Chapter 24: Kamen Rider Blade

Evolution King

 

A day passed. Zayden didn’t heal from his injuries, and in fact, his condition worsened. He lay in the bed of his basement room in the Jacaranda Café. He stirred with pain, on the border between consciousness and unconsciousness.

 

Young Ava laid a cold compress on the rider’s head. Zayden stirred, and then snapped. “Don’t touch me.”

 

Ava flinched backward, but as she watched Zayden slowly open his eyes, her fear dissipated. He looked at her with the kindness and affection she remembered.

 

“Ava…” he whispered, as his eyes closed and he grew still.

 

Ava’s mother Cassie opened the door. She stopped in the doorway when she noticed her daughter’s look of sadness.

 

“Is everything okay?” she asked.

 

Ava hesitated, and then smiled and nodded.

 

“Good…” Cassie said. “I’ll come check on you again in a little while.”

 

“That’s OK, you don’t have to,” Ava said. “I’m in charge of helping him get better…” She looked back to Zayden and leaned next to his bed. “I can help him…I know I can.”

 

***

 

Dr. Sarc invited Benjamin to a small, secret lab. Sarc established the lab after the destruction of BOARD. Shelves filled with test tubes and equipment lined the walls. A sole desk sat in the center of the room, and a massive chamber door lined the far wall.

 

“Nostalgic, isn’t it?” Sarc asked. “It resembles some of the earlier BOARD labs.

 

Benjamin nodded. He noticed one of the walls had a board covered with various pictures of Ken. Benjamin knitted his brow. “Why all the pictures of Ken?”

 

“I’ll explain…” Sarc said. “Eventually.”

 

Benjamin shook his head. He grew tired of half answers. “You helped me learn more about the Joker. Are you after Ken too? Why?”

 

“The Joker is a threat, that’s for certain,” Sarc said. “But there’s no rush to deal with him. Not yet.”

 

“What do you mean?” Benjamin asked.

 

Sarc took a seat at the central lab table and flipped open one of his computers. “As of now, he hasn’t displayed any of the Joker’s more brutal characteristics. The more dangerous threat is your friend Ken Grayson.”

 

“Ken?” Benjamin asked with disbelief.

 

Sarc nodded. He pressed a button on his keyboard and opened the vault on the far well. Benjamin opened his eyes wide with shock and stepped back defensively when he saw Trial D within the vault.

 

“Him…” Benjamin said as he narrowed his eyes. “You…and this Undead…You made him?” Benjamin asked.

 

“He’s not technically an Undead,” Sarc said. “He’s just a test made from Undead cells and human data. He’s the next step in the Trial Series I helped INET develop before the Undead or BOARD even existed. My goal was to create artificial life to understand the secret of endless life. My earliest Trials were destroyed during the Second Countdown to Destruction, but this new model is far superior.”

 

Benjamin shook his head with disbelief. “A man-made Undead…”

 

“This creation may hold the key to the Undead’s secret of immortality. If I continue my research, someday humans will be able to live forever,” Sarc said.

 

“Why use Undead?” Benjamin asked.

 

“They were created by the most powerful force we’ve encountered, the beast behind the Second Countdown,” Sarc said. “Why not the Undead?”

 

“He attacked Ken…” Benjamin said. “Did you order that?”

 

“Yes,” Sarc said without hesitation.

 

“Why?” Benjamin asked.

 

 “To protect him,” Sarc said. “Your friend is in a dangerous situation right now. He’s special. If he continues to transform…”

 

“What will happen?” Benjamin asked.

 

“If I tell you, will you cooperate with me?” Sarc said. “Will you help me save your friend?”

 

“Save him from what?” Benjamin asked.

 

“We need to separate him from the Rider System,” Sarc said.

 

***

 

Ken walked through the woods away from the Jacaranda Café after visiting Zayden. He stopped in his tracks when he noticed King leaning casually against a tree while munching from a bag of chips. 

 

Ken narrowed his eyes. “King…”

 

King gave a mock salute. “Blade…off to see our friend Joker? How’s he doing?”

 

“It was you, wasn’t it?” Ken asked. “What have you done with him?”

 

“Done? Nothing. He’s not sick or injured…He’s just fighting desperately to stop himself from reverting to his Joker form,” King said. The villain pulled the cards of the heart suit from his pocket. “Up until now he’s relied on the power of these Undead to seal away his Joker characteristics. Now he’s relying on the Two of Hearts alone. It’s not enough.”

 

King grinned sadistically. “It’s only a matter of time before he reverts.”

 

***

 

Ava had left Zayden’s side for a moment. The teen tossed and turned in his bed as sweat drenched his skin. He clutched his blankets and snapped open his eyes. He narrowed his gaze. I won’t…revert. Never again.

 

He glanced to his nightstand and noticed a single card: his Jack of Hearts. King must have dropped it during the battle; and Ken must have dropped the card off so he could fight to defend himself if needed, Zayden realized.

 

He reached for the card.

 

***

 

“It would be easier for him, you know,” King said. “To just let him turn.”

 

“So if I get those cards back…Zayden returns to normal,” Ken said.

 

King waved his hand dismissively. “I didn’t come here to fight you, I came here rub the situation in your face.”

 

Ken narrowed his eyes and armed his buckler, which snapped around his waist. He shifted into his transformation pose. “Transform!” He flipped his buckler, which spoke the command: “TURN UP”

 

The buckler emitted a field of blue energy Ken charged through to transform into the armor of Kamen Rider Blade.

 

The Rider lunged with a punch. But a shield flashed in front of King and blocked the blow with a force that threw Blade backward. The Rider crashed against the ground and tumbled into a crouched stance. “That shield…”

 

King stalked towards the Rider with an arrogant grin. “It’s no use…you can’t seal me.”

 

Kamen Rider Blade unsheathed his sword and charged. He swung towards King’s head. But a shield appeared to block the blow and then vanished. He swung upward, but the shield flashed to block the blow, and he swung wide — but the shield blocked the blow again.

 

“Oh, stop,” King said as he crossed his arms over his chest. Blade kept swinging blows the shield blocked. “Are you really lumping me in with other Undead?”

 

Kamen Rider Blade stepped back and attached the Rouze Absorber to his left gauntlet.

 

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

 

The Absorber pulsed with golden energy that washed across Blade and shifted his armor into Jack Form.

 

blade-vi-caucasusKing dropped his human guise and assumed his true form: The Caucasus Undead. The gold-and-black Undead carried a broad saber and spiked shield.

 

Blade pounced and slashed, but the Undead’s shield blocked the blow with a burst of spark. The Rider twisted his grip and swung at a different angle. But the Undead easily lifted his shield and blocked the blow with a burst of spark.

 

The Undead lowered his shield and swung a wide slash that smashed against Blade’s armor with bursts of spark and knocked him several steps backward. 

 

Blade recovered and dashed forward. He chopped his blade. But the Undead blocked the blow and slashed Blade upward with a massive burst of spark that nearly knocked him off his feet.

 

Kamen Rider Blade stumbled backward and lifted his sword in a defensive stance.

 

The Undead casually stalked towards his foe. “If you save Joker, you’ll just make things worse for humanity.”

 

“Don’t try to screw with me!” Blade shouted.

 

“You know you might be wrong,” the Undead said. “That’s why you’re weak.”

 

“I’m not wrong!”

 

Blade flipped open his sword fan, pulled out two cards, and slid them one by one through his hilt’s rouzer slit. “SLASH; THUNDER”

 

Two cards of energy projected from his sword and splashed across his armor.

 

His wings snapped open, and he shot towards the Undead as his sword crackled with power.

 

Caucus spun his blade and swung upward, slashing the Rider from the air with a massive burst of spark. The blow hurled him through the air, and he crashed through the nearby trees.

 

King reverted to his human guise, smiled, and walked away.

 

***

 

Megan and Bobby watched Blade’s signal vanish on their Undead monitor.

 

“Ken…” Megan whispered.

 

“That’s never good,” Bobby said. “We want the Undead’s signal to vanish, not the other way around.”

 

“We have to go check on him,” Megan said as she grabbed her keys.

 

***

 

Ken’s vision blurred slowly back into focus. He grasped his injured ribs and rose slowly to sit up. I’ve never been hit that hard before…Why can’t I beat him?

 

Then Ken remembered the Undead’s words: “You know you might be wrong. That’s why you’re weak.”

 

Ken shook his head. Is he right…? Is trying to save Zayden wrong? He couldn’t be wrong. If I don’t get him his cards back…he returns to his Joker form. I can’t let that happen.

 

The rider climbed slowly to his feet. But explosions suddenly sparked around him and knocked him back. Ken looked up to see Trial D leap onto the scene.

 

“You again?” Ken shouted as he scrambled to his feet. He couldn’t help but feel fear. He still felt weak and injured from his battle with King. He didn’t know if he could take on this creature too.

 

The Trial stalked towards the Rider. “Kenneth Grayson…your existence is forbidden…”

 

The Trial extended its hand and thwipped a tendril from its palm. The tendril wrapped around Ken and pinned his arms at his side. The tendril tightened, but Ken managed to slide his Ace of Spades into his buckler.

 

“Transform!” He flipped the buckler, which spoke the command: “TURN UP”

 

The buckler emitted a field of energy that snapped the tendril free. Ken dashed through the field, transforming into his armor, and charged at Trial D.

 

The Rider lunged with a punch. But the Trial blocked the punch and slammed a duo of uppercut blows against the Rider’s side. The creature swung a hook punch the Rider ducked beneath, but then swung an uppercut that bashed against Blade and knocked him back a step.

 

Blade felt his injured ribs burn with pain.

 

Trial D swung a hook punch, and Kamen Rider Blade dove and somersaulted beneath the blow. He rose to his feet just as Trial D charged and bashed a flurry of punches against the Rider’s side and chest, each blow forcing the Rider backward.

 

The monster swung a punch towards Blade’s head. But Blade caught the blow, fell back, and used the momentum to toss the monster to the ground.

 

Blade knew he couldn’t continue the fight. His chest burned with pain, and his limbs ached with fatigue. He ran into the woods to fall back and retreat.

 

Trial D climbed to its feet to follow.

 

Kamen Rider Blade made it to his bike and hopped on. He looked ahead and saw Trial D stalk towards him.

 

“Okay, fine…” Blade said as he opened the card fan on his sword’s hilt. He pulled out a card and swiped it through his motorcycle’s rouzer slit: “THUNDER”

 

A card of energy projected and splashed against the motorcycle.

 

Blade throttled forward, and his bike surged with lightning and crashed against Trial D with massive bursts of spark. The impact hurled the monster off its feet.

 

Secondary explosions sparked across the fallen monster’s body. But the Trial managed to sit up, and then stand.

 

The creature thrust its hand and fired a burst of lightning that exploded against Blade’s bike and knocked him from the vehicle. The Rider crashed against the ground, and the impact knocked him from his armor with a burst of blue light.

 

The Trial stalked towards his fallen opponent. “Kenneth Grayson…you cannot be allowed to exist.”

 

Ken climbed to his feet and started to run, staggering on his weakened legs. He moved towards the nearest road and saw Megan drive towards him with Bobby in her passenger seat.

 

They pulled to a stop near Ken and stepped out of the SUV. But Ken hurried towards them and told them to get back inside. “You’ve got to get out of here…”

 

“You’re hurt,” Megan said.

 

“I noticed,” Ken said.

 

“Come on,” Bobby said as he opened the rear door and helped Ken inside. “You’re coming too…unless you feel like limping from danger.”

 

The three of them piled into the vehicle, and Megan sped off.

 

***

 

Ken looked back and forth anxiously while riding in the rear of the SUV. Bobby noticed and arced an eyebrow. “When you’re worried, it makes me worried. So why are you worried?”

 

“He’s still following me,” Ken said. “I know it.”

 

Megan checked the portable Undead Tracker on her smart phone. “I’m not picking up any signal.”

 

Suddenly, a crash sounded on the roof of the SUV. Trial D had landed on top of the vehicle. The creature crawled forward and leaned in front of the windshield.

 

Megan screamed and swerved, nearly hitting another car. She swerved the other way and crashed off the side of the road.

 

Ken dove from the SUV and somersaulted across the ground. He knew the creature wanted him. So he had to get the monster away from the others.

 

He ran, and Trial D hopped off the SUV to follow.

 

***

 

Ken scrambled up a hill, and to his surprise, he saw Benjamin walk towards him.

 

“Perfect timing,” Ken said. “It’s the Undead that can’t be sealed…”

 

“His name is Trial D,” Benjamin said, his voice cold and distance. “He was made to hunt you.”

 

Ken knitted his brow. “Trial D…how do you know that?”

 

Trial D stalked up the hill towards the two riders. “Kenneth Grayson…”

 

Benjamin stood between the monster and Ken.

 

“Wait,” Benjamin said. To Ken’s surprise, the monster obeyed and stopped its advance. “I get to talk to him first, remember?”

 

The monster’s body transformed into gel that spilled into a puddle. The creature’s buckler fell on top of the puddle and dissolved, teleporting away.

 

Ken wrinkled his brow with confusion. “What’s going on, Benjamin?”

 

“Come with me,” Benjamin said as he started walking off.

 

“No,” Ken said as he hurried over to stand in Benjamin’s way. “Zayden’s in pain. We have to seal the Category King and get the cards back.”

 

“You can’t seal anyone,” Benjamin said. “If you transform, he’ll come after you. And if you run, he’ll follow, and more people will get hurt along the way.”

 

Ken thought of Megan’s car crash. Benjamin was right. Ken knew he caused the crash, although not directly. “Why is that thing after me?”

 

“Come with me, and I’ll explain everything,” Benjamin said as he took Ken by the arm.

 

Ken grabbed Benjamin’s arm and knocked his legs out from beneath him, so he crashed against the ground. “I’m sorry Benjamin…but I can’t.”

 

Ken turned and started to run.

 

“Ken, wait!” Benjamin called after him.

 

Ken ignored him and kept running.

 

***

 

Benjamin returned to Sarc’s lab. Sarc didn’t take his eyes off the Trial D chamber as he spoke. “It seems your talk with Ken was less than successful.”

 

“Let me try again,” Benjamin said. “Please don’t send the Trial...”

 

“You know your friend is dangerous,” Sarc said. “We can’t wait any longer.”

 

***

 

Megan and Bobby rushed home to find Ken in the office, sitting in front the Undead tracker.

 

“Ken…” Megan said with relief. “You made it back.”

 

“The SUV’s fine. We’re fine. Everything’s fine, thanks for asking,” Bobby said.

 

“Why didn’t you come back for us?” Megan asked. “We couldn’t get the car to start, then when we did, we had to go back to pick up your cycle…”

 

Megan glanced down and noticed the bag at the foot of Ken’s chair. “What are you doing?”

 

“I made a copy of the Undead scanner,” Ken said as he slid a laptop from the desk and stuffed it into his bag. “I think I should start tracking them on my own now.”

 

“What are you saying?” Megan asked.

 

“Why?” Bobby asked. “I’ll stop being a smart ass, I swear. Okay, that’s not true, but you can’t be leaving?”

 

Ken stood and lifted his bag over his shoulder as he started out the door. “I realized something today…you two can’t be involved with this anymore.”

 

***

 

Nicolas’s girlfriend Nikki sat at the Jacaranda Café. She waited with her head rested against her hand, as she did every day, hoping to run into Nicolas. He used to visit the cafe, although he hadn’t in weeks.

 

The door to the café opened, and Nikki’s eyes lightened. She saw Nicolas walk though.

 

“Nicolas,” she practically shouted as she ran to him with an embrace. “I know you’d come here eventually…I’ve been so worried about you.”

 

Cassie smiled from behind the counter. “She’s been waiting for you for some time,” she said. “You won’t find many girls willing to do that…”

 

“Why?” Nicolas asked, his voice cold. “Why wait?”

 

Nikki pulled back, narrowed her eyes, and slapped Nicolas.

 

Nicolas glared at her and pulled back his hand. “You-”

 

Zayden stepped up as if from nowhere and grabbed Nicolas by the arm.

 

“Don’t,” he said. His voice as calm as ever, yet hinted with a slight stern tone. He still looked weak and sick, dripping with sweat. “You came for me, right? Then come…”

 

Zayden turned and walked from the café, and Nicolas followed.

 

***

 

Nicolas swung a flurry of punches at Zayden within the woods. Zayden, as tired as he was, managed to dodge. Nicolas flailed his punches wildly, without form or precision.

 

“Stand still…” he grumbled to Zayden.

 

Nicolas grabbed Zayden by the shoulder and punched him across the face. The teen bashed an uppercut against Zayden’s gut, then punched him in the face, knocking him to the ground.

 

The teen looked down upon the fallen rider. “I have no interest in fighting your human form,” he said. “Show me the Joker.”

 

Zayden stumbled to his feet and leaned against a tree to keep from falling.

 

Nicolas smiled at his weakened opponent. “I wonder what the sealed Joker card looks like?

 

Zayden breathed deeply. “Don’t call me a card.”

 

“Mad?” Nicolas asked mockingly. “If you’re mad…then do something about it…”

 

***

 

Nikki walked through the woods to try finding Nicolas. She felt so angry with him. And at the same time, she wanted to help him. She knew he wasn’t acting like himself.

 

She heard the snap of pictures being taken with a smart phone, and she looked up to see King sitting in a branch. “You shouldn’t be walking alone in the woods…”

 

“You…” Nikki said. She had met King before, briefly.

 

King hopped down next to her. “You’re looking for Nicolas, right?”

 

“Why?” Nikki asked. “Do you know him?”

 

***

 

Nicolas armed his buckler, which wrapped around his waist.

 

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

 

Zayden leaned forward in a loose defensive posture, his hands at his sides. “You won’t make me turn,” he said.

 

“I’m the strongest Rider,” Leangle said. “I can make you do anything.”

 

Leangle stalked towards Zayden and smashed a back-fist blow across his head. The blow hurled Zayden off his feet, and he crashed against a tree before slamming to the ground.

 

JokerThe rider climbed slowly into a crouched position and felt his chest burn.

 

He could no longer contain the power of his own, true being. His body rippled as he transformed into Joker, green-skinned beneath black, bug-like armor, with a gaping maw of razor-sharp teeth.  Long black antenna extended from the back of his head.

 

Joker collapsed to all fours.

 

He thought of Cassie and Ava.

 

He remembered the love Cassie’s husband showed moments before death.

 

He thought of Ken, saying he believed in his friend.

 

His heart pounded in his chest as he reverted back to his human form.

 

“I will not…” he said with a raspy voice as he rose to his feet.

 

He glared at Leangle. “I will not return to being the Joker.”

 

Zayden stood tall and breathed deeply to try to calm his body.

 

He summoned his heart-shaped rouze buckler, which rippled onto his waist. He pulled the Jack of Hearts from his pocket and lined the card up with the slit in his buckler.

 

“Transform.” He slid the card through his buckler, which spoke the command: “FUSION”

 

wolf undeadHis body rippled and transformed into the form of the Undead sealed within the card: The Wolf Undead.

 

Leangle took a step back. “Why…Why do you have that form?”

 

Wolf Undead pounced and tackled Leangle to the ground. They tumbled across the dirt and each rolled to their feet.

 

Leangle lunged with a trio of punches Wolf Undead blocked. The Undead ducked beneath a punch, hopped over a low kick, and somersaulted through the air to avoid a hook punch.

 

Wolf Undead landed and swatted another pair of punches aside. “What’s really strong…” he growled. He twisted behind Leangle and grasped him in a headlock. “What’s really strong…

 

Leangle twisted free, but Wolf Undead pounced and slashed the evil Rider with bursts of spark. “…is human emotion!”

 

He slashed with a powerful strike that sparked and hurled Leangle though the air. Leangle crashed through a tree that splintered to pieces, and the impact knocked him from his armor with a wave of purple light.

 

Wolf Undead started to stalk towards his opponent. But he stopped in his tracks when his body started to convulse.

 

Nicolas knitted his brow quizzically as he stood. “What’s wrong with you…

 

Suddenly, Nikki’s voice shouted from deeper in the woods. “Nicolas! Nicolas, help!”

 

The boy turned his attention away from the Joker and moved deeper into the woods.

 

Wolf Undead managed to pull out the Two of Hearts and swipe the card through his buckler: “SPIRIT”

 

He transformed back into his human guise and collapsed to all fours.

 

***

 

Nicolas walked to a dirt road that ran through the woods, and he spotted Nikki on the ground unconscious. The boy looked up to see King sitting on a tree branch.

 

“I knew you still cared about that girl…” King said. “But if you still have any remnants of that human heart of yours, you won’t be able to beat the Joker.”

 

“She…She means nothing to me!” Nicolas shouted.

 

King laughed. “Really? That’s amusing…you’re an entertaining one, Leangle.”

 

Nicolas glared at the villain. “Should I seal you next?”

 

“Hold on…” King said as he pulled Chalice’s cards from his jacket. He threw the cards at Nicolas. “Here…you can have these.”

 

Nicolas picked the cards from the ground and held them in his hands. “These are the cards Chalice sealed…”

 

“You won’t lose with those,” King said.

 

“Why give me these?”

 

King laughed. “I just want to throw things off balance.”

 

***

 

Nikki’s vision blurred slowly back onto focus. She pushed herself to her feet and found herself alone. “Nicolas…” she called. She could have sworn she heard him earlier. “Nicolas, where are you?”

 

***

 

Ken walked through the city streets with his bag held over his shoulder. He hated leaving Megan and Bobby. But he couldn’t put them in harm’s way while Trial D targeted him. 

 

He turned a corner and walked towards an intersection. He hesitated when he saw all the people crossing the street. They all need to stay away…he thought he as he walked in the opposite direction. Being around me is dangerous…

 

***

 

Megan stepped out of Bobby’s house that night. She planned to go into the city and search for Ken, while Bobby stayed behind to fix Blade’s motorcycle.

 

She heard tires screech across the dirt driveway as Benjamin throttled to the house and skid to a halt. The rider quickly dismounted.

 

“Where’s Ken?” he asked.

 

“He left,” Megan said. “What’s happening, Benjamin? What was that Undead?”

 

He ignored the question. “He left?”

 

The rider walked back towards his bike.

 

“Wait, Benjamin,” Megan called after him.

 

“Just stay away from Ken,” Benjamin said as he mounted his bike. “Something’s after him. If you get to close…you’ll be in danger too.”

 

“That’s why he left…” Megan whispered.

 

“It’s OK,” Benjamin said. “I can help him. You and Bobby just stay here.”

 

“If he’s in danger, he needs all his friends with him right now,” Megan said.

 

Megan walked to a scooter Bobby kept at the side of the house. She hopped on and sped away.

 

***

 

Morning came. Ken awoke slowly on a stairwell that led to a subway station, where he dozed off the night before. He rubbed his sore neck and started to stand — and he stopped halfway up when he noticed Megan standing in front of him.

 

“Isn’t this place a little uncomfortable for sleeping?” she asked.

 

“Why are you here?” Ken asked. “I mean…How did you find me?”

 

“Maybe it was intuition,” she said.

 

“Please leave,” Ken said.

 

Don’t be an idiot,” she said. “You left so we wouldn’t get hurt, right? Do you really think we deserved that?”

 

Ken sighed. “Your car crashed. It could have been worse. And if you stay near me…you could get hurt again. I want to protect people. Not cause them pain.”

 

He shook his head. “I want King,” he said with doubt. “But if Benjamin’s right…I’m putting people in danger by chasing after him. Besides…King’s so strong. I don’t know if I can beat him. I don’t know if I can-”

 

Megan slapped him.

 

“Ken, what is your job?” she asked in a stern, professional voice.

 

“I’m a Kamen Rider,” he said softly.

 

“And the goal of a Kamen Rider?”

 

“Seal the Undead,” he said.

 

She placed a hand on his arm affectionately. “When I had my doubts and fears about my father and ran away…you were there for me. You told me to join you. To help you save everyone. Ken…you’re not fighting alone. You fight for those of us who can’t.”

 

“I…”

 

“We’ll always be there to support you,” she said. “No matter how painful the fighting. That’s why…others might deny it, but we can say it. You’re a Kamen Rider. Blade.”

 

Ken looked at her with a newfound respect and nodded. She smiled and nodded back.

 

“You’re doing what you can,” she said. “If you ever have doubts. Just come to us.”

 

Megan’s cellphone rang. She sighed at the inconvenience but answered. “Hello…? Yes it’s me…Really? That’s great! Thanks!”

 

She shut off her phone and turned to Ken with a smile.

 

“I know where King is,” she said.

 

“How?” Ken asked.

 

“I had a plan…” she said. “And it worked.”

 

***

 

King sat at an outdoor café and sipped Starbucks, another mortal pleasure he learned to enjoy. He noticed a couple at the table next to him snapping pictures of him with their smart phone.

 

Annoyed, he left. But as he walked, he noticed others stop and gawk while snapping pictures of him with their phones. He knitted his brow with confusion. Sure, he could just kill them all, snap their necks and crush their phones, but that wouldn’t explain what they were doing.

 

The villain turned to face the crowd. “What are you doing?”

 

“I saw him first,” one of the girls said to a man.

 

“No, I already called it in,” a girl said as she walked towards King. “You’re famous. This went viral last night.”

 

She held up her phone and showed a short video. The video showed Megan holding a picture of King. “This man saved my life…and I need your help to find him. The first person who finds him, and contacts me, will win $3,000. Please. We all live in dark times. Help me find my hero.”

 

“My hero!” a voice shouted from the crowd.

 

Megan passed the onlookers and moved towards King, and Ken followed.

 

King sighed and shook his head. “You are stubborn. You really want to save Joker that badly?”

 

Ken armed his buckler, which wrapped around his waist.

 

King knitted his brow. “Seriously…? Everyone’s watching.”

 

“I don’t care,” Ken said. “I’m a Kamen Rider. Transform!”

 

He flipped his buckler. “TURN UP”

 

The buckler emitted a field of blue energy. Ken walked through the field and transformed into his armor.

 

King’s body rippled as he assumed his true form.

 

Citizens screamed and ran with panic as the Rider and Undead faced each other. Blade waited until they made it clear before unsheathing his sword. The Rider stepped into a fighting stance. And King anxiously twirled his massive sword.

 

Blade lunged and chopped, but King sidestepped and partied the blow. Blade swung horizontally, and King blocked, so the Rider swung again, but King blocked. The Rider slashed through horizontal and diagonal swings as his blade clashed against the Undead’s weapon with clanging sounds that echoed across the street.

 

The Undead shifted his blade and moved on the offensive. He swung his massive sword against Blade’s saber with a burst of spark. The blow forced Blade several steps backward, so King swung again. Each blow moved slow but with great strength, forcing the Rider back as sword sparked against sword.

 

Blade swung his saber towards the Undead. But King parried and slashed Blade with a burst of spark that hurled him off his feet. The Rider crashed against the ground and tumbled across the pavement.

 

Blade quickly rose into a crouched stance and opened the sword fan on his saber’s hilt.

 

But the Undead thrust his hand forward. The creature fired a burst of energy that knocked the cards from the holster, and knocked the sword from Blade’s hand. The cards flew through the air and landed in the Undead’s hands.

 

“Know this…” the Undead said. “You can’t seal me with the level of power you have.”

 

Blade rolled his hands into fists and pounced. The Undead chopped his sword against Blade’s collar bone with a massive burst of spark, driving the Rider to his knees.

 

The Undead twisted his grip and slashed Blade with a burst of spark that whipped him backward. Blade crashed against the ground and tumbled across the concrete.

 

The Rider slammed his fist against the ground with frustration, stood and charged. He swung a punch King blocked with his shield. 

 

King swung his sword towards Blade’s head. But Blade ducked, rose and swung a flurry of punches against King’s shield. Each blow shook the shield, but King stood his ground.

 

“You just borrow the power of the other Undead,” King said. “Without them, you’re helpless.”

 

Blade smashed punch after punch against the Undead’s shield. “Even if I don’t have my cards...I can seal you!”

 

King bashed his shield against Blade. Kamen Rider Blade stumbled backward but stayed on his feet and charged to attack. He swung a flurry of punches against the shield.

 

“I’m a Kamen Rider!” he shouted as he bashed his fists against the shield. “For all the people who can’t fight!” His punches started forcing the villain back several steps. “For all of them…I’ll fight!”

 

His punch slammed against the shield and knocked King back several steps. King chopped his sword. But Blade somersaulted beneath the blow, rose to his feet, and punched the Undead across the head.

 

King swung his sword. But Kamen Rider Blade outer blocked the villain’s arm and dropped while kicking the Undead in the gut. The blow knocked the villain back, and he dropped his sword.

 

Blade lifted the sword with both hands and slashed the Undead with massive bursts of spark, forcing the monster back with each swing and hack.

 

The Rider stabbed the weapon towards the Undead. The Undead lifted his shield. But the stab shattered the shield and smashed against King with a massive burst of spark that hurled him off his feet.

 

King crashed against the ground and tumbled across the pavement. The Undead rolled to a halt and climbed slowly to his feet.

 

Blade walked to his own sword and lifted the weapon. He held his sword in a reverse grip with his left hand, and held King’s sword back with his right hand.

 

The Rider charged and swung both blades through a series of fluid but powerful strikes that slashed the monster with bursts of spark and forced him back several steps.

 

Blade tossed King’s sword aside, leapt through the air, and chopped his sword though the Undead while landing. His blade cut the monster from top to bottom, tearing a gaping wound that ignited with sparks, knocking Blade’s cards free.

 

From behind a nearby pillar, Megan ran out onto the street. She picked up Blade’s cards, slid them in a deck, and ran towards the Rider. She handed the cards to Blade.

 

“Ken…here,” she said with a smile of pride.  

 

Blade took the cards, and then looked to King. “Where are Zayden’s cards?”

 

“Let’s just say I dumped them somewhere,” the Undead said.

 

“You bastard…” Blade held a blank card and stalked towards the injured Undead.

 

Smoke sizzled from the Undead’s wounds. King knew he lost the fight. He knew his fate.

 

“Be careful,” he said with his final taunt. “After I’m sealed…I might control you like the Ace controls Leangle.”

 

Blade thrust the card into King. The card flashed and absorbed the Undead into the card, which became the King of Spades, labeled with the world “Evolution”.

 

Blade lowered the card slowly. He looked and turned to Megan. “Megan…thank you.”

 

***

 

Dr. Sarc watched the battle from his lab, as Benjamin stood near the desk. Sarc knitted his brow with concern. “He has his thirteenth card…” He sat back in his chair and activated a control prompt on his keyboard. “That won’t do…”

 

***

 

Trial D walked onto an upper plaza near Blade and Megan. Blade immediately noticed the creature, which leapt down to ground level.

 

“Megan, get back!” Blade shouted.

 

Trial D thrust its hand forward and fired a pulse of energy that sparked against Blade, knocking him off his feet. He crashed against the ground and tumbled aside.

 

Blade rose into a crouched position and attached his Rouze Absorber to his left gauntlet. He slid the Ace of Spades into the absorber: “ABSORB QUEEN”

 

He looked to his new King of Spades. “Let’s see what you can do…”

 

Blade slid the King of Spades through his absorber. “EVOLUTION KING”

 

Golden energy thrashed from the absorber and danced across Blade’s armor like lightning, shooting pain through his body as he struggled against the power.

 

Blade clenched his jaw to keep from screaming.

 

New Bitmap ImageHis cards suddenly burst from his buckler and circled around him while glowing with golden light.

 

The cards shot towards him and splashed across his entire suit of armor from the legs up with bursts of light, transforming him into a powered-up mode of golden armor with blue trimming. With a final flash of golden light, Blade stood in his King Form. His golden blade flashed into his hand.

 

Trial D charged to attack.

 

Blade merely punched the monster. And the impact hurled the creature back several meters.

 

***

 

Sarc and Benjamin both witnessed the transformation.

 

Benjamin opened his eyes wide with amazement. “He’s fused with the Category King.”

 

“No,” Sarc said. “He’s fused with all 13 Undead. Which shouldn’t be possible…

 

***

 

From the woods in the far distance, Zayden sensed Ken’s transformation and opened his eyes wide with an emotion he rarely felt. Fear. “Ken…don’t…do not use that power…”

 

***

 

Blade slid four cards into a slot on his saber: “SPADE TEN; SPADE JACK; SPADE QUEEN; SPADE KING; SPADE ACE — ROYAL STRAIGHT FLUSH”

 

Five energy fields slid into place in front of Blade. Each field resembled a large card from his suit. The Rider’s sword glowed with golden energy, and he swung the weapon through a massive streak of golden energy. The energy blade extended, passing through the energy fields with a pulse of golden light, and slashed through the artificial Undead with massive bursts of light and flame.

 

The attack incinerated Trial D to ash.

 

To be continued…Chapter 25