Chapter 22: Kamen Rider Wizard
The Phantom Without
Kamen Rider Beast and Kamen Rider Wizard’s four forms surrounded Medusa.
The monster swung her head and snapped her snake hairs out like whips. The whips extended and slashed the Riders with bursts of spark, knocking them off their feet.
Beast and Wizard crashed against the ground and tumbled across the pavement. Wizard’s clone forms vanished with puffs of light.
Medusa laughed and turned her attention back towards Jayme and Miranda, who sat together on the ground. The monster stalked towards the two girls.
Maya and Jesse stood in front of the girls to block Medusa’s path — although Jesse stayed slightly behind Maya.
Medusa stopped several feet away as her body rippled into her human form. She smiled at Miranda. “It’s good to see you…Miranda.”
“Lisa…” Miranda said. Emotions swelled, and for a moment, she swept away all the doubt and fear. She faced her twin sister. That’s all she cared about. “It is you!”
Miranda sprang to her feet to run to her sister. But Maya held her back. “Miranda, don’t! That’s not really your sister. Not anymore…”
“Let me go!” Miranda shouted.
“Hmph.” Medusa lowered her head and turned as she started walking away. “I’ll see you again…”
“Lisa!” Miranda pleaded as Jesse and Maya held her back. “Lisa, wait! Lisa!”
Leo and Jesse decided they would walk Jayme home. They left the school and moved down a city sidewalk as Leo reassured the girl. She showed little fear, mostly because she still couldn’t believe what happened.
“Don’t you worry about a thing,” Leo said.
Jesse nodded. “I’ll do all the talking with your parents,” he said. “You’ll be fine.”
“You’ll do all the talking?” Leo asked. “Do you really think you can handle that? You stole a school girl’s uniform, for crying out loud.”
“Hey, you just make sure you protect her, Beast,” Jesse said. “Austin can’t be in two places at once.”
“A school girl’s uniform,” Leo said again.
Maya and Austin brought Miranda back to the antique shop, where they met with Kouishiro and Luna. Miranda sat in a chair with her head down and her shoulders slumped.
Kouishiro brought her a cup of tea and set it on the coffee table in front of her. “Here you go…”
“Are you feeling calmer now?” Maya asked.
Miranda sat silently before answering. “It’s still a bit overwhelming.”
“Can we ask you something?” Maya sked.
“We heard your parents were missing…Do you know anything about what happened to them?” Maya asked.
Miranda shook her head. “Not a thing. It happened while I was studying in Europe.”
“And you’ve been staying in a foster home ever since?” Maya asked.
“They…They said it was dangerous for me to live alone,” she said. “So they recommended I stay with a foster family….even though I’m almost 18. Plus…I tried living at home when I got back. It was too…painful.”
“Would you mind if we asked about your sister?” Austin asked.
Miranda smiled. “Lisa was…kind. I was always shy around people, but she helped me come out of my shell. She’s the one who encouraged me to study abroad. She knew I wanted to go, but that I was too scared. So she helped me.”
Miranda pulled a keychain from her pocket. The keychain was engraved with four figures. “She gave this to me. She said it was me, her, mom, and dad...that we’d be together, and that I shouldn’t worry.”
Kouishiro smiled and nodded. “She sounds like a great sister.”
“That’s why…when I heard they disappeared…I was shocked,” Miranda said. “But…I never thought…” Tears swelled in her eyes as she started to cry. “I never thought Lisa could…”
A house sat vacant in a gated community within Angel Grove — although the gates fell long ago. White blankets draped furniture left behind.
Medusa sat on a blanket that covered a couch. She didn’t realize she had company.
“So this is Lisa’s house!” a voice called from the stairwell.
Medusa looked to see Gremlin in his human form walk down the stairs.
“What do you want?” she asked with annoyance.
Gremlin ignored the question and leaned against the railing. “I can’t believe Lisa has a sister…” His face lit up with insane excitement. “I bet that threw off your plans!”
Medusa leaned her head on her hand. “You might say that.”
“So what will you do?” Gremlin asked as he hopped down beside her. He skipped to the head of the couch. “I’ll help you if you want. I’m very…crafty.”
“Then you can drive that Gate to despair,” Medusa said.
“I thought you were going to do that personally…”
“It’s fine…” Medusa said dismissively. “Just get it done.”
Austin turned on the lights to his room above the antique shop. He led Miranda inside. “This is my room, but you can crash here for as long as you need to. I can sleep on one of the couches downstairs.”
Miranda smiled uncomfortably and placed her bag on the bed. “Thanks…Thanks for everything you’ve done for me.”
“Don’t worry about it, okay?” Austin said. “Have a good night.”
“Goodnight,” Miranda said as he started walking from the room. “Hold on, wait.”
Austin stopped in the doorway. “Hmm?”
“Lisa…” Miranda said. “Is there any way to return her to normal? I was thinking…maybe she’s still alive in the Phantom.”
Austin shook his head. “I’m sorry…Phantoms are only using Gates’ memories.”
“But…” Miranda said. “I’m just saying…What if…”
Austin looked aside and shifted uncomfortably. “Well…”
Miranda sighed. “I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to make things awkward.”
“Don’t apologize,” Austin said.
Miranda sat on the bed and wrapped her arms around the pillow.
“Just take your time and rest…” Austin said.
He stepped out of the room and shut the door.
Leo preferred to sleep in tents. Even when he stayed at Maya’s antique shop, he’d pitch a tent on her roof.
His latest tent sat in front of Jayme’s home. He’d spent the night there, along with Jesse.
Leo sat outside on a cooler the following morning, and Jesse stumbled out of the tent cold and cranky. “It’s freezing out here. How can you stand living in a tent every night? That’s just…wrong.”
“It’s how I roll,” Leo said as he poured a hot cup of coffee. “The real question is why we weren’t invited inside.”
“Let me see if that was your fault,” Jesse said. “Oh wait, it was. I tried to talk to her, and you went off on some tangent about freaking mayonnaise. That’s like, the most random and strange obsession ever. I’m sure there’s some kind of weird physiological-”
“School. Girl. Outfit.”
The doors to the home opened, and Maya walked outside along with Jayme.
“Are you two about done?” Maya asked. “I spoke with her parents. Now come on…let’s get back to the-”
She stopped in her tracks when she saw a group of Ghouls spread across the street to block their path.
Leo stood and slid his lion ring onto the middle finger of his left hand. “Looks like the bad guys beat us out of bed this morning.”
Leo dashed forward and slammed a flying sidekick against a Ghoul, knocking it backward.
He landed as a Ghoul swung its staff towards his gut. But he caught the staff and bashed his knee against the grunt’s chest.
Leo pulled back his shirt and armed his buckler, which spoke: “DRIVER ON.”
“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. He transformed into Kamen Rider Beast: The Primordial Mage.
Beast leapt with a flying punch that bashed a Ghoul off its feet.
A grunt swung its staff at the Rider. But Beast caught the staff as a second grunt snuck up behind him. Keeping hold of the staff, Beast snapped his leg around to hook kick the second Ghoul away. Then he turned back to the first Ghoul, knocked its staff away, and bashed a flurry of punches against its chest.
Kamen Rider Beat lifted a Ghoul by the throat, slammed the grunt to the ground, and somersaulted to the side.
Kouishiro, Luna, Austin, and Miranda gathered in the rear of the antique shop that morning. They drank coffee and shared bagels, brought by Kouishiro.
Miranda’s cellphone rang, and she pulled it from her purse. She opened her eyes wide when she saw the screen.
“What is it?” Luna asked.
“Oh…” Miranda said as she put her phone back in her purse. “It’s nothing. So…I’ve been thinking. I think I’d like to go back to my foster home…if that’s OK.”
“Are you sure?” Austin asked. He lived in a foster home after his parents died during the Second Countdown to Destruction. And Maya spent most of her childhood in foster homes too. They each knew that good foster homes were too hard to come by.
“I just think it’s time to go,” Miranda said as she stood and grabbed her bag. “I need time to think. About Lisa. My parents. And other things…”
Luna looked to Austin. “She’s not a Gate…so I don’t see any harm in letting her go.”
Kouishiro shook his head. “You better see her off,” he said to Austin. “Just in case.”
“No, it’s fine,” Miranda said awkwardly, as if in a hurry. “I can make it on my own.”
She started out the door, and Austin began to follow. “Wait, Miranda…”
He stopped when his phone rang. He held the phone to his ear to answer. “Maya?”
Two Ghouls swung their staffs at Kamen Rider Beast. He dove beneath their attacks and kicked out their legs, knocking them to the ground.
Beast rose to full height just in time to catch a staff, grab the Ghoul by the arm, and flip the grunt to the ground.
While Beast fought, Maya and Jesse started to lead Miranda to safety. But Gremlin appeared in his monster form to block their retreat. He leaned against the building and waved. “Hel-lo!”
They skid to a halt and ran in the other direction.
Nearby, Beast bashed his knee against a Ghoul’s face.
The Rider unsheathed his saber, spun, and slashed three grunts with bursts of spark that knocked them backward.
Beast spun again with a 180-degree slash that streaked through golden energy and tore through the Ghouls.
The Ghouls exploded with bursts of flame. Golden magick circles appeared above the flames and absorbed their energy. Then the circles collapsed into small spheres that shot into Beast’s buckler.
Beast turned his attention to Gremlin and charged. He chopped his saber towards Gremlin’s head. But Gremlin dodged and spun aside. The Rider swung again, and Gremlin dodged. Beast snapped a crescent kick Gremlin ducked to avoid as he scurried to gain distance from the Rider.
Kamen Rider Beast aimed his blade at Gremlin. “Your today’s main dish, my friend.”
“Yes, try to eat me, Rider,” the monster said mockingly.
Beast muttered with annoyance and pounced.
Austin raced across the street on his motorcycle. He slid his red ring onto his left middle finger. He summoned his buckler. “DRIVER ON.”
“Awaken,” he placed his hand over his buckler, which pulsed with energy. He extended his left arm ahead and summoned a red magick circle. “FLAME; AWAKEN”
He throttled through the circle and transformed into the armor of Kamen Rider Wizard.
Miranda ran though the city and pulled out her cellphone. She read the message she received earlier. The message from Lisa — Medusa: “Miranda, you’re the only one who can save me. Please, meet me at our old home.”
Beast kept slashing at Gremlin. But Gremlin kept dodging.
“Come on, Rider,” Gremlin taunted. “You’ll have to do better than that.”
Beast growled with annoyance. “You know, you really suck.”
Kamen Rider Beast lunged and swung. But Gremlin vanished with a blur of motion.
“Over here!” Gremlin called from behind the Rider.
Beast dashed and swung his saber. But Gremlin streaked away again.
This time Gremlin reappeared in midair and dropkicked the Rider to the ground.
Maya, Jesse, and Jayme ran from around a corner, and they skid to a halt when they saw Gremlin blocking their path again.
The monster laughed with insanity. “Hel-lo again!”
Suddenly, the roar of a motorcycle sounded nearby. Gremlin looked to see Wizard throttle onto the scene.
Kamen Rider Wizard lifted his blaster and fired energy pulses that sparked against Gremlin and whipped him off his feet.
Wizard skid his bike to a halt between the monster and civilians.
“Austin,” Maya called with relief.
“Wait, wait, hold on,” Kamen Rider Beast said as he shoved past Jesse to stand at Wizard’s side. “When did you get here? I had this.”
Gremlin laughed. “It looks like the two of you are together. How fun.”
“I had this,” Beast said again.
“I was worried,” Wizard said.
“Needlessly,” Beast said. “This guy is nothing.”
Wizard dismounted and armed his sword. And Beast armed his saber. The two Riders dashed at Gremlin to attack.
The Riders slashed their swords. But Gremlin summoned a scissor-shaped blade he used to block and parry their strikes.
Gremlin snapped the blade in two to easily deflect both Riders’ attacks as they closed in from both sides.
Gremlin parried and slashed Beast, then spun and swung low with both blades, slashing Wizard with bursts of spark that whipped him backward.
Wizard and Beast crashed against the ground and tumbled aside.
“This guy is nothing, huh?” Wizard asked.
“Oh shush,” Beast said.
Beast slid his buffalo ring onto his right hand. And Wizard slid his green ring onto his left hand.
Wizard snapped his belt Driver and placed his hand over the buckler, which pulsed with green energy: “HURRICANE; AWAKEN”
A ring of green magick formed above Wizard and slid downward, activating his Hurricane mode.
Beast snapped his buffalo ring against his buckler. “BUFFA; AWAKEN”
Beast extended his right hand to his side and summoned a magick circle of red energy. The circle washed across his body and formed a red, buffalo-headed mantle on his right shoulder.
Beast lead with his mantle shoulder and charged. Wizard held his saber in a reverse grip and spun towards his opponent through a tornado of green energy.
Beast smashed his buffalo mantle against Gremlin, knocking him backward, as Wizard’s tornado slashed the monster with enough force to hurl him through the air.
Gremlin crashed and rolled across the ground. He rose into a crouched stance just as Beast and Wizard charged towards him.
The Phantom Demon leapt over the Riders and landed against the side of a wall. He crouched on the wall and looked down upon the Riders.
Gremlin sighed with disappointment. “This is really…unsatisfying.”
Beast glared up at the monster. “You’re pretty cocky for facing the two of us.”
Gremlin giggled. “Well, maybe I can explain why…and tell you what’s about to happen.”
Miranda walked towards her old home. She moved slowly, not knowing what to expect inside. She lost herself in thought and didn’t notice a familiar follow her. The small familiar looked like a white-armored, three-headed dog.
Miranda stepped inside and saw Lisa sitting casually on the couch.
“Lisa…” Miranda said softly.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” Medusa said. “I knew you’d come…”
Miranda breathed heavily. She let her feelings for her sister overpower her common sense. “I knew it was you…” she said as she walked towards the couch. “I knew it.”
“That’s right,” Medusa said with a warm smile as she held out her arms. “It’s me…your sister.”
Miranda dropped her bags and ran into Medusa’s embrace. “I knew it,” she sobbed. “I knew your soul was in there somewhere. I just knew it.”
“It’s all thanks to you,” Medusa said as she stroked Miranda’s hair. “Seeing your face brought back all these memories.”
“Then you’ll be normal again?” Miranda asked.
“Perhaps…” Medusa said. “Perhaps I still need to remember more…”
“Here…” Miranda said hopefully as she pulled out her keychain and handed it to Medusa. “You gave this to me, remember?”
Medusa nodded. “Before you went to study in Europe.”
“Right,” Miranda said through tears. “That’s what helped me have the strength to go. Every time I got lonely or sad, I pulled out that keychain, and I knew. I knew you were with me. And mom. And dad.”
“Oh, sister,” Medusa said with a soft purr. “This makes me so happy.” Her face suddenly tightened into a cold stare. “Happy that I now know what gives you support.”
Miranda knitted her brow with confusion. “What…?”
Medusa held the keychain. “With this, I’ll be able to drive you to despair.”
“What?” Wizard said.
Maya shook her head. “Miranda’s a Gate?”
“That’s right,” Gremlin said with excitement. “Who knew there’d be two Gates at the same school? What a fun surprise! And the second Gate was Lisa’s sister!”
Beast aimed his saber at Gremlin. “Don’t lie…”
Gremlin giggled. “I don’t really care if you believe me.” He tilted his head aside. “They’re probably meeting in their old home right now.”
Wizard remembered the text message Miranda received while in the antique shop.
“It can’t be…” he whispered. But he knew he was right. Medusa had reached out to Miranda. And Miranda had fallen for the trap.
Gremlin giggled again. “A sister driving a sister to despair. Doesn’t that sound fun to watch?”
“I’ll never let that happen!” Wizard shouted. “Leo…”
“You don’t have to say it,” Beast said. “Leave Gremlin to me. You get going…”
“I’m coming with you!” Maya said as she ran to Wizard.
Wizard slid a green ring onto his left hand and shifted his Driver. He placed his hand over the buckler, which pulsed with green energy. “HURRICANE; DRAGON”
The buckler emitted a green magick circle that slid across Wizard and activated his Hurricane Dragon form.
The Rider held his hand over his buckler. “DRAGON; FLIGHT”
A cyclone of green energy spun around him as dragon wings snapped from his back. Wizard grabbed hold of Maya and flew through the air to save Miranda.
Medusa smiled with fiendish delight as she stood. “I can’t believe you’re also a Gate…Twins are a mystery, aren’t they?”
“Lisa…” Miranda said between sobs. “What are you saying?”
“Nothing of your sister remains within me,” Medusa said. “I am a Phantom Demon, born from the Sabbath, given form through the Gate that was your sister. I am Medusa.”
“No…” Miranda said. “That can’t be true.” She stood as anger and grief flooded her veins. “What about my mom and dad?”
Medusa laughed. “Those two? When I came back here, after the Sabbath, I killed them. They were the first mortals whose blood I spilled.”
“That…that can’t be,” Miranda said.
“Wake up, you sniveling child,” Medusa said. “I killed them with my own hands.”
Medusa lifted the keychain, crushed it to pieces, and dropped the pieces onto the floor.
“No…” Miranda said as she watched the pieces fall. She breathed heavily as grief grasped her throat. “No…”
Miranda dropped to all fours as the memory of her parents, and her sister, started to splinter with cracks of shadow energy.
Medusa smiled. “Your beloved mother, father, and sister…all dead.” She crouched next to Miranda, who sobbed between deep breaths. “Now…give into that despair you’re feeling…and let the next Phantom be born.”
The door suddenly burst open as Kamen Rider Wizard rushed into the room. He turned to face Medusa. “Leave her alone…”
Maya followed close behind. She noticed Miranda sobbing on the floor. “Austin, look.”
Cracks of shadow energy started to split Miranda’s skin as she sobbed. “Mom…dad…”
Medusa shifted to her monster form and stood between Miranda and Wizard. “I won’t let you interfere…Ring Mage.”
The snakes of her hair lashed out like tentacles that whipped Wizard with bursts of spark.
Beast hopped and chopped his sword. But Gremlin spun while parrying the blow.
Gremlin dodged a sword swing, blocked a second swing, and slashed Beast with a burst of spark that knocked him back a step.
Gremlin giggled with delight. “I guess that’s enough for now…” He swung both blades through a wide arc that slashed Beast with bursts of spark, hurling him backward. “I think what Medusa has planned sounds much more fun…I think I’ll go watch. Later!”
Gremlin leapt through a streak of motion that shot into the distance.
“Wait!” Beast shouted. “Well…I guess I won’t be having him for breakfast.”
Leo powered down his armor and walked to Jesse and Jayme.
“You both alright?” he asked.
Jayme nodded. “But…I can’t believe they’re after Miranda too.”
“Let’s hope Austin makes it in time,” Leo said.
Wizard and Medusa’s battle took them out of the house and into the wide back yard, near a neighboring park of shriveled brown leaves.
They moved back and forth while slashing and parrying, their dance carrying them father and farther from the home. Neither opponent gained the upper hand. Their blades clashed with bursts of spark and a clanging noise that echoed through the air.
Wizard spun away to gain distance from Medusa. He slid his red ring onto his left hand, and then placed his left hand over his buckler. “FLAME; DRAGON”
The buckler emitted a red magick circle that slid across Wizard and activated his Flame Dragon form.
Wizard swung his sword and fired a blade of fiery energy that shot towards Medusa. Medusa swung her staff and scattered the energy blade with bursts of spark.
Wizard shifted his Driver and placed his right hand over the buckler: “CONEECT; OPEN”
A red magick circle opened to his side. He reached in and pulled out his Timer Driver, which wrapped around his right forearm.
Wizard parried a blow and swung a roundhouse kick Medusa ducked to avoid. The Rider parried a flurry of blows. Then Medusa swung her staff back, stabbed the weapon against Wizard’s chest with a burst of spark, and ignited a pulse of purple energy that shot him backward.
The blast hurled the Rider through the air. He crashed against the side of a pedestrian bridge in the park, then crashed to the ground below the bridge.
Wizard rose to a crouched position and breathed deeply. The fight against Gremlin, and then Medusa, took a lot of his strength.
Medusa laughed mockingly. “What’s the matter, Ring Mage? You look tired.”
“Austin!” a voice called from beneath the bridge. Wizard looked to see Maya carrying Miranda. Cracks of purple energy covered her body as if about to shatter into pieces. “Austin, the Phantom’s about to break through! You have to help her!”
“Miranda…” Wizard used his sword for balance to stand.
But Medusa lashed out with hair tentacles, which wrapped around Wizard and nearly crushed him. She used the tentacles to lift him off his feet, then tightened her grip.
“Don’t look away, Ring Mage,” she said. “I want you to watch.”
Austin’s fading strength powered down his armor with a burst of golden light.
Medusa dropped him to the ground, and he landed on all fours, barely able to lift himself.
“Austin!” Maya shouted.
Miranda cried as the cracks snaked through her body. “Mom…dad!”
The cracks ignited with a burst of energy that knocked Maya off her feet. Miranda collapsed to all fours as shadowy energy seeped from every crack in her body and soul.
Austin narrowed his eyes as he watched. He tried to run to her but couldn’t summon the strength to lift himself. “Miranda!” he called to her. “Don’t give into despair!”
Medusa laughed and walked towards Miranda. “Ring Mage…do nothing and watch as a new Phantom is born. And then…join her in despair.”
Medusa stood next to Miranda as shadowy energy surged from the cracks in her body. The cracks split wider, about to shatter Miranda and give birth to a Phantom.
The memory of her loving sister, father, and mother splintered to pieces and scattered. She breathed deeply as she felt that moment, that moment of love and hope, fade.
“Lisa!” Miranda shouted. She refused to let go of that memory. “Lisa!” She refused to let go of that hope. “Mom! Dad!”
She remembered the keychain and the words her sister spoke. “Just keep this with you. Whenever you’re sad. Whenever you feel lost. Just look at this…and know that we’ll always be with you.”
Miranda’s body pulsed with a burst of golden light as she collapsed. The light sealed the cracks on her skin, and then dimmed, repairing her wounds.
Medusa took a step back with shock. “It can’t be…”
Austin narrowed his eyes when he realized what happened. “She suppressed the Phantom…”
Miranda’s breathing returned to normal as she sat back on the ground. Her gaze looked distant as she tried to come to grips with what happened. “Lisa…Lisa saved me…”
Medusa lifted her staff, not sure what to except. “How? How is this happening?”
Miranda lifted her head to face Medusa. “You’re just using Lisa’s appearance…You’re not really her!” she shouted through her tears. “I won’t let someone like you end my life!”
Suddenly, a voice echoed beneath the bridge: “TELEPORT; NOW”
A white magick circle slid downward and teleported the White Mage to the scene.
Medusa nearly stumbled backward with fear. “The White Mage?!”
Austin opened his eyes wide with shock. “It’s him…”
Austin rarely saw the White Mage: Once when he received his powers in Demon City. And then again a second time, when the White Mage gave Austin the Timer Driver.
The White Mage slid a ring onto his right hand and shifted his driver as he stared at Medusa. “Begone.”
He placed his right hand over his buckler. “EXPLOSION: NOW”
A white magic circle formed in front of Medusa and exploded with enough force to hurl her through the air.
Standing tall and strong, the White Mage looked down upon Miranda. “You did well to survive and not lose hope,” he told her. “You have earned the right to become a mage.”
He extended a hand towards her. “Come with me, and fight the Phantoms who took away your family. That is your path now.”
“Hey…” Austin said as he climbed to his feet. He walked towards them and used the pillars beneath the bridge for support. “Wait…”
“It is her decision,” the White Mage said.
Miranda sat silently for a moment. Then she looked up at the White Mage and took his hand. “I’ll…I’ll go.”
The White Mage helped her to her feet.
“Miranda…” Austin started to say.
“It’s OK,” she said. “This is my choice…this is what I have to do. It’s what Lisa would do.”
The White Mage slid a ring onto his right hand. “We will meet again…Kamen Rider Wizard.”
The White Mage placed his hand over his buckler. “TELEPORT; NOW”
A field of magick energy slid down and teleported Miranda and the White Mage away.
Maya walked slowly to Austin after the White Mage teleported away. “That must be the White Mage you told me about.”
“Yeah…” Austin said as he leaned against the pillar. “But I have no idea what he’s up to…”
To be continued…Chapter 23