Ultimate Origins: Chapter Twenty

City at War: Blade

 

His name was Dr. William “Billy” Cranston, but he was not the Billy of our world. He came from Demon World Earth, an alternate reality where evil ruled. And Cranston, the Dark Shaper, served on the side of that evil.

 

The Dark Shaper sat within his lair and pondered. He needed a warrior strong enough to steal Tyler Oliver away from his father Tommy.

 

Cranston had created an army of robotic warriors, but they were hardly strong enough to face the former Dragon Ranger and his Hurricane Power Rangers.

 

The villain opened up a comm line through one of his smaller computer monitors. An image of a middle-aged Japanese man appeared—his name was Tennoji, INET’s head researcher overseeing the Undead Project.

 

The real Billy Cranston had no idea the Dark Shaper and Tennoji had met, and both men preferred to keep it that way.

 

“Tennoji,” the Dark Shaper said. “I have need of-”

 

“You had Chalice,” Tennoji said. “And you lost him. You had Leangle. And you lost him. You’ve ruined our every plan. Why should I waste more time speaking with you?”

 

The real Billy Cranston had allowed the Dark Shaper to keep the Ace of Hearts, which in turn created Kamen Rider Chalice. The Dark Shaper had Chalice under his control briefly, before Chalice went rogue and decided to live among the humans.

 

Afterward, the Dark Shaper created a new Kamen Rider belt with the aid of a high-level Undead, the Peacock Undead. But Kamen Rider Garren recently defeated the Peacock Undead. And the Leangle Belt fell into the hands of Garren and Kamen Rider Blade.

 

“Leangle may not be lost,” the Dark Shaper explained. “The belt is still infused with the energy of the Spider Undead. That energy will completely overwhelm its wearer.”

 

“That doesn’t mean he will be easy to control,” Tennoji said.

 

The Dark Shaper swallowed his anger. He would enjoy killing Tennoji when the time was right. “Not control,” Cranston said. “Aim. You’re forgetting, these Undead are clones of creatures born from Demon City.”

 

“I don’t see how that’s relevant.”

 

Cranston sighed and leaned back. “No…I suppose you wouldn’t.”

 

The Dark Shaper deactivated his comm line while Tennoji was in midsentence.

 

***

 

Weeks earlier…

 

Ken walked across the hanger deck of the ISIS Prevention and Recovery Initiative Headquarters. He had just returned from battling the Bat Undead, which had escaped. Again. The creature was particularly hard to seal for such a low-level Undead.

 

“Ken!” his fellow Rider shouted as he ran onto the hanger deck.

 

“Benjamin,” Ken said. “Where were you, man? I had to take on that Bat Undead alone. He got away. Again.”

 

Benjamin placed a hand on Ken’s shoulder and led him towards a side exit. “There’s no time for that,” Benjamin said quietly. “Just keep walking.”

 

“You’re kind of freaking me out,” Ken said.

 

“Yeah? Well it’s been that kind of day. Come on…”

 

Benjamin led Ken out of the hanger deck and into a small conference room. Once inside, Benjamin flipped open a circular device and placed it on the table. “There. We can talk freely now.”

 

“Ben, what the hell’s going on?” Ken asked.

 

“We’re getting out of here,” Benjamin said. “Megan too.”

 

Megan worked as their dispatcher, sending them into the field and directing them along the way.

 

“What are you talking about?” Ken asked.

 

“This place isn’t what we thought,” Benjamin said. “They’re up to something.”

 

“Who?”

 

“INET. All of them,” Benjamin said.

 

“OK, you really have to start explaining,” Ken said.

 

“The Undead? INET created them, then set them loose in the city,” Benjamin said.

 

Ken narrowed his eyes. “That doesn’t make any sense.” He shook his head. “Even if INET did create the Undead, why set them loose and then make us round them up again?”

 

“I have absolutely no idea,” Benjamin said.

 

“How did you even find out about this?” Ken asked.

 

“I didn’t. Megan did,” Benjamin said. “She was on the late shift and stumbled across some deleted recordings.”

 

“You can’t ‘stumble across’ deleted recordings,” Ken said. “They’re deleted.”

 

“Not completely,” Benjamin said.

 

Benjamin’s wrist communicator toned, as did Ken’s. Benjamin cursed beneath his breath, and his communicator toned again.

 

“We have to answer,” Ken said.

 

“I know, I know,” Benjamin answered his communicator. “Go ahead.”

 

Garren, the director needs you and Blade in his office for a briefing,” one of the BOARD techs said.

 

“Don’t we usually have briefings in the control room?” Benjamin asked.

 

“I’m just passing along the message, Garren,” the tech said.

 

“Right, right. We’re on our way. Garren out.” He lowered his communicator. “OK, when was the last time the director called us into his office?”

 

“Never,” Ken said.

 

“Never,” Benjamin said. “He knows.”

 

***

 

Ken talked Benjamin into going through with the meeting. They stood in front of Director Hinelar’s desk as the middle-aged man leaned back in his chair, looking over a file. Director Hinelar adjusted his wire-rimmed glasses as he turned a page.

 

“Do you know why you’re here, gentlemen?” Director Hinelar asked.

 

“No sir,” Ken said.

 

The door opened, and three guards walked Megan into the room. In her early 20’s, with short brown hair and brown eyes, Megan typically looked energetic and bright. But today she looked frightened.

 

“Good, now everyone’s here,” Director Hinelar said. He tossed the file onto his desk. “You three, forget what you saw. Speak a word of it, to anyone, and you disappear.”

 

Ken narrowed his eyes at the man. “Then it’s true. How?”

 

“I’ve known Dr. Cranston for four years,” Hinelar said. “I don’t question him.”

 

“He didn’t tell you. Did he?” Benjamin asked. “You don’t even know what we saw.”

 

“No. And I don’t want to,” Hinelar said.

 

“This is insane,” Benjamin said. He turned to Ken and Megan. “Come on, we’re getting out of here.”

 

“No,” Hinelar said. The three guards moved and blocked the door. “You’re not. Not yet.”

 

Benjamin lunged forward and smashed a hook punch across a guard’s face, knocking the man to the ground.

 

The other two guards pulled out their guns, but Ken kicked the weapons away. He snapped a jumpkick upside a guard’s head and smashed a sidekick against the second guard’s chest.

 

He grabbed Megan by the hand. “Come on…”

 

Ken, Benjamin, and Megan ran into the hallway and fled.

 

***

 

The Dark Shaper’s robotic army had attacked the ISIS Prevention and Recovery Initiative Headquarters the same day. They targeted BOARD Division specifically, wiping out its guards, scientists and researchers.

 

Benjamin and Ken didn’t know the origins of the army. They thought the attack was a cover up. They didn’t realize for sure that they were right—the real Billy Cranston and Dark Shaper had coordinated the attack to wipe out all evidence of Billy’s involvement with recreating the Undead. Only a few of Billy’s most trusted researchers and scientists were allowed to survive.

 

Ken, Benjamin and Megan were left jobless after the attack. So, they moved in with a young man they had met during an early battle with the Undead. The young man was named Bobby, a writer in his mid-twenties. He was fascinated with the Kamen Riders and planned to write a book about their adventures someday.

 

Ken and Benjamin used Bobby’s two-story home as a make-shift base. Megan set up her own office, equipped with a computer that could find and track Undead. Unfortunately, the Undead were only traceable when fighting.

 

They had recently defeated a high-level Undead, the Peacock Undead, who could assume human form—all high-level Undead could appear human. 

 

After the battle, they had gained possession of the Leangle belt the Peacock Undead had helped create.

 

Ken sat on a living room couch and held the Leangle belt in his hands. He traced his fingers along the edges of its card, the Ace of Clubs, labeled with a spider. Megan sat nearby, while Bobby paced and drank from a jar of milk.

 

“That belt is different from yours or Benjamin’s,” Megan explained. “Where is he, by the way?”

 

Ken shook his head. “Don’t ask.”

 

Benjamin had given his belt to Ken following the defeat of the Peacock Undead. The Rider had said he needed time alone to think. Ken didn’t understand why.

 

“Well, anyway…” Megan said. “I don’t think the Undead in that card is fully sealed.”

 

Bobby nearly choked on his milk. “Well then shouldn’t we throw it away or something? Far, far away?”

 

Ken smirked at his friend. “I thought you wanted adventure.”

 

“Adventure, yes,” Bobby said. “Slaughter, no.”

 

“It’s sealed enough,” Megan said. “But its energy is seeping out. It’s like a…corrupting force. I wouldn’t hold onto it for too long.”

 

“Which brings me back to my earlier suggestion,” Bobby said. “Far, far away.”

 

***

 

Weeks ago…

 

blade-vi-deerKamen Rider Chalice slashed his bow-blade across the Deer Undead with savage ferocity. The blade sparked through the creature’s body with each viscous strike.

 

The Rider spun a reverse sidekick that smashed against the creature’s chest, then slashed upward with a powerful swing that whipped the monster backward with a burst of spark.

 

Deer Undead crashed against the dirt ground and rolled back to its feet. The creature turned and leapt into the trees to flee from the evil Rider.

 

Chalice started to pursue, but stopped when he heard wheezing coming from nearby. He turned to see an injured, dying man struggling for breath while reaching into his pocket.

 

“Cassie…” the man whispered. “Ava…”

 

Chalice stepped closer to the man. Odd curiosity tugged at his emotions. Chalice’s battle against the Deer Undead had caused several casualties, including the man reaching into his pocket.

 

“Cassie…” the man whispered again. He pulled a picture from his pocket. “Ava…I love…I love…”

 

The man died, dropping the picture before he could look.

 

Chalice tilted his head. What had caused the man’s surge of emotion just before death?

 

The Rider stepped closer and lifted the picture from the ground. He saw a picture of a young woman and 8-year-old child. What had caused the man to reach for this image before death? Who were the two people depicted? What was love? He understood the word, but how did it feel?

 

Chalice nearly dropped the card when he noticed his hand. He wasn’t gloved in the armor of Chalice. His hand was human. He had changed into a human form, no older than 15-years-old.

 

***

 

Chalice took the name Zayden after learning he could assume human form. He tracked down the wife and child from the photograph, and he decided to stay with them. They had greeted him warmly, thinking him a simple boy with amnesia. They didn’t dare know the truth.

 

Zayden lived with the mother and daughter for weeks. He stayed at their restaurant, the Jacaranda Café, in the woods between Angel Grove and Stone Canyon.

 

The daughter, Ava, quickly looked to Zayden as an older-brother figure. He filled a hole left behind after the death of her father. Zayden couldn’t explain why, but he felt a strong urge to protect the girl at any cost.

 

Zayden wiped down a table in the restaurant and said nothing. He rarely spoke.

 

Through the corner of his eye, he noticed a dragonfly land on the window outside. Zayden looked at the dragonfly and narrowed his eyes. The insect was no ordinary bug. It was an omen. From an Undead. The Dragonfly Undead.

 

No matter how much he tried to avoid the Undead, they always seemed to find him. But he always found a way to beat them, without the help of the Riders. 

 

***

 

Night fell, and Ken couldn’t sleep. He shuffled in bed and thought of Benjamin. Why had he given up his belt? Why had he run off after defeating the Peacock Undead?

 

Ken’s door swung open, and Megan barged into the room. 

 

“The belt,” she said.

 

“Huh?” Ken asked as he sat up.

 

“The belt,” she said again. “It’s gone.”

 

Ken reached beneath his covers and pulled out the Blade Belt. “It’s right here…”

 

“Not that belt,” she said. “The other one.”

 

Ken reached beneath his covers again and pulled out the Garren belt. “This one?”

 

Megan rolled her eyes and sighed. “The Leangle Belt, Ken,” she said. “The Spider Undead card. They’re gone.”

 

“What?” Ken bolted up from bed, nearly tripping over his covers. 

 

They scrambled out of the room and noticed the belt wasn’t the only thing missing. Bobby wasn’t in his room.

 

Ken and Megan walked outside to see if Bobby’s car was still parked in the driveway. It was, and they spotted Bobby walking in the field in front of the house.

 

Bobby walked aimlessly while holding the Leangle Belt upward and gazing at the Spider Undead card. The card had ensnarled him in a hypnotic trance.

 

“Bobby, drop that belt!” Ken shouted as he and Megan ran after him.

 

Bobby placed the belt near his waist and slid the Spider Undead card into the buckler. He flipped the buckler open, and it spoke the command: “OPEN UP.”

 

The belt emitted a purple-tinted, card-shaped wall of energy. The energy wall slid back towards Bobby, but Ken tackled the teen out of the way.

 

The energy card smashed against Ken and sparked, energy thrashing as the belt spoke the command: “ERROR.”

 

The discharge tossed Ken aside, and the belt sparked with an energy burst before vanishing from sight.

 

Bobby blinked and shook his head to clear his vision. “What the…bah!” he shouted as he scrambled to his feet. “See, this is exactly what I was talking about. Next time we find an evil belt, what do we do with it? Throw it away. Far, far away.”

 

***

 

Benjamin sat alone at an outside café the next day. He looked at the empty chair across from him and thought of Emma. The Peacock Undead had killed her, after spending days manipulating Benjamin.

 

Had he loved her? Maybe. Probably. He would never know for sure. All he knew was that she was dead, and it was Kamen Rider Garren’s fault. So he had given up Garren.

 

Benjamin noticed a younger couple walking across the sidewalk nearby. The girl, no older than 15, tried to walk as fast as possible away from a boy the same age.

 

“Nikki, come on,” the boy, Nicolas pleaded. “I didn’t mean to stand you up. I have no idea what happened. I was out, and then I just…blanked out. The next thing I knew I was in bed in the morning. I don’t remember a thing in between.”

 

“So what?” Nikki asked. She stopped and turned to face him. “I’m supposed to believe you were possessed by some spider monster or something?”

 

“It’s Angel Grove,” he said. “Demon-spider possession probably happens every day.”

 

“Ugh, you infuriate me…” Nikki said.

 

She started to walk off, but Nicolas desperately grabbed her by the backpack. “Nikki, wait…”

 

He accidentally pulled her backpack loose. The bag toppled onto the ground and spilled its contents, dumping books across the street.

 

“Nicolas!” Nikki shouted.

 

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry…” Nicolas said as he started picking up the books.

 

Through the corner of his eyes, he noticed the Leangle Belt nestled against a tree surrounded by bushes. He narrowed his eyes at the sight of the belt, which seemed familiar.

 

He grabbed the belt and tucked it into his own backpack.

 

Nearby, Benjamin narrowed his eyes at the sight of the boy. He only saw a glimpse of what Nicolas had stuffed into his backpack, but he swore he recognized the device.

 

“Hey,” Benjamin called to the boy as he walked towards him. “Did you just put something into your bag?”

 

Nicolas nervously shifted his backpack and looked away. “Um…no.”

 

He turned and walked off after Nikki.

 

Benjamin knitted his brow and walked Nicolas walk off. I wasn’t just imagining things…that kid has the belt.

 

***

 

Nicolas sat on his bed and slumped his shoulders. Nikki still wouldn’t speak with him. A part of him understood why. 

 

The boy pulled the Leangle Belt from his backpack. He stared down at the Spider Undead card and traced his fingers along its edges. The card reflected the light in his room ever so slightly, with a purple-tinted haze.

 

The boy couldn’t look away.

 

The Spider Undead’s energy reached out to him. He felt his skin crawl, as if dozens of ants were walking across his arms with prickly little legs. The chills made him smile. He couldn’t help but smile, and he didn’t know why. He didn’t care either. Not really. Not anymore. All that mattered was power.

 

“Power…” he whispered with a strange, deep voice that overlapped his own. 

 

A laptop flickered to life on the desk behind him. The screen distorted with a broken, digital image of the Dark Shaper.

 

Nicolas looked to the screen, and the image spoke.

 

“I assume I’m speaking to Leangle now…”

 

***

 

Ken, Megan, and Bobby had learned that Kamen Rider Chalice was truly Zayden. They had met Zayden while visiting the Jacaranda Café, owned by Bobby’s sister Cassie.

 

At first they had feared for Cassie and Ava’s safety. But Ken had seen Chalice fight to protect them both on two different occasions. He seemed to care about them.

 

Ken walked to the Jacaranda Café to confront Zayden about his identity. He wanted to call a truce. Ken and Zayden weren’t enemies, but they weren’t exactly allies either.

 

Ken barely made it to the door when Zayden burst outside and ran towards his motorcycle.

 

“Hey…” Ken shouted. “Where are you going?”

 

“Out,” Zayden answered as he mounted his cycle and sped away.

 

Ken’s cellphone toned, and he answered. “Hello?”

 

“Ken, there’s an Undead,” Megan said.

 

Ken looked to where Zayden had sped off. “Well, that explained it.”

 

He ran towards his own motorcycle.

 

***

 

Zayden ran to the top platform of a building under construction in Angel Grove South. He could sense the Dragonfly Undead nearby.

 

He pulled the Ace of Hearts from his jacket, and his belt appeared with a wave of energy.

 

“Transform,” he said as he swiped the card through his belt slit.

 

The belt spoke the command “CHANGE” as he transformed into Kamen Rider Chalice with ripples of energy.  

 

image001Suddenly, Dragonfly Undead leapt downward and tackled against Chalice. The Kamen Rider held his ground and grabbed hold of the monster, trying to toss him aside.

 

Chalice knocked the villain’s arms away and slammed a trio of punches against the monster’s chest, knocking the creature several steps backward. Dragonfly Undead swung a punch at Chalice’s head, but the Kamen Rider ducked beneath the blow and slammed an uppercut against the monster’s gut.

 

Nearby, Ken ran onto the platform and rushed towards the Undead.

 

He flipped his belt’s card slot. “Transform!”

 

The buckler spoke the command “TURN UP” and emitted a two-dimensional, card-shaped wall of energy through which the teenager ran. The energy wrapped around his body and turned him into Kamen Rider Blade.

 

Blade lunged and snapped a roundkick against Dragonfly Undead, knocking the creature back a step. He pushed forward with a combo of punches the villain blocked, then snapped a sidekick towards the monster’s head. Dragonfly Undead flew straight backward to avoid the blow.

 

The creature flew upward, out of the Riders’ attack range, then swopped down to attack Blade. Kamen Rider Blade armed his sword and slashed at the creature, but the monster flew aside to dodge the blow.

 

The creature armed a double-bladed knife and dove towards Chalice. The monster landed while slashing across Chalice’s armor with a burst of spark.

 

Blade moved in from the side and swung his sword. But Dragonfly Undead parried the blow and slashed across the Rider’s armor, blade sparking on impact and whipping the Rider backward.

 

Dragonfly turned back to Chalice and tackled against the Rider. The impact knocked them both off the building, and they flew through the air as Chalice struggled to break free from the villain’s grasp.

 

The Rider armed his bow-blade and fired at the creature, blasts sparking against the Undead’s body. The attack weakened the monster, and they dove downward, out of control towards the city below.

 

Dragonfly Undead tried to regain control as they fell towards the streets. The creature fluttered its wings, and they swerved sideways, crashing through the window of a small café. Patrons screamed and ran with panic as the Undead and Rider tumbled through the cafe, smashing through tables and chairs.

 

Chalice and Dragonfly Undead rose to their feet and charged at one another. Chalice swung his blade through a high arc that Dragonfly ducked to avoid. He swung again, and the Undead blocked the blow.

 

Kamen Rider Chalice kicked the creature aside, and the monster stumbled towards a row of booths.

 

Chalice pounced at the creature and swung his blade through a wide arc that Dragonfly Undead dodged.

 

The Rider pressed forward with a flurry of swings the creature dodged or blocked. Chalice swung upward and landed a blow, his blade sparking across the villain’s body. He followed by swinging his blade through an x-shaped pattern that slashed across the Undead with bursts of spark.

 

Chalice chopped his blade towards the Undead’s head. But Dragonfly Undead blocked the blow and kicked Chalice aside. Chalice quickly recovered and swung his blade at the creature with fast and savage strikes.

 

Nearby, Blade ran into the café, having followed the Undead. He watched Chalice brutally slash across the Undead’s body and use his blade as a fist weapon, punching the bow against the creature’s chest with a burst of spark.

 

Not everyone in the café had made it out. Some people cowered beneath tables or in corners, too afraid to move. Chalice and Dragonfly Undead moved back and forth across the floor, slashing each other with bursts of spark.

 

“Stop!” Blade shouted. “You’re going to get these people hurt!”

 

He ran to Chalice and grabbed hold of the Rider to pull him away.

 

Chalice knocked Blade aside and slashed his weapon at Dragonfly Undead. The Undead dodged the blow. But Chalice spun and swung his blade through a wide arc that sparked across the creature’s body.

 

The Rider chopped his blade at the Undead. But the Undead dodged, and Chalice chopped through a nearby table.

 

Chalice aimed his bow-blade and triggered bursts of energy that Dragonfly Undead dodged. Blade leapt in front of the blasts to protect the innocent people inside the café, and the blasts sparked against his armor, whipping his body backward.

 

Kamen Rider Blade grabbed his injured chest and rose slowly back to his feet. He watched Dragonfly Undead and Chalice slash each other back and forth with no regard to the people inside.

 

“That guy…” Blade whispered. “He’s no human…he’s a beast.”

 

Chalice smashed a kick against Dragonfly Undead, and the blow knocked the monster from the café.

 

Dragonfly Undead crashed against the street outside and stumbled back to its feet.

 

Chalice chopped his blade towards the monster, but the Dragonfly Undead blocked the blow. The Rider used his weapon to twist the Undead’s dagger aside and slash across the creature’s chest with a series of quick strikes that sparked on impact. 

 

Kamen Rider Chalice swung upward with a powerful blow that slashed across the Undead, whipping the creature off its feet.

 

Chalice pulled two cards from a holster on his belt. One-by-one, he swiped the cards through a slit on his weapon. The weapon spoke a command with each swipe: “DRILL; TORNADO”

 

Two cards of light projected from the weapon and splashed across Chalice's chest. The Rider crouched down, and as strands of energy circled around him like a cyclone, he leapt straight up into the air and started spinning as fast as the mini tornado that surrounded him.

 

Dragonfly Undead crawled to its feet and flew upward to flee.

 

Chalice shot through the air with a spinning corkscrew kick that punctured through the Undead with a massive burst of spark. The Undead crashed onto the street below, and Chalice landed near his fallen opponent.

 

The Kamen Rider pulled a blank card from his belt holster and hurled it at the monster. The card spun and stuck into the monster like a blade. And when the card started glowing, it appeared as if the monster itself was sucked inside. The card pulsed with light and quickly shot back into Chalice's hand. The card was labeled with the Four of Hearts and had the word FLOAT.

 

Kamen Rider Blade ran onto the street and stopped near Chalice. He looked silently at his fellow Rider.

 

“What?” Chalice asked.

 

“I can’t understand you,” Blade said. “I thought I could…but I just can’t. What you did back there…People almost died.”

 

“I am not one of you,” Chalice said.

 

“But what about Cassie? And Ava? You-”

 

“I am not one of you!” Chalice said firmly.

 

Neither of them noticed a motorcycle speed towards the scene from the distance.

 

New Bitmap Image (4)The cycle skid to a halt with a thundering boom, which caught Chalice and Blade’s attention. They turned to see the Rider dismount, and slowly stalk forward. He was Kamen Rider Leangle, powered by the Spider Undead.

 

“That belt…” Blade whispered.

 

“It’s you…” Chalice said. “The Spider Undead.”

 

Leangle lunged and smashed a hook punch across Chalice’s head. The blow whipped the Rider off his feet, knocking Chalice onto the ground.

 

The evil Rider sidestepped and smashed a sidekick against Blade’s chest, knocking him aside. The Rider crashed against the ground.

 

Chalice pushed himself to his feet and lifted his bow-blade into a defensive stance.

 

Leangle swung his staff into an offensive stance and charged to attack. The evil Rider chopped his staff towards Chalice’s head. Chalice swung his blade and high-blocked the staff with a burst of spark. But Leangle smashed a sidekick against Chalice’s chest, knocking the Rider back a step.

 

Chalice quickly recovered and swung his blade towards Leangle’s head. But the evil Rider ducked beneath the blow and swung his staff towards Chalice’s gut. The staff smashed against the Rider, and Leangle smashed a hook punch across the Rider’s head.

 

Chalice staggered backward, shifted his stance, and swung his blade at the evil Rider. Leangle ducked, spun, and stabbed his staff against the Rider’s chest. He swung the staff through a wide arc that bashed across the Rider’s head, and he smashed a sidekick against the Rider’s chest. The blow knocked Chalice off balance and sent him stumbling backward.

 

Kamen Rider Chalice regained his footing and charged at Leangle. He swung his blade at the villain. But Leangle ducked, speared his staff against the Rider’s gut, smashed a punch against the Rider’s chest and bashed his staff across the Rider’s head.

 

Chalice staggered backward again, his body fatigued, and his breathing heavy.

 

Leangle stalked forward.

 

Kamen Chalice swung his bow-blade. But Leangle sidestepped and bashed his staff across the Rider’s head. The evil Rider spun and swung his weapon wide. The staff bashed against Chalice’s head with enough force to hurl the Rider off his feet. Chalice crashed and tumbled across the ground.

 

Leangle stalked towards the fallen Rider. “Chalice…your power will be mine…”

 

“Stop!” Kamen Rider Blade shouted.

 

He ran to Chalice’s side and snapped open the fan of cards on his sword’s hilt. He pulled out the Four of Spades, the Boar.

 

Chalice rose into a crouched position and pulled the Four of Hearts, the Dragonfly, from his belt.

 

Leangle pulled the Ten of Clubs from his belt and swiped the card across his staff’s rouzer slot. The staff spoke the command: “REMOTE”

 

The Remote Card fired beams of green energy that splashed across Chalice and Blade’s cards and knocked them into the air. The cards pulsed with power and released the Undead within: the Boar Undead and Dragonfly Undead.

 

The two Undead tackled Blade and Chalice to the ground and leapt through the air to escape the scene.

 

Leangle leapt through the air to follow.

 

***

 

Kamen Rider Leangle rode his motorcycle northward. An intense buzzing suddenly flooded his mind, and he swerved out of control. The Rider crashed against the ground and tumbled off his bike.

 

He reverted back to his human form with a pulse of purple-tinted energy.

 

Nicolas rubbed the back of his head and sat up slowly. “What the…”

 

He looked to the motorcycle and opened his eyes wide at the sight of the armored vehicle. “Is that…”

 

He rose to his feet and looked down at the buckler in his hand. “Did I just…”

 

He looked back to the bike and shook his head. “No way…”

 

***

 

Nicolas sat on his bed that night. He held the Leangle Belt in his hands and stared at the Spider Undead card. I turned into a Kamen Rider…he thought. I know I did…but why can’t I remember anything?

 

He crawled into bed and tried to go to sleep, but he couldn’t stop fidgeting. He watched the minutes pass. Then the hours. And he finally fell asleep.

 

But he dreamt of a baby crying in pitch-black darkness, and the nightmare woke him up. He gasped for air and grabbed onto the Leangle Belt, tightly, as he would a teddy bear.

 

“That same dream again…” he whispered.

 

He closed his eyes and held the belt close.   

 

He knew what he had to do, to conquer his fear, to conquer his anxiety. He had to be a Rider. He had to fight.

 

***

 

The next morning, Megan helped Ken track the Undead Leangle had released as they headed northward, towards Demon City. She zeroed in on the Boar Undead specifically.

 

The creature rampaged through a city plaza. Ken sped towards the scene on his motorcycle.

 

He pulled to a stop on a walkway looking down on the plaza area.

 

Ken hopped off his bike while sliding on his belt. “Transform!”

 

The buckler spoke the command “TURN UP” and emitted a card-shaped wall of energy, which the teenager leapt through while transforming into his Rider form.

 

Blade tackled against the Boar Undead and smashed a sidekick against the villain’s chest, knocking the creature back a step.

 

Boar Undead swiped its claws at the Rider. But Blade caught the creature’s arm, slammed a roundkick against the creature’s chest, and smashed a roundkick against the creature’s face. Kamen Rider Blade released the villain’s arm and smashed a spin kick across the Undead’s head.

 

Boar Undead staggered backward, and Blade lunged forward with a punch. Boar Undead ducked beneath the punch, tackled against Blade, and pushed the Rider backward. The Undead smashed Blade back-first against a column.

 

Blade smashed his knee against the Undead and slammed a punch across the monster’s face.

 

Kamen Rider Blade lunged at the monster with another punch. Boar Undead ducked beneath the punch and bashed its fist against the Rider’s gut. The opponents circled around one another, punching and parrying with powerful blows.

   

Nearby, Nicolas ran onto the scene and watched the Rider battle the Undead. He shifted back and forth on his feet with nervous hesitation.

 

“Hey!” Blade shouted to the boy. The Rider smashed a combo of punches against the Undead. “Get out of here! Run!”

 

“No…” Nicolas said. His fear threatened to consume him. “I…I want to fight! As a…as a Rider!”

 

He slid his card into his belt, which wrapped around his waist.

 

“Transform!” He flipped the buckler open.

 

The belt spoke the command “OPEN UP” and emitted a card-shaped wall of energy that splashed across the boy, turning him into Kamen Rider Leangle.

 

Leangle pounced and bashed a sidekick against Boar Undead’s back. The blow hurled the Undead off its feet, and the creature crashed against the ground.

 

Kamen Rider Blade shook his head as he walked towards Leangle. “You…you’re Leangle? You’re just a kid!”

 

“No…” Leangle said with a deep, evil voice. “I am Leangle…”

 

The evil Rider armed his staff and slashed across Blade’s armor with a burst of spark. Leangle swung the staff through another arc that Blade dodged. He swung again, but Blade dove and rolled beneath the weapon.

 

Kamen Rider Blade rolled to his feet and armed his sword just in time to block Leangle’s staff with a burst of spark. Blade spun and swung his sword, but Leangle parried the blow, slashed across the Rider’s armor, and speared his staff against the Rider’s gut. The blow knocked Blade back several steps, and Leangle continued his advance.

 

Leangle spun his staff upward with a powerful strike that sparked across Blade’s armor and whipped him backward. The Kamen Rider crashed to the ground and quickly rolled back to his feet.

 

The evil Kamen Rider moved forward and swung his staff through a series of strikes that Blade dodged while stepped backward. Leangle slipped a strike past Blade’s defense, and the staff sparked across the Rider’s armor.

 

“Stop!” Blade shouted.

 

Leangle swung with deadly precision.

 

Blade swung his sword and high-blocked Leangle’s staff with a burst of spark. But Leangle knocked the sword away and slashed his staff across Blade’s chest with a burst of spark. The evil Rider spun his staff through a wide arc that bashed across Blade’s chest, whipping the Rider aside. Kamen Rider Blade crashed and tumbled across the ground. 

 

Kamen Rider Blade flipped open the fan of cards on his sword and pulled out the Five of Spades, Six of Spades and Nine of Spades.

 

Leangle pulled the Ten of Clubs from his belt and swiped the card through his staff’s rouzer slot. The staff spoke the command: “REMOTE”

 

The Remote Card fired beams of green energy that splashed across Blade’s cards and knocked them into the air. The cards pulsed with power and released the Undead within: the Locust Undead, Deer Undead, and Jaguar Undead.

 

“No!” Blade shouted.

 

The three Undead leapt past the Rider and headed north, towards Demon City.

 

To be continued…Chapter 21