Ultimate Blade: Chapter Eleven prologue

 

Angel Grove, one day ago

 

Ken and Benjamin met an unlikely ally in the days following the Sabbath—Shima, an Undead. The Tarantula Undead assumed the human guise of a middle-aged man with Asian features and a bandana wrapped around his head.

 

Shima claimed to hate fighting and prefer his human guise over his monster form. The two Riders doubted Shima at first, but as the weeks passed, they grew to trust the non-man. They even invited him to stay at Bobby’s home—which didn’t make Bobby too happy, but Megan talked him into it.

 

The Undead never fought alongside the Riders—he never fought at all—but he offered insight into the Undead. He seemed to know much about INET’s BOARD division but said little—just enough to be helpful at times.

 

Shima watched Ken slam a series of kicks against a punching bag that hung from a tree. The tree sat in the backyard of Bobby, who let the Riders use his residence as a temporary headquarters.

 

“You shouldn’t just stare like that,” Ken said jokingly. “It’s creepy.”

 

“Why do you fight?” Shima asked out of the blue.

 

Ken stopped and arced an eyebrow. He hadn’t expected such a question from the non-man. “Isn’t that kind of…obvious?”

 

“Humor me,” Shima said with a smile.

 

“It’s my responsibility,” Ken said. “I was a part of BOARD. BOARD created and unleashed the Undead. I have to fight them.” 

 

“You really tell yourself you fight out of obligation? For duty?” the non-man shook his head. “A person cannot become strong like that.”

 

“I…” Ken started, but then hesitated. “I’m sure it’ll be fine…”

 

Ken resumed kicking the bag as Shima watched.

 

They don’t know…Shima thought. They don’t know how important their struggles are to the grand war around them…

 

Chapter 11: Kamen Rider Blade

Trembling Heart

 

The Spider Undead still throbbed within Nicolas’s mind. He’d managed to break free from the monster’s control—mostly—but still felt its evil influence cast webs of darkness across his soul.

 

Benjamin started to work closely with the boy following the Sabbath. The Rider found a renewed sense of purpose by teaching Nicolas to fight and train like a true Kamen Rider. Nicolas looked up to Benjamin, and Benjamin did his best to set the example he knew the boy needed.

 

The two riders raced across the streets towards Angel Grove stadium. The city’s baseball team disbanded after the Countdown to Destruction, but officials recently started a new team to try spurring the local economy.

 

blade-vi-elephantThe Elephant Undead attacked the first game.

 

Benjamin silently questioned why INET didn’t respond to a high-profile attack with the Silver Guardians or DECA Rangers. Cranston seemed determined to stay out of the Undead’s way, which shouldn’t have come as a surprise, since INET created the beasts and set them loose. Benjamin didn’t know why.

 

The two comrades transformed into their armor and rode up one of the stadium’s outer stairwells. They swerved into one of the mid-levels and throttled towards the stadium seats.

 

Leangle skid to a halt and leapt from his cycle.

 

“Here I go…” he said with fake confidence that shrouded his fear. The Rider charged towards the Elephant Undead with his fist held back.

 

Garren pulled his bike to a stop nearby. “Nicolas!” he shouted. “Wait!”

 

Leangle pounced forward and swung a flying punch towards the Undead. But the monster easily dodged, grabbed Leangle by the wrist, and pulled to thrust him forward. The Rider hurled out of control and landed near the railing of the stadium seats.

 

Kamen Rider Garren dashed towards the monster from behind before the Undead could finish his attack. The Elephant Undead pulled his mace free and swung, smashing against Garren’s chest with enough force to knock him aside.

 

Kamen Rider Leangle rose to his feet and moved in from the monster’s side. But the Elephant Undead snapped his mace around and bashed the Rider across the head. Elephant Undead swung upward with a second blow that bashed against the Rider’s gut with a burst of spark that knocked him backward.

 

Leangle crashed against the railing and leaned on the metal for support to keep from collapsing.

 

Garren pushed himself back to his feet and moved to stand between Leangle and the Undead. He stepped back into an offensive stance as his balance wavered. The Undead’s blow had dazed him, but he couldn’t stop fighting. He couldn’t let Leangle get hurt.

 

Kamen Rider Garren charged forward with a punch that the Undead dodged while swinging his mace. The Undead bashed his mace against Garren’s back with a burst of spark, then turned towards Leangle, who charged forward to attack. The Undead easily swatted the Rider’s chest with a burst of spark.

 

The two Riders stumbled to regroup, but Elephant Undead swung his mace wide enough to bash them both across the chest with bursts of spark that whipped them off their feet.

 

Garren and Leangle tumbled across the ground and rose into crouched fighting stances as their armor powered down from the impact. They clutched their wounds and breathed heavily as the Undead stalked towards them.

 

Benjamin cursed beneath his breath. He’d tried his best to help Nicolas. Now he’d be responsible for the boy’s death.

 

Nearby, on the adjacent end of the stadium, Ken’s cycle throttled onto the scene. The teen pulled his bike to a halt and pulled off his helmet.

 

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.

 

Kamen Rider Blade leapt to the other side of the stadium and tackled against Elephant Undead, knocking the monster back several steps.

 

The Rider didn’t give the Undead a chance to gain the upper hand. Blade moved forward with a flurry of quick and powerful sword strikes that sparked across the Undead, forcing him back several steps.

 

Elephant Undead managed to shift into a strong defensive stance, use his forearm to block a saber strike, and swing his mace across Blade’s armor with a burst of spark. The blow knocked Blade back a step, but he stood his ground.

 

The Undead pushed forward and bashed his mace against Blade’s chest. Blade staggered backward, and the Undead struck again, his mace clashing against the steel of Blade’s armor with a hard clang. Blade’s stance faltered, and the Undead swung again with a powerful blow that crashed against Blade’s chest with enough force to knock him off his feet. The Rider crashed against the pavement and rolled backward.

 

Kamen Rider Blade slowly rose into a crouched position and raised his sword in a defensive stance. 

 

He’s too strong…Blade thought. I can’t take him…I can’t!

 

Shima’s words crept into his mind: “You really tell yourself you fight out of obligation? For duty?” the non-man shook his head. “A person cannot become strong like that.”

 

Blade shot to his feet. But the Undead swung an uppercut strike that sparked against the Rider’s gut. Blade stumbled back and crashed against the railing, which he leaned on for support.

 

Elephant Undead laughed softly as he stalked towards the fallen Rider. “It’s over…”

 

He charged two spikes maces with yellow tinted energy and hurled the weapons at the Rider like grenades. The maces exploded against his chest and hurled him onto the stairs. Blade crashed against the stairwell hard, nearly snapping his back.

 

Nearby, a little girl cried from a few rows up. She hid beneath the back of the chairs, scared. She must not have escaped when the rest of the stadium evacuated into the nearest shelter.

 

Elephant hurled another volley of energy-charged maces—aimed towards the little girl.

 

“No!” Blade shouted.

 

The Rider leapt over the girl for cover, and the blasts exploded against his back with massive bursts of spark.

 

“Run!” he shouted to the girl. “Go!”

 

She scrambled to her feet and ran as Blade turned to face the Undead. The Rider rolled his hands into fists.

 

I know…he thought as he rolled his hands into fists. I know why I fight…It’s not duty or mission. I fight to protect. For the people.

 

From a balcony above, Shima watched the Rider and smiled with approval. The non-man pulled a handheld device from his belt. “Blade!” he shouted down to the Rider. “Use the Rouze Absorber!”

 

The non-man tossed the absorber, and the Rider caught the device. 

 

Blade attached the Rouze Absorber to his left gauntlet and lifted his sword. He flipped open the card fan on his hilt and pulled out the Queen of Spades, labeled with the Capricorn Undead, and the Jack of Spades, labeled with the Eagle Undead.

 

He slid the Queen of Spades into the Rouze Absorber which spoke: “ABSORB QUEEN.” He swiped the Jack of Spades through the Absorber’s slot. “FUSION JACK.”

 

jack-u formu-daThe Absorber pulsed with golden light that washed across Blade’s body. His chest armor and faceplate turned from silver to gold, with red trimming, and beetle-like wings formed on the Rider’s back. His sword elongated and tinted with golden highlights.

 

Kamen Rider Blade stepped into a fighting stance and held his sword back. He felt the power of the Undead cards course through his veins like molten heat.

 

Elephant Undead lunged forward and swung his mace towards Blade’s head. Blade used his forearm to block the blow and slashed across the Undead’s body with a burst of spark.

 

The Undead staggered backward but kept his balance and lunged forward. Blade spun and swung his sword wide, slashing across the Undead with a burst of spark, knocking him back several steps.

 

Elephant Undead regained his footing to attack. But Blade spun again with another wide swing that cut across the monster.

 

Before the Undead could regain his footing, Blade slashed upward with a powerful strike that sparked against the Undead and whipped his body backward. The monster crashed against the nearby seats.

 

Kamen Rider Blade flipped open the card fan on his sword hilt. He pulled out the Two of Spades, labeled with the Lizard Undead, and the Six of Spades, labeled with the Deer Undead. He swiped the card through his sword rouzer one after another: “SLASH; THUNDER”

 

Two cards of light projected from the sword and splashed across the Rider’s armor. His sword crackled with golden energy, and the wings on his back spread.

 

Kamen Rider Blade snapped his wings and shot into the air. Electricity thrashed across his sword as he dove downward and passed the Undead while slashing through its body. The strike tore the monster in half with massive bursts of spark, and the creature collapsed to the pavement.

 

Blade landed and tossed an empty card at the monster. The card stuck against the Undead, sealed the monster inside, and shot back into Blade’s hand.

 

Kamen Rider Blade breathed heavily as he felt the power of his new form course through his veins.

 

The Rider flipped his belt buckler and pulled out the Ace of Spades. A card of energy slid over him as he powered down his armor.

 

“That was…intense,” he said as he looked at the Rouze Absorber in his hands.

 

Benjamin and Nicolas joined him, as did Shima.

 

“That was your Jack Form,” Shima explained. “I could have given it to you as soon as we met…but I wanted you to remember why you fight, to fully realize its potential.”

 

Shima looked to Benjamin. “I recovered the Rouze Absorber from BOARD before its destruction,” he explained. “I believe a second Absorber exists. We can find it, and use it for Garren.”

 

Nicolas lowered his gaze. “So everyone gets one but me…”

 

“You should conquer the Spider Undead’s power first,” Shima said. “Little by little, I can see your face changing because of the Category Ace.”

 

The boy knitted his brow with annoyance. “Don’t talk to me like that. I don’t need a lecture. I just want to fight. That’s all!”

 

Nicolas turned and stormed from the stadium.

 

“Nicolas!” Ken shouted after the boy.

 

“Wait,” Benjamin said as he placed a hand on Ken’s shoulder. “Can you leave this to me? He’s kind of…he’s been my responsibility recently.”

 

Ken nodded. “Alright. Just be careful. He’s on edge.”

 

Shima nodded. “And so long as he’s being influenced, I’m in a dangerous position around him. The Category Ace’s instinct is to fight all other Undead. Including me.”

 

***

 

Later that night, Nicolas sat at his desk and breathed deeply as sweat dripped down his brow. He couldn’t believe the way they talked to him—like he was some kid. He was a Kamen Rider. Leangle. Why shouldn’t he get a Rouze Absorber? He deserved one just as much as Blade.

 

Who did this Shima think he was?

 

A thought draped across his mind like webbing. He narrowed his eyes as realization struck, and he thought with the deep, ragging voice of the Spider Undead. So I see…that man…he’s a Category King…

 

***

 

Nicolas walked his bike across a grassy field the next day. He looked ahead with a narrowed gaze of anger and determination, and yet he moved aimlessly.

 

“Nicolas!” a voice shouted from nearby. It was his girlfriend, Nikki. “Nicolas, wait up!”

 

She finally caught up with him. “Why’d you miss school today?”

 

Nicolas kept his gaze forward as he walked. “It’s boring,” he said with a flat, cold voice. “It’s like everything’s become boring.”

 

Nikki wasn’t the only one who had followed Nicolas. Benjamin walked towards the field ahead of the boy.

 

Nicolas stopped and stared at the Rider. They looked at each other, saying nothing at first.

 

“Nikki, go home,” Nicolas said without looking at her. “I need to talk to this guy…”

 

“Nicolas-” she started to say.

 

“Please go,” he said firmly.

 

Nikki shook her head with disbelief and walked off.

 

Nicolas and Benjamin walked silently across the field. They stopped near the base of a street bridge that extended over a creek.

 

“Aren’t you jealous?” Nicolas said to break the silence.

 

“Jealous?” Benjamin asked.

 

“That Shima gave the Absorber to Blade,” Nicolas said. “Doesn’t that vex you?”

 

“‘Vex’ me?” Benjamin asked. “No one talks like that. That’s the Spider Undead’s voice. He’s still influencing you.”

 

“You didn’t answer the question,” Nicolas said.

 

Benjamin thought for a moment, then shook his head. “No…I went through a rough patch a while back, before the Sabbath. I understand. Anyway…what’s been going on with you, Nicolas? Have you been seeing him? The Spider Undead?”

 

Nicolas nodded. “I see him…And I hear him. He says ‘that guy Shima’s a Category King. Go defeat him.’”

 

“So you know about him,” Benjamin said.

 

Nicolas nodded. “Yeah, but…But I’m not going to let those words control me. I can’t.”

 

“You sure?” Benjamin asked.

 

“No,” Nicolas said. “Sometimes…I just feel the urge to fight. I’m trying to suppress it. But I don’t know if I’ll win, or if the Ace will win. And if he does win...what’ll happen to me? Will I disappear?”

 

“What can I do,” Benjamin said.

 

“Nothing,” Nicolas said as he started to walk off. “This is my problem. I just need to be left alone…”

 

***

 

blade-vi-buffaloThe latest Undead—the Buffalo Undead—charged through an industrial park in Angel Grove South.

 

The massive creature chased after a group of teens who had gathered in the abandoned area to cook meth.

 

Buffalo Undead smashed a teen in the back, cracking his spine, and hurled his limp body through the air.

 

***

 

Megan’s Undead scanner sounded with alarm within Bobby’s house, which served as the make-shift base for the Riders.

 

“An Undead,” she said as she pulled up her chair. Ken and Bobby stood over her, while Shima lingered at a nearby window.

 

“This one is powerful,” Shima said, having the ability to sense active Undead.

 

“Here are the coordinates,” Megan said to Ken. “Be careful.”

 

“I will,” Ken said as he grabbed his jacket.

 

“Good luck,” Bobby called out to him, but he was already half-way out the door. “Or not. Whatever.”

 

Shima crossed his arms behind his back and stared thoughtfully through the window. At his side was a cage with his yellow bird, which he affectionately named Natural. Bobby had made fun of the name—such an odd name for a bird, or any pet, for that matter. 

 

I don’t wish to fight…he thought to himself. But do I have any other choice?

 

Megan noticed the non-man lost in his thoughts. “Shima…?”

 

Shima looked to them and smiled fondly. “It’s nothing…” he said. “Nothing you need to worry about. This is my destiny.”

 

***

 

Ken leaned forward on his cycle and raced towards the industrial park in Angel Grove South.

 

Benjamin’s cycle rode into formation alongside Ken.

 

“Benjamin?” Ken asked, surprised to see his comrade.

 

“Don’t count me out just because I don’t have a Jack form,” Benjamin said. “Let’s do this…”

 

The two riders armed their bucklers. “Transform!” They flipped their bucklers, which spoke the command: “TURN UP.”

 

They transformed into their armor and throttled towards the Buffalo Undead.

 

The Undead turned to face the Riders and leaned forward. The Riders slammed their cycles against the Undead. But the Undead stood his ground and knocked the Riders from their bikes.

 

***

 

Shima walked into the woods to find Nicolas waiting. The boy looked at the non-man with cold eyes. He spoke with the voice of the Spider Undead. “It’s been a long time…Category King.”

 

“What are you doing with the boy?” Shima asked. “His body and heart belong to him. Return them.”

 

“I don’t take orders from you…”

 

“You’re already sealed,” Shima said. “Recognize your defeat, and live on as Leangle.”

 

“You fool,” Nicolas spat. “I allowed myself to be sealed. This form is more favorable.”

 

The boy pulled the Leangle buckler from behind his back. The belt wrapped around his waist and fastened together.

 

“Transform.” He flipped his buckler open. The belt spoke the command “OPEN UP” and emitted a card-shaped wall of energy that slid across the boy, turning him into Kamen Rider Leangle.

 

blade-vi-tarantulaShima’s body rippled as he transformed into his true self: the Tarantula Undead. He looked similar to the Spider Undead, but darker.

 

Kamen Rider Leangle charged at Tarantula Undead and swung a punch towards the monster’s face. The Undead stepped back and caught the punch, which nearly knocked him off his feet. Leangle swung a second punch that the Undead barely managed to dodge.

 

***

 

Megan’s computer monitor lit up. The screen displayed icons showing the battle between Kamen Rider Leangle and the Tarantula Undead. She panicked, thinking of Shima. What could have driven him to confront Leangle?

 

She opened a comm line to Blade and Garren. “Guys, we have trouble. It’s Shima…He’s fighting Leangle!”

 

***

 

Blade bashed a sidekick against Buffalo Undead. The blow sent the monster staggering backward.

 

Garren held back as they heard the message from Megan. “Ken…let me get to Leangle.”

 

Kamen Rider Blade slashed Buffalo Undead with a burst of spark. He looked over his shoulder.

 

“OK. Go!” he shouted to his comrade.

 

Buffalo Undead grabbed Blade by the shoulders and tried to throw him through the air. But Blade stood his ground and slashed the Undead with a combo of strikes. Each slash sparked against the Undead and forced him back several steps.

 

Kamen Rider Garren hopped onto his cycle and sped from the scene.

 

***

 

Leangle twirled his staff and slashed Tarantula Undead like a spider snapping with its fangs. Each strike sparked against the Undead as he tried to block and dodge the attacks. 

 

Kamen Rider Leangle pounced to attack again. But a motorcycle suddenly sped through the air and bashed the evil Rider aside. The cycle belonged to Garren.

 

Garren skid his bike to a halt and looked over his shoulder. “Shima! Stop it, Nicholas!”

 

Leangle swung his staff into an offensive position and charged at Garren. The evil Rider batted Garren of his cycle with a burst of spark. Garren crashed against the ground and rolled aside just in time to avoid Leangle’s staff, which chopped against the dirt.

 

Kamen Rider Garren rolled into a crouched position and used his forearm to block Leangle’s staff. Garren gripped onto the evil Rider’s weapon. “Open your eyes!”

 

Leangle pulled his staff free and slashed upward across Garren’s chest with a burst of spark.

 

Tarantula Undead clutched his wounds as he watched. The Spider Undead’s in complete control…I have no choice but to fight!

 

Leangle slashed Garren aside with a burst of spark as Tarantula Undead charged towards the evil Rider. The Undead leapt onto Leangle’s back and grasped hard onto the Rider, pulling him aside.

 

“Nicolas…” Garren shouted as he climbed back to his feet.

 

Kamen Rider Garren leapt through the air with a flying sidekick that bashed against Leangle and hurled him backward. The evil Rider crashed and tumbled across the ground as his armor powered down, and his buckler fell from his waist. 

 

Shima’s body rippled as he transformed back into his human guise.

 

Garren flipped his buckler and pulled out the Ace of Diamonds to power down his armor.

 

Benjamin walked slowly towards Nicolas.

 

But the boy frantically scrambled to his feet. “Stay away…stay away!” he screamed, his eyes wide with a mix of panic, anger, and fear. “Just stay away!”

 

***

 

Buffalo Undead smashed its horns against Blade and charged ahead, pushing the Rider backward with the force of a train. The Undead smashed the Rider through a pile of crates and hurled him aside.

 

Blade crashed against the ground and tumbled across the pavement. When he rolled back to his feet and lifted his sword, the Undead was gone.

 

***

 

Nicolas crawled into a fetal position near the base of a tree. He looked ahead, his gaze deep with anger and shame. Benjamin stood nearby, having followed the boy deeper into the woods. 

 

“How you feeling?” Benjamin asked. “Calmed down?”

 

Nicolas said nothing.

 

“You have to understand…Shima isn’t evil. He’s actually been real helpful.”

 

Nicolas remained silent.

 

Benjamin sighed. “Why not leave your belt with Shima. He might be able to do something to stop the Category Ace.”

 

The Spider Undead spoke within Nicolas’s mind. Kill him. Kill him now…be victorious through power…

 

“Are you even listening to me?”

 

Nicolas narrowed his eyes. Yes…do it. Be victorious through power. Eliminate everyone in your way.

 

The boy screamed and shot to his feet. He grabbed Benjamin by the shirt and snarled.

 

“Nicolas, what are you-”

 

Nicolas kicked the legs from beneath Benjamin and hurled him down a nearby hill. Benjamin stumbled out of control and slammed against a tree, bashing his head against the trunk. The blow knocked the rider unconscious.

 

Nicolas glared down at the unconscious rider. Then his body relaxed. The haze of rage faded, and he realized what he had done. The boy opened his eyes wide with fear and fled.

 

To be continued…Chapter 12