“The Rabbit Hatch was so nice. It was big and wide, and, I mean, it was on the moon. It was like a fairytale! But this club is so small and cramped, and feels so ordinary, and there’s nothing dreamy about it at all. Haaaaah.”
JK topped his complaints off with a yawn as he sat on the desk and hung his legs. He was a second-year student with a frivolous demeanor, who often acted like he was Ama High’s information dealer. His full name was Kaizou Jingu, but he himself disliked being called that.
They were in the Space Kamen Rider Club room. Kengo had dropped a line to all of the active members about the Zodiarts, and they had gathered in the room during the early morning.
“C’mon, JK, the Rabbit Hatch got blown up, so it’s not like we can do anything about that,” retorted Gentarou.
“Yeah, our gate to the Moon got closed off when we were fighting Gamou,” said Kengo.
Compared to the lunar base that they’d once used as a club room, the new room was definitely smaller. After all, it was just an ordinary room. But they’d only managed to get this room thanks to their advisor, Mr. Ohsugi, pulling strings with the school so that they could get a room in the club building. If Ohsugi had been there to hear JK’s complaints, he’d probably foam from the mouth like a crab.
“JK, did you get anything from the Chairman or Daimonji?”
“Mmm. Seems like they’re both busy, so they had to pass on coming this morning.”
“Well, they’re model uni students, after all.”
It wasn’t a very good excuse, but there was nothing else that could be done about it.
“Well, whatever. All right, guys. Now that we’re all together this morning…hey!”
Kengo had tried to start the conversation, but the two first-years were having their own side conversation with Yuuki in the corner of the club room.
“I guess there’s always someone with a grudge against the prom every year…” said Yuuki.
“They should just stop holding all of these romance events. Don’t you agree, Yuuki?”
The person saying this was a boy with natural curls named Haru Kusao. Depending on how you wanted to frame it, you could say he was a kind and gentle boy, or you could say he was a very weak-willed one. Haru had been a Zodiarts once before, the Musca Zodiarts.
“No, the prom is very important. You can’t have any romance without these kinds of events.”
The more firm-willed young girl with a ponytail was named Ran Kuroki. She was a very handsome young girl with a talent for aikido, and had also been a Zodiarts at one point. In fact, she’d been one of the “major” Twelve Apostles, the Pisces Zodiarts.
Haru and Ran both owed a lot to the Kamen Rider Club and had volunteered to help them in their fight, so they were officially inducted as members.
“But Ran, you can say that because you’re popular. When you’re not popular, it’s hard to really care about it.”
“Hm, Haru? Do you need me to protect your love life, too? It’s okay, I’ll dance with you at the prom when we graduate.”
Haru blushed and started muttering “don’t be silly, that’s not it…” Yuuki smiled seeing her juniors bantering with each other, but her expression was still a little sullen, most likely because Kengo had called off his dance with her.
Ran suddenly turned to Gentarou.
“Hey, Gentarou, who are you dancing with at prom?”
“You’re asking me that again? Does it really matter?”
“Huh, you haven’t decided? So…can I be your dance partner?”
Ran tried to endear herself towards Gentarou, with a spark in her eyes. They were the eyes of a girl in love, but Gentarou completely failed to notice his junior seeing him in that way.
“Nah, it’s fine. It’d be weird if I danced with a first-year.”
“Whaddya mean by that? Is there a problem with me?”
“It’s not that weird to dance with a first-year. Miu got people asking her out every year, including her first one.” For whatever reason, Yuuki seemed to be on Ran’s side.
“I mean, look. It’d be kinda dumb if the school hero didn’t dance at the prom. Nobody’ll make fun of you, so dance with me.”
Kengo was trying to divert the conversation on topic, but he couldn’t find an opening. “Something’s going to happen at prom, so listen up.”
Making things worse, JK interjected with his own addition.
“Gentarou’s got someone he wants to dance with. Trust me, I know.”
Gentarou looked at him in surprise.
“Huh? Do I? Is there someone I wanna dance with, JK? Tell me.”
“Why are you asking me? You’re the one who’d know your own feelings, right?”
JK tapped Ran’s shoulder as she was fuming and started lecturing her with a smug look on his face.
“How sad, he doesn’t even realize his own feelings for her. Sometimes that kind of thing happens, you know. And then suddenly he’ll realize, ‘oh, no, I’m in love, aren’t I?'”
“Don’t say that like you know better, Kaizou.”
“Hey! Don’t call me that. I’m your senior, you know. Now on the flip side, don’t you think your ego’s been getting as big as your chest lately?”
“What the hell are you looking at, you sleaze?!”
“I’m just saying, the buttons on your shirt are barely even holding themselves together. You know, I’ve been thinking, it’s funny how you’re wearing a coat that doesn’t fit right, huh?”
Ran was now angry enough to throw JK down with her aikido skills.
“Hey, Ran. Stop it.”
Gentarou tried to cut in, but Ran was already on a roll and threw him down too.
“Owwww! Why me?”
“Am I always gonna have to get caught up in things like this just to keep the peace of our youth?”
Yuuki and Haru were calm, but Ran’s anger still hadn’t subsided. The club room was now in chaos. Kengo also seemed to have completely given up.
Just then, the door opened with a bang.
Cursed words echoed through the room, and everyone could feel a shower of a strange powder with a strong scent falling on them. The aroma of ethnic spices filled the air.
Standing there was Tomoko Nozama, a second-year goth girl who loved occult things. It seemed like there was some kind of black aura emanating from her body, but perhaps that was just imagination?
“Enomalosi waderegi! Enomalosi waderegi~!“
She grabbed powder from a jar and sprinkled it everywhere.
“W-What’s going on, Tomo?” said JK, hesitantly asking a question.
“Don’t call me ‘Tomo’, call me President.”
Tomoko had a certain kind of sixth sense, and her sharp intuition had gotten the Rider Club out of many different kinds of troubles. Recognizing this, Yuuki had appointed her as the new president of the Kamen Rider Club. Starting from Miu, the first club president, this made three female club presidents in a row.
“Now, what our mission in the Rider Club? Tell me, JK.”
“Uh, um, to enjoy all the weird and funny things about school life?”
Bang! Tomoko slammed the Rider Club flag on the wall with her fist, and started barking back at JK.
“To investigate the Zodiarts and stop their evil ambitions! Take it seriously!”
Everyone was completely overwhelmed.
As the club’s’ president, Tomoko had strong passion for the Rider Club’s activities. But as nice as it was to be appointed as the new president, the Horoscopes had been dissolved and the Rider Club’s activities were only a shell of what they had once been. It was dissatisfying. It was a shame. Just as she’d been thinking this, another Zodiarts incident had started. Tomoko was scolding them with a grave expression on her face, but internally, she was thinking “I did it, yaaaaaaaay”. Was she being too blunt about it? Well, what kind of goth girl would she be if she weren’t blunt?
“All right, everyone. Listen to what Kengo has to say. Now, Kengo, if you’ll continue.”
“…Y-Yeah. Um. Ahem.”
Kengo cleared his throat lightly and began talking about what had happened with the Carina Zodiarts.
Pant. Pant. Pant. Pant. Why? Why is this happening to me?
Mina Tsuchiya ran behind the school building, desperate to know why this had to happen to her of all people. She was at her limit and couldn’t breathe, but she couldn’t stop running. A monster the size of a human, resembling a centipede, was on her tail. It approached with an unnerving way of running. Appendages resembling fang-like ribs went from its chest to its belly, moving as if trying to clamp onto Mina.
Pant. Pant. Pant. Pant. Why? Why?!
Mina was an ordinary second-year student at Subaruboshi High School, and a passionate tennis player. She also had a boyfriend from another school, and in her opinion, he was the most handsome guy ever. “He’s a bit prone to getting mad at things, but he’s really good to me.” It was a little conceited to say it, but she had found her high school life to be quite fulfilling.
But she had overslept that morning, and had ended up running late. By the time Mina had arrived at school, her first class had already started. No one was there at the gate to greet her. As she was changing her shoes at the shoe cupboard, a monster had suddenly appeared behind the shoe cupboard and attacked her. No student or teacher had been there to witness her being attacked out of nowhere.
She’d also picked a bad escape route. She’d run behind the school building, where there were still no people.
And she should have screamed for help. But, alas, people often tend to be silent when they’re surprised enough.
And now she was running so hard she was out of breath. It felt like her heart was about to pop out of her mouth. She managed to turn the corner, jumped into a prefabricated building that served as the art warehouse, and shut the door. Bang!
Pant. Pant. Pant. Pant. Pant. Pant.
The monster shouldn’t be able to find her here. Maybe it’d run off without finding her. Mina desperately endured the wait there as she breathed heavily and hid within the darkness. She kept quiet. There was no sign of anything coming in. Okay. I think it’s gone.
As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, Mina noticed that there was something unusual lurking in the warehouse. At first, she wondered if it was a rough outline for a plaster statue. But something was strange about it. Mina looked around a folded easel to see the statue behind it, looking back at her. Is it a replica of the Venus de Milo? But wait, that’s weird. It kinda looks like its lower body is being chewed on by sea anemones or something? What’s with the weird design on this statue? She suddenly realized the statue’s eyes were glowing red and black, and bolted up.
There was another monster there. There had been two monsters.
Mina could hear a high-pitched scream. She realized it was her own scream. Wow, I’m screaming pretty loudly. With that last thought in her head, Mina fainted.
After their first class, President Tomoko used the break to grab Gentarou and take him to see class 3-D, of which Ryouko Sakamoto should have been a part of. As they looked around, there was no sign of Ryouko, but the former Glee Club president, Junta Abe, was there near the door, accompanied by a plump boy, Taira Katagiri.
“Hey, Abe, Katagiri.”
“Oh, Kisaragi!” said Abe, with a refreshing smile.
“Have you both decided on what you’ll do after graduation?”
Abe and Katagiri broke into an improvised chorus of “♪ this spring, we go for the college chorus~” “♪ the college chorus~”.
“Right, right, you guys are gonna do the whole a cappella group thing.”1
Tomoko glared at Gentarou to urge him to get to the point, so Gentarou quickly changed the subject.
“Hey, so, uh, is Ryouko Sakamoto here today?”
The duo was taken aback as they looked at each other.
“No, sorry, it’s just, this is the second time someone’s come to ask about her.”
According to Abe, Ryouko had come to school normally in the morning, but a girl from a different class had invited her to go somewhere. Gentarou asked who the student was.
“It’s not a pair you’d normally expect, but do you know Sumie Taira? The really quiet girl who stays in the corner.”
Gentarou remembered what had happened during the prom preparations the day prior. A shy girl inviting a punk girl with facial piercings to hang out together and skip classes? It was unexpected behavior from an unexpected pair of girls.
“Okay, I guess the blonde pierce girl forced Sumie to go with her, right?”
“No, it’s the other way around. Sumie came and got Ryouko.”
“Huh? Didn’t Ryouko pull Sumie aside because she hates her?”
“I told you, it’s the other way around. Don’t be an idiot.”
Katagiri was now set off on edge. Abe took the time to explain a bit more gently.
“Normally, I think that’s what you’d expect, but for some reason, today, Sumie was acting a lot more confidently than usual. She went up to Ryouko and pulled her aside like ‘let’s go, my companion’. Ah, I mean, she actually said the word ‘companion’. I didn’t get to see what happened up close, though.”
Companions with Ryouko, a Zodiarts? It was some very concerning testimony.
“Did they say where they were going?”
“I think they said they were heading to Subaruboshi High.”
Gentarou and Tomoko were taken back by the unexpected information.
“That’s Ryuusei’s school, isn’t it?” said Tomoko.
Ryuusei Sakuta, also known as Kamen Rider Meteor, was a student at Subaruboshi High School.
Had Ryouko, a Zodiarts, and Sumie, who was calling her a “companion”, head to Subaruboshi, where there was another Kamen Rider? Gentarou didn’t have a sixth sense the way Tomoko did, but he had a feeling this situation was about to escalate far more than they’d anticipated.
Her hair was clinging to her cheeks. I’ve been sweating at night. I should take a shower. Then I’ll get some orange juice from the fridge and drink it down. Mina Tsuchiya had those thoughts in her head as she awoke.
She immediately realized she wasn’t in her own bed at home. This wasn’t the time to be relaxing. She was being chased by a monster!
She jumped up with a start. As before, she was in the art warehouse. But instead of a monster, there was a girl wearing the uniform of a different school in front of her. She was hunched over and wore glasses. As she struggled to regain focus, she saw that the girl was staring right back at her.
“Who are you?”
The girl did not answer the question.
“You’re planning to come visit my school and dance with Seiru Hozumi for the prom, right?”
“Huh? Seiru Hozumi? You mean Seirun?”
Seiru Hozumi was a student at New Amanogawa Academy High, and Mina’s boyfriend. She had nicknamed him “Seirun”. Actually, it did seem like the girl in front of her was wearing the same uniform Seiru did. Okay, but what’s going on? Why am we talking about my boyfriend? Wasn’t I being chased by a monster earlier? She still had no idea what was going on, but she was calming down to some extent.
“Are you one of Seirun’s friends?”
“Break up with Seiru Hozumi. Refuse his prom invitation.”
“Say ‘I don’t want to date you anymore. I won’t dance with you.’ Tell that to Hozumi. Right now.”
“Wait, what? I’m totally confused.”
“Hurry up and do it!”
Sumie took out a black Switch and pressed it with her thumb. On! Black energy swirled around Sumie like smoke, and a string of light like a constellation could be seen within it. When the smoke cleared, Sumie had been transformed into a Zodiarts shaped like a goddess buried in sea anemones. She was the Puppis Zodiarts.
All of the color flushed out of Mina’s face and body. She was silent with shock. Puppis stroked her cheeks with slimy, soft tentacles, and the sticky chills felt like they were freezing her heart.
“I’ll say it again. Break up with Hozumi. Or else…”
Puppis hardened her soft tentacles with a snap!, and sent one right towards Mina’s eyeball. And then! — it stopped a millimeter in front of her.
“…I’ll make sure you never see the light of day again.”
Mina was sent into so much panic and terror that she started blabbering without any rhyme or reason. She stammered as if talking was the only thing keeping her from going insane, without any regard for her words.
“O-Okay. H-He and I aren’t really a good fit for each other, or more like, we’re not good for each other, I’ve been thinking, about that, l-lately. W-We were both, also, looking forward to, the party, a lot, s-so I think he’ll be disappointed, b-but it’s not a big deal.”
Puppis mulled it over. Huh. There really are people who are actually looking forward to the prom…it’s just as Gentarou Kisaragi said. Yeah, that’s right. That’s normal, isn’t it? I’m the one who isn’t normal.
“C-C-Can I ask something? D-Do you like Seirun, I mean, Hozumi? Why are you doing this?”
“As if I’d be into him.”
“T-Then, did someone ask you to do this?”
Man, when is she gonna shut up? Now that she was a Zodiarts, she felt a sense of sadistic pleasure. She’d originally just intended to threaten her, but now she wanted to cause her a bit of pain while she was at it.
“Gen-ta-rou Ki-sa-ra-gi? Who?”
“He’s the scum of Ama High. He’s bad news. Remember that.”
At some point, Sumie’s image of “the symbol of a fun and fulfilling high school life,” the exact opposite of everything she was, had become Gentarou. What a happy little normie. I want to make all of them suffer together.
“Got it? Go to Hozumi, right now.”
She poked Mina’s cheeks with the tip of her tentacles, and Mina ran, crying and scampering off like a rabbit.
The black energy evaporated from Puppis’ body, and she returned to being Sumie.
Ryouko appeared from behind her, laughing.
“Ahaha. It’s like you’re a whole different person. What’s with the poke in the eye? That was a pretty dirty threat there.”
“This is probably my true self to begin with,” muttered Sumie to herself. She called out to a dark presence further behind Ryouko. “Hey, that works well enough for you, right?”
The lukewarm breeze blew softly, and the bloodstained girl appeared. She laughed, satisfied, and spoke in her usual boyish voice.
“Yeah. That girl will tear Seiru Hozumi’s heart to shreds quite nicely. Let’s go check up on him. We don’t have much time left before the prom. I’m really looking forward to giving him his Switch.”
Sumie was looking far off into the didstance.
“Hey, they’re all going to die, right?”
Ryouko snorted, as if it were a silly question.
The bloodstained girl slowly nodded.
“Yeah, all of them will die.”
Ryuusei’s fist cut through the air and burst right on the face of a beautiful young girl!…or so it seemed, but he’d stopped his fist right before. Instead, he resorted to a tiny poke on her forehead.
“So who is this ‘Spicy ★ Kung Fu Guy’?”
The girl stuck out her tongue. Her name was Mei Shirakawa, and she was one of Ryuusei’s classmates. They were sitting next to each other on a bench in the courtyard.
“I read ‘Karashi Imewa”s new book. It was interesting, but…”
Ryuusei pulled out a paperback book. It was My Big Brother’s a Spicy ★ Kung Fu Guy, the same book Yuuki had lent to Kengo earlier.
“The protagonist’s older brother uses the Star and Soul Cycle style. Is he supposed to be me?”
“It’s me, isn’t it?”
“Well, I guess I did base some parts off of you?”
“Why am I in love with my little sister? I don’t get that.”
“Little sisters and older brothers are like that.”
“Also, I really don’t get the part about the blossoming romance with the pompadour delinquent.”
“It’s a boys’ love staple.”
“I’m not like that, you know.”
“It’s fiction, it doesn’t matter. Well, I did base some parts off of you?”
Ryuusei was rather irritated, but he couldn’t help but laugh at Mei Shirakawa acting cute, sticking her tongue out and giggling.
“Well, you’re really going places now. Mei Shirakawa, a professional novelist who found success as early as high school.”
“It’d be bad if I got exposed at school, so I’m using a pseudonym. ‘Karashi Imewa, the ever-mysterious novelist. You must not let others know of my identity.’ Heehee. Sounds like a certain Kamen Rider out there, hm?”
“Hey. You know that’s a secret, too.”
“Heehee, sorry, sorry.”
They looked at each other and burst into laughter. But then —
“Hmmmm? You seem…to be getting along…”
A pale ghost with dark circles around her eyes emerged from behind the bench.
It was a very ghostly-looking Tomoko. Yuuki and Haru appeared behind her.
“Oh, there he is. Good work, Fryslice.” It seemed that a French fry-shaped robot had found Ryuusei for them. Fryslice made a gesture that resembled laughing shyly. Haru muttered “We were supposed to be looking for Ryouko Sakamoto, though…” under his breath.
Yuuki turned to Mei to greet her.
“Long time no see, Ryuusei’s girlfriend.”
“Unfortunately, I’m still not his girlfriend. Not after all this time…”
Mei shrugged. Ryuusei had a look of concern on his face, while Tomoko seemed to sigh a bit in relief.
“Anyway. I heard what you just said. Are you actually Karashi Imewa?”
Mei did not respond. Yuuki pressed further.
After a long pause, Mei said, “Switch the syllables around.”
“Huh? Ka-ra-shi I-me-wa. Flip them around, and, Me-i Shi-ra-ka-wa…”2
Yuuki suddenly let out an “aaaaaaaaaaah!”
“There you go. Heehee. It’s a secret,” said Mei, laughing.
What?! Tomoko was shivering with fear. In actuality, she’d also been aspiring to become a novelist herself. She’d even just bought a book titled Writing Fantasy Novels for Dummies. This girl here, Mei Shirakawa, is getting ahead of me in both love and work. She’s my rival. The title is “Strong Enemy” and the genre is “rival”.3
“I can’t afford to lose…”
While Tomoko’s heart was hissing with jealousy to the point she’d forgotten what she was even there for, Haru spoke hesitantly.
“Um, I’d like to move onto the main topic. Have you seen either of these people?”
He showed Ryuusei and Mei two photos with Ryouko and Sumie in them.
“No, I haven’t. Who are they?”
Tomoko looked Ryuusei straight in the eye.
Mei’s face drained of color.
“Zodiarts…You mean the Zodiarts are back again?”
Mei still remembered the incident when the Aries Zodiarts had taken over the school and declared himself its king. At the time, she had bravely fought against him as part of the resistance, but her body still remembered the sensation of fear and couldn’t stop trembling.
Yuuki grabbed Mei’s hand.
“It’s all right, Miss Ryuusei’s Girlfriend! We in the Kamen Rider Club will get rid of all of the Zodiarts for you. Right, Club President?”
“Of course,” said Tomoko, with a firm nod. Then, she grumbled to herself, Yuuki, please let the actual acting president here say all of the cool lines, okay?
Gentarou’s scouting team finally managed to obtain info on where Ryouko and Sumie had been sighted. It seemed that they had, indeed, gone to Subaruboshi. During their second-period class, several students had testified that they’d heard a roaring sound resembling a motorcycle’s accelerator, and when they looked out the window, they had seen two girls in Ama High uniforms, one with blonde hair and one with glasses, going out from the back gate. Strangely, no one had seen any sign of the actual motorcycle that had made the initial noises.
Gentarou and Ran were getting water at the drinking fountain.
“So they went out the back gate…” Gentarou coughed.
“I guess that means they’ve already headed back, right? Maybe we missed them.”
“And we still don’t know a thing about what they were up to. We’ve got nothing, huh?”
Burgerwatch and Diggerdog had also returned, making apologetic motions.
“Well, whatever. Should we meet up with Tomoko’s group and go back to Ama High?”
Ran was looking around restlessly.
“Where’s JK? He went somewhere a while ago. Man, why is he always like this?”
“JK’s always gotta be here and there. It’s his job.”
“I think that’s a problem with his actual personality.”
Right on schedule, JK returned with a huge grin on his face. It was the kind of grin he had whenever he was scheming something.”
“What’s with that smile? You’re creeping me out.”
“Ran, JK’s always gotta be smiling. It’s his job.”
Gentarou was teasing, but once he saw the girl standing behind JK, his eyes widened and his jaw dropped, like an exclamation mark was over his head. All sorts of memories were going through his head at an incredible pace. Something within him was feeling hotter and hotter, and he was blushing furiously.
“What’s wrong, Gentarou?” said Ran, having taken notice of his sudden turn.
The girl there was certainly a considerably pretty girl, but even so, Gentarou’s reaction was unusual.
Nadeshiko was a girl whom Gentarou had certain feelings for.
She was a life form from space called SOLU (Seeds of Life from the Universe). She had once arrived on Earth with a meteorite. Normally, SOLU looked like liquid metal, but it could transform into things it observed. At the time, she was thought to be non-sentient, but after meeting Gentarou, she had gained a heart and had fought together with him as another Kamen Rider. Ultimately, she’d returned to space as a spirit, but…here she was, standing in front of Gentarou.
“Nadeshiko, are you back?!”
The rain had recently stopped, and the sun was shining. To Gentarou, the girl standing in front of him was like an angel that had descended.
Gentarou was so full of bursting emotions that he tried to hug Nadeshiko, but managed to restrain himself in time. It was then he noticed she seemed to be extremely turned off, like she’d just seen someone suspicious.
The girl turned to JK.
“Is this the guy you wanted me to meet?”
It was the same voice he remembered, but it was quite cold.
“You said he was the best-looking guy at Ama High, but he’s got that weird hair.”
“Yeah. His hair is weird, but look at his face! He’s quite the looker, don’t you think?”
“So? Will you dance with this extraordinary young man, Gentarou Kisaragi, at Ama High’s prom?”
The girl frowned. But, after all, she was a beautiful enough girl that she managed to look cute with the frown.
“Hey, Nadeshiko, what’s wrong?”
Gentarou grabbed JK’s shoulder and pulled him over to the corner with the drinking fountain.
“Hey, JK. That’s Nadeshiko, right?” he whispered.
“She doesn’t seem to remember me.”
“Well, of course she doesn’t. You’re meeting her for the first time.”
“For the first time? Whaddya mean by that, she’s our friend! She even helped us fight! W-Well, I guess you didn’t see that part, but…”
Gentarou cleared his throat.
“I, u-uh, kinda smooched her, or something like that.”
“Gentarou, you do realize she’s the real Nadeshiko Misaki, right?”
“She’s Nadeshiko Misaki, a third-year Subaruboshi High student who was born on this Earth. The SOLU one was a copy of her.”
“…!! Ah, ahhh. Ah, ah, aaaaah! Right!”
Gentarou had finally understood. This was the “real” Nadeshiko Misaki. But the Nadeshiko he liked was the SOLU one. So for Gentarou, this was a “fake” Nadeshiko.4
“That’s the exact girl you’d wanna dance with at the prom, right?”
JK’s theory was that, since Gentarou had fallen in love with Nadeshiko at first sight, he must like her looks. So, if he danced with the original Nadeshiko Misaki, since she looked exactly the same, he should be satisfied with that.
“JK, who do you think I am? I’m a proper guy who lives for the heart. Anyway, we came to look for the Zodiarts, didn’t we? Why’d you go off looking for her?”
“I did it for you. Is there a problem?”
“…No, no. Good job, Mr. JK.”
“Man, I had to do so much for your thanks.”
Gentarou smiled and shook hands with JK, then followed up with an arm grab like they were arm wrestling, then bumped fists from above and below. Gentarou and his friends called this his “symbol of friendship”. It was a special handshake that he only exchanged with people he’d truly connected with.
Gentarou turned right around with an aggressive look on his face.
“I’ve kept you waiting! I’m Gentarou Kisaragi, and I’m going to make friends with every student in Subaruboshi High.”
He thumped his chest and pointed his finger straight ahead.
But there was no one there.
“Huh? She’s gone. Hey, Mr. JK, Nadeshiko Misaki’s gone. Mr. JK?”
Ran, who was very unamused at this entire situation, pointed towards the school building.
“She ran away.”
He could see Nadeshiko Misaki hastily running off in the distance.
“Ah, wait! Hey! Can we talk for a bit?”
Gentarou started chasing Nadeshiko, who immediately took off running even faster. She was running at full speed, with desperation.
Gentarou kept chasing her. He ran into the school building, chasing her down the hallway. Nadeshiko was running marvelously fast for a girl. No matter how much Gentarou chased after her, he wasn’t getting any closer. The surrounding students were glaring at him. A boy with a pompadour from another school was chasing after a pretty girl who was running away in desperate.
Wait, this looks really bad, everyone must think I’m out to get her! Maaaan. Youth is just full of misunderstandings like this.
“Now, of course, the tea is the most tea-riffying.”5
Kengo found himself applauding.
He was in the Ama High Rakugo Culture Club room. Kengo had dropped by to see Kijima performing rakugo at the regular afterschool theatre event. The only thing he could do was wait until Kijima finished.
He’s good. No, he’s incredibly good, his storytelling is outstanding. He couldn’t resist being drawn in by Kijima’s rakugo and laughing out loud. If I were this good with my words, I wouldn’t have gotten myself in such a stupid fight with Yuuki right before graduation. Even if I had, I’m sure I could have made up with her immediately…wait, no, Yuuki’s supposed to be the one at fault here. Dammit.
“Oh, my, an unexpected person in the audience here. Did you pay the admissions fee?”
“You’re taking money?”
Kijima held out his hand.
“Of course I am. I’ll accept the Fourze Driver. Why, yes. I imagine I could make better use of it than you.”
As usual, he’s obnoxious. All of Kengo’s newfound respect for him had evaporated.
“I can’t give that to you, that already belongs to Gentarou. Anyway, Kijima, I have something I want to ask you.”
“And I’d prefer you don’t ask me anything.”
“What happened in the M-BUS? Yesterday, you sounded like you were hiding something.”
Kijima’s expression changed, and he whistled.
“You’re quite sharp, Kengo Utahoshi. Sharper than a forty-millimeter sewing needle.”
“Hurry up and tell me.”
“No, no, if you want me to tell you, you’ll have to make me laugh.”
“Are you serious?”
“I am. It’s the Closing Act from Hell, after all,” said Kijima, laughing loudly.
Kengo sighed and complained “why this,” but he played along and started trying to make funny faces.
It was a given horror movie trope: “a beautiful woman is chased by a murderer and, despite how bad of an idea it is, runs up to the second floor where there’s nowhere to escape”. Nadeshiko had been so caught up in running away that she’d ended up running up the stairs, just like a screaming girl from a movie. She’d escaped to the roof, which meant she had no further way of escaping.
Gentarou suddenly appeared right behind her. Was it just her, or did Gentarou’s pompadour resemble a certain famous murderer’s hockey mask?
Nadeshiko frantically tried to climb over the railing.
“Hey!” Gentarou barely managed to grab Nadeshiko from behind and pull her down from the railing. He flipped over and fell flat on his lower back. Bam!
Nadeshiko took the opportunity to jump up and run back towards the stairs.
“Hey! Gentarou called out to her, but he couldn’t get himself up again because of the pain in his back.
Gentarou lay spread-eagled on the ground and looked back up at the sky. The rain had completely stopped, and the blue sky was peeking through the gaps in the clouds.
I wasn’t chasing after her for that kind of reason. JK must’ve thought I only liked Nadeshiko for her looks, but that’s stupid, of course that’s not it. I just want to talk to her. I want to be her friend. But why’d she have to run away so frantically like that?
“I mean, I was sure you had to be some kind of shady guy.”
Nadeshiko’s face popped up over Gentarou as he was looking at the sky, and she’d answered him as if she’d somehow managed to hear the question in his heart. She looked very concerned about him. It seemed she’d decided to stop running away and had come back for him.
“Is your back okay?”
“Okay, but what’s with you having the whole buddy-buddy tone? You’re acting like you know me already or something. We just met, you know.”6
Indeed, it was their first time meeting. The meaning of this finally dawned on Gentarou, and he laughed, embarrassed.
Seeing Gentarou smile, Nadeshiko smiled back at him.
“You have a nice smile.”
“You’re the one who’s always got the best smile ever, Nadeshiko.”
“Okay, but seriously, what do you mean with the ‘always’?”
“Is it okay if I explain?”
“Sure, I”ll hear you out. I’m feeling generous today.”
The original Nadeshiko seemed to have a very assertive personality. She was to-the-point, like a city girl. From that line of thought, the SOLU Nadeshiko was more like a modest country girl, from the magnificent countryside of the universe.
There was nobody in the pool, and the surface of the water was completely still, but a pair of eyes was on it, shaking with frustration and anger. A tanned and muscular Ama High student was standing by it. He was a handsome young man named Seiru Hozumi.
“What the hell is up with Mina? I seriously don’t get what she’s on about.”
Hozumi had gotten an email from his girlfriend, inviting him to meet her at a hamburger shop. School hasn’t ended yet, why’s she asking me out on a date this early? Wait, does she need to see me that badly? Right, okay. As he’d been lost in thoughts of love, he’d arrived only to find Mina panicking and crying. She’d suddenly told him “I’m breaking up with you. I’m not going to the prom party with you.” Wait, it’s not like you to call me up like this, and you’re acting weird, what’s wrong? Did something happen? He’d tried to ask, but she was so upset she couldn’t give him a proper answer. In the end, she simply departed saying “because of Gentarou Kisaragi”.
Gentarou Kisaragi? You mean the infamous pompadour guy from my school? Did he do something to my dear Mina? Dammit! I’m pissed.
I’m really pissed.
I’m seriously pissed off!
He’d started aimlessly walking around in anger, and found himself at the school pool.
He himself couldn’t figure out why, but Hozumi had a habit of suddenly getting angry out of nowhere. Whenever he got angry, he couldn’t hold anything back anymore. He’d snap at people. He’d blame everyone around him for everything. Before he knew it, he’d make a huge mess out of everything. Sometimes, as in this case, the cause was obvious, but sometimes he would snap for no particular reason.
Splash! Still in his uniform, Hozumi jumped into the pool.
He screamed in the water. Glub-glub, glub-glub. Naturally, he ended up ingesting some of the water. Everything pissed him off. Hozumi flailed his limbs in the water, but after a while, the coldness of the water managed to calm him down to a degree.
He popped out of the water and coughed as he tried to breath. Cough, cough, breathe. He’d calmed down a bit.
I keep destroying everything around me every time I get mad. What the hell is wrong with me? I’m sick in the head, aren’t I? Maybe I really should go see a doctor after all. Hozumi had a fairly noticeable scratch on his right arm. When he was in elementary school, he’d gotten angry about something trivial and broken the window at home. If this keeps up, I’m gonna cross the point of no return someday and do something I can’t take back. I’m scared. I can’t control myself and I’m scared of myself.
Suddenly, the cold pool water started feeling warm, and on top of that, it felt rather slimy. Wait, what?
The lights went out with a click.
In the darkness, Hozumi saw the pool water around him turn black. No, this isn’t black. It’s dark red. Wait, is this blood?!
“Huh!? What the hell is going on?”
While Hozumi was shaking in fear, something emerged from the red water. Was it a person? A woman?
It was hard to make out with all the blood at first, but she was wearing an Ama High uniform. Is she the ghost of a girl who’d drowned in this pool or something?
“It’s all right, Hozumi.”
Gaaaah, the ghost talked! It said my name! Eek! Hozumi instinctively turned and swam away. He managed to scramble to the poolside and tried to get out of the water, but the girl grabbed his ankle. Her thin fingers were digging into his ankle, and he could feel severe pain.
She dragged him into the water with terrifying amounts of superhuman strength. Splash!
“There’s nothing wrong with being angry. That’s just your personality. No, it’s your weapon.”
“Huh? What? What’s going on?! I don’t get what you’re saying!”
“Go wild all you want. Let’s enjoy the prom together.”
The bloodstained girl held out a clenched hand, dripping with water.
In her hand was a Zodiarts Switch.
“Make a wish on the stars.”
For some reason, Hozumi somehow found himself to be perfectly calm in that one moment. He took the Switch without protest.
Tomoko kept walking with teary eyes. The other Rider Club members followed right behind her. JK and Ran had rejoined the group. It seemed there was no sign of Ryouko or Sumire on the Subaruboshi campus, so they’d decided to return to Ama High.
Tomoko was devastated at the fact that the mission, which she’d called in her position as club president, had come up with nothing. Yuuki was comforting her.
“It’s not your fault we didn’t get anything from Subaruboshi, Tomoko.”
“I’m the president. I’m the one who had us go.”
“But it’s not your fault. I mean, I guess we didn’t have to all come together, but…”
Yuuki was trying to comfort Tomoko without touching any sore spots, completely unaware that she was actually rubbing salt harder into Tomoko’s wounds. Tomoko glared back at her in hysterics.
“So, JK, where did Gentarou go?” asked Ryuusei. Since Zodiarts were involved in this case, he’d decided to follow along with them.
“He was chasing after the real Nadeshiko Misaki. I wonder how that’s going. Gentarou’s gonna have to take care of the rest himself.”
“What do you mean, ‘take care of the rest’?”
“Achieving his love.”
“Are you serious? Gentarou’s having a date? Now, of all times?”
“Seriously! He’s a member of the Rider Club, can’t he take his job seriously?” said Ran, irritably. I’m not enjoying how lovey-dovey Gentarou was with Nadeshiko. Everyone around here’s got too many screws loose. Haru’s the only one here who’s actually serious about all of this.
“Um, well, we’re looking for the Zodiarts, but the Foodroids are helping us search down the rest of the city. If they find something, they should be able to contact us through the Astro Switch Case.”
Up until recently, Haru had been a young boy with natural curls and a weak temperament, but he was now one of the club’s most valuable assets. Yuuki could tell how dependable he’d gotten. If our juniors keep this up, they won’t need us as their seniors anymore. Ah, wait, we’re graduating. It’s really hitting me now. Well, I got Kengo mad at me, and the Zodiarts are planning something, so everything feels awkward and I don’t know if I’ll even be able to graduate safely.
“So Gen’s on a date! He’s really enjoying his youth, huh?”
It was, indeed, the spring of youth.
Gentarou took Nadeshiko Misaki to the amusement park, where he’d had his first date with the SOLU Nadeshiko.
Gentarou presented her with a giant meat bun, one big enough to be used as a cushion. Back then, Nadeshiko had eaten the entire thing in one go. At the time, he’d been shocked, but now, it was a good memory for him.
“I know I’m the one who asked you to get something for me, but…this is kinda big, I don’t know if I can eat this,” said Nadeshiko. Well, it made sense.
Feeling that something was off, Gentarou invited her to ride the Ferris wheel where he’d made memories.
“Hey, Nadeshiko, we came all the way here, so why don’t we ride that?”
“Mmmm, I’m not good with heights…” she said, despite the fact she’d tried to jump over the railing on a roof just prior.
Everything was the exact opposite. In the end, the “Nadeshiko” here was the ordinary school girl, not the one he knew. Gentarou’s disappointment was obvious on his face, but then —
“…All right, let’s go.”
“Let’s go on the Ferris wheel.”
Nadeshiko, who’d been treating him coldly up to that point, was suddenly looking at him kindly. It seemed she’d felt bad after seeing Gentarou so disappointed.
“You sure? You just said you’re not good with heights.”
“It’s not like we’re gonna fall off it or something. Heehee.”
“Yeah, and if you fall, I’ll come get you.”
Gentarou’s face immediately brightened up.
The Closing Act of Hell continued in the rakugo club room.
Kengo was making funny faces in succession like an actor in an old-timey play. there wasn’t much that was amusing about his face itself, but his obvious desperation made his expressions look off.
But Kijima’s responses were merciless. “That’s not gonna make anyone laugh.” “Put more of your head into it.” “Are you even taking this seriously?”
Kengo himself was annoyed at how ridiculous the situation was getting. Come to think of it, it’s not like he’s trying to get my soul this time, so there’s no point in playing along with him like this. He considered trying to physically force it out of him, but he wasn’t confident enough in his physical stamina.
But then, Kijima suddenly struck his fan in his lap, and started talking.
“I have no respect for Gentarou Kisaragi.”
“What’s with that all of a sudden?”
“He has no sense of careful practice, and he refuses to refine his skills. He strikes at everything without any semblance of a plan. But somehow, he manages to get by with that alone.”
“Well, yeah, that’s Gentarou. You’re pretty perceptive.”
“In that respect, Ryuu is different. He trains in kung fu every day, and is sharp with his strategy. I can understand him.”
“So you’re saying you respect Sakuta.”
Kijima and Ryuusei did seem to have a lot in common. Kengo could tell from Kijima’s rakugo performance that he was constantly working to refine his skills. He’d even taught himself kickboxing so he could pretend to be Miss Haruka Utsugi. Meanwhile, Ryuusei had snuck into the Kamen Rider Club and hidden his true identity, so he was the kind of strategist who’d pretended to be a “nice guy” for a while.
“So what’s the point you’re making?”
“Does Kisaragi have a girlfriend?”
Kengo was taken off-guard by the sudden change in topic.
“He doesn’t, right? Of course he doesn’t. Love involves strategy. A simple-minded fool like Kisaragi can make friends, but he’d never be able to have a girlfriend. Now on the other hand, I’d bet Ryuu has ladies flocking to him without him even trying. He’s just like me.”
Kijima’s words were opening all of Kengo’s wounds. I got in a fight with Yuuki. Actually, what kind of relationship do Yuuki and I even have in the first place? Ever since we both came to this school, we’ve spent more time with each other than with anyone else, and I was sure we trusted each other most of all. But I can’t even be sure of that anymore.
Completely unaware of what Kengo was thinking, Kijima returned to the topic at hand.
“Ah, oops, I diverted the topic. Continue with the strange faces.”
Are we seriously doing this again?…Kengo felt like he wanted to strangle Kijima on the spot, and his face became downright demonic.
Kijima burst out in laughter.
“Hey, hey, hey, what’s that face?!”
Kengo, still with an expression out for his head, walked right up to Kijima.
“All right, Kijima, I made you laugh. Now spill the details.”
The red Ferris wheel car slowly rose into the air. Nadeshiko sat there with a difficult-to-read expression. She stared at Gentarou, who was sitting across from her, trying to figure out Nadeshiko’s mood from her face.
“It sounds totally fake, I’ll tell you that.”
“What part of it?”
“The part where you got the Astro things and became a Kamen something, up to the part where some syrupy thing turned into a copy of me.”
“So, all of it?”
“All of it.”
Still, it did seem like something had gotten her interested, and she stood up and sat next to him, staring him right in the face.
“Hey, what are you doing?”
“Your face says you’ve got a one-track mind. You’re clumsy and awkward, so you don’t try to fool anyone. And yet you came up with such a surprisingly elaborate way of asking me out. That was a really well-done story, I was fascinated.”
Nadeshiko didn’t seem to believe any of it at all, even though every bit of it had been true.
“Well, you really are pretty good-looking. All right, I’ll go to prom with you.”
“…Sorry. I really wanna dance with ‘my’ Nadeshiko.”
“Huh?” said Nadeshiko. “Are you talking about the alien from your story just now?”
“Yeah…Sorry, you went through all that trouble, but…”
Nadeshiko burst into giggles, but her expression settled quickly.
“Huh, you’re pretty devoted. That’s a good trait to have.”
Her smile was radiant.
Seeing Nadeshiko smile, Gentarou could sense that he’d already gotten much closer with this “other Nadeshiko”. The atmosphere around them felt warm and relaxed.
“Since you’re good at approaching people upfront like this, I bet you’re good at making friends.”
“Yeah. I’ve got a lot of ’em.”
“See, I can’t do that. I can’t do that much. I actually wanted to be an idol, so I went to a secret audition held at my school, and I tried it out for a while. I was kind of like a trainee in a huge group.”
“But I had a hard time. I’d try and hang out with the other girls, but mentally speaking, it was less like ‘hanging out’ and more like ‘sizing each other up’. It was like everyone was a rival. It was too hard to deal with, so I quit.”
Gentarou didn’t completely get it, but he nodded.
“But to be honest, I really wanted a friend, the kind of friend you’re talking about. I wanted someone who could be there for me, and we’d both encourage each other to do our best. Back when you were chasing me, I realized, ah, maybe I should have been this outgoing instead…I really hadn’t been breaking out of my shell, I’d locked myself up in a cage.”
“Seems like you’ve been through a lot, but don’t worry. If you’re ever having a hard time, I’ll come and help you out. You and I are friends now, right?”
Gentarou held out his right hand. Nadeshiko grabbed it with a smile. Up until that point, Nadeshiko’s expression had been one of an exhausted modern kid, but it suddenly brightened up and had a certain kind of preciousness, as if she’d returned to being a young child. Gentarou smiled right back at her, and, with Nadeshiko’s soft hands, performed his “symbol of friendship”. Nadeshiko naturally didn’t understand its full significance, but she did somehow manage to sense that it meant something special.
“So you don’t want to be an idol anymore? What are you gonna do, then?”
“Me? Haha. Right now, I’m thinking, instead of being an idol, I’ll be a producer for idols. Oh, for male idols, I mean. I love handsome guys.”
Even Nadeshiko knew exactly what she wanted. It seemed Gentarou was surrounded by many other young people who had a clear vision for what they wanted to do.
“What about you?”
“I’m still not sure about that.”
“Huh, that doesn’t seem like you,” said Nadeshiko. She laughed again. “Wow, look at me, saying that to someone I’ve only just met today. Ahaha.”
She looked outside. The view of the city spread out below them, and the Ferris wheel car was about to reach the top.
“The person you dance with at the prom party might be the person who decides your future,” said Nadeshiko, still looking far into the distance.
“Huh? Whaddya mean by that?”
“Prom is your last memory of high school, right? That memory is one you’ll be carrying with you from here on out…Anyway, you’re the kind of person who’s honest about your feelings, so I think there’s probably only one answer to this question for you…Which girl had the most influence on your time in high school?”
Gentarou thought about all of the girls around him. Would that be Nadeshiko, who’d already returned to space long ago? Was there anyone else? Miu? Tomoko? Could it even be Ran? Nothing was ringing a bell.
Yuuki! He’d known Yuuki for a very long time. But Yuuki was supposed to be dancing with Kengo. They were in the middle of a fight, but…
“I’m sure there’s someone who made a huge booming impact on you, right?”
At that moment, the two were hit with a huge, booming impact.
“What’s going on?”
The Ferris wheel car was shaking. Was it an earthquake? No, it wasn’t. Something abnormal was attacking them.
From where they were, fifty meters off the ground, they saw a strange object outside the window. It’s another new Zodiarts! It was like a black skeleton flying in the air, with wings like those of a bat. It was the Vela Zodiarts, but since Gentarou wasn’t as knowledgeable as Kengo, he wasn’t able to read the constellation from the star lines.
Vela reached the car door, smashed through the lock, and opened the door. The wind blew in.
Nadeshiko, who had been sitting on the door side, screamed in fear.
“Who are you?!”
“I’m soooooooooo pissed off!” said Vela, breathing out black energy.
“I’m pissed! Gentarou Kisaragiiiiiiiiii! I’ll have you here alone!”
Vela grabbed Nadeshiko’s wrist from in front of him, pulled her in, and threw her out into the empty air.
Gentarou reached out his hand, but didn’t reach her in time.
Kengo and Kijima left the rakugo club room and went to the courtyard, where they stood face to face.
“All right, let’s talk. What do you know about the Zodiarts coming back, and who’s behind it?”
“What, you mean that? I don’t mind talking, but I don’t know a thing about that.”
Kijima didn’t seem to be lying.
“I see…I probably happened to be too biased against you. I’ll change the question,” said Kengo, with a cold but strong gaze. “According to Gentarou, you had an easier time waking up than the other two who were in the M-BUS. Were you actually asleep, or did you wake up earlier than the rest?”
Kengo had surmised that Kijima had been the only one conscious within the cold sleep capsules, instead of sleeping like the rest of them.
“Did you see something there, Kijima?”
“…Dear me, you’re quite sharp, Kengo Utahoshi.”
Kijima was smirking, impressed.
“Perhaps it’s thanks to my physical constitution, but I woke up every so often. So of course, I was bored. You’re probably wondering how I passed the time, right? Well, I just did what you call ‘brain rakugo‘. You imagine being in a room with a huge audience and practice reciting stories over and over in your head, so it’s basically like training yourself in your imagination, you see.”
“I don’t care about that. Tell me what actually happened.”
“It’s related to what happened, so be quiet and listen.”
“It’s actually related?”
“At one point, an unwelcome guest came to attend my brain rakugo.”
“An unwelcome guest? What do you mean by that?”
“It was quite shameful. A monster peeked into my brain.”
The moment she was thrown into the air, Nadeshiko didn’t have enough time to grasp what had just happened to her, but once she started falling towards the ground, she let out an ear-piercing scream.
She was free-falling to her death.
But Gentarou acted quickly, kicked the Zodiarts in front of him and pushed him away, and dived after her without losing a moment. As he fell, he put on the Fourze Driver and activated all four switches in one motion.
3! 2! 1!
The countdown went off, the Rocket Switch was on, and Gentarou pulled the lever with a clang!
“Transform! Here comes…”
Just as he became Fourze, the Rocket Module went off. He instantly accelerated and caught Nadeshiko from the side, and started carrying her up with the same momentum.
“…spaaaaaaaaaaace — oh, there we go.”
“Am I dead? Did I die? Hey, who are you?!”
“Calm down, it’s me, Gentarou.”
As he tried to calm the panicking Nadeshiko down, he suddenly remembered, huh, come to think of it, I first met the SOLU Nadeshiko when I caught her from the sky like this, huh? — but just as the thought had crossed his mind, he saw the Vela Zodiarts flying at him at high speed. He was distracted trying to keep Nadeshiko safe, and had no time to guard when Vela punched him from the side and blew him back.
He had the reinforced body of a Rider, but the attack was too strong. For a moment, his breathing had cut off, and he’d almost dropped Nadeshiko, whom he was carrying in one arm.
Nadeshiko was like an endless scream machine of terror, with her eyes darting in every direction.
Vela spun around in the are with a schwing!, and flew back to attack Fourze. His right arm was occupied with the Rocket Module, his left arm was holding Nadeshiko, and neither hand was free.
“Ugh, why’d you have to do this to me?!”
Fourze threw Nadeshiko into the air.
With his left arm now free, he turned a Switch in his belt on, and a Module with a myriad of steel thorns appeared on his left leg.
Vela immediately realized he was in for trouble, but it was too late for him to stop.
Fourze countered with a kick to the face. Gh-shah! Vela fell from the air, screaming in pain with a “gyaaaaaah!”
Fourze set Rocket to off and turned his left arm into the Parachute Module. He caught Nadeshiko with his right arm, and his parachute opened.
“You okay, Nadeshiko?”
“Of course I’m not!”
Held in Fourze’s arm and slowly falling with the parachute, Nadeshiko was in hysterics as she yelled.
“I told you I didn’t want to ride the Ferris wheel! I didn’t want to — !”
“Sorry. But hey, I kept my promise, I came to save you, right?”
“Shut up! Let me down!”
She flailed at Fourze.
“Whoa, whoa, watch out, don’t do that.”
Fourze looked down to see Ryouko and Sumie, looking up at him and walking their way.
“Gh, it’s Ryouko and Sumie! This is looking baaaaaaad.”
Both girls took out their Switches. Ryouko turned into the Carina Zodiarts, and Sumie turned into the Puppis Zodiarts.
“Huh? Sumie’s a Zodiarts, too?”
Carina rushed towards where Fourze was about to land, her ribs about to converge on him.
“Okay, we’re in trouble!”
Fourze quickly set Parachute to off and changed his left arm into the Gyro Module. Using the rotor to lift himself away from Carina’s attack, he rose further and returned Nadeshiko to the stopped Ferris wheel, putting her inside the car with the broken door.
“No, no, no! I don’t want to be there anymore.”
“It’s safer here, so stay put for now.”
He pushed Nadeshiko in, but — bang! He was hit on the back by a hardened tentacle missile from Puppis.
He’d been completely ambushed from behind, and he fell and crashed into the ground.
He was about to stand up, but realized how bad of a position he was in and kicked himself up. Vela was flying at him from above. Carina was on his right. Puppis was on his left. He was completely surrounded.
Nadeshiko was screaming in desperation. He’s totally outnumbered, he’s done for!
But Fourze was still confident.
“Three on one, huh? Bit of a handicap, sounds pretty fun.”
He stroked his white tuna-shaped head, as if scooping up his pompadour.
“Each of you are up for a one-on-one with me, Kamen Rider Fourze!”
He stuck out his fist.
Kijima’s story went like this.
A small, shapeless “something’ had slipped into the cracks of the M-BUS.
According to him, that “something” somehow made it into the capsule and scanned all three of their brains.
“What do you mean by ‘scan’?”
“It scanned me directly. It slowly invaded my body through my ears, nose, eyes, maybe even my skin…no, I’d rather not elaborate, it makes me feel disgusting.”
At the time, Kijima had been the only one awake, so he’d actually gotten to feel his own body being invaded. In any case, he could feel the sensation slowly creeping over him, like his body would never recover from the damage.
“So you actually felt it peeking into your brain?”
“I did. It looked through my memories, and it wasn’t really interested in the rakugo show, but it seemed like it was only interested in the Zodiarts. Of course, that’s just my impression of what happened.”
“So what did it do after it scanned you?”
“It went off somewhere. I don’t know where. But when we came back to Earth, I felt like that ‘something’ was around here. It might be related to the recent Zodiarts incident.”
Kengo thought over the new information he’d just received.
“A shapeless…’something’, you said. Wait, could it be…”
“Do you have an idea?”
“I might…Going only by what you just told me, I’m not entirely sure. But I do feel like something terrible is about to happen.”
“It is, isn’t it? Well, I don’t mind as long as it’s fun. Heh heh.”
As Kijima laughed, Kengo turned around and started walking away.
“Anyway, I’ve heard enough from you. See you later.”
“Hey, hey, you won’t even show me a bit of gratitude for my insights?”
In response, Kengo turned back and gave him one last funny face.
Fourze turned on the Electric Switch and changed to Electric States, with a golden body. He used his electric shock rod, Billy the Rod, to send a charged electric shock at Carina and Vela.
They were bursting with electricity as they were tossed back. It was tens of thousands of times more powerful than a stun gun, and if a human were to be hit by it, they would be reduced to a pile of carbon. But the two Zodiarts didn’t take much damage, and got up immediately, still on the alert.
“Well, that seems to have done a bit. All right, next.”
He prepared to unleash another special attack by replacing the plug in Billy the Rod’s socket, Puppis, who had avoided his last attack by quickly getting out of the way, started yelling out instructions.
“Hozumi! Take Ryouko and start flying. Get away from the ground.”
Fourze had tried to stick the rod into the ground and feed an electric shock through it, but the two Zodiarts avoided it in time.
“How’d you know I was gonna do that? Okay, how about this?”
He turned the Giantfoot Switch on. A module appeared on his right foot, and he slammed his foot into the ground. A huge foot-shaped mass of energy appeared over Puppis and trampled her!…or, at least, that was what was supposed to happen, but she managed to avoid it at the last moment.
“Dang it. Next one.”
Just then, Vela flew down at Fourze and tackled him. Carina was behind him, waiting with her mouth wide open. Crash!
He’d taken a hard hit. Carina was relentlessly attacking with her ribs, but Fourze used the Aero Module on his left foot to propel him away with wind. But Puppis seemed to have been anticipating him, and fired tentacle missiles at him.
A sharp claw-shaped module appeared on his right hand, but although he tried to claw them away, he was hit by the missiles in succession.
Fourze pointed directly at Puppis.
“Hey, Sumie! Are you reading all of my attacks in advance?”
“Heeheehee. I have a little window in my field of vision, and when I focus on it, I can see ten seconds into the future. What a mysterious power. ‘Man, that’s a pain, the heck am I supposed to do?'”
“Man, that’s a pain, the heck am I supposed to do?…Huh?”
She’d even taken the words out of his mouth. It was already difficult as it was to fight against three at once, but she could even predict and respond to his attacks.
“Ugh, that’s too much!”
Meanwhile, in the stalled Ferris wheel car, Nadeshiko was watching the battle between Fourze and the Zodiarts from above.
“Gentarou’s story was actually true…”
And on top of that, he’s in serious trouble! It can’t be easy to fight three monsters at once, no, it’s totally impossible! This is bad. Isn’t there anyone else who can help?
But as soon as everyone in the amusement park realized that the monster action show wasn’t some costumed event, they all started running away in a mass panic. Of course they’re running. I’d run, too. Actually, I’d be the first person running. But I just got to know that guy, I can’t just abandon him like that!
The battlefield was circling around a spinning coffee cup ride. From far above, it looked like a battle between dolls on a tray at tea time, so it didn’t even feel real. It was that ridiculous of an image.
Gentarou’s attacks aren’t hitting at all. Ah, and on top of that, he just got blown back by a ton of stick weapons. O-Oh, that skeleton thing just completely pinned him from the back.
He’s in trouble! That bone centipede and that sea anemone woman are gaining on him! This is really, really bad! Aaaah, but what can I even do?
“Please, God, help the tuna head guy or the Kamen whatever — help Gentarou!”
Had her prayers been answered? A young man was slowly walking onto the battlefield. The monsters and Gentarou were so caught up in fighting that they hadn’t noticed him.
Who’s that? He’s wearing my school’s uniform. Do I know him? I can’t see him well from here, but he looks like a pretty handsome guy. Hm? There’s something around his waist. Is that a belt? He’s turning his hand and posing.
The light was so dazzling that Nadeshiko had to cover her eyes.
Intense amounts of energy were gathering around the young man, forming a glittering sphere around him, and the sphere sped into the air.
Somehow, Nadeshiko felt completely relieved, and as she sighed in relief, she fainted.
Fourze was pinned down, and couldn’t move a single inch. He’d dropped the rod and couldn’t even use any electric shocks. Two Zodiarts were converging on him to attack. Carina was approaching with her mouth on her body completely open. If I get caught between these two, I’m done for. Puppis stiffened her tentacles as if they were longswords, and brandished them. Hey, hey, are you planning to cut my head off?
Just then — baaaang!!
A glowing meteorite fell into the ground, blowing Carina and Puppis into the giant coffee cups. It looked like the table had been flipped over.
The ball of light burst, and a warrior with a mask resembling a blue shooting star appeared from within.
“I, Kamen Rider Meteor, will be the one ot decide your fate.”
He readied a kung fu pose, like Bruce Lee.
Caught off guard, Vela had loosened his elbows, allowing Fourze to get out from under him.
The two Riders stood back to back. “Nuggegyroika showed us what was going on. All the other Rider Club members are on their way.”
“Thanks! Uh, which Nuggegyroika?…Nuggeuropa, Nuggeio, Nuggemede…?”
“Hey! You can thank it later.”
Carina stood up and started howling. Vela was also clearly angered. Puppis was staring calmly at Meteor.
Fourze batted his tuna-shaped head a few times to regain his bearings.
“All right, we’re on the second round. Three against two, we’re sure to win this. Hey, Ryuusei, watch out for that fluttery goddess girl over there. She can read your attacks in advance. Really a pain in the rear there.”
“All right, leave her to me. Let’s go, Gentarou.”
As Sumie, the Puppis Zodiarts, watched Meteor approaching, she started focusing her future vision, only to be greeted with an unnerving image of Meteor hitting her with a flurry of high-speed punches.
“I’ve already seen through your attack…!”
At that moment, Meteor’s fist was already in Puppis’s face.
“Why!? My predictive abilities should have been perfect! Gh!”
Meteor’s first punch had been faster than Puppis’s foresight. His rain of punches, like a meteor shower, was so relentless that Puppis could no longer make any predictions.
“Whooooooooa, hwa-chaaaaa, hwa-chaaaaaaa!”
It was Meteor’s special attack, a series of incredibly fast punches.
Puppis’s future vision only showed her smacked down and beaten to a pulp. Her stomach churned in fear.
Boom! Just as her vision had warned, Meteor’s fist sank right into Puppis’s body.
Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!
Puppis was blown back violently by Meteor’s punches.
Hoping to distract Meteor, Carina attacked him from behind.
But Meteor immediately swung his fist back, as if he’d already seen from behind!
He started up the Meteor Galaxy lever’s fingerprint authentication.
Meteor’s right fist was burning. Carina was hit directly by his special attack, the Mars Breaker.
Carina clutched her stomach in agony.
“This guy’s real strong!”
Meteor started approaching, step by step.
“Unlike Gentarou, I’m not worried about my career, or prom, or anything like that. My only goal right now is to defeat you. Come and get me if you can!”
Indeed, Fourze seemed to be less focused on the fight than Meteor, and was asking his opponent questions.
“Hey, moth dude. You’re from Ama High too, right?”
Indeed, the Vela Zodiarts resembled a skeleton with wings, making him come off as a large butterfly or moth. The wind hit his wings, allowing him to use the tailwind to fly at Gentarou in a rush, circling around Fourze and attacking by pestering him.
“I’m guessing you’re doing this ’cause you also hate the prom.”
As Fourze continued to barrage him with questions, Vela snapped in anger.
“Shut up. I’m pissed. If you want me to answer, defeat me first. Hah!”
He flew down and received a knee kick to the face.
“Maybe I’ll try this one.”
He replaced the Electric Switch, #10, with a red one marked with a #20.
The fiery Cosmic Energy surrounded him and changed him into the bright red Fire States. On his right arm was the Heat Hackgun module.
The gun, shaped like a fire extinguisher, spit out a very terribly messy fire. Vela managed to avoid it, but the tips of his wings were set on fire.
Unable to handle it anymore, he fled.
“You’re not getting away!”
A wheel module appeared on Fourze’s red foot. It started running on the spot, chasing after Vera from the ground, much like a super-fast Segway.
He saw Vela making his way down to the roller coaster landing. Fourze jumped on the rail, and as the giant wheels screeched, he managed to catch up with Vela.
“You’re so persistent! You’re really pissing me off!”
“If you plan on surrendering, hand over the Zodiarts Switch.”
“Who’s surrendering here, huh?”
Vela sticked out his arms, and the cloth wrapped around his bones lashed out at high speed, wrapping around Fourze.
In only the blink of an eye, Fourze had been completely bound by a bunch of bandages, and was unable to move.
“So you have that attack in your arsenal, too…”
Vela kicked the Fourze roll into the front car of the roller coaster, entered the control cabin, and pressed the activation button. Clang, clang. The roller coaster started to move. Fourze’s head was pointed in the opposite direction of the moving coaster.
There was nothing he could do. Fourze managed to pull himself upright by crawling like a worm, but he could barely stand on the moving coaster. He struggled to escape, but the more he struggled, the tighter the bandages got.
“Owwwww. That’s some real strong cloth you’ve got there.”
If I could just move my left hand… he thought, and it budged, bit by bit.
It worked! He started moving his hand as the coaster gradually rose towards the top. He was sitting in the opposite direction, so he had no idea when it would fall. It was setting him on edge.
Vela fluttered down, across from the fidgeting Fourze, and laughed.
“Why not enjoy a nice roller coaster here and there, Kisaragi?”
“Aren’t you a guy? Don’t think I’m interested in riding a roller coaster with a troublemaker like you.”
“Oh, don’t say that. We’re just about to get to the good part.”
Despite the fact they were on a rollar coaster, Vela released his transformation, revealing himself to be Seiru Hozumi.
“Oh, we’ve met before, haven’t we?”
“We have, but we’ve never talked. I’m Seiru Hozumi from the Yacht Club, third-year, class A.”
“Nice to meet you. Starting today, we’re friends, right?”
He was still Fourze-shaped, but the mask somehow looked like he was smiling back at him. Hozumi, on the other hand, didn’t seem so enthusiastic.
“Don’t get ahead of yourself, now. You’re on a roller coaster of death. Try not to piss me off.”
“Hey, Hozumi, have you decided what you’re gonna do after you graduate? Are you going to uni?”
“I didn’t get into any of the universities I wanted to, so I’m taking another year off to study. But I have to get into medical school, no matter what.”
“Oh, you’re gonna be a doctor. Right, so you’ve already decided.”
“My parents are doctors. They want me to be one.”
“Hmmm, I don’t think I’d want my doctor to be so angry all the time.”
“Shut up! It’s not like I wanted this, either! But I don’t have a choice, my life’s already been decided for me. I’ll just keep following the rail as I go up, until one day everything inevitably crashes on me. But you’ll be the first one to fall, Kisaragi! Gyahahahaha!”
Hozumi laughed, as if mocking himself, and pressed the Switch, turning himself back into the Vela Zodiarts. He jumped up as the roller coaster reached its peak and began to fall.
With Fourze still on the back, the coaster slid down the rail with tremendous force.
Fourze had managed to move his left hand over to a Switch, and he desperately tried to get a grasp on it.
His left hand became a giant pair of scissors. He hooked the cutting edge onto the cloth and cut right through it.
When the coaster was about to make a huge loop, he changed his left hand from a pair of scissors to a grappling hook. He fired the hook and wire at Vela, who was floating in the air.
The claws sunk into Vela’s shoulder. Fourze wound up the wire and rose into the air, using the momentum to knock right into Vela with his head.
It was a powerful headbutt. Vela lost his balance and fell to the ground, spinning on the way. Naturally, Fourze followed right after. The two rolled around, tangled in the wire, and stopped at the fence next to the merry-go-round.
“Ow ow ow ow ow. Ahaha!”
“What the hell, is something wrong with your head? What’s so funny?”
In contrast to how angry Vela was, Fourze was laughing so hard he was clutching his stomach.
“How was that, Hozumi? It’s more fun to get off the rails for once, isn’t it? Ahahahahahaha!”
Fourze was laughing in such a hearty matter that Vela could only look on in confusion.
Having gotten Nuggegyroika’s report, all of the Rider Club members rushed in to help. Yuuki, Tomoko, JK, Ran, Haru. Both Riders were fighting in both directions.
In the end, the peace in their lives had ended after only half a year, and they’d been yanked back into all this. Well, it seemed like they would just have to consider their high school life to be this in itself.
“Kinda seems like…they’re winning, right?” said JK, whistling cheerfully.
Fourze was now getting the upper hand on Vela. Meteor was also overwhelmingly dominating Puppis and Carina, despite being up against two Zodiarts. Meteor was fighting without the slightest bit of hesitation.
“Hey, Yuuki, I’ve been thinking this for a while, but Ryuusei’s gotten a lot stronger, hasn’t he?”
Yuuki nodded firmly in response to Tomoko.
“It’s because Gen changed him.”
During the Aries Zodiarts incident, Meteor had tried to kill Gentarou in exchange for his own best friend’s life. Following that, Gentarou acquired the power of Cosmic States and managed to miraculously revive, but that was only by the power of a sheer miracle. Ryuusei couldn’t forget that he’d done “something he couldn’t take back” to Gentarou. Although he’d never said it in words, ever since then, Ryuusei had engraved “putting his life on the line and fighting for Gentarou’s sake” in his heart. Ever since then, Meteor had been getting stronger with each passing day.
And in fact, Ryuusei was not the only one whom Gentarou had influenced to change their lives for the better. Tomoko, JK, Ran, Haru, Kengo — all of them were the same. Even his own childhood friend, Yuuki, had been helped by Gentarou’s words and actions at all of the turning points of her life, ever since they were children. Yuuki had always thought he had an amazing talent for making everyone around him positive.
“Gentarou, Ryuusei, hurry up and get ’em good! Use the Limit Break and turn their Zodiarts Switches off! Then we’ll take ’em back!” yelled JK, now fully in the mood. The Riders had managed to bring their fight to the square near the merry-go-round.
Fourze and Meteor nodded. Fourze pulled the Fire Switch from his belt and placed it in the Heat Hackgun. Meteor switched on the Meteor Switch on his belt.
Both Riders bent over deeply, preparing to land their finishers on the Zodiarts, but then — !
The shriek caught Fourze and Meteor off-guard, canceling their finishers.
“What happened, Tomoko?”
“Don’t interrupt! Did something happen?”
Confused, everyone looked back at Tomoko, who was trembling. She retorted with another barrage of questions.
“What do you mean, ‘what happened’? Don’t you all feel this sickening, evil air? It reeks of blood!”
JK and Yuuki turned to face each other.
“Do you feel something?”
“You know, now that you mention it…”
Up until then, there hadn’t been any wind, but now, an unusually lukewarm breeze was blowing past. There was a strange, unpleasant, thick sensation in the air, one that felt as if it were clinging to the body.
It was evening, and the sun was on the verge of setting, dyeing the sky in an eerie purple. They could hear thunder in the distance. The atmosphere felt so odd that everyone could feel it, even without Tomoko’s sixth sense. They all felt something intensely uncomfortable, as if giant hands were grabbing their stomachs. Tomoko’s lips turned deep blue, and she collapsed as everyone scrambled to catch her.
On the other hand, the Zodiarts seemed to know exactly what this sense of discomfort was, and they seemed to be even calmer than before. Since they were monsters, it was difficult to make out their expressions, but they seemed to be grinning.
“Hey, Gentarou. Something’s coming.”
“Looks like it.”
At first, it had sounded like thunder, but it was something else entirely.
Haru and Ran were clutching their ears as they yelled over the noise.
“It sounds like a motorcycle!”
“I don’t want to know how big that bike is!”
Brrrrrrrrrr! Tearing through the lukewarm air was a bloodstained schoolgirl, riding on a speeding motorcycle without a helmet. The motorcycle was a tattered American one that somehow came off more like a living creature, as if it were a “ghost of a motorcycle” rather than an actual motorcycle. The wheel trails were burning in purple flames.
Screech! The motorcycle stopped right in front of the two Riders and the Zodiarts.
After turning herself around to face Fourze and Meteor, the bloodstained girl smiled. Or, at least, her mouth made it seem like she was smiling, but her eyes were barely hidden behind her bangs, and it was impossible to tell what her actual intent was. Her eyes were like an abyss. It felt as if there were deep holes where her eyes should be. Her eyes are “darkness”. I feel like I’ve seen this “darkness” before, thought Yuuki. Everyone there was stunned at the strange aura coming off from her.
Everyone except for Fourze.
“Hey, you look like you’re hurt. You okay?” he asked, as if they were having a light conversation.
“Is that what you have to ask?” JK had managed to gather enough courage to snark at Gentarou, in the face of the girl’s ominous aura.
Kengo rushed in at that exact moment.
“Hey, what’s going on?” He addressed the question at Tomoko and the others, but no one was able to answer.
Fourze had another thing on his mind. I feel like I’ve seen this girl somewhere? Or she looks like someone I know… But he couldn’t remember who it was.
Meteor came forward.
“So the mastermind’s shown herself, huh? Are you the one who handed out Switches to these guys over here?”
“Yeah, I am.”
The girl slowly got off the motorcycle and stood up.
Kengo was in shock. Looking closely, she was wearing a belt that seemed to be a combination of the Fourze Driver and Meteor Driver. While everyone was still at a loss, the girl flick-flick-flicked the levers, which clicked with a familiar sound, and turned the Switches on.
The bloodstained girl was surrounded in a purple light, and she transformed into a strange creature with a mask.
Her crimson and black body shined with a dull sheen, as if it had been lightly drenched in the sunset. There were wings on her back, but they were broken, as if she were a fallen angel.
The red lines under her eyes looked like teardrop lines, as if she had been crying.
“A Kamen Rider?”
“No way,” said Tomoko, having blurted it out without thinking.
The fallen angel gave a single, huge nod, and turned to face Fourze and Meteor.
“I’m Icarus. Kamen Rider Icarus.”
Yuuki repeated the name, feeling something special about that name.
While everyone was frozen in fear, Meteor decided to take the first moe.
In the same moment, Icarus’s body began to be wrapped in a gale, until it suddenly amassed into a tornado around her right arm. Icarus lightly shook her arm and threw the tornado at Meteor. Meteor’s entire body was blown back a whole twenty meters, and he plunged into the merry-go-round with a huge crash. It had all happened in only a single moment.
Fourze pulled back a fist and tried to throw a punch, but Icarus shook her hand again and generated another tornado, blowing back Fourze just as easily. Icarus seemed to have the ability to control the wind, and exert a tremendous amount of force with it.
“Don’t get the wrong idea.”
“I’m not here to fight you right now. I’ve transformed here so I can punish them.”
This time, it was Puppis, Carina, and Vela’s turn to be surprised.
Icarus generated a tornado around his entire body and jumped high into the sky, with the momentum of a spinning gymnast. He flew over the Zodiarts and kicked into their faces with enough force to snap a head off a torso.
All three Zodiarts were instantly blown back, and their transformations released.
“W-What the hell is up with this guy…” Even JK, naturally, didn’t have anything witty to say.
Kengo, who had regained his composure, snatched the Astro Switch Case from Haru. He began taking samples of and analyzing the data for Icarus’s Cosmic Energy.
“Wait, that really is…!”
Kengo’s eyes were wide open.
Icarus looked down at Hozumi.
“Hozumi, the stars will grant your wish, but that doesn’t mean you get to do whatever you like.”
Hozumi, flustered, nodded quickly.
“And you two, Ryouko, Sumie. It’s not your job to be fighting them right now.”
Both of them shrank in compliance.
“Got it? Now go.”
Icarus blew the trio into a purple tornado, and before the Rider Club members could say a word, the trio had vanished.
Tomoko’s sense of responsibility as club president got her to speak up and address Icarus, who had turned her back on them, in a shaky voice.
“What are you planning to do? Are you trying to get the prom canceled?”
Nobody there expected Icarus’s reply.
“No, no. I’ll make sure the prom goes as planned.”
“I want the prom to be held…and then I’ll crush it to bits,” declared Icarus. “We only have one more companion to recruit. We’ve already given him his Switch.”
Having finished what she wanted to say, Icarus got back on the ghost motorcycle and sped off with a roaring noise.
The amusement park, which had been mercilessly ravaged, had finally become peaceful again, but the Rider Club was only barely able to pick themselves back up. Another Rider? Another Rider with overwhelming strength and malice, and that final declaration…
They were so caught up in it that they ended up losing track of the time, until finally, JK started muttering.
“We’re in for something really bad.”
Tomoko, clutching her own shaking body, had just enough strength to stand up again. Ran and Haru, who had only just joined the Rider Club, were overwhelmed by the experience and at a complete loss for words.
Fourze and Meteor released their transformations. The pair had unusually grave expressions on their faces.
“Who was that Kamen Rider Icarus person?” said Ryuusei, still upset at how he’d been beaten so thoroughly.
Kengo seemed to have noticed something, and was frantically using the Astro Switch Case to run an analysis.
Gentarou also had something on his mind.
“I feel like I know that girl from somewhere.”
Yuuki could only think about the “darkness” in the bloodstained girl’s eyes. It was the darkness of space. It was the same darkness that one would see when looking at space from the moon’s surface. Space brought hope and dreams to people, but it was also a deep and distant darkness where many things could not be seen.
Now that Icarus had left, the eerie purple sunset had turned pitch-black.
Before they’d even realized it, night had fallen.
- The Gospellers are namedropped as Gentarou’s reference for an a cappella group.
- This is even more obvious with Japanese name ordering, since to get “Imewa Karashi” (伊眼輪からし), you simply read all of the syllables of “Shirakawa Mei” (白川芽以) backwards.
- Tomoko imagines “writing the word ‘strong enemy’ and reading it as ‘rival'”, referring to a common gimmick used to force “double meanings” out of words by writing one word in the text and a different word in the furigana above it. Normally, furigana would be expected to clarify how to read names or obscure kanji, but sometimes a completely different word will be put there for creative flair.
- Within the novel text, the original Nadeshiko’s name is written in kanji as 美咲撫子 (Nadeshiko Misaki), whereas the SOLU version has no surname and is written in hiragana as なでしこ (Nadeshiko), like her Rider name.
- The wordplay here is “koi ocha ichiban kowai” (濃いお茶がいちばん怖い), “the strong tea is the scariest”.
- Nadeshiko calls Gentarou out for using her name without honorifics, despite the fact he’d just met her and therefore would be expected to use one.