A translation of the Kamen Rider Blade short story “Twilight” (たそがれ), written by Blade second-half lead writer Shou Aikawa and originally published in the Kamen Rider Blade Complete Collection (仮面ライダーブレイド超全集) on April 20, 2005.
You can buy the original book in physical and digital format here.
The young boy was very bored.
His mother had brought him to visit his grandmother since she was ill, but after he’d come all the way here, she was sleeping in the rocking chair in the solarium, and didn’t seem to be waking up anytime soon. His mother wouldn’t be coming to pick him up until the evening, so he’d be putting up with this for quite a while.
Good thing I brought these.
He pulled two toy figures out of his shorts pockets. He brought them everywhere with him, to bed, to the bathroom, and of course, to kindergarten. They were starting to look a little worn down, but he didn’t mind at all. In fact, being a little worn down made it even better. After all, they were —
He grasped both figures tightly and rammed them around. He called out the names of their special attacks, starting off with the names he remembered from watching them on TV, but as he started forgetting them, he started making up new ones himself. He was progressively getting louder and louder as he played.
“Rider, uh, Spinning Ultimate Double Kiiiiiick!”
As he had both Riders use finishers against the imaginary monsters in his head, he realized someone was calling out to him, although he wasn’t sure what the actual words were.
“Oh, Grandma, you’re awa…”
He remembered that his grandmother refused to respond to the word “Grandma”, despite the fact she was undoubtedly his grandmother, and so he made his way to the solarium himself.
“Did you say something?”
She broke into a small coughing fit and grabbed onto his hand.
You’ve gotten a lot thinner, Grandma…
She gently took the figures from his hands and started staring at them.
The boy realized that he needed to explain what the figures were to her.
“Um, that’s Kamen Rider. It’s — “
“Are they still showing that on TV?”
“Yeah. Do you know Kamen Rider?”
While he was explaining, it dawned on him.
His figures were for the most recent Kamen Rider series, which was currently airing, but it was actually a long-running series that had been airing for many years. If you changed the TV channel, it was easily possible to watch the older series, but it felt too old-timey for him, so he had only seen the most recent ones. The “Kamen Rider” his grandmother knew probably referred to the Kamen Rider of long ago.
But she shook her head.
“Yes, I know Kamen Rider from the old TV shows, but I also know the real Kamen Riders.”
“Oh, judging by your face, you think I’m kidding. I may be sick, but I assure you, my head is working quite well.”
Her eyes were sparkling, like those of a child playing a prank.
“What do you mean by ‘real Kamen Riders’? Aren’t Kamen Riders made by computers?”
Every live-action TV show was a “make-believe” show made by computers that tailored things to human preferences. Even he knew that much.
“Yes, that’s true. But the original Kamen Rider from long ago wasn’t made by the Script-Writing AI. There were real people who were called Kamen Riders, and the TV show was based off of them. I think I was…probably a little older than you are now.”
At first, the boy had no idea what she was talking about, but as he kept listening, he started to feel a sense of excitement, to the point he couldn’t hold it back anymore. After all, he admired the Kamen Riders on TV. They were heroes who surpassed humanity with wills of steel, who used all kinds of special attacks to fight evil. And according to her, they were actually real?
“There were four real Kamen Riders. When monsters started to threaten humanity, they appeared and fought them.”
“My uncle wrote a book, and he called them ‘Undead’ in it.”
The boy nodded. He’d heard that his grandmother’s uncle, or, in other words, his great-grandmother’s younger brother, had been a bestselling author dozens of years ago. His grandmother was able to live in a huge manor thanks to the royalties from her uncle’s books. But the boy hadn’t read the books yet. Nowadays, books in ink and paper were far too outdated.
“The four of them considered it their destiny to fight the Undead. One fought because he was proud to have been chosen. One fought against his own weakness and darkness. And one fought — for the sake of dreams.”
“Dreams…? Was his dream to be a Kamen Rider?”
His grandmother unconsciously broke out into a smile. So he was just like me! he thought. Even at his kindergarten, he had tons of other friends who also wanted to be like Kamen Riders. They were all kids who wanted to be strong heroes, transforming, jumping high and kicking hard.
But for some reason, his grandmother had a bit of a sad look on her face.
“His dream was to make a world where no one would suffer or be sad…and to protect everyone in it.”
“He’s just like the Kamen Riders on TV. Kamen Riders fight for humanity.”
“Yes. That’s right. So if that’s what you call ‘wanting to be a Kamen Rider’…perhaps his wish really was granted in the end.”
The boy wasn’t even listening to what his grandmother was saying anymore. His head was full of tons of other questions.
“So then, then, what about the last one?”
His grandmother, who had stopped talking and was looking vacantly into the garden, turned back to him.
“You said there were four real Kamen Riders, right? So what about the fourth one?”
Her gentle smile went up to her eyes.
“He was a wonderful person.”
“Have you actually met him?”
“Yes, I’ve met all four. The fourth one lived at your great-grandmother’s shop.”
“At the time, I didn’t know he was a Kamen Rider. No, your great-grandmother and I had a bit of an idea, but we felt we shouldn’t ask him about it.”
“Because…not only was he a Kamen Rider, he was also an Undead.”
And yet, she had said the Kamen Riders had fought against the Undead.
“My uncle didn’t write it in clear words in his book. But he was an Undead, and he was fighting against his own destiny…That’s why he became a Kamen Rider…Yes, I’m sure of it.”
She left off on that note, without saying another word. The boy wanted to hear much, much more about it from her, but she had closed her eyes, and he hesitated to call out to her.
— I don’t get what she just said.
The boy went out into the garden, still confused, and started playing with the Kamen Riders in his hands again.
“Do you like Kamen Rider?”
He heard a voice out of nowhere, and suddenly, there was a young man in front of him.
Wow, people are asking me a lot about Kamen Rider today, thought the boy as he nodded.
The young man was in a tattered-looking coat, and was wearing jeans that practically looked vintage. He seemed around twenty years old, or perhaps even younger. His long hair was parted lightly in both directions, and underneath, his eyes seemed to be shining with a gentle light.
A huge noise broke out in the solarium.
His grandmother had suddenly stood up from the rocking chair, knocking it over. She stared directly at the young man. Her lips were trembling, and she was breathing in short bursts, as if she couldn’t figure out what words to say.
The young man greeted her with a raised hand, as if she were a close friend. The boy’s grandmother said nothing as the young man came up on the solarium and put the rocking chair back up. He held out his hand and helped her up, and she allowed him to without protest.
Is he one of Grandma’s friends? He seems pretty young, though.
After a while, the boy’s grandmother started talking to the young man. He seemed shocked to hear her speaking in such a in a shaky, stilted voice, and with such heavy breathing.
“Did Mr. Tachibana tell you I was sick?”1
“Yeah. Tachibana’s using networks from all around the world for his research. I still run into him every so often, and he let me know about that.”
“It’s not that big of a deal. Mr. Tachibana’s been giving me the experimental gene therapy he’s been working on.”
“Mutsuki, Kotarou, and Hirose are all gone, so if I lose you, too…”
“But they were all happy in the end, weren’t they?”
“…I wonder. Our fight against the Undead ended a long time ago, but…”
“They were happy. They found happiness in this world, thanks to a certain person who protected it.”
“And what about you?”
“I’m happy. Because I can see you whenever I want, just like right now.”
She had a wide smile on her face, but there were visible tears on the corners of her eyes.
“Have you ever gotten to see him?”
“No. But I heard some news about a monster, one that couldn’t be called a human or a beast, appearing in the middle of an African civil war and rescuing children who had lost their parents.”
“Was it him?”
The young man gave a slight nod.
“You should be going on your way soon.”
“I want to be here for you until the last moment.”
“Look how thin I’ve gotten. It’s only going to get worse from here, so trust me, you don’t want to see it.”
The young man was silent for a while, and they stared at each other. Finally, he clenched her hand again and got up from the seat.
He turned to address her grandson.
“What’s your name?”
“Hajime. You write it like the number ‘one’, and you read it ‘Hajime’.”2
The man had a gentle smile on his face.
“Is that so? My name is also Hajime. It’s written differently, though.”3
“Is there some kind of relationship between you and me?”
“Actually, your grandmother had a friend a long time ago, and his name was ‘Kazuma Kenzaki’. It has the same “one” in it, so I wonder if your name comes from his.”4
“What kind of person was he?”
“…He was a Kamen Rider.”
Did he just say — ?
He was about to ask, but the man was suddenly gone in the blink of an eye. The young boy, Hajime, looked around back and forth as he returned to the solarium. While he’d been outside, his grandmother had fallen into a deep sleep again.
“Grandma?” Hajime called out, in a brief panic. He remembered that his grandmother always insisted he call her by name, despite her age.
“Amane, that guy left. Hey? Amane…”
His grandmother seemed to be having a wonderful dream, because there was a beautiful smile on her face.
- Aikawa later clarified on Twitter that this part of the story comes from Tachibana experimenting on himself for Kenzaki’s sake, resulting in him having an extended lifespan as a side effect. [↩]
- The young boy’s name is written with the kanji “一”, meaning “one”; as a standalone word, it would usually be read “ichi“, but it can optionally be read as “Hajime” when used as a name. [↩]
- Unlike the young boy’s name, Hajime Aikawa’s given name is written with the kanji “始”, meaning “beginning”. [↩]
- The “一” (“kazu“) part of Kenzaki’s given name “Kazuma” (一真) is the same “一” used for the young boy Hajime’s name. [↩]