Chapter 12: Kamen Rider Blade

Dangerous Gamble

 

A young couple found Benjamin unconscious and called an ambulance so he could get to a hospital.

 

Benjamin, Bobby, Megan and Shima visited Benjamin in the hospital the same day. He looked fine, conscious and healthy, with a bandage around his head.

 

Benjamin shifted uncomfortably and smiled. “You guys didn’t have to come…but thanks.”

 

Megan smiled and sat on the edge of his bed. “You’re looking better.”

 

“It wasn’t that serious,” Benjamin said. “I just…tripped and fell. It’s embarrassing.”

 

“You’re lying,” Megan said. “It was Nicolas.”

 

Benjamin sighed. “It’s not his fault.”

 

Bobby groaned. “So he’s under the control of the Category Undead again,” he said. “Peachy.”

 

They said nothing.

 

Shima looked towards the nearest window and stared ahead thoughtfully. “So…” he whispered. “That’s the only way.”

 

“What are you talking about?” Ken asked.

 

“I must be sealed,” he said. “The moment I’m sealed, my power will be in contest against the Category Ace’s power. If I win, the Category Ace will be eliminated. However…if I lose…his evil heart will become more powerful than ever.”

 

“No, Shima,” Megan said. “You can’t do that. You can’t be sealed.”

 

“We’re not using you like that,” Ken said. “At his core…Nicolas has a heart of justice. “We’ll have to reach him that way.”

 

***

 

Shima walked into the attic of Bobby’s home that night. His bird, Natural, sat in its cage near one of the windows. The non-man leaned down and placed a hand on top of the cage. “What should be done, Natural?”

 

Downstairs, Ken walked through the front door after searching for Nicolas. Megan and Bobby met him near the entryway.

 

“Anything?” Megan asked.

 

Ken shook his head.

 

“Same here,” Bobby said. “He didn’t even go home…”

 

Ken sighed. “Where are you, Nicolas?”

 

***

 

Zayden took out the trash at the Jacaranda Café that night. He walked down the patio steps and noticed someone moving closer from the shadows.

 

“I’m sorry,” he said with his typical calm and somber voice. “We’re closed.”

 

He looked closer to see the approaching boy was Nicolas.

 

Zayden moved down the steps and walked closer to Nicolas. “What do you want?” he asked quietly. “If you want to talk, let’s go somewhere else…”

 

Zayden and Nicolas walked down a path until the restaurant was out of view before Zayden spoke again. “Did you come to fight?” he asked. “To finish this?”

 

“What does it feel like to be possessed by an Undead?” Nicolas asked with a haunted look in his eyes.

 

“What do you mean?” Zayden asked.

 

“You seem like an Undead, right? But you have a human body. So are you an Undead in human form? Or are you like me…are you possessed by an Undead.”

 

“That’s a pointless question,” Zayden said.

 

“Tell me,” Nicolas said. “Please…”

 

“I am not an Undead,” Zayden said. “And I am not human either.”

 

“I don’t understand,” Nicolas said.

 

“You couldn’t,” Zayden said.

 

Nicolas’s eyes narrowed, and he spoke with the rough, whispering voice of the Spider Undead. “So…you’re him. Interesting. It seems I must become more powerful, then. When that time comes…I won’t need to be carried any longer.”

 

Nicolas blinked his eyes and shook his head. He spoke with his normal voice. “What…Just now…”

 

“You were possessed by the Category Ace. How tormented you must be.” Zayden started walking away from Nicolas. He paused and looked over his shoulder at the boy. “Tell this to the Category Ace. I’ll be ready for him anytime. I’m all ready to fight.” 

 

***

 

Nicolas returned home and stood hunched over his desk. He slammed down his palms and leaned heavily on his arms.

 

Why are you hesitating?” The Spider Undead spoke in his mind. “Go. Find the Category King.

 

“I don’t take your orders…” Nicolas said. “It’s your fault. It’s your fault I did that to Benjamin!”

 

It was to become stronger. Become stronger, and fight Chalice. Find the Category King.

 

***

 

Shima snuck down the stairs with his birdcage in hand. He set the cage on a table and looked at his bird mournfully. “Looks like it’s time to be sealed…What a bother.”

 

***

 

Bobby awoke the next morning and walked to the kitchen while wiping the sleep from his eyes. He noticed the birdcage on the table and tilted his head quizzically. “What’re you doing here, Natural…? Can’t believe I just used that name…”

 

The teen noticed a note on the cage and lifted it to read. His eyes opened with wide with panic. “Oh crap. Crap, crap, crap, this is not good.”

 

Ken heard and walked into the room, as did Megan.

 

“What is it?” Ken asked.

 

“What’s that letter?” Megan asked.

 

“It’s Shima,” Bobby said. “He’s gone off to be sealed.”

 

Ken looked to Megan. “See if the Undead tracker can find him. Hurry…”

 

***

 

Shima walked towards the underside of an overpass that crossed a narrow, shallow creek. Kamen Rider Leangle waited with his staff in hand.

 

The Rider spoke with the voice of the Spider Undead. “Category King…I will use your power, and become stronger.”

 

“I’m speaking to Nicolas,” Shima said. “I want you to conquer this. Your power is needed-”

 

“Silence!” Leangle shouted.

 

The evil Rider charged at Shima, whose body rippled into its Undead form. The Kamen Rider swung a punch that Shima dodged. The evil Rider pressed forward with a volley of punches and kicks, and the Undead blocked each blow. The Rider’s rage grew with each strike that failed to connect with the monster. 

 

***

 

Megan’s monitor sounded an alarm. The screen showed a grid map with two upside-down triangles, one representing Leangle, and the other representing Shima.

 

“Got him,” Megan said.

 

“Alright,” Ken said as he dashed out the door.

 

Ken hopped on his cycle and sped off while transforming into his armor.

 

***

 

Leangle swung the end of the club, which slammed against Tarantula Undead’s forearm. The Rider twirled the weapon and speared the tip against the monster’s gut with a burst of spark.

 

Tarantula Undead clawed Leangle with a burst of spark that whipped him off his feet. The Rider crashed against the ground and tumbled across the dirt.

 

Kamen Rider rolled into a crouched position and breathed heavily with annoyance. He swung his staff into a fighting stance.

 

Tarantula Undead stood casually. “Suppress the Category Ace’s power…If you do that, I don’t mind being sealed. Do your best…”

 

***

 

Kamen Rider Blade raced through a tunnel opening just as Buffalo Undead dropped into the middle of the tunnel. 

 

The Undead leaned forward, and before Blade could swerve aside, his cycle slammed against the monster. The impact hurled the Rider from his seat, and he crashed against the street.

 

“Why now…” he whispered as he climbed to his feet.

 

The Undead charged at Blade, slammed against his body, and smashed the Rider against the tunnel wall.

 

***

 

Tarantula Undead dodged a pair of staff swings and caught a third swing. The monster grabbed hold of the staff and pulled Leangle aside.

 

***

 

Blade crashed against the ground but quickly rose to his feet, just as the Undead charged.

 

The monster slammed against Blade, smashed him against the tunnel wall, and grabbed hold of the hero while dashing forward, skidding the Rider across the tunnel wall. The wall tore and crumbled beneath Blade’s back with bursts of spark.

 

Kamen Rider Blade let himself drop and used his leg to flip the Undead. The monster hurled overhead and crashed against the street.

 

Blade rolled into a crouched position. “I don’t have time to waste with you!”

 

***

 

Leangle slashed the Undead with bursts of spark and aimed his next blow high. But the Undead dodged the next blow, and the blow after that, falling back into rhythm.

 

Kamen Rider Leangle swung his next blow too wide. The Undead took advantage of the opening with a slash that sparked across Leangle’s armor and knocked him back several steps.

 

Leangle screamed with annoyance, twirled his staff, and swung the weapon towards the Undead’s head.

 

Tarantula Undead caught the staff.

 

***

 

Buffalo Undead charged against Blade’s gut and used his horns to throw the Rider overhead. Kamen Rider Blade flipped through the air and managed to land on his feet.

 

The Rider armed his Rouze Absorber and attached the device to his gauntlet.

 

He flipped open his sword’s card fan 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.”

 

The 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.

 

Buffalo Undead charged to attack the Rider.

 

Kamen Rider Blade slashed the Undead with a powerful blow that launched the monster towards the other end of the tunnel.

 

Blade flipped open his sword’s card fan. 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 upward. 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.

 

Blade powered down to his standard form, hopped on his cycle, and sped through the tunnel.

 

***

 

Leangle sidekicked the Undead and stabbed him with a burst of spark that knocked him to his knees. The evil Rider followed with an upward swing that bashed the Undead upside the head.

 

Tarantula Undead collapsed but slowly pushed himself back to his feet. “Nicolas…in your heart, the Category Ace’s power-”

 

Leangle slashed the Undead with a series of quick and powerful strikes that sparked on impact.

 

Kamen Rider Leangle swung wide and bashed the Undead’s face. The blow knocked the Undead to the ground, and he tumbled across the dirt before rising into a crouched stance.

 

Leangle chopped his staff towards Tarantula Undead. But the Undead managed to dive and roll for cover. The Undead rose to his feet just in time to block the evil Rider’s staff with a burst of spark.

 

Suddenly, Kamen Rider Blade leapt through the air as if from nowhere and tackled Leangle. The two Riders crashed and rolled before rising to their feet. Leangle quickly turned his attention to Blade and swung hard and fast, but Blade back stepped to avoid each swing.

 

“Nicolas, stop it!” Blade shouted.

 

Leangle swung his staff towards Blade’s gut. Blade caught the staff, but Leangle sidekicked the Rider backward. Blade stumbled but stayed on his feet.

 

Kamen Rider Leangle lunged and slashed the Rider with a powerful upward swing that sparked on impact and whipped Blade off his feet. Kamen Rider Blade crashed against the ground and tumbled across the dirt. He still felt weakened from his fight with the Buffalo Undead.

 

Kamen Rider Leangle quickly swung his staff into an offensive stance and charged towards Tarantula Undead. The evil Rider slashed relentlessly. His staff clubbing and slashing the Undead with bursts of spark that forced him back several steps.

 

Nearby, Kamen Rider Blade rose into a crouched stance. “Stop it, Nicolas!”

 

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

 

The Absorber pulsed with golden light that washed across Blade’s body as he powered up to Jack Form.

 

Kamen Rider Blade charged towards the two combatants and punched Leangle across the helmet with massive force. The blow hurled Leangle off his feet, and he crashed against the ground as his belt fell free, and his armor powered down.

 

“Nicolas…” Shima said as his body rippled back into human form. “Have you opened your eyes?”

 

Ken powered down his armor and extended his hand. “Someone who can’t control themselves has no business being a Rider. Hand over the belt.”

 

“It’s no use,” Shima said. “Take his belt, and it will just return to him. The Category Ace has chosen him, unfortunately.”

 

Nicolas narrowed his eyes, wet with tears, as he scrambled to his feet and ran.

 

***

 

Shima rejoined Ken, Megan and Bobby at the house.

 

Megan practically shouted at the non-man. “Why would you do something so stupid?”

 

“Yeah,” Bobby said. “If you’re sealed and Nicolas wins, that’s great, but…”

 

“I couldn’t just ignore him,” Shima said. “That boy…a youth, all alone, being manipulated by the Category Ace. His personality is slowly being destroyed. I can’t just do nothing and watch.”

 

“Shima,” Ken said. “What you’re trying to do is too risky. We can’t lose you or Nicolas. I won’t let him put you in anymore danger.”

 

“Don’t think of doing anything stupid like that again, OK?” Megan asked.

 

Shima nodded reluctantly. “Okay.”

 

“Okay,” Bobby said. “So…breakfast? Breakfast.”

 

“I’m going to go visit Benjamin,” Shima said. “He seems to know the boy best.”

 

***

 

Shima visited Benjamin in the hospital and explained the battle and fallout.

 

“I’m worried about Nicolas,” Benjamin said. “But you trying to sacrifice yourself…?”

 

“Please, stop with that topic,” Shima said. “Those three gave me quite a lecture already.”

 

“Sorry…”

 

“So,” Shima said. “Besides his parents, can you tell me anything else?”

 

Benjamin shrugged. “He’s a high school kid who likes basketball. Oh, and he does have a girlfriend.”

 

“Girlfriend?”

 

***

 

A young couple walked through a wooded area outside the hospital. The Woodpecker Undead dropped on them, killed them instantly, and dragged their bodies back into the treetops.

 

***

 

The alarm on Benjamin’s smart phone sounded, and he pulled the phone from his pocket. He opened the Undead Tracker application.

 

“An Undead nearby,” Benjamin said. “It’s right outside!”

 

“I’ll go,” Shima said. “Don’t force yourself.”

 

“Shima, wait!” Benjamin shouted. But the non-man was already out the door.

 

***

 

The Woodpecker Undead chased a group of girls near the hospital.

 

Shima walked onto the scene and shimmered into his Tarantula Undead form. Benjamin ran after the Undead from behind.

 

“Shima, wait!” Benjamin shouted.

 

The Tarantula Undead lifted his hand. Strands of wind energy wisped around his hand like webbing. The monster thrust his hand forward and fired the web of air, which smashed against Woodpecker Undead and hurled him away with a mighty gust of power.

 

One of the nearby girls fainted, and Benjamin recognized her instantly. “Nikki…?” he said with disbelief as he ran to her side. “Shima, this is the girlfriend I was telling you about.”

 

***

 

Shima brought Nikki to Benjamin’s room and laid her on the spare bed. He hovered his palm over her forehead, and his hand glowed with strands of light that resembled tendrils of webbing.

 

“What are you doing?” Benjamin asked.

 

“I’m removing her memory of what just happened,” Shima said. “If she were to become involved in this battle…Nicolas would surely be saddened.”

 

“You can do that?” Benjamin asked.

 

Nikki’s eyes fluttered open. “What…where?” She sat up in bed and grasped her head, which tingled. She looked to Benjamin. “Benjamin, right? What happened?”

 

“You collapsed near the hospital,” Benjamin said. “It must have been the sunlight…”

 

“Oh,” she said with relief. “I thought maybe there was another monster attack or something.”

 

“Well…” Benjamin said. “Not this time.”

 

“Thank you,” Nikki said. “I actually came here to see you.”

 

“You did?” Benjamin asked.

 

She nodded. “Nicolas asked me to check in on you.”

 

***

 

Nicolas sat at his desk. The Spider Undead spoke within his mind. “Does it not vex you? Losing and returning home in shame like this? Are you really the strongest Rider?

 

Nicolas swiped his desk clear and screamed. “Stop it…” he said as he grasped his head. “Leave me alone…Please, just leave me alone…”

 

His phone rang. Nicolas pulled the phone from his pocket and answered. It was Nikki.

 

***

 

Nicolas walked to a park, where Nikki waited on a bench.

 

“Hey…” he said as he walked towards her.

 

“Hey,” she said.

 

“What did you want to talk about?” Nicolas asked.

 

“Someone wanted to meet with you…” she said cautiously.

 

Shima stepped out from behind a nearby tree. “Sorry for calling you out like this.”

 

Nicolas looked to Nikki. “Can you give us a minute?”

 

“What?” she asked.

 

“Please,” Nicolas said. “Just…Wait here.”

 

Nicolas walked off with Shima. They waited until Nikki was out of earshot before speaking.

 

“Why didn’t you come alone?” Nicolas asked. “If you would have come alone, we could have finished what we started.”

 

“Is that your own will?” Shima asked.

 

“I don’t know,” Nicolas said. “But…there’s this voice telling me to fight you.”

 

“Close off that voice,” Shima said. “And listen to this voice instead.”

 

Shima lifted his palm, and his hand glowed with webs of air. He casually waved his hand, and the web of air splashed across Nicolas while carrying a voice. The voice belonged to Nikki.

 

“Nicolas,” the voice said. “I really love you…I do…but I want you back to normal. I’m so worried about you. Please…come back to me. Turn back to normal.”

 

Shima lowered his hand. “That was the voice of her heart, carried on the wind. This voice was cut off the moment you were controlled by the Category Ace.”

 

“Defeating the Category Ace…” Nicolas asked. “Is that even possible?”

 

“It is,” Shima said strongly. “It all depends on your will.”

 

Nicolas narrowed his eyes and spoke with the voice of the Spider Undead. “Quiet…quiet!”

 

Nicolas turned and ran off, his hands rolled into fists, and tears streaming down his cheeks.

 

Shima casually walked over and sat on a bench, where he had left his birdcage. “He’s doing his best, isn’t he, Natural?”

 

The non-man looked to the shadows. “Leaving already?”

 

Zayden slowly stepped into view, surprised he’d been spotted.

 

“I sensed you follow the boy here,” Shima said. “So why don’t we have a leisurely talk…Joker?”

 

Zayden narrowed his eyes. “Don’t call me by that name.”

 

***

 

Benjamin got dressed and packed his bag on his hospital bed. A nurse walked in and stopped in the doorway, talked aback by the sight.

 

“Benjamin, what are you doing?” she asked. “You can’t leave the hospital on your own like this. Not without the doctor’s permission.”

 

“I’m sorry,” Benjamin said. He grabbed his bag and headed through the door. “I don’t have time for that.”

 

***

 

“Are you going to let him seal you?” Zayden asked.

 

“Are you worried about me?” Shima asked.

 

“Foolishness,” Zayden said. “You think I would worry?”

 

“Right,” Shima said. “Because you’re confident enough to believe you can lose to no one. Because the existence of your will is the ultimate trump. So right now…how do you feel? You use the Category Two to blend in among humans. Isn’t it an unexpectedly nice feeling? The world of the humans?”

 

“I cannot join with the humans like you have,” Zayden said.

 

“I see…” Shima said. “And yet you love Cassie, and her daughter Ava. In the same way, Nicolas has someone important to him. For me…I can’t get enough of the feeling people have for those important to them. It was this feeling that motivated our very creation. This feeling…it makes me want to do something. To save them.”

 

Shima lifted his birdcage and smiled. “This nosiness is my weakness, isn’t it, Natural?”

 

***

 

Benjamin met Nikki at the park.

 

“Nicolas?” she asked.

 

“He had a talk with Shima, then ran off,” Benjamin said. “He’s not answering his phone.”

 

She shook her head and looked down. “I don’t understand what’s happening to him.”

 

“I…I know,” Benjamin said. “But it will be OK. I can save him. He’s just lost control over himself, but he’s being manipulated. It happened to me once. I know what it’s like. So…I’m definitely going to help him.”

 

“What is he involved in?” Nikki asked. “Just tell me.”

 

“It’s better if you don’t know,” Benjamin said.

 

***

 

Megan cooked at a grill in the front yard while Bobby and Ken sat at a picnic table.

 

“Shima is sure running late,” Ken said. “I thought he said he’d be back by lunch.”

 

“Well, let’s just go ahead and eat,” Bobby said. “He can have left overs. I doubt he’ll even notice.”

 

“No,” Megan said. “You’re the one who wanted to have this cookout for him, remember?”

 

Ken looked to the roadway leading to the home and saw Zayden walk towards him. Zayden carried Natural’s birdcage.

 

“Having fun?” Zayden asked with a voice so neutral, they couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic, sincerely interested, or neither.

 

“Zayden…” Ken said.

 

“I brought this,” Zayden said as he lifted the cage towards them.

 

“From Shima?” Ken asked.

 

“He told me to raise it, but it’s a bother, so I’m returning it,” Zayden said.

 

“What do you mean?” Megan asked. “Natural’s like his family. Why would he leave him with you?”

 

“While you humans eat a leisurely meal, our battle continues,” Zayden said. “You’re at ease being ignorant of that.”

 

Ken shook his head. “It can’t be…he wouldn’t go after Nicolas again.”

 

“He would…” Megan whispered.

 

Zayden extended the birdcage again, and Bobby took it.

 

Bobby spoke soothingly to the bird. “I know, that guy’s scary, right? But it’s okay now. We’ll find Shima.”

 

***

 

Benjamin managed to track Nicolas to a pedestrian bridge in the city. The boy walked across the bridge while Benjamin ran towards him from behind.

 

“Nicolas!” Benjamin shouted. He caught up with the boy, but he kept walking forward.

 

 “This time…This time…” Nicolas’s voice shifted to that of the Spider Undead. “This time, Category King…”

 

“Don’t meet with him!” Benjamin shouted.

 

Screams suddenly came from nearby. Benjamin looked to see Woodpecker Undead attack a group of teenagers on the street below.

 

Nicolas kept walking forward. “You can have the small fry.”

 

Benjamin cursed beneath his breath.

 

He leapt over the ledge and flipped his buckler. “Transform!” The belt spoke the command “TURN UP” and emitted a card-shaped wall of energy that Benjamin dropped through as he transformed into his Rider gear.

 

Kamen Rider Garren landed with a tackle that smashed the Undead.

 

***

 

Megan’s Undead monitor lit up, showing the battle between Garren and Woodpecker Undead.

 

Ken opened a comm line. “Benjamin, don’t force yourself. I’m coming.”

 

***

 

“Wait!” Garren shouted to Ken as he dodged and parried the Undead’s strikes. “I’m alright. Nicolas is heading after Shima! Find those two!”

 

***

 

Shima and Nicolas met under the bridge where they had fought before.

 

“So you came…Category Ace,” Shima said.

 

Nicolas spoke with the voice of the Spider Undead. “Finally we can finish this without anyone interfering.”

 

Shima waved his hand and tossed a weave of air webbing that splashed against Nicolas and spoke into his mind: “Nicolas,” the voice said. “I really love you…I do…but I want you back to normal. I’m so worried about you. Please…come back to me. Turn back to normal.”

 

“Nicolas!” Shima shouted. “Remember!”

 

Nicolas staggered backward and shook his head. “Shut up…do not interfere.”

 

He armed his buckler, which wrapped around his waist.

 

“Transform.” He flipped open his buckler. 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.

 

Shima tilted his head. Disappointment furrowed his brow. “I see…so unless I damage you a bit…you won’t listen to the voice of the wind.”

 

His body rippled as he transformed into the Tarantula Undead.

 

***

 

Bobby leaned next to the birdcage near the windowsill. “It’s alright,” he said to the bird. “We’ll find Shima.”

 

Megan’s Undead monitor lit up again.

 

“In the southwest…” she said. “A Category King. It’s Shima…”

 

***

 

The Woodpecker Undead kicked Garren in the gut.

 

The Rider staggered backward and pulled out his gun. He aimed the blaster just as a wave of vertigo washed through his head. He still felt injured from the attack by Leangle. He shook his head to clear the feeling, and the Undead took advantage of the distraction.

 

The Undead tackled Garren and slashed his armor with a burst of spark, whipping him off his feet. Garren crashed against the pavement and rolled aside.

 

***

 

The battle between the Tarantula Undead and Leangle continued as if it had never ended. Leangle swung his staff through quick and powerful strikes that could have smashed through concrete and dented steel. And the Undead dodged and parried the blows, staying mostly on the defensive.

 

Kamen Rider Blade throttled onto the scene nearby and skid his cycle to a halt. “Nicolas!” he shouted as he dismounted and charged towards the battle. “Nicolas stop!”

 

Blade ran towards Leangle from behind and grabbed the evil Rider by the shoulders. Leangle tried to move free, but Blade grabbed hold of the evil Rider’s staff and used the weapon to keep his hold.

 

Leangle spoke with the voice of the Spider Undead. “Don’t interfere!”

 

Sparks suddenly ignited against Blade’s back, dropping him to his knees. He looked over his shoulder to see the Tarantula Undead standing with his palm held forward. “Shima…why?”

 

“I cannot let this opportunity escape,” the Tarantula Undead said. “Not again…”

 

The Undead charged and tackled against Leangle, pushing him away from Blade. Leangle twisted his staff free and slashed the Undead with a burst of spark. The Rider twisted his grip and struck again, and then again, each blow sparking on impact.

 

Leangle spun and swung his staff through a wide arc. The Undead caught the staff. But Leangle charged forward and tackled against the Undead, pushing him backward.

 

***

 

Woodpecker Undead grabbed Garren by the throat. The Rider struggled to break free but could not. He muttered under his breath. “I don’t have time for this…”

 

He lifted his gun and blasted the Undead at near point-blank range. The blasts sparked on impact as the Undead released its grip and staggered backward.

 

Garren flipped open his blaster’s card fan. He pulled three cards from the deck: the Five of Diamonds labeled with a whale, the Six of Diamonds labeled with a firefly and the Nine of Diamonds labeled with a zebra. He slid the cards one-by-one through his blaster. “DROP; FIRE; GEMINI.”

 

The Rider aimed his blaster and fired at the Undead. His bullets sparked against the Undead to keep the monster back, as three cards of energy projected from his blaster and splashed across his armor.

 

Garren sprang through the air, somersaulted forward, and extended both legs as his feet radiated with fiery energy. He split in two, creating an energy duplicate of himself. The two Garrens smashed dropkicks against Undead with massive bursts of spark that hurled the monster off his feet.

 

Garren pulled an empty card from his holster and hurled the card at the Undead. The card struck the Undead, sealed the creature, and shot back into Garren’s hand.

 

***

 

Natural’s birdcage rattled. Natural flew from the cage and out the nearest window. “natural!” Bobby shouted. “Crap, he got out!”

 

“Shima…” Megan whispered.

 

***

 

Garren’s motorcycle raced across the streets. “Damn it, Shima,” he whispered. “Why do you have to be so rash…

 

***

 

Tarantula Undead blocked Leangle’s staff and swung a powerful uppercut that slashed the Rider and hurled him backward. Leangle crashed against the ground and tumbled across the dirt.

 

Tarantula Undead waved his hand and fired a burst of wind energy that washed across Nicolas and spoke into his mind: “Nicolas,” the voice said. “I really love you…I do…but I want you back to normal. I’m so worried about you. Please…come back to me. Turn back to normal.”

 

Leangle screamed with rage and charged. He swung more wildly with vicious strength, and the Undead had to scramble to dodge and block. Tarantula Undead staggered backward, and Leangle slashed the monster with bursts of spark.

 

Blade pulled himself to his feet nearby. “Nicolas…Nicolas, stop!”

 

Blade ran towards Leangle from behind and grabbed onto the evil Rider’s back. Leangle shrugged Blade off, turned, and slashed the Rider with a burst of spark. The impact whipped the Rider off his feet.

 

Leangle swung his staff around and slashed Tarantula Undead with a powerful blow that knocked the monster off his feet.

 

Tarantula Undead hit the ground hard and tumbled across the dirt. He pushed himself to his feet and stumbled to keep his balance.

 

Kamen Rider Leangle flipped open his belt holster and pulled out two cards: The Five of Clubs labeled with the Cobra Undead and the Six of Clubs labeled with the Polar Bear Undead.

 

He swiped the cards one-by-one through the rouzer slit on his staff. The staff spoke a command with each swipe: “BITE; BLIZZARD.”

 

The rouzer emitted two cards of energy that splashed across the Rider’s armor.

 

Leangle leapt forward, somersaulted through the air, and aimed his descent towards the Undead. His legs pulsed with icy energy as he aimed a scissor kick.

 

The Rider seemed to hesitate for the briefest of moments as he whispered. “Nikki…”

 

“Now!” Tarantula Undead shouted as he leapt into the scissor kick. The kick sparked against his body and hurled him backward.

 

Kamen Rider Leangle landed and looked down, unmoving.

 

Tarantula Undead climbed slowly into a crouched position. “Seal me…” he said.

 

“Shima!” Blade shouted nearby.

 

But the Undead ignored the Rider. “Don’t let this chance escape. You want peace in the world? You want to fight for justice, right?”

 

Leangle slowly pulled a blank card from his holster.

 

“Seal me,” Shima said. “Hurry!”

 

Leangle tossed the card. The card stabbed into the Tarantula Undead, sealed him inside, and shot back into Leangle’s hand.

 

Kamen Rider Leangle slowly looked at the card, labeled with the King of Clubs and Tarantula Undead. He lowered the card and started to walk away, as slowly as if he were sleep walking.

 

Blade pushed himself into a crouched position and watched.

 

Nearby, Garren sped to the scene and pulled his cycle to a halt near Blade’s bike.

 

“It can’t be…” Garren said as he dismounted and ran towards Leangle. “Nicolas!”

 

Garren moved towards Leangle’s side and reached towards the King of Clubs. “Hand that card over…”

 

Leangle caught Garren by the wrist and lowered his hand. He looked to Garren, silently, and then started walking away.  

 

“It didn’t even work, did it?” Garren whispered. “All of that…Shima’s sacrifice…and it didn’t even work.”

 

To be continued…Chapter 13