Chapter 20: Ultimate Hurricane
The Glimmering Coast
Kou hesitated when he saw the tea and brownies on the coffee table. He sat in Ops along with Blake, Rachel and Justin, as well as Tommy and Ashley. He traced his fingers across the cup of tea and sighed. He could barely remember what real food tasted like, let alone sweets and tea.
Rachel smiled and gave him a nudge. “Dig in.”
Kou smiled back. Something about the girl reminded him of Kimberly, which shouldn't have come as a surprise. Fate marked Kimberly as one of the Five Stars of Heaven destined to defend the city, world and universe. Rachel came next in line, as did the rest of these new Hurricane Power Rangers.
“Thanks,” Kou said.
“Be careful, though,” Justin said. “Rachel made those brownies. You might be better off with whatever gruel you ate in Demon City.”
Rachel rolled her eyes and playfully tossed a napkin at Justin. Kou couldn't help but smile.
“Do you guys always get along so well?” Kou asked.
“Only when I'm here,” Blake said sarcastically. “I'm really the social hub of the group, with my bright demeanor, overly friendly personality and positive, life-affirming attitude.”
Rachel scoffed. “I have to drag you outside to get you to go anywhere.”
“I wouldn't say drag,” Blake said. “Sometimes you push. Or maybe nudge a little.”
Rachel sighed. “We so need another girl on this team.”
“Kou!” a voice shouted from beneath his jacket. Kou pulled out his morpher, from where Byakkoshinken spoke. “Remember what we said about focusing!”
“Okay, Byakko,” Kou said. “Don’t get moody.”
Byakko guffawed. “I do not get moody, Kou.”
Blake looked towards the morpher. “Does that thing have a silent button?”
“Kou, we have important matters to discuss,” Byakko said.
“Byakko’s right…” Tommy said as he leaned forward. “It’s good to have you back, Kou. But apparently we’re short on time. What can you tell us about these Forsaken?”
Kou sighed and nodded. “We should probably start with the Dark One. What do you already know?”
“Pieces, at best,” Tommy said. “Just start at the beginning.”
Kou nodded. “A lot of this I learned from Xanathor, so take it with a grain of salt. Before time and space even started, there was this being called the Life Giver. He created seven cosmic beings to forge the universe, and he created the One Power to give the universe order and balance. Afterward, he made these 13 Priests of the One Power, the first immortals. Since The Power is all about balance, something happened. A shift. One of the seven beings that forged the universe rebelled against the Life Giver. This being started calling himself the Dark One, and he brought nine Priests over to his side. These Priests became the Forsaken.
“The Life Giver eventually trapped the Dark One in the center of a world called Hades, which was banished into its own dimension. Hell. The Forsaken were trapped along with him, and the Life Giver created Seven Seals to protect the prison. This was all before space/time as we know it even started.
“When Azmodai busted the First Seal, he broke the Forsaken loose. Now they’re out there, trying to crack the Second Seal.”
“Why haven't we run into them yet if they've been out there for this long?” Tommy asked.
Byakko answered. “Because they work in the darkness. They are not like Shadam or Lord Zedd, or other enemies you face. They prefer to plot and manipulate events from the shadows.”
Kou nodded in agreement. “You may have run into them already and not even known it.”
“Kou is right,” Byakko said. “The Forsaken appear human, but they have the ability to assume monster forms as well. They can adapt these forms to blend in with the groups of their choosing.”
Justin knitted his brow. “By that you mean...”
“They could make themselves look like they belong with any of your enemies,” Byakko said.
“Yeah, I don't like the way that sounds,” Blake said.
“You shouldn't,” Kou said. “They could be with anyone. The Fangaira. Gedoushuu. The Hand. By now they've already embedded themselves; they're exactly where they want to be.”
“One thing does work in our favor...” Byakko started to say.
“Good news?” Blake asked. “I think I forgot what that sounds like.”
“Although they each serve the Dark One, the Forsaken often plot against each other, although they do not do so openly,” Byakko said.
“You got my hopes up for nothing,” Blake said. “That's bad news.”
Kou arced an eyebrow. “How is that bad news? They're the greatest threat you've faced and they want to kill each other.”
“And there's nine of them,” Blake said. “OK, that's nine more bad guys with nine more secret plots of their own. That's too many subplots; I'm getting a migraine just thinking about it.”
“They want to break the Dark One's prison,” Kou said. “Don't overthink it.”
Tommy leaned forward. “Let's step back for a second...” he said. “Who do we think the Forsaken are with?”
“Worst case scenario?” Ashley asked. “They've split and infiltrated every enemy group we have. There's enough of them for that.”
Justin sighed. “That's...depressing.”
“OK, let's start there. Process of elimination,” Tommy said. “We can rule out the Dark Man.”
“Why's that?” Ashley said. “He's the most secretive of everyone we're up against.”
“But I know him,” Tommy said. “Could he be in contact with the Forsaken? Sure...but they could never infiltrate his Marauders. He's too smart for that.”
“And besides,” Justin said. “Didn't he work with the Hand to try stopping the Hellfire Club?”
Tommy nodded. “He did, but that doesn't mean anything. He could have just done that to throw us off. Sometimes I think he just...does stuff. Just to see what happens.”
“OK, we'll put him in the 'no' column,” Ashley said as she looked to Kou. “What about Xanathor?”
Kou shook his head. “It's possible, but I wouldn't bet on it.” His face grew pale at the thought of Xanathor. “He's the avatar of the god of death, among other things. He knows about the Forsaken. He wouldn't just let them infiltrate his army. Even if they did, he doesn't listen to anyone. He doesn't have advisers. He has...mindless minions.”
“OK, we'll put him in the 'no' column for now too,” Tommy said. “The Hellfire Club?”
Blake scoffed. “That's an obvious one. They're the ones who broke the First Seal.”
Rachel nodded. “They could have something to do with what's happening to Simon.”
“No,” Blake said. “Simon went crazy before the Forsaken busted loose.”
“But they could be manipulating him now somehow,” Rachel said.
“It's possible,” Tommy said. “The Hellfire Club's certainly manipulated him, that's for sure.”
Ashley nodded. “So that's one for the 'possible' column. What about the Gedoushuu?”
“Who?” Justin asked.
“The Samurai bad guys,” Blake said. “Pay attention.”
“That's another possibility,” Tommy said. “We don't really know much about them.”
“That and the fact they're demons,” Blake said.
“What about the Vorlock?” Ashley asked.
“That's a possibility too,” Tommy said. “They shouldn't even be alive, from what Teddy said. The Vorlock and Gedoushuu both go in the 'possible' column.”
Blake shook his head. “We're not really doing much eliminating, are we?”
“No,” Tommy said. “Especially since we have to throw all Billy's bad guys into the possible column too. We hardly know anything about them. VOLT, the meta criminals the DECA team fights. The Undead that Kamen Blade fights...”
Blake sighed and rubbed his forehead. “This job's giving me a stroke.”
“Next up, the Hand,” Ashley said.
Rachel hesitated before speaking. “That would make a lot of sense.”
Blake narrowed his eyes. “How's that, exactly?” he said more defensively than he intended.
“Think about it,” Rachel said. “Hunter played a big part in the Sabbath. It changed him...maybe now he's needed to break the Second Seal.”
“We don't even know what happened to him,” Blake said.
“We do,” Byakko said. “He stopped the Phantom from emerging through his body, by sheer force of will, empowered by memory and determination,” he said. “But if he is to truly subdue the Phantom Demon within himself, he needs something more than willpower and determination.”
“And what's that?” Blake asked.
“Hope...” Byakko said. “He requires hope...”
Kiva stood on a rooftop in his humanoid form. His stained glass eyes looked out upon the night-lit city while he waited. He never thought he would grow so fond of the mortal world, despite his deep sense of loneliness. He found himself accustomed to the odd sensation called loneliness. He told himself the feeling was just that — a feeling — no more troublesome than a passing cloud.
A flash of blue light suddenly scorched the rooftop behind him. Kiva didn’t need to turn to know his brother Saga arrived through the distortion.
“Hello, brother,” Kiva said.
“Kiva…” Saga said the name with disdain. He narrowed his stained glass eyes. “You’re a fool to have called me here.”
“Is it foolish to think I can reason with my own brother? My family?” Kiva asked.
“Don’t speak to me of family,” Saga spat.
“That is what I am trying to tell you, Saga,” Kiva said as he turned to face his brother. “I am trying to convince you, one last time, that our father is still alive. He allowed me to live, only to leave me here as punishment. And then he returned home.”
Saga narrowed his eyes. He said nothing, stepped backward and placed his hand over a buckler that rippled from his waist.
“Sagarac!” A shell of thick glass coated his body. The shell shattered, revealing Saga in his Rider form.
Kiva shook his head. “Don’t you see, brother? I called you here because I am tired of fighting. I am tired of fighting your armies. I am tired of fighting you. And I am tired of fighting myself. Have you looked out upon this city since you arrived here? It is beautiful. And yet, at its core, it is rotting. The same is happening across this whole world. Across dimensions.”
Saga tilted his head. “Does it look like I am in the mood for this talk, Kiva? You say you are tired of fighting me? Then try to end me, once and forever. One last battle, until only one of us is left standing.”
“I had hoped to avoid this…” Kiva said as he stepped into his transformation pose.
“That’s why you are weak,” Saga said. “And that’s why you will lose.”
“Kivvatto!” Kiva’s body rippled and transformed into his suit of armor.
Kamen Rider Kiva and Kamen Rider Saga started to circle around each other. Neither stepped into a fighting stance. They stood tall and strong, waiting for the right moment to strike.
Suddenly, a bright pillar of light flared to the far west. Kiva looked to see a column of multicolored energy puncture through the clouds and twirl with intense power. He opened his eyes wide with horror.
“The ceremony…” He shook his head with disbelief. “It is not yet a full moon.”
“I have never been a patient individual,” Saga said as he pounced to attack.
The alarms blared in Ops. Ashley’s monitor immediately split into two images: Saga and Kiva fighting on the rooftops, and the Royal Court surrounding a massive pillar of energy on the west coast.
“The ceremony…” Ashley said as she and Tommy moved towards the computer cluster.
Tommy looked towards the rangers. “You can’t afford to split up. Kiva took Saga down once. He can do it again. But those Royal Court goons are tough.”
Kou smirked. “Did you just say ‘goons’?”
Tommy smiled. “It really is good to have you back.”
“You know it,” Kou said as adrenaline boosted his confidence. “Let’s go, guys.”
“No, you don’t get to say that…” Blake said as he and the others rushed from Ops.
Simon and Ryan faced each other in the vacant street. Eiji and Zadie stood back, deciding it best to stay out of the way.
Ryan pulled a cellphone-styled device from his pocket and flipped it open. He pressed three keys on the device, which spoke: “STANDING BY…”
“Awaken,” he said as he slid the device into his buckler. Red and white energy flashed around his body as he transformed into the armor of Kamen Rider Faiz. His belt spoke: “COMPLETE.”
Simon armed his morpher. “Ninjetti change! Ha!” Black energy twirled around him like a cyclone as he morphed into his armor.
Hurricane Black unsheathed his sword. “You don’t know what you’re getting involved with, Yellow.”
“I just watched you kill that man,” Faiz said.
“He was possessed,” the Black Ranger said.
“Fine,” Faiz said. “So kill the demon. Don’t suck it up after you kill the man.”
Hurricane Black shook his head. “You’re too stubborn to understand…”
“Fine…” Faiz said. “The hard way it is.”
Kamen Rider Faiz rushed to attack, and Hurricane Black returned the charge.
Faiz lunged with a flurry of punches the Black Ranger blocked. Hurricane Black stepped back and reverse sidekicked Faiz in the chest. The Black Ranger followed with an upward swing that slashed Faiz with a burst of spark.
Kamen Rider Faiz staggered back but quickly snapped into a defensive stance. “Your fighting style’s different.”
“Yours too,” Hurricane Black said.
Suddenly, explosions sparked against Hurricane Black and whipped him off his feet. An armed robot flew through the air and landed at Faiz’s side before transforming into a motorcycle.
“Oh, by the way, I have a super-robot-fighter bike now,” Faiz said. He unsheathed a red-bladed saber from the bike’s handle. “Do you have a super-robot-fighter bike?”
Hurricane Black tightened his grip on his sword and rose to his feet. “You’re still an asshole.”
The opponents charged and clashed swords. Hurricane Black swung with powerful arcs and slashes. But Kamen Rider Faiz favored shorter, efficient swings and parries.
Kamen Rider Faiz sidestepped and slashed Hurricane Black’s chest with a burst of spark. The Black Ranger spun with the blow and swung wide. But Faiz blocked the blow and sidekicked the Ranger’s chest.
The blow knocked Hurricane Black back a step. But he stood his ground and thrust his hand forward. “Ki!”
An invisible energy blast burst against Faiz and hurled him through the air. He smashed against the side of a building, and then crashed against the pavement.
Kamen Rider Faiz climbed into a crouched position and pulled a barrel-shaped device from his belt. He attached the device to his ankle, and his buckler spoke the command: “EXCEED CHARGE.”
A charge of energy glowed from the device and spread across the red line of the Rider’s leg armor. Faiz crouched, leapt forward, and somersaulted through the air while aiming a flying kick towards Hurricane Black. A cone of digital energy formed around the Rider’s leg and aimed its point at the Ranger.
The energized kick shot against Hurricane Black with a massive burst of electricity and fire that hurled him through the air. Hurricane Black crashed against the street and skid across the pavement.
Faiz landed in a crouched position and armed a fist weapon. His buckler spoke: “EXCEED CHARGE.” A pulse of red energy bled from the fist weapon and traced along the red line of his arm.
Faiz lunged forward and swung an energized punch. But Hurricane Black grabbed the Rider by the wrist, twisted, and bashed a roundkick against his gut.
Faiz staggered backward, and Hurricane Black hurled a bolt of shadow energy that exploded against his chest and whipped him off his feet. The Rider crashed against the ground and stumbled across the pavement.
“Not bad,” Hurricane Black said. “You get points for effort.”
“You taunt now?” Faiz asked as he pushed himself to his feet. “Or was that one of the demons in your head talking?”
“I absorb their energy,” Simon said. “That doesn't mean they possess me.”
“Of course not,” Faiz said. “Because that would be ridiculous.”
Hurricane Black cursed beneath his breath, held back his sword, and charged.
Faiz stepped into a defensive stance. “Still fighting with your emotions? That always did hold you back.”
Hurricane Black swung his sword through a flurry of lightning quick strikes that streaked with black energy. The attack took Faiz aback. He took several steps back while parrying and blocking the blows. One strike slashed his hand, knocking his sword from his grasp.
The Black Ranger spun forward with a reverse sidekick that bashed Faiz backward. The Rider crashed against the ground, and Hurricane Black leapt through the air towards his fallen opponent.
Faiz armed his blaster and fired red energy pulses that sparked against Hurricane Black and whipped him from the air.
Hurricane Black twisted to land in a crouched position. He slapped his right fist against his left palm. “Shadow hawk jutsu!”
A wave of hawk-shaped shadows flutters from Hurricane Black and streaked towards Kamen Rider Faiz. The shadows slashed the Rider with bursts of spark that singed his armor and knocked him off his feet.
The tornado of dimensional energy twirled in the Angel Grove West docks. The energy column extended wide enough to engulf half the docks and spread into the ocean itself. The distortion sprayed massive waves onto the shore, and bolts of lightning crackled from the cyclone.
The three members of the Royal Court tried to focus the uncontrollable energy. They stood on rooftops scattered across the docks and lifted their hands towards the distortion. Their palms pulsed with multicolored energy, and the cyclone mimicked the flashes of color.
The four Power Rangers arrived on the scene through four streaks of motion. They landed on a rooftop at the edge of the docks and looked out at the giant tornado, which swelled with power and water from the ocean. The tornado thrashed violently from side to side as if struggling to break free from the Royal Court's control.
Hurricane Green shook his head. “This could be a problem.”
“Yeah, we noticed that,” Navy Thunder said. “If you're going to be on the team, please contribute more.”
“Just look,” Hurricane Green said. “They're containing the distortion. If they let go, the distortion spreads like an actual tornado, only it doesn't stop.”
“You're right, Kou,” Byakko said. “You must find a way to defeat the Royal Court while still containing the distortion cyclone.”
“Even contained, that thing is going to puncture through the Earth, and reality,” Hurricane Green said.
“So what the heck do we do?” Hurricane Yellow asked.
“They're harnessing the power of the elements,” Byakko said. “Water, Air, Earth, Fire. I suggest you do the same while you battle the Royal Court.”
Navy Thunder shook his head. “There are so many holes in that plan, the plan itself is a hole.”
“Let's call the Samurai team,” Hurricane Blue said. “We don't have to do everything separate all the time...They can use their elemental powers to hold the distortion while we fight the Royal Court.”
“How do we even know they can do that?” Hurricane Yellow asked.
“Have any other ideas?” Hurricane Blue asked.
“Yes, we run away to Florida,” Navy Thunder said. “We've been over this.”
Hurricane Blue activated her communicator. “Tommy...”
“One step ahead of you, Rachel,” Tommy said. “The Samurai Rangers are on their way.”
Kamen Rider Saga armed his baton and lunged at Kiva with a flurry of strikes. The advance forced Kiva backward as he blocked and dodged each blow. Saga moved with a furry and speed that surprised Kiva. He didn’t realize his brother’s strength increased so drastically.
Kiva dodged, stepped closer to Saga and grabbed him in an arm lock. But Saga pulled free and slashed Kiva with a burst of spark. The evil Rider swung another flurry of blows that sparked against Kiva’s armor, and then sidekicked him in the chest.
Saga bashed the back of his fist across Kiva's helmet. The blow whipped Kiva off his feet, and he crashed against the rooftop. Saga dropped and slammed his elbow against his brother's chest with a burst of spark. Then he bashed his brother's chest again.
“You would be wise to stay down,” Saga said.
Kiva rolled aside, rose into a crouched position, and lunged. He tackled his brother and smashed him against the rooftop. The Rider dove aside, rolled across the roof, and rose to his feet.
Kamen Rider Kiva looked to see the growing pillar of energy to the west.
“This battle of ours will have to wait,” Kiva said.
Saga climbed to his feet. “You can't stop the ceremony. Instead of relying on the power of the full moon, we are relying on the power of the elements themselves.”
“For no purpose,” Kiva said. He opened a distortion field and stepped through.
Saga leapt just in time to follow his brother through the field.
The Samurai Rangers morphed and joined the Power Rangers at the docks. The five Rangers spread out in a fan formation across the rooftops while facing the energy cyclone.
Samurai Green shook his head with disbelief. “They don't seem to realize we have no idea what we're doing...”
“They're depending on us,” Samurai Blue said through their communicators. “I know we can do this.”
“Do you always have to be so optimistic?” Samurai Green asked.
Samurai Red spoke up. “Stay focused, guys,” he said as he unsheathed his sword. “Get your Spin Swords and Symbol Discs ready.”
Nearby, the four Hurricane Power Rangers split up and leapt across the docks. Hurricane Green leapt towards Fang Lion, Navy Thunder leapt towards Fang Horn and Hurricane Blue and Hurricane Yellow leapt toward Fang Pearl.
“Get ready, Samurai guys,” Hurricane Green said.
Samurai Red spun his Symbol Disc. “Fire Disc!” Strands of fiery energy wove upward along his blade.
The other Samurai Rangers did the same.
They focused their elemental power and reached outward, grasping onto the energy cyclone. They could feel its energy tear and rip through the fabric of reality itself, with more power than a raging storm.
Samurai Red felt the energy threaten to sweep him off his feet with the force of a tornado. He cursed beneath his breath. This is going to be harder than I thought...
Nearby, Hurricane Green pounced at Fang Lion.
“Slicing sound wave!”
The Green Ranger fired a wave of sonic energy blades that blew towards the Fangaira like the wind. The blades sliced the monster with massive bursts of spark that knocked him off his feet and broke his concentration.
The energy cyclone immediately lurched and started to spin farther onto shore.
“Now, guys!” Samurai Red shouted. “Grab hold!”
The Samurai Rangers strained but managed to weave their own elemental power with the forces of the distortion tornado. They could feel the other two Fangaira still doing their part to hold the distortion, but that wouldn't last.
Navy Thunder pounced at Fang Horn.
Blades of lighting extended from his fist. He dove and stabbed the monster's back with bursts of spark and lightning that knocked the monster off his feet. The creature crashed and tumbled across the roof.
The cyclone lurched again, and the Samurai Rangers nearly lost their grip.
“Hold on!” Samurai Red shouted. He spun his Symbol Disc again, summoning more power through his body and blade.
The other Samurai Rangers did the same.
Nearby, Hurricane Yellow and Hurricane Blue pounced at Fang Pearl.
The Blue Ranger fired a wave of hydro-energy darts. And the Yellow Ranger smashed his feet against the rooftop, summoning boulders of concrete that he punched to hurl at the monster.
The darts and blocks of earth smashed against Fang Pearl and knocked her off her feet.
The energy cyclone lurched and distorted with waves of lightning, wind and water. The shockwave knocked the Samurai Rangers off their feet, and the force threatened to blow them from the rooftops. But they slid their swords into the rooftops to keep from blowing away.
“Keep it together, guys!” Samurai Red shouted through his helmet's communicator.
His sword in the roof, he spun his Symbol Disc again. The other Samurai Rangers did the same. Their elemental energy twirled and lashed around their blades.
They focused, reached out, and held the cyclone in place.
Nearby, Hurricane Green unsheathed his sword and slashed Fang Lion with a burst of spark.
The monster growled and blew a wave of jade flame. But Hurricane Green leapt over the flame, flipped through the air and aimed his descent towards the monster. The Ranger’s blade energized with green power and slashed the monster with massive bursts of spark.
The blow knocked the monster backward, and Hurricane Green continued his advance.
The Green Ranger pulled a ball from behind his back. “Sonic Style! Spinning Barrage Jutsu!”
He tossed the ball upward as he would a baseball, and the ball created dozens of sonic echoes that dropped in front of the Ranger. Hurricane Green spun like a tornado and swung his holstered sword like a bat to knock the spheres towards Fang Lion. The sonic spheres exploded against the monster with massive bursts of spark.
Nearby, Samurai Red tightened his grip on his sword. He knew if he let go, he'd let go of the cyclone too, and that couldn't happened. Sweat dripped down his forehead beneath his helmet. He spun his Symbol Disc again.
A few rooftops away, Navy Thunder roundkicked Fang Horn in the gut and smashed the back of his fist across the monster's head.
The monster growled and charged at Navy Thunder. But the Navy Thunder Ranger grasped onto the monster by the horns, held his ground, and hurled the monster off its feet.
“Thunder Staff!” Navy Thunder shouted.
The Navy Thunder Ranger armed his Thunder Staff and swung the weapon over his shoulder. His Stag Breaker attached to the end of his staff with a burst of navy-tinted lightning.
“Lightning Style!” Navy Thunder shouted. “Thunder Strike Jutsu!” Navy Thunder channeled his energy into the staff, which crackled with bolts of electricity.
Navy Thunder swung the weapon through an x-shaped pattern that streaked with lightning and slashed Fang Horn with bursts of spark. The Navy Thunder Ranger speared his weapon at the monster, used the Stag Breaker to grab the creature, and lifted Fang Horn off his feet.
The Navy Thunder Ranger poured streams of lightning along the staff, and the lightning lashed against the monster’s body, sparking on impact and tearing apart its armor.
Meanwhile, the energy distortion swelled and pulsed as it struggled to break free from the Samurai Rangers' grasp.
The force nearly knocked Samurai Yellow away from her blade. “I...I can't do this much longer!”
“You can, Kirsten!” Samurai Green shouted. “Just hold on!”
The Green Ranger spun his disc. And again. And again a third time as he tried to wrestle the cyclone under control. “Come on!”
Samurai Red spun his Symbol Disc. But a wave of vertigo suddenly slammed against him with a force stronger than the tornado. The energy he expended proved too much for him to handle.
“No...” he whispered as he grasped tighter onto his blade. His body screamed in protest, but he refused to let go. “I won't...I won't!”
Suddenly, a multicolored distortion ripped across the rooftop behind the Ranger. Kiva and Saga tumbled through the distortion with a shockwave that knocked Samurai Red off his feet.
The Red Ranger crashed against the rooftop and dropped his sword. “No!”
The energy vortex tore from the grip of the other Rangers. The distorted tornado spun farther onto shore, ripping through buildings and streets.
The four Hurricane Power Rangers barely managed to leap to safety. But the Royal Court members were not as lucky. The cyclone of power swept them away.
Quickly, Samurai Red scrambled to his feet and grabbed his sword. He spun his Symbol Disc. But he couldn't get another hold on the cyclone. Neither could his teammates.
“Come on...” he cursed beneath his breath as he spun his Symbol Disc. Wind and water sprayed around him as the energy cyclone intensified and thrashed out of control. “Come on!”
Kamen Rider Saga sidekicked the Ranger in the back, knocking him forward. The Red Ranger rolled into a crouched position and spun while swinging his sword. The blade slashed Saga with a burst of spark, knocking him back.
Saga laughed as smoke sizzled from the chest wound. “You're too late,” Saga said. “The vortex has taken a life of its own. Through its power, my father will be reborn.”
Kiva tackled Saga aside, and for the first time, he shouted. “He! Never! Died!”
The Rider turned towards the vortex. He sensed the cyclone rip through the fabric of space and time. He knew he needed to stop the distortion. And to do so, he needed to get inside the vortex itself.
Kiva leapt towards the cyclone, and Saga followed. The tornado swept them into its currents.
Kamen Rider Faiz roundkicked Hurricane Black in the gut and slashed his chest with a burst of spark. The Black Ranger spun with the blow and bashed a hook kick across the Rider’s head.
Faiz stumbled backward but managed to stay on his feet.
Hurricane Black shifted into a fighting stance and held his blade back. “It’s not too late to back off, Yellow. I didn’t ask for this fight.”
“You really did…” Kamen Rider Faiz said as he twisted his grip on his sword.
The opponents charged at each other and held their blades forward.
Before they could strike, a wave of pale-blue energy sliced across the street with a shockwave that knocked them backward. Hurricane Black crashed against the street and skid backward. Kamen Rider Faiz smashed against the side of a parked car.
Hurricane Black climbed to his feet and looked to see a young man holding a samurai sword that glowed with pale-blue light. Simon knew him as Shirogane, formerly Gao Silver.
“You too...? I thought you dropped off the face of the Earth.”
“I have gone where I always have,” Shirogane said. “Wherever the wind has taken me.”
Faiz climbed to his feet. “Pick a side, Silver.”
“There is no right side here,” Shirogane said. “You two are comrades. You should not be fighting...”
“He-” Faiz started to say, but Shirogane interrupted.
“Red, you've allowed the demons of the Earth to corrupt your heart of justice,” he said. "Yellow, you've allowed yourself to become a pawn of evil shrouded with good intentions. There is no outcome worth this fight.”
“Silver, just back away,” Faiz said.
“Or what?” Shirogane asked. “Will you fight me too?”
“You didn't see what he did, Silver,” Faiz said.
“But I know,” Shirogane said. He looked to Hurricane Back. “I once surrendered my soul to evil to fight for those I cared about. I spent the next 1,000 years as Zena’ku. An animal. You know this...”
“This is different,” Simon said.
“Is it?” Shirogane asked. “My sin was to put on a mask. Yours was to absorb the essence of demons and slaughter their hosts.”
“They were possessed,” Hurricane Black said. “I couldn't have saved them.”
“Did you try?” Shirogane asked.
Hurricane Black hesitated. “I haven't heard from you in years and you drop in to lecture me? Both of you?”
“You don't understand,” Shirogane said. “Since last we met I have been hunting and fighting demons across the world. The wind sent me here to face my next threat. I did not realize it until now...but that threat is you, Red.”
Hurricane Black tightened his grip on his sword. “You two have no right to judge me...” Hurricane Black said as tendrils of black flame started to flicker across his armor. “You have no idea what I've been going through!”
Nearby, Eiji looked to Zadie with concern. “That doesn't look good.”
Zadie and Eiji rushed towards Simon.
“Simon, stop!” Zadie shouted. “We're wasting our time.”
She moved next to him and laid a hand on his shoulder. The Black Ranger relaxed and lowered his blade. He powered down his armor and looked to Shirogane. “You say you’re a demon hunter now? Well guess what? The demon I'm after is trying to break the Dark One loose from his prison. Why wouldn't I do anything possible to keep that from happening?”
“You would sacrifice your soul?” Shirogane asked.
“Yes...” Simon said. “I would. I've felt too many people die. Too many people give into despair. I won't stand by and let that kind of pain continue. I just won't...”
Shirogane lowered his blade. He knitted his brow thoughtfully. “Then let me come with you.”
“What?” Faiz asked.
“You need a moral compass...” Shirogane said. “And I question your current company.”
“I know I should be offended by that,” Eiji said. “But I can't say I blame him.”
“No,” Faiz said. “Silver, back off. I can't let him walk away.”
Shirogane looked to Faiz. “Do you trust me, Yellow?”
“At the moment?” Faiz asked. “No.”
“I ask you to trust me,” Shirogane said. “There is a way to solve this other than fighting.”
Faiz sighed with frustration. He un-clipped his buckler and powered down his armor. “Fine,” he said. “But I'm coming along too.”
“No way,” Zadie said.
“It's OK,” Simon said. “Let them come. Besides, we're going straight to Azmodai. We could use the help now.”
“You're forgetting one important thing,” Zadie said.
“I don't like people,” Zadie said.
Simon shook his head. “They're coming...” He looked to Ryan. “Just remember one thing...this is my mission. That means I'm in charge. What I say, goes.”
“Fine...After you...leader.” He said the title with the same hint of mocking contempt as when they first met.
The energy vortex twirled like a giant tornado across the sea. Kiva and Saga plummeted through the center of the vortex, as the winds and currents of energy snapped them around.
Saga flipped through the air and landed on a current, which he rode like a wave. The evil Rider pounced off the wave and leapt towards Kiva with a flying sidekick. The kick smashed Kiva upward and knocked him into the vortex waves.
The energy waves swept Kiva into their currents and nearly tore his body to pieces. He felt the energy pull and tug his body in different directions, almost ripping him apart at a molecular level.
“Die!” Saga shouted as he leapt into the energy waves. He tackled his brother deeper into the currents and grasped him in a chokehold.
Kiva knocked the villain's arms loose and smashed a kick against his chest. The blow shot Saga upward into the currents, which swept him away.
Kamen Rider Kiva lost sight of his brother, as the currents pulled him deeper and deeper into the fractures between dimensions and realities.
“Saga!” he shouted.
From behind, Saga tackled Kiva in the back with an elbow blow that hurled him downward. Kiva twisted and smashed the back of his fist across his brother's head. The blow snapped Saga back, and the currents swept him from sight once again.
The currents intensified and tore at Kiva. The Rider tried to ride the waves back towards the center of the vortex, to safety, but he lost all sense of direction. Despair welled in his throat. He knew he failed, and the vortex would expand until it destroyed the mortal realm.
No...Kiva told himself. I will not give into despair. Despair was a feeling, and only that. A sensation, with as much power as he chose.
He thought of Rachel and her friends. His friends. He thought of the world he grew to love, despite its flaws.
I will not fail them...
His body started to glow with red light.
His armor pulsed with light and transformed. Golden plating covered his arms and legs. Red plating snapped into position across his chest, and a red cape flows from his back. A golden headpiece snapped into place above his bug-like visor. The transformation completed with a final burst of multicolored energy, as Kiva assumed his Emperor Form.
Kamen Rider Kiva shot into the center of the vortex and blasted upward through a streak of red energy. The cyclone raged around him and threatened to consume him yet again. But he ignored the feeling and poured forth his power.
The Rider slammed through the top of the cyclone with a massive shattering of multicolored light that nearly blinded him.
Free from the cyclone, he collapsed onto a floor of shadow. The Rider looked up to find himself surrounded by cracks and fractures as far as the eye could see. The fractures glowed with multicolored light, like luminescent strands of webbing. Through the webbing he saw only darkness.
He realized he stood in a nexus of sorts, between the mortal realm and his own. But the nexus looked broken, with cracks and crevices throbbing as if in pain.
“Kiva!” a voice shouted from behind.
Kiva snapped around to see Saga charging forward. The evil Rider armed his red baton.
Saga chopped towards Kiva’s head. But the Rider sidestepped and dodged.
Saga turned and snapped his baton into whip mode. The whip latched around Kiva’s neck, and Saga swung the Rider off his feet.
Kiva smashed against a web of distortions that tore his armor with bursts of spark. Saga pulled on the whip, swinging Kiva through the void as secondary explosions sparked across his armor.
Saga released the whip, and Kiva crashed against the floor of shadow.
The evil Kamen Rider stalked towards his fallen brother. “Your title is mine…Kiva.”
“Titles mean nothing…” Kiva said as he climbed to his feet.
The Rider charged towards his brother. But Saga armed his baton and slashed the Rider with bursts of spark. Kiva stepped back and forth around his brother to find a weakness. But Saga kept slashing, each blow knocking Kiva back a step.
Saga swung upward and slashed Kiva with a burst of spark that whipped him off his feet. Kamen Rider Kiva crashed against the floor of shadow as smoke sizzled from his damaged armor.
Saga stomped on Kiva and pressed down, pinning him against the floor. “You’re holding back…even after everything I’ve put you through. Fight, Kiva! Fight!”
Kiva knocked Saga’s leg away and rolled aside. The Rider quickly stood and snapped into a fighting stance.
Kiva extended his hand and summoned a red-bladed broadsword named Zanvat. Kamen Rider Kiva tightened his grip on the blade and felt its energy stir like a storm.
Saga shifted into a defensive stance. “You’ve finally gotten serious…Good.”
Kiva charged and chopped his sword. Saga lifted his baton, and the weapons clashed with a burst of spark.
Saga twisted his weapon and sidestepped away from his brother. The evil Rider gained the offensive and swung a flurry of strikes Kiva parried and blocked with bursts of spark.
Kiva blocked a blow, bashed the handle of his sword against Saga’s gut with a burst of spark, and smashed a sidekick against his chest. The blows knocked Saga off his feet, and he tumbled across the floor of shadow.
Saga quickly rolled into a crouched position and lifted his weapon in a defensive stance.
Kiva pounced and held his sword back.
Saga lunged and swung his baton. Their weapons clashed, and Saga chopped Kiva’s blade from his hand. Kiva stepped close, grabbed Saga by the arms, and bashed knee strikes against his brother’s gut repeatedly. Each blow sparked against Saga’s armor.
Saga stepped back and spun while swinging his baton towards Kiva’s head. But Kiva ducked and smashed a punch against his brother’s gut with a burst of spark.
The blow knocked Saga several steps backward, and he nearly stumbled off his feet.
Kiva stepped back and snapped the bat-shaped device on his gauntlet, which spoke: “Waik Awp Fev-ah!”
Kamen Rider Kiva somersaulted through the air and aimed a double kick towards his brother. The kick energized with bat-like wings that folded and pointed towards Saga.
Kiva shot downward, and the energized kick speared against Saga with massive bursts of spark that hurled him through the void.
Saga crashed against the ground of shadow and skid backward. His buckler shattered into pieces, as did the rest of his armor.
Kiva landed in a crouched pose as crimson energy sizzled from his armor.
A deep voice laughed from the shadows. “Good, Kiva…good…”
Kiva and Saga looked to see their father step from the darkness. Their father, Dark Kiva, smiled with an evil grin of dimly tinted stained glass.
“Fa...father,” Saga said. “You're alive?”
“You were never the smart one, Saga,” Dark Kiva said. “I was not dead. I am the immortal Kiva of the Blood. Your ceremony has done nothing but injure our dimension and the dimension of these corporeal humans.”
“Silence!” Dark Kiva shouted. “You are as much a traitor to me as your brother. While you have festered in the mortal world, our home dimension has begun to shatter, as have other dimensions, across every plane of reality. You abandoned your own people and allowed human emotion to taint your existence. What did you want, Saga? My affection? My approval? Do you have any idea how weak these longings have made you become?”
Kiva stepped towards his brother's defense. “It is not weak to show feeling.”
“Silence!” Dark Kiva shouted. He looked back towards Saga. “Your misguided ceremony has simply further damaged our home, at a time when we must depend on its strength more than ever before. We face enemies on all fronts.”
“We crush our enemies, father,” Saga said. “We always have.”
“Not these enemies,” Dark Kiva said. “Dimensional tears have left us exposed to creatures and beings beyond comprehension. We should be mobilizing and using these fissures to our advantage. Instead, we are vulnerable. And we are the next target of an invasion force that has used the deterioration of dimensional barriers to its advantage. They move from dimension to dimension, parallel world to parallel world, conquering everything in their path. They call themselves simply: the Armada.”
“We have destroyed countless dimensions,” Saga said. “Surely we can-”
“I see you fail to grasp the severity of our situation, and the harm you have already caused,” Dark Kiva said.
The villain extended his hand, and his palm pulsed with cyan-tinted light that shattered Saga to pieces.
“Saga!” Kiva shouted.
Dark Kiva looked over his shoulder to face his son. “You were my legacy, Kiva. And you betrayed me. I left you on the mortal world as punishment to rot. But now...our dimension is dying...and your brother has hastened the process with his foolishness. I need you back by my side.”
“You are mad, and your dimension has brought nothing but harm and destruction to countless trillions,” Kiva said.
“Fine...fine!” Dark Kiva spat. “Then appeal to those weak human emotions of yours. As reality continues to unravel, more and more creatures of evil and darkness will seep through the cracks. They will slaughter. They will kill. How long before they reach your precious Earth? How long until they harm weak creatures you would call innocent and pure?”
“You would manipulate me using the emotions you despise?” Kiva asked.
“I am a warrior. Your emotions are a weakness, and warriors attack weakness.”
Kiva rolled his hands into fists. “I will never fight by your side. Because of you I have caused destruction on an immeasurable scale. No more.”
“Then you will leave your people, and the people of countless dimensions, to die.”
Dark Kiva thrust his hand downward and fired a pulse of cyan-tinted light that splashed across the floor of shadow. Kiva rushed to stop him, but Dark Kiva fired an invisible energy blast that knocked Kiva backward with bursts of spark.
“Stay back,” Dark Kiva said. “We are above the energy pillar, in a sense. I am shutting the pillar down to save the wretched world of flesh you so love.”
“You would...why?” Kiva asked.
“Stay on this miserable planet. Think upon what I have told you. Then, when the time is right, join me in the remnants of the Blood Dimension. And regain your honor at my side.”
Dark Kiva intensified the energy pulse with a final wave of cyan light that swept Kiva into unconsciousness.
Kiva awoke on a ruined rooftop turned to stained glass. His vision blurred slowly into focus, and he pushed himself to his feet. He looked out and saw the energy vortex gone, but most of the coastline transformed into stained glass shaded with tints of blues, reds and greens.
“The distortion...” he whispered, realizing the distortion altered the landscape of the coast on a molecular level.
Blurs of motion dashed onto the rooftop and landed. Kiva turned to see the Hurricane team, who looked just as shocked.
“So...” Blake said. “Since the coast is stained glass...and you're stained glass...we’re hoping you have an explanation.”
Kiva looked back to the landscape. He remembered the words of his father, about the diminishing barriers between realities.
“I must speak with Tommy at once,” he said.
Tommy and Ashley didn't need long to confirm Kiva's suspicions. They already knew reality had started to unravel. They just didn't realize the unraveling happened across so many dimensions.
“The barriers between the Blood Dimension and our dimension basically collapsed across the coast,” Ashley had explained. “Everything would have shattered if the vortex didn't stop when it did.”
Still, the vortex caused lingering damage. Fissures flickered between the stained glass shore, now called the Glimmering Coast. Creatures from other dimensions occasionally leaked from those fissures.
Kiva realized the beings moved through the Blood Dimension to reach the Glimmering Coast.
His father was right.
That's why Kiva chose to return.
The Rider walked across the shore of stained glass and looked out upon the ocean. He took a final look at the sun and breathed deeply. He didn’t need to turn to find out he had company.
“Rachel…” Kiva whispered. “You must leave. My teleportation distortion will endanger you.”
“You can’t go back, Kiva,” Rachel said. “We need you…”
Kiva lowered his head. “I wish I could stay here. I wish I could learn to belong. But just as your world is breaking, so is my home dimension, and countless other dimensions. The fabric of reality rips, and all planes of existence suffer. I must return home to fight for my people, and the people of other dimensions who have no champions. Please understand…”
Rachel took a deep breath and nodded. “I do. I do understand, it’s just…we’ll miss you. I’ll…I’ll miss you.”
“You have Blake…” Kiva said.
Rachel nodded. “I do…”
Kiva looked up into Rachel’s eyes, which glimmered with the faintest light of longing. “Rachel…forgive me for asking but…if you and Blake were not paired…would you and I…?”
Rachel stepped towards him and kissed his lips of stained glass, which felt surprisingly warm and comforting. She pulled away, but kept her face close to his. “Yes…”
Kiva smiled and nodded. “Thank you, Rachel. You have given me hope. The true enemy of the despair our peoples face.”
“Be careful,” Rachel said. “OK?”
Kiva nodded. “I will. Thank you for everything you have taught me, Rachel…”
Rachel nodded. “You’re welcome. And thank you…”
She stepped back and gave him one last look as she wondered what might have been under different circumstances. Saying nothing more, she turned and leapt from the shore.
Kiva lifted his head. He would miss Rachel. But that longing was just a feeling, no more troublesome than a summer breeze. He wouldn’t let his loss drive him to despair. He would take his memories and craft them into the greatest human emotion of all: Hope.
To be continued…Chapter 21