Ultimate Hurricane: Chapter Thirty-two prologue

 

Angel Grove, two weeks ago

 

Samuel unsheathed his sword and held the blade vertically. He took a deep breath and reached for the power within his soul. He thrust the blade upward and swung through a circle, forming a ring.

 

“Garo.” Light flashed over his body as he transformed into the golden Soul Metal armor of Garo.

 

He immediately felt hot rage burn through his veins. The Hellfire Club used the spirits of extinct werewolves to power the Soul Metal. Samuel's empathic senses heightened the blood lust of those spirits.

 

The Dark Man watched Garo from the shadows. “Breathe deep...just as I taught you.”

 

“I'm trying...” Garo said.

 

“That's the problem,” the Dark Man said. “Stop trying. Just relax, and allow yourself to accept the feelings washing through you. They are just that; feelings. They have no power, unless you choose to give them power.”

 

Garo closed his eyes beneath his helmet and held his sword in a reverse grip. He allowed the rage and pain of the werewolf spirits to pass through him without resistance. He accepted their hatred, anger and rage. He accepted their every facet of emotion. And then he simply let go and allowed himself to feel.

 

“It's...” Garo said. “It's working...The armor's not overpowering me.”

 

“That's because there is nothing to overpower,” the Dark Man said. “You have allowed yourself to become one with the power and emotion, without resistance.”

 

Samuel powered down his armor with a flash of golden light. He looked to the Dark Man and smiled.

 

“I can't believe that finally worked,” he said.

 

“I can,” the Dark Man said with pride. “You've been working hard these past few weeks.”

 

“I still don't understand why you're helping me...” Samuel said. “I can sense you're hiding things...lots of things, actually.”

 

“We all hide things,” the Dark Man said. “I'm helping you because I believe you are important. I'm helping you because, like me, you grow weary of seeing a world live in pain, suffering and despair. I want to change that endless cycle, as do you.”

 

Samuel sensed the Dark Man's truth. “So did my mother. But she...” He shook his head. “I just can't trust her. Any plan that involves demons can't end well.”

 

“Agreed,” the Dark Man said. “That is why my Marauders fought against the Hellfire Club during the Sabbath. I don’t particularly…care for Azmodai.”

 

Samuel nodded. “So what now?”

 

“That is up to you, Samuel,” the Dark Man said. “I promised you help with no strings attached. You're free to stay here if you wish, or go back to your life.”

 

Samuel lowered his head. “I don't have much of a life to go back to...”

 

“You could carve a new life for yourself,” the Dark Man said. “A better one.”

 

“What about you?” Samuel asked. “How will you...” He shook his head. “I'm not even sure what I'm asking.”

 

“The conflict that peaked with the Sabbath never ended. Not truly,” the Dark Man said. “This city is still at war. I will continue to fight in that war.”

 

Samuel gazed into the shadows. “The Hellfire Club...they'll go after the rest of Azmodai’s Children, won't they?”

 

“They will,” the Dark Man said. “Two of them are your half-brothers, like Simon, Zen, and Brandon. The youngest is 12.”

 

Samuel shivered at the thought of demons corrupting a 12-year-old boy. And he feared for the safety of Brandon, taken willingly by Zen.

 

“That's what I need to do,” Samuel said. “I need to keep the Hellfire Club away from them…from my brothers…”

 

Chapter 32: Ultimate Hurricane

The Fourth Born

 

Shirogane lifted his blade into a defensive stance. Simon stood back-to-back with his former teammate. They looked out as swarms of demons surrounded them.

 

These demons possessed men and women to the point their bodies contorted. They moved in a spider-like fashion, with unnaturally bent joints and limbs.

 

“So…” Simon said. “You’ve really been hunting freaks like these since the Second Countdown?”

 

“Yes…” Shirogane said.

 

“And that never got old?”

 

Shirogane paused. “…it had its moments.”

 

The demons leapt to attack. They targeted Simon specifically; various demon factions knew Simon as the son of Azmodai and wanted him killed. Not all demons allied with Azmodai, the First Demon. Those who didn’t viewed Simon as a threat.

 

Shirogane channeled pale-blue energy through his blade. He slashed through a streak of blue power that tore through several demons.

 

Simon placed his right fist against his left palm. “Kiryoku!”

 

His Ki tinted with black energy and lashed out through blades of wind. The wind blades tore through a dozen demons before they moved close.

 

Their long-range attacks only worked for so long. The demons surged closer.

 

One demon snapped its jaws at Simon. Simon sidestepped, kicked the demon upside the head, and spun with a reverse sidekick that bashed another demon backward.

 

He charged his fist with black-tinted wind energy. “Whirling Knuckle!”

 

He smashed an energized punch against a demon, and the shockwave hurled several creatures through the air.

 

Shirogane spun his energized blade like a master swordsman. He slashed through streaks of blue energy that chopped through demons left and right, spraying black ichor across the pavement.

 

The former Silver Ranger kicked a demon upside the head. He stabbed his blade through its skull, and then pulled the sword loose with a wide swing that chopped the head off another demon.

 

The remaining demons scattered to regroup.

 

Simon slapped his right fist against his left palm. “Shadow hawk jutsu!”

 

A wave of hawk-shaped shadows fluttered from Simon. The hawks shot through the last of the demons and tore them apart limb from limb. Their bodies exploded into bursts of demonic smoke that dissipated into nothingness.

 

Simon lowered his hands, and Shirogane lowered his blade.

 

They should have known better.

 

The ground shook as hundreds of demon-possessed men, women, and children charged from the other end of the street. Most ran across the pavement. Others climbed across the sides of buildings or leapt over rooftops — an unstoppable wave of bodies.

 

Simon narrowed his eyes. “They took the whole neighborhood…didn’t they?”

 

“It appears so,” Shirogane said as he lifted his sword.

 

Simon swiped his hand across his morpher and activated his armor with a burst of twirling shadow. The Black Ranger unsheathed his sword.

 

The wave of demons charged closer.

 

Hurricane Black and Shirogane heard a clanging come from the rooftop behind them. They looked to see Eiji standing with his staff in hand.

 

Eiji leapt to the street and landed alongside his two comrades.

 

“Where’s Zadie?” Hurricane Black asked.

 

“We got separated,” Eiji said as he swung his staff into a defensive stance. “This whole neighborhood’s possessed.”

 

“We noticed,” Hurricane Black said. He aimed his blade at the wave of incoming demons. “Use as many barriers as you can down the center. Shirogane and I will take the sides. Go!”

 

Eiji cursed beneath his breath. “This is insane…”

 

He thrust his hand forward, index and middle fingers pointed at the demon wave. Hoi! Joso!

 

A ring of energy formed across half the street ahead of the demons. Eiji waited until the demons passed over the circle and thrust his hand upward. “Ketsu!

 

A massive cylinder of blue energy snapped upward and trapped dozens of demons. The strain nearly knocked Eiji to his feet, but he stood his ground.

 

He swung his hand down and pointed at the cylinder. “Metsu!

 

The cylinder collapsed with a burst of blue fire that splashed through the street and hurled bodies everywhere.

 

Hurricane Black leapt forward and ran against the side of a building. His body and sword ignited with black fire. He dashed past a group of demons while slashing his sword through a streak of black flame. The strike burst the demons into smoke.

 

The Black Ranger landed in the middle of a group of demons and spun, his blade igniting a ring of fire that vaporized the creatures.

 

Eiji created and collapsed another series of barriers with blasts of blue fire. He strained with each attack. A normal human would have fainted and died after the first massive barrier — no barrier mage could summon that kind of power. But Eiji tapped into something dark and hidden within his soul.

 

Shirogane dashed through the barrier blasts and ignited his blade with pale-blue light.

 

He plowed through demons while swinging his blade through streaks of blue energy. He hacked off limbs, severed heads and split bodies into two.

 

Their attack seemed to last for hours.

 

Finally, the demons dwindled to fewer than 12 in number.

 

Shirogane swung his sword and emitted a blade of blue energy that shot towards the demons. Hurricane Black swung his sword and emitted a wave of black fire. The attacks combined and washed over the demons, incinerating their bodies into nothingness.

 

Eiji collapsed to his knees and leaned on his staff to keep from falling. He breathed heavily as his heart pounded in his chest.

 

“Did we really just do that?” he asked.

 

“Yes…” Shirogane said.

 

“It wasn’t a serious question,” Eiji said.

 

“Then why ask?” Shirogane asked.

 

Eiji sighed and lowered his head. “I need to start keeping better company.”

 

Simon powered down his armor. “We’ve got to go back for Zadie and get out of here. No way INET didn’t notice this. How does a whole neighborhood get possessed?”

 

Zadie dropped to the street from a nearby rooftop. She looked torn and beaten. “This is what happens when your daddy pisses off the wrong people.”

 

“Stop calling him-” He shook his head. “Why do I even bother. What happened?”

 

“Big warlock. Big summoning spell,” Zadie said. “He probably worked for one of Azmodai’s enemies.”

 

“What happened to him?” Eiji asked.

 

Zadie lifted her bloodied dagger. “I stabbed him through the eye. He wouldn’t stop chanting, and chanting so annoys me.”

 

The group heard Silver Guardian sirens in the distance.

 

“Come on,” Simon said. “We’ve got to move…”

 

The ranger and three hunters escaped into the alleyways.

 

***

 

Simon, Eiji, Shirogane, and Zadie ran several blocks before moving to the rooftops. They fled from the neighborhood and regrouped with Ryan on top of an old retail building.

 

Ryan, formerly Gao Yellow and currently Kamen Rider Faiz, waited with his arms crossed over his chest. “What kept you?”

 

“One or two demons to deal with,” Simon said. “Did you find anything?”

 

Ryan nodded. “The Hellfire Club’s holed up in a mansion in Silver Hills, but Azmodai’s not there. He keeps moving…”

 

“Why?” Simon asked.

 

Ryan shrugged. “I don’t know. Sightseeing? I’m working on limited intel.”

 

Simon sighed. “We’re wasting time. All we’re doing is chasing false leads and getting attacked every step of the way.”

 

“That’s why having an actual plan might help,” Eiji said.

 

“You boys are going about this all wrong,” Zadie said.

 

“Then by all means, enlighten us,” Eiji said mockingly.

 

Suddenly, Simon staggered and nearly collapsed. He grasped his head as pain shot through his skull. “Not again…”

 

The teen fell to his knees and winced.

 

A vision blurred across his mind’s eye.

 

Unseen demons watched the Southern Cross Cathedral in Angel Grove South. They kept their distance. Powerful wards and runes kept them from moving too close. But they needed to enter. They needed the Fourth Born.

 

They watched priests, nuns and Catholic students walk to and from the building. They eyed each child with intense interest. Their master needed the Fourth Born…even if he had to drag the child away himself.

 

Simon collapsed to all fours and breathed heavily. “Dammit…”

 

“What the hell happened?” Eiji asked.

 

Simon looked to Zadie. “Another vision…”

 

“One of your brothers?” Zadie asked.

 

Simon nodded. “I think so…Demons were watching the Southern Cross Cathedral looking for someone…the Fourth Born. Azmodai wants him…badly enough to go in himself.”

 

“Sounds like a lead,” Zadie said.

 

Simon nodded. “Agreed. Let’s get going. I have no idea how much time we have.”

 

Eiji scoffed. “With our luck? No time at all.”

 

***

 

Fifteen-year-old Rin “R.J” Amantini returned home to the Southern Cross Cathedral, which served as a monastery and school. He wore his Catholic school uniform unbuttoned at the collar, and his brown hair looked disheveled. Dirt caked his face, and a slight trickle of blood dripped down his nose.

 

He hoped to stay unnoticed as he walked through the main cathedral. But Father Amantini spotted him from behind.

 

“R.J…” The man called. The priest looked Italian, with graying hair and wire-rimmed glasses. “Papa Paul’s called…they said you didn’t show up for work.”

 

“Right…” R.J. said without turning around. “There was a…monster attack.”

 

“I didn’t hear the siren,” Father Amantini said to his adopted son.

 

“It was those…smaller monsters,” R.J. said. “The…Loogers or whatever.”

 

Father Amantini sighed. “Turn around, R.J.”

 

R.J. turned to face the priest.

 

Father Amantini knitted his brow with disappointment. “You’ve been fighting again…”

 

“No, of course not…” R.J. said. “I fell and hit a door.”

 

“Your nose is bleeding.”

 

“It was a big door,” R.J. said as he wiped the blood from his nose.

 

“You just lost your job,” the priest said. “They told me they don’t need a delivery boy who doesn’t deliver.”

 

“So what’s the big deal?” R.J. asked. “It was a pizza place. It’s not like I was CEO of Starr Enterprises.”

 

“Don’t be a child…” Father Amantini said. “In a few years you’ll be old enough to leave the monastery…to go out on your own. Unless you feel like becoming a priest and taking over the cathedral?”

 

R.J. scoffed. “I don’t see that ever happening.”

 

Father Amantini smirked. “Me either…which is why some day, you’ll need to learn how to keep a job for more than three days.”

 

“It was six days,” R.J. said.

 

“Three,” the priest said. “The three days before you actually started don’t count.”

 

The inner chapel doors opened, and an older teen walked towards the priest. Eighteen-year-old Rick Amantini wore a neatly pressed Catholic uniform and glasses like his father.

 

“Well, I’m done packing,” Rick said. “All that’s left is to load up the car.” The teen noticed the disheveled look of his adopted brother. “Have you been fighting again?”

 

R.J. looked away and grumbled beneath his breath.

 

Nearby, two Catholic students snickered as they washed the windows with rags and a cleaning machine.

 

“I can’t believe those two are brothers,” one of them said. “Rick’s, like, the perfect kid. And R.J.’s a total screw up.”

 

“R.J.’s adopted,” the other kid said. “His real parents were probably sociopaths.”

 

R.J. narrowed his brow and glared at the kids. “I heard that!”

 

Their window washing machine sparked and sputtered smoke, nearly lighting the boys on fire.

 

“Well…” Father Amantini said. “We needed a new one of those anyway.”

 

The entrance opened, and a priest walked inside to see Father Amantini. “Father…someone’s here to see you.”

 

“Very well,” Father Amantini said. “Rick, help clean up your brother. This should only take a moment.”

 

***

 

Zero stood on a rooftop across the street from the cathedral. The teen held his blades casually over his shoulders.

 

He smirked as he watched Catholic kids walk to and from the building. The cathedral grounds served as a chapel, school, monestary, and dorm for homeless children. He found the campus an odd place for housing a child of Azmodai.

 

Mystic runes and wards kept him from getting too close to the chapel. His Soul Metal Armor possessed demonic energy in the form of werewolf spirits, and the chapel’s defenses repelled that energy.

 

He knew he could overpower the wards if he wanted. Demon Hunters possessed low-level abilities if any, most effective against minor demons and possessed humans. Zero could slash through them all.

 

But the teen didn’t want to force his hand. Not yet, at least. First he needed to ID the Fourth Born child of Azmodai and the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club. The cathedral’s protection spells made pinpointing the Fourth Born difficult.

 

Luckily, Azmodai’s demons surrounded the cathedral within a radius of several blocks. They’d find the Fourth Born. They just needed more time.  

 

***

 

R.J. sat on a table and winced as his older brother patched up his injuries. Rick finished wrapping a bandage around R.J.’s knuckles.

 

“Hang in there…” Rick said. “I’m almost done.”

 

R.J. sighed and looked to the boxes stacked in the corner. “So…you’re really moving?”

 

“Yep,” Rick said as he tightened a bandage. “I start at the True Cross Academy next week.”

 

“I still say that place sounds like a scam,” R.J. said. The True Cross Academy opened months ago as the city’s premier, prestigious college of religion.

 

“Well…you don’t have to go there, then,” Rick said.

 

“Wasn’t planning on it,” R.J. said. He watched his brother wrap the last bandage. “I guess this is the last time you’ll be patching me up, isn’t it?”

 

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that,” Rick said. “Once I’m a doctor, I can fix you up all the time. For a fee of course.”

 

“Spoken like a true child of god,” R.J. said.

 

Rick smiled. “You sure you’re going to be okay when I’m gone?”

 

“What, you’re going to lecture me too?” R.J. asked defensively.

 

“It’s not a lecture,” Rick said. “I’m just worried. You’re getting into fights almost every day. You can’t keep a part time job…”

 

R.J. sighed. “Look, that stuff stresses me out too, okay? I know I need to get my act together. But today…”

 

He told his brother what happened…

 

A bleach-blonde teen named Rex stood on the outskirts of a run-down park near the Southern Cross Cathedral. He armed an old crossbow as three of his friends smiled with anticipation.  

 

The bully looked towards a group of pigeons scattered in the park. “Stupid birds…all they do is eat and shit everywhere…”

 

He aimed and fired. His arrow missed, but startled several pigeons that flew away.

 

Rex snickered and armed another arrow.

 

Nearby, R.J. rolled to a stop on his skateboard. He narrowed his eyes at the sight of the thugs.

 

“Hey!” he shouted. “What are you idiots doing?”

 

Rex rolled his eyes and shot an arrow at R.J. The teen barely flinched as the arrow struck a tree beside him.

 

The bully laughed. “Why don’t you get your ass out of my face. I’m doing the city a favor.”

 

Rex aimed his crossbow at the remaining pigeons.

 

R.J. rolled his hands into fists and charged at the bullies. Rex barely had time to react — R.J. punched the bully in the face, knocking him to the ground.

 

The other three bullies jumped at R.J. But the teen kneed one in the gut, bashed an elbow against the back of a bully’s neck, and hook punched a third bully across the face.

 

Rick finished listening to the story. “Maybe you’re being…tested, in a way.”

 

“By who?”

 

“God,” Rick said.

 

“You know, you’re starting to sound like the old man,” R.J. said.

 

“I’m okay with that,” Rick said as he finished the last bandage.

 

Two priests entered the room.

 

“There you are,” one of them said with a smile. He held up a flier. “We just heard the Southern Cross Shopping Center is hiring part-timers. Guess who got you an interview?”

 

R.J. narrowed his eyes. “Wait, so you just called without telling me?”

 

“Just go,” the priest said. “I’ll let you borrow my suit.”

 

“I need a suit for a part-time job interview?” R.J. asked.

 

“Don’t fight it, R.J.,” Rick teased. “Just go with it.”

 

***

 

Simon, Ryan, Shirogane, Eiji and Zadie arrived in the Southern Cross neighborhood. Simon narrowed his eyes and glared at just about every person they passed.

 

“We have a problem…” he said.

 

“Don’t trouble yourself with specifics,” Eiji said.

 

“I’m serious,” Simon said. “A lot of these people are possessed and don’t even know it. Others have their minds…clouded. By some type of telepathic power one of Azmodai’s children might use.”

 

“Like you?” Ryan asked.

 

Simon nodded. “Yeah…They beat us here.”

 

“Why go through so much trouble?” Ryan asked.

 

“It’s the cathedral,” Zadie said. “A bunch of exorcists live there…They’re probably throwing off Azmodai’s lackeys. Most of his demons are pretty low grade.”

 

“Exorcists?” Ryan asked.

 

Eiji nodded. “They used to be bad-ass back in the day,” he said. “Now they’re mostly full of gimmicks.”

 

“Not these exorcists,” Shirogane said. “They’re true demon hunters. Can’t you feel the power of their wards?”

 

“I can…” Simon said. “They’re strong enough to keep typical demons out…but not the Hellfire Knights. So why haven’t they attacked?”

 

“Maybe they’re still not sure which kid is your baby brother,” Eiji said.

 

“Then we have to find him…” Simon said. “Let’s split up…and be on the lookout for trouble.”

 

***

 

Zen walked through the crowds of the Southern Cross neighborhood. He wore a red hoody pulled over his head and kept his gaze low. The teen reached out with his empathic senses and touched everyone he passed.

 

Ahead, he noticed R.J. walk from the Southern Cross Cathedral and head towards the neighboring restaurants and shops.

 

Zen sensed something familiar about R.J. Is that him…?

 

The teen blended in with the crowd and followed.

 

***

 

R.J. muttered and straightened his tie. He walked through the shoulder-packed crowds of the Southern Cross neighborhood and made his way towards the shopping center.

 

For a moment, he thought he saw someone following him. But he shrugged it off as paranoia and turned a corner.

 

He moved about halfway down the block when he felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.

 

R.J. glanced over his shoulder. He saw the same guy. The teen cursed beneath his breath. He had little patience for people.

 

He turned and stormed towards his stalker. “Look, you’re following me. You kind of suck at it, so just tell me what you want.”

 

Zen narrowed his eyes. “Is that the kind of respect they teach you at Catholic school?”

 

“You know where I go to school?” R.J. asked. “That’s not creepy at all.”

 

“I just came to talk to you,” Zen said. “We’ve been looking for you for some time now.”

 

“Who’s ‘we’?” R.J. asked.

 

“Your family,” Zen said.

 

R.J. knitted his brow and stepped back. “You are creepy. Get lost and leave me alone. Don’t ever come back here.”

 

The teen started to walk away, but Zen grabbed him by the wrist. “Wait…”

 

R.J. pulled his arm free and kicked Zen in the gut, knocking him back a step.

 

Zen narrowed his eyes and unsheathed his sword. “You shouldn’t have done that…I tried to do this the nice way.”

 

“Shit…” R.J. said as he started backing away. “You have a sword?! Who carries swords?”

 

“I don’t want to hurt you,” Zen said.

 

“Then step one? Put the sword away,” R.J. said.

 

“Step two?” a voice said from nearby. “Run.”

 

R.J. and Zen looked to see Ryan walk towards them. He moved casually, with his hands in his pockets.

 

R.J. sighed. “This is turning into such a crappy day…”

 

Zen shifted his sword towards Ryan. “Who are you?”

 

“A friend of your big brother,” Ryan said. “Now put the sword away and leave the kid alone.”

 

“I’m not a kid,” R.J. said.

 

“Under 20? Kid. Over 21? Old,” Ryan said. “That’s the way the world works, get used to it now.”

 

Zen glanced at the crowds, which moved about like normal. “Do you know why no one’s even bothering to glance this way? I’m clouding their minds…don’t make me do the same to you.”

 

Ryan pulled out his Faiz Caller. “Try me.”

 

Zen held his sword back and dashed forward. The teen slammed his shoulder against Ryan. But the rider turned with the blow and bashed his fist against the back of Zen’s neck, knocking him to the ground.

 

“Amateur…” Ryan said.

 

Zen rolled to his feet and snapped a roundkick. Ryan caught the teen’s leg and bashed an elbow against the side of the knee. The teen growled with pain and collapsed.

 

Nearby, R.J. shook his head and backed away.

 

“Screw this…” he said as he turned and ran.

 

“Wait!” Zen shouted as he pushed himself to his knees.

 

Ryan kicked Zen upside the head, whipping him backward. “You’re not very good at this…”

 

Slowly, Zen pushed himself into a crouched stance. He lifted his sword. “I didn’t want this…but you’re not giving me much choice.”

 

Zen stood, pointed his sword upward, and swung the blade through a circle that carved a ring of red energy.

 

“Zen.” He lowered his blade. The ring passed over him while activating his Soul Metal Armor. He became the Flame Sword Knight.

 

Ryan flipped open his Faiz Caller. He pressed the “5” key three times. “STANDING BY…”

 

“Awaken.” He snapped the caller into his buckler. Red and white energy flashed around his body as he transformed into the armor of Kamen Rider Faiz. His belt spoke: “COMPLETE.”

 

Zen charged through a blur of motion and tackled Faiz. They shot through a nearby store with a shockwave that tore the building apart, then smashed against the pavement on the opposite side of the building.

 

Kamen Rider Faiz stumbled to his feet. “Well that was surprise-”

 

Zen slashed upward with a burst of spark that whipped Faiz into the air. The Flame Sword Knight leapt upward, and while still in midair, slashed Faiz with a burst of spark that hurled him backward.

 

The Rider crashed onto a nearby building and tumbled across the roof.

 

Zen landed on the rooftop, held his sword forward, and charged.

 

Suddenly, bullets sparked against Zen and knocked him aside. The Rider’s armored robot hovered through the air and opened fire with rapid, high-yield rounds. The bullets sparked against Zen and kept him back.

 

The robo, Jet Slider, landed next to Faiz and transformed into a motorcycle. Faiz grabbed the handle and unsheathed his sword from the mecha.

 

Zen growled with annoyance and lunged at the Rider.

 

The Hellfire Knight chopped his sword. Faiz blocked the blow with a burst of spark and pushed against the blade, knocking Zen back a step.

 

Faiz slashed Zen with bursts of spark, taking the Knight off guard.

 

Zen recovered and swung wide. His sword sparked against Faiz and hurled him backward. The Rider crashed against the rooftop and tumbled aside.  

 

Faiz rolled into a crouched position and pulled his Exceed Barrel from his belt. He attached the barrel to his ankle: “EXCEED CHARGE.”

 

Red energy glowed from the barrel and spread across the red line of the Rider’s leg armor.

 

Faiz crouched, leapt forward, and somersaulted through the air while aiming a flying kick towards Zen. A cone of digital energy formed around the Rider’s leg and aimed at the Knight

 

The energized kick smashed against the Flame Sword Knight with a massive burst of electricity and fire that hurled him through the air.

 

Zen crashed against the street below and skid across the pavement, tearing up the road.

 

Kamen Rider Faiz leapt to the street before Zen could recover. He armed his Exceed Knuckle and attached the device to his sword hand: “EXCEED CHARGE”

 

A charge of energy bled from the knuckle and flowed across the Rider’s blade, which ebbed with crimson power.

 

The Hellfire Knight used his sword for balance and climbed to his feet.

 

Zen shot at the Rider with the speed and force of a cannonball.

 

Faiz spun and slashed through a streak of red energy that sparked against Zen and hurled him aside. Zen crashed through a nearby retail store, smashed through the other end of the shop, and crashed against the street behind the building.

 

Jet Slider hovered from the rooftop, landed next to Faiz, and changed into motorcycle mode.

 

Kamen Rider Faiz hopped onto the motorcycle and sped towards Zen.

 

Zen used his sword for balance and climbed into a crouched position. His armor sizzled with heat as it glowed with red light.

 

With the exception of Samuel, the Hellfire Knights could wear their armor for about 90 seconds only before it started burning their souls. 

 

Steam hissed from the Flame Sword Knight’s armor. He dropped his sword and stood, staggering backward. He grasped his head and howled with pain.

 

Faiz opened his throttle to full and aimed towards the Hellfire Knight.

 

Suddenly, arrows sparked against Faiz and knocked him from his bike. He crashed and skid across the pavement.

 

The Sky Bow Knight leapt from the rooftops and landed next to Zen. She fired an arrow at the Rider to keep him back, then draped Zen’s arm over her shoulder.

 

She leapt to the rooftops just as quickly as she appeared.

 

Faiz cursed beneath his breath and climbed to his feet. He opened up a commline with Simon. “Red…your family’s here.”

 

***

 

R.J. walked down the sidewalk towards the cathedral. He grumbled with annoyance and swatted a fly that buzzed near his ear.

 

He heard another fly buzz near his head, and he swatted it away. “Seriously?”

 

Then he noticed they weren’t flies. They sounded like insects, but they looked like tiny globs of shadow with wings, no bigger than marbles.

 

The teen knitted his brow. “What in the…”

 

The strange insects flew from a nearby alleyway. Curious, R.J. ducked into the alleyway and followed the bugs. He stopped in his tracks when he noticed the insects buzz around Rex and his three bully friends.

 

Rex wore a bandage over his left eye, where R.J. punched him. The bully smiled mockingly at R.J.

 

“Just who I was coming to see…” Rex said. His voice sounded mad, just on the edge of insanity. “I thought we could have a little heart-to-heart, R.J.”

 

“Not interested…” R.J. said as he started backing away. “I don’t have time for this.”

 

“Oh, come now,” Rex said. He and his friends seemed oblivious to the strange insects. They either didn’t notice or didn’t find them disturbing. “Listen, back at the park…I was just messing around, and my hand slipped. Surely you can understand?”

 

“We’re not having this conversation,” R.J. said as he started to walk away.

 

“Wait,” Rex called after him. “I just want you to keep quiet, that’s all. My dad’s getting me into Harvard. I can’t have some…misunderstanding…ruining that chance.”

 

R.J. arced an eyebrow. “You? In Harvard?”

 

“Is that so hard to believe?” Rex asked.

 

“Very,” R.J. said.

 

“Regardless…” Rex said as he pulled a wad of cash from his pocket. “In exchange for your silence…I have a little thank you.”

 

“I don’t want your money, Rex,” R.J. said.

 

“Why?” Rex asked. “You clearly need it. You and that brother of yours. He’s not worth the rags he wipes toilets with…”

 

R.J. narrowed his eyes and charged at the bully. He punched Rex to the ground. “Say whatever you want about me, but don’t dis my brother!”

 

Rex laughed and climbed to his feet. He looked up, and his eyes shifted color to solid black.

 

R.J. knitted his brow and took a step back. “What the…?”

 

The other three bullies grabbed R.J. by the arms. Their eyes looked solid black too.

 

Rex wiped blood from his lip. “That wasn’t very nice, R.J….”

 

Rex bashed an uppercut against R.J.’s gut. The other bullies slammed him to the ground chest-first. The teen struggled to break free, but the bullies pinned him down.

 

Rex lifted a metal rod and a book of matches. He lit a match and tossed it into a nearby garbage can, and the inside lit on fire. Rex stuck the rod into the flame.

 

“You’re a little punk…you know that?” Rex asked. “The world would be so much better off without your kind…”

 

The bully walked towards R.J. with the heated rod. “Now...where should we start? Perhaps your eye…?”

 

Rex laughed with insanity as he bent down and inched the metal closer to R.J.’s face.

 

R.J. struggled to break free. “Get off of me! Get back! I said…I said get back!”

 

His body burst with violet-colored Kiryoku that hurled the bullies off their feet. They slammed against the walls and crashed to the pavement.

 

R.J. breathed heavily and stood. He looked at his palms and opened his eyes wide with shock at the sight of his own manifested Ki.

 

Rex laughed madly and stood. “It is you…it is! The fourth-born son of Azmodai and the Black Queen…”

 

“The what?” R.J said as he took a step back.

 

The strange shadow bugs started to flutter with more intensity as the bully laughed. “You have no idea! Oh, Azmodai will reward me handsomely for-”

 

Footsteps sounded from the other end of the alley. R.J. and Rex looked to see Father Amantini walk towards them.

 

The priest moved with his arms folded behind his back. “Regna terrae, cantate Deo, psallite Domino…”

 

The bodies of Rex and the three bullies started to convulse. Rex glared and snarled at the priest. “Damn you…damn you, exorcist!”

 

“…qui fertis ascendit, super caelum caeli ad Orientem…”

 

The bullies collapsed to their knees and tilted their heads back as they screamed.

 

“Ecce dabit voci suae vocem virtutis, tribuite virtutem deo!”

  

Their jaws opened wide as columns of black smoke erupted from their mouths and poured into the skies. Their bodies convulsed as if vomiting the smoke, and when it passed through their systems, they collapsed.

 

R.J. breathed heavily as his heart pounded in his chest. “What the hell was that?!”

 

“Those…were demons,” Father Amantini said. He looked at the strange shadow insects that scattered from the alleyway. “As are these bugs…”

 

“Demons?” R.J. asked. “That’s insane.”

 

“It’s an insane world,” the priest said. “I’ll explain everything to you later, but right now, we have to get you back to the cathedral. More of these monsters will be after you now that you’ve awakened your powers.”

 

“My powers?!” R.J. asked frantically. “What are you talking about?”

 

“You heard the demon call you the son of Azmodai…” the priest said.

 

“Yeah…”

 

“Azmodai is the First Demon, son of the Dark One. He possessed your biological father in order to give birth to you. So in a sense…Azmodai is your father,” the priest said.

 

“You’re saying I’m the son of some demon?!” R.J. asked.

 

“Yes…” Father Amantini said. “Now come…as I said. More will be after you. We’ll be safe in the chapel.”

 

***

 

Father Amantini and R.J. left the alleyway.

 

Minutes passed before a column of black smoke snaked through the alleyway and circled around Rex. The smoke opened the teen’s mouth and poured inside his body. Rex convulsed, and his eyes — solid black — snapped open.

 

“Well…that was painful…” He stood and looked to the rooftops. A wicked grin crossed his face as he thought of R.J. “We know who you are now…this next part’s going to be fun.”

 

To be continued…Chapter 33