, that seems rather simple for usernames." I said. I just prayed Hoshi or Fujioka weren't taken.
"There you are!" I heard a triumphant shout as I saw a man wearing a red jacket, a green dress shirt, a white scarf, and gloves run towards me.
"Akagi!" I shouted and ran to him. As we approached each other, we shook hands, did a fist bump, then pounded each other's fists, Kamen Rider Fourze's signature handshake.
"So, ready to check out that game?" Akagi asked me. I nodded then turned to the two.
"Well, see you later…" With that, I left the two and followed Akagi. As I blinked, I felt another breeze before I found myself in my room. At first, I was confused as to why this was the case, but as soon as I saw my screen, things clicked together.
At some point in her life, she had become a famous person on PicLive, to the point where she attracted the attention of big names in the anime industry. She also garnered a lot of attention. All it took was a few people to start the fire.
I looked at the Wiki page of Setsuna's art compared to other artists' works. I saw her beautiful art overlapping with other art and noticed the similarities. I felt sick to my stomach. I trembled. To have trusted a friend for a brief while, only to find that they had been plagiarising… I wasn't sure who to believe. The evidence was right in front of me, and yet there was a doubt at the back of my head. No way. There's no way Setsuna would plagiarise…
On top of that, people had been dogpiling on my PicLive page. At that point, I was three chapters into Kamen Rider Dante. There weren't a lot of views and admittedly, the chapters were horrifically short compared to the later ones. They were mostly brief scenes where Dante breaks into a secret lab or foils the monster's plan, then beats them up. It piqued my interest as to why I was getting so much attention…
Then I saw it. It was Setsuna's depiction of Kamen Rider Dante. While most people came because of the art, others wished to point out how she stole from me. I checked the chatlogs. She mentioned nothing about this. In fact, she was awfully quiet the past few days, roughly around the time the plagiarism accusations piled up. My fingers hovered over the keyboard as I tried to figure out what to do.
I wanted to talk to Setsuna and ask her what's up, but in doing so, I might put our friendship at risk. If I defended her, I might be dismissed as one of her fans. I saw the comments on the page erupt into wars between those who accused Setsuna for plagiarism and those who defend her.
"You have no proof!"
"We have an entire wiki, you dumbass!"
"www, denial in the house."
"Shut up, I'll throw lettuce at you!"
If I threw my weight in, I'd only just get swept in the waves at best and be put in the same firing range as Setsuna at worse. As my hands moved away from the keyboard, everything froze.
I saw the words etched in spider silk right in front of me.
"That's what you are." I heard Jorougumo's voice.
"N-no. I'm not!" I spoke. I realized that my mouth had moved. This was not a flashback anymore.
"You couldn't defend Setsuna's honor. You instead let her get eaten alive out there. You're nothing but a coward." He said.
"There was nothing I could do!" I said.
"You had a chance, but you blew it." The computer screen then showed Setsuna's drawing in full screen mode. "That said… perhaps you let it happen because you would be as famous as her."
"You said it yourself…" The chatlog popped up and scrolled up to the first conversation Setsuna and I had. "You can't draw to save your life. You could only write stories. You'd never get that far on a drawing-based website. Kamen Rider Dante only got as popular as it did because of Setsuna, and you used her as a means to that end!"
"That's not true! I wrote Dante because I enjoyed writing! I didn't ask for fame!" I shouted.
"So why did you just stay silent? If you truly didn't want it, you could have thrown it all away. If what you say is true, then you wouldn't have anything to lose from this. You'd be gaining Setsuna's life at the cost of something you never really needed. Hmmm…" The words changed.
"Much better. Let that be your epitaph." As she said that, two large fangs began to reach out from the screen… This was it.
I was going to die.
"MAGICAL TRANCE BREAKER!" Suddenly, I saw a bright pink heart shape burst from the screen and disintegrate the fangs as my vision became white.
I awoke back into reality. Mamika and Alicetaria stood beside me as Mamika placed a hand on my now armorless shoulder.
"It's okay, you're safe now." She gave me a smile. I looked back to Tachibana, who was flat on his ass as he trembled before Weisspherd. After it snorted, Tachibana got up and ran off to his shop. I glared back to Jorougumo.
"Shame, you guys ruined a really good piece of art." Jorougumo said.
"You were tormenting Hoshi! That's bad!" Mamika held back some tears as she gripped onto what seemed to be a shiny brooch with a heart-shaped jewel.
"Bad? I'm not doing a bad thing. I'm merely revealing the dark truth that he hid away. Admit it, Hoshi, you're a selfish coward!" I was speechless before Jorougumo. What I had seen was true. What I heard was true. I could have defended Setsuna, but I chose not to. I could have turned away the fame to protect her, but I chose not to. She was right. I was a selfish coward.
However, before I could open my mouth, Alicetaria held out her lance over me, as though she was protecting me.
"How much blood have you spilled exposing those truths?" Alicetaria scowled.
"To tell you the truth, I lost count. So many dishonest men and women, their hearts full of secrets just waiting to be revealed," she gave a sadistic grin, "when I kill them, I merely present their true self for the world to see!" Jorougumo said.
"It doesn't matter if you reveal every corrupt person in the world. If your solution is to kill them, you're just a demon," Alicetaria gripped her fists, "and I won't forgive demons!" Jorougumo just gave a coy smile.
"A demon, you say? Very well…" She then growled as spider legs erupted from her shoulders and abdomen. Her face melted into a hideous malformed parody of a spider's head, fangs sprouting from her mouth as the sets of eyes formed together to make large compound eyes. She shrieked in a trill as her uniform broke apart, revealing a furry body comprised of spider hairs. Mamika let out a small eep before standing still. I saw Alicetaria look back to me. At first, I thought it was a glare, a warning for me to get out, but I saw that she wasn't angry. Her eyebrows weren't furled enough to convey that. She might have looked more… determined.
This was the moment she waited for. To see if I was either a coward, a thrill-junkie, a devil, or a hero. This was my chance to prove myself to Alicetaria and perhaps earn her respect. As I looked at her, I felt more encouraged to stand up for myself. I gripped my fists.
"I stayed silent when Setsuna needed me and that resulted in me losing her. Did I stay silent because I was afraid? Did I stay silent so that I can keep my fame? I don't know, and, if we're being honest, it's gonna keep me up for a couple of nights. But I know that Setsuna wouldn't have wanted me to be guilty about it. She wanted me to continue doing what I love doing. That's why she drew that picture. She wasn't trying to steal from me. She was trying to encourage me. Every day, I look at that drawing to get myself inspired to write more chapters of Kamen Rider Dante, because it doesn't matter if one person or a million people read it. I write it because I enjoy it! I may have been a coward. I may have been selfish. But that's in the past. Today? I fight… As a Kamen Rider!" I said. Alicetaria gave a smile before she gritted her teeth, planted her lance into the ground, and raised her fist into the air.
"Gotz von Berlichingen! Grant me armor to protect me in my fight!" As she said that, purple lightning crashed down from the heavens and collided with Alicetaria. As the light from the crash faded, Alicetaria was now in her signature silver plate armor. She picked up her lance and assumed her position. Mamika held her brooch out as the jewel glowed. With a flurry of hearts coming out of the brooch, it turned into a staff that Mamika held.
"Magical Dolce Patisserie!" Mamika said as she thwacked the staff outwards. Her body glowed a hot pink before her clothes changed to that of a standard magical girl's outfit. I raised my hands up into the air.
"Rider… HENSHIN!" As I thrusted my palm out, my body caught on fire. By now, the burning sensation was a numb feeling. I let the fires burn my body for a bit and even hummed a bit. "Mmmmmmm TAH!" I shouted and flicked my wrist. The flames spread out harmlessly into the air as I returned to Fuji Form.
"And who do you people think you are, telling me what I can and can't do!?" Jorougumo rasped.
"I am Alicetaria February, Princess of the Holy Ulterstein Kingdom! Your presence in this world is a stain that I must remove!"
"Magical Slayer Mamika! Don't tell your friends!" The two recited their post transformation catchphrases. Whereas this was the first time I heard Alicetaria give one, Mamika's felt like she said that all the time. Me? I merely just say Kamen Rider Dante, but I knew if I needed to bring an extra oomph, I needed to add more to it.
"So long as the flames of passion burn inside me, I'll protect the Land of Gods! Kamen Rider... Dante!" I struck a fighting stance.
"Heh, I guess I've seen the truth behind you three… You're all just toys for me to break!" Jorougumo struck at me. I parried her leg and decked her in the face. I leaped into the air, as did Mamika. We hovered in the air for a moment. Before Jorougumo could react to us, Alicetaria threw a blast of purple electrical energy at Jorougumo with her gauntleted hand. It hit her and stunned her, giving us ample time to use our own attacks.
"Shining Shower!" Mamika waved her staff and shot out a rain of hearts down onto Jorougumo. As she did that, I flew into a flying side kick.
"RIDER KICK!" As the hearts hit, so did my kick. As she got knocked into the air with a boot print branded onto her chest, Alicetaria swooped in.
"You will no longer prey on this world!" Alicetaria swung her lance to impale her. For a moment, I thought we did it. We defeated Jorougumo…
But no, it wasn't that easy. We just begun the fight, after all.
"ALICE! LOOK OUT!" Mamika shouted as Jorougumo blocked the attack with her legs. She then spread the legs out, pushing the lance out of Alicetaria's way. The two landed onto the ground. Before Alicetaria could react, Jorougumo spat webbing out of her mouth. Alicetaria was blinded as Jorougumo used her legs to try and pierce her neck.
I leaped to her and shoved her out of the way as the legs stabbed my neck. My legs suddenly felt weak as I fell to the ground. The flames were already fading as my armor receded to the grayish color of Ashen Form.
"Weak… Just weak." Jorougumo chuckled. However, as the legs were at my neck, I thought of something that I prayed would work.
"You wish. DAI SETSUDAN!" Taking a page from Kamen Rider Amazon, I struck her two closest spider legs and chopped them off with my burning hands. They cauterized the wound, but the flames caused her to shriek and her dismembered legs to writhe before going limp. My armor was still turning grey, but at a slower rate. Jorougumo backed up and trembled. While I had trouble finding my footing, I was still able to stand.
"This… this isn't how it's supposed to be! This was supposed to be fun! That's what she said!" Jorougumo muttered.
"Who? Who said that?" Alicetaria said.
"I should have known… That liar! Raaaaah!" Jorougumo screamed as the lower portion of her body suddenly exploded in a cloud of spider hair. As the cloud cleared, her legs were now replaced with a full spider's body, though with only six legs. She turned around and scurried off.
"Hey! Wait!" Alicetaria hopped on Weisspherd and gave chase, with Mamika behind her. The three went incredibly fast. I tried to keep up, but I just tripped and fell on my knees. My armor had turned completely white. I was now in full on Ashen Form. I struggled to find a means to get just one of the lighters out of my armor, but I felt poison course through my body. I began to writhe and grunt in pain.
Suddenly, I saw someone approach me and drop a lighter by my feet. I looked up and saw Tachibana.
"H-here. If you're really Dante, this will work." I struggled to get the lighter and flicked it open. The small fire was soon sucked into the belt as my armor glowed red. I could feel the poison burn inside of me, though instead of it burning my body, I felt it burning away. "Good…" Tachibana let out a chuckle. "You should thank this boy that came to my shop last night. He bought so many lighters. It gave me the idea to give you one." I merely just nodded. How would he react if I told him that boy was me? "Don't worry, it's on the house."
"Thanks…" I said.
"… Still can't believe you're real, you know? And you saved my life. I…" He shook his head. "This has to be a dream! You're real, Mamika's real, so many people are now suddenly real!"
"Maybe it is, maybe it isn't." This wasn't going to look good if he outs me to the world. "What matters now is that I return to the task at hand. Go back to sleep." I said. Tachibana nodded and ran off. I took a few moments to get back to my senses.
"Go back to sleep, huh?" I heard the humming of a motorcycle. There I saw the biker resting on a red and black Honda CB500X. It looked slightly modified in appearance though. The chassis had an orange metallic plate that was molded to look like a flame that guarded the handlebars. This flame design was also seen on the sides of the bike. Seemed she liked to customize her bike. "Doubt that's gonna work with everyone, boy." The way she said that just felt eerie. What's more eerie was that she knew who I was. I just stayed silent. "I'm interested to see how this story will go." With that, she got off the bike. "Take it."
"You need to catch up to that monster, right? I'm pretty sure the girls need your help." She said.
"What do you want in return?" I asked.
"Just a good show." She smirked. I hesitated. Just who is this woman? I barely know her and already she's handing me her own bike just to pique her interests. I was reminded of how, in recent Kamen Riders, a benefactor to the heroes turns out to be a villain all along. Considering how I managed to mistake four Creations for actual people, I wouldn't be surprised if this woman too was a Creation.
However, there was still something burning inside of me. A need to help Alicetaria and Mamika defeat Jorougumo. This wasn't about revenge, trying to prove myself, or even justice.
This was because I felt like it's the right thing to do.
I got onto the motorcycle and revved up the engine. The flames suddenly came to life and turned into actual flames.
"What the!?" The biker just smiled.
"Nice, nice… I'm starting to understand it now." What? Understand what? No. I had no time to wonder that. I had to fight.
"I'll return the bike when I'm done." I said.
"No, no. Keep it. It suits you better." She said. I looked back to her. Suits me? Come to think of it, the bike should have come under the effects of Dante's powers and be burnt up by the heat like the branch did. Instead, it just spat out flames like how Dante would shoot out flames in Endeavor. I decided to make a mental note of what the biker looked like, just so that if I ever came across her again, I'd ask her what her endgame is.
"SHINING SHOWER!" Mamika unleashed a flurry of hearts onto the road on the riverbank as Jorougumo bobbed and weaved through the blasts. Alicetaria was next to her. She thrusted her lance at her, though she too missed her attacks.
"Leave me alone!" Jorougumo said.
"No! You'll hurt more people if you do!" Mamika shouted.
"A criminal like you deserves to be punished!" Alicetaria continued to use her lance, but Jorougumo parried with her remaining legs. Soon, Jorougumo struck Weisspherd and caused knocked Alicetaria over.
"Alice!" Mamika shouted as Jorougumo crept up to Alicetaria. She readied her fangs for the final bite.
She looked towards the source of the noise and saw a bike lit on fire.
I looked over the riverbank as Jorougumo stared at me. I drove down with the bike as she prepared to defend herself. I charged right into her as she blocked with her legs. I crashed right into them as they began to strain. I popped a wheelie and flames sprayed out from the front wheel and onto Jorougumo. She screamed and scurried away. I got off the bike. I wanted to try out something.
I grabbed one of the handles of my bike and pulled it out. Much like what happened in Kuuga or Faiz, the handlebar was easily pulled out of the bike and I held it…
That's when I noticed that a large flaming blade came out from metal of the bar. I looked at it and let out a bit of a gasp. This should definitely not happen when I grab a hold of it. I wasn't gonna question it though, since my focus was on getting some payback on Jorougumo. I struck at her with the newly made sword, singeing one of her legs and lobbing it off. I struck again as she blocked with another leg.
"You weren't supposed to fight back, prey!" She hissed.
"Are you upset because I'm hurting you or because I'm proving you wrong?" I quipped.
"SHUT UP!" She pushed me back with her legs as Alicetaria rushed in to block the brunt of her attack. "You lot are ruining my fun!"
"Fun? Is that what you call murdering people!? Fun!?" Alicetaria growled.
"It's what we demons do to pass time! We're supposed to have a fun game to play, but you guys ruined it!" She struck Alicetaria with her legs, though they weren't much to impact her armor. Before she could strike, Mamika blasted the ground between her and Alicetaria with another heart-shaped blast. Mamika then landed in the mini-crater.
"This… This isn't a game!" Mamika cried out. "People are getting hurt! We're causing too much destruction with every fight we get into! We just can't-" That's when Jorougumo struck Mamika and knocked her into a palisade. She fell onto the ground with no movement from her afterwards.
"Mamika!" Alicetaria shouted before glaring at her. "You'll pay for that!" She shouted before rushing into the fight with her lance. As I saw Mamika unconscious like that, I felt a burning in my heart as well.
Such a nice, kind-hearted girl… and she got hurt for her efforts to try and talk some sense into Jorougumo. I gripped my fists as I thought of Setsuna. About the people who bullied her. About how I was powerless to stop them. I screamed.
Suddenly, flames erupted from my body. I had activated Endeavor. The back of my head wanted to think about how I was able to activate it when I would normally need to say a passionate speech, but the front of my mind could only think of one thing:
Jorougumo. Must. Die.
I rushed in, furiously striking at Jorougumo. Between Alicetaria's stabs and my slashes, her five legs couldn't block them all. Alicetaria's lance soon impaled into Jorougumo as I chopped off another leg. Alicetaria pulled her lance out as Jorougumo, with the four remaining legs, tried to run away.
"NOT TODAY!" I shouted as I swung my sword. A huge wave of fire flew out of my sword and towards Jorougumo, scorching her back. I ran at her and passed my sword through her. I cut into her as she began to limp. She wasn't gonna run far. I turned to Alicetaria as she nodded. I ran to my bike as she went onto Weisspherd. As Jorougumo struggled to get up, she saw both of us on our mounts.
"RIDER BREAK!" I shouted before driving towards her. She tried to spit web out, but I took out my handlebar and cut the string of web before ramming into her. As I did, I saw Alicetaria and Weisspherd galloping towards me, Alicetaria with her lance pointed towards Jorougumo. We collided into each other, creating a huge fireball as Jorougumo let out her death scream. The smoke cleared as Alicetaria and I remained. All that was left of Jorougumo was ash. I trembled and inhaled, my armor turning to ash and scattering into the wind. Alicetaria just gave me a look before she went to check on Mamika.
"Mamika!" Alicetaria looked at Mamika, only to see her snoring. She smiled a bit before she picked her up.
"Nice, very nice…" The biker smirked as she pressed stop on her phone. She sat in the passenger seat of a black car that overlooked the riverbank, though far from where the battle took place. That said, she had gained some nice front row seats to the fight and its explosive climax.
"I believe that is enough proof for your liking?" She heard the cold, calculated tone of a government agent. The biker nodded.
"Yeah, yeah. And you're sure that Blitz is among these… Creations?" She asked.
"Correct." The agent nodded. The biker pulled out a cigarette and lit it. She took a puff before spewing out the resulting smoke.
"Then I'm definitely gonna enjoy cooperating with you, Ms. Kikuchihara." She smiled as Kikuchihara just nodded. The car then drove away before Hoshi, Alicetaria, and Mamika could notice them.
Mamika fortunately just wiped out from just how late she was staying up. It made sense for someone her age. We rode back to my apartment, with Mamika sleeping on Alicetaria's back. As I parked the bike, I turned to Alicetaria. She took a moment before she smiled a bit.
"Setsuna would have been proud of you." She said. I just looked at her. My jaw hung as tears began to form. "You said yourself that you were a coward, but not once did you run away. You faced your foe head on and defeated her." I soon frowned.
"If… if only I was brave back then." I muttered. Alicetaria took a moment before she got off her horse and walked over to me. As she placed her hand on my shoulder, I could just feel the sheer intimidation from her size alone. Despite this though, I felt calm.
"Don't use your regret as an excuse to hold yourself back. Use them as motivation to improve yourself." With that, she gave me the glare of determination. "That's what I will do. I'll save my people by forcing my God to write them a happy ending." I gave her a bit of silence before I spoke up.
"Had… Had I met you and the others under different circumstances, then… I would have fought on your side. I would be proud to fight with you. And I'm sure if the circumstances were different, Hotaro would have fought with you too." I smiled. However, Alicetaria just looked bitterly at me.
"… But it's not. Once the sun rises, we're enemies again. You're the protector of the Land of Gods and I'm an invader. I'm trying to save my world at the expense of yours. There is no peace between us. Nothing has changed between us, devil. You've earned my respect, but not my allegiance." With that, Alicetaria got on Weisspherd and rode off with Mamika in tow. I looked down to the ground, then got a huge grin on my face.
I rushed inside and ran to my apartment. I kept myself from screaming my head off until I was in my bedroom. Once I entered the room, I let out a huge scream as I leaped onto my bed.
"ALICETARIA NOTICED ME! ALICETARIA NOTICED ME!" I cuddled the nearest pillow I could find and rolled over many times on the bed. I began to giggle to myself. Before, the dream of meeting Alicetaria and having her say how I was brave would be just that: a dream. But now? That dream's come true. For the first time since I got the belt, I became excited to become Kamen Rider Dante. My heart raced. There was no time for sleep.
I had a newly found passion to continue Kamen Rider Dante, and I knew just what to do to get Hotaro out of his pickle. I ran to the computer and started up my word processor, typing away several paragraphs of the new chapter. One hour in, I noticed that I was at my fifth page and I was barely halfway done.
I wrote about how Tobei Tachibana bailed out Hotaro and him lending out Dante's own bike, the Trailblazer. I wrote about how it took Hotaro several hours to master the bike and using its ability to generate heat so that it could power him up and unlock his very own fire-powered Rider Break.
After another hour, I wrote a fifteen-paragraph battle between Hotaro and Rock Spider, and how the Rider Break managed to destroy the obsidian wings that protected Rock Spider from Dante's Rider Punch. My fingers stopped.
"You made his world and gave him his powers. There's the possibility that you're able to give yourself more powers by changing how they work."
I remembered what Yuuya said to me that night. If I were to get serious about my role as Kamen Rider Dante, then I'd have to amp up my A-Game. The other Creations had tons of stories under their belt and the few that don't make up for it with the power they pack. Alicetaria was just one of them with her gauntlet and wide array of powers. I needed to be as strong as her.
I pulled up the image of the concept art for the new form. I opened up Photoshop and went to work enhancing the image. I crudely drew red lines over the black smudge, giving the illusion of lava seeping out of his armor. I cleaned it up a bit and modified the helmet. The top would resemble a volcano, though I made his helmet so that the antennae and eyes would resemble a bombardier beetle. With the newly made image as inspiration, I wrote up how, due to the fire from the Trailblazer, it powered up Hotaro to his new form: Yellowstone.
I wrote about how this form was more powerful than Fuji Form, at the cost of speed, but that the form makes up for it with its Endeavour variant, which allowed Hotaro to turn into lava. I wrote how he was able to melt down Rock Spider, defeating him. Once I was finished, I immediately posted the story with the new form.
"NEW POWERS, HERE I COOOOOMMMMEEEE!" I stretched out my arms before I fell out of my chair and onto the ground.
Morning came as I slowly got up. I realized that I got knocked out and put in a sleep for a few hours. I massaged my eyes for a bit before I got onto the computer. I looked as I had a hundred notifications in my inbox. Most of them were people favoriting my story and either following it or me, but a few were comments.
"Nice~! New form! It looks pretty cool!"
"WOW! Yellowstone looks dangerous!"
"Huh, nice. Though I prefer Machine Inferner over Trailblazer…"
That last comment made me raise an eyebrow. Machine Inferner? What the hell was that? I noticed there were more and more comments regarding a Machine Inferner and there was a link to a poll asking which was better, with Machine Inferner leading by 90%. Intrigued, I copied the name and pasted it into the search.
The first result made me fall out of my chair again.
It was concept art of the very bike that I got last night. I got up to double check. Indeed, it was, right down to the flame design on the handguards. It even had notes on the handlebar being a sword and how, when touched by Dante, it isn't subject to the same rules that applied to other objects, instead synchronizing with Dante's own flames.
What was most shocking was that the art was done by Shunma Suruga, the author behind Code:Babylon. My jaw dropped as I stared blankly at the art. It definitely had the Suruga style to it. This just added tons of questions to my head, such as who the biker really was or if she gave me her bike with the knowledge of what it truly was.
I had no time to ask questions though, as the phone began to ring. I scurried to pick up the phone and held it to my ear.
"Hoshi, there's been another murder." It was Meteora.
"A-another murder? How? Me a-" I stopped myself from mentioning Alicetaria and Mamika. "I stopped Jorougumo!"
"Yes, you did. However, this murder is… different." My heart began to race.
"How so?" I asked.
"The victim was torn apart, seemingly by a dog. However, the shop he was killed in explicitly has a no dogs policy." My mind began to think about any dog-related enemies. Perhaps it was Alicetaria's inner demon that she had faced in that one arc, or maybe an enemy that Mamika faced. I know that I didn't have any dog-themed Kaijin in Dante. Perhaps a dog-themed Kaijin from a Kamen Rider show? I wasn't sure which one. Before I could think anymore, Meteora gave me the answer.
"Eyewitnesses described a girl in a black school uniform and black leather gloves…" I trembled. I knew full well who Meteora was talking about. As I realized it, what Jorougumo said came to light. "I was able to cross-reference the description with the characters in Yasoukiroku and there is a villain who matches it." My stilted breathing was enough to tell Meteora that I knew who she was talking about.
A young girl in a black school uniform laid down on a grassy hill. She read a book on the creatures from the Cthulhu mythos. She smirked as she flipped through the pages. As she went to a specific one, she sniggered and read the note she had wrote in:
'YOU WILL GET ATTACKED BY THIS!'
"Maaaan, that old guy really fell for the oldest trick in the book. Literally." She slammed the book shut and sprung up onto her feet. "Speaking of, I haven't heard a peep out of Jorougumo," she sighed, "silly her, she must have got herself caught. Well, at least I can learn something from her," she looked out onto the expansive horizon of the city, "this Japan's gonna be more fun than my Japan… And also…" Her grinned with her shark-like teeth, "I gotta think on my feet if I'm to raise hell," her eyelids opened, showing hellish golden eyes.
Originally, the final battle with Jorougumo was gonna take place over a bridge, much like what happened in the first chapter of Kamen Rider Spirits, complete with an explosive finisher over the Japanese skyline. However, I ended up having it take place on a riverbank. Somehow I'm convinced Devilman Crybaby is the reason why I decided to set it there, even though I had thought up the idea for Jorougumo having a spider form prior to watching the show.
Chapter 8: Why Are They Our Enemies?
I rode on the Machine Inferner, albeit on a very slow pace in contrast to how the Kamen Riders would do it. The gang and I were to have a meeting regarding the appearance of another Yasoukiroku villain. Jorougumo was easy enough to handle, but this new character was gonna be different.
I jumped up as the person behind me yelled out, “MOVE!” I revved up my motorcycle and drove a bit faster. The scariest part wasn’t the fact that there’s another Yasoukiroku villain, but the fact that I was able to ride a motorcycle despite not even training to ride one. I assumed that it was due to me being Kamen Rider Dante. As with most Kamen Riders, I had Hotaro, and by extension, Dante, know how to ride a bike just so I can have cool biking scenes. That said, I didn’t realize I was gonna end up riding one myself.
I pondered if I was able to plug any new powers or abilities onto myself. I still wasn’t sure if I was able to attain Yellowstone and it seemed the Machine Inferner was summoned instead of the Trailblazer, though that could be due to it being made first. I wasn’t sure what kind of risks I’d be taking with experimenting on myself, though, or if they’d even work. For now, I’d just have to wait to see if they take effect.
I stopped my bike by the steps in front of the office we were told to meet. As I got off, I saw Souta walking towards those very stairs. He turned to look at me as I took off my helmet.
“H-hoshi! You… ride a motorcycle?” He asked.
“Yeah. I… got some lessons last night… Speaking of,” I approached Souta and patted him on the shoulder, “I’m sorry I didn’t recognize you before.” His eyes widened. I wasn’t sure what he was so antsy about, though I could assume. “Setsuna was your friend as she was mine. It’s a tough fact, but… we can pull through together.” I gave him a smile. Souta just looked away.
“I… I’m sorry, I don’t know who you’re talking about.” Souta took my hand off his shoulder and walked into the building. I raised an eyebrow. What? But I saw him with her! Was it just my mind playing tricks on me?
“Yo!” I heard a familiar voice. I turned around and saw her, the biker from last night. This time she was riding on a standard CBR Honda motorbike. She gave me a salute. “You enjoyed the gift?” She asked me. I glared at her for a moment.
“Yeah, I did… Suruga.” As I said her name, she just gave a cocky smile.
“Forgive me for the last-minute addition, but convincing Suruga was an arduous task.” Kikuchihara had us all sit at a round table. However, it was only the Creators plus Souta and myself. No sign of Celesia, Meteora, or Rui. I sat parallel to Suruga while Souta was next to me.
“You can thank that boy over there.” Suruga was dressed in her standard biker jacket and red shirt. From a glance, you could easily mistake her for a guy, though the headband on top of her head and her eyelashes were enough of an indicator of her actual gender.
“I can’t believe it! Suruga’s at our table… and she’s a girl!” Marine held her hand close to her mouth.
“We’re working on bringing Yuuya’s creator as well.” Kikuchihara got some papers together.
“Jeez, just what we need. Yatoji’s probably gonna be a stubborn case.” The old man with a stubble, who I could assume is Matsubara, just held his hand to his forehead.
“We should focus on the situation at hand. Yesterday, we had to deal with the appearance of a villain from Yasoukiroku.” Kikuchihara said.
“You mean that light novel series with the demonic people?” Matsubara raised an eyebrow.
“Yes. Jorougumo, to be specific.” I spoke up, then looked to Kikuchihara and bit my lip. “S-sorry. I…” Kikuchihara just nodded.
“No need. Hoshi was able to take out Jorougumo with assistance from Suruga. It is also with her help that we managed to prove a theory that Meteora presented.” I looked to Kikuchihara as she took out a sheet of paper and placed it in the center. “Matsubara, you and Marine had experimented with giving Celesia a new power, correct?” She asked.
“Yeah, but unfortunately, it was a failure.” Matsubara said.
“Well, Hoshi’s mission not only helped us take care of a problem, but also gave us a huge insight on how the Creations work in our world.” Kikuchihara then pointed to the paper. The room went dark as, to my left, the paper was presented on a screen. There were full details on the specs of the Machine Inferner, the same specs I saw when I googled it. “Suruga requested to test out the theory by drawing up a motorcycle for Hoshi to use, just to see if it would manifest.” She walked over to the screen and pointed to the number of views presented on PicLive. “After an hour or two of it posted online, people began to share and talk about it, creating enough popularity to spawn the bike. The fact that it’s still here showed that it had some staying power.”
“So, you decided to make fanart of a fanfic?” The fat man, who I could presume to be Nakanogane, asked Suruga.
“Yeah. It helped that Kamen Rider Dante is pretty popular.” Suruga said.
“It’s also that popularity that is the reason why Hotaro was summoned in the first place, right?” Matsubara asked. Kikuchihara nodded. I only looked down at the sheet…
“Kamen Rider Dante only got as popular as it did because of Setsuna, and you used her as a means to that end!” I remembered Jorougumo’s words haunting me.
“Hoshi?” Marine’s voice broke me out of the trance, though. “You okay?” She asked.
“Y-yeah. Look, we should focus on the bigger problem at hand.” I got up and I looked over to Kikuchihara, who simply sat down.
“Yes, we should. Despite Jorougumo being taken out, it seems she isn’t the only villain from that series.” Kikuchihara said.
“That villain being Magane Chikujouin. She’s the main villain in the fifth book of the series, responsible for killing a whole school full of people.” I said.
“Oh, I know her! She’s that cute schoolgirl who has her own set of emojis, right?” Marine asked me. I blinked, though only because I tended not to use emojis myself.
“Erm… I guess?” To be fair, Magane was a popular character with her trolly nature. If the law of popularity is in effect here, chances were that she’d be able to appear, even more than Jorougumo could.
“This also confirms that two Creations from the same world can come forth.” Kikuchihara said.
“So, we might end up seeing Charon or Syo at some point?” Marine blushed as she mentioned Syo.
“It might be a fair chance. However, we’re not sure how the Creations are manifested. Even with our own experiment, we managed to summon an extension of a Creation, but not a full-on Creation,” Kikuchihara stood up and took out some of the papers, “but that’s besides the point. Magane is out there. We have assigned Celesia and Meteora to search for her, with Rui acting as backup in case a fight breaks out.”
“That said, Magane is not a fighter. She has a silver tongue. She will get under your skin. Give her the chance, and she’ll make you suffer.” I closed my eyes, sighed, and got out the next piece of information. “And then there’s her ability to twist her own lies into reality.”
“I-is that even possible!? Someone of that calibre would surely cause havoc!” Nakanogane asked.
“Not quite. She must be called out on the lie for it to come true… That said, she can get inside your head. She’s just as much of a threat to us as she is to the Creations. Jorougumo is, appropriately, a bug compared to her.” With that, I sat down. Souta just looked to me and gave me a brief smile. Suddenly, I heard a hum as Kikuchihara stood stiff. She reached into her pocket and got out a phone. She answered it and put it to her ear.
“Yes? … Understood… Yes, I’ll inform them right away.” With that, she hung up. “Celesia and Meteora have spotted Magane. However, they also came across the enemy as well.” I stood up as soon as she said that.
“Who!?” I asked. I readied myself in case she said Yuuya or Blitz.
“Alicetaria and Mamika.” As Kikuchihara said that, my body went cold. As Kikuchihara turned to me, I knew that I must go confront them. I just chuckled.
“Ah… W-well, you won’t want me to step in. I mean, Celesia and Meteora could handle themselves, right?” I asked.
“Mamika was able to defeat Celesia on her own. With Alicetaria backing her up, I’m sure they won’t be able to survive.” Souta said.
“Especially if Blitz is helping them. Sure, he’s from a cyberpunk setting, but the weapons he has can easily turn the tide of battle.” Suruga just folded her arms and smirked.
“Madam, think about this: you’re sending in a walking Molotov cocktail! I’m gonna burn everything in sight if you let me fight!” I said.
“I dunno, you seem to have handled yourself quite well yesterday,” Suruga smirked, “then again, given the backup you had, I can’t blame you for hesitating…” That’s when Matsubara and Souta looked at me. My heart began to pound as I gulped.
“I understand you had a brief alliance with those two,” Kikuchihara said to me, though gave me a stern look, “but you must understand that, until further notice, they’re allied with Altair and they are intent to cause the Great Destruction.” I trembled.
“Hold on, you allied with them!?” Matsubara’s eyes went wide.
“Yeah… I did.” I muttered. I just bit my lip and gripped my fists.
“Allow me to rephrase what I said: You’re ordered to go help Celesia and Meteora. Is that clear?” Kikuchihara glared at me. I slowly nodded. “Good. We’ll give you the coordinates on your phone.” I then stormed out of the room.
“Wait!” I heard Marine’s voice as she went after me.
I hopped onto the bike and revved up the engine. I put my helmet on as Marine left the building and looked to me.
“You don’t have to hurt them, Hoshi! If that’s what you’re afraid of, then you just need to stop them from fighting!” Marine said to me. I turned to her and sighed.
“You know how it feels to go confront your hero?” I asked her. She went silent and looked at me. I turned to face ahead and drove off.
It had been about thirty minutes since I left the office before I pulled over to see just where the hell I needed to go. I opened my phone and put the coordinates in onto my GPS app.
I heard something strange as I looked around. I was in the middle of the street, with cars passing by me. After checking if the coast was clear, I continued to look at my phone…
And then suddenly, after a loud bark, I was knocked off my bike. I heard people screaming and cars screeching as I got up. I saw what appeared to be a strange mixture of a dog and that strange black long-headed alien from those American movies. Purple crystals jutted out of its ends and it had a tail that looked too long and thin to be considered a dog’s tail. It was more akin to a rat’s. The strange dog stood its ground as it continued to growl. I saw a young school girl going to the dog and attempting to take a photo. The dog just looked at them and leaped. Realizing what was to happen, I rushed in.
The dog’s fangs ripped into my shoulder. I grunted and tried not to scream as I could feel his sharp teeth embed deeper into my flesh. I could feel the fangs tearing through my muscle.
“GO! NOW!” I shouted as the girl ran off. Soon other people cleared away as I punched the dog off my shoulder. It landed on the ground on its feet. There was no doubt about it. This was the dog that killed the shopkeeper. Its appearance was too bizarre to be a real creature. I gripped my fists…
If I transformed here, then people would see me. While I wasn’t entirely too keen on a secret identity, I doubt the government would like me blowing up into flames. I had to head it off somewhere. That’s when I saw an alleyway. Perfect, I can go there!
I ran towards the alleyway as the hound rushed towards me. I was able to leap into the alleyway just as it bit me in the leg. I let out a scream as the hound landed on a trash can. I stared at it, then preformed my pose.
“Riiiiider… HENSHIN!” I shouted just as the dog lunged at me. The flames exploded, searing the dog’s snout as I transformed into Kamen Rider Dante. However, rather than attack me, the dog leaped into an angle where the building wall touched the floor and seemingly got sucked into it. I went to that spot and looked at it…
Only for the hound to appear behind me and strike me. Sparks flew out off my armor as I was knocked into a dumpster. As I struggled to get up, the hound vanished. Before I even had time to check, it ambushed me yet again with a nip at the ankles. I was forced to crawl as the hound seemingly attacked me from all angles…
I began to think about how it was able to attack me. It disappeared in a fold made by the wall of the building and the pavement… Then it reappeared on another end. I experimented with this idea as I stood up and turned to the dumpster. Sure enough, I could hear the hound growl behind me before it made its move.
Unfortunately for it, I also made my move.
“RIDER PUNCH!” I shouted as I turned around and punched the hound with a burning fist. It howled in pain as the flames burned and seared its flesh, only for a bit before it exploded into a miniature fireball that, surprisingly, didn’t hurt me in the slightest. As the beast was slain, I began to stumble out of the alleyway, the flames draining as I fell, reduced to Ashen Form. My armor soon turned into an ash-like substance as I returned to my normal form. I was too weak to get up, as the pain on my shoulder and leg were excruciating.
Suddenly, I felt myself being lifted, my arm over a person’s head. I looked to see who it was that was helping me…
It was Tachibana.
Tachibana set me up over at his shop, which wasn’t far from where I fought the hound. He patched up my shoulder and leg with some gauze he had on hand, followed by an ice pack that I felt sizzle once it touched my skin.
“Damn, your skin’s hot…” Tachibana said. I gave him a very hollow look. Tachibana saw me and looked the same way. There was no hiding it anymore. Tachibana grimaced a bit before frowning. “How did you do it?” He asked.
“How did you make the suit? If it was just cosplay, that’s one thing, but you managed to recreate his flaming Rider Punch and integrate the mechanics of Ashen Form. I don’t think that can be achieved with even the most powerful of pyrotechnics.” Tachibana sat down on a chair and stared at me.
“…” Should I lie to him? No. He’ll see through my bullshit. Tell him the truth? He’ll blab about it. Instead, I went with a more logical explanation. “I created it. Dante, I mean.” Tachibana took a few moments to get what I meant, but once he figured it out, he beamed.
“You? You wrote Kamen Rider Dante!?” He patted me on the back, only for him to put pressure on the wound. I winced, and he retracted his arm. “S-sorry! Just… Wow! Hoshikigami’s in my shop! And he’s made a fully functioning suit! T-t-this is amazing! H-hold on, let me get something!” He rushed off and pulled out something from the counter to give to me. I looked as he handed me a manga. As I looked at the cover, I noticed it wasn’t just any manga.
It had a sketch of Kamen Rider Dante standing in the middle of a blazing building, like the one Setsuna drew. On it was the title: Kamen Rider Dante, Volume 1. I blinked as Tachibana blushed.
“I… Eheh… I mean… I…” He then bowed before me. “I’M SORRY! YOUR STORY WAS SUPER COOL, AND I JUST HAD TO ADAPT IT INTO A DOUJIN!” He shouted. I looked at the cover again. Doujin… It roughly means a fanfic in manga format. Usually it’s a very lewd story or even outright porn, but as I opened the manga and flipped through the pages, I realized how it was a pretty faithful adaptation.
The first chapter was an origin story of how Hotaro became Kamen Rider Dante, as well as just how Yuna died, turning her into a monster and having her killed by her brother who was also turned into a monster. Hotaro ended up joining forces with Professor Minos to get revenge on Re:Shocker, culminating in an explosive climax where he defeats the first monster, Desert Tanuki, resulting in him standing in the blazing inferno that the cover depicted.
The next couple of chapters were adaptations of my first few chapters, but with more depth added to them as to why Hotaro ended up infiltrating several Re:Shocker labs or fighting monsters. I didn’t even consider him breaking into a lab to save his friend from turning into a monster, only to be forced to put him out of his misery as he was too late. I wrote the chapter with just the idea that Hotaro fights a rip-off of Kung Fu Panda. As I continued, I saw tons and tons of minute details that blew me away. Things I wish I had thought when I wrote the story.
By the fourth chapter, I was hooked. It was an adaptation of chapter three of the fanfic, where Hotaro found that the police are corrupted by a Re:Shocker monster. However, when it got to the fight between Hotaro and Formula Rex, I noticed a third combatant that I did not remember creating. His armor was like Dante’s, a classic motorcycle suit, but he had silver pieces of armor slapped onto him. His helmet had the mane of a lion with what looked to be a scorpion perched on its head. He had a visor with a pair of lion fangs over the visor and scorpion pincers molded from the scorpion on his head. They were large, green and covered most of the helmet, almost resembling eyes.
“Who’s this guy?” I asked.
“Oh! That’s an original idea I came up with. He’s actually the second in command for Re:Shocker.” I never once thought about a general hierarchy outside of a Great Leader called Vega. “His name’s Malacoda.”
“Mal… la… Cola?” I asked.
“No,” he chuckled, “Malacoda. It’s named after a demon who protects the eighth circle of hell in Dante’s Inferno.” As he said that, I too chuckled.
“A-ah, well, I named Dante after the movie, Dante’s Peak… You know, the one with the volcano?” I smiled as I blushed.
“Ah, well… I didn’t know that… B-but here,” he pointed to a part of the manga where Malacoda boasts about Vega and the generals, “Dante envisioned Hell as having nine circles, with Malacoda guarding the eighth and Satan frozen in the ninth. Thus, I felt like it’d make sense for there to be the leader of Re:Shocker, his second in command, and then his seven generals. Cool, huh? I haven’t concepted them all, but man do I have ideas. Oh! I just finished adapting that new chapter you made and I’m gonna publish it on PicLive soon!” As he spoke, I finished the end of the volume, which had Hotaro, although battered and bruised, pulling through in the end and reaffirming his vow to be Kamen Rider Dante.
“This… This is amazing. I didn’t realize my fanfic would get so much attention that someone decided to do an adaptation.” I smiled.
“T-thanks! I-if I could get your autograph then-” I nodded. He gave out a squeal, ran to the desk, grabbed a pen and went back to me. I opened the doujin and wrote my pen name on the back of the cover, drawing a star around the name once I was done. I handed it back to Tachibana who just smiled and held it close to his chest. He then set down the book. “I think the reason why this story gets so popular is because fans wanted a classic Showa-style story. Ghost kinda had that with the Ichigo movie, and as for Amazons…” He shook his head. “Eh, not a huge fan of it. Thing is, every anime and manga nowadays is doing these cool throwbacks. Vogelchevalier is like a mix of Rayearth and Escaflowne, Underground Dark Night is akin old school shonen, and Code:Babylon is like this generation’s Ghost in the Shell. I guess… we wanted Toei to do the same. Give us a blast from the past that isn’t covered in blood.”
“What drove you to draw this?” I asked. Tachibana just looked solemnly at the manga and smiled.
“You ever get inspired by a very beautiful piece of art?” He was of course talking about Setsuna’s picture.
“Well, that drawing… It… means something much more to me. Every day, when I struggle to draw or have writer’s block… I look at that picture. And it drives me to continue. Because… If I stop, then… it feels like I’m giving up on her.” He said. I… While I got what he meant, as I had that exact feeling when I see the drawing myself, I wasn’t sure what he meant with that last bit… Nor did I have the time.
“Yeah… Well, I gotta get going. Some people are waiting for me.” I got up and limped out of the shop.
“B-but your leg!”
“I don’t care!” I shouted. I heard Tachibana approach me.
“Look, Hoshikigami, I don’t know what’s going on, but what you did back there… That needs to go public!” Tachibana said.
“Can’t.” I walked to the bike.
“But think about it! A real-life Kamen Rider! And he’s from an unofficial story! Forget fame and fortune, this could create technological breakthroughs! You gotta say how you got that belt!” He said. I sighed.
“Hotaro gave it to me before he died.” I said.
“… What? H-hotaro gave it? To you?! W-when did this happen? What did he say? Did he know you made him? The Volcano Belt is a powerful weapon, so he had to have trusted you to hand it over and- Is that the Machine Inferner?” He said as I got on my bike. “HOLY CRAP! THAT’S SURUGA’S WORK!” He slapped his forehead. “Oh man! This is a publicity stunt, right?” I just turned to him.
“Believe anything you want. The truth is far more bizarre than what you can come up with.” With that, I rode off.
I drove as fast as I could to the destination. However, the speed limit stopped my ride from being a picture-perfect Kamen Rider scene and even a few times I had to stop at a red light. This really wasn’t the smooth sailing I had expected.
Thankfully, once I hit the highway, I was able to go at a smoother speed. Seemed the road had been cleared out. As I continued to drive, I felt a burning in my heart. I merely gripped the handlebars and shouted: “HENSHIN!”
The motorcycle exploded into a flaming bike, the flames burned my body and created the armor of Kamen Rider Dante. After the transformation, I felt as though I was moving faster. The fears of causing property damage flew past me. My only concern was facing Alice. This is to be my first battle with her. On one hand, I wished not to do so, but on the other, I wished to show her just how good of a fighter I could be…
However, I turned on the brakes and stopped as I saw a familiar man standing on the side of the bridge. He cocked his head as I could see his smug grin.
“Aaaah, you got yourself a bike, huh?” Yuuya sneered. I got off and pulled the handlebar out, creating the flaming sword. “Heh, so it can happen. A Creator can improve his Creation.” Yuuya got out his kendo stick.
“You hurt Mamika, didn’t you?” I asked. Yuuya raised an eyebrow.
“Hmmm? Oh, you mean that little girl? Nah, I wasn’t able to lay a finger on her before her bitch of a friend bailed her out.” I tightened my hold on my sword. “Now, that redhead… She might have done something.” My grip loosened. He was talking about Celesia. “I saw her and Mamika battle the other day. Gotta say, the little girl knows how to fight. Was able to beat her up.” He was telling the truth. “Though she thought she could try and be friends with the redhead… Even offered her hand… Her response? She cut her. Haven’t seen such savagery since I took over the Adachi ward.”
“… That’s gotta be a lie. Celesia wouldn’t…”
“Look, if you’re gonna fight me, fight me, otherwise just puss out and let me handle a real opponent!” With that, he jumped down. I ran over to the railing and saw him, Blitz, Mamika, Alicetaria, Celesia, and Meteora all in the same area. Instantly Blitz and Yuuya began their fight.
Blitz fired constantly at Yuuya, only for him to deflect the bullets with his sword. Hangaku was summoned and sent to fight Alicetaria. Like the time she fought me, Hangaku mindlessly flew to Alicetaria and swung her naginata as her master was busy fighting someone else. I hesitated to join the fight, though that’s when I saw Mamika jump between Yuuya and Blitz and created a small pink heart barrier that forced the two apart.
“SHINING SHOWER!” Mamika shouted as she fired a stream of hearts at Yuuya. He managed to dodge the hearts. While they were busy fighting each other, Meteora and Celesia flew off. Where were they going? I wanted to follow, but my eyes were glued to the fight below me. Eventually Yuuya exclusively fought Mamika and knocked her down. “I… I can’t keep up…” She weakly said. She turned to Alicetaria. “ALICE! RUN! They’re too strong! I’ll hold them off!” … She can’t be serious… She’s going to die? She’s going to sacrifice herself? The way she said those words, this could be her last moments I’ll be seeing.
My hands trembled as I continued to watch. It was like what happened with Setsuna. I could only sit by and watch as an innocent girl gets hurt, doing nothing about it and just letting her die. I gritted my teeth and my heart raced as I grabbed onto the railing. I felt the railing liquefy beneath my palm as I thought back to how Mamika helped me out during my breakdown… How such a kind girl was able to help me out through a tough time…
I’m not gonna let what happened to Setsuna happen to Mamika.
“THAT’S ENOUGH!” I screamed and punched the ground. As I did, my entire armor began to explode and melt. I felt my body burning up as though I was putting my hands directly on a hot stove, and yet I was not in pain. In fact, I felt livid. Any pain I would have felt instead turned into a desire to see Yuuya burn. As I got up, I saw my armor was now bright orange before settling down to a dark red.
“H-hoshi…” Mamika muttered. I just turned to her and nodded before facing Yuuya.
“Wow, you impress me! A new bike and new duds? You really went all out!” New duds? I looked at my armor. While I couldn’t see a perfect reflection, I saw that my arms, legs, and my hole body were covered in a dark red rocky substance that looked akin to cooled down lava. There were cracks on my armor that showed a bright orange. I cracked my knuckles as the orange light glowed brighter.
“Beware… This is the power of Yellowstone!” I shouted as I threw a punch at Yuuya. He blocked with his sword, but soon got shot in the back by Blitz. However, it didn’t wound him as it would a real person. I proceeded to grab his sword and held the blade tightly as the cracks glowed orange.
“Go ahead and try! This blade was forged from the sacred tree! You can’t burn it!” Yuuya said.
“But I can burn you!” The dark red rocks on my hand soon jettisoned off as my hand was now entirely orange. I saw the surface of my hand looking akin to a viscous liquid, even bubbling at a few points. I pushed him away and threw my punch, only for him to strike the air and create winds that pushed me back. I soon saw Celesia fly towards the area.
“Hoshi! We need to stop the fighting!” Celesia said. I could only look at her. “H-hoshi?” She blinked and stared at me with a strange look… Something like how Souta looked at me when we met the night I became Dante. All I could remember was what Yuuya said, about what she did to Mamika. Without thinking, I screamed and leaped up, the crimson stones on my body casting off as my entire body became lava. This was Yellowstone’s Endeavor.
“CELESIA!!!” I pulled my hand back as my arm began to bend. I then threw a punch and my fist stretched out to Celesia, who managed to dodge the attack.
“Hoshi! What’s the meaning of this!?” She asked me in a distressed tone.
“DID YOU HURT MAMIKA!?” I had no time for chitchat. I needed to know.
“I… Yes! I did! But it was to prove a poi-”
My fist hit a protective barrier. However, the force in which I had hit the barrier, it turned from a pastel blue to a nearly invisible blue. It felt as though I was this close to breaking it.
“Hoshi, you have to control yourself.” Meteora flew in next to Celesia. “We’re not your enemies.” I tried to rationalize my thoughts with that in mind. I looked back to Mamika. She hurt her, yes, but if I focused on attacking her for it, Yuuya would hurt her now. I saw Yuuya about to use the same move he used on me. I instantly descended upon Yuuya.
“RIDER KICK!” I shouted as my foot hit Yuuya’s body. He was knocked into a palisade and destroyed it, flopping onto the ground. As I stood there, I felt my body being pelted by what appeared to be bullets. I turned to see Blitz, who just now realized his gun wasn’t doing any damage. I just flew into the air and shot the bullets out of my lava body right back at Blitz, though he was able to dodge out of the way… right into the path of a gigantic mecha, no doubt the Gigas Machina from Mono Magia. He was pushed out of the way, trying his hardest to keep his footing in the air. I decided to try and land the final blow onto Blitz.
“STOP!” I heard Mamika shout to me as I turned to her. She was trembling and almost in tears. “Please… Stop fighting… All of you…” She then got onto her knees and began to sob. Alicetaria summoned Weisspherd and grabbed Mamika.
“We’re going back.” She then flew off as Blitz nodded and hovered away. I floated a bit as I let Mamika’s words impact me. Soon, it was just me, Celesia, Meteora, a knocked out Yuuya, and Rui in the Gigas Machina. I turned to Meteora.
“Why are they our enemies?” I asked Meteora.
“Because they’re allied with Altair. If we let them do as they please, they will bring about the Great Destruction.” Meteora said.
“Maybe they just want a better life. Did that question come across your head?” I asked.
“One cannot simply change the world.” Meteora said.
“But what about me!? I was able to create a new power!” I said.
“A new power does not mean being able to change the world. It’s not that easy…” Meteora said.
“NOTHING IS EASY! Life is harsh, cruel, disastrous! Being able to fix the world… I would trade anything for that! What if Altair desired the same? She’s was Setsuna’s last creation, after all. Perhaps she wanted her to just come back to life!” I said.
“Don’t try to justify her actions.” Meteora then gave me a cold glare. “I’m now concerned. Perhaps Alicetaria manipulated you into believing what she says.” … My heart stopped. She too knows of my alliance with Alicetaria and Mamika. I didn’t think about the ramifications of her accusation of me being a sympathizer to the enemy or even how I might end up joining them for real. All I could think of right now was a simple phrase:
“YOU SHUT THE HELL UP!!” Before I could do anything though, I felt the huge fist of Gigas Machina smash me into the river. I splashed right into the water. My entire body began to cool down as I heard loud sizzling noises. I began to sink into the river. The cold water was so calming that I began to pass out. I came to my senses prior to that though… I realized just how destructive Yellowstone truly was. Though, given the name, it isn’t surprising.
Yellowstone was the name of a super volcano in the United States that, if it were to erupt, would devastate the entirety of America. Researchers believe that, while it has erupted before, it wasn’t inactive and can erupt, some even fearing that it may erupt soon.
My form is like that super volcano. Nothing but a ticking timebomb until its devastating eruption.
Chapter 9: I'm No Coward!
The rain kept pouring. Yuuya clutched his stomach and grunted. He fell onto the ground, all while he heard laughter.
"Heh! You thought you could stand up to me? Your team's appropriate in its name. You're all nothing but stray dogs!" Tohru Ryuda, the leader of the Adachi Ward's Calamity Desire, stomped on Yuuya as he screamed.
"Leave him alone!" Tohru managed to dodge out of the way of a strike from a segmented staff. Tohru scoffed as he saw Yuuya's friend, Syo Hakua, rush towards him.
"What? You're relying on your friends to help you? Wow, you really are weak. You're not even worth my time!" He walked away as Syo got to Yuuya's side.
"Hang in there, bud!" Syo picked up Yuuya over the shoulder and walked off, all while Yuuya just muttered out:
"I'm… not… weak…"
My eyes fluttered open as I saw the unfamiliar ceiling again. I tried to get up, but the dull pain forced me to lie down.
"Hoshi, you okay?" I heard Matsubara's voice and just moved my eyes to him, or rather, the top of his head.
"What… happened?" I asked.
"You tell me. The others said that you became some sort of lava monster." It was true. The more I thought about it, the more I compared Dante's Yellowstone form to that of a monster.
"I… probably got a little too carried away with the new form I made." That was my most basic understanding of what happened. The rage that clouded my mind had long since faded and thus I had no idea why it became so prevalent. All I had remembered was my rage hiking up to its exploding point and that I had no control over it.
"Yeah. You spooked Celesia back there. Hell, Meteora's concerned about you." I rolled my eyes.
"I can imagine." I remembered how I nearly attacked her had it not been for Rui's interference.
"You should consider yourself lucky…" I heard Nakanogane's voice as my eyes moved to him. He was easier to see by far. "I read your fanfic. It was good that you mentioned that the suit would protect the Rider from the flames it produces, but you didn't specify what it'd do with the heat it creates. The first time you came here, your body looked as though it just suffered from heat stroke… Considering how your suit is now able to produce lava, it's a miracle that you came out of it with what amounts to a sunburn. Any longer and you might have gotten yourself first degree burns or worse. It was a good thing Rui was able to submerge you in water, though I doubt Kikuchihara is gonna enjoy explaining to people the sudden presence of basalt in the river."
"So, what now?" I asked.
"Well, Magane managed to slip away, as well as the others. However, we were able to recruit a Creation to the group." This caused me to try once more to get up. My lips formed a smile. If it was Alicetaria or Mamika, then that'd be great. However, as if life wanted to give me an immediate disappointment, the recruited Creation walked into the room. His jacket was parted, though the bandages hid his chest. There were a few bandages on his head and the worst he had in terms of walking were crutches.
"I gotta hand it to you, kid, you sure are tough when you get ticked off." Yuuya smirked at me.
"Why is he here!?" I asked Nakanogane.
"Relax, kid. I'm only here because you guys tend to butt heads with those other guys. If I hang with you, I'm sure to run into that old man." Yuuya kept a smug git tone to his voice.
"The more the merrier, as one would put it." Matsubara said.
"He was about to kill Mamika!" I shouted.
"Whaaaat? Naaaaah. She just got on my way. I was only gonna knock her out, so I can focus on the old man." I knew he was talking about Blitz, though he just looked at me with a strange fire in his eyes. "Yet… You're the one who caught my attention. Who'd have thought a kid like you would throw a kick that hard. A normal person would have been dead after getting hit with that."
"What are you getting at?" I asked.
"Straight to the point. I like that. I wanna properly gauge your fighting prowess with no interruptions. As soon as you're healed up, give me a holler." Yuuya limped away. I just frowned and sighed.
"So… I guess now's an appropriate time to yell at me about that whole alliance with Alicetaria." I muttered. The two were silent.
"Hoshi, what you did was the right thing. If Jorougumo wasn't stopped, chances are she'd kill at least a few more people." Nakanogane said as I remembered how she targeted Tachibana. "But…" He exchanged a look with Matsubara.
"Alicetaria and Mamika's goals are the same as Altair's. They want to destroy everything." Matsubara said. I gripped the sheets on the bed.
"No. They're not!" My arms trembled as I noticed the sheets began to burn. "They want to fix their world! Alicetaria told me herself!"
"Do you even know what she did to her own Creator!?" Matsubara glared at me. The two of us became silent for a bit before Matsubara took a deep breath. "Alicetaria's Creator sought protection from the police. However, she managed to break through and capture him. We don't know where he is or if he's even alive." I pounded my fist against the railing of the bed.
"SHE'D NEVER DO THAT!" A small spark of flame erupted from my hand as Nakanogane jumped.
"How would you know? I read her story. You read her story. It's nothing but death and hopelessness. I wouldn't be surprised if, after a while, the hero becomes tired at the futility of their story and snaps at how bleak the situation is. And if they find that the source of it all is just some guy who is trying to make a quick buck… I doubt their conversation would be pleasant." Matsubara said as I grabbed the railing, the metal beginning to bend and the plastic bubbling into a liquid. He got off his chair. "Until then… assume the worst of her time with her Creator the next time you and her meet, because I doubt you'll be able to talk nice with her." He left the room. I began to shiver.
"Hoshi, I'd want nothing less than to have those two on our side, but as it stands, they're…" Nakanogane spoke up.
"The enemy? Is that what you're gonna say?" I asked.
"No. Perhaps they don't realize what they're doing will lead to the Great Destruction. I doubt they're the kind of heroes who would want to destroy the world." After a pause, he got up as well. "I should leave you to rest." And he left. I merely slinked back into my bed. My eyes watered. How can they say that? Alicetaria saved my life and Mamika helped me when I had an emotional break…
And yet, I couldn't help but agree with the two. Alicetaria was ready to kill me at a moment's notice. Who's to say she didn't already murder her Creator? As for them being clueless? Yeah, they were surprised when I mentioned the Great Destruction. Though as I tried to rationalize the idea that I'm supposed to fight against them, my mind kept defaulting to when I fought with them. Especially when I opened up to Alicetaria about my suicidal thoughts.
I shed a few tears before I struggled to get up… That's when I saw Souta pass by. He stopped and looked at me. After a moment, he ran to me.
"Are you okay?" He helped me sit up straight, the pain drifting away as he did so.
"Y-yeah…" I muttered. I gave a simple glance to him. The two of us shared an awkward glance. The only common ground I have with him was Setsuna, though as far as I know, he doesn't remember her… Or is choosing not to. I didn't want to pressure him, so I just got up. "I just have some issues to deal with." As I said that, he helped me out of the bed. We didn't exchange anything else and I was able to walk out.
"S-stop squirming!" Kokonoka applied a cotton ball onto Yuuya's cheek as he gritted his teeth. Syo took Yuuya back to their outpost, a rundown shack in the middle of an alleyway with drying tape covering the holes in the ceiling.
"What were you thinking, Yuuya?" Rokkaku, his mentor, spoke to him. "You know Tohru's strength is beyond your own!"
"Asshole called me out. I ain't gonna take that lying down." Yuuya shoved the ball away from his cheek as Kokonoka pouted.
"Typical! You're absolutely stubborn!" Kokonoka tackled Yuuya and held him down.
"Q-quit it!" Yuuya barked out.
"Sis is right, Yuuya," Syo watched the two tend to Yuuya from his chair, "just because you managed to get Kuronagimaru doesn't mean you're now able to take on one of the most powerful men in the Adachi Ward."
"Buzz off, Syo! Nobody asked you to weigh in." Yuuya scoffed.
"I have to," Syo walked over to Yuuya, "as leader of the Stray Dogs and as your friend. Please… don't do anything stupid, alright? I doubt sis would like the idea of you getting killed."
"W-what?! What's that supposed to mean?" Kokonoka blushed and quickly snapped her head away from Yuuya. Rokkaku just chuckled.
"Ah… Yuuya… If you want to fight Tohru, now isn't the right time. We need to better train ourselves. After all, you just obtained the Sacred Tree Kuronagimaru. We haven't been able to see all that it can do." Rokkaku said.
"I know enough about Kuronagimaru to know where I can shove it!" Yuuya stood up and ran off. Rokkaku sighed.
"Syo…" Syo sighed as well.
"I know. Yuuya's a toughass. But just wait, he'll come through. I have my faith in him." Syo said.
"No. It's not that. Such a desire to get even with Tohru… It's bound to twist his ideals. If he continues like this…" As Rokkaku said that, Kokonoka frowned.
"Relax! I've known Yuuya since we were kids. We've been through hell together. If there's one person I can trust the most, it's Yuuya." Syo stretched his arms. "Welp! I'm gonna go scouting for supplies. Rokkaku, I trust you'll be able to keep watch on the outpost?"
"Bro, do I have to stay with the dirty old man?" Kokonoka asked. Rokkaku just scoffed.
"This 'dirty old man' is a skilled martial artist!" Rokkaku said. Syo just laughed.
"Alright, I'm out. Take care, guys!" Syo waved to them as he left.
As soon as I got out, I saw Kikuchihara with a man in old, dirty clothes with a five o'clock shadow, bags underneath his eyes, and messy gray hair. Two police officers, decked out in heavy bullet proof vests and helmets, were escorting him, both having grabbed him by the arm. He panted heavily, and his head moved frantically.
"P-please! You gotta protect me! Put me in a cell!" I snuck closer to get a clearer listen.
"Mr. Kurakuma, rest assured, we will place you in great care." Kikuchihara said. I remembered that name. He was the author of Yasoukiroku.
"No! She's going to find me! She's going to kill me for what I've done!" He cried out.
"We're trying our hardest to get everyone to a safe spot. For now, stay here and we'll get you up to spee-" That's when Kurakuma pulled himself away from the two cops and grabbed Kikuchihara by the collar.
"I don't need to be up to speed! She's out for revenge! I know it! She told me! She told all of us!" I approached the group.
"Why would Magane want revenge?" I asked him. Magane wasn't the kind of person to be pissed off with her world like Alicetaria was. Both Kikuchihara and Kurakuma looked at me, both with varying degrees of annoyance.
"It's not Magane I'm concerned about… It's her. The woman in the black coat." Black Coat? What is he talking about? There was no character in Yasoukiroku with a black…
My eyes widened at the same time as Kikuchihara's.
"Was it something akin to what a military officer would wear? Complete with a red sash?" I asked.
"Y-yes!" Kurakuma's pupils shrank. "She's acting out her vengeance on us all! It's because of what we did to her!"
"What you did to…" That's when I remembered Setsuna's downfall. The posts made against her, the Wiki page made on all her plagiarisms. The back of my head began to piece together what he meant, while the front just thought of one thing… "What did you do?" As I asked that, my fists began to glow a bright orange as we all felt heat coming from them.
"Hoshi… that's enough." Kikuchihara gave a glance at me, but I kept my stare at Kurakuma.
"W-we… We were all jealous of her Creator's works so we… We took her art, drew over them, and passed it off as our own!" That was it. That was the confirmation I needed.
"What?" Kikuchihara seemed unfazed by the fact that a crazed man had his hands almost at her throat throughout the whole thing,
"Who's this we?" I growled.
"A… A group of people like me who grew tired of some young kid getting all the fame and glory just because she was working with some hotshot! We all pitched together to ensure that she'd get hit with controversy. Our fans would believe anything we'd throw at them, so all we had to do was cry about how she stole our work and they'd come to our defense!" My fists began to tremble as my teeth grinded. "And then, by some miracle, she ended up producing this fanart of some kid's original Kamen Rider, by that point, we just went along with it!" Everything around me went silent as he said that.
He was talking about Setsuna's drawing of Kamen Rider Dante. The very picture that brought me my fame in the first place. The flashback that Jorougumo showed me played out in my head, my mind flashing on the words "SELFISH COWARD"… My body felt surprisingly cold despite the rage I had mounting inside. Had I known that the accusations were fake, would I have tried to defend Setsuna? Or would I still have left her for dead? Everything that had happened… Setsuna's suicide, Hotaro's death, Jorougumo's murders, my whole conflict with Alicetaria, everything… It happened because of that very moment. My voice was subdued, yet sharp as a blade with the next thing I told him.
"You mean to tell me… that Setsuna was bullied by so many people to the point of her suicide…" As I said that, I saw Kurakuma's eyes widened, "that the reason her Creation is out there causing chaos… is because of some stupid popularity contest?" I muttered.
"Hoshi, it's best you leave. We'll handle thi-" I cut off Kikuchihara.
"PEOPLE ARE DEAD BECAUSE HE COULDN'T STAND A STUDENT BEING MORE POPULAR THAN HIM!" I took a moment to breathe as I muttered under my breath: "I killed Jorougumo, for fuck's sake!" He blinked as I said that.
"W-what? Y-you did? H-how?!" I merely glared at him as he began to shake. What I said next came out of my mouth without me ever knowing it:
"Watch closely. You're about to see the Rider you scumbags used to kill Setsuna." The Volcano Belt hummed to life as the heat boiled to its breaking point. "Rider…" That's when Kikuchihara spun around. She slammed Kurakuma into the wall and kicked me in the face with the back of her high heel. She knocked me to the ground as all the excess heat in my body died off.
"I only let you lay your hands on me because I wanted to hear your situation. If you wish for a cell, then be my guest." She gave the officers a cold glare. "Take him to Secure Holding Cell D. We can't trust the local police after what happened with Takarada." Takarada was the name of Alicetaria's Creator. A part of my lips frowned as I remembered what Matsubara said about him. The two cops nodded and dragged Kurakuma away, all while he screamed. She rotated her head a bit towards me.
"Hoshi, I understand your pain and I thank you for speaking for me about how absurd this situation is but," she fixed her glasses, "Kurakuma isn't like Jorougumo. He didn't know that he killed Setsuna, nor can he be held responsible for the murders that Jorougumo committed, or any other Creation for that matter," she began to walk away, "ask yourself this… Had I not stopped you, how far would you have gone in attacking him?" My mind clouded myself with that thought as she left.
I imagined myself grabbing him and throwing ourselves out the window where I would proceed to pummel him… Blood would come out of his mouth as I just kept wailing on him… He would try to run, but I would beat him up some more… And some more…
I gagged as I began to realize that this isn't some imaginary scenario I am playing out in my head… This was some memory I was pulling from the recesses of my subconscious. At some point, I had seen this happen. Maybe it was something I had done in the past or maybe I saw someone else beat a person up. I couldn't remember when or other details, but I didn't want to remember it any further.
I soon saw Souta and ran for him. I had to take what I had processed and make some good out of it.
"Souta! Souta!" I shouted to him.
"H-huh?" Souta blinked.
"I know why you're pretending like Setsuna doesn't exist." Souta's eyebrows widened as be backed away.
"Y-you do?" Souta asked.
"Yeah! It was because of that controversy, right? Well, I just heard from Kurakuma, the writer of Yasoukiroku, that he and some other people set the whole thing up! Setsuna never plagiarised! It was all faked!" Souta just looked at me blankly. I guess I had to hammer it in. "You don't have to pretend anymore. We'll clear Setsuna's name… Together." I smiled as I offered my hand.
"N-no!" He shoved my hand away and with his own hand-
I felt his hand strike my face. It was so sudden, so quick, that I thought he had slapped me twice or even thrice. Everything positive I had in my head just went away and I was forced to confront a dark idea.
"… I'm sorry… I thought… Maybe… Maybe you are right. Maybe you don't know Setsuna." I mumbled. Souta tensed up.
"S-sorry! I… I gotta go!" With that, he ran off, all while I stood there.
Yuuya walked through the streets. He grumbled to himself as storm clouds began to kick up. In a moment's notice, he took out Kuronagimaru and swung wildly.
"DAMN IT ALL!" With each strike, he shouted. With each swing, his arms became that much closer to give out. Each slice gave off audible feedback, as though the air itself was being cut by the kendo. "Even with this… Why… Why can't I beat Tohru!?" He stabbed Kuronagimaru into the ground and cracked the pavement.
"Because of one thing… You lack power…" Yuuya turned around to see nothing but a thick fog. He growled and picked up his kendo stick.
"Mind your own business!" With one slash, he caused an air current that blew right into the fog and cut through it. The dissipating fog revealed an old man with a hunchback.
"But this is my business. For you see, I am merely a fortune teller. It was fate that told me to come to you." The old man said.
"Don't bore me with that silly drivel." Yuuya scoffed.
"It isn't. What I have to show you is something you need." The man approached Yuuya, only to point his bokken at him.
"Not another step." Yuuya glared.
"Ah… A piece of the Sacred Tree! In such a perfect shape as well!" The old man didn't care that it was right in his face.
"Yeah. My strength went into mastering this." Yuuya said.
"And yet… you couldn't beat Tohru." Yuuya picked up the old man.
"How the hell do you know that!?" He asked.
"I know everything… I predicted the future. You're going to face him again, aren't you?" The fortune teller asked.
"…" Yuuya looked away.
"I predicted your fate. You will fall to him." He said.
"And what do you have as proof of that?" Yuuya asked.
"I cannot show you that easily." Yuuya let go of the old man.
"Whatever, you bore me." Yuuya began to walk away.
"But, I propose a little deal," Yuuya stopped and turned around. "I have told you what I had predicted. Feel free to do what you wish with that information. However, be warned, should you stray down the path I had foreseen, you will not like the result…" He said.
"You don't scare me, mackerel man!" Yuuya flipped him off.
"… For now…" The fortune teller muttered.
I walked down the hall and tried to see if I was able to call my sister. I needed a pick me up…
That's when I heard screaming coming from down the hall. I ran down to where it was coming from… It was behind a door. My gut instinct took over and I slammed into the door. As I stood up from falling over, I saw Hangaku holding a man by the collar.
"What the…" I turned my head to Yuuya, who merely stood firm, hands gripped tightly on his bokken. "Stop!" I shouted.
"Bug off! I'm only going to rough him up a little." He scoffed. I turned my attention to the man Hangaku was attacking. With the recent conversation regarding Alicetaria and Takarada, I realized that this man was Yuuya's Creator.
Is this natural for a Creation to feel so much hatred for their Creator? I began to remember the Creations I had encountered, particularly ones who had allied themselves with the Military Uniform Princess: Blitz and Alicetaria. Mamika seemed to be the exception, especially considering how her image is plastered over something as everyday as curry. That implies her show's for kids as opposed to magical girl shows nowadays where it seems they can't go one episode without a gory death.
Alicetaria already aired her grievances with me, but Blitz didn't. I remembered how the Code:Babylon series of OVAs ended with the adaptation of the Metropolis arc, arguably the best arc of the entire series. In it, he and his partner cracked down on a mad scientist who tried to make a death machine which ended up utilizing Blitz's own daughter as a vessel, forcing him to put her down. It was an emotionally moving moment, but I can imagine the first thing on Blitz's list of "things to beat my Creator over" would be that.
I then thought of Celesia, Meteora, and Rui. How did their initial meetings go? Did they react the same way Yuuya is doing now? Celesia's story seemed to be a lighter version of Alicetaria's and Rui was your typical teen with a robot. … Come to think of it, I have no idea where Meteora came from. In fact, where was her Creator? Everyone else seemed to be accounted for except for Mamika's, who I again labeled as the exception due to her show's market. Her Creator would be a company as opposed to a writer or mangaka. But Meteora's Creator? Where were they?
There was a dark theory that emerged in my head, one I do not wish to entertain. I dismissed it as I ran towards Hangaku and pushed the man away from him.
"I won't say it again!" I glared at Hangaku as Yuuya spat.
"Heh, you recovered rather nicely. Oi, old man! Congratulations, this boy here's going to take your beatings!" I gripped my fists.
"I will gladly accept them if it means he's spared." I'm not going to let a Creator die.
The two cops drove Kurakuma through the street. They shared no words. Things seemed to go smoothly…
The driver caused his car to go into a screeching halt as the three saw a purple haired girl in a black school uniform in front of the car. Her eyes seemed permanently shut as she had a large grin on her face.
"Oi! Watch where you're going!" The cop yelled. The girl just playfully skipped to the window and rapped on the glass. The cop lowered the window just a bit for her to be heard. "You're obstructing our duty!"
"That's my dad you're arresting." As soon as Kurakuma saw her, he screamed and squirmed around in the back of the car.
"He is? Well, sorry kid, but daddy has to go somewhere to be protected." The officer said.
"Oh, I'm aware of the problem. Don't worry…" Her eyes slowly opened as the officer could see her golden pupils, "I'll take good care of him."
"P-please! Don't listen to her!" Kurakuma cried out.
"We're not going to hand him over to you. He needs to be put under protection." The other officer said.
"He doesn't need it." She smirked. Kurakuma began to shake his head.
"From the looks of it, he is." The officer said.
"Oh, he just forgot to take his medicine. I can take him home for you guys and he'll be fine." She said.
"Look, all things considered, I'm doubting you're her actual daughter." Kurakuma tried to bash against the fence that separated the drivers from the passengers.
"Don't say it!" Kurakuma cried out.
"How do you expect us to believe you're telling the truth?" As the officer said that, Kurakuma screamed out:
"That's the thing… You just gave the explanation to me." Before the officers had time to figure out what she said, she began to mutter to herself: "A lie within a lie, twisting itself inside out…" With one of her gloved hands, she snapped her fingers.
"Here you go!" From her hand, she revealed an ID card.
"Hmm… Kurakuma Magane?" One of the officers said.
"Yep! That's me!" She said.
"And you're saying he just didn't take his medicine today?" He asked again as she nodded. "Well then, I guess you can take things from here. We'll drive you to your house, okay?" The officer got out of the car and opened the passenger door for Magane. She hopped inside as Kurakuma squirmed.
"Don't worry, I have big plans for you," Magane sneered as Kurakuma saw her sharp, shark-like teeth and hellish golden eyes, "daddy…"
Yuuya and I mutually agreed it would be better if we went to the rooftop, as it was a big open space for my powers to fully come out. That and it would create fewer eyes. Yuuya stood there and rested his bokken on his shoulder.
"So, show that new form to me. The lava one that knocked me out." I shook my head. Yellowstone was too dangerous of a form for me to assume.
"No, you're gonna be facing Fuji, Dante's default form." I put on the Volcano Belt.
"Guess I'm gonna have to force it out then…" Yuuya readied himself as I did my henshin pose.
"Riiiiider… HENSHIN!" I forced my palm out as fire erupted from it. It engulfed me and created the silver and red armor of Dante's Fuji Form. After I glared at Yuuya for a few moments, we ran at each other. Yuuya swung overhead as I ducked and gave him a hook. Fire exploded from the hit, though it didn't seem to sear his clothes. Yuuya struck me with a slash to the side, sparks kicking up from where he hit. However, I proceeded to clinch him and jab at his chest, only for him to do the same for my chest.
"Really? We're just gonna hug it out?" Yuuya continued to jam the blunt end of Kuronagimaru at my ribs. He grunted as he stopped. "Enough of this… HANGAKU!" The spectral figure split the two of us up as she flew right to me. I rolled out of the way and kept track of her as she turned on a dime. The last time I faced her, she reduced me to Ashen Form. However, Yuuya was busy with Blitz and thus ensured Hangaku wasn't fighting at her full potential… But here? I'm in a two-on-one fight with me on the handicapped side.
I had to find a way to knock out Hangaku. I ran to Yuuya as Hangaku flew towards me. Just as I could hear the naginata being readied to strike, I leaped into the air just as Hangaku slashed. Her blade clashed with Kuronagimaru for a moment before Hangaku broke out of the lock. Yuuya adjusted his sunglasses.
"You know something? I took the time to read your story. Rather amateurish." Some part of me was thankful that at least someone thinks that of my story. I was feeling some heavy pressure with what I was told about Dante's overwhelming popularity. "Despite that, I got a good idea of your powers from what I read. You're a close ranged puncher. And boy do you pack a punch… Or rather, Hotaro packed a punch. You, on the other hand, have no idea of your true capabilities." Hangaku hovered next to Yuuya. "Heck, I doubt you've even considered the untapped potential of Dante." He leaped into the air as I dodged a slash from him.
"Your ability to fly, for instance. Nowhere in your story did it mention Dante being able to do that." He continued to slash at me as I dodged. With the ability to fly, I added a new layer to Dante's combat. A new layer I had not thought of before, so he had a point. I haven't practiced fighting with this newfound ability in mind. "Metchin told me briefly about her findings," Metchin? Who the hell's that? "she said that this world is taking a lot out of itself just to translate Dante's physics. Your flight is just the result of that, on top of your cauterization. That said, it's also the reason why I'll win." As he said that, he struck me with Kuronagimaru. I flew out of control for a bit before I punched myself back to standing straight, a burst of fire coming out of the exhausts. "I overheard your chat with the others earlier, so I know about how your body can't take the heat. That also comes with the translating. You never thought of how heat would affect Dante, did you?"
"No… I didn't." I shook my head.
"And that's what baffles me. The strongest opponent I have the pleasure of facing right now… and the Creator has no idea how strong he can truly be! Tell me, what were you thinking when you created him?!" Yuuya asked me just before he struck the air with Kuronagimaru. Ripples of wind came to me as I shot fire out of the gloves' Exhaust Flares. The two exploded in mid-air. Yuuya ran through the smoke and smacked me upside the head with Kuronagimaru.
"I… I just wanted to contribute something and… he was the first thing to come into my head." I thought back to the flaming Rider… That's when I shivered. Before, the memory of a rebooted V3 remained clear as crystal to me, but now, I imagined another flaming Rider. One that stood in the middle of a blazing inferno, his details obscured by the flames, leaving only a pair of horns and spiky cauldrons to be the only details I could clearly remember. Yuuya went to strike again. I held up my hands as the Exhaust Flares burst out just enough of a fire to blind Yuuya and drop Kuronagimaru. I grabbed it and while it charred like the tree branch did, in my hands, it didn't feel as though I could make it crumble into ash. I struck Yuuya with one slash across the chest, then a second at his gut, and finally a downward cut…
Though, with the image of the fiery rider in my head, I remembered clearly how I was imitating that rider's movements. I froze. I never seen this rider before in my life, yet why was the memory of him more prevalent than that heart-wrenching scene from The Next? Hangaku suddenly cut into me as I let go of Kuronagimaru. Yuuya dashed forward and grabbed it.
"Figures. You just half-assed a story. No wonder the first few chapters were lame. Though… something changed, didn't it?" Yuuya stood still. Kuronagimaru's reddish veins faded away as Yuuya cleaned it.
"What are you talking about?" I asked Yuuya.
"Chapter 4. The one that detailed Hotaro's story of how he became Dante." My body went cold as I knew exactly where he was going with this. "The crew told me the situation with Altair and her Creator. Her last known contribution was World Etude, made at least a week before your chapter." Yuuya took off his sunglasses, which I now noticed were singed thanks to my fire. "I'm not some dumbass, especially after coming here. I took the time to look up every Creation I came across, including yours. Your description of Yuna seemed too eerily like Setsuna to pass it off as a normal coincidence. Heck, I can see some similarities between you and Hotaro." I felt as though Hangaku stabbed me again.
"I don't even have to look at your face to confirm it. You based Hotaro's story off what happened with Setsuna." I could only nod. "So… would that mean that Re:Shocker is based off the people who attacked her?" I tensed up. I never once thought of Re:Shocker like that. But… it was very likely that's who I based them off of. A bunch of faceless monsters who don't care about who they hurt so long as they progress their own agenda. When I thought of Kurakuma, it seemed almost likely that's what I was going with. "Your silence is more than enough. So, I guess the ultimate question is this… Did you repurpose Dante to be your tool of destruction?" I backed away. "You couldn't get revenge on those who harassed Setsuna, so you instead used your character to fight caricatures of them. Does that sound right to you?" As much as I hated to admit it…
He's right. The image of the blazing rider played again, this time in combination with what I thought of when I thought of fighting Kurakuma. The two matched up seamlessly, to the point where I now imagined the rider being the one fighting Kurakuma, or rather, a monster who represented Kurakuma… Was… was this a rider I had suppressed from my memory?
"… Yes…" The flames began to die off as I began to go into Ashen Form. The heat died off as well as I slowly descended onto the roof.
"Heh…" Yuuya began to laugh. "This is hilarious! No wonder you're so inept at fighting to your full potential! You only used Dante as a weapon against people you hate. He's nothing more than your little mouth piece! You should be glad Hotaro isn't around to hear this. Otherwise he'd be like that knight." The graying of my armor stopped as my fists shook.
"I couldn't do anything about it… I was too scared to protect her… And… I failed her…" I muttered.
"So your response is to create someone who can be brave for you? Someone who you wished to be and yet can never hope to be? Someone who you can rely on as a tool?" Yuuya and I exchanged silence. "Wow, you really are weak. You're not even worth my time!" As Yuuya flew down, my shaking stopped.
"He just has to act all cocky and brave…"
"You said yourself that you were a coward, but not once did you run away."
The words rushed through my head as everything clicked in. Yuuya was right on all accounts. I had repurposed Dante to be an outlet for my depression. I made him brave and passionate because I was not. I had him try to avenge Yuna because I wanted to avenge Setsuna. I turned him into a weapon of mass destruction because I wanted those who killed Setsuna to suffer.
The blazing rider in my head tilted its head up, as though it was staring right at me. Perhaps I had the idea of basing him off V3 in my head, but once Setsuna died, I based Dante off the blazing rider instead. A rider who was rage incarnate.
But when I remembered Alicetaria's words to me, how I wasn't a coward, that's when the fire erupted in my heart.
"I'm… no… COWARD!" I exploded into a stream of magma as I went straight to Yellowstone once the stream landed on the ground and faded away. Yuuya chuckled and turned around.
"Now that's what I'm talking about! Let the real fight commence!" As he said that, he rushed towards me. As he struck with his bokken, I punched it. Lava spewed out of the blood red veins on my arm. They landed on Yuuya's shoulders as he backed up and shouted in pain. I threw a punch at his chest, only for Hangaku to block it.
"Finally! A challenge!" Yuuya wiped off the lava as though it were nothing and swung Kuronagimaru. I punched the ground as lava exploded out a few inches ahead of me. The air currents attacked the newly made pillar of magma, cutting it up and spreading the magma everywhere. The thought occurred to me that what I was using wasn't actual magma or lava, but a liquid flame. That could explain why Yuuya managed to not get heavily scarred by the attack or why the lava wasn't actively melting down the roof we were on.
As the pillar was destroyed, Yuuya and Hangaku flew in and attacked me at the same time. I jumped back and punched Hangaku, the liquid fire exploding out onto both her and Yuuya. While Hangaku was burned, Yuuya smacked the blob of fire away with Kuronagimaru. Hangaku, however, didn't flinch, and just slashed me with her naginata. It cut through my armor and created a visible scar on the armor's chest, only for it to crack several times and explode, resulting in Hangaku being coated with the liquid fire.
"Retreat!" Yuuya commanded Hangaku as she disappeared. "Now you're putting your mind to work! Come on, let's finish this!" Yuuya readied himself. I had only one thought: Yuuya must die.
"Yes! Let's!" I said as the dark rocky texture of my armor exploded. I had entered Endeavour as my suit was nothing more than orange spandex with the look of lava poured all over my chest, hands, and feet.I ran towards Yuuya. "RIDER-" And suddenly, I saw something swoop in and I was completely blind. I felt tons of pressure put on me as the heat began to die off. I instantly knew that whatever it was, I was locked into a small space with no oxygen. No oxygen, no fire. No fire, no Dante. My breathing became more dense as the lava cooled down back to the dark red magma armor, then cooling down back to Fuji Form, and then finally Ashen Form. Before long, I breathed normally with no trace of heat.
"Jeez, I go out shopping for one minute and already you two are trying to rip each other's throats out." I heard Rui's voice as I saw light. As it turned out, it was the hands of Gigas Machina that smothered the flames and I had been resting on one of them now.
"Aaah, saved by the ref." Yuuya sighed as I looked to him. There was no longer a desire to hurt or even kill him. Even my distrust to him seemed to wane. The cockpit of Gigas Machina opened up as Rui came out.
"Come on up! I got some ice pop for us!" Rui waved.
"Oi oi!" Yuuya's shout caused Tohru to shuffle out of his seat as he saw the thug standing outside his hideout. It was rather abandoned with the only furniture being a large stack of broken desks and on the top was a folded out chair.
"Well, well, well, if it isn't the stray dog. You licked your wounds quite nicely." Tohru said.
"Yeah, because I'm gonna be returning them to you!" Yuuya held up Kuronagimaru as Tohru got off his chair. His mooks were ready to attack, though he held up his hand. "No," he said, "he's not worth the extra people." Tohru leaped down and punched Yuuya in the face. He backed away and spat blood right at Tohru. As Tohru ran to strike Yuuya, he just sidestepped and struck his chest with Kuronagimaru before kneeing him in the crotch.
"Mmmm! Yeah! How do you like that!?" Yuuya hopped behind Tohru and whacked him at the back of the head with the blunt end of Kuronagimaru. However, he soon noticed that Tohru threw his kick right into his gut. He coughed up blood over Tohru's leg. Tohru pulled out his foot as Yuuya noticed a blood-soaked blade right at the toe of Tohru's shoe.
"Tch… You got blood on my suit!" Tohru smacked Yuuya's back with the heel of his shoe. Yuuya fell onto the ground as Tohru continued to kick Yuuya, creating a stab wound with each kick. "Do you know how expensive it is to keep this suit clean!?" His other leg stomped on his spine. "You'll pay with your life!" He stopped kicking Yuuya and moved over to his head. He pulled his leg back and tried to kick Yuuya's head with the knife on his shoe.
Suddenly, a purple aura erupted from Yuuya and slashed at Tohru.
"WHAT THE!?" Tohru barked up as the aura began to solidify into a person. A woman in old samurai armor wielding a naginata. Yuuya got up and clutched onto his wounds.
"Oi, now… Now you're gonna get it! HAAAAAAH!" Yuuya shouted and both him and the newly formed Hangaku charged at Tohru.
The three of us sat on top of Gigas Machina as Rui handed us each an ice pop. I held mine in my hands as I noticed melting a lot faster compared to the others. As I licked the pop, I could hear a small sizzle on my tongue followed by an immediate feeling of coolness. I continued to lick until the pop had been melted entirely.
"Wow, you managed to down that fast." Rui said.
"Yeah, he makes quite the impression when you let him." Yuuya munched on his ice pop.
"W-what?" I raised an eyebrow.
"Oh, yeah, I didn't really mean all that crap. I was just sayin' it to get under your skin. And boy, did it work." Yuuya chuckled and tossed away his finished popsicle stick. "I already knew you were kinda ticked off with me, especially after you saw me rough up my Creator, so I decided to probe your buttons until you showed me that cool form." I scowled a bit and looked away. "I don't care what you made Dante for, whether it's to entertain people or to satisfy your desires. There's just one thing you gotta think about," Yuuya laid down onto the robot and looked upon the sky, "what do you intend to use with Dante's power, now that it's in your hands?"
"Well, obviously I'm going to use it to save people." I pouted.
"Heh, a typical response. You know what they say though, the road to hell's paved with good intentions. Trust me, I should know." I sighed and thought about Yuuya's story. He had an utter hatred for Tohru Ryuda, the man who took his home from him and made his parents suffer to the point of death. Determined to defeat him, he took Hangaku from Yaen, the Fortune Teller and used it to kill Tohru. That said, I closed my eyes and remembered what happened next.
"I'm sure Kokonoka and Rokkaku would be pleased to know about your ambitions." I said with venom in my voice.
"Huh? What about them?" Yuuya looked to me.
"Stop hiding it!" I glared at Yuuya and gnashed my teeth. "Everyone who's read your story knows that you killed them!"
"I didn't!" He was ready to take out Kuronagimaru, that's when Rui shoved an ice pop in both our mouths.
"Guys, calm down. Jeez… It says something when I'm the mature one here." Rui shrugged. The sudden cooldown from the pop did make me consider something. As soon as I finished the pop, I swallowed and turned to him.
"Now that I think about it… You were too busy fighting Tohru to go back to your group, right?" I asked.
"Yeah. I didn't even know about their deaths until I read my story. I finally know why Syo has it out for me and why I'm touted as the final boss." Yuuya smirked, though I noticed from his cheekbones that they weren't genuine. I looked away.
"I'm… sorry. I always had the assumption that you were just an asshole and-" I said.
"Don't be. I poked your buttons, you have free reign to poke mine." Yuuya said.
"Hey… Yuuya. Perhaps you can touch base with your Creator. Have him tell you who really did it." I shrugged.
"And ruin the surprise?" Yuuya chuckled.
"I'm sure Syo would have done so if he was in your shoes." I said. Yuuya's smile faded as he sat up to look at the city skyline.
"Syo and I are different though. I really don't give a crap and if it gives Syo an excuse to butt heads with me, so be it. Syo, on the other hand," he turned his head to me, "he's kinda like you in a sense. Both of you are hot-headed and when you two get angry, literally nothing can stop you."
"Hot-Blooded… Isn't that the thing Dante needs to transform?" Rui asked.
"Y-yeah…" I began to tremble. Everything began to make sense now. That outburst I had when I yelled at Alicetaria, me going into Endeavor when Mamika was hurt fighting Jorougumo, and my rage when I was in Yellowstone. Yes, it was true that I can be passionate and that's enough to trigger my transformation, but for me, it just seemed easier to get angry. I looked out onto the city skyline and whimpered a bit.
I had created a tool for revenge, a weapon of mass destruction, and that tool fell right into my lap.
Fighting to protect people… Is that what I had originally intended for Kamen Rider Dante? Or did I just intend for him to destroy everyone who had hurt Setsuna?
The lights flickered in Kurakuma's apartment as Magane just sat by the computer. She downed an entire carton of milk before she reviewed the text that Kurakuma wrote for her.
"You know, this trip wasn't a bust after all. Got to drink some tasty milk. Thanks for the drink, dad!" She tilted her head to Kurakuma as he swayed limply, back and forth as his neck and head were held up by a firm line of rope. "Shame I didn't get any cool powers from it." Magane chuckled and leaned back. As she heard the window open, she cocked her head, smiled, and closed her eyes. "Hey, I'm supposed to be the liar here." She said as Altair floated into the apartment via the open window.
"I see you made short work of your Creator." Altair just glanced at Kurakuma's corpse.
"Nahhh…" Magane frowned. "He did that himself." Her voice, usually loud and obnoxious, as notably lowered.
"Coward. He'd rather die than face the consequences of his actions." Altair gripped her fists.
"So… what gives?" Magane pointed to the computer screen. Altair sighed and looked away from Kurakuma.
"The power of Revision isn't something one can easily achieve. It requires several factors. One such factor is the yoke of the world." Altair approached the computer screen.
"Yeah, you told us about it. If we disturb it enough, anything can happen. Jorougumo did some real damage to the crime syndicates, then just fell off the radar. Guess that goody-two shoes knight and her magical friend took her out." Magane shrugged.
"I am afraid so. But they didn't act on their own initiative. Rather, they were led by someone else." Altair walked away from the computer.
"Aaah, those two who wanted to take me away?" Magane raised an eyebrow.
"No, but he is on their side. At first, I assumed that it was someone who escaped my wrath, but from what my comrades have told me, it seems that a Creator has taken his form. I don't expect you to care about the situation, but rest assured, it may pique your interests." Altair smirked.
"Hmm?" Magane swiveled her chair around and looked at Altair.
"I have given you a blank cheque on what kind of chaos you and Jorougumo can bring. So long as it contributes to my plans, I don't care what you do… But… There are two people who have crossed my friend: Mizushino Souta and Fujioka Hoshi. I wish for you to make them suffer." Altair walked towards the window as Magane swiveled her chair to follow her.
"And why would I do that?" She asked. Altair just stopped and twitched a bit.
"Because," she turned around to face Magane, "I'm sure you'll find immense enjoyment in breaking them," and gave her a big, sinister grin.
Chapter 10: Dante's Justice
It had been about an hour since my fight with Yuuya and Rui’s interference. The idea of Kamen Rider Dante being nothing more than someone for me to vent my frustrations out on still wrecked my nerves. I decided to take a break and head into the break room. It was one of the few times I had gotten to get a coffee.
“Hey…” I turned to see Yatoji, Yuuya’s Creator. “… Thanks for saving my life.” He turned away.
“No problem. I don’t like to see people getting hurt.” As I said that, I bit my lip. Jorougumo’s screams of pain echoed in my head.
“The others informed me of the situation,” Yatoji sighed, “life would have been much easier if that was just some crazy cosplayer menacing me…”
“I’m still wrapping my head around it, don’t worry.” I said to him.
“So… you’re a Kamen Rider?” Yatoji asked.
“Yeah, pretty much. My own creation, believe it or not.” I chuckled.
“Jeez… You must have gotten the crappy end of the stick compared to me. Having to constantly fight every day and all that. At least having Yuuya might give me some inspiration to continue my manga.” Yatoji said.
“Yeah, you can say that again.” I frowned. I soon looked to him. “Hey, you know that story arc about Yuuya killing Kokonoka and Rokkaku? And how Yuuya didn’t actually kill them?” As I asked that, Yatoji grabbed my mouth.
“Sssssh! H-how do you know!?” Yatoji asked. I pulled his hand away.
“It’s obvious enough…” I said. Yatoji just looked away and sighed.
“W-well I’m intending for it to be a big surprise!” As he said that, I just finished making my coffee.
“Well, you might need to reveal it to someone. We’re not sure what’s bringing the Creations here, but there’s a chance that Syo or some other character from your show is gonna come and demand answers. Yuuya doesn’t seem to give a crap about it, but Syo would.” I said.
“… What are you implying?” He asked.
“Yuuya’s on our side. If Syo ends up coming here, there’s a chance he’ll hate Yuuya for what he allegedly did to his sister and friend and will try to fight against us. Given how he’s a shonen protagonist, I feel as though he’d be a valuable asset. As such, the easy route is to tell Syo what really happened, or at least tell Yuuya so he can relay the information to Syo.”
“… I don’t need to take advice from a kid, you know.” He walked off.
“I’m at least twenty!” I pouted. I noticed the coffee bubbled a bit, though when I sipped it, it felt lukewarm despite the rising steam. I downed the coffee and felt fine… At least until I saw Celesia and Meteora across the room. The two seemed to have just gotten back from somewhere. I set the mug down and wave to them, though I noticed that Kikuchihara was with them too. I knew just from the serious look from Kikuchihara that this wasn’t some casual chat.
“H-hey… Umm… What’s going on?” I asked. Kikuchihara just glanced over to Meteora. The two kept silent as Celesia turned to me. What she said caused my stomach to churn.
“Hoshi, Kurakuma has been killed.” I immediately ran to the sink and gagged as Celesia ran to me. “Hoshi! You okay?” Celesia patted my back. I just looked into the sink. I hated Kurakuma. I despised him. The thought of him driving Setsuna to kill herself was enough to make me sick with rage. I wished for him to die. Now that I have gotten my wish, I feel… horrified. I trembled as Kikuchihara approached Celesia.
“Don’t blame yourself for what happened. If anything, it’s my own fault for not telling my men about Magane’s ability. She was able to make up a story that she was Kurakuma’s daughter and the two bought it.” She said, though the attempt to reassure me definitely failed as I just shook my head. Grief, satisfaction, and guilt all blended together into a puree of emotion that I tried to hide.
“It’s okay, I’ll handle this.” Celesia said. As Kikuchihara and Meteora walked away, Celesia helped me up and took me to the couch. “Hoshi… it’s not your fault.” She told me.
“… He killed her.” I muttered.
“He killed Setsuna. He set everything up so that she would get criticized for her plagiarism.” Celesia said nothing. “I… I wanted to hurt him. I… I was about to. It’s because of me that he was taken away.” I dug my fingernails into my skin as my body heated up. As I said that, Celesia wrapped her arms around me. I was unprepared for that, and so my body just wobbled towards her.
“Hoshi, don’t beat yourself up over this.” Celesia said.
“B-but I let someone die… Had I kept calm, I probably would have helped him… and…” I tried to move out of her grasp. “I’m no hero. I can never be one.” As I said that, Celesia tightened her grip.
“Hoshi… You… remind me a lot of a close friend of mine. When I first met him, he was timid but his heart was in the right place and he wanted to help people. That’s what I liked about him,” she gave a warm smile before it faded to a frown, “but… something happened to him. He lost someone he loved and ever since, he’s lost that part of himself. Instead, he only feels a desire to wipe out the enemy. I tried again and again to reignite that flame in his heart, the person that would care about people… but nothing I did could do that. Instead, I felt like I was fighting with an emotionless husk.” I soon felt some tears fell onto my shoulders as she pulled me out of the hug and looked at me with teary, beautiful blue eyes. “I’m not going to let the same thing happen to you…” I wished I could believe her. And so, I pretended to nod.
“O… okay…” I muttered. As Celesia smiled and got up, I raised my hand. “Um… Who… was your friend, by the way?” I had no idea of the lore behind Vogelchevalier, so asking someone who was directly from that universe would be a fair bet. Celesia stopped just by the door and turned her head to me.
“His name’s Charon.” She said.
I spent the next day at my house binging on the first four episodes of Vogelchevalier. It was a standard isekai affair where a boy named Kazuo Seiga is transported to Earthmelia. Not even the twist of there being giant mechas shook up the standard formula. You had the hero go to a different world, meet up with an attractive denizen of that world, and then have him be introduced to that world’s kink, in this case, the mecha, and how he would utilize them with a generic skill that he harbored in his world, with Kazuo’s skill being video games.
By the second episode, the show changed gears. After the first fight with the enemy, the Avalon Brigade, Kazuo ran off, easily being scared with how close to death he was. There he got to a church where a kindly nun named Lunala took him in. One episode later and, convinced that Kazuo’s skills could help them win the war against Celesia, General Gaileo raided the church with his mech, the Eizenkavalier. By the end of the third episode going into the fourth, while Eizenkavalier was stopped and eventually hijacked by Kazuo, the ensuing fight ended up knocking down the church and causing Lunala to get crushed in the rubble.
The lead in to the climax of the fourth episode had Kazuo, unable to protect Lunala or even say goodbye, snapped and used Eizenkavalier to decimate the Avalon Brigade’s invading forces, complete with crushing Gaileo underneath the mecha’s leg. The final scene had him lay flowers onto the rubble and declared that he’d no longer go by the name of Kazuo, but rather Charon, after a religious figure that Lunala talked about.
As the episode ended, I stopped before the website shifted to the next episode. I exhaled and then skimmed back the video to where Kazuo unleashed his full rage onto the army. I began to realize why Celesia was able to compare me to him. Both of us were motivated by the loss of our friend into an endless crusade against the people who ended their lives, and yet, whereas I used a rather harmless way of getting revenge, Charon cleaved his way through the army and mercilessly killed Gaileo. Now that I have Dante’s power and now that I have known that I intended Dante to be a weapon, the painful question remained:
Will I be like Charon?
I went out for some air as I phoned my sister. I needed a sense of calm after what happened.
The ringing noise cut mid-way before there was just a bit of static.
“Heeeey, this is Honoka, leave me a message after the beep! Beeeeep! Heh, just kidding… BEEEP!” I smiled a bit before I spoke.
“Hey, it’s Hoshi. I watched a bit of Vogelchevalier and… man was it emotional. How far into the show are you caught up with? Maybe we can catch the next episode together?” After a brief pause, I sighed. “Well, bye.” I hung up. I noticed I got a text from Meteora. I opened it and read it.
“I can’t reach Souta. I worry something’s up with him. Mirokuji and I will look for him, but in the mean time, see if you can contact him.” I shook my head. What’s the point? If I try to reach out to him, he’d just push me away. Just like he had before. I closed the text and as I thought of Meteora, I had that thought return to me.
I googled Meteora’s name as it landed me onto a Wikipedia page showing me the game she came from. I got onto the page and immediately clicked on the name of the producer of the game: Sakamoto Nobuyuki. My eyes immediately darted at the sets of numbers next to his name. My blood went cold as I saw two sets of four-digit numbers: the year he was born, and the year he died. What scared me more was the year itself: 2017. This year.
“Hoshi!” I immediately hid my phone and turned around, only to see that it was Marine.
“O-oh… Hey.” I blushed a bit.
“Celesia asked me to check up on you.” Marine said.
“I’m fine.” I muttered.
“No… You’re not.” Marine went over to me. “She told me about what happened with Kurakuma.” I simply froze up.
“… I could have saved Setsuna. And instead I let her die.” I said.
“That’s not true!” Marine stepped forward.
“IT IS!” I turned as my fists exploded into flames. Marine stepped back.
“Hoshi… Your eyes…” I blinked for a bit before I took out my phone and went into the camera app. There I saw my face. My brown eyes were now blood red. I immediately put my phone away and shut my eyes.
“Setsuna depended on me… and I left her for dead… I could have done something about it… and I didn’t. Now…” I opened them and looked at my hands. The flames on them began to die down. “I need to figure out why I created Dante…” I gave her a rather half-assed smile as I got onto my bike. That’s when I felt something hop onto the bike and hold me tight. “W-what the?” I turned to see that Marine was on the Machine Inferner.
“I… never been on a motorcycle before.” Before I could say anything, she just spoke softly to me. “Hoshi… You’re not alone in this. If you’re going to ride off somewhere, I want to come with you.” I thought about it for a while. I then took out my phone… No response from Honoka. There was one idea I had… I revved up the engine and drove off…
It was a five-minute drive over to Tachibana’s shop. I parked the bike. I helped Marine get off the bike before I walked over.
“Hoshi, what are we doing here?” Marine asked me as she followed.
“Let’s just say Kamen Rider Dante has a doujinshi artist.” As I said that, Marine immediately blushed and smiled.
“Ooooh!” I felt a little put off with her expression, but I found it endearing enough not to burst her bubble. I opened the door as the bell rang.
“Hey, welcome to- Oh! It’s you!” Tachibana immediately went from your usual store clerk to a relaxed yet eager fan. “And… is that your mom?” I winced and looked away.
“N-no! She’s…” That’s when Marine stepped forward.
“My name’s Marine.” As she offered her hand, Tachibana looked at her.
“Marine… Like, the illustrator of Vogelchevalier, Marine?” Tachibana asked. Marine nodded as Tachibana let out a gasp. “Holy crap! A-are you two friends? O-or is this some sort of business meeting?!” Tachibana asked.
“O-oh, it’s nothing. Hoshi was just introducing me to you. He said you drew doujins?” As Marine said that, Tachibana bit his lip and nodded.
“Y-yeah… B-but they’re not the raunchy kind! They’re just…” Marine just sighed and frowned.
“Ah…” As Marine looked away, I approached Tachibana and looked down at his desk. Sure enough, he was penning the next chapter of Kamen Rider Dante.
“Hey, Tachibana. I’ve been meaning to ask, from an author to his fan… What do you see in Dante when you read my stories?” I said.
“I see a hero.” Tachibana smiled.
“Nothing else?” I asked. Tachibana then frowned.
“Well, there’s more to it than just that. I… had a sister. She was the nicest, kindest girl you could ever meet. But…” Tachibana sighed as I knew what he was gonna say.
“I’m sorry for your loss. I guess you sympathized with Hotaro’s own loss?” Tachibana nodded.
“Well, it’s… kinda more personal than that. My sister’s name was Yuna too.” That’s when I froze.
“I-is that so?” I asked him. He nodded and took out the picture of Hotaro standing in the wreckage of a burning building. The moment I saw the picture, my eyes widened.
“Yeah. See this picture?” I had every detail clicked in by the time he said what the picture’s significance to him was. “My sister drew it. I look at it every day to get inspired. She wanted to share her art with the world, so that’s what I’m doing with Dante. That’s what I see in him. The means to keep moving forward.” I tried my hardest to stand still as I saw Marine cup her mouth. My fingers twitched. That’s when the bell rang again.
“Heh, fancy seeing you here.” I turned to see Suruga wearing sunglasses. She walked past me and over to the counter.
“Oh hey, welcome to the shop. I-” That’s when Suruga laid down some yen notes.
“Order D-5.” She said. Tachibana nodded and went under the counter to pull out a copy of one of his Kamen Rider Dante doujins.
“Here you go, Volume 5. Hot off the press.” He then chuckled and scratched his head. “Though, you coulda waited until Comiket. I’m set to release the collection then for cheap.”
“I know, but I’d rather buy it here than get swamped by fans.” As she said that, Tachibana chuckled again.
“Right… Right… Oh! You’re just in time, that customer over there is Hoshikigami!” Tachibana pointed over to me.
“I’ve noticed.” As Suruga walked to me, I waved to Tachibana.
“T-thank you!” I said before I left.
“Come back anytime!” Tachibana said. As I left the store, I trembled. Marine walked over to me.
“Hoshi…” Marine tried to put her hand on my shoulder, though I jerked away.
“I… I couldn’t. I couldn’t ask him…” I muttered.
“Ask him what?” Marine asked.
“… If Dante was meant to avenge Setsuna.” I said.
“W-what? What are you talking about?” Marine asked.
“Yuna was Setsuna’s actual name… Her mother told me that the day she…” I forced back my tears. “I didn’t know what to do… I couldn’t save her… so the next best thing was…” I couldn’t bare to say it.
“Avenge her.” That’s when Suruga stepped in. “And what better way to do it than to give that motive to Hotaro.” She had her nose in the comic. “It kinda makes sense when you think about it.”
“How?” I asked. She shut her book and pointed to the cover of Hotaro transforming into Dante’s Yellowstone Form.
“Kamen Riders stand for many things, but nowadays they’re really made for one thing: selling toys. What’s one way of selling toys? Show off how powerful they are. And thus, the true meaning of Kamen Rider is power. Raw, absolute, power. And man, did you give Dante a power rush. Especially with Yellowstone.” I pouted.
“I only made that because everyone else was stronger.” That’s when Suruga laughed.
“See what I mean? Kamen Rider only matters in power. That’s why one week, a Rider will be kicking ass with his new power up and then the next he’ll be under the heel of the big bad monster. There’s nothing really driving these battles. It’s just an excuse to show off toys.” She shrugged. “But you didn’t have any toys to sell. Instead, you use Dante’s power to have Hotaro fight the big mean bullies. Am I on the ball?” I whimpered.
“Suruga… that’s enough.” Marine stepped in front of me. I sighed.
“Yeah… You’re right… I… don’t know what to use my powers for now. My aunt always said a hero fights for justice and… that’s what I was using these powers for… but… my justice… Dante’s justice, it’s really just revenge. I’m no better than Altair.” I walked to the Machine Inferner as Marine rushed to me.
“No, you’re not!” Marine held my hand. “I might not have known you for over a week, but just looking at you, I know you’re not the kind of person who would use his powers for vengeance.” I smiled faintly.
“I know… but… Meteora said it best, I’m just fire. My only purpose is to destroy.” I rode off.
“Hoshi!” Marine cried out to me.
The sun had set rather quickly as I slowed down my bike. I had aimlessly drove around the city wondering what to do next. Surprisingly, the bike hadn’t run out of gas and didn’t seem to be running out anytime soon. I parked my bike just by the docks and sat down. I looked out to the sea and did some reflecting. I closed my eyes and imagined the burning Rider I based Dante off of. The story played out in full as I remembered the Rider beating the crap out of the monster before killing him in cold blood. I remembered how I was in tears. And that’s when I remembered a conversation I had with my aunt.
“Why did that man hurt the monster?”
“Because that monster killed people. It had committed a serious crime, and it’s the Kamen Rider’s job to punish that monster in the name of justice.”
“J-justice? What’s justice?”
“It’s… It’s believing in what is right. For instance, he believes that people should not kill other people, something the monster didn’t do. As such, he had no choice but to serve justice.”
“It sounds scary…”
“No… A hero fights for justice to protect peace. If peace is disturbed, they would come to defend those who can’t defend themselves.”
Justice… That’s what I should be fighting for. And yet… I couldn’t defend Setsuna. My sick idea of justice is to avenge her. I’ve become just like that Rider.
I took out my phone and instantly unlocked it when I read that it was a text from Honoka.
“Hey, come over here. It’s urgent.” I raised an eyebrow as I saw coordinates for a place I immediately didn’t recognize… And yet… they’re so close to where I currently am. I punched them in and got on my bike… I had a gut feeling that I couldn’t shake off. Something wasn’t right.
Five minutes passed and I was almost there. However, I put my bike to a grinding halt when I noticed…
Meteora and Yuuya?
“Ho-Hoshi!” That’s when I saw Souta behind them.
“Souta?” I tried to get off my bike, though that’s when Meteora spoke up.
“Hoshi! Don’t come any closer!” I stopped.
“Huh?” I looked around. “Where’s Honoka?” I muttered. Yuuya just clenched his teeth.
“Another one of your tricks?” Telling from the direction he looked at, I knew he wasn’t talking to me. I turned my head to see a high school girl in a black and red school uniform, slicked down purple hair, closed eyes, and a large smile standing on a large steel crate.
“Hello!” She waved over to me. I squinted, then widened my eyes as I realized who this person was: Magane. I took out the grip and held it out. The memory of the Rider’s brutal execution played in my head. “Aaaah, is that anyway to treat your sister?” I raised an eyebrow.
“What are you talking abou-” I then saw what she was waving around. It was a pink phone with a small star keychain attached to it…
Honoka’s phone. Immediately I got off my bike and held the grip like a sword.
“What did you do to her!?” I shouted.
“Hoshi! Get back!” Yuuya shouted to me.
“I’m not telling you…” Magane giggled. “Though, you should be asking that question to Souta.” She then pointed towards Souta. He backed away as I noticed he had recently shed tears. At first, I thought she meant he did something to Honoka, but soon, things clicked in my head.
“We can pull through together.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t know who you’re talking about.”
“We’ll clear Setsuna’s name together!”
She… she didn’t mean…
“Hey, hey, look! Here comes a new challenger!” Magane pointed up to the sky. I looked up and saw Weisspherd descending down with the force of an incoming meteorite. I braced for impact as the steed landed right next to me, kicking up a huge dust cloud. As the dust settled, I was next to Alicetaria.
“A-alicetaria?” I muttered. She merely looked at me, then turned to Meteora.
“Meteora… You’ll pay dearly for what you did…” She said with the same venom in her voice that she had for me.
“What… What happened!?” I squeaked out the question as Alicetaria scoffed.
“Of course, she didn’t tell you… You didn’t tell anyone about what you did to Mamika, did you!?” What she did to…
No no no nononononononono….
“M-Meteora… Did… did you…” Meteora just stood firm. I then remembered the date that her Creator died… “… You did… didn’t you…” My arm trembled. Everything was in a constant stream… I had no idea what happened to my sister… Souta might have had something to do with Setsuna’s death… and Meteora might have not only killed her own Creator, but also Mamika…
“A hero fights for justice to protect peace. Should peace be disturbed, they would come to defend those who can’t defend themselves.”
My hand stopped trembling. I couldn’t hear anything but my own breathing and the sounds of fire crackling. I couldn’t defend Setsuna and now… I wasn’t able to protect Mamika and maybe even Honoka. The images of their faces flashed in my head. I soon heard a buzzing in my head… I knew this buzzing… it was the same buzzing I heard just before that Rider killed the monster. Everything that I had endured the past few days began to rapidly show up in my head like a slide show… And then…
Silence. My eyes darted towards Meteora and Souta, followed by a glare at Magane… These three… They were responsible for the deaths of those I failed to protect.
And they must suffer.
“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!” I let out a scream of rage as fire erupted from beneath me. My body changed into the armor of Fuji Form. Once the fire faded, I stood next to Alicetaria, both our eyes trained on Meteora. If Dante was to be a weapon used to avenge the loved ones I had lost…
Then so be it.
Chapter 11: Lash Out At Me
Yuuya’s voice played at the back of my head.
My own voice screamed out, but every time I tried to, there just seems to be one thought that will shoot that plea down.
My sister might be dead!
Mamika is dead!
Meteora killed her!
My feet acted on their own as I flew to Meteora. Alicetaria was right next to me as we threw our attacks at her, only for a blue barrier to block it.
“HANGAKU!” As Yuuya shouted that, the ghost appeared right out of the barrier and slashed at me. Sparks flew from my armor as I fell down, though I quickly got up
“Souta, get out of here! Contact Kikuchihara!” Meteora instructed Souta. Souta just looked to me as I stared back at him.
What did you do to Setsuna?!
I tried very hard to ask that question, though all I could mutter was a growl. As I approached Souta, Hangaku went in my way.
“Souta! Go!” Yuuya shouted. I merely glared at the ghost as Yuuya leaped over me and tried to hit Alicetaria. I blocked Kuronagimaru with my own sword, which lit up into flames. Alicetaria backed away a bit.
“Why are you helping me!? We’re supposed to be enemies!” Alicetaria shouted. I breathed in enough to speak.
“Did you kill your Creator?” As I said that, Alicetaria snarled.
“Of course not! I still need him to save my world!” I smiled…
“Good… I’m glad you didn’t kill him… Alicetaria, you saved my life so it should be no surprise,” I pushed Yuuya away from me as I turned to her, “that I’m willing to return the favor.”
I handled Hangaku while Alicetaria took on Yuuya. It was much easier when Yuuya wasn’t using Hangaku to double team people, especially considering how Hangaku only defaults to striking someone when Yuuya’s too distracted to give her instructions. I threw a punch at Hangaku who just swung her yari at me. Her movement was so predictable. I blocked the strike with my sword and landed a punch on her gut. The flames did nothing to damage her body, though that was predictable considering her being a ghost.
“SWITCH!” I said to Alicetaria as we turned around. Yuuya was about to hit Alicetaria when we did so. I responded with a slash that ripped through his clothes.
“GAAH!” Yuuya shouted as he skidded back a few inches. “Hoshi! Stop this!” Yuuya swung Kuronagimaru as it created currents. I slashed as it created a wave of fire. The two clashed right in the middle.
“What’s wrong? I thought you wanted a fight from me!” My comment flew out of my mouth without me ever thinking about it. Just as Yuuya tried to speak, someone whistled. Alicetaria, Yuuya, and I looked to Magane.
“You guys want my help?” Magane asked.
“Yeah. You can start by explaining-”
No! Shut up! This is Magane you’re talking to!
“I don’t need any of your help… Or yours!” She glared to me as she said that.
“Aaaaw, why not? You and the literally hot guy have unsettled business with the geek, right? Let me handle the bad boy and you two can focus on your true enemy!” Magane smirked.
Meteora isn’t my enemy though!
I gripped my fists as I saw Magane still having her gloved hands on Honoka’s phone.
It’s Magane that’s the true threat! She’s manipulating everything…
As I thought that, another thought came into my head.
“You killed Mamika, didn’t you!?” I shouted out. Alicetaria just turned around.
“She had nothing to do with her death. In fact, she’s the one who listened to her dying words.” She said.
What!? You’re trusting this liar!? N-no wait, don’t say that!
My mind began to tangle itself as I looked to Magane, preventing me from doing the brash decision of calling her lies out. Magane just gave me a smirk, complete with her sharp shark-like teeth. She knows I’m trapped. I stood still as Magane charged to fight Yuuya while Alicetaria hurdled towards Meteora, leaving me to be stuck in the middle, the fire inside my body burning hotter.
There’s nothing I can do… I can’t do anything right…
I need to seek revenge for Mamika!
But you’re jumping to conclusions!
There’s nothing else I can do!
Please! You need to calm down!
I need to help Alicetaria! I owe my life to her!
I turned to see Meteora hovering in the air as she summoned six missile launchers. Each of them fired towards Alicetaria. Without thinking, I ran towards her, stepped in front, and took all six missiles to the chest. The missiles exploded as I was caught in the inferno. However, the belt’s fan hummed and sucked up all the flames like a vacuum.
“Hey! You could have gotten yourself killed!” Alicetaria shouted to me. I looked back at her.
“Like I said, you saved my life, I’m repaying the favor.” I then glared to Meteora. “Now… You’ll pay for what you did to Mamika and Nobuyuki!” As I said that, Meteora just frowned as I exploded into Yellowstone Endeavor. I leaped up in the air as Alicetaria held up her gauntlet.
“Gotz von Berlichingen! Answer my call and reveal the knights of dawn!” As she said that, portals surrounding Meteora and me opened as knights came out of them. Each of them looked identical, even with the same winged horses. They pointed their lances at Meteora and fired purple lasers out of the tips. As Meteora dodged them, I swam through the lasers and used the heat to rise myself up to her level.
“FACE JUSTICE, YOU FIEND! RIDER KICK!” I shouted. My back exploded out with liquid fire as I propelled into a side kick and hit her. She blocked it with her barrier, though I decided to borrow a page from a fellow vengeful rider. The Rider I thought I based Dante off of. “V3 KIRIMORI KAITEN KICK!” I used the barrier as a springboard, did a backflip, and kicked again. The kick created an explosion that broke the barrier and knocked Meteora right into a steel box, creating a dent. Meteora looked roughed up, but not burned. I landed next to Alicetaria. She just glanced at me before shrugging me off.
“Let me be the one to execute her… Mamika was my dear friend…” Alicetaria stepped towards Meteora.
“STOP!” I turned to see Souta. He took a moment to breathe. “Sorry, Meteora but I… I’m done running away.” He stepped forward. “Alicetaria… I know who you are.”
“Of course, you do.” Alicetaria turned to face him. “My world and the suffering of my people are nothing more than entertainment for you. Tell me, was it fun to watch them be ripped limb from limb?” Alicetaria gave a wistful smile as she said that.
“NO! IT WASN’T!” Souta shouted, something that caught me and Alicetaria by surprise. “Watching the village of Magratz burn… It made me sad. I was hoping you’d be there in time!” As he continued, Alicetaria just scoffed.
“Your hot-headed friend already tried tell me that. The problem is that you two are outsiders. To you, our problems were just a story.” As she said that, Souta stepped forward.
“No! Everything I saw… it wasn’t ‘just a story’! It didn’t matter whether the story was real or not! Many people have read your fights and support you because you-” He walked towards Meteora, trying to defend her with his body.
“Bring inspiration? Hope? The only thing I managed to achieve seemed to be stopping this Devil from taking his own life!” As she glared at me upon calling me that, Souta stopped.
“… Hoshi… w-what’s she talking about?” As Souta said that, my body felt… cold. “Y-you’re trembling…” I looked at my left arm. The lava on the arm started to cool down into rock again. “Hoshi… were you…”
“… Yes.” I turned to face Souta as I unclipped my helmet. I let it drop to the ground as I looked to him. We both saw tears in each other’s eyes.
“Really?” Alicetaria looked to me, not with anger, but apathy. “Tears?” Souta stood firm and spoke sternly.
“They’re not for him.” It took Alicetaria a moment to realize what he implied. It took me longer.
“What does this Devil have to mourn?” Alicetaria gripped her fists.
“It’s Setsuna, isn’t it?” Souta said.
Suddenly, I no longer heard the buzzing sound and the yells of calming down hit my eardrums. I soon remembered a man who stood by a river. A flame softly burned behind him. He held a grip key, just like I had. And yet, he was calm. I had no idea who he was, or if I even knew him on a personal level. All I knew was that he was calm… and so was I. I sighed and let out some tears.
“Yes… I… I failed to save her. I failed to prevent her death.” I said. Alicetaria just looked at me. “It’s… It’s been a dream of mine to be a hero, and yet, when I had the chance to do so… I couldn’t. So I created this,” I pointed to my belt, “nothing more than a scarecrow, all for the purpose of venting my anger.” As I said that, Alicetaria placed her hand on my shoulder.
“You’re right in saying you based Hotaro off me… I’m just a scarecrow myself. Even so…” She gently pushed me out of the way. “I’m still a knight so… stand aside, boy.” She said to Souta.
“No,” Souta just gripped his fists.
“I don’t want to involve you or the Devil into this fight. Leave.” Alicetaria said.
“I will not! The Alicetaria I know… The Hotaro I know,” my head turned to him as he said that, “they would do what I’m doing right now!” I saw Meteora stand.
“Souta… please…” I saw her weakly step in front of Souta. “I… must talk to these two until we reach an understanding.” Her calm voice despite me trying to hurt or even kill her caused me to jerk my arm.
“You want me to reach an understanding? Then tell me… What happened to your Creator?” As I said that, the belt’s fan roared a bit. Souta tried to get to me, but Meteora just stopped him with her hand.
“With what you’ve seen the past few days, I can’t blame you for thinking I killed him. Truth be told… he died before I even came here.”
“… Souta… I’m not sure if you’re my friend or not, but… you know Meteora more than I do… So please, tell me: is this true?” I asked.
“Y-yes…” I glance to Souta.
“And what about Setsuna?” We both knew what I’d ask.
“Hoshi… I… I did something horrible to Setsuna,” Before I could react, he continued under his breath, “but I didn’t start the plagiarism accusations! I… I was on the same boat as you… but I couldn’t do anything but watch-” That’s when I held up my hand as I saw it shift from Yellowstone Form back to Fuji Form.
“That’s enough. I understand. Thanks… I’m… sorry I assumed the worst out of you two.” Despite me saying that, Souta just frowned.
“So, if you’re being honest, Meteora, then admit your sin!” Alicetaria shouted.
“… I would never hurt Mamika. That is the truth.” Meteora said without any tone in her voice. I wasn’t sure if she was telling the truth… And yet Alicetaria beat me to the punch when calling her out.
“LIAR! You think you can get away with your sophistry? Mamika tried to reconcile with you, and when that fell through, you murdered her! Admit it!” My heart began to pound as I looked to Meteora. My hands began to light on fire.
“No! It’s one of Magane’s lies! Hoshi, we both know who truly killed her!” As Souta said that, the gears in my head finally began to whir.
“SILENCE!” Alicetaria screamed. She then spoke again. “Silence…” I could see her shed tears. “I don’t know what’s the truth anymore… however… if I may still be granted a knight’s honor… then I must avenge Mamika! That’s the only purpose I have now!” As Alicetaria ran to Meteora, the gears clicked and, by sheer instinct alone, I grabbed my helmet and went in front of Meteora. The lance hit my side as sparks flew, though I stood firm and just glared at Alicetaria.
“Alicetaria… If you truly wish to fight someone… then face me.” I then put my helmet on as it changed into Fuji Form. Alicetaria could only look at me with shock.
“Why?” She asked me.
“Because I’m a weapon. A ticking time bomb. If you have to kill anyone tonight… kill me before I explode and take everyone with me.” I said.
“Hoshi!” Souta tried to get to me, but I shook my head.
“I modeled Hotaro after you because… I wanted to be like you.” Alicetaria gave another wistful smile.
“No, you should be better than me.” As she said that, I shed tears inside my helmet.
“No… I’m not better. I let my anger get the better of me and because of that, I hurt Meteora and assumed the worst out of my friend. So please, if you’re going to lash out, lash out at me, Alice…” As I said that, she gritted her teeth.
“DON’T CALL ME THAT!” As she tried to punch me, I saw a red light burst from between us. I was knocked away as I saw Celesia stand up from the red column of light. She turned to me and smiled.
“Hoshi… thank you, but you’ve done enough. I’ll take it from here.” As she said that, she faced Alicetaria and attacked her with her sword. As I saw the two clash weapons, Souta ran to me and tried to grab me.
“Come on, let’s- aaah!” He flicked his hand away as he touched my armor. Meteora ran to me as well, then looked at my belt.
“His armor… his belt… they’re overheating.” She muttered. I heard a buzz as Souta took out his phone. I could hear the caller, albeit the voice was distant.
“I sent Celesia and Kanoya. We’re on our way too. Are you okay? How’s Fujioka?” I could recognize Kikuchihara’s voice on the other end.
“Y-yes, I managed to calm down Hoshi but...” Souta looked to me. That’s when we heard a painful sound.
The sound of steel piercing through flesh. We looked over to see Alicetaria impale Celesia with her spear. Souta took a moment before he looked at me. He could see my Exhaust Flares begin to sputter out flames.
“Destruction can be so beautiful… For creation cannot begin without it… Holopsicon, Third Movement of the Cosmos: Representation Exposition.” I looked up to see Altair. She smirked as she looked at us. “Allow this to be my parting gift to you traitors. You two get to see front row seats to ultimate destruction… the death of your idol,” she eyed Souta, “and the downfall of your idol…” She looked at me as she said that. Suddenly, armored cars drove by and stopped before dozens of armed men came out and pointed their guns at Altair. She chuckled as she used one of her swords to scrape against a machine gun she was carrying. It created a blue wave that washed over the soldiers and caused their guns to turn into rose petals. “Do you see the futility in facing me?” The soldiers backed away, some even retreating from the battle. Alicetaria pulled her lance out of Celesia. With a gasp, Celesia jumped back towards us. As she did, I saw her Creator and Nakanogane run to her.
“Celesia!” Matsubara cried out. I couldn’t stop but look at Alicetaria.
“Are you going to let Celesia die too?” Altair said. I groaned as the belt’s fan squealed.
“Hoshi! Stop! She’s just aggravating you!” Souta said to me.
“Knight, behead her and let the revolution begin… However, you may wish to stop her, Hoshi,” Altair looked to me, “just tap into the inferno that is your wrath and destroy the hero who fell from grace.” I looked to Alicetaria. Blood stained her cheek, though I saw her motionless, in shock. Were I already in that inferno, I would have assumed she wounded Celesia, but I was calmed down enough to see the little clues… It was obvious she didn’t hurt Celesia on purpose. I shook my head. “… Blitz.”
“Guess I have to do the dirty work.” I saw Blitz hover down, gun in his hands, and fire at Celesia.
“NO!” I shouted tried to punch the bullet… only to see someone step in front of Celesia and kick me down. He deflected the bullet with Kuronagimaru.
“Hey, kid…” Yuuya chuckled as I saw him tattered. “Just chill and let me handle this…” He then glared at Blitz. “Old man! You’re pathetic enough to shoot an injured woman?”
“I prefer the term pragmatic. That said, you look as though you could barely stand.” As Blitz said that, Yuuya scoffed.
“I’ve been through worse…” With that, Yuuya leaped up and attacked Blitz. As the two engaged in melee, I looked around.
“What is it?” Souta asked me.
“Magane, where is she?!” I said.
“Hoshi, you have to calm down! We-”
“My sister’s life is at stake!” I shouted and shoved Souta away. As I ran off, I could see Gigas Machina descend from the heavens.
“Perhaps it’s time to test the pillar’s strength. Holopsicon, Twentieth Movement of the Cosmos,” she played the gun like a violin again as she created a portal. A second Gigas Machina emerged from it. “Factor Mimic.” The duplicate mecha began to fire a purple beam at Gigas Machina as it flew aside and fired back. I stood still as Meteora approached me.
“Altair’s planning on the collapse of the world… Fujioka, run as far as you can! You can’t let yourself be a pawn to her scheme!” Meteora said. I saw Celesia force out some words… I soon couldn’t help but see Mamika in that same pool of blood, followed by Honoka, and finally Setsuna.
“Meteora… Please… I can’t let anyone else die!” I said.
“If you keep up like this, you’ll die!” Souta shouted as he caught up to me and Meteora. I backed away as I noticed the steel on my arms began to turn red hot. Meteora nodded and continued from him.
“Your belt wasn’t meant to be powered by so much emotion, be it anger or passion. Hoshi, what you said couldn’t be closer to the truth. The belt has a limit and you will explode if it hits that limit.” As she said that, I began to realize something…
I drew Yellowstone Form without any Exhaust Flares. At first, I thought the flares on Fuji Form would be a cool aesthetic choice, but as I thought about it, it was effectively the fans of a computer preventing it from overheating. Overheating…
I remembered a time when Akagi showed me one of the Super Sentai shows. In it, the blue ranger had a flaw where he would overheat and once he does so, became violent and easily angered, much like how I was after I created Yellowstone. Afterwards, I seemed to snap at anything and everything, being more and more irritable as I continued to use the belt.
“It’s like putting an egg into a microwave… Once the egg absorbs enough heat, it… explodes.” Souta said. Meteora looked over to Matsubara, as did I, as we saw him take out a laptop. Meteora ran over, as did Souta. I just stood there and began to think.
What the hell am I supposed to do!?
I’m going to explode if I continue fighting!
I’m going to hurt my friends if I continue like this!
What’s the point of power if you can’t use it for justice?
This isn’t justice! This is vengeance! That isn’t what a Kamen Rider is!
Fine. Don’t fight.
Just sit there and let Celesia die.
Just like how you let Setsuna die.
Just like how you’ll let Honoka die.
Don’t think that! Don’t jump to that conclusion!
You couldn’t even save Mamika.
… I was enraged the last time she saw me… She saw me as a monster…
I shook again. That’s when something took my attention. A flash of red light. I turned around and saw Celesia floating, now healed and having both new clothes and a new sword. Did… did she get put under revision too? With a swing of her sword, she ended up causing a large wave of fire that reached fifteen feet high up and scorched a huge path towards Alicetaria, causing her armor to scorch up as well… That’s when the flames began to seep into my belt.
“NO! No! No! No!” I shouted as Souta looked at me. There was too much fire for the belt to absorb. When I wrote Dante, I intended for the flames to be miniscule in comparison to the inferno I saw. Too much heat for one body to handle. That’s when my thoughts spun into hyperdrive.
You know who killed Mamika…
I looked at Altair, who seemed to have transformed into a translucent blue hologram.
Dante is a tool to avenge the ones you loved…
I could only help but look at her as she spouted some bullshit about how she’s departing, with Alicetaria and Blitz beginning to follow her.
You know what to do…
“YOU’RE NOT GETTING AWAY!!!” I exploded, though as I saw from my body, it didn’t seem like I was in either Fuji Endeavor or Yellowstone. Rather a fusion of the two. Blackened armor, cracks of red flames on my chest, the Exhaust Flares now looking like sharp fins on my forearms, and I could see the world through a blood red tint. I leaped into the air. “RIDER PUNCH!” As I tried to land a punch, Altair just smirked and flicked her wrist. The duplicate Gigas Machina, which was also translucent blue, got in the way of my punch and exploded into a burst of liquid fire. As the liquid fire rained down onto the pavement, I glared at Altair. She just pointed to behind me as I turned to see Celesia slump to the ground, still bleeding out.
“Hoshi, the potential for your destruction is high… Until we meet again, continue to fuel the flames of vengeance.” She then disappeared.
“COME BACK HERE! I’M NOT FINISHED WITH YOU!” I just shouted… That’s when I saw Magane just standing on top of a building.
“Hoshi!” I saw Souta call out for me… I breathed in as the fires died down a bit. Not much, but just enough for me to rationalize a solution.
I landed onto the ground and forced my armor to turn into ash. I noticed the Volcano Belt’s fan was spinning a dozen revolutions a second, all while fire began to spark out of the belt. I couldn’t contain the heat. I needed to explode… But… I need to confirm my fear. I took out my phone and saw a text from Akagi:
“Hey, Hoshi, Honoka lost her phone, so call me if you want to talk to her.” I smiled. That was all the evidence I needed. I dialed Akagi’s number. Instantly, I heard his voice on the other end.
“Hoshi, what’s up?” Akagi asked.
“Hey… Is Honoka with you?”
“Y-yeah, let me pass it to her. Honoka! Hoshi wants to talk!” I waited… And waited… and waited…
“Hey, Hoshi.” As soon as I heard Honoka’s voice, I smiled.
“Hey, Honoka…” I said.
“What’s up?” Honoka asked.
“I found your phone… or rather… I know who has it… I can try and get it back for you.” I said.
“Hoshi! Your body!” Souta shouted to me.
“Hoshi, are you okay?” As she said that, I noticed my sweat had begun to heat up. I saw my shoulder slowly begin to light on fire, as did one of my arms and my legs.
“I’m… fine…” I stumbled back and fell down. My phone hit the ground as it created a thud sound.
“Hoshi! What’s going on!?” She said to me.
“I’m… glad you’re… okay…” As I said that, my eyelids dropped and covered my vision. Every other sense in my body began to fade away, replaced with only the feeling of fire all over. The last thing I heard was Souta and Honoka both crying out my name.
Chapter 12: Interlude 2
“Come join the Warming Heart Café! This week, we’re focusing on plain, old-school Miracle Maids!” Honoka cheerfully declared as she handed out pamphlets to people.
“Nice, nice! You’re doing good!” Honoka turned to see a fellow maid with purple hair tied into a ponytail. Her face wasn’t cute like the other maids, rather seemed rather creepy with her golden eyes and huge grin.
“Erm, hey!” Honoka smiled back, though she blushed. She does know that the J-Horror theme was next week, right?
“You’re Fujioka Honoka, right?” The maid asked.
“Yeah, why?” Honoka asked back.
“Do you know a kid by the name of Hoshi?” As the maid said that, Honoka looked to her.
“Y-yeah! He’s my little brother… Why do you ask?” Honoka asked.
“A friend of mine bumped into him the other day and from what she said, he’s cuuute~!” Honoka giggled at her comment.
“Yeah, he’s my little stary for a reason.” Honoka can’t help but feel a tingle on her back. A clear warning sign. “W-well, I gotta go…” Before she left, the maid spoke up.
“Wait! You dropped your phone!” As the maid said that, Honoka checked her pocket.
“Huh? I have it in my pocket.” She pulled it out. “Don’t make stuff up.” With that, Honoka ran off. The maid smirked and readied to snap her fingers.
“A lie within a lie, twisting itself inside out…”
The maid saw Honoka drop her phone without her even noticing. After a while she went over and grabbed it. She gave a grin. That’s when she saw a boy walking towards her. She bared her shark teeth. She had kept an eye on this boy for the past few days out of an interest and she had found some wires in him that she would love to cross.
“Celesia and Meteora are recovering at a faster rate than we anticipated.” Kikuchihara spoke to the other Creators as they stood at the waiting room at the hospital.
“But what about Hoshi?” Marine asked.
“He’s received some burns, but not enough to require a skin graft. However, his condition is quite alarming.” Kikuchihara hefted up a black heavy brief case. She then heard the sound of running and she turned around. “Can I help you?” She looked at the girl with short, cinnamon brown hair as she wore a plain white shirt and jeans.
“Yeah… What happened to my little brother?” Honoka glared at Kikuchihara.