Chapter 21: Kamen Rider Wizard

The Phantom Within

 

Demon City, the Sabbath

 

Men and women tried frantically to climb from the pit in the heart of Demon City. They scrambled up walls of rubble but fell, as the eclipse shined down upon them. Crimson light ebbed from the cracks in the pit.

 

A nearby scar in reality pulsed with purple-tinted energy that spread through every crevice and crack throughout Demon City, completely covering the war-torn landscape in the center of Angel Grove.

 

Within the pit, the prisoners howled with pain. Cracks of purple-tinted energy spread across their bodies. The energy exploded outward as demons burst through their bodies and souls.

 

The Phantom Demons howled with delight, touching the mortal world for the first time.

 

Fifteen-year-old Austin felt the cracks of energy split his skin as he collapsed back-first onto the ground. Lines of purple-tinted light snaked and tore through his body as he reached up.

 

He’d never felt such pain. He’d never known such despair. He felt darkness cover his soul. But as he reached up and looked to the eclipse, to the moon, his mind drifted.

 

Austin thought of his parents, who’d died from injuries suffered during the Second Countdown to Destruction. On their death beds, they had made him promise he would never give into despair. They made him promise he would keep hope alive.

 

“Mom…” he whispered. “Dad…”

 

The teen tightened his fist and closed his eyes tight. He wouldn’t give in. He had to live on. He had to have hope. “I won’t die…” he whispered. “Not like this…”

 

He’d grow up. He’d marry. He’d have children that would have made his parents proud. He’d live a full, happy life. For them.

 

The cracks of energy across his body started to seal, slowly, as Austin slipped from consciousness.

 

***

 

Hours passed. Maybe even days. Austin’s vision blurred slowly into focus as he stared at the clouded night sky. He moaned with pain and sat up within the pit, now empty. He looked down at his hands and traced his fingers across his skin. He looked fine. No more cracking.

 

“Did that really happen?” he asked himself.

 

Of course it did. How else could he explain waking up in the middle of Demon City?

 

The teen groaned with pain and stood. His body felt stiff, but strong. He felt an odd burning sensation stir within his chest, deep inside his soul. He gripped his shirt and narrowed his eyes with concern. Whatever tried to burst from his body was still there. He knew it.  

 

Austin started walking away but stopped when he realized the reality of his situation. He often heard stories of Demon City and now knew the truth of those tales first hand. He couldn’t just walk home through the demonic landscape. But what choice did he have?

 

LizardmanAustin heard footsteps approach from behind. A Phantom Demon, the Lizard Phantom, stalked towards him.

 

The creature looked green and leathery, with a single red eye in the center of its scaled face. Tendrils that looked like dreadlocks extended from the back of its head.

 

Austin turned to face the creature and immediately panicked.

 

Chills crept down his spine. He backed away slowly, but tripped over his feet and fell. He opened his eyes wide with horror at the sight of the monster.

 

“What…what…” he stammered.

 

He never thought himself a coward. He never thought he would run from danger. But his fear practically paralyzed him. Had he survived the demonic ceremony only to die at the hands of a monster?

 

Lizard Phantom leapt at Austin with a flying punch.

 

The teen dove for cover to avoid the blow, and he hit the ground hard.

 

Austin scrambled back to his feet just as the Lizard Phantom pounced to attack again. 

 

The teen closed his eyes and braced himself.

 

But the Phantom Demon smashed against a golden energy field that appeared as if from nowhere. The impact hurled the monster through the air.

 

Austin opened his eyes and looked at the field, which appeared as a circular symbol etched with magical runes. The symbol vanished with a burst of white light.

 

When the light cleared, Austin saw a robed stranger walk onto the landscape. The stranger carried an unconscious girl in his arms.

 

white wizardHe wore glistening white robes trimmed with gold. A white hood covered a helmet with a rough, golden faceplate etched with silver lining to form a mask. The mask looked almost bug-like. The stranger wore black gloves, trimmed with gold, which matched the color of his anklets and belt. The belt buckler carried an odd, hand-shaped symbol.

 

“Are you…” Austin took a step back. “Are you a Kamen Rider?”

 

The stranger paused, then spoke with a deep, powerful voice. “You may call me the White Mage, if you have a need for such titles.”

 

“White Mage…” Austin said. “OK…is that supposed to mean something?”

 

“No,” the White Mage said as he laid the girl near Austin’s feet. “It is not.”

 

Austin nodded. “OK…OK, right. You’re not exactly making this clear, are you? OK…Can you at least take me home?”

 

The White Mage ignored the question and looked to the distance. “You did well to survive…To hold onto your hope. You have earned the right to become a mage.”

 

A golden circle of magick opened to the side of the White Mage. He reached in, pulled out a buckler called the Wizard Driver, and tossed the device to Austin. The buckler looked similar to the White Mage’s, with an odd hand-shaped symbol.

 

“Defeat the Phantoms,” the White Mage said. “That is your path now.”

 

***

 

The unconscious girl possessed no memory of life before waking up in the middle of Demon City. Further, she seemed dependent on magick to survive. Austin learned how to use the Wizard Driver and Wizard Rings to channel energy into her body to sustain her.

 

He started calling her Luna, and the name stuck.

 

They lived in Demon City for five days before an expedition found them. A young woman named Maya Koji led the expedition.

 

Maya took Austin and Luna into the home she shared with her boyfriend Kouishiro, above an antique shop they opened in Angel Grove City. They opened the shop recently, having spent most of their relationship traveling the world. But Maya wanted to set roots back in Angel Grove and study the city’s strange happenings, which opened secrets of civilizations and artifacts beyond the mortal realm.

 

Maya admitted to Austin that she found him because of the energy signature of his Wizard Driver. The Wizard Driver and Wizard Rings emitted power signatures similar to the King Stones of Kamen Rider Black, Shadow Moon, Kamen Rider Kuuga, and Kamen Rider Ryuuki.

 

Maya revealed that Kouishiro formerly carried the power of Kamen Rider Kuuga, lost after the Second Countdown to Destruction. Other Riders appeared as part of the new generation of heroes. But only the Wizard Driver carried an energy signature similar to the Riders of the first generation.

 

Kouishiro mentored Austin and taught him how to fight. Austin used his training to battle the Phantom Demons as Kamen Rider Wizard, a name of his choosing.

 

The Phantom Demons targeted Gates, people with an affinity to magick who, when driven to despair, could birth new Phantom Demons into the world. The process destroyed the human hosts, but the Phantoms could assume human guises modeled after their hosts.

 

Austin’s hope kept the phantom inside his soul from bursting free, and that phantom allowed him to become a mage and assume the power of Kamen Rider Wizard.

 

He dedicated his time to protecting Gates. And if a Gate ever fell close to despair, Kamen Rider Wizard could enter their subconscious and kill the Phantom Demon before it could burst free and kill its host.

 

The Phantom Demons seemed to serve a leader of sorts, named Wiseman. Wiseman commanded two powerful generals, one of which, Phoenix, was defeated by Wizard. The second general, Medusa, remained free. Wizard encountered her multiple times, both in her human and monster form.

 

Austin had no way of knowing that Medusa recently found a partner of sorts. A Phantom Demon named Gremlin.

 

***

 

Medusa stood in her human form on the rooftop. She looked out upon a crowd of school girls walking on the street below, and she smiled wickedly. The Phantom Demon wore a multicolored dress with multiple layers, and she wore her black hair long, flowing behind her back. Her eyes sparkled with a mix of deep blue and bright cyan.

 

She heard a cheerful voice call from behind her. “Hello, Lisa!”

 

Medusa crossed her arms over her chest and turned to face Gremlin in his human form. Gremlin wore a green scarf that matched the color of his hat, which covered curly blonde hair. He smiled with boyish charm that Medusa found annoying.

 

“I told you to stop calling me that,” she said.

 

“Why?” Gremlin asked. “Lisa is cuter than Medusa. It suits you. Besides, we should be grateful to the Gates who gave us our forms. I mean, look at how pretty we are? It could have been worse.”

 

Medusa ignored Gremlin and started walking towards the fire escape.

 

“Hey, wait!” Gremlin called as he hopped after her. “If you’ve found a Gate, let me help. I’m veeery useful!”

 

He kept hopping and sounded far too chipper for Medusa’s liking.

 

“Is this why Wiseman brought you to me?” Medusa asked. “To hop and prattle?”

 

“No, no, silly,” Gremlin said as he grinned. “I want what he wants. More Gates. More Phantoms.”

 

“Then stand aside and let me do my job, you twit,” Medusa said.

 

Gremlin smiled and slid aside, waving his hand towards the fire escape. “Very well. Have fun!”

 

***

 

Kamen Rider Wizard didn’t need to battle alone for long. A stranger named Leo stumbled upon one of Wizard’s fights with a Phantom, and to Wizard’s surprise, Leo transformed into Kamen Rider Beast.

 

Beast kept his origins secret, but the Phantom Demons referred to him as the Primordial Mage. He fed off the spirits of the defeated Phantoms he encountered.

 

Leo sat on a park bench and twirled a tube of mayonnaise. He felt hungry, but not for food. He needed the nourishment of a Phantom Demon.

 

The 20-year-old sighed and rubbed his stomach. “Man, I think I’m going to starve…” he said to himself. “I wish I could just buy Phantom Demons at Kroger. That would make life so much easier.”

 

He accidentally dropped the mayo, and it bounced across the sidewalk.

 

Leo walked over and picked up the mayo, getting in the way of a teenage girl in a school uniform. He looked up to see her and immediately felt captivated by her brilliant eyes of cyan and blue, and her raven-black hair.

 

“Whoa…” he said with a goofy smile. “How are...wow.”

 

The girl lowered her head with embarrassment and hurried around Leo.

 

“Hey,” Leo called after her. “You don’t have to…”

 

He stopped in mid-sentence when he finally realized why the girl looked familiar. He opened his eyes wide with recognition. “Shit! It’s that Phantom from before!”

 

Leo took a deep breath of determination and flipped the mayo bottle in his hands. “Looks like this is another ‘pinch turned into a chance’. Lucky she came by this way…”

 

He hurried up to follow her as she turned a corner leading underneath a pedestrian bridge. Leo moved underneath the bridge and stopped in his tracks when he noticed several dozen teenagers walking to school. He couldn’t spot the Phantom girl among them. 

 

“Thaaaaat’s a lot of high school girls,” Leo said. “Under normal circumstances this wouldn’t be that bad of a sight.”

 

***

 

Austin sat on a couch in the back of Maya and Kouishiro’s shop, cluttered with various antiques. The couch faced a coffee table, and on the other side of the coffee table sat Austin’s friend Jesse, a Gate. Jesse looked young and effeminate, with soft features, smooth skin, and blonde hair.

 

Phantoms nearly drove Jesse to despair. But Wizard entered the teen’s subconscious and killed the Phantom Demon before it could emerge. Jesse declared himself Austin’s apprentice afterward and decided to help Wizard in any way possible. But Jesse had no powers or abilities worthwhile, so his help amounted to nothing more than moral support.

 

Jesse played with a trio of Austin’s familiars, small animal-shaped devices like miniature robots. One appeared as a falcon, one looked like an octopus, and the third looked like a horse. 

 

“Not bad,” Jesse said with a smile as he watched the three familiars playfully spar over the coffee table. “It’s like a Pokemon game!”

 

“It’s really not,” Austin said. “Really. Not.”

 

Kouishiro walked into the back room while carrying a silver ring with a purple stone at its center. “Hey, Austin…” Kouishiro said. “Take a look at this…”

 

“A new ring?” Austin asked as he took the ring and slid it onto the middle finger of his right hand. Kouishiro possessed am instinctual knowledge of crafting rings Austin could use to channel his power. Maya assumed the talent had something to do with Kouishiro’s exposure to the King Stone of Kuuga.

 

Austin snapped his Wizard Driver and placed his ring hand over the buckler, which spoke the command: “GOLEM; AWAKEN.”

 

His ring flashed with purple light and summoned a new familiar — a small, purple-armored golem. Austin removed his ring and placed it in the golem’s head, like a small helmet.

 

“A new familiar?” Jesse asked, his eyes alight with excitement. 

 

“Perfect timing,” Austin said. “He can search for the Phantoms with the others.”

 

The horse, flacon, and octopus familiars flew off to leave the shop. But the golem leapt, accidentally smacked Jesse in the head, and bounced off. The familiar crashed against the floor beneath an end table.

 

Jesse rubbed his head and glared at the fallen golem. “Something tells me that familiar isn’t going to be very useful...”

 

Austin shrugged. “Maybe he’s just…shy.”

 

***

 

Leo frantically scrambled through the crowd of teenagers walking towards their school.

 

“Come on, come on…” he muttered.

 

Without tact, he turned girls around at random to look at them, and immediately scoffed with disgust each time he realized he caught the wrong girl.

 

“Not you…not you…ugh, definitely not you.”

 

One girl bashed her backpack against Leo, and the blow knocked him off his feet. She lunged at him and swung her bag repeatedly.

 

Ow, would you…ow! I’m not a pervert, I’m just looking for a hot high school girl!” She swung harder and bashed him across the head. “Ow!”

 

Leo scrambled to his feet and put as much distance between himself and the girl as possible. Then he noticed a girl walk across a pedestrian bridge above. He recognized her immediately. Medusa.

 

The Rider ran to the nearest stairwell and dashed upward. He moved through the upper level of the plaza but lost sight of the girl yet again.

 

“Great…” he muttered.

 

Suddenly, screams sounded from ahead, and a wave of girls ran and screamed with panic.

 

MedusaLeo ran towards the source of the screaming and spotted Medusa in her monster form. The Phantom Demon stalked towards a trio of high school girls who cowered back with fear.

 

“Medusa!” he shouted as he ran to the scene.

 

He pounced with a jumpkick that bashed the monster back a step, then stood between the high school girls and Medusa.

 

Medusa stalked towards the Rider. “The Primordial Mage…why are you here.”

 

“Seriously?” Leo asked. “Don’t give me crap about being here. You’re the freaky Phantom Demon freaking out high school kids and being…freaky.”

 

“Don’t interfere…” Medusa said.

 

“I’m a Kamen Rider,” Leo said. “Interfering is kind of our thing.”

 

Leo pulled back his shirt and armed his buckler, which spoke: “DRIVER ON.”

 

He slid a lion ring onto the middle finger of his left hand. Stepping back, he snapped into his transformation pose. “Awaken!”

 

He thrust his ring against his driver and turned, snapping the buckler open. “OPEN — LION; AWAKEN.”

 

The buckler emitted a circular field of golden energy, with magical runes, that slid across Leo and activated his armor. 

 

KR BeastHe transformed into Kamen Rider Beast: The Primordial Mage.

 

Kamen Rider Beast stepped into a fighting stance. “Looks like it’s lunchtime…” He hesitated. “Well, since it’s morning, I guess I should say ‘breakfast time’.”

 

Kamen Rider Beast pounced with a flying crescent kicked that Medusa ducked underneath to avoid. She snapped a jumpkick Beast blocked, and followed with a crescent kick Beast dove underneath while rolling across the ground.

 

Beast rose and snapped a kick. But Medusa grabbed his foot and flipped him through the air.

 

Kamen Rider Beast crashed against the ground and looked up to see Medusa charge towards him.

 

She snapped a kick Beast blocked, and then snapped a crescent kick Beast dodged while spinning back to his feet.

 

He leapt and smashed his knee against the monster’s chest, knocking her back a step.

 

Above, one of Austin’s hawk-shaped familiars fluttered onto the scene.

 

***

 

Luna joined Kouishiro, Jesse and Austin in the back of the antique shop. Through her crystal ball, Luna watched the images captured by Austin’s familiar.

 

“Austin…” she said. “It’s Beast and Medusa. They’re fighting...”

 

Austin nodded and stood. “OK…I’m out.”

 

“I’m going too,” Jesse said as he grabbed his jacket and followed Austin out the door.

 

“Be careful,” Kouishiro called after them. Through the corner of his eye, he saw the small golem take a few steps out from beneath the end table. Kouishiro leaned down and smiled at the familiar. “Ah…There you are…”

 

The golem scurried back underneath the table.

 

“Well…” Kouishiro said. “That’s that.”

 

***

 

Medusa armed her staff and hurled a bolt of purple-tinted energy. Beast flipped aside as the blast exploded against the pavement.

 

Kamen Rider Beast armed his saber and rushed to attack. His saber clashed against Medusa’s staff repeatedly as they swung and chopped at one another. The clanging echoed across the courtyard.

 

Medusa parried a blow, stepped closer to Beast, and slashed his armor with bursts of spark. The blow took Beast back a step. And Medusa pushed forward with a powerful upward swing that sparked against his armor and knocked him back several steps.

 

Beast staggered but kept his balance. He leapt against a fence, pushed off, and jumped at Medusa while chopping his blade.

 

Medusa blocked the blow, but the impact forced her backward. Beast pressed ahead with a reverse sidekick that bashed her chest and hurled her off her feet.

 

Beast armed a dolphin-shaped ring on his right middle finger. He snapped the ring against his buckler. “DOLPHI; AWAKEN”

 

KR Beast DolphiBeast extended his right hand to his side and summoned a magick circle of purple energy. The circle washed across his body and formed a purple, dolphin-headed mantle on his right shoulder.

 

Beast connected his dolphin ring to his saber hilt, which spoke: “DOLPHI; SABER STRIKE”

 

A circle of golden, magical energy formed in front of Beast.

 

Kamen Rider Beast stabbed his blade through the circle, which flashed to summon multiple smaller circles.

 

The circles acted like portals and summoned energy blasts shaped like dolphins.

 

The dolphins swam through the air and slashed Medusa with massive bursts of spark that tore across her body.

 

Medusa stumbled but managed to stay on her feet as smoke sizzled from her wounds.

 

Kamen Rider Beast removed his dolphin ring and placed a falcon-shaped ring on the middle finger of his right hand. “How about one more? Just for fun?”

 

He connected the ring to his driver: “FALCO; AWAKEN”

 

KR Beast FalcoHe extended his right hand to his side and summoned an orange circle of magick energy. The energy field washed across his body and formed a falcon-headed mantle on his right shoulder.

 

Beast connected his ring with his hilt: “FALCO; SABER STRIKE”

 

He slashed his sword and summoned a golden, magic circle that fired a falcon-shaped energy blast.

 

Medusa swatted the blast to the ground and stepped on it, shattering it to pieces.

 

Beast lowered his sword and sighed as his shoulders slumped. “Not cool.”

 

Medusa thrust her hand forward and fired a giant, snake-shaped energy wave from her palm. The energy wave blasted against Beast with bursts of spark that hurled him through the air. He shot over the fence and crashed onto the lower level of the patio. 

 

The impact knocked him out of his armor with a flash of golden light.

 

Medusa lowered her staff and smiled with satisfaction. “Pest…” She turned her attention back towards the courtyard. “Now…where did the girl go?”

 

***

 

Leo recovered and ran to the nearby school. Teenagers dressed in school uniforms walked across the outdoor courtyard as if nothing was wrong, meaning Medusa blended in using her human form. 

 

Leo sighed with annoyance and went into the crowd. The kids’ babbling made him cringe. “Now I remember why I dropped out of high school…”

 

He didn’t need long to spot the girl with the raven-black hair and eyes of blue and cyan.

 

“Hey you!” he shouted as he ran to her. Leo grabbed her by the shoulders, and she looked startled. “Gotcha. You must think you’re pretty clever, don’tcha?”

 

The girl struggled to pull away. “What’s wrong with you, you creep? Let-”

 

“No, no,” Leo said. “No playing dumb. Now come on…I’m going to eat you for lunch…”

 

The girl shrieked and tried to pull away, but Leo gripped tightly onto her shirt. She stumbled and fell to the ground, and Leo nearly fell with her.

 

“Stop pretending,” Leo said as he struggled to lift her up. “Come on, you’re making a-”

 

Two cops suddenly grabbed onto Leo and pulled him from the girl. They slammed him against the ground, pulled his hands behind his back, and cuffed him.

 

“Okay…” Leo said. “I can see why that looked bad…”

 

Nearby, Austin and Jesse ran into the school courtyard just in time to see Leo shoved into the back of a police vehicle.

 

“Huh…” Austin said. “Do I even wanna know?”

 

“Probably not,” Jesse said. “What should we do?”

 

Austin’s gaze drifted to the crowd. “Forgot about him…” he said. “There’s someone more important we need to worry about.”

 

Jesse looked to see who Austin stared at. He spotted a group of teens help a girl with cyan-and-blue eyes to her feet. “What the…Isn’t that Medusa?!”

 

Austin nodded. “It is…What is she up to?”

 

***

 

Austin and Jesse kept their distance as they watched the cyan-and-blue eyed girl walk into the main school building.

 

“Huh…” Jesse said. “She just walked right in…as if she’s not a soul-crushing demon whore.”

 

“She’s probably after a Gate,” Austin said.

 

“So what do we do?” Jesse asked.

 

“Simple,” Austin said. “I’m going in.”

 

Austin placed one of his rings on his right middle finger. He held his ringed hand over his buckler. “DRESS; ALTER”

 

A golden magick circle appeared in front of him and slid across his body, changing his clothes into a school uniform. 

 

“Whoa, not bad!” Jesse said. “What about me?”

 

“You’ll never get in dressed as…you,” Austin said as he started to walk towards the school. “Just wait here.”

 

“Wait, Austin!” Jesse shouted as he followed. “Oh come on, this so isn’t fair!”

 

***

 

Austin walked through the halls of the school and kept an eye out for Medusa in her human form. The sight of teenagers headed to class reminded him he should have been in a school of his own. But Maya promised to home school him so he could focus on the Phantom Demons and helping Luna.

 

Austin spotted Medusa ahead as soon as he turned a corner, and he started walking towards her.

 

“Miranda!” a group of girls called out.

 

The girl with the cyan-and-blue eyes turned to meet with the girls. Austin ducked behind a corner to make sure they didn’t spot him. “Miranda…” he whispered.

 

The group of girls crowded around Miranda.

 

“Is it true some creep attacked you?”

 

“Who was he?”

 

“Was he hot?”

 

“Are you okay?”

 

“Was. He. Hot?”

 

The girls started moving further down the hall. Austin followed while staying as far back as possible.

 

“Why don’t you go home for the day?” one of the girls asked as they took a seat in a lobby area.

 

Austin sat at a nearby table to eavesdrop.

 

Miranda shook her head. “I can’t,” she said. “I have that history exam.”

 

“And, conveniently, the perfect excuse to blow it off,” one of her friends said.

 

“Did you hear what happened to us?” one of the girls asked.

 

“There was a monster. Here! At our school!”

 

“We totally almost died.”

 

“Did not.”

 

“Whatever, Jayme, it looked like it was after you anyway.”

 

“You would have freaked if you were there, Miranda.”

 

Austin kept his back to the girls as he listened. Something definitely seemed off.

 

Austin barely noticed Jesse walk up to the table from a nearby crowd. “So…is the Gate one of those girls?”

 

“Yeah,” Austin said. “I think they- huh?” He looked to Jesse with surprise and immediately bolted from his chair. Jesse had found a uniform. A girl’s uniform. And somehow, a wig. “Are you freaking kidding me?”

 

“What,” Jesse said as he shrugged. “I couldn’t find a boy’s uniform, and this-”

 

“Stop talking,” Austin said. “Stop talking now.”

 

“This is passable,” Jesse said. “Come on, I can help.”

 

“This is not…” Austin looked Jesse up and down. “Okay, it is surprisingly passable. God, that’s freaky. But are you insane?”

 

Austin looked back to the lobby. But the girls had left.

 

“Great…” Austin said. “You made me lose them…”

 

“Don’t worry,” Jesse said with a smile. “I’ll go look for them…”

 

He moved down the hall, far too chipper for Austin’s liking. Frustrated, he rubbed his forehead. “I bet stuff like this never happened to Kamen Rider Black.”

 

***

 

Gremlin stood in his human form on the roof of the school. He leaned against the railing and looked down upon the students passing between buildings.

 

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you go after a Gate by yourself, Lisa,” Gremlin said. “But I guess sometimes ‘a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do,’ right?”

 

Gremlin turned to see Medusa in her human form with her arms across her chest. She didn’t look amused.

 

“Were you spying on me?” Medusa asked.

 

“Now, now,” Gremlin said as he skipped towards her. And then kept skipping. “Don’t be so slanderous. I’m just staying on standby in case you need my help.”

 

“You’re not needed,” Medusa said. “I’ll handle this one on my own.”

 

***

 

Maya crossed her arms as she stood outside the jail cell. She tapped her finger and arced an eyebrow. “Tell me again why I should bail you out?”

 

“She was a Phantom!” Leo pleaded. “Come on, you’ve gotta believe me…after all we’ve been through.”

 

“We’ve known each other for two weeks,” Maya said. “And witnesses say they heard you scream you were looking for a ‘hot high school girl’.”

 

“Okay, that’s taken completely out of context,” Leo said. “The hot high school girl was the Phantom.”

 

Maya sighed. “I’ll look into it. In the meantime…sit tight. Kouishiro has some connections. I’ll see what he can do.”

 

“Police connections?” Leo asked.

 

“Better,” she said, speaking of Section 31. Maya and Kouishiro befriended an agent of the organization during their fight against the Grongi Tribe in 2002. The organization owed Kouishiro several dozen favors. “Like I said…just sit tight.”

 

“Just hurry, okay?” Leo said. “Do you have any idea what they do to pretty boys like me in places like this?”

 

***

 

Austin tracked down one of Miranda’s friends outside a classroom. He chatted with her why she scarfed down a candy bar.

 

“So Miranda’s a transfer student?” Austin asked.

 

MmmHmm,” the girl said as she took a bite. “I guess she, like, studied abroad or something like that.”

 

“How long ago did she move here?” Austin asked.

 

The girl swallowed a bite. “Is that all you want to talk about is Miranda? Why don’t you tell me something about you. I haven’t seen you around before…”

 

“I’m…also a transfer student,” Austin said.

 

“Ah,” the girl said. “And you’re checking out the girls already? Nice…”

 

“Yeah, well…” Austin said as he blushed. “That’s kind of true. Anyway, I need to get-”

 

“Austin!” a voice shouted from the other end of the hall. He sighed when he recognized the voice as Jesse.

 

Austin stepped away from the class to meet Jesse in the center of the hall. “What’s wrong with you?” he whispered. “You shouldn’t even-”

 

“She spotted me,” Jesse said. “Medusa. I think she-”

 

They both noticed Miranda walk up to them from behind. Austin immediately turned aside so she couldn’t see his face, and Jesse lowered his gaze.

 

Miranda smiled and handed Jesse a handkerchief. “You dropped this back there…”

 

Jesse started to say thanks but stopped himself. Instead he smiled, took the handkerchief, and nodded. Miranda walked past the two boys and went into class.

 

“You dropped a handkerchief?” Austin asked.

 

“When I saw her I kind of fell and ran away screaming,” Jesse said. “It could happen to anyone.”

 

“No,” Austin said. “Just you.”

 

Miranda sat in the classroom with her friends, including the girl Austin spoke with.

 

“Hey Miranda,” the girl said. “There was this hot guy asking all these questions about you…”

 

***

 

Miranda and her friends sat at a picnic table outside during their lunch break.

 

Austin and Jesse watched from afar. Jesse had his hand on Austin’s arm and his head on his shoulder. Austin nudged his shoulder, and Jesse moved his head.

 

They both took notice of Miranda laughing and sharing stories with her friends.

 

Jesse stroked the hair of his wig. “She seems so…different. She’s putting up quite the act.”

 

“She is good,” Austin said as he took a bite of a plain sugar donut.

 

“Hey!” Jesse said. “Where did you get that?”

 

Jesse bit towards the donut, but Austin moved the donut away just in time. The teen bit for the donut a second time, and Austin moved the donut aside again, never taking his eyes off Miranda.

 

***

 

Maya returned to her antique shop to research the girl Leo spotted. She got the name of the girl from police, and she didn’t need long to find a record of her. But the record said the girl attended a different school than the one Leo mentioned.

 

“That’s odd…” she said. “Both her mother and father are missing. And she…” Maya opened her eyes wide at what she read. “That explains it…”

 

***

 

School let out for the day. Austin and Jesse spotted Miranda walking down the hallway with her book bag over her shoulder.

 

Jesse shook his head. “She’s leaving…”

 

Austin nodded. “Time for a different approach.” He walked towards her and called out her name. “Miranda! Hey!”

 

She stopped and turned to face Austin and Jesse, who walked towards her — although Jesse made sure to stay farther back, behind Austin.

 

“That’s the name you’re going by now...isn’t it?” Austin asked.

 

“Who are you?” Miranda asked as she took a nervous step back.

 

 “Acting like you don’t know me?” Austin asked. “Clever…” he said casually. “Did you slip in here using your Gate’s memories?”

 

“What are you talking about…” she said. “Why are you-

 

They suddenly heard screaming come from outside. They looked to see dozens of students flee across the courtyard.

 

Austin looked to Miranda, then looked outside to the fleeing kids. “What’s going on…?”

 

***

 

Medusa stalked across campus in her monster form. She approached Miranda’s friends, one of whom — Jayme — collapsed while trying to run up a stairway. Medusa ignored the other girls and stalked closer to Jayme, relishing the hunt of the Gate.

 

Austin rounded a corner and spotted Medusa. “Back away!”

 

Medusa turned to face Austin. “The Ring Mage…Why are you here?”

 

Jesse rounded the corner and skid to a halt behind Austin when he spotted Medusa. He nearly tripped over his own feet and collapsed. “Medusa!”

 

Miranda followed behind Jesse. She stopped when she noticed the monster near her friends. “Jayme!”

 

Jesse and Austin both looked to Miranda, surprised to see her and Medusa in the same spot.

 

Medusa tilted her head. “You…”

 

The monster rippled into her human form, identical to Miranda.

 

“What the…” Jesse scrambled closer to Austin. “What the, what?”

 

Medusa smiled wickedly at Miranda. “There you are…”

 

Miranda opened her eyes wide. But not with fear. “Lisa…Is that really you?”

 

“Yes and no,” Miranda said. “My dear sister…”

 

***

 

Maya hurried to the jail, to where police released Leo. She met him outside as he grumbled about police brutality.

 

“I know what’s happening,” Maya said. “They’re twins!”

 

“Twins?!” Leo said.

 

“The girl you saw is Miranda,” Maya said. “The Phantom’s name is Lisa, who’s been missing since days before the Sabbath.”

 

***

 

Medusa smiled. “Well this is…intriguing.”

 

Miranda looked taken aback. “What’s going on…?”

 

Austin faced Medusa and stepped between her and Miranda. “Sorry…” he said to Miranda. “Looks like I confused you with someone else.”

 

Austin slid his Wizard ring onto his left middle finger. He summoned his buckler. “DRIVER ON.”

 

“Awaken,” he placed his left hand over his buckler, which pulsed with energy. He extended his left arm to his side and summoned a red magic circle. “FLAME; AWAKEN”

 

untitledThe red circle slid across his body and turned him into Kamen Rider Wizard. 

 

Wizard armed his sword and charged at Medusa.

 

Medusa armed her staff, and their weapons clashed. Wizard twirled his blade through a series of quick and powerful strikes that Medusa blocked. They shifted around one another, clashing their weapons, which sparked on impact.

 

Miranda watched the battle with disbelief. She couldn’t believe her eyes. Her twin sister, missing for what seemed like ages, had become a monster.

 

“That can’t be…” she said as she struggled to breath. Anxiety clutched her throat, and her heart pounded in her chest. “That can’t be…”

 

Miranda collapsed to her knees.

 

Wizard crashed his sword against Medusa’s staff and pushed, forcing the monster farther into the courtyard.

 

Medusa parried the sword aside and swung her staff. But Wizard blocked the blow and chopped towards her collarbone. Medusa dodged and swung, but Wizard blocked.

 

The Rider roundkicked Medusa in the side and swung his sword towards her chest. But she parried the blow.

 

Medusa twirled several steps backward. She thrust her hand and fired a wave of purple energy from her palm. The energy wave sparked against Wizard’s armor and whipped him off his feet.

 

The Rider crashed against the ground but quickly rolled into a crouched fighting stance.

 

GhoulsMedusa tossed a handful of pebbles to the ground. The pebbles took shape to form Ghouls: the grunts of the Phantom Demons.

 

Wizard stood and shifted his Driver. He placed his hand over the buckler, which pulsed with red energy. “FLAME; DRAGON”

 

WD FireThe buckler emitted a red magick circle that slid across Wizard and activated his Flame Dragon form.

 

Wizard leaned forward and smashed through the lines of Ghouls. He slashed through their stone-like bodies with bursts of spark and cut them to the ground before they could counter.

 

The Ghouls armed staffs and swords. But Wizard’s blade easily shattered swords and smashed staffs.

 

He moved through the enemy ranks with renewed speed as he hacked, chopped and slashed his way through the lesser Phantom Demons. He gave the grunts no time to regroup or mount a counterattack.

 

Wizard blocked a staff and smashed a sidekick against a grunt’s face, whipping the Ghoul backward. He chopped through another Ghoul, and then swung upward to tear through another grunt with a burst of spark.

 

More Ghouls scrambled across the courtyard to attack.

 

Wizard summoned the clock-like Timer Driver on his right gauntlet: “DRAGON; TIME”

 

“Let’s get this over with faster, shall we?” he said as he activated the timer: “START!”

 

New Bitmap ImageHe charged through the Ghouls, hacking left and right as the timer reached the blue portion of the dial: “WATER DRAGON”

 

A blue magick circle opened, and a clone of Wizard hopped through. The clone wore the armor of Wizard’s Water Dragon form.

 

Water Dragon blocked a staff and bashed a kick across a grunt’s head. He spun and smashed the heel of his foot across another grunt’s head, bashing the Ghoul to the ground.

 

The Timer Driver reached the green section of the dial: “HURRICANE DRAGON”

 

A green magick circle opened in midair, and a clone of Wizard leapt through. The clone wore the green armor of Kamen Rider Wizard’s Hurricane Dragon form. Hurricane Dragon leapt through the air and fired a blaster that shot through Ghouls with bursts of spark.

 

Hurricane Dragon landed, used the blaster to block a staff, and then twisted beneath the weapon. He swung his sidearm and opened fire, blasting through a group of Ghouls.

 

The Timer Driver reached the yellow section of the dial: “LAND DRAGON”

 

A yellow magick circle opened on the ground. Wizard’s Land Dragon form leapt from the circle while slashing through a pair of Ghouls with bursts of spark.

 

Land Dragon, Water Dragon, and Hurricane Dragon smashed through the Ghouls, leaving a path for Kamen Rider Wizard to charge towards Medusa.

 

The Rider hopped towards the monster and chopped his blade down hard. Medusa used her staff to block the sword, and twisted the weapon down into a locked position.

 

The monster looked at Wizard with amusement. “It seems your magical powers have grown…”

 

“Thanks to you guys.” Wizard slid his sword free and kicked Medusa, knocking her back a step.

 

Medusa twirled her staff into a fighting stance and charged. Their weapons clashed as Wizard’s other Rider forms slashed and blasted through the Ghouls.

 

Suddenly, Wizard heard a familiar sound from the rooftop: “FALCO; AWAKEN”

 

Kamen Rider Beast swept downward in his Falco Mantle form. He glided through a streak of motion and slashed past the Ghouls with bursts of spark, hurling them off their feet.

 

The Ghouls crashed and burst into flames. Small, golden magick circles formed above the flames and absorbed their energy. The circles then collapsed and shot back into Kamen Rider Beast’s buckler, which consumed the energy.

 

“That was a nice little snack…” Beast said.

 

Medusa glared at Beast. “The Primordial Mage.”

 

Beast rested his sword across his shoulder and faced the monster. “I know I have the right person this time…”

 

***

 

Maya ran to the scene, having come with Leo. She joined Jesse, who stood alongside Miranda and her friend Jayme. Miranda and Jayme both sat on the ground, hugging each other as they watched the battle with a numb sensation of disbelief.

 

“Jesse…” Maya said, noticing his disguise. “What are you…?” She shook her head and crouched down next to the two girls. She laid her hand on Jayme’s shoulder and looked to Jesse. “Is this the Gate?”

 

“Yeah,” Jesse said. “And the other one is…”

 

“I know,” Maya said. “She’s twins with Medusa’s Gate.” She looked to Jayme. “Are you alright?”

 

Jayme nodded, a surreal look on her face.

 

Meanwhile, Beast and the four Wizard forms finished off the last of the Ghouls and charged towards Medusa. They past her by while swinging and slashing their blades, which she blocked while twirling her staff through a blur of motion.

 

The four Riders surrounded the monster and shifted stances, looking for weaknesses in her defense.

 

Above, Gremlin stepped onto the rooftop and watched while in his human form. He smiled with a glimmer of insanity as he watched the fight below. And then his gaze drifted to Miranda. “Well…this is going to get interesting.”

 

To be continued…Chapter 22