Kamen Rider Kuuga: Chapter Three

Downfall

                                                                                                                                  

Ichijo ordered a hospital to close off several floors. He wanted complete privacy while scientists ran their latest tests on Kouishiro. The agent worried about the young hero, who was once carefree and lighthearted. Now, Kouishiro often looked…troubled.

 

Kouishiro joined Maya and Ichijo in a lab room following the tests.

 

“What’s the verdict?” Kouishiro asked.

 

“Nothing’s changed,” Maya explained. “Each time you transform, the belt’s tendrils sink further into your nervous system. The belt’s becoming a greater part of you, every day.”

 

“So the more I become Kuuga, the less I become Kouishiro,” he said.

 

“Don’t say that,” Ichijo said.

 

“But it’s true,” he said. He looked to Maya. “Isn’t it?”

 

Maya nodded. “I’m worried that once you’re able to use your Ultimate Form, we’ll lose you.”

 

“Ultimate Form?” Kouishiro asked.

 

“I’ve learned more from the glyphs in the tomb,” Maya said. “Kuuga has two more forms you haven’t tapped. These forms aren’t like the others. They’re not variants, they’re powered-up modes.”

 

“Don’t say that like it’s a bad thing,” Kouishiro said. “Now that we know the Grongi’s endgame, I’ll need to be as strong as possible.”

 

Maya had learned more about the Grongi in recent weeks. The villains were broken into different groups based on animal type, and each group competed against one another in a complex game with a basic objective: kill as many humans as possible.

 

The leader of the Grongi Tribe used the game to fuel his objective: to make the human race violent savages for his amusement.

 

“You think you’ll face Number Zero soon,” Ichijo said.

 

He spoke of the Grongi leader, labeled “Unidentified Lifeform No. 0” by the authorities. As far as they could tell, the leader was the first to emerge and slaughter the expedition team in the tomb, footage caught on film.  

 

Kouishiro nodded. “He’s one of the few Grongi left.”

 

Ichijo’s cellphone vibrated with a text message. He pulled out his phone and read the message, and his face became pale.

 

“One of those few has been spotted,” Ichijo said. “He’s tearing through a group of police.”

 

Kouishiro shook his head. “You’d think the cops in this city would have learned better by now.”

 

***

 

The Grongi called Go-Gadoru-Ba had leathery skin and a beetle-like horn extending from his forehead. He wore a necklace of claws across his chest. 

 

Go-Gadoru-Ba stalked towards several police officers, who opened fire with bullets that bounced off the monster’s skin.

 

Kamen Rider Kuuga skid his motorcycle to a halt nearby. He saw two empty cop cars, fallen officers, and the monster on the other side of the vehicles, walking away from the cars and towards the police.

 

Kuuga spotted a fallen handgun. He somersaulted across the ground, grabbed the gun, and leapt onto the nearest car.

 

The Rider’s armor rippled and changed into the green-armored Pegasus Form, and the handgun transformed into the Rider’s bowgun.

 

Kuuga fired a dart of energy that sparked against the monster’s back, but the creature barely moved.

 

Gadoru grabbed two claws from his necklace, and the claws grew, transforming and meshing into an organic-looking crossbow.

 

The villain turned, swung the bow, and fired a pulse of energy.

 

Kuuga transformed into his blue-armored Dragon Form and leapt away as the blast passed beneath him and exploded through a nearby building.

 

Kamen Rider Kuuga somersaulted through the air and landed on the ground nearby. He turned and snapped into a fighting stance as the monster stalked forward, almost casually.

 

The villain swung his weapon forward and triggered an energy burst that sparked against Kuuga, whipping his body backward. Kuuga crashed onto his back as the creature stalked forward.

 

Kamen Rider Kuuga noticed a splintered column of wood near his arm, and he lifted the wood while rising to his feet. His armor rippled into his purple Titan Form, and the wood transformed into a broadsword.

 

Kuuga slowly stalked towards the monster while holding his sword downward at the ready.

 

The creature triggered an energy burst that sparked against Kuuga’s chest, but the Rider didn’t break his stride. The monster fired again, and the blast sparked against Kuuga’s chest, nearly knocking him back a step, but the Rider pushed forward.

 

Kuuga moved in close enough to hack the monster’s weapon out of its hand with a burst of spark.

 

Kamen Rider Kuuga stepped forward and speared his blade against the creature’s gut—but the sword didn’t puncture the villain’s skin.

 

Gadoru grabbed the sword, and it rippled, transforming into a blade that matched the color of the monster’s skin. The monster smashed a back-fist strike across Kuuga’s helmet, whipping the Rider aside. 

 

The monster turned the blade, grabbed hold of the weapon by its handle, and stalked towards the Rider.

 

Kuuga stepped back into a defensive stance.

 

Gadoru chopped down the blade. Kuuga raised his arms to block the blow, and the sword crashed against his forearms, knocking him down.

 

The monster swung the blade towards Kuuga’s head, but Kuuga ducked and rolled away from the creature.

 

The Rider pushed himself to his feet just in time to sidestep another sword swing.

 

Kuuga swung a punch towards the monster, but Gadoru used his pommel to block the blow and slashed his sword across the Rider’s armor with a burst of spark, whipping him backward.

 

The Kamen Rider crawled to his knees, but Gadoru swung upward with a strike that slashed across the Rider and hurled him through the air.

 

Kuuga crashed against the ground hard.

 

The Rider slowly rose to his feet just as the monster lunged forward with a sword swing. Kuuga dodged, but the blade slashed off half of his shoulder guard with a burst of spark.

 

Gadoru smashed a kick against Kuuga’s gut, knocking him onto his back. Kuuga rolled and rose to his knees, and the monster slashed across Kuuga’s back with a burst of spark.

 

Kuuga collapsed, and the monster chopped its blade towards the fallen Rider. Kuuga somersaulted away as his armor rippled back into its standard red-orange form. The blade chopped against the ground, and Kuuga snapped back a kick that knocked the monster back a step.

 

Kamen Rider Kuuga rolled back to his feet and turned to face the creature. He stepped back and slid his foot forward. His ankle crackled with golden energy.

 

Kuuga pounced forward, somersaulted through the air, and aimed a flying sidekick towards the villain. The kick pulsed with golden power and slammed against the monster’s chest, but the attack merely bounced off the villain, knocking the Rider backward.

 

Kuuga crashed against the ground and slowly rose into a crouched fighting stance.

 

Gadoru charged forward, somersaulted through the air, and aimed a flying sidekick towards the Rider. The kick crashed against Kuuga and hurled the Rider through the air with massive bursts of spark.

 

Kuuga smashed against the ground, and his armor rippled, powering down and leaving Kouishiro in his human form.

 

***

 

N-Daguva-Zeba, the Grongi leader, stood on a rooftop and looked down at the fallen Rider.

 

In human form, he appeared as a young Asian teenager, with a boyish face that contradicted the darkness inside his twisted soul.

 

He smiled, amused at the sight.

 

The villain wanted nothing more than to turn the world into a bloody battleground, for no other reason than the fact that he could. And it would be fun.

 

“Kuuga…” he said with perverted amusement. “You bring such joy into my life…”

 

***

 

Maya finished wrapping a bandage around Kouishiro’s injured arm.

 

“Thank you,” Kouishiro said.

 

“You’re welcome,” Maya said. “Now, are we going to talk about what happened?”

 

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Kouishiro said. “I lost. It’s happened before.”

 

“Not like this,” Maya said. “That Grongi’s power was similar to Kuuga’s.”

 

“I saw that, thanks,” Kouishiro snapped.

 

Maya shook her head and walked over to her office window.

 

“Maya, wait…” Kouishiro walked towards her from behind. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap…”

 

“I think you did,” Maya said as she looked out the window. “I’ve been thinking a lot lately, about how you’ve been keeping your distance. Walling up your emotions. I blamed it on Kuuga, but the truth is, you never opened up to me. To anyone. Before, you hid behind jokes. Now, you hide behind your power.”

 

“It’s not like that,” Kouishiro said.

 

“It’s not?” She turned to face him, tears swelling in her eyes. “Then tell me what it’s like, Kouishiro.”

 

Kouishiro sighed and sat on the office chair. “OK…it’s exactly like that. The truth is, I’ve always had trouble getting close to people. You get close to someone, they leave you, one way or another. My mom. My dad. I haven’t had a real home since they died. And even when they were around, my dad moved from military base to military base. I’ve always been a drifter.”

 

Maya laid her hand on Kouishiro’s leg. “Maybe it’s time you stopped drifting.”

 

***

 

Ichijo led a squad of police in pursuit of the Grongi. They didn’t want to lose sight of the violent creature.

 

Gadoru led the officers into the woods at night, and then pounced at them. The villain hacked through the cops left and right, until only Ichijo was standing. The detective scrambled backward and collapsed.

 

The monster grumbled in a language Ichijo didn’t recognize, and then lifted its arm to attack.

 

A motorcycle engine suddenly roared nearby. Kouishiro’s motorcycle throttled from the trees and smashed against Gadoru, knocking the monster backward.

 

Kouishiro stepped off his bike and summoned his belt. He stepped into his transformation pose and summoned the dark energy coursing through his veins like cold fire. “Kuuga! Awaken!”

 

His body rippled as he transformed into his armor.

 

Kuuga pounced at the monster with a flying punch against the chest, knocking the creature back a step. The Rider pushed forward with a combination of punches that bashed against the creature, knocking the monster back a step with each blow.

 

Kuuga smashed a hook punch across the monster’s head, just as the monster bashed an uppercut against the Rider’s gut. Their blows knocked each other backward, and they crashed against the ground.

 

Kamen Rider Kuuga and Gadoru rolled to their feet, and Kuuga stepped back into a defensive stance.

 

Gadoru charged at the Rider, and Kuuga slid his foot forward to prepare a Rider Kick. His ankle crackled with golden energy. But this time, the energy didn’t stop at his ankle. The power washed across his body, and his armor rippled into a black form with gold trimming. 

 

The Rider’s eyes glowed red, and golden energy crackled around his ankles and feet.

 

Kuuga sprinted forward, pounced at the monster, and somersaulted through the air with a flying sidekick.

 

Gadoru leapt through the air with a flying sidekick of his own. His kick bashed against Kuuga, and Kuuga’s kick bashed against the monster. The resulting explosion knocked the Rider and monster from the air, and they crashed against the ground. 

 

Kuuga landed on his back, and the monster landed on its feet.

 

The creature turned to face the fallen Rider, and then its body shuddered. The monster collapsed onto its knees, and its body overloaded and exploded with a burst of energy that shot upward like a column of golden fire.

 

Kamen Rider Kuuga slowly pushed himself to his feet and looked down at his armored form. He tightened his fists, feeling his strength surge through his every muscle. Maya was right—his powered-up form enhanced his strength, speed, defenses, and senses.

 

Kuuga heard laughter echo from the treetops. He looked up, but couldn’t see where the voice came from.  

 

“Kuuga,” the voice said. “Thank you for that.”

 

Explosions erupted around Kuuga with bursts of fire, sparking against his armor and whipping his body aside.

 

Kuuga dove and rolled for cover, but an explosion hurled him off his feet, and he crashed through a tree trunk that splintered into dust on impact.

 

Kamen Rider Kuuga crashed on the ground and skid across the dirt.

 

N-Daguva-Zeba dropped to the ground in his creature form, which looked similar to Kuuga. Its leathery body was white, and its eyes were green beneath a golden headpiece.  

 

Daguva lifted Kuuga by the neck, smashed a punch against his side, and hurled him through the air. Kuuga smashed through a tree that exploded into sawdust, and crashed against the ground. Daguva leapt towards the Rider and landed while stomping on his chest.

 

The monster lifted Kuuga by the neck, smashed a back-fist strike across his helmet, bashed an elbow against his faceplate, and smashed a knee against his gut. Daguva tossed Kuuga aside.

 

“No, no, no…” Daguva said. “This is no fun. You need to be stronger…I need to see your Ultimate Form.”

 

Kamen Rider Kuuga started to push himself up, but Daguva kicked the Rider upside the head.

 

“I hate weakness,” Daguva said. “I’ve culled the ranks of the Grongi so only the strongest survived...which of course, means only I survived. The others were boring me. But you…you are my favorite.”

 

Daguva leaned down and lifted the Rider by the throat. “I will give you three days and three nights to grow stronger. Then meet me on the mountaintop. You’ll know it.”

 

Daguva hurled Kuuga aside like a rag doll.

 

***

 

The rain poured for three days. Maya had learned that Daguva could control the weather, and the villain was using the ability to bring a downpour to the desert.

 

Kouishiro and Maya sat in silence in her office, as the rain pattered against the windows.

 

“So…” Kouishiro said to break the silence. “Lovely weather we’re having.”

 

Maya smiled. “Yes. It’s marvelous.”

 

Kouishiro sighed and leaned back. “Maya…I know what I have to do. And you know what that means.”

 

“Your Ultimate Form…” Maya said.

 

Kouishiro nodded. “I won’t be the same afterward. I probably won’t even be human.”

 

“I can’t accept that,” Maya said.

 

“Maya, I have to stop him,” Kouishiro said.

 

“I know that,” she said. “And I know you need your Ultimate Form to do it. I just refuse to believe you’ll lose yourself. I refuse to believe you’re weaker than the belt.”

 

She reached forward and grabbed his hand. “Hold onto yourself. Hold onto your memories. Hold onto your heart. No matter what happens.”

 

Maya’s cellphone rang. She took a deep breath, pulled the phone from her pocket, and answered. “Hello…”

 

“Maya, it’s Ichijo,” he said from the other end of the line. “You know that mountain Daguva mentioned? It’s here. It’s time.”

 

“How can you be certain?” Maya asked.

 

“Because a snow-capped mountain just appeared in the middle of the desert.”

 

***

 

Ichijo drove Kouishiro towards the snow-capped mountain in the middle of the desert. Kouishiro sat in silence as they approached the odd sight.

 

“I think this is the longest I’ve heard you go without talking,” Ichijo said.

 

Kouishiro smiled. “It’s a day for strange things.”

 

Ichijo nodded. “Indeed. You know, Kouishiro…I never did say thank you.”

 

“No, I suppose you didn’t,” Kouishiro said. “And you’ll never have to.”

 

They pulled up to the base of the mountain and stepped out from their car. They looked up the steep slope, to where snow covered the entire mountain in a white haze.

 

“Well…this is it…” Ichijo said. “Are you ready?”

 

Kouishiro nodded. “No…” he smiled. “But when has that ever stopped me?”

 

“Never,” Ichijo said. “Not once. Good luck, my friend.”

 

Kouishiro placed his hand over his waist, and his belt appeared. “Kuuga,” he said. “Awaken.”

 

He transformed into his armor, which quickly rippled into Ultimate Form: black armor with golden trimming around the muscles, and angled shoulder pauldrons.

Kamen Rider Kuuga turned to Ichijo and gave the man a thumbs up.  

 

“You’re ridiculous,” Ichijo said with a find smile. “You know that, right?”

 

Kuuga turned and slowly walked up the mountainside. The wind blew harder the farther up he walked.

 

He kept his gaze ahead and tried to ignore the churning rage in his gut. Instead, he thought of Maya. Of Ichijo. Hi slate father and mother. The men and women he had saved. The people he would save.

 

They gave him strength.

 

Kuuga finally walked to the top of the mountain, where Daguva waited in his monster form.

 

“You’re here,” the villain said. “I’ve already won, you know. Even if you beat me, your rage will consume you. Every part of you. And spread across this is world. Humanity’s fate is as dark as that of the Grongi Tribe. Savage. Feral. Nothing but madness.”

 

Kuuga refused to engage in banter. He refused to let the villain’s taunting bother him. Instead, he slowly stalked towards his opponent.  

 

Daguva extended his hand, and Kuuga’s armor burst into flame. Kuuga staggered but quickly recovered and continued his stride. He felt the heat burn, but he didn’t let the pain stop him, step-by-step, as he moved closer to his opponent.

 

The Grongi tightened his hand into a fist and charged towards the Rider to attack.

 

This is it…Kuuga thought. He charged forward as the flames died down into steam.

 

The Rider and villain thrust punches that slammed against each other’s chests with bursts of spark, knocking each other backward. The two opponents quickly staggered to their feet, charged at one another, and smashed punches against each other’s bodies, knocking each other backward again.  

 

The opponents rose back to their feet, and Daguva charged at Kuuga. The Kamen Rider snapped a sidekick that bashed against Daguva’s chest, the impact knocking the Grongi back a step.

 

Daguva slammed a hook punch that smashed against Kuuga’s helmet, and Kuuga spun with the impact while smashing the back of his fist across the villain’s head. The opponents pommeled each other with punches, their blows smashing loudly enough to shake the mountaintop.

 

Kuuga felt the dark energy intensify within his gut. He thought of Maya. Of Ichijo. And then the energy didn’t seem too dark.

 

Daguva swung a punch, and Kuuga sidestepped while grabbing hold of the villain’s arm. The Kamen Rider flipped Daguva off his feet and slammed the villain against the ground.

 

Daguva quickly rolled forward, rose to his feet, and turned while charging at Kuuga.

 

The villain swung a punch that Kuuga ducked beneath, and the Rider smashed a punch against the villain’s gut with a burst of spark, knocking him back several steps. Kuuga stepped forward, launching a combo of punches that knocked the villain back a step with each thundering blow.

 

Daguva parried a punch and ducked low, bashing an uppercut against Kuuga’s buckler with a burst of spark.

 

Kuuga staggered backward. Exhausted, his armor powered down as he reverted back into his human form.

 

Daguva collapsed to all fours, his body also reverting back to human form. The villain laughed and wiped blood from his lip. “This is everything I hoped for.”

 

Kouishiro dashed forward, lifted Daguva by the shirt and bashed a hook punch across the villain’s face. The blow whipped Daguva to the ground. But the villain quickly shot to his feet and smashed a punch across Kouishiro’s face.

 

Daguva laughed. Even as Kouishiro slammed a flurry of punches across the villain’s head, Daguva laughed.

 

“I’ve already won!” The villain hackled.

 

Kouishiro smashed a punch across the villain’s face.

 

“I’m not angry.”

 

He punched the villain again.

 

“I pity you.”

 

Kouishiro kept punching, for minutes, and then hours, until his knuckles turned bloody. Eventually the villain’s laughter stopped.

 

***

 

 

Maya sat alone in her office the next morning. The rain had stopped. The snow-covered mountain had disappeared. But she had heard nothing from Kouishiro. Neither had Ichijo.

 

She wondered what had happened to him. Had the dark energy of Kuuga consumed him? Had Daguva won?

 

No… she told herself. He couldn’t have lost. Not Kouishiro…

 

She knew Kouishiro had beaten the Grongi. But had he lost himself in the process.

 

Someone knocked at the door, and Maya’s heart leapt. Don’t get your hopes up, she told herself as she stood and walked towards the door. It’s probably just Ichijo checking in on me again…or maybe someone else…

 

She opened the door and saw Kouishiro standing with his jacket slung casually over his shoulder.

 

“I never did want to come to Cairo,” he said with a smile. “I was only passing through. But I stayed. Because of you. You’re my home.”

 

“Kouishiro…” she didn’t know what to say. Joy clutched her throat—she didn’t even know such a thing was possible.  

 

“Japan’s lovely this time of year,” Kouishiro said as he extended his hand. “Shall we?”

 

Maya smiled and took his hand.

 

END