Kamen Rider Calliope
Myth 1, Part 3
“Thank goodness! I’m glad I made it to you in time!”
The beautiful, well-spoken girl from earlier that day came rushing towards Kaname and practically threw herself at her, and she had to grab onto a nearby jungle gym to avoid both of them toppling over.
“What? What’s going on? Who’s chasing you?” Kaname had her priorities straight, but her mind was also stuck on how did you know I was here?
“Sorry, they caught up faster than I anticipated. Are you prepared?”
“Prepared for what? That? WHAT IS THAT?”
The pursuer, whom Kaname had originally assumed to be some lecherous drunk or criminal low-life turned had just about reached them. The thing had a humanoid shape, and stood about as tall as a grown man, but its skin appeared to be formed of squirming shadow. Rigid, bony armor plates jutted out all over its body, including a mask that resembled a vulpine skull. It moved around while hunched over, in short lurches and leaps, and gave the impression of an animal stalking prey.
The monster unhinged its skeletal jaw and let out a gurgling cry before launching itself with alarming speed at the pair of girls. Kaname’s shock and fear had catalyzed with her anger, and she stepped forward to meet it, stopping it short with a blow to the chest before sending it sprawling with a haymaker. The creature rolled about on the ground and seemed too stunned to recover.
“Jeezus. Way too early for Halloween costumes, you freak.” Kaname shook out her hand, which was likely bruised. Whatever kind of material the attacker was wearing, the bones felt real enough, and the shadowy skin in between them had been unsettlingly moist.
“That was spectacular!” The girl rewarded Kaname with that radiant smile while digging around in her bag for something. “Now are you ready for the other six?”
Kaname turned her attention back to the monster, and saw several others just like it approaching them from various angles.
“Are you kidding me? Is this some sort of sick prank? A group costume?”
“They’re Nyxi; they start spawning once an Ektroma opens Pandora’s Box. Don’t worry about them too much, they’re the least dangerous part of this situation.”
“That was a lot of information and none of it helped! What does any of that mean!?”
Kaname didn’t give the girl enough time to answer her before she had to be back on her gaurd against the so-called Nyxi. Another one had drawn near enough to pounce, put Kaname put it to the ground with a satisfying thud. In a situation where she was outnumbered, she knew that launching a strong offense would be to her advantage. She dashed forward to meet the next one, letting her momentum guide her combo of kicks and punches, and dropped another foe. Despite looking scary, these things didn’t put up much of a threat against someone who had won her share of fights back in her middle-school and high-school days. However, despite their attacks being easy to dodge and counter, Kaname had the drawback of having to guard the girl, and no matter how many times she whacked the monsters, they managed to get back up unfazed after a minute.
“We should probably start running again, these things don’t know how to die. I’ll make us a path and then we’ll run to my bike.”
“We can’t escape now, we’re already inside Pandora’s Box. The Ektroma…”
Kaname was doing more fighting and less listening, and after downing three Nyxi in quick succession, she grabbed the girl by the arm and ran with her towards where sodaigomi had been parked. She didn’t know if it was the high of adrenaline or the setting in of fatigue, but it was at this point Kaname noticed how strange their surroundings looked. The trees, the play structures, the lampposts, the features of every object around them appeared distorted. It felt like they were inside a painting or a lucid dream; everything had lost half a dimension, and nothing felt quite real. The pair reached Kaname’s bike after what felt like far too much running for the distance they crossed, but as soon as Kaname touched the motorcycle, it crumbled into thousands of folded paper cranes.
“What in the high hell!? What’s going on?”
“Like I said, we’re in Pandora’s Box now. It’s not our reality, and the only way to return is to defeat the Ektroma that summoned it.”
“Okay, well, I’m more than ready to fight anything if it means getting us out of this nightmare.”
“Then are you ready to transform?”
“Into a hero, of course.”
The girl pulled a belt out of her bag. It was surprisingly large, and had a protrusion on the front that looked like a parchment scroll that ancient cultures would write on. The belt looked almost mechanical in nature, with several levers and dials built into its bulky frame. This cumbersome accessory was being held out to Kaname now.
“Wait. Is this… Kamen Rider’s belt?”
“It’s a Kamen Rider belt. It’s supposed to be yours.”
“What? That’s not mine. I’m not Kamen Rider. Or a hero. We need to get out of here.”
“It is yours!” The girl spoke with a conviction that caught Kaname off-guard. Those bright blue eyes dug into hers, unwilling to let go. “I know because my vision showed me so. You are going to transform, and beat the Ektroma, and save us!”
Kaname had no choice but to grab onto the belt that was being forcefully thrust into her arms. “What are you even talking about! I don’t know how to use this, I don’t know what’s going on, I don’t know what to do!”
“That’s okay! I’ll guide you! And being a hero is about instinct- you just listen to the bravest voice inside you!”
Kaname could see the Nyxi regrouping and heading their way. She took a steadying breath. “Okay. Screw it. If this helps us get out of here, I’ll do whatever.”
“Quick, put it on!”
“Like how? It looks too heavy to– oop, there it goes I guess.” All Kaname had to do was hold the belt near her waist and it wrapped itself around her in a flash, somehow adjusting to just the right width. Something about the belt felt alive, or at least highly animatronic; it was unnerving, but not terrifying in a dangerous sense, like having a large reptile crawl on you for the first time.
“Ok! What now?” After a moment Kaname realized nothing had changed about their situation, besides her now wearing a very gaudy fashion accessory, and the Nyxi were closing in fast.
Kaname felt the pressing need for some follow-up questions to that imperative, but she knew they really didn’t have time. Being a hero is about instinct, so now was the moment to trust her instinct — or just die like a chump, maybe.
Kaname sprinted forward at the oncoming monsters, reaching out their ossified claws at her; one step, two, three, and into the air; her hand moved on its own, grabbing the scroll part of her belt and pulling it open. She felt an incredible power rushing through her body, wrapping around her muscles and embalming her in a lucid vibration that synchronized with the beating of her heart.
She left the ground an ordinary, slightly-perplexed 19-year old girl, and landed heel-first on the chest of a Nxyi; the monster was blown back several meters from a force that usually came from meeting the business-end of a speeding truck. Kaname was in absolute shock for a moment; so were the Nyxi, it seemed, and then she realized that was an opportunity. One down, then two, three and four; Kaname’s body reacted to her will directly, and her punches landed so fast she was having a hard time following her own fight. Was this what top-tier Olympic athletes or martial-arts masters experienced? Whatever it was, she felt like she could take on a hundred more of these freaks and not break a sweat.
Kaname had dispatched all seven of them so quickly she had time for a short breather while they recovered themselves. She realized she was wearing a full body suit, including a fully-enclosed mask that was well-designed to not obscure her vision (and in some ways enhance it, though she didn’t know how that worked). Was this for real? Was she actually a Kamen Rider? She looked different from the previous one. Who was she now?
The answer came from somewhere within the space she shared with the suit.
Kamen Rider Calliope.
Kaname turned around to look back at the other girl, dropping a nearly-recovered Nyxi at the same time with a well-placed kick. “Holy crap! Look, look at me! I’m a Kamen Rider right now! I’m Calliope! Apparently!”
The girl was bouncing up and down with excitement herself. “That’s amazing! You’re amazing! And your kick was so cool! But look out!”
Kaname was too busy soaking up the sudden fervent compliments that her brain closed the door on the girl’s warning. If Bruce Lee moves and radiant admiration from beautiful people were the perks of being a Kamen Rider, maybe this would be a good excuse to quit university…
“Please, watch out! It’s coming now, you need to prepare yourself!” The girl’s strained cry finally cut through Kaname’s self-satisfying delusion, and she turned back around. The Nyxi had silently retreated, leaving only her in the park with one other figure. It was unmistakably a monster like the Nyxi, but this one had a different air about it. It was larger, its body thick with sinuous muscle plating, and its bloodlust was palpable. It had a wicked horn protruding from its stump-like head, and a single bulbous eyeball that twitched and swivelled about madly. It opened its drooling maw, but only produced a crazed, guttural shriek that managed to prickle Kaname’s skin within the suit.
“The Ektroma, yes. You need to defeat it if we’re going to escape Pandora’s Box. It’s much tougher than the Nyxi, but I know you can do it.”
Kaname felt that blazing confidence flare up again, and she clenched her fists. “You know it. I’ll get us out of here in no time, just hang back and watch the action.”
Calliope rushed forward once again, but the Ektroma proved smarter than the Nyxi; it backed up quickly to prevent the Kamen Rider from delivering another devastating flying kick, and then put her on the defensive with vicious swipes of is clawed hands and horn. Kaname was ready for this kind of fight too; she kept her movements tight and efficient, waiting for her opening and seizing it to break through with weighty punches and kicks in places that would floor a normal human. She couldn’t find any useful weak spots besides its eye, which the creature was always very good at guarding, and the proximity to the threatening horn made it all the more elusive a target. But it was clear that she would have to make a go for it.
Calliope took her fair share of blows, but the suit provided her a degree of armor as well; even the couple attacks she couldn’t block or deflect didn’t result in lasting damage, even though they were likely strong enough to leave dents in concrete. Even with her enhanced fighting capabilities, however, she couldn’t quite find the opening to take the shot she wanted. Kaname tried to buck the fear that was nestling between her shoulder blades and dragging its cold fingers along her spine. Well, if she managed to take the monster down along with her, it still counted as a win, right? It’s not like Kamen Riders had a recent penchant for dying horribly or anything…
Calliope pushed a sudden offensive, forcing the Ektroma to guard itself and back off. She used those moments to step back herself, providing space between them for a dramatic showdown. The reality-warping foe roared at her again, evidently also tired of the blow-for-blow slugfest. Calliope offered it a taunting motion with her hand, and it lowered its wicked horn to bear, just as she had hoped (despite what her survival instincts were screaming at her).
She knew to activate her belt once again, which sent a refreshing surge of energy through her. Without needing a countdown, the two enemies charged at each other, the Ektroma’s horn headed straight for Calliope’s chest, and Calliope was not shifting from that course. She timed her leap a second too late according to her brain, but just right by her instincts. Kaname felt the horn slide along her ribcage, thankfully with the suit between it and her precious internal organs. Her arm whipped around the base of the horn, allowing her to hang on to its head and slam her foot right where it needed to be; into the center of the damn monster’s eyeball.
A horrific squelching and a nauseating screech confirmed a critical hit. Kaname landed on the ground and rolled away from the Ektroma’s death throes. With one final howl, the monster’s entire body burst into billowous, frothing goo that propelled in all directions. Kaname ducked again to avoid the surge of dark ichor, but when she looked up it was already evaporating from every surface, turning from liquid to vapor to misty shadow.
In the cathartic moment that followed, Calliope realized this was probably the time where she was supposed to say something cool.
“And that’s why, uh… don’t forget about… when justice… ah… don’t bother coming back!”
She threw in a dramatic arm gesture for good measure and immediately regretted it as she felt the major bruising on her rib. It hadn’t been a direct hit, but even the suit couldn’t prevent all the incoming damage. Calliope was on the ground when the girl got over to her and touched a lever on the belt, which instantly deactivated the suit. She was just Kaname again; unfortunately the de-transformation hadn’t taken the injury with it. Sitting up gingerly, Kaname saw the park was also back to being just a park; her motorcycle was one whole hunk of junk again and not a pile of origami.
“Are you alright? How badly are you injured?”
Kaname waved her off, just like the first time they had met. “What’d I tell you before? It’s mostly theatrical.” She shifted and let out a groan that didn’t require much acting.
The girl sat back on her haunches, rolling her long hair behind her ear and giving Kaname another one of those purifying smiles. “You must be a theater major then.”
Kaname had returned her smile without realizing it and immediately hoped she hadn’t embarrassed herself by making some dorky grimace at this girl. “Naw, I’ll be okay though, really. I’ve slept off worse.”
“That’s a relief to hear. You should go home and rest now, in that case. You did an exceptional job dispersing the Ektroma, but unfortunately its Wonderpen isn’t here. That means it will return once it recollects sufficient power.”
“Oh god, you mean it’s not actually dead yet? It exploded into goo! How much more dead can something get?”
“Ektroma have more in common with spirits and devils than physical creatures. We’ll have to be vigilant. Are you well enough to ride your motorcycle?”
“Of course, no prob,” Kaname said, getting back on her feet with only a small bit of prob. “What about you?”
“I have a ride arranged for me, it’s waiting already. It’s necessary that I depart immediately.”
“Oh. Well, uh, see ya I guess?”
The girl nodded, still beaming at her. “Yes. Be careful on your way home, and have a rejuvenating rest.”
“Yeah, you too”, was all Kaname could think to say to the girl’s retreating back. It took her a few minutes of standing there alone in the park, gently cradling her aching ribs and slowly letting her mind try to process what had just happened before she realized all the things she should have included in that conversation.
First off, who in the world was that girl? They hadn’t introduced themselves since their first encounter this morning, though to be fair there hadn’t been time or reason to until now. Second of all, WHAT IN THE FIFTY FLAVORS OF HELL JUST HAPPENED. Nyxi? Ektroma? Pandora’s Box? Her, a Kamen Rider? Was she actually dreaming now? Nope, way too much pain for that not to be real. Kaname couldn’t believe this had all taken place on the same day she had woken up for her first day of university.
Oh man, she still had classes tomorrow. Well, maybe her injury would conveniently plague her long enough to require a medical leave. Sorry doctor, came down with a bad case of being a badass. It’s probably terminal. Man why could she be so witty now and not when she needed to say something dramatic? In any case, it was clear she had much bigger things to worry about now than some stupid college courses. Even if it had been just for one night, Kaname had worn the belt of a Kamen Rider, and fought an evil that was still lurking out in the world somewhere.
Getting back on her bike, Kaname’s mind was brought back to what the girl had said when she first arrived at the park. She seemed to imply that she knew Kaname would be there, and that she had been seeking out Kaname specifically. And something about a vision? Maybe that girl was whackier than she let on. It could be dangerous all around to become involved. In any case, Kaname had plenty of time to mull it over tomorrow.
Kaname reached down to start the engine and her wrist hit against the belt. Regardless of what kind of powers it had, it was still oversized and clunky to wear.
The belt she was still wearing.
~~ Next Time, in Part 4~~
Kaname’s got a serious wardrobe malfunction; Chanel’s advice isn’t worth much when she physically can’t take one thing off. So it’s back to school to get answers from the girl who always seems to know more than expected. If she can’t help, maybe her friend can… a spiritual sort that has years, decades, possibly even millennia of experience.
Tune in next Sunday, February 4th, 9:00a.m. EST!