Gentarou swung the classroom door wide open. Sonoda was in the middle of teaching her class. Sonoda slowly turned her head from the blackboard to Gentarou, staring quietly at him. Gentarou took the glare and swung his hand up.
“Sorry I’m late!” he yelled in a loud voice.
All of the students’ eyes were fixed on him as he walked in, full of pride. In the back, Yuuki was giggling, and Kengo sighed in exasperation. Gentarou tried to slip past Sonoda as he made his way to his seat, but as he passed by, Sonoda poked his head.
“Delinquent boy. When you’re late, you could at least be a bit more apologetic about it. Dear goodness.”
There was something irresistibly cute about seeing Sonoda sulk like this.
“Yeah, you’re right. Sorry, Sono.”
“It’s ‘Miss’ Sonoda. I’m your teacher, so address me appropriately. ‘Miss So-no-da’.”
Gentarou was already used to this conversation, to the point it was like a comfortable routine. Perhaps it was because she was so young and lovely, but he couldn’t help but see her as a friend.
“You say that, but you’re not that much older than we are, are you? You’re a friend, too.”
“No. It’s not a question of age, but a question of position. You are my student, and I am your teacher.”
“All right, lemme ask a question.”
For some reason, Gentarou felt like prodding in a little further today.
“What exactly is a ‘teacher’, anyway?”
The question caught Sonoda off guard.
Sonoda’s reaction was so drastic that even Gentarou muttered “huh?” in response. Somehow, it felt like an actress had stopped playing her role for a moment. There was something unusual about the atmosphere around her.
Sonoda started muttering, as if she was addressing herself instead of anyone else.
“A teacher is someone who guides you along the path you’re meant to take.”
Gentarou felt she was saying this with someone in mind.
The moment she finished answering, Sonoda suddenly returned to acting like a cute teacher, as if a switch had been flipped. She puffed out her cheek in irritation.
“Well. Hurry up and sit down, Kisaragi. We need to get along with class.”
“All right. Today’s class is gonna guide us on the path we’re meant to take, right?”
There was an unpleasant expression on Sonoda’s face for a moment, but she went back to her old demeanor almost immediately.
“Yes. As a student, please do what you’re meant to do.”
Gentarou went to his seat and sat down, and class resumed.
He opened his textbook, but something felt wrong, and he shifted with discomfort in his seat. He looked around to see Yuuki in the seat next to him. She had been laughing not too long ago, but now, she was crying.
“Huh? Yuuki? What’s wrong?”
Yuuki’s face was scrunched up as she cried. She was like a crying child who’d woken up in the middle of the night and couldn’t find her mother sleeping next to her, lost and lonely in the dark.
“My dream is…gone…It’s gone…”
“Hey, hey, Yuuki, don’t cry. Hey.”
He suddenly realized that the Yuuki in front of him was actually three years old.
Gentarou didn’t know what to do. While he was looking around in a panic, Kengo stood up from the seat behind her.
“I’ll handle this, Kisaragi. Move.”
He pushed Gentarou out of the way, picked up the three-year-old Yuuki, and started trying to calm her down.
Sonoda was watching them from the teacher’s podium, glaring at them.
“It’s okay, it’s okay. Wooooo.” Kengo was trying to make Yuuki laugh with funny faces, but she didn’t stop crying.
“Okay, how about this? Upsy-daisy! Up and up and up.”
Kengo gently raised Yuuki with both arms. Yuuki stopped crying. There were still tears on her cheeks, but she started giggling and breaking out into laughter.
Right, Yuuki likes being in high places, thought Gentarou.
It was only then he realized.
“Oh. Wait. This is a dream, huh.”
Gentarou woke up shivering in the cold. The wind was blowing. White sand was clinging to his cheeks. His pompadour had collapsed, and his bangs had fallen over his forehead, with sand mixed into it.
He was on the sandy beach, with the sea in front of him. It was right at the brink of dawn. What was I doing? After spending a moment confused on what had just happened, he remembered everything.
“Yuuki! Where are you, Yuuki?”
He scrambled up and looked around, and saw that Yuuki was right behind him. Her long hair and uniform skirt were blowing in the wind, fluttering in the air.
“Good morning, Gen. You lost,” said Yuuki, as if it were a normal thing to say.
The sentence ‘you lost’ pierced right through Gentarou, but he was at least relieved to see Yuuki was unharmed.
“Yuuki, you okay?”
Yuuki did not turn to face Gentarou.
“Icarus left,” said Yuuki, completely unperturbed. Gentarou looked straight into her eyes.
Her eyes were the same as Tsubasa’s — an abyss. There was “nothing” there. If there was something to be seen in there, it was as if they were filled with “despair about the future”.
Yuuki’s not okay at all. I couldn’t protect her!
Gentarou clenched his fist. At that same moment, severe pain ran through his body. More precisely, his body had finally caught up to feeling the brunt of the damage Icarus had inflicted on him. His face scrunched up as he tried to endure the pain, but Yuuki kept looking out at the ocean, paying no attention to him.
Gentarou took out the NS MagPhone and opened it. There was a flood of missed calls. Everyone in the Rider Club seemed to have been worrying about them through the night.
“Hey, Yuuki, you’re going to the graduation ceremony, right?”
Gentarou couldn’t tell whether that was supposed to be a “yes” or a “no”.
“You should go. It’s the graduation ceremony, after all.”
Yuuki didn’t ask “what about you?” in the same way she normally would, so Gentarou responded as if she had.
“I’m…gonna pass. I’ll join up with you guys at the prom.”
Gentarou pulled out the Driver and quickly transformed into Fourze.
He transformed into Fourze’s titanium blue strongest form, Cosmic States. He placed the Cosmic Switch on the Cracklebang Sword.
“We can just warp back to Ama High. Everyone’s waiting for us there.”
He grabbed Yuuki’s right hand.
Just then, he noticed the piece of paper she was holding on it. He didn’t even have to look at it to know what was written on there.
It was the strip of paper where Sonoda had written about her dream to become an astronaut.
Fourze could feel an odd feeling in his chest as he warped back.
One moment later, they were in the Rider Club room.
Everyone was there in the room.
“We’re back,” said Yuuki, who seemed to be normal at first glance but was devoid of emotion.
Miu, Shun, JK, Ran, and Haru all surrounded Fourze and Yuuki.
“Man, we were worried about you guys.”
“Felt like staying out late?”
“Don’t joke about that!”
“But seriously, thank goodness!”
Ryuusei and Tomoko were also obviously relieved. Gentarou released his transformation. Okay, but how am I gonna explain all this…Yuuki, Icarus, Sono, Tsubasa…
Miu completely missed the concern on Gentarou’s face, and was busy pointing out something else.
“Oh? Isn’t this the first time we’ve gotten the entire club in the same room?”
JK and Shun exploded in excitement.
“You’re right! We’ve got the alumni and the freshmen, and we’ve even got Ryuusei!”
“Why don’t we take a photo while we can? Camera, camera…”
While everyone else was getting excited —
“Hey, Yuuki? What’s wrong?”
Kengo had noticed Yuuki’s unusual state.
Yuuki’s un-Yuuki-like response was enough to convince Kengo that something was very wrong, and he shot a glance at Gentarou, as if to question what was going on here. Of course you’d notice, Kengo, Gentarou immediately thought. You’re really the best person to be Yuuki’s dance partner at the prom.
In the lukewarm jet-black world filled with the smell of blood floated four young people with pale white skin. Ryouko, Sumie, Hozumi, Makise. All four were naked, dozing off and holding only their Zodiarts Switches in their hands, lying down or crouching. They seemed to be in ecstasy, but they also seemed to be having nightmares.
Tsubasa emerged from the darkness, appearing in the form of Sarina. It was as if Sarina had just been born, but the covering of blood looked like a graceful snug-fitting crimson dress.
“Awaken, my companions.”
Ryouko, Sumie, Hozumi, and Makise slowly awakened on command.
“Was the ‘Room of Passions’ comfortable enough for you? Have you accumulated all of your grudges?”
“Well, not bad,” said Hozumi, responding to Tsubasa with a bit of bitterness in his voice.
Ryouko flicked her split tongue like a snake as her reply.
Sumie put her hand on her stomach and quietly looked up at something.
Makise still seemed to be half-asleep.
“You’re the lowest on the school’s food chain, on the lowest layers of its cliques. But now that you have those Switches, you can do whatever you want. You can do as you like. So, tell me, what would you like to do?”
“Destroy the prom,” said Ryouko.
“The complete eradication of all Ama High graduates,” said Hozumi.
Tsubasa turned to Sumie.
“And what about you?”
Sumie was mumbling so softly that it was hard to make out what she was saying. Makise, still sleepy, put his hand lightly on Sumie’s shoulder.
“Shredding their wings as they try flying into the future. Right?”
“Y…Y-Yeah…break their wings…” said Sumie, with a smile full of malice on her face.
Satisfied, Tsubasa nodded. Everyone had been sufficiently drenched in the darkness. They had the eyes of soldiers at the ready.
“Well, let’s head out. Ryouko, Sumie, get in your dresses. The boys can look sharp in their tuxedos. Today is your graduation ceremony — your graduation from your humanity.”
Tsubasa laughed with the fervor of someone finding their own joke funny.
After hearing about what had happened in Tanegashima and Icarus’s true identity, all of the club members left the meeting in shock. The chairman, Miu, had suggested that everyone wash their faces at the shrine before the prom. They would purify their bodies and souls before facing the battle, something that even club president Tomoko had no objection to. As a result, only Gentarou, Kengo, and Yuuki, who were Ama High graduates, and Ryuusei, who was from Subaruboshi High, stayed behind at the school. Kengo used Fourze’s medical module to examine Yuuki. Physically speaking, she was perfectly healthy, but something wasn’t quite right.
“Wanna go up to the roof?” said Kengo to Yuuki, watching her sadly.
The four of them headed up to the roof of the school building.
Underneath them in the school courtyard, the cherry blossom trees were in full bloom, with a gentle pink.
“See, the cherry blossoms are blooming just for us. Perfect timing, isn’t it? It’s like Yuuki said, they’re going ‘I want to send off our graduates with the cherry blossoms in full bloom,’ right?” said Gentarou.
“Yeah. What was it, Yuuki? ‘The fully-bloomed cherry blossoms will be my cheers to you, like the starry sky. Cheers!'” said Kengo, picking up Gentarou’s thread.
But Yuuki remained silent. Nothing was resonating with her heart.
Gentarou and Kengo looked at each other.
Ryuusei, who was watching all three of them with a stern expression, made a gesture with his eyes at Gentarou and Kengo, took Yuuki’s hand, and brought her over towards the railing on the other side.
“Look at the cherry blossoms over here, Yuuki. What do you think? Does Mr. Hayabusa have anything to say?”
It was Ryuusei’s way of telling Gentarou and Kengo “don’t you two have something you should be discussing?”
As the two looked at each other, the early morning wind blew over the rooftop.
“We’re finally graduating, huh, Kengo?”
“Lots of stuff happened.”
“Yeah. Well, thanks to you, there was never a dull moment in my time here in high school.”
“So much stuff happened, we didn’t even have time to get bored.”
They laughed, and then there was a short awkward silence. Finally, Gentarou spoke up again.
“I was thinking about which girl might’ve had the most influence on me in high school, and I realized, that’s probably Yuuki. So as soon as I realized that, I started wanting to dance with Yuuki at the prom all of a sudden.”
Kengo listened to what Gentarou was saying in silence.
“But y’know, Kengo, I know exactly how much you like Yuuki. I know you didn’t actually want to call off dancing with her just because she didn’t tell you she was going to America. So I wasn’t sure what to do.”
Kengo looked down. It seemed like he was nodding.
“So, I dunno why, but I thought I might get an answer to whether I could dance with Yuuki by fighting Icarus.”
“That doesn’t really make sense, but it sounds like something you’d come up with.”
“And then the worst thing happened…I couldn’t protect her, and Icarus stole Yuuki’s dreams of becoming an astronaut.”
There was a strange, mysterious feeling between Gentarou and Kengo in that moment. Gentarou suddenly blurted out another question.
“Did you, uh, suspect I was…”
Kengo spoke his words slowly.
“Of course not. You’re my friend. I like you too much for that.”
The words sank into Gentarou. He felt something warm flowing through him, and he suddenly bowed.
“I’m sorry, Kengo! Please help Yuuki. Please bring Yuuki back to normal!”
“Please! And please, dance with her!”
Gentarou’s pompadour was hanging down as he shouted his plea. Yuuki was watching them from a distance, with empty eyes. Ryuusei, next to her, seemed like he was at his limit.
Kengo lightly smacked Gentarou’s arm.
“Chin up, Gentarou.”
Gentarou snapped his head up to see Kengo staring right back at him.
“All right. As far as dancing with Yuuki goes, I’ll take care of it.”
“But as far as helping Yuuki goes, both of us have to work together. This is something only you and I can do.”
Kengo held out his hand. Gentarou grabbed it, and they exchanged his symbol of friendship.
Both were full of resolve.
Ryuusei observed what was going on, smiled, and returned with Yuuki in tow.
“All right, I’m heading back to Tanegashima,” said Gentarou, with the casual air of someone going out to buy bread.
“Okay,” said Yuuki, her tone completely flat.
Gentarou turned to face Ryuusei directly.
“Ryuusei, I’ll be sure to come back, but if I end up running late, we’ll need Meteor to protect everyone.”
“Leave it to me, Gentarou.”
Ryuusei and Gentarou exchanged another symbol of friendship.
Gentarou transformed into Fourze and used Cosmic States to warp to Tanegashima.
Kengo took Yuuki’s hand. He and Ryuusei looked at each other, and nodded.
The ground rushed by as she ran, looking down.
Sarina Sonoda was running. Ever since she’d gone back to living with her parents, she’d made a daily routine of jogging before breakfast. As if trying to discipline herself, she ran ten kilometers at a fairly high pace. As she pushed herself as fast as she could go, she was deep in thought. A fragment of a thought would float through her head, then expand and connect with another fragment.
Gamou. Hayami. Tatsugami. Virgo. All of them were dead. Why was she the only one still left alive? She wasn’t trying to get a particular answer out of it. She was just running. It hurt. Am I slowing down? No, I can’t do that. I won’t allow that. Run. Run more. Tsubasa. He died. Right in front of me, back then. But Tsubasa showed up yesterday. What was that? A personality I created? I, myself? I was the one who created that monster? I don’t know anything about that. I don’t know.
“I don’t knoooooooooooooooooow!”
She screamed out the last one as she ran. She was at home again. At the Sonoda Inn. Instead of using the usual visitor entrance, she went in using the kitchen back door and collapsed. Panting and panting. Her breaths were heavy. Sonoda suddenly remembered. Wait, weren’t those kids always running through the school gate like a bunch of idiots? They were always yelling and spriting. Am I doing the exact same thing Gentarou Kisaragi did? Stupid. So stupid.
Sonoda’s mother, Yasue, called out to her while grilling fish in the kitchen.
“Real big fuss you’re makin’ this morning.”
Yasue had lived in Tanegashima her entire life, so she spoke with a very strong Tanegashima dialect.
Sonoda, who was in a bad mood, only spoke back in the standard Tokyo dialect.
“It’s fine. We don’t have that many customers today anyway.”
“Wish we could get picked up on TV or somethin’. Like on one of those travel shows. Then we’ll get a ton of folks comin’, I bet.”
“And what exactly would they showcase us for? What do we even have to offer?”
“Well, I mean, we’re nice and simple, eh?”
Yasue laughed with a playful air. She had a bright personality, and Sonoda had always thought it strange how someone as negative as herself could be the daughter of someone so positive. Sonoda got up, opened the fridge, pulled out a carton of chilled coffee, and drank it directly out of the box.
“Too sweet…why don’t we ever keep black in here?”
Seeing her stand there with her jersey on and her hands on her hips, her mother sighed.
“So sloppy. You keep doin’ that and nobody’ll wanna marry you. Isn’t it ’round time you look for someone to make you happy?”
Marriage? Happiness? I don’t have the right to any of that.
“Some kids came yesterday. They your students?”
Right. Gentarou Kisaragi and Yuuji Joujima visited my parents’ house before they came to see me. Students…?
Sonoda burst into laughter. She laughed, and laughed, and cackled to the point Yasue looked taken aback and concerned.
“I didn’t teach them a thing.”
Looking dejected, she drank up the remaining coffee.
Just then, another voice spoke up.
“You did! You taught me something real important.”
Sonoda spit out her coffee and coughed. The door had suddenly opened to reveal Fourze behind it.
“Kisaragi, you — ! Huh? What?”
Yasue dropped her teacup in amazement.
The graduation ceremony was held in the Ama High gymnasium with full gravity.
But Kengo’s heart was restless. Principal Satake seemed to be making a good speech, and Kengo would normally have listened to it carefully, but at this point, it was going through one ear and out the other. He looked around the area and saw that there was no sign of Hozumi, Makise, Ryouko, or Sumie among the graduating students. As he’d thought; they were probably somewhere out there preparing for their attack.
The Rider Club had spent the previous night begging Yukina and the rest of the prom committee to cancel the prom party, but they’d gotten a no. “It’s the kind of memory you’ll have only once in your life, so even if it means taking a little bit of a risk, we’ll hold it,” she’d said. Kengo had spat back with a retort, “yeah, well, what if it ends up being the last memory of our lives?”, which only got him a rather annoyed look from Yukina in response.
They’d tried appealing to the school staff as well, but nobody listened to them. The principal’s stance was that “it’s a student-run event, so the students should get to decide.” Even both Miss Utsugi and Mr. Morota were surprisingly on-board, saying “well, if that’s what the principal says.” They’d hoped Mr. Ohsugi, the Rider Club’s advisor, would be insistent on opposing it, but…
“The prom committee hasn’t reported anything bad happening since the last incident, and I doubt there are any more Zodiarts. It’ll be fiiiiiiiine, Utahoshi. Ahaha!”
…he’d said, as if he didn’t have a care in the world. Everyone was so stunned they couldn’t bring themselves to say anything. So even he wasn’t on their side now?
And then on top of that…
“Is Kisaragi tryin’ to skip out on the graduation ceremony? How daaaaaaare heeeeeeee!”
…he was more upset at Gentarou’s absence.
After only half a year, everyone had gotten addicted to the peaceful atmosphere. Even those who had been directly involved in Zodiarts incidents had completely forgotten how it felt. It had all been completely blown off.
“This just means we in the Rider Club have to be the ones to stop Icarus. So, let’s do it.”
Everyone in the Rider Club felt more grounded by Tomoko’s words. That was something she was good at. They were riding a mud boat straight into a storm, but the one good thing they had was Tomoko as their new leader. On the flip side, the worst thing happening to them was…
Kengo looked to his side. Yuuki was vacantly staring upwards as if her soul had completely fallen out.
“Hey, Yuuki, something’s definitely gonna happen at the prom. All of us in the Kamen Rider Club have to put an stop to it, no matter what. Let’s do it, okay?” whispered Kengo in Yuuki’s ear.
Yuuki did not react. She seemed even more out of it than she’d been on the roof. Kengo kept trying.
“I’m sorry I said I wouldn’t dance with you, I’ll take it back. I’m really sorry.”
“Please dance with me, Yuuki.”
It seemed her gaze might have shifted for a moment, but she remained completely in a daze. Kengo’s emotions reached his limit.
Her name burst out of his mouth. One second later, he remembered that they were in the middle of the graduation ceremony. The pleasant backdrop of the principal’s speech suddenly went silent, and Kengo found all of the students staring at him. Man, this is the worst graduation ceremony ever.
The table was full of delicious small dishes made to be eaten with rice. Grilled flying fish, grated daikon radish on anchovies, fried fish cake with ginger soy sauce, raw eggs, seasoned sea moss, and clam miso1 soup. Sonoda was watching Gentarou devour all of it.
“It’s super good! I could just keep eating rice forever with this stuff.”
Sonoda’s face was in her hands in amazement.
“What the hell are you doing here? You didn’t come all the way here for breakfast, did you?”
“Okay, but it was seriously worth coming all the way here to Tanegashima for your mom’s cooking.”
Sonoda’s mother Yasue was all too happy to treat Gentarou with affection, and served him tea while he smiled with a full-toothed grin. Gentarou’s smile, which had the power to win anyone over, got Yasue to instinctively smile in return.
“Sarina’s students can come anytime, they can have as much as they want.”
“Take your time eatin’.”
Yasue went to the back. Gentarou continued eating without putting down his chopsticks, but once Yasue was out of his line of sight, he turned back towards Sonoda with a serious face.
“So I (munch, munch) learned something real important (munch, munch) from…”
“Stop talking with your mouth full. Pick one, eating or talking.”
Sonoda’s irritation had reached its peak. She grabbed the table and flipped it over, spilling Gentarou’s meal. Clatter, crash!
Completely unperturbed by Sonoda trying to intimidate him, Gentarou finished the last bite of the radish and rice in his bowl. He put the bowl and chopsticks on the floor, put his hands together, and ended his meal with proper manners.
“Thanks for the meal.”
Gentarou slowly stood up and showed Sonoda a strip of paper. It was the same one Yuuki had been holding earlier in the morning.
“Your ‘dream’ was to go to space, right? But then you went off in some weird direction ’cause of Headmaster Gamou.”
“Haven’t we talked about that enough already? Leave me alone!”
“Wait! But you were totally dedicated to your dream, right? I remember back when you were the Scorpio Zodiarts, the way you fought, I could tell.”
Sonoda averted her eyes and didn’t look back.
“I learned something important from how dedicated you were.”
“And what’s that?”
“Deciding what you wanna do, and putting in everything you’ve got to make it happen.”
“I’m trying to do that right now, and it’s real hard. But you’re the one who taught me how important that was, so you were a real good ‘teacher’ for me.”
“I taught you…?”
“Yeah. You had a pretty big impact on me.”
A tear started falling down Sonoda’s cheek. Huh? That’s odd. Gentarou’s words had somehow managed to reach Sonoda’s heart. Her emotions were still fuzzy and unclear, but they were definitely reacting in some way.
“Sono, will you dance with me at the prom?”
“I figured, no one ever said I can’t dance with a teacher. So can we dance? I wanna put a good ending on my time at Ama High.”
Sonoda was lost in confusion. Behind her, Yasue seemed to have been listening in for a while.
“You got a nice student there, Sarina.”
She was cleaning up the flipped table and the scattered dishes.
“…I don’t have that right. I turned all of those students into Zodiarts.”
“All right, then you should make up for it. We’ll call it even. I’m sure everyone’ll be okay with that.”
“How do I make up for it?”
“Help us stop Icarus.”
“And also, help the four kids who got dragged into Icarus’s plot. That’s your job as a teacher, isn’t it?”
Sonoda thought on it for a while, and made a decision. She stood up.
Sonoda suddenly rushed out of the house.
“H-Hey, wait! Sono?”
The sunset slowly spread across the horizon, and the sky and sea began changing from orange to dark blue. A gorgeous luxury liner, one as gorgeous as the sunset, was docked at the wharf. As jazz music played faintly in the background, lines of couples started boarding the ship one by one. They were all Ama High graduating students, smiling together.
Kengo arrived in a white tuxedo, escorting Yuuki, who’d arrived in a matching white party dress. Yuuki, who only seemed to be half aware of what was going on around her, had a sort of mysterious beauty coming from her expression. Yukina greeted them at the reception, wearing a lemon-colored dress that made her look even cuter than usual.
“Whoa, Utahoshi, you actually managed to look decent for once.”
“Oh, leave me alone.”
“Huh? What’s with all the people behind you?”
“They’re our bodyguards.”
All of the Rider Club members were there. Tomoko, Ryuusei, JK, Ran, Haru, and even Miu and Shun. All of them were dressed in formal wear. Miu and Shun were in the kind of flashy gold dress and silver suit that practically screamed “this party is for us, of course.” Yukina frowned at the crowd.
“Why is the Rider Club here? We’ve already got guards, and our security is flawless.”
She was completely convinced that there would be no Zodiarts attack. JK slipped in front of the group to speak to Yukina.
“What, you think we’re gonna ruin the mood or something?”
“Yes, I am. Also, where’s Gentarou? He wasn’t at the graduation ceremony. Where is he?”
Former Ama High student Ryuusei came forward to try a more palatable approach.
“Gentarou’s on his way. Hey, Yukina, we don’t want to throw off the party or anything, but you see, Gentarou still hasn’t decided on his dance partner yet. As his friends, we really want to be there and see what happens, so can we join the party?”
Ryuusei gave a playful wink to Yukina, as if trying to hint “you never know, it just might be you.”
“Huh? Oh, well, sure. Just don’t get too ahead of yourselves.”
Yukina was flustered and blushing as she gave her permission. As they’d suspected, she hadn’t given up on Gentarou. Ryuusei honestly felt bad for him; he already had the Zodiarts to worry about, but Yukina wanted her hands on him too.
The group boarded the ship. The party venue was downstairs, and the waiting bar was on the deck. They started off by heading to the deck, where the graduating students were already deep in chatter and holding their welcome drinks.
“All right, Kengo, Yuuki, you two have fun. Let’s all get ourselves situated,” said Tomoko.
She was there in a black dress. It seemed she’d given up on trying to dance with him, so he sighed a little in relief and folded his arms.
“Hm, Tomoko? Aren’t we supposed to be on guard duty?”
“Didn’t you hear at the meeting? We’re all pretending to be couples and preparing for attack.”
Indeed, Miu and Shun were paired up, as were Ran and Haru.
“You’re graduating too, so you should at least get to have a little fun.”
Tomoko muttered the words tenderly, less like a club president and more like a young girl. That’s really cute, thought Ryuusei. JK was sneaking a glance at them when Ran started prodding him.
“Oh, JK, are you not dancing with anyone?”
“Yeah, well, looks like I’m the leftover.”
“You’re in charge of the Foodroids, so no slacking.”
Haru seemed like he wanted to apologize for Ran’s teasing, but he also seemed to have no intention of giving up his position with Ran.
Fryslice gently patted JK’s head, as if trying to comfort him.
Sugiura, the former Taurus Zodiarts, arrived with Sayaka Mibu, the former student council president.
“Oh, dear, the entire Rider Club is here. Did something happen?”
Indeed2, anyone who understood the situation well enough could tell that the presence of the entire club meant something dangerous was about to happen.
“Don’t worry about it. All right, guys, let’s go.”
At Miu’s command, all of the couples in the Rider Club went off in different directions.
Ryuusei and Tomoko headed towards the main venue to get a sense of what it looked like. They didn’t know where Icarus or the four Argo Zodiarts could be, but if they were going to attack, they would most likely target the party venue. The prom committee members at the tried to stop them on the way, saying “we’re still preparing, so please wait,” but they made excuses and pushed forward towards the venue. Behind them, they could hear a committee member complaining “Again? Seriously?”
“Huh? Did someone else come in before us?”
“I’m getting a bad feeling about this,” said Tomoko as Ryuusei opened the door.
“Do you think it’s Icarus?”
Ryuusei carefully opened the door.
Tomoko couldn’t help but gasp in awe. They were in a huge hall, as big as a gymnasium. The floor was polished to a shine, and the chandelier was sparkling with light. Round tables with beautiful flowers on them. Past that was a dance floor, with atmospheric lights illuminating the wide, empty space. It was the kind of chic and gorgeous space that average high school students would normally never even get a taste of. The party seemed to be almost ready, with luxurious-looking buffet dishes lined up in a row, and the equipment for the pop-rock music club set on the stage.
For the time being, nothing seemed to be unusual.
…Or so they thought, but Kijima was on a sofa in the back.
“Ah, so that’s where the bad feeling came from.”
He had four pretty girls around him, all showing off their legs. Kijima noticed Ryuusei and Tomoko coming in and called out to them.
“Hey, Ryuu. Wow, you’re early. Always right to the point, are you?”
The girls were whispering among themselves. “Who’s that?” “Is that Kijima’s friend?” “He’s pretty hot.” “But that girl with him is real nasty.”
“You ought to speak for yourself,” said Ryuusei, already at his limit.
“Come on over here. We’ll talk about our lovely memories of our high school lives.”
“I’d rather not share any memories with you.”
Unwilling to deal with this any longer, Ryuusei turned to Tomoko and gestured “let’s go look over there.”
“Then, shall we talk about what to do if a Zodiarts arrives?”
Coming from him, the suggestion was so unexpected that Ryuusei and Tomoko looked at each other in surprise.
The sun had set, and the night was in bloom. The sea was beautifully illuminated by the full moon shining over it. The luxury liner left the dock. Everyone at the party had moved from the deck to the main venue, and there was only a pair of underclassmen, one girl and one boy, working as ushers on the deck. Having finished the brunt of their job, they stopped to take a breather. A lukewarm breeze suddenly blew through, with the scent of the tide mixed in with that of blood. The girl was the first to notice.
“Hey, do you smell something?”
“You know, now that you mention it…it kinda smells like…blood? Ah — “
The boy noticed a pair of couples on the deck.
“If you’re looking for the reception, it’s on the lower floor.”
“The party’s about to begin, so please hurry.”
They called out to the four students dressed in red and black formal clothing, but there was no reply. The four students started heading right to the edge of the deck, as if they were about to jump into the ocean.
“Ah, wait, wait — “
The boy ran towards them, trying to get them to stop.
An eerie voice echoed through the air. The four students simultaneously pressed the Switches in their hands. A jet-black aura erupted from each student’s body, and four constellations were briefly visible before four strange-looking creatures emerged.
As they changed, the four students’ bodies fell and rolled down the deck. The strange creatures continued walking forward, paying no mind to the bodies on the deck, and leapt into the ocean.
The ushers screamed in shock, but no one at the party venue could hear them.
“Welcome to the New Amanogawa Academy High School annual graduation prom party!”
Yukina’s opening statement was followed by the sound of party crackers popping, which the pop-rock music club’s band took as their cue.
“Ready to get hype?”
The band started playing old-timey rock’n’roll with a pleasant rhythm, and the students responded with cheers. Some started dancing, some started chatting with others, and some started enjoying the food, all smiling. It was the kind of fun that made time feel like it was going faster. Shun was leisurely stuffing his face with roast beef.
“Oh, this is good meat. Hey, Miu, aren’t you gonna eat? It’s delicious.”
“Don’t be stupid,” said Miu, with an exasperated look on her face.
She frowned and checked her watch.
“Anyway, Gentarou’s taking his sweet time, isn’t he?”
“He said we needed Miss Sonoda if we wanted to put a stop to all this, but I guess he wasn’t able to get through to her after all.”
Shun tried to think up an answer, but nothing came to mind.
“Hey, Miu. Wanna dance?”
He smiled with sparkling teeth.
“…You’re really an idiot. Don’t let your guard down. Stay prepared, will you?”
The venue lighting eventually softened, and the mood became calmer. It was time for slow dancing. Five girls from the pop-rock music club lined up on stage, wearing provocative stage costumes that showed off their stomachs.
“Our next song is a song that’s been sung at the Ama High prom for generations.”
“So, for all of us graduating students…’
“Let’s dance to this song…”
“…and take flight into the world.”
“Enjoy our song: ‘Blooming’.”
The school’s traditional ballad started playing, and everyone on the floor started dancing slowly.
Kengo was sitting next to Yuuki in a corner of the venue, and he took Yuuki’s hand and escorted her to the middle of the hall.
Tomoko blushed and started tugging on the cuffs of Ryuusei’s tuxedo. Let’s dance. It was too embarrassing to say it out loud, so this was the most she could muster. The truth was that Tomoko’s sixth sense was telling her that something bad was about to happen very soon, but because of that, she wanted to cherish this one peaceful and beautiful moment with him while she could. Seeing Tomoko appeal to him so cutely, Ryuusei smiled back as if to say “well, all right, let’s enjoy this.”
Kijima picked his favorite girl from the four around him and stood up.
Sugiura was frozen still in front of Sayaka Mibu. He was so terribly serious that it almost looked as if he was about to propose to her. Seeing how nervous he was, Sayaka started laughing. Sugiura laughed in response, took her hand, and started dancing with her.
Was Yukina wandering around off to the side? Her lemon yellow dress fluttered as she looked around, probably in search of Gentarou.
The sweetness and bitterness of youth could be felt all around the dance hall. Still in the middle of the hall with Yuuki, Kengo gently pulled Yuuki’s hand forward.
“Come on, let’s dance, Yuuki.”
But Yuuki was still an unmoving empty shell. Her eyes, which would normally be full of expression and darting everywhere, were as cold as glass on a winter morning.
“Hey, Yuuki, listen,” said Kengo, with a determined look on his face.
Ran and Haru, who were on alert, found themselves turning to see what was happening.
“The first time we talked…was when you snuck into the Rabbit Hatch…yeah, it was. You snuck in, and you were suddenly right there in front of me. I was really shocked, and my heart was pounding.”
“I figured, my heart was just pounding because of the shock.”
JK was pretending to eat Burgermeal as he eavesdropped on Kengo’s words.
“But it’s always like this. My heart’s always pounding whenever you’re around…I don’t know why. Yeah, I can’t really explain it, but…”
Yuuki was still frozen like a doll, paying no mind to the friends around her who were staring. The two were like an unmoving rock in a sea of waves.
Kengo suddenly embraced Yuuki and raised his voice.
“Don’t you remember the first time we were on the moon together, and we looked out at space and Earth? Go be an astronaut so you can go back and be there again! Bring yourself to the universe and take hold of it!”
A small drop of light wavered in Yuuki’s eyes. The image of the memory reappeared in her mind. The bright and ever-present stars. Kengo and Yuuki in space suits, looking out at the faraway universe. They’d put on their helmets and communicated their feelings through their laughter.
As the memory returned, Kengo slowly brought his forehead to Yuuki’s and kissed her.
In that moment, Yuuki’s eyes flew open as if a switch had been flipped. Miu, Shun, JK, Ran, and Haru, who had all been watching them from the side, spit out their drinks. The couples around them turned around in surprise, and everyone burst into cheers. Their lips stayed together until the band finished their play of the chorus, and they reluctantly parted.
“Huh? Huh? Huh? Kengo, did you kiss me just now?”
“Yeah. I, uh, did a kiss.”
He was so flustered he couldn’t even speak properly. The Rider Club members rushed up to them.
“You did it, Kengo!”
With a kiss having happened right in the middle of the hall, everyone in the party venue was even more excited. The dance floor was filled with a bubbly atmosphere. It was a sweet and happy time, with everyone dancing with their favorite partner. Even if there had been some hard times, in the end, their time in high school had truly been fun, and everyone was drenched in bittersweet memories.
Something red suddenly dropped into the center of the stage with a boom. There was a moment of confusion as everyone tried to process what had just happened, but it seemed to be a bloodstained girl. One of the vocalist girls on stage started shrieking, which switched everyone in the venue into panic mode.
Most of the students seemed to think the girl had been violently injured by something, but the Rider Club members knew otherwise. They all held their breaths as they watched the bloodstained girl, who, naturally, stood up with uncanny movements that came off like a rewinding tape.
It was Tsubasa.
A spine-chilling laugh. The band members all dropped their instruments and ran, and the pleasant atmosphere in the venue sank into terror and turmoil.
“So you came after all, huh?”
“Guys, get ready for a fight!”
As Tomoko yelled instructions to the Rider Club members, Ryuusei took a step forward.
But Tsubasa’s arms were raised, as if trying to cut them off, and an unbelievably loud voice permeated through the hall.
“Welcome to the Prom of Hell!”
Booooom! The ship started shaking.
“What’s going on?!”
Trying to balance themselves on the swaying floor, the Rider Club members frantically rushed to the window and saw…a sailing ship. It was a bizarrely-shaped ship, somewhat resembling a Greek warship, of the kind no one there had ever seen before. Its bow had struck the luxury liner. It was huge; it was as big as the luxury liner itself. At the stern was a large statue of a goddess, about three meters tall, overlooking the pitch-black deck.
“Oops! It’s a ship!”
“Another ship ran into us!”
“Something’s kinda weird about that ship, it’s too weird!”
Dozens of oars were protruding from the side of the ship, squirming like centipede legs. An eyeball opened on the outer wall of the ship, glaring right back at them.
Even an aikido master like Ran found herself falling to her knees.
The ship’s planks on its side cracked, and a bright red tongue and countless fangs were visible from the inside. There was no doubt about it; the “ship” was alive. It roared like some kind of creature. The shockwaves rattled and rattled, causing the walls and floor of the prom venue to shake, and the glass cups and tableware crashed into the floor.
“A ship with a mouth? Some kind of ship monster?!” said JK.
“A deep-sea monster pretending to be a ship?” said Miu.
“Look closer. You can see the star lines. It’s a Zodiarts,” said Tomoko.
“A Zodiarts!? But it’s so big!?” said Ran.
“It’s Argo Navis. That’s the Argo Zodiarts, a combination of four constellations. That’s what Icarus was planning.”
The Argo Zodiarts smashed into the ship with a rumble. The hull skewed diagonally, and everyone fell over. The chandelier on the ceiling started shaking vigorously, until — craaaaaaash! — it fell and scattered into pieces.
“Are they trying to sink the ship and everyone in it?”
Ryuusei started running towards the stairs leading outside.
“Ryuusei, you can’t — !”
Tomoko tried to follow, but fell over as the ship continued ramming into them.
“Wait! Even Meteor won’t stand a chance against something like that! You can’t go!”
Ryuusei turned back to face Tomoko.
“Tomoko. No, Third President of the Kamen Rider Club!”
Tomoko instinctively straightened up.
“I’m leaving everyone in the venue in your hands. Like we discussed earlier, you and Kijima need to get the students to safety. Leave the ship Zodiarts to me.”
The goth girl bit her lip, which was wet with black lip gloss, and nodded with determination on her face. Nearby, Kijima whistled. He was standing in front of Ryuusei, and was somehow managing to stand firm despite how violently the ship was shaking.
“Well, Ryuu, this is against my usual style, but we’re finally getting to do some exciting things, so let’s let loose. You’ll be the one to decide our fate, right?”
Ryuusei said nothing in response, but extended his hand towards Kijima. Kijima also said nothing as he grabbed it. Ryuusei’s hand was warm, as was Kijima’s. After exchanging their symbol of friendship through their body warmth, Ryuusei walked directly forward and rushed out into the deck.
Kijima addressed the crowd.
“All right, my dear gents and ladies, if you don’t want to die, get down and keep it quiet!”
Ryuusei emerged on the deck with a belt on his waist.
He inserted the Meteor Storm Switch into the belt and set it to on, and became the dazzling blue Meteor Storm.
“I’ll be the one to protect Ama High’s prom!”
He dashed straight through the deck and jumped onto the huge warship in front of him! He jumped onto the deck of the Argo Zodiarts, plunging his Meteor Storm Shaft into it as he landed. Crash!
The roar of the Argo Zodiarts echoed out over the sea.
Just then, a swarm of black shadows resembling insects emerged from the mouth of what JK had labeled a “ship monster”. A swarm of Zodiarts footsoldiers, called Dustards, poured into the luxury liner.
“If it can summon Dustards, that means it’s as strong as one of the Twelve Apostles, or even stronger.”
“Makes sense, considering how big it is.”
“Here it comes! Watch out!”
Booooom! The door to the hall burst open. Crunch, crunch! Dustards dressed in pirate garb burst into the hall, knocking over the tables and attacking the dumbfounded students with pirate swords. It was pandemonium to the highest degree; students with scrapes and injuries, students running over and falling, and students crying in fear. The security guards, whom they needed the most right now, were frozen like statues. Yukina rushed over to one and started yelling.
“Please, do something!”
But the security guard flopped onto the floor with eyes open, as if deprived of a soul.
It was the same in the steering house; all of the adults, including the captain, the helmsman, and the radio operator still holding the microphone, had turned into living wax dolls.
Miu burst out in frustration.
“What is this, some kind of horror movie?! You’re telling me the Argo Zodiarts can do this, too!?”
As Yukina was stunned in horror, a pirate sword swung towards her! Ran barely managed to get there in time and grabbed Yukina’s arm, pulling her away and flinging the Dustard away with a well-aimed aikido toss.
“Don’t say we didn’t warn you, you stupid status quo obsessive!”
“Ran, now’s not the time to be calling her stupid!” scolded JK.
“Get it together, Yukina. Our priority is getting everyone off this ship alive,” said Tomoko.
Tomoko’s words snapped Yukina back to reality. She nodded and let a nearby girl lean on her shoulder as they rushed towards the exit.
“Everyone! Calm down and evacuate!”
The Rider Club members were all scrambling around trying to help everyone. Miu, Shun, and JK pulled out shock guns they’d prepared in advance and started fighting back with them. They were finally able to put the equipment OSTO Legacy had gotten from space to use. Bzzzt! Bzzzzt! The shock waves blew the Dustards back. But there were too many enemies to keep down at once, and it seemed like there would be no end to it all.
Laughing loudly at the spectacle, Tsubasa pulled out the belt.
Kamen Rider Icarus took a deep breath, as if drinking all of the students’ cries and despair into silvery lips. Icarus’s wings grew bigger and bigger. Whoosh! The unusually giant wings spread, and all of the students collapsed and fell unconscious.
“Tsubasa, stop!” yelled Yuuki as she ran in.
“Oh, it’s you. So you’re back, huh?”
“Stop trying to ruin everyone’s future!”
“Nah. I need to make these wings spread more and more. I’ll make all of you cry.”
Yuuki picked up the handle of the pop-rock music club’s guitar with both hands, swung it all the way back, and hit Icarus with it. But one of Icarus’s wings lightly flicked like a whip and blew Yuuki and the guitar back.
As Yuuki was about to hit a pillar, Kengo flung himself over so his body would cushion her fall.
Icarus saw the two on the ground, laughed with a “hmph”, and looked over the panicking party venue with pride.
“Ah, this is it. This is my dream. A world where ‘youth’ is turned into despair.”
“Don’t you dare call that a dream!”
Yuuki was still on the ground, but she was glaring at Icarus with a sharp look of determination. She turned to Kengo.
“Can I say something kinda cheesy?”
“Yeah. Go ahead, Yuuki.”
Kengo’s face was twisted in pain as he tried to get up and pushed Yuuki forward.
“We’re not weak enough to get crushed by a meanie old monster like you. We’ll keep getting back up, no matter how many times it takes!” continued Yuuki.
It seemed as if Icarus’s smile was fading and turning into a more sullen expression.
“Today is a very special day. It’s a day for Ama High students to graduate and head out towards their dreams. Get lost!”
Icarus started advancing forward, walking step by step with wings pointing forward. Each feather became as sharp and firm as a blade, yearning to chop Yuuki into pieces of meat.
“Can you still say that so confidently once I start cutting you into tiny little pieces? Nice and slowly…”
Fear was slowly starting to wash over Yuuki, but she stood firm and pulled herself up further.
“Yeah, I can. We’re not letting you win. I don’t care what you say, I’m gonna be an astronaut. That’s my dream!”
Kengo came forward to help cover her.
“Well put. It’s definitely cheesy, but it’s spoken from the heart. That’s the Yuuki Joujima I fell in love with.”
In front of them, the cutters on Icarus’s wings were moving back and forth at high speed. If they drew any closer, it would be a death sentence for them.
“Fine. I’ll have to punish you by mincing you thoroughly. Time for your execution!”
Kengo grabbed Yuuki in his arms with his back facing Icarus, hunched over like a turtle. The wing guillotine was converging on them!
It was not Kengo or Yuuki who yelled out, but Icarus. Kengo, who’d thought they were doomed to be killed, slowly opened his eyes. “Huh?” There, in front of him, was Fourze. He was in Base States with the Chainsaw Module on his right leg, slashing at Icarus’s side.
Icarus had no choice but to step back.
“Hey! Sorry to keep you waiting, Kengo, Yuuki.”
And on top of that, Sarina Sonoda was rushing in to help Yuuki and Kengo.
“I’m sorry. You’re safe now, Miss Joujima.”
Fourze made his usual pompadour-stroking gesture on his tuna-shaped head.
As if realizing who he was, the rampaging Dustards momentarily stopped and focused on Fourze.
The students were also watching.
The Rider Club was also watching.
Icarus was also watching.
Everyone on the ship was watching Fourze.
“Here comes spaaaaaaaaaaace!”
A crowd of chatter echoed throughout the venue as a switch of hope was flipped within all the students.
“I’m Kamen Rider Fourze, and you get the honor of being my last one-on-one in high school! Personally, I’m here to smile with everyone and graduate!”
The students broke out into cheers.
It was like a battle between a giant whale and a human. Meteor was the fisherman thrusting a harpoon in the back of a rampaging whale. After becoming Meteor Storm, he’d plunged the shaft into the Argo Zodiarts multiple times, but its body was too hard and the shaft couldn’t pierce through. Still, perhaps it had taken some damage, and Argo struck back with a lightning beam from the eyes of the goddess statue on the stern. An unpleasant bzzzzzzzzzt noise rang out. Meteor used the shaft to repel the beam, but lost his balance in the process. As he fell, he inserted the Storm Switch into the shaft and started preparing a finisher.
“Meteor Storm Punisher!”
It spun like a top, heading straight towards the goddess statue. But instead of hitting it, the goddess suddenly shifted her gaze to the right, causing the top attack to also shift to the right. It was Pyxis’s ability to control attack directions.
“Oh, so that’s your weak point, huh?”
The top returned to Meteor Storm’s belt, and he collected himself, swinging the shaft and heading for Argo again. But this time, the ship’s sailcloth started stretching and contracting and attacking in all directions with a whooooosh! It was Vela’s ability. It attacked like a snake coiling from every direction, up, down, left, right. Meteor Storm fought back with all of his might, but even with his enhanced speed, it wasn’t long before he was overtaken. Was it using Puppis’s attack prediction abilities? Gash! The sailcloth finally caught Meteor Storm by the ankle. It took only a moment for him to be wound up and bound tightly by the cloth with tremendous force.
“This one-on-one sure isn’t going well…or I guess I can’t call it a one-on-one, it’s really one against four.”
His muscles were bound tight and his spine was twisted. Snap, snap, snap! Whack! The Meteor Storm Switch was flipped off his belt and turned off! Meteor Storm reverted to his normal Meteor form.
Ryuusei’s scream echoed over the turbulent seas.
Back on the luxury liner, Icarus and Fourze glared at each other with extreme tension in the air. Staaaaaaaare. It was like a battle between martial arts masters. But Gentarou wasn’t the type to stand around waiting, and Fourze was about to lose his patience and jump out when Sonoda got in between them.
“Oh, Sarina. If you get in the way, I’ll have to cut you down,” said Icarus in a cold and deep voice.
But Sonoda continued approaching Icarus, undaunted. Fourze tried to stop her, but she said “no, I’ll take care of this” and held up her hand.
“Tsubasa, you said you’re me, right?”
“…I did, yes?”
Icarus’s appearance changed back into that of the bloodstained girl, Sarina. The two glared at each other with the same face. It was as if two Sarina Sonodas were facing each other, one from her time as a student, and one as a teacher.
“So what about it?”
As Sarina, no, Tsubasa laughed with a wicked air, Sonoda responded with firm words.
“Get back in me.”
Tsubasa’s expression suddenly lost its composure for a moment.
“You’re just a monster born from the weakness of my heart, aren’t you? You’re just a tiny little thing, even tinier than me. So get back in me! We’ll be together again.”
Tsubasa seemed on the verge of saying something, unable to respond for some reason.
Booooom! The cruise liner shook and tilted diagonally again. The Argo Zodiarts was on a rampage.
“Ryuusei’s in trouble!” yelled Tomoko as she tried to stay firm helping the students.
“Go help him, Kisaragi. I’ll take care of purifying this child.”
Sonoda looked back at Tsubasa with an icy glare. She had the “eyes of a warrior”, very different from those she’d had as the Scorpio Zodiarts.
“If everyone’s going to call me a teacher, I at least want to finish off with something an actual teacher would do!”
“And what does an actual teacher do?”
“Protect their students’ future.”
Her words echoed throughout the air. All of the students being escorted out by Kijima and the Rider Club stopped right in their tracks and looked back at Sonoda. Yuuki and Kengo were also watching Sonoda.
Fourze also looked back at Sonoda, sensing all of her determination through her expression.
“All right, Sarina. I’ll leave this to you.”
He used the Rocket Module to fly up and out of the hall.
Tsubasa let out a breath, ready to go back on the offensive.
“Fine. As you wish, we’ll be together again…once I absorbe all of you. Transform!”
Tsubasa transformed into Icarus effortlessly and instantly converged on Sonoda.
Sonoda was snatched up in both arms and cradled in both wings. A second later, a dazzling beam of Cosmic Energy burst out from between the wings, enveloping both of them.
Before she had even realized it herself, Yuuki instinctively called out to Sonoda as her teacher.
The pain was so severe that Meteor could feel himself losing consciousness. Earlier, while he was still fighting, he’d seen Fourze flying into the luxury liner with Sarina Sonoda in his arms at the edge of his peripheral vision. All I did was manage to buy him some extra time. That’s pretty sad. He saved my life, and now I’m gonna be throwing it out to be scattered to bits in the sea? That’s not even worth a compliment from him, is it?
“Get yourself together, Ryuusei!”
Gentarou’s voice was accompanied by the feeling of the cloth loosening him up, and Meteor was tossed downwards on the deck. He could breathe again. The oxygen flowing to his brain restored color to his vision. Now that he could see clearly, he could tell Gentarou had used the giant scissors on his left hand to cut through Argo’s sails and free Meteor.
“Put a little more oomph in it, Ryuusei! You can do better than that!”
He wasn’t complimenting him, but scolding him. But, still, somehow, he was happy to hear it. He thought about apologizing, but decided not to.
“I should be saying that to you instead. You’re late, Gentarou. I don’t want to be in my last fight in high school alone, so I’ve been waiting.”
Fourze landed next to Meteor with a clatter.
“Well, let’s hurry up and take care of this.”
“Yeah. Seems like the core’s in the goddess statue on the stern.”
“So we just gotta hit that, right?”
Both Riders took their battle stances. In front of the strongest duo, the goddess statue started to tremble. Fourze could even feel the quaking on his soles as he dashed forward.
Icarus and Sonoda were surrounded by light for quite a while.
Yuuki ran up and tried to touch it, but Kengo stopped her.
“But Miss Sonoda…”
“Can’t you feel it?”
“The Cosmic Energy between Miss Sonoda and Icarus. You can hear their conversation, right?”
Yuuki stared at the two within the light and listened to the resonance of Cosmic Energy.
Faintly, and then clearly, more felt than heard.
Sonoda and Icarus were talking.
“I get it now. You’re not me, and you’re not Tsubasa either.”
“You’re called SOLU, right? You’re just some kind of space amoeba that copied off a fake personality out of my guilt. You’re a mass of imitation regret.”
“You mock me!”
“You’re the one making a mockery of me! You can have all the hatred you took out of me on the M-BUS, but I’ll be taking my ‘dreams’ back!”
“Are you planning on collecting the scraps of your ruined dreams? So you can cry over them like a baby for the rest of your life?”
There was a moment of silence. Yuuki and Kengo started to worry. Was Sonoda going to be okay?
“My dreams may be torn to shreds, but I won’t let anyone trample on them!” said Sonoda coldly.
On that fateful day of the fireworks, Sarina was late for her meeting with Tsubasa. Her mother had put on her yukata3 and tied up her hair, and she was in a good mood, but her shoe strap broke along the way. She ended up having to go home and have the strap replaced, so, naturally, she was extremely late. Is Tsubasa gonna be mad…? She rushed to the shrine they’d promised to meet at and started searching for him in a rush, but there was no sign of him. The mercury lamp in the shrine flickered with a faint noise. It was already getting dark. She could hear the sound of fireworks in the distance. Oh, they’ve already started the fireworks… Suddenly, she could hear a noise from the cedar trees.
“Tsubasa? Is that you?”
No response. The sun had already gone down, and the area around the shrine was deserted, to the point it felt unrecognizable. The noise rattled again. Sarina nervously started poking through the cedar trees.
“Tsubasa, it’s me, Sarina, I’m sorry I’m late…”
Just then — booooooo! Accompanied by the booming sound of the fireworks, a fox monster with a knife popped out from behind an old trea.
Sarina fell flat on her back in shock. The monster laughed and pulled off the fox face, revealing Tsubasa’s behind it.
“Ahaha. It’s me! Were you surprised?”
Once Sarina’s fear had fizzled out, anger started welling up within her. She sprinted away from the shrine without looking back. Tsubasa started chasing after her in a hurry.
“Huh? Wait! I’m sorry, Sarina, wait!”
“Go away! I don’t wanna talk to you anymore!”
“Really, I’m sorry. I was just in a really good. Hey, Sarina, I figured out my dream. I want you to be the first one to hear about it. I wanna show you something. Come over here and look.”
“I said I don’t wanna talk. Go away!”
Sarina continued walking, and ended up somewhere on the road.
Hm? Was he still following? She started worrying about Tsubasa right when an unpleasant wind started blowing behind her. A roaring noise, followed by a dull sound of something being crushed. Sarina turned around to see the fox mask, rolling around with blood on it and falling…
That was Sarina Sonoda’s most painful experience.
Sonoda had decided to stop avoiding the memory of that experience, and was facing it head-on. When Gentarou had visited her in Tanegashima that morning, Sonoda had ran out towards the shrine. Tsubasa wanted to show me something back then…
She followed her memories back into the cedar trees and headed around the back of a single old tree. Something was engraved in it.
“I want to be a teacher who supports everyone’s dreams“
Sonoda’s eyes were full of tears. One after another, streaking down her cheeks. She gently stroked the engraved letters and clutched the old tree tightly.
A big hand patted Sonoda’s shoulder. It was Gentarou.
Sonoda looked back at him with firm determination on her face.
“Kisaragi. Take me to the prom.”
Fourze turned on the Rocket Switch Super-1 and changed into his Rocket States, with a full orange body and Rocket Modules on both arms. It was a special Fourze form that he’d gotten from Nadeshiko.
“Ryuusei, back me up.”
Meteor set his Saturn lever to on and activated the fingerprint authentication.
Fourze put full power into the rockets on both arms and used the momentum to start running forward. Attempting to stop him from reaching the goddess statue on the stern, the Argo Zodiarts started attacking with rib-like spines coming out of its body, trying to skewer Fourze. It was Carina’s ability. Dustards with pirate swords started filing in one after another, but Fourze brushed them all off as he ran through. He trusted Meteor to parry off all the attacks, and Meteor was following through. Meteor was willing to take the attacks, but he was determined to make sure they didn’t lay a single finger on Fourze, and he used the Saturn Cutter to hack away all the attacks. Fourze kicked the ground with a bang!< rotated his entire body like a high-speed drill, and plunged right into the goddess statue at the core of the Argo ship. The goddess statue tried to use Pyxis’s ability to divert the attack, but nothing worked on Fourze. Fourze had far more energy than Argo did at this point, and the goddess’s face was distorted with impatience and bitterness.
Argo howled with a strange mix of Ryouko, Sumie, Hozumi, and Makise’s voices, and Rocket States’ finisher, the Drill Crusher, plunged right into the goddess statue! The statue was smashed to pieces. The vibrations from the crash ran through the entirety of the Argo ship, and all of the Dustards vanished one by one. Argo had taken enough damage to start twitching.
“All right, Gentarou! Let’s finish it off with a Limit Break. We’ll dig it out from the inside,” said Meteor, clinging to the mast.
But Fourze did not respond, and seemed to be deep in thought.
“Hey! Gentarou, what’s wrong?”
“Ryuusei…lemme try something else.”
“I’m gonna take ’em to space.”
Argo seemed to have heard him as well, and the whale-like eyes on the side of the ship had a menacing look to them.
“Forget it. If you’re worried about the explosion, my Storm Shaft can absorb it. We can take care of it all down here, so there’s no need to waste your energy. We still have Icarus as our bigger fish down there.”
“But these guys are dealing with a lot, and I wanna show them something.”
“…You mean space?”
“Yeah! I wanna show them how big the world is!”
Fourze changed from Rocket States to Cosmic States. Meteor stared at him for a moment.
“Well, I guess it’s not a bad idea.”
That’s right — this is the same Gentarou Kisaragi who won me over.
“If you’re really gonna do it, make it quick. I’ll take care of Icarus.”
He quickly turned to look at the luxury liner.
“Sorry for makin’ you do all this grunt work.”
Well, I still owe you more than I could ever repay. Meteor kept the words to himself, gesturing lightly with his hand instead as his response, and jumped off towards the luxury liner. Watching him depart, Fourze turned back to the giant ship he was riding on.
“All right, guys, let’s go.”
He stabbed the Cracklebang Sword into the deck, and the sea underneath him broke into a wormhole. He pushed the hull into it with a grunt.
A strange sensation of time, space, and many other things went through them, and they found themselves in a vast world of darkness.
They were in space.
Booooom! The moment they arrived, the Argo Zodiarts seemed to explode, and four Zodiarts emerged from the rubble. Carina, Puppis, Vela, Pyxis. They were flailing their limbs around as if they were drowning, unaccustomed to the weightlessness in space. They looked pitiful, and completely different from the opponent that had almost driven them to death just before.
“Ryouko, Sumie, Hozumi, Makise…”
Fourze faced the four Zodiarts and suddenly bowed, snapping his head down.
“I’m sorry! You guys hated the prom so much you became Zodiarts for it, and I totally ignored your feelings about it.”
The four were thrown off by his unexpected words and actions for a moment.
“Hey, what the hell d’you think you’re doing? If you wanna take pity on us or something, you might as well kill us!” barked Carina.
Naturally, the other three felt the same. Of course, it was impossible to hear their voices in outer space, but they could feel it through the Cosmic Energy.
“It’s not pity. I just wanted you to show you something. We were at the same high school, but sometimes it felt like we were living in a completely different world. But we’re not. Even the King and Queen have their own things to worry about. Idiots like me or smart people like Kengo are dealing with a lot. We’re all in the same boat. Teachers, students, Kamen Riders…even Zodiarts. We’ve all got things to worry about! Youth is like a universe of worries.”
It was another one of Gentarou’s aggressive “youth proverbs”, which Ryouko and the others hated the most. But Carina had nothing to say in response, and they were all listening quiety.
“I wanted you to see that, so I brought you here. Look, it’s the universe!”
The universe was spreading beyond where he was pointing.
“It’s total pitch black.”
“Ew, it’s gross.”
Fourze had thought it’d impress them, but the reaction wasn’t what he’d hoped for. He slumped over and sighed.
“Come on. All right, look over there. It’s the Earth!”
He pointed right at the Earth.
“Oh. It’s pretty.”
“It’s really blue.”
“That’s the Earth…”
“I’m feeling something deep inside…”
It had actually hit a chord with them this time. The four of their hearts began to quiver.
“See? It’s beautiful. It’s shining. That’s the planet we’re living on.”
The Zodiarts were floating in outer space, lost in their own thoughts.
Carina gazed at the earth. Seeing it from afar, it seemed surprisingly small. It was a small world surrounding a country called Japan, which surrounded a small place called Ama High. My world, Ryouko Sakamoto’s world, is pretty small in the end. I’m not the kind of person who can think ‘I can do anything and go anywhere if I want,’ but at this moment, I can actually feel it. Maybe I really could become someone else, and go somewhere else.
Within Puppis, Sumie also felt like something was opening up within her. There was something encouraging about how huge the universe was. Maybe it’s okay to just be myself. Even her father, who had caused her heart so much grief, seemed to be nothing in comparison.
Within Vela, Hozumi was also feeling emotions he’d never felt felt before. He was awestruck. I’d never thought of anything else as more important than me. I couldn’t deal with anything not going my way. He was suddenly aware of how conceited he’d been. He realized he needed to be more considerate and humble about how angry he got at everything.
Makise felt the same way. I bet that planet has a lot of other weak and useless guys like me. They’re probably dealing with their own problems too. I should stop trying to enjoy things only for myself, and stop acting stronger than I actually am. The size of the world made him feel he could truly change himself.
Fourze nodded in satisfaction and set up the Cracklebang Sword. The infinite energy of the universe went through Fourze’s body and accumulated at the sword’s tip.
Fourze swung down the Cracklebang Sword with all of his might. Pyxis, Vela, Puppis. Bursts of Cosmic Energy, one after another, disappearing into the pitch-black darkness. The last one remaining was Carina, staring at the Earth.
Fourze stopped swinging the word.
“D’you think I can become whatever I want to be?”
“…Of course you can. You just have to imagine it.”
As if trying to hide her embarrassment, Carina raised up her middle finger. Fourze finished his strike.
The next moment, Ryouko found herself awake on the luxury liner. She was soaked wet on the edge of the deck and had been rolling around in the thread. She looked up at the night sky. We were up there, looking down here. Somehow, thinking about that made her cry. She looked around and saw that Makise, Hozumi, and Sumie were all also crying. They were crying, but there was relief in their expressions.
Meteor returned to the luxury liner hall to see it filled with an eerie sense of calm. In the middle was a monster with broken wings, crouching and desperately trying to suppress rough breathing. The only sound was the echoing breathing. The Dustards were all gone, probably having disappeared when Fourze destroyed the goddess statue. Kijima seemed to have successfully evacuated all of the students onto the rubber life rafts, and the Rider Club members and Sarina Sonoda were the only others left.
Tomoko was the first to notice Meteor, and rushed over to confirm if Ryuusei was safe, but she still seemed anxious.
“Tomoko, what happened?”
“Miss Sonoda stopped Icarus.”
Meteor turned to face Sonoda.
“Miss Sarina, what happened here?”
Sonoda shook her head in bewilderment.
“I don’t know. But I don’t think this is over yet.”
Kengo was analyzing a crystal of energy that had emerged from Icarus and Sonoda’s bodies, which had taken the form of a Switch.
“Miss Sonoda managed to only extract the ‘power of justice’ from the Cosmic Energy that made up Icarus. That’s probably what this is.”
He showed Meteor the Switch, which was shining blue and about twice as big as a normal Switch.
“In the same way Nadeshiko created the special Rocket Switch, Icarus’s mysterious SOLU powers seem to have created another new Astroswitch. I haven’t finished analyzing it yet, but I’d like to call it the Launcher Switch Super-2.”
“Should we just leave this monster here and get out of the ship for now?” said JK, halfheartedly.
Everyone there certainly wanted to do so, but as the Rider Club, they knew better.
“Gentarou’s taking the Argo Zodiarts to space for their final showdown right now. Let’s wait until he gets back,” said Meteor.
“Yeah,” said Kengo, agreeing. “I think it’ll be a better idea to take care of Icarus in space with Cosmic States.”
Icarus, who seemed to have overheard them, began to quiver from behind, radiating Cosmic Energy. Colorless and transparent evil energy. Tomoko was the first to notice it with her sharp intuition, but she was overwhelmed by the power of its malice and couldn’t make any noise. The next one to notice was Haru, who was physically closest to Icarus. He was about to let everyone know when an unpleasant scream rang throughout the hall, cutting him off.
Tomoko saw the lump of meat on the ground bursting with open limbs. The distorted figure of Icarus resembled more of a crystal of malice. Its sharp claws crushed Haru’s head like a rotten tomato! — or not, because a moment before, Meteor had managed to put his body between Haru and Icarus just in time. The claws dug into Meteor’s shoulders instead of Haru’s head.
“That was close, Haru.”
“Guys, all of you, keep away.”
Meteor pulled the claws off of him and stepped back. He took a Star and Soul Cycle stance as he stared down Icarus.
Countless wings sprouted from Icarus’s back, breaking as they emerged. The broken wings accumulated, looking like arrows pouring down like rain on a fallen warrior. As more and more broken wings appeared, Icarus leaned further and further forward.
Tomoko had named Icarus’s berserk state in her fear.
Beast Icarus started churning and rolled forward into a rotating weapon ball, attacking Meteor.
Meteor attacked with his fists and legs, but ended up taking damage.
“Gh, this is already getting a bit too one-sided…”
The Beast Icarus ball was rolling around, boring into the floor and pillars. It wasn’t as much of a “fight” as much as it was Meteor having to take the brunt of Icarus’s ferocious anger.
The moment Meteor managed to barely dodge, the rotating ball suddenly opened up with a snap and used the momentum to smack Meteor’s head with an axe kick. It was a decisive blow accompanied by Cosmic Energy. Meteor was blown back and reverted back into Ryuusei. As his head plunged right into the floor and he rolled around, his eyes were out of focus.
Beast Icarus started rotating into a sphere again, and headed towards Ryuusei to finish him off.
As Tomoko tried to jump out towards him, JK tried to stop her, but he couldn’t make it in time! Tomoko and Ryuusei were about to be crushed to death together!! JK closed his eyes, afraid of having to witness the worst.
But his ears were greeted with an unexpected sound. Huh? JK slowly opened his eyes to see Fourze stopping the viciously spinning ball.
All of the Rider Club members sighed in relief.
Ryuusei, who was being embraced by Tomoko, was looking at him with hollow eyes, but he had a slight smile on his face.
“Sorry, Ryuusei. I kept you waiting again.”
Fourze kicked Beast Icarus like a soccer ball. Beast Icarus bounced with a huge impact on the floor and stood up with gnashing teeth.
“Why, you, Fourze…did you defeat Argoooooo?”
“Yeah. Hey, Icarus, what happened to you? You look like a real bad guy there.”
“I thought I crushed you to pieces! Why? Why must you look so lively right now?”
“Wouldn’t say I’m ‘lively’, I mean, I’m already at my limit.”
“That’s sure not what you look liiiiiike!”
Beast Icarus stomped on the ground.
Sonoda, who had been watching all of this with the Rider Club from afar, rushed out in front.
“There is a limit to what you can do if it’s only for your own benefit.”
She’d suddenly started talking as if class had just started.
“Master Gamou lost because he only ever thought about himself. He was undoubtedly superior in strength, but he lost to a bunch of high school students.”
JK couldn’t resist the opportunity to make a retort.
“Um, Miss Sonoda, what’s wrong with being a high school student?”
Sonoda laughed, accepting the retort, and continued addressing Beast Icarus.
“Look at these kids. These are today’s high school students, on this planet.”
Fourze, Ryuusei, Tomoko, JK, Ran, Haru, Kengo, and Yuuki were all listening in to Sonoda’s supplementary class. Miu and Shun had already graduated from high school, so there was something vaguely uncomfortable about being called “today’s high school students”.
“Of course, they may not be able to do much now. But don’t you know? You can surpass your own limits by ‘doing things for others’. By fighting, not for yourself, but for people other than you.”
Beast Icarus was listening with irritable grinding teeth. Gnaw, gnaw, gnaw. Saliva was drooling out. Sonoda pointed at Icarus.
“As long as you’re only fighting for yourself, you won’t stand a chance against Kamen Rider Fourze, the world’s strongest high school student!”
Beast Icarus turned back into an angry, raging sphere, radiating Cosmic Energy and spinning in place. An evil voice echoed from it.
“Fourze! We’re taking this to space. To space, where these girls dreamed of reaching!”
Sonoda and Yuuki looked at each other.
Fourze stood up in response to Icarus’s challenge.
“Okay, but can you even go to space right now?”
“Don’t mock meeeeee!”
Beast Icarus suddenly rose and smashed through the ship’s hall and deck ceiling, piercing into the sky like a rocket with a gyoooooooh!
Fourze looked up at the hole for a minute before saying something very concerning.
“I, uh, actually ran out of warp energy. What am I gonna do?”
“Huh, wait, what?”
Everyone was in shock.
“Hey, can’t we just leave that thing in space or something? Maybe he won’t come back,” proposed JK, hoping to use the chance to escape.
“But on the other hand, Icarus could come back with more friends. We need to get this over with for real,” protested Ran.
Miu took the chance to walk out smoothly in pride.
“Gentarou. We’ve got the Power Dizer. Use it.”
Shun followed up with another pose and a sparkling smile.
“I figured we’d need it to take care of the Zodiarts, so I brought it onto the ship deck.”
“Then why didn’t you use it when the Dustards appeared?”
“It wasn’t the right time?”
Another sparkle. Everyone was too dumbfounded to respond.
They all went to the upper deck, and could see the faint traces of Icarus soaring up beyond the night sky. Power Dizer Vehicle Mode and Fourze’s dedicated motorcycle, the Machine Massigler, had brought themselves there from the vehicle deck via self-automated drive. As Fourze started boarding the Machine Massigler, Sonoda rushed towards him.
She called him, once, and again by his full name. There was a certain sentiment in her voice that Fourze did not notice.
“It’s all good, Sono. I’ll be sure to stop him.”
She called him by given name this time.
“All right, I’ll be right back.”
“That’s not what I mean. When you get back, if you can get back safely, let’s have a proper last dance. Dance with me.”
Sonoda gently overlaid her pale white hand on Fourze’s as he gripped the motorcycle handle. Gentarou Kisaragi, the strongest high school student, could feel a throb in his chest.
“You mean, dancing at the prom?”
“Oh, ohhhhh! Got it!”
On that happy note, he slammed the accelerator down!
Sonoda was startled and jumped back. Fourze circled around the luxury liner’s deck with the Massigler and brought it onto the Power Dizer with a snap!
The computerized voice was accompanied by the Dizer changing modes, and Fourze and the motorcycle were placed vertically. The Dizer started the countdown.
3! 2! 1!
Kengo tossed something to Fourze, who caught it quickly while still sitting vertically.
“What’s this? A new Switch?”
Before Kengo could respond, Fourze and the motorcycle were launched into the air.
His friends were watching as he flew higher and higher. Kengo squeezed Yuuki’s hands.
“Let’s believe in Gentarou and wait.”
Yuuki was praying for Gentarou’s victory.
Fourze’s motorcycle was running at tremendous speed, albeit through the sky instead of on the road. Forward, and forward. He broke through the atmosphere and into outer space, a hundred kilometers over the ground, and beyond. He was past the point of gravity. He still did enjoy the Cosmic States instant warp, but Gentarou particularly loved the journey of “actually going to space” by defying gravity.
Beast Icarus was waiting for him at the end of the Massigler’s space road. An ugly monster in a pitch-black, soundless world, with countless broken wings. To Fourze, it was like all of the high school’s students had exhaled filth, and that filth had been crystallized.
This one-on-one is a ritual. It’s a graduation ritual.
Fourze and Beast Icarus faced each other.
Beast Icarus was the first to move, physically spewing out dark energy and turning into a super high-speed rotating sphere, and looming towards Fourze like a shooting star. But instead of avoiding it, Fourze took the impact with his whole body, like a grand champion sumo wrestler.
Beast Icarus felt fear. I can’t win against this guy. It was all too clear in that moment, and Icarus quickly tried to get away from Fourze.
I have to run. I have to run. I have to run.
What was once the ultimate creature born from Sonoda’s dark personality seemed to be degenerating into a protobiotic cell. But at the same time, a growing sense of anger was conflicting with Beast Icarus’s desire to escape. I’m-not-letting-this-guy-get-me!
Spouting the biggest wave of Cosmic Energy thus far, Icarus became a sphere again, like a dark sun.
Fourze took out the new blue Switch Kengo had given him. Let’s try using this. It’s probably the right time for it. Switch on!
He changed into a new form: Fourze Launcher States. He was dark blue, with Launcher Modules on both legs and shoulders.
“Hey, Icarus. Wanna feel the energy of the ‘future dreams’ you took from the high school kids at the prom? Sono took it back from you.”
Fourze Launcher States faced the dark sun rushing towards him.
“Take this! The missiles of dream power!”
He launched a myriad of missiles from his entire body.
Boom-boom-boom-boom! All of them went straight towards the dark sun.
“Those wings don’t fit you at all, Icarus.”
All of the missiles hit, and the sphere slowly unfurled. Fourze turned around as the giant Beast Icarus exploded behind him. Cosmic Energy scattered through space, and it looked as if Fourze had wings on his back.
Go back to space, SOLU, thought Fourze. Wake up with your own will, instead of clinging to negative power. And if we do get to meet again, just like Nadeshiko…
“Let’s be friends!”
The only ones left behind on the luxury liner were the former Argo members, the Rider Club, and Sonoda. Ryouko, Sumie, Hozumi, and Makise were all back to normal, and were shuffling around awkwardly.
Sumie started off by bowing her head. Makise and Hozumi quickly followed, and Ryouko was the last.
“So what do we do now?” said JK. He’d meant the question in reference to how they’d deal with the four of them, but…
“Isn’t it obvious?…We finish the prom, of course!”
Yuuki laughed, and it seemed that everything would be forgiven after all.
“A very Yuuki answer,” muttered Tomoko, impressed.
Miu overheard her from nearby and grabbed onto Tomoko’s shoulders.
“Oops! You’re doing great, Tomoko. You’ve been working hard as the new Rider Club president and being a real leader.”
Tomoko was surprised to hear that from Miu. She’s actually been watching me this entire time… She could feel something radiant.
The two girls smiled and exchanged their symbol of friendship.
“Um, what just happened…”
The luxury liner captain and crew were slowly waking up, confused as to what was going on and speaking hesitantly.
“Oh, don’t worry about it, this kind of thing happens all the time at this school.”
“Come on, back to the harbor! Starboard!”
And then —
Fourze arrived, landing with the Parachute Module, and his friends all came to greet him with cheers.
All of the graduating students were waiting back at the port under Yukina and Kijima’s direction. All of them had been watching Fourze and the others fight Icarus with bated breath. As the Rider Club returned with Gentarou in tow, they showered them with applause.
“All right, guys, get on! We’re finishing the prom!!” yelled Gentarou.
The surface of the water was rippling with the sound of everyone’s cheers.
It didn’t take long for everyone to clean up the mess from the battle, and the party started again. Gentarou was startled to see Mr. Ohsugi rushing in towards him, snapping his suspenders.
“Kisaragiiii! You’re here at the prom even after skipping your graduation ceremony! Did you think you’d be allowed to graduate like that?” he yelled, spitting.
“Huh? Huh? You saying I can’t graduate?”
Gentarou was in momentary shock, but Ohsugi smacked him with a thin cylinder.
“I’m joking. Here, I brought your diploma.”
“Oh, Mr. Ohsugiiii!”
Gentarou hugged him, and Ohsugi hugged him back, deep in emotion.
“Congrats on graduating, Kisaragi. Thanks for putting up the hard fight. I like you a lot, so I’m glad I got to be your teacher.”
Just then, Sonoda called out to Gentarou from nearby.
“Let’s go, Gentarou.”
Ohsugi was taken aback at seeing Sonoda all of a sudden.
“…! M-M-Miss Sonoda? Why are you here?”
Sonoda quietly bowed at Ohsugi, completely ignoring his question. She took Gentarou’s hand and smiled. Gentarou smiled back. Seeing the two in such good spirits, Ohsugi screamed.
“Well, hope you enjoy the prom too, Mr. Ohsugi! See ya later.”
Gentarou and Sonoda went off towards the back of the venue and out of sight. Left behind by himself, Ohsugi started screaming again.
“Kisaragiiiiiii, I haaaaaaaate yooooooou!”
While Ohsugi was stomping on the ground in his tantrum, Yukina went up to the stage.
“Well, once again, welcome to the New Amanogawa Academy High annual graduation prom party! Yeah!”
A party popper went off to accompany Yukina’s second opening statement. The pop-rock music club took that as their cue to start playing.
“And, once again, let’s get hype!”
The students cheered with the rock and roll. Everyone was dancing with smiles on their faces.
Now that she was done with her opening statement, Yukina was looking around for Gentarou. Suddenly, JK grabbed her hand.
“Huh? Aren’t you Gentarou’s junior…?
“Huh, what? What do you want?” she said, taken aback by this all of a sudden.
“Yukina, will you dance with me?”
“Huh? Did we ever have that kind of relationship?”
“Well, Miu told me that prom time makes everyone’s feelings waver a bit. So maybe you’ll consider wavering your stance on me a bit?”
He was clearly just trying to go with the flow, but there was something serious in his gaze as he laughed. Yukina took a moment to consider what to do, and finally laughed comfortably and nodded. “All right, why not?”
“Hey, do you want to dance?”
Hozumi invited Ryouko to dance, and she took his hand and smiled awkwardly. They weren’t exactly each other’s ideal type or anything, but after spending the last few days so closely together, a bond of camaraderie had been born between them. There was precedent for romance coming from this kind of thing.
Makise also turned to Sumie.
“W-Would you like to dance…um, maybe I shouldn’t ask, if you can’t say no…”
But for the first time, a smile was lit up on Sumie’s face.
“It’s fine, I’d really love to.”
Both pairs seemed happy, as if thinking “I finally found a dance partner at the very, very end.”
Kengo and Yuuki’s white party outfits had gotten thoroughly dirtied in the midst of the battle, but they were also dancing magnificently.
“Kengo, I’m sorry I kept the whole thing about studying in America from you.”
“That’s not something you need to apologize for. Don’t worry about it.”
“But you seemed really sulky about it.”
Yuuki suddenly had a serious expression.
“Kengo, you kissed me earlier, right?”
Kengo looked up, playfully acting like he had no idea what she was talking about
Yuuki put on an excellent smile.
“I don’t really remember, so you’d better do it again.”
Kengo dropped the playful act and went straight to kissing Yuuki. A passionate kiss approached with total coolness. Kengo still had the same personality he always did.
Gentarou and Sonoda were dancing next to them. Seeing Kengo and Yuuki’s lips suddenly meeting, Gentarou was distracted in surprise and had to be scolded by Sonoda.
“Hey. No looking away.”
Gentarou had arrived straight from Tanegashima, so he was still wearing his usual trimmed uniform and delinquent wear, and Sonoda was wearing the jersey she did her morning jogs in. Both of them looked completely out of place at the party, displaced from their surroundings in formal wear.
“Wow, you’re still like a teacher even now, Sono.”
“Are you talking back at me?”
Gentarou laughed with a little embarrassment. His smile was a Limit Break of healing. Sonoda couldn’t help but smile in response.
“You’re real good at getting in teacher mode, Sono.”
“Thanks, Gentarou. I learned a lot from you.”
“…You learned? From me?”
“Yeah. You taught me to understand myself better, and what path I’m meant to take. And you didn’t just teach that to me, but to tons of other people, right? They’re all around us.”
“You’d make a great teacher, Gentarou.”
Something suddenly dawned on Gentarou.
He mumbled as he stopped dancing and took something out of his pocket.
Sonoda leaned over to look. It was a tattered photo. It was the picture of him with unfamiliar Ama High students in a classroom. Gentarou was in the middle, wearing a suit that didn’t seem to be a school uniform.
“When did you take this picture?”
“No…I haven’t taken it yet.”
“This one time, another version of me came and asked to borrow the belt, and he dropped this picture.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about…”
“Hey, Sono, don’t I look like a teacher in this picture?”
“Hmm, now that you put it that way, I would say so.”
Passion was burning within Gentarou. This feeling…If I had to put it in words…this is it! I can feel it in my veins!
“That’s me from the future. I’m gonna be a teacher.”
He reaffirmed his conviction and turned to Sonoda.
“Thanks, Sono! You helped me figure out where to go. To be a teacher!”
He was full of determination.
“O-Okay. Yeah. But…what did I do? Huh?”
Gentarou suddenly held out his hand for a handshake. Sonoda felt all sorts of feelings as she looked at his hand. Tears were also welling up. But she wasn’t really feeling in the mood to reflect back on things and get sentimental, so she simply just took his hand. Bump, bump, bump. Gentarou and Sonoda exchanged their very first “symbol of friendship”. Sonoda was crying, and Gentarou was completely looking forward.
Gentarou spoke up, disregarding the party’s light atmosphere.
“Hey, guys, listen up! I’ve decided to be a teacher!”
He made his declaration to all of his friends, or, in other words, to all of the graduating students at Ama High.
- Miso = Fermented soybean paste. Soup made with it is a very common side dish.
- The original text seems to have a typo here; it says Yukina was the one to say the preceding line, even though context makes it obvious it should be either Sugiura or Sayaka.
- Yukata = Traditional Japanese clothing, often worn at festivals. The shoe strap in question is one from a geta.