Ultimate Blade: Recap

 

The Road so Far

 

During the Second Countdown to Destruction, a demon called the Mogralord used an army of monsters called Undead to fight Earth’s champions. The heroes defeated the Undead and the Mogralord.

 

BOARD, a division of INET, cloned the Undead for study. The organization used its research to create the Human Undead, a failed attempt at making an immortal.

 

Meanwhile, the Dark Shaper hacked INET’s research to create an Undead called Joker, who could absorb and use the powers of other Undead. The Dark Shaper secretly exchanged information with INET founder Dr. William “Billy” Cranston. Cranston used the Joker as the basis for his Kamen Rider System. 

 

BOARD learned it needed to seal the Undead through combat to truly maximize their power. So INET let the Undead free, for the sole purpose of hunting them down and sealing them through combat.

 

To cover its tracks, INET arranged for the Dark Shaper’s robotic army to attack and wipe out BOARD headquarters.

 

The Dark Shaper lost control of Joker, who became Kamen Rider Chalice, and later Zayden after sealing the Human Undead.

 

The Dark Shaper and Cranston ended their arrangement after the assault on BOARD. But the Dark Shaper continued to stay in contact with Tennoji, head researcher of BOARD’s Undead project.

 

Eventually, Tennoji went rogue, disregarding the plans of INET as well as the Dark Shaper, and starting plans of his own.

 

Chapter 41: Kamen Rider Blade

Demon Shift: Fifth Ace

 

The Forsaken named Lanfear stood on a cliff and stared at the Glimmering Coast, rocks of stained glass from a dimensional disturbance caused by Kamen Rider Kiva.

 

She watched Kamen Rider Blade, Kamen Rider Garren, Kamen Rider Chalice and Kamen Rider Leangle battle the fused Undead called Titan below.

 

The woman wrapped herself in a dark hood that concealed her face with shadow.

 

A silver line formed behind her and spun like a plate of glass to form a portal. The Forsaken named Moridin stepped from the portal.

 

“Hello, sister,” he said.

 

“Brother,” she said with contempt. “Why are you here?”

 

“Your sisters tell me you and Rahvin believe you are close to breaking the Second Seal,” Moridin said. “I was just checking on your progress.”

 

“I do not report to you,” she said. “And Rahvin is a fool.”

 

“He would say the same of you,” Moridin said.

 

“I’ll ask again…” Lanfear said. “Why are you here?”

 

Moridin smiled with fake sincerity. “To let you know you’re not forgotten…”

 

He summoned another portal and stepped through.

 

When Lanfear looked back at the beach, the Riders had defeated Titan.

 

“Of course…” she whispered. “Forsaken, but never forgotten.”

 

***

 

His name was Dr. William “Billy” Cranston, but he was not the Billy of our world. Cranston, the Dark Shaper, came from Demon World Earth, an alternate reality where evil ruled. And the Dark Shaper served on the side of that evil.

 

The Dark Shaper stood on the bridge of the former Shinzon fortress. His three charges — Jaedus, Kaidaron and Caemlyn — stood beside him as he stared at the main viewscreen. The viewer showed readouts, diagrams and calculations only the Dark Shaper understood.

 

“Hmm,” the Dark Shaper said thoughtfully. “You’ve done… adequate work.”

 

“Adequate?” Jaedus asked. “We’ve done it…we’re ready.”

 

“Not quite yet,” the Dark Shaper said. He looked to his three agents. “Here’s what I need you to do. Kaidaron, you’re most familiar with the BOARD project I’ve monitored. Shut them down, and bring me their research.”

 

Kaidaron nodded obediently. But Jaedus glared at his master. “The Undead? Those monsters? What we’ve built here with VOLT surpasses anything-”

 

“I helped set BOARD into motion,” the Dark Shaper said. “It’s well past time I collect the results of that labor…”

 

***

 

Tennoji heard voices. One voice in particular: A woman’s voice. She whispered to him about the potential of the Undead. Creatures of the Mogralord, if only one survived, the Dark One would grant that Undead nearly omnipotent power. The power to reshape the world.

 

The villain craved immortality. That motivated his participation in INET’s BOARD project, and drove him to scheme with the Dark Shaper.

 

But he didn’t need the Dark Shaper or INET. Not anymore. He just needed the voice. She promised power greater than anything the Dark Shaper or INET could provide. And he loved her for it.

 

She called herself Lanfear. She called herself a Forsaken.

 

Tennoji walked into his secret lab, beneath the ruins of the old BOARD base. Several techs worked at various stations and computer terminals.

 

The villain smiled as he pulled an Undead card from his jacket pocket. “Gentlemen…it is time.”

 

The lab techs stopped working. Several backed away with fear.

 

“Sir…” one of them said. “That’s the Fifth Ace. If we unseal it now…”

 

“This is my ultimate creation,” Tennoji said.

 

blade-vi-kerberosThe villain slid the card into a nearby computer terminal. The terminal unsealed the Undead, who appeared with a flash of dark light. Tennoji called the Undead Kerberos.

 

The Undead lunged and slashed through BOARD techs. The creature’s claws tore through muscles and bones before the techs could run for safety.

 

Tennoji smiled as the techs screamed with pain and agony.

 

He took a seat at a desk as blood splattered on the floor and across the walls. 

 

“Kerberos will be the last Undead standing…” Tennoji whispered. “Then I will hear the voice of the Dark One…and he will grant me his power…”

 

***

 

Nicolas walked up to Ken’s room in Bobby’s attic. Ken pulled a card from his buckler and handed it to the boy.

 

“I thought I’d give this to you…” Ken said. “I think you can handle it now…now that you’re one of us.”

 

Nicolas took the card, the Jack of Clubs, labeled with the Elephant Undead Ken sealed.

 

“Thanks…” Nicolas said softly. He still felt awkward around the riders, despite their acceptance and forgiveness. “But…I might not get a chance to use it.”

 

Ken nodded. “Maybe. There is still an Undead left.”

 

“Right, but…” Nicolas started to say, but he trailed off.

 

“We’ll fight until he’s sealed,” Ken said. “Don’t worry…”

 

***

 

Ken led Nicolas downstairs past the living room, where Megan and Bobby sat around the coffee table.

 

Ken poked his head in. “Hey guys…Nicolas is on his way out.”

 

“Out?” Bobby asked. “I just made tea. I slaved over that tea for a whole 45 seconds…”

 

“Nikki’s waiting for me…” Nicolas said. “I’ll, uh…I’ll catch you later though.”

 

Nicolas started out the door, but Megan walked after him.

 

“Hey Nicolas…” she said. “Just…be careful, okay?”

 

Nicolas nodded. “I will.”

 

Nicolas left, and Megan joined Ken and Bobby in the living room. 

 

“What was that warning for?” Bobby asked.

 

“It doesn’t seem like the Undead are our only problem,” Megan said. “That last Undead was fused…meaning someone created him.”

 

“Do you think it was that Tennoji guy?” Bobby asked.

 

“I don’t know…” Megan said.

 

“Well…” Ken said. “I’m sure we’ll find out.”

 

***

 

Tennoji leaned back in his chair and stared at the blank Undead card that released Kerberos. Bodies and broken lab equipment cluttered his secret base. Lights flickered and sparked with power surges.

 

But the villain merely stared at the blank card and laughed.

 

“Thank you for your hard work, Kamen Riders…” he said. “Now, it’s time to say goodbye…”

 

***

 

Cassie handed Nikki a cup of coffee at the counter of the Jacaranda Café. “Here you go…”

 

“Thanks,” Nikki said.

 

The doors swung open as Nicolas rushed in, running late.

 

Cassie smiled teasingly. “There you are. You shouldn’t keep girls waiting like that.”

 

“I’m sorry…” Nicolas said. He smiled sheepishly as he took a seat next to Nikki. “Hey.”

 

“Hey,” Nikki said. “You’re late…”

 

“I’m sorry,” Nicolas said. “I got caught up with Ken.”

 

Young Ava walked up to them from behind. “Aww…you two are on a date? That’s so cute!”

 

The girl leaned against the counter and looked to Nicolas. “So what happened with that girl who was with you that time?”

 

Nicolas blushed with embarrassment. “That again. I, uh, think you should let it go.”

 

Ava smiled and shook her head. Mmmm. Nope. I don’t think I can.”

 

Nikki knitted her brow. “What is she talking about?”

 

Nicolas sighed. “It’s a long story…”

 

They heard footsteps come from behind. They looked to see Zayden walk up to the café from his room in the basement.

 

“Nicolas…” Zayden said, as stoic as ever.

 

“Zayden. I’m glad you’re here. Can we talk?” He looked to Nikki. “This will only take a minute.”

 

***

 

Nicolas and Zayden stepped outside. Zayden took a seat at a picnic table in front of the café, and Nicolas paced anxiously. 

 

Zayden looked to the rider. “If you’re going to speak, then speak.”

 

Nicolas sighed. “Is it possible to just leave the Undead that’s left alone? Instead of sealing him, I mean.”

 

Zayden leaned forward thoughtfully. “The Undead will fight until only one is left.”

 

“But there are Undead that don’t attack humans,” Nicolas said. “Like you. And Shima…Taiga too…Couldn’t they keep themselves from fighting?”

 

Zayden glanced down, doubt in his eyes.

 

Nicolas sat across from him. “I always wondered if I was cut out to be a Rider. Lately…after everything I went through…it’s like I understand how you, Shima, and the others feel. I know this sounds crazy, but I want to find a way for us to live with the Undead peacefully somehow.”

 

“Impossible,” Zayden said. “Undead can’t co-exist with humans.”

 

“Are you sure?” Nicolas asked. “What about you?”

 

Zayden said nothing. He stood and walked back towards the café.

 

“Nicolas…” Nikki called out as she walked outside. “We’re going to be late to the movie.”

 

“Oh…” Nicolas said. “Right.”

 

Zayden paused and looked over his shoulder at the rider. “Enjoy the now…”

 

Zayden went back inside and walked downstairs. He barely stepped into his room when he sensed an Undead presence unlike any he felt before.

 

***

 

Zayden walked through the wooded, rocky hills outside the city. He followed his senses to trace the strange Undead emanation.

 

The artificial teen walked up a path thick with fallen leaves, which led to an abandoned cabin. He stopped when he sensed the Undead close in from nearby.

 

Suddenly, explosions sparked around him. He transformed and dashed through the explosions while leaning forward in a fighting posture.

 

Chalice stopped when he noticed Kerberos ahead. “What are you?”

 

The Undead said nothing.

 

Chalice hopped forward and landed while punching the Undead in the chest.

 

The Undead knocked Chalice’s arm away, punched the Rider in the chest, and slashed him with a burst of spark. The attacks forced Chalice several steps backward. And Kerberos pressed forward.

 

The Undead punched and slashed the Rider, knocking him off his feet. Chalice crashed and rolled into a crouched position.

 

Kerberos thrust its palm and fired a stream of flame.

 

Chalice leapt over the flame and bashed a flying sidekick against the monster. The blow knocked Kerberos off its feet, and Chalice landed in a crouched stance.

 

The Kamen Rider rose to full height and pulled out his King of Hearts. He started to swipe the card through his belt.

 

But Kerberos emitted an unseen energy vortex and sucked the card into its body.

 

Chalice took a step back. “Impossible…”

 

The Undead lunged and punched Chalice’s chest, knocking him backward. The Rider crashed against his back.

 

Kerberos emitted a vortex that sucked more of Chalice’s cards into its body.

 

***

 

Ken grabbed his head and nearly collapsed onto Bobby’s living room floor. A vision flashed through his mind.

 

Kerberos forced Chalice onto a bridge that spanned over a creek. The Undead slashed Chalice viscously, claws sparking against armor.

 

 The monster grabbed Chalice in a chokehold and absorbed his remaining card — the Ace of Hearts. Chalice’s body reverted to its Joker form.

 

Ken slid from the couch and collapsed onto his knees. He grasped his head and winced.

 

“Ken!” Bobby shouted. “What’s wrong?”

 

“My head…” Ken said.

 

Megan moved to his side and looked to Bobby. “Get him some water.”

 

Bobby dashed to the kitchen.

 

Nearby, the Undead Scanner on Megan’s computer started to beep. She moved to the computer and pulled up the scanner image.

 

“A Category Unknown Undead and…Joker?” Megan said.

 

Bobby brought a glass of water into the room. “Joker? Didn’t he just resolve all those issues?”

 

The teen leaned down next to Ken. But Ken knocked the glass away, and it shattered against the wall.

 

***

 

Kerberos clawed Joker with bursts of spark that forced him several steps backward.

 

Joker staggered but stayed on his feet.

 

Kerberos charged to attack again.

 

But Joker leapt from the bridge and plummeted towards the creek far below. Kerberos leaned over the railing and fired a beam of energy from its palm. The blast exploded against Joker with bursts of spark, just as he splashed into the creek.

 

***

 

A black car pulled to a stop near the bridge. The rear window rolled down, and Tennoji looked towards Kerberos.

 

The villain smiled. “Sealing and absorbing other Undead…that is Kerberos’ power. Even the Joker has no choice but to flee…”

 

Kerberos leapt from the bridge and into the woods.

 

Tennoji looked to his driver. “Follow him…”

 

The villain leaned back and rolled up the window as the car drove off. He pulled a tablet from his pocket and activated the Undead Tracker app.  

 

The tracker showed another Undead nearby. The last Category King.

 

***

 

Nicolas road his motorcycle down a street nearby. Nikki sat behind him and kept her arms wrapped around his waist. She smiled and leaned her head against his back.

 

Nicolas sped around a corner and crossed a bridge. Through the corner of his eye, he noticed a man standing on the bridge. He recognized the man as the Giraffe Undead’s human form.

 

He pulled his bike to a stop.

 

Nikki knitted her brow. “What’s wrong?”

 

“Nikki…I need you to wait here,” Nicolas said.

 

Nikki stepped off the bike. “OK…I suppose this has something to do with being a Kamen Rider, doesn’t it?”

 

Nicolas nodded. “I’m sorry…”

 

“It’s okay…” she said. “Go. I understand…We can go on our date later.”

 

“Thanks,” Nicolas said.

 

He turned the motorcycle around and sped towards the Category King.

 

The Category King smirked and ran off as Nicolas gave chase.

 

***

 

Ken groaned and sat up against the couch. He breathed heavily and rubbed his forehead.

 

Bobby knelt down next to him and handed him a glass of water. “Here,” he said. “And let’s not make this one a wall decoration, okay?”

 

Megan sat at the computer nearby and monitored the Undead Tracker’s readings. “One of the signals just disappeared…I’m sure it was the Joker’s.”

 

“What does that even mean?” Bobby asked. “Zayden wouldn’t turn back into the Joker. Not after everything he went through.”

 

Ken shook his head.

 

“Take me there…” he said as he leaned on the couch and pushed himself to his feet. Shaken, he could barely stand.

 

“Ken,” Megan said as she moved to his side. “You should lay down…”

 

“No,” Ken said. “Something had to have happened to Zayden. Take me to him. Please…”

 

***

 

Benjamin learned of the battle between Kerberos and Joker when his portable Undead tracker started beeping. He hopped down the rocky hills towards the creek below and kept his eye out for the Joker, or the unknown Undead.

 

Ahead, the Joker stumbled across the shallow shore, kicking up water with each step.

 

Benjamin spotted the Undead and narrowed his eyes. “Zayden…Why’d you take on that form?”

 

The Joker collapsed to his knees. “He took all my cards,” he said with Zayden’s voice. “That Undead…”

 

“He stole your cards?” Benjamin asked.

 

Joker grunted with pain and anger. “I’ve once again lost my ability to suppress the Joker…” He growled with pain and nearly pounced to attack the rider. But he stopped himself. “I am…I am Zayden. Zayden…”

 

The Joker collapsed and lost consciousness.

 

***

 

Nicolas sped into an abandoned industrial district near the shore. He saw Giraffe Undead standing ahead in his human form. The rider pulled his bike to a stop and pulled off his helmet.

 

“You…” Nicolas said as he got off the bike. “I’ve been wanting to talk to you.”

 

“Talk?” the Undead asked.

 

“Talk,” Nicolas said. “I want to stop the fighting.”

 

The Category King laughed. “So you’ve come to ask for pity.”

 

Nicolas knitted his brow. “No, that’s not it at all.”

 

***

 

Megan led Ken and Bobby through the woods. She carried her portable Undead tracker on her tablet and followed the traces of the last signal.

 

“It’s this way…” she said.

 

Ken leaned against Bobby for support. The rider’s body felt weak and exhausted from the glimpse of Zayden’s battle. He witnessed an Undead fight, just as other Undead did with each other. What did that mean? Was he at risk of becoming a Joker?

 

“Guys,” a voice shouted from nearby. They looked to see Benjamin near an abandoned cabin. “He’s in here…”

 

They followed Benjamin into the cabin, where Joker lay unconscious.

 

“Zayden…” Ken said as he hurried to Joker’s side. “Zayden!”

 

Bobby kept his distance. “So…this is, uh…Joker. Not at all creepy looking or fear inducing.”

 

“What happened?” Ken asked.

 

“He said someone stole all his cards,” Benjamin said. “So he has no other forms but this one.”

 

“Was it the Category King?” Ken asked.

 

Megan shook her head. “It wasn’t. He was fighting against an Unknown Category.”

 

Bobby sighed. “But there shouldn’t be any more Undead. Category King’s the last one.”

 

Benjamin looked to Ken with concern. He noticed sweat drip down the teen’s forehead. “The Joker’s return…it’s affecting you. You’re becoming another Joker again…”

 

Ken knitted his brow. He didn’t deny it and feared the same. “Who the hell did this to Zayden?”

 

***

 

Nicolas walked closer to the Category King.

 

“I haven’t told anyone this…but lately I’ve been hearing the voices of the sealed Undead,” he said. “Nothing like before with the Category Ace. But I can hear them…They want us to stop the fighting. They say if you and Joker are the only ones left…nothing will happen.”

 

“And what would we do after the fighting stopped?” the Undead asked. “Would I go live in the forest with the insects?”

 

“You could co-exist with humans,” Nicolas said.

 

“No…” the Category King said. “No. I could never do that...”

 

Suddenly, Kerberos dropped to the ground near the rider and Category King. The monster thrust its palm and fired a beam of energy at the Category King.

 

Nicolas tackled the Category King aside as the blast passed them.

 

“I thought you were the last Undead?” Nicolas asked.

 

“I am…in a way,” the Category King said. “That’s a man-made Undead. Do you want to try persuading him too?”

 

Nicolas armed his buckler and stood. “Transform!” He flipped the buckler open. “OPEN UP”

 

The buckler emitted an energy field that slid over the boy and activated his armor.

 

Kamen Rider Leangle swung his staff into a fighting position and charged. The Rider swung his staff through a series of strikes the Undead dodged.

 

Leangle twirled his staff and speared the Undead with a burst of spark, which barely knocked it back a step.

 

Kerberos swung its claws upward and slashed Leangle with a burst of spark. Leangle staggered but stood his ground. He swung his staff. But the Undead dodged and clawed the Rider with a burst of spark.

 

Leangle swung both ends of his staff, and the Undead blocked both strikes. The creature punched Leangle with a burst of spark, and the blow knocked him back several steps. He staggered and nearly fell.

 

The Rider crouched and leapt through the air with a flying sidekick. The kick bashed against the Undead’s chest, but the Undead merely swatted Leangle from the air with a burst of spark.

 

Leangle crashed and tumbled aside.

 

Kerberos turned its attention to the Giraffe Undead.

 

The Category King tilted his head and took a step back. “Running is much easier…boy.”

 

The Category King turned and ran from the scene.

 

Leangle pushed himself to his feet, pounced, and slashed the back of Kerberos with a burst of spark. The Undead turned and clawed the Rider’s chest.

 

***

 

The portable Undead tracker on Megan’s tablet started beeping. “It’s Leangle…” she said. “He’s fighting that Unknown Undead from before.”

 

“Come on,” Ken said to Benjamin as they ran from the cabin.

 

Bobby called out to them as they left. “So we’re just leaving the Joker here then? Apparently?”

 

The teen sighed. He moved towards Joker and slowly covered him with a blanket. “Leeeet’s just get you covered up here.”

 

***

 

Leangle labored more and more with each swing. The Undead dodged each blow and clawed Leangle with bursts of spark, forcing him further and further back.

 

The Rider staggered but stayed on his feet. “I may not have a new form…but I have allies.”

 

He pulled out the Jack of Hearts and tossed it into the air. He swiped the Ten of Clubs through his staff: “REMOTE”

 

The staff fired a beam of energy that released the Elephant Undead from the card. Leangle’s remote card allowed him to control sealed Undead.

 

“Fight with me,” Leangle said.

 

Elephant Undead nodded. The Undead bashed its mace against Kerberos, forcing the monster backward as Leangle twirled his staff and slashed the monster. They surrounded the Undead and attacked with a flurry of blows that sparked on impact.

 

But Kerberos regained the upper hand. The Undead kicked Elephant Undead, clawed Leangle with a burst of spark, and slashed Elephant Undead with a burst of spark.

 

The creature clawed Elephant Undead relentless, and the monster collapsed to its knees.

 

Kerberos emitted a vortex that sealed and absorbed the Elephant Undead.

 

Leangle staggered backward. “What…?”

 

Kerberos lunged and grabbed Leangle in a chokehold. The monster lifted Leangle off his feet and absorbed all his cards.

 

The Rider’s armor powered down with a wave of purple light, and the monster tossed the boy aside.

 

Nearby, Ken and Benjamin sped onto an upper level of the industrial park. They hopped off their bikes, ran to the railing and looked down to see Kerberos stalk towards the fallen rider.

 

“Nicolas!” Benjamin shouted.

 

Ken narrowed his eyes at the sight of the monster. “That’s definitely not the Category King.”

 

“Then what is it?” Benjamin asked.

 

“I don’t know…”

 

“Let’s go…” Benjamin said as they ran down a stairwell that headed to ground level.

 

They didn’t notice a black car pull into the industrial park from behind them.

 

Tennoji stepped out of the car and walked to the railing. He looked down at the two riders as they ran down the stairwell.

 

“You two may as well stop…” the villain said.

 

Benjamin looked up to face the man. “Tennoji! Why are you-

 

“Everything is proceeding as I planned,” the man said. “The Trial series…and Titan…were both experiments to lead to the creation of Kerberos.”

 

“What?” Benjamin asked.

 

Ken shook his head. “You made that Undead?”

 

“Call him off,” Benjamin demanded.

 

Tennoji smirked. “Kerberos cannot be stopped by anyone.”

 

Below, Kerberos lifted Nicolas by the shirt and slammed him against a wall.

 

Ken and Benjamin ran down the stairwell to save their friend. “Transform!” They flipped their bucklers. “TURN UP”

 

Their bucklers emitted energy fields that slid over them and activated their armor.

 

Garren hopped over the railing and kicked Kerberos. Blade hopped over the railing and punched the Undead’s chest. But the monster slashed upward and clawed Blade with a burst of spark.

 

Kamen Rider Garren moved in to swing a punch. But Kerberos clawed the Rider with a burst of spark.

 

The monster swung both claws wide, and the weapons sparked against the Riders and hurled them backward. They crashed and tumbled across the pavement.

 

Garren climbed to his feet and pulled out two cards.

 

But Kerberos emitted a vortex and sucked the cards into its body.

 

Kerberos growled and charged at Garren. The monster swung its claws. But Garren dodged and punched the creature’s gut. The Undead swung upward and clawed Garren with a burst of spark that whipped him off his feet.

 

Garren crashed against the pavement as his armor powered down with a wave of blue light.

 

“Benjamin!” Blade shouted. He unsheathed his sword and glared at the Undead. “You were the one…you took Zayden’s cards!”

 

Blade charged and chopped his sword. But Kerberos dodged and clawed the Rider with a burst of spark.

 

Kamen Rider Blade swung through a series of strikes Kerberos dodged. The Undead clawed the Rider after each failed strike, forcing him back several steps.

 

Kerberos slashed upward with a powerful blow that whipped Blade off his feet. He crashed and tumbled across the pavement.

 

The Rider rolled into a crouched position and pulled out his Rouze Absorber.

 

“Ken, wait!” Benjamin shouted. “You’re being affected by the Joker. If you go into King Form…you might lose control.”

 

Kamen Rider Blade stood and attached the Absorber to his gauntlet. “I don’t have a choice.”

 

He slid the Queen of Spades into the Absorber. “ABSORB QUEEN.” He swiped the King of Spades. “EVOLUTION KING.”

 

His cards shot from his buckler, circled his body, and splashed against his armor to activate King Form.

 

Kamen Rider Blade slid five cards into his sword: “SPADE TEN; JACK; QUEEN; KING; ACE — ROYAL STRAIGHT FLUSH”

 

Five energy fields slid into place between Blade and Kerberos. But the Undead charged through the energy fields, shattering them to pieces.

 

The monster slashed upward and clawed Blade with a burst of spark that hurled him upward. The Rider crashed against the upper level of the industrial park.

 

Kerberos leapt into the air and landed near Blade.

 

Kamen Rider Blade stood and charged at his opponent. The Rider chopped his sword. But Kerberos blocked and clawed Blade with a burst of spark.

 

Blade stabbed his sword. But Kerberos spun to dodge the blow while swinging his claws; the weapons slashed Blade with bursts of spark.

 

Kamen Rider Blade staggered backward and collapsed to his knees.

 

Tennoji laughed from nearby. “You cannot stop Kerberos. He’s fused with the data from all the Undead he’s absorbed. His powers have surpassed even the Joker’s. Soon…the Joker will be sealed.”

 

“No…” Blade said as he pushed himself to his feet. “I won’t let that happen!”

 

Kamen Rider Blade charged at Kerberos with renewed energy. He swung his heavy sword through massive strikes and chops. Kerberos blocked most. But some strikes sparked against the monster, forcing him several steps backward.

 

The Rider slashed wide with a burst of spark, then stabbed the Undead’s chest with a burst of spark. The impact knocked the Undead backward.

 

Kerberos crashed and tumbled across the pavement.

 

The man-made Undead growled with rage and climbed to its feet.

 

Kamen Rider Blade slid five cards into his sword: “SPADE TEN; JACK; QUEEN; KING; ACE — ROYAL STRAIGHT FLUSH”

 

Five energy fields slid into place between Blade and Kerberos. The Rider’s sword glowed with golden power, 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 man-made Undead with massive bursts of light and flame.

 

Tennoji narrowed his eyes. “Such power…”

 

Ken powered down his armor and faced Tennoji.  

 

“Ken!” Benjamin shouted as he and Nicolas rushed towards their comrade. He stood at Ken’s side and glared at Tennoji. “Looks like we took care of your pet project…”

 

“So it would seem…” Tennoji said.

 

The villain pulled out a blank card and snapped it at the remains of Kerberos. The card stabbed into the Undead, absorbed it, and then shot back into Tennoji’s hand. The monster’s remains left behind the stolen cards, scattered about.

 

Nicolas’s eyes brightened. “The cards…”

 

He rushed over and started picking them up.

 

Tennoji slid the Fifth Ace into his jacket pocket and folded his arms around his back.

 

“It seems you’ve become stronger…” he said to the heroes. “But I must say...I’m disappointed. BOARD hired you to seal the Undead…How long do you plan to take?”

 

“We’ve been sealing Undead this whole time,” Benjamin said. “And we still are.”

 

“No…” Tennoji said. “No…I am afraid it is time for you to retire. Your Rider Systems…your cards…return them.”

 

Ken knitted his brow. “To you?”

 

Benjamin shook his head. “You created the Trial Series. Then Titan…and Kerberos. Everything you’ve done goes against everything I thought INET stood for.”

 

Ken nodded. “I don’t know what you were planning with Kerberos. But we put a stop to it. It’s over.”

 

A black sedan rolled onto the scene. Tennoji said nothing. He walked to the car, opened the back door, and stepped inside.

 

He closed the door as the sedan sped away.

 

***

 

The three riders joined Megan and Bobby in the cabin where they had left Zayden. They explained everything.

 

“So it was Tennoji?” Megan asked.

 

Benjamin nodded. “He was in control of Kerberos.”

 

“I wonder what he wanted…” Megan said.

 

Ken stood over Joker and sorted through the cards of the Heart Suit. He pulled the Two of Hearts from the deck.

 

“Zayden…” he said. “Let’s see if this works…”

 

He slid the Two of Hearts through Joker’s buckler: “SPIRIT”

 

Joker’s body rippled and shifted into Zayden’s human form. But he remained unconscious.

 

Megan smiled. “You did it.”

 

Bobby breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh thank god, I couldn’t look at that thing for another second.”

 

“Zayden…” Ken said. He reached down and shook the teen gently by the shoulder. “Zayden...come on, open your eyes…”

 

Zayden remained still.

 

Ken sighed and crouched next to his fallen comrade. “What’s wrong…?”

 

***

 

Tennoji leaned back in his chair within the abandoned BOARD base. He never bothered cleaning the corpses or debris from the release of Kerberos.

 

He pulled the Fifth Ace from his pocket and looked upon his creation.

 

“Kerberos…” he said. “The time to show your true power has come. Now that you’ve been sealed through combat, you will rise to your full potential. Potential to surpass even the Riders…”

 

The villain noticed a shadow pass by the gaping hole in the wall.

 

“Do you think I can’t see you?” Tennoji asked without turning. “You’ve been shadowing me everywhere, Category King…”

 

The Last King stepped into the room. “I’m just interested to see who’s leading this battle royal.”

 

Tennoji lifted the Fifth Ace. “You want this? Don’t you?”

 

“If I used that card…” the Last King said. “I’d be able to seal other Undead?”

 

“Correct,” Tennoji said. “But I’m afraid that won’t happen. Once you and Joker are sealed, Kerberos will be the sole remaining Undead. Then…the Dark One will speak to me…and grant me his blessing…”

 

***

 

The Riders brought Zayden back to Bobby’s home. They laid him on the living room couch and covered him with a blanket. Ken placed a cold washcloth on his forehead.

 

Megan’s Undead monitor beeped from her desk.

 

Megan activated the monitor. “An Undead…Category King.”

 

Benjamin rolled his hands into fists and stood. “I’ll go after him. You stay here and look after Zayden…We have no idea what will happen to him once we seal the Last King.”

 

“I’m coming with you,” Nicolas said.

 

Benjamin nodded. “Let’s go…”

 

The two riders left, leaving Ken with the others.

 

Ken sighed and sat on the table across from Zayden.

 

“Zayden…” he said. “You’ve got to wake up…”

 

Zayden stirred, slightly. His eyes fluttered open.

 

“Zayden…” Ken said.

 

Zayden opened his eyes and sat up, his back stiff. He looked to the others with a blank, eerie expression.

 

His mouth didn’t move, yet he spoke. Into their minds. “Everyone…It’s nice to meet you.”

 

Megan grabbed her head. “What…Did he just…”

 

Ken stood and knitted his brow. “That’s not Zayden…”

 

“I am not Zayden, or Joker,” he said without speaking. “I am what you would call…Category Two.”

 

“The Human Undead…” Ken whispered.

 

***

 

The Giraffe Undead lifted his blade to Tennoji’s throat. “Now…hand over the Fifth Ace.”

 

The villain laughed. “You still don’t understand the nature of Kerberos…do you?”

 

Tennoji rolled up his sleeve, revealing a black slot burned into his forearm. His blackened skin wrapped around the base of the device.

 

“What…” Giraffe Undead said as he took a step back.

 

Tennoji pulled the Fifth Ace from his pocket. “Transform.”

 

He slid the card into the slot on his arm. His body rippled as he transformed into Kerberos. His human head emerged partially from the creature’s chest and turned pale white.

 

He laughed, causing the Giraffe Undead to step back with fear.

 

“You’ve fused with the Undead…” Giraffe Undead whispered.

 

“No…I have become an Undead!” he shouted.

 

Kerberos lunged and clawed Giraffe Undead with bursts of spark, forcing him several steps backward.

 

Giraffe Undead chopped his blade. But Kerberos blocked and clawed Giraffe Undead, nearly knocking the monster to the ground.

 

Kerberos laughed with each slash of his claws. He ducked and dodged the Giraffe Undead’s strikes, then back-hand slashed the monster with a burst of spark.

 

Giraffe Undead chopped high. But Kerberos blocked and slashed the monster’s gut with a burst of spark, knocking him several steps backward.

 

Kerberos charged, grabbed the Undead by the neck, and pushed him back several feet. Kerberos smashed the monster against a wall and tightened his grip.

 

“If I seal you…only Joker will remain!” Kerberos said.

 

Kerberos tossed the Undead aside and slashed him to the ground with a burst of spark.

 

Giraffe Undead crashed and tumbled. He pushed himself to his feet just as Kerberos slashed him; the impact whipped him to the ground.

 

***

 

The Human Undead spoke into the minds of Ken, Megan and Bobby. “Joker fears reverting back to his true form. Because of this, he has put himself into a deep sleep…”

 

“He’s okay, though…Right?” Ken asked.

 

“I have been working within him. Thus, he wants to become human. He does not want to destroy. He wants to live among you.”

 

Megan kneeled down next to the couch. “There’s something we need to know…What happens if Joker’s the last Undead standing?”

 

***

 

Benjamin and Nicolas rode their motorcycles through an underground tunnel that led towards Tennoji’s lab. They skid to a halt when they saw the Last King stumble into the middle of the road.

 

The Last King looked beaten, with green blood soaking his face and clothes.

 

Nicolas opened his eyes wide. “Category King…”

 

Benjamin pulled out his buckler, but Nicolas told him to wait.

 

“Hold on,” Nicolas said as he hopped off his bike. “Just for a second…”

 

The boy walked towards the fallen Undead. “What happened?”

 

“Get back…” the Last King said. “Like I’d let you seal me…”

 

“How’d you get wounded like that?” Nicolas asked.

 

“I just…let my guard down for a second….” The Undead said. He narrowed his eyes. “How could Tennoji be…?”

 

Benjamin tilted his head. “Tennoji did that to you?”

 

“Tell us what happened,” Nicolas said.

 

They heard a crash come from the other end of the tunnel and saw Kerberos stalk towards them.

 

Benjamin armed his belt.

 

“Kerberos!” he shouted as he charged towards the monster.

 

Nicolas armed his belt and joined Benjamin in the charge. They flipped their bucklers.

 

“TURN UP”

 

“OPEN UP”

 

They ran through energy fields that activated their armor.

 

***

 

“The Undead served the Mogralord, a creature of evil, but a creature of Fate,” the Human Undead explained. “The Wheel of Time tasked the Mogralord and his Undead with bringing this Pattern to an end, so a new Pattern could begin.”

 

“Pattern?” Bobby asked.

 

“The Pattern of reality. Of time, space and fate. The humans who recreated the Undead…they have meddled in something they do not understand.”

 

“So what happens?” Ken asked. “When there’s only Zayden in the end?”

 

“I am uncertain. But I suspect…death. For everyone. For all life.”

 

Ken knitted his brow. “How?”

 

“I am uncertain. But for the Joker alone to remain comes close to an unnatural immortality that could jeopardize your already fragile existence.”

 

“What does that even mean?” Ken asked.

 

The Human Undead didn’t answer. Zayden closed his eyes and laid back down, drifting back into unconsciousness.

 

***

 

Garren and Leangle launched at Kerberos with volleys of punches. But the monster blocked, dodged, and slashed the Riders with bursts of spark.

 

He clawed Garren and slashed Leangle, forcing the Rider back.

 

“Hand over the Undead…” Kerberos said.

 

Garren recognized the voice immediately. “Tennoji…”

 

“What?” Leangle asked. “He turned himself into an Undead?”

 

Kerberos laughed.

 

Leangle lunged and swung a punch. But Kerberos blocked and back-hand slashed the Rider aside.

 

Garren swung a hook punch Kerberos dodged; the monster slashed the Rider with a burst of spark.

 

Kerberos clawed the Riders off their feet. They crashed and tumbled aside.

 

The Riders rolled to their knees, and Garren pulled out his blaster. “Fall back,” he said to Leangle. “And bring the Category King.”

 

Garren swiped the Six of Diamonds through his blaster: “FIRE”

 

The Rider fired bullets of flame that exploded against the monster with a shower of sparks. When the sparks cleared, Garren and Leangle had sped away on their cycles, taking the category King with them.

 

The monster laughed. “Well…it seems like I’ll have to eliminate the Riders first after all.”

 

***

 

Bobby, Ken and Megan sat in the living room along with Zayden, who still lay unconscious.

 

Benjamin and Nicolas entered — along with the Last King.

 

Bobby shot to his feet and backed away so fast he nearly tripped. “Seriously…?!

 

Ken stood. “Why’d you bring him here?”

 

“There’s something I need to ask him,” Benjamin said.

 

Bobby shook his head. “And you couldn’t have done that…gee, I don’t know…anywhere else but here?!”

 

Nicolas ignored Bobby and looked to Ken. “It’s Kerberos…He’s back.”

 

“But he was sealed…” Ken said.

 

“Tennoji…” the Last King said as he took a seat. “Has fused with Kerberos. But unlike the Rider System, he’s not just borrowing the Undead’s power…He has become one with the Undead. Completely.”

 

Benjamin nodded. “He was trying to seal the Last King. And he’ll be after Joker too.”

 

“Why?” Ken asked.

 

“That’s what I want to know…” Benjamin said as he looked to the Last King. “What’s he after? What happens if he seals you and Joker?”

 

“He’s insane…” the Last King said. “He thinks the Dark One will speak to the last Undead standing, and grant that Undead unlimited power.”

 

Ken knitted his brow. “So he created Kerberos...just to fuse with him. So he could be the last Undead.”

 

The Last King nodded.

 

“I have a more important question…” Bobby said as he narrowed his eyes and looked to the Last King. “Something I’ve been wondering for a while…Why are you called the Giraffe Undead when you look like a stag beetle? That makes no sense.”

 

Ken sighed. “Bobby…not now.”

 

“Sorry, sorry,” Bobby said. “I know, I’m out of place. It’s not like it’s my house or…Oh wait, it sort of is.”

 

“Calm down,” Megan said softly. “He’s not going to hurt us.”

 

The Last King smirked. “You’re so sure?”

 

“You can barely move,” Megan said. “You won’t risk anything here, with three Riders.”

 

Ken looked to Benjamin. “So he gets this unlimited power…and then what?”

 

“I don’t know,” Benjamin said. “But he restarted the Trial Program…created Titan…created Kerberos…all for this,” he said. “Think of all the people who died in the process. I’m not letting someone like that get unlimited power.”

 

“If that’s even true,” Megan said.

 

“He thinks it is,” Ken said. “That makes him dangerous.”

 

The Last King sighed and stood. “I’ll be taking my leave now…”

 

“Wait,” Nicolas said. “You’re wounded…”

 

“Yes…” the Last King said. “But your…friend…has been scowling at me for a while now.”

 

They looked to see Zayden had stirred awake.

 

“Zayden!” Ken said with relief. “You’re awake!”

 

Zayden sat up and stared coldly at the Last King. Slowly, he stood from the couch and stepped closer to the Undead.

 

“What is the Category King doing here?” Zayden asked, keeping his eyes on the Undead.

 

“Is this really the time for us to be fighting?” the Last King asked. “At this rate…both of us will be sealed.”

 

Zayden said nothing.

 

Hmph.” The Last King walked from the room.

 

“Wait!” Nicolas shouted as he started to run after the Undead.

 

But Zayden lifted his arm to keep Nicolas back. “Wait…” he said. “An Undead’s approaching.”

 

“Tennoji?” Ken asked.

 

“Tennoji…” Zayden said. “I see…He’s fused with the Undead.”

 

“To him, we’re nothing but obstacles,” Benjamin said. “We can take care of the Category King later. Right now, we’ve got to stop Tennoji.”

 

***

 

Ken, Benjamin, Nicolas and Zayden rode their motorcycles across the street that led from Bobby’s property.

 

They passed Tennoji’s black sedan, then circled around and skid their bikes to a halt. The sedan pulled to a stop, and Tennoji stepped from the rear door.

 

“So…” Tennoji said. “Have you come to return the Rider System?”

 

“What are you after?” Ken asked. “Why be the last Undead standing?”

 

“For peace, of course,” Tennoji said. “Never again will humans fight against themselves. I’ll see to that…Right now, humanity is a mass of wickedness. I will destroy everything, and give birth to a new humanity that wishes for peace.”

 

“And I suppose you’ll be their ruler,” Nicolas said.

 

Tennoji laughed. “I should thank you. This is all thanks to the Riders. INET released the Undead. You rounded them up, one-by-one. Thanks to you, I was able to complete Kerberos.”

 

“You’ve been manipulating everything from the beginning…” Benjamin said.

 

Tennoji laughed. He rolled up his sleeve and inserted the Fifth Ace into the slot on his arm. His body rippled as he transformed into Kerberos.

 

Zayden summoned his belt and pulled out the Two of Hearts, and the other riders armed their belts. They turned their bikes and sped further down the street to gain their distance, and then swung around and throttled towards the monster.

 

As one, they shouted: “Transform!”

 

“TURN UP”

 

“OPEN UP”

 

“CHANGE”

 

They transformed into their armor and sped towards the monster.

 

Kerberos thrust his fist and fired bursts of energy that exploded around the Riders, tossing them from their bikes.

 

The Riders hurled through the air and landed off the road, near the entrance of a long-abandoned warehouse. 

 

They rolled to their feet just as Kerberos charged past them while clawing their armor with bursts of spark.

 

The Riders staggered but stayed standing.

 

Kerberos dashed into the warehouse and stood, keeping his back to the Riders.

 

“Soon…I will seal the Category King and Joker,” the villain said. He turned to face the Riders. “When that happens…I will hear the Dark One’s voice…something you will witness from the background, no longer relevant.”

 

The monster lunged. He clawed Blade aside with a burst of spark, back-hand slashed Garren and Chalice, and grabbed Leangle in a chokehold.

 

He lifted Leangle off his feet. “I am a complete fusion of human and Undead…I am the strongest!”

 

Kerberos tossed Leangle deeper into the warehouse. Suddenly, the Final King dashed into the warehouse and caught the Rider, setting him aside.

 

Kerberos turned to face the Final King. “You…What are you trying to do?”

 

“This boy saved me earlier, right?” the Final King said. He looked to Leangle. “What are you standing there for? You want peace…as do I. So fight.”

 

Chalice rushed towards Kerberos, as did Blade and Garren. They surrounded the monster with volleys of kicks and punches. Some of their blows landed. Other were blocked or dodged.

 

Leangle pulled three cards from his holster: The Rhino Undead Four of Clubs, the Polar Bear Undead Six of Clubs and the Scorpion Undead Eight of Clubs. He swiped them one-by-one through his staff: “RUSH; BLIZZARD; POISON”

 

Kamen Rider Leangle leapt through the air and speared his weapon towards Kerberos. The staff fired a wave of poison-tinted snow that washed across Kerberos with bursts of spark.

 

Leangle landed while spearing his staff through the monster’s gut with a massive burst of spark.

 

The Rider lifted the monster and hurled him across the warehouse.

 

Kerberos crashed and tumbled across the ground.

 

Blade armed his Rouze Absorber: “ABSORB QUEEN; EVOLUTION KING”

 

His cards shot from his buckler, circled his body, and splashed against his armor, activating his King form.

 

Kerberos climbed to his feet. “You would seal me? Without BOARD…you wouldn’t even be Riders. BOARD gave you those powers. And you would use them against me?!”

 

Blade stalked towards the monster. “We’ll seal all the Undead…That’s our job.”

 

“No…your job is to make me a god!” Kerberos shouted.

 

Blade pulled five cards from his sword. But Kerberos blasted the cards from the Rider’s hand.

 

Chalice charged and swiped the King of Hearts through his buckler: “EVOLUTION”

 

His cards shot from his belt, circled around him, and splashed against his body, which rippled into Wild Form.

 

Kamen Rider Chalice leapt over the monster, landed behind him, and slashed his back with a burst of spark.

 

Do it now, Ken!” Chalice shouted.

 

Blade picked up his cards and slid them into his sword: “SPADE TEN; JACK; QUEEN; KING; ACE — ROYAL STRAIGHT FLUSH”

 

Chalice swiped his Wild Card through his bow: “WILD”

 

Five energy fields slid into place between Blade and Kerberos. Blade charged through the fields. They splashed against his armor one-by-one while energizing his sword. Kamen Rider Blade dashed past the monster and swung his sword through a streak of golden energy that tore through the villain.

 

Chalice triggered his bow and fired a pulse of jade-tinted energy that punctured through Kerberos

 

The blast hurled the monster outside, where it had started to rain. Secondary explosions erupted through his body as he crashed against the pavement and staggered to his feet.

 

His body rippled as he shifted into his human form and collapsed to his knees.

 

“Impossible…” he said, his voice raspy. He looked to the Fifth Ace, which had fallen to the pavement at his side.

 

“Tennoji!” Benjamin shouted as he and his three comrades ran outside. They stood to face off with the villain as the rain splattered around them. “Give up…You’re not getting your wish.”

 

“How can this be…?” Tennoji muttered as he stumbled to his feet. “You bastards! Do you know what you’ve done?! That’s…Joker. Joker!”

 

The villain’s eyes darted frantically. “Where’s the Category King…?”

 

“You mean me?” the Final King said as he stepped behind Tennoji.

 

Tennoji turned to face the Final King while pointing at Zayden. “If they survive…the whole world will be destroyed! Everything!”

 

Giraffe Undead shifted into his monster form and stabbed his blade through Tennoji’s gut. The villain screamed and collapsed to his knees, as the Undead twisted his weapon.

 

The Undead pulled the blade free, and Tennoji collapsed lifelessly to the ground.

 

The Undead lifted the Fifth Ace from the ground.  

 

“Joker…” he said. “In the end, I will be the one to survive.”

 

The Giraffe Undead stepped back and started to walk away.

 

Nicolas knitted his brow. “Why?! Why’d you kill him in cold blood?”

 

“He was an Undead,” the monster said. “That’s more than enough reason.”

 

Zayden stepped closer to Nicolas. “Don’t try reasoning with him…” he said. “He used our power so Kerberos would be defeated.”

 

“Is that true? What you said about wanting peace…that was a lie?” Nicolas asked.

 

“It was true…” the Undead said. “But in my version of peace…there are no humans.”

 

The Undead walked from the scene with the Fifth Ace, leaving the riders behind. 

 

***

 

The Final King reverted back into his human guise and walked through the outskirts of the city. Tall, dead grass surrounded him, dotted by broken-down industrial buildings.

 

The villain moved between the buildings to find his contact standing in the shadows.

 

Agent Kaidaron wore a dark shirt and black slacks. His shaggy blonde hair covered his forehead.

 

“Do you have it?” Kaidaron asked.

 

“The Fifth Ace…” the Last King said as he pulled the card from his pocket. “Now…give me the device you promised.”

 

“A system to use the card…” Kaidaron said. “About that…I’m afraid not.”

 

The Final King knitted his brow. “I gave you the data I stole from the BOARD lab, just before Tennoji bonded with Kerberos. In exchange…you promised the device.”

 

“You Undead aren’t very bright…” Kaidaron said. “You already gave me the data. Why would I give you anything now? I have what I need.”

 

The Final King glared at the villain. “You say I’m not very bright? Did you read the data? The man you work for…is insane.”

 

“Aren’t we all,” Kaidaron said.

 

“Read the data,” the Final King said. “BOARD is for the body. VOLT is for the mind.”

 

“Is that supposed to be a riddle?” Kaidaron asked.

 

He thrust his palm and fired a burst of energy that blasted the Fifth Ace from the Last King’s hand. The villain followed with a second energy burst that blasted the Undead to the ground.

 

Kaidaron walked over and lifted the Fifth Ace from the ground.

 

“Thanks for the card…and the data,” Kaidaron said as he started walking away. “You’ve been most helpful.”

 

To be continued…Chapter 42