Kamen Rider Calliope
Myth 1, Part 7
“Odakyuu. I need you to do something for me. I’m gonna ask you to tell me what you know about cyclopses… But I don’t want you to actually tell me everything you know about cyclopses. Do you understand?”
Shoki gave Kaname a disparaging glance before returning his attention to the papers that crowned the pile on the desk before him. “That’s certainly a limiting way to ask for knowledge. What exactly do you want to know about them?”
It was the next day, and Kaname had managed to arrive at the ACRC room even before Shoki. She may or may not still have a class that she was supposed to be currently attending, but saving the campus from a monster-movie reject took priority over any academic-related matters she could think of.
“Like, I dunno, what the deal is with them.”
“What the… deal is?”
“Yeah! Y’know, why they exist. What their strengths and weaknesses are. Best way to kill ‘em. Y’know, the basics.”
Kaname watched Shoki struggle inwardly between ignoring her and focusing on the homework he had in front of him and his deepest natural instincts of curiosity for ancient cultures. She didn’t have a long wait.
“Well, their origins can be drawn from several different sources. Hesiod, Euripides, and Virgil to name a few. However, the most well-known account of these humanoid giants is indisputably from Homer’s Odyssey, in which the titular protagonist Odysseus crosses paths with several cyclopses on his long way back from the Trojan War. There’s plenty of fascinating interactions that take place between the sailors and this race of gargantuan man-eaters, but ultimately the leader of the cyclopses, Polyphemus, has his eye put out by a sharpened stake thrown by Odysseus, and his crew made their escape. Now what’s truly interesting are the other legends that attribute cyclopses as artisans and builders that…”
“I see,” said Kaname, loudly enough to be sure she interrupted Shoki before their opinions further diverged about what was “truly interesting”. “So in the end they basically just… stabbed it in the obvious weak point, huh. Not really sure what else I was expecting.”
“Yes, isn’t myth just fascinating when you assume everything beforehand and refuse elaboration.”
“I got what I needed. Is it really just a sharpened stick, though? Couldn’t that be considered, like… a spear?”
“Sure. People choose to translate the source in different ways. A spear would be an acceptable interpretation in my mind.”
“Good to know. Thanks.” Kaname gave Shoki a genuinely appreciative wave and headed for the door.
“Are you going to confront the monster again?”
Kaname stopped short. “Uhhh… More or less.” She still hadn’t figured out how much Shoki knew, or was supposed to know about the whole Kamen Rider situation. Kaname should probably have been clued into that by now, but it had never really made it into the top three topics of vital conversation between her, Kokonoka and Archimedes in the last couple days. Kaname understood that Arc wanted him to remain in the dark about his own spiritual possession situation, but any further tiptoeing around was more work than Kaname had signed up for.
“So, you saw me yesterday when I was fighting it?”
“I didn’t see the battle, only the results of you losing it. Look, you don’t have to hide anything about that from me; I’ve been privy to information related to the Kamen Rider since Ichiryuu joined the Ancient Cultures Research Club at the beginning of last semester. A lot’s happened since then, but it seems like she values my help. And she is an earnest member of the club as well… So it’s rather a shame to see the state we’re in now.”
Kaname looked around the room. “I mean, it’s not that messy, I’d think with some gasoline and a match or two the junk’ll clear right up…”
“I mean the fact that our club might not be around much longer. Unless you were too busy looking for material for your hilarious jokes, you may have noticed Ichiryuu and I are currently the only two members. There’s pressure from the university to shut down in order to spend the budget elsewhere, as well as us lacking a faculty sponsor.”
“Huh. That does suck.” Kaname wasn’t being sarcastic anymore; she could see how much Shoki and Kokonoka cared about the things they were into, and the ACRC was probably the only place they could get the resources to learn more about them. And, despite it being a bit selfish to say so, the only place where Kaname could get reliable information on how to fight the Ektroma. Shoki had proven himself more helpful than his spectral counterpart, which made Kaname remember to ask something else before she left.
“Hey, not to be too nosy, but it’s hard not to notice your fainting spells. Is that something you’ve gotten checked out?”
It was hard to ignore the pause Shoki took before replying. “Yes, multiple doctors have said that they can’t find any obvious causes, and there’s too many possibilities that are relatively benign to afford doing medical tests ad nauseum. It’s likely some form of narcolepsy brought on by academic stress. To be honest, after working through the initial uncertainty, I don’t mind it that much. It seems while I’m unconscious, my mind is still able to process information in a way that remains with me when I awaken. It’s like I’m being tutored in a way that’s particularly synergistic to my learning styles, and it ends up being a great advantage in some of my classes. I have a theory it stems from some kind of osmosis effect, I’ve been meaning to set up some tests…”
Kaname had heard what she wanted to and let herself tune out. If Shoki had been under considerable duress from Arc’s inhabitation, she had been seriously considering spilling the beans to him. But it seems she wasn’t giving the spirit as much credit as they deserved, so she relinquished the point.
“Alright, cool. I’m out then.”
“You have no idea what I’ve been talking about for the past minute do you.”
“Got that right. But hey, feel free to explain it to me again after I put my life on the line to put down Giant-Eye Magee out there.”
Shoki gave that a small chuckle. “Count on it. Good luck.”
“Thanks, I’ll probably need it.”
Hikaru was even more tired today.
Even though he had been tired enough to fall into a deep slumber yesterday, his memories had become even more muddled. Had he actually slept, or was that in itself a dream? He was at a point where he was so exhausted the boundary between wakefulness and slumber rippled in his brain like late-night static from an old television. His body knew where it needed to go, but he felt thoroughly disconnected from the experience, like he had been shoved into some form-fitting robotic suit, and the only connection he had to the outside world was through lenses fogged up by his own exhaustion.
He knew he had to keep going, though. Just one more test, and one more after that, and after that, and each one brought him closer to the glorious future he dreamed of, but couldn’t quite picture right now. No one understood his needs, and if they couldn’t help him, they shouldn’t stand in his way. The Ektroma made sure of that. It wasn’t always visible, but it was sure to lurk close by, in case something tried to distract him from his task. Irritating people he vaguely recognized, saying they were worried about him, trying to get him to rest. Professors casting suspicious glances his way, muttering about cheating. And some fool who dared lecture him on his methods, calling him a hypocrite, and even trying to defeat the Ektroma that was giving him his power. No more of that. The next time she stood in his way, she would learn her lesson.
And apparently, despite her attendance in other classes, she was an eager student.
Hikaru saw Kaname, arms folded, leaning against her motorcycle, planted squarely in his path.
“Alright Yasuda, for the sake of appearances, I’m gonna tell you one last time; hand over the pen.”
Inside himself, Yasuda felt an urge to oblige her, for some reason. But he just snarled at her. “You know my answer to that.”
Kaname was already working out kinks in her neck. “Yep, well, negotiations finished, can’t say I didn’t try. I figure we should move this along to the part we both know’s coming.”
“Don’t hurt her,” Hikaru wanted to say, still not quite knowing why.
“I’m giving you one more chance,” Hikaru said, “to back off. I told you how you already waste enough space here.”
“Yeah, well, don’t go thinking you’re the first. I’ve developed a thick skin over the years, the better to punch your face with, my dear.”
Hikaru felt himself smirk. “So in the end you are willing to hurt a friend to get what you want.”
“Can’t deny that. But what I want is to get that friend back. From whatever the hell is making him say this crap right now.”
“This IS me,” said someone besides Hikaru. “This are my true feelings and ambitions, laid bare, allowing me to evolve into something greater! I don’t need saving!”
Hikaru inside Hikaru realized what he wanted to say to her.
“You and everyone else can shove off. I don’t need kindness or empathy or any of that shit. I don’t need anyone… to…”
“Help me.” Both Hikarus said together.
Kaname smirked, making a belt appear around her waist. “I hear you, Yasuda. Loud and clear.”
Hikaru watched the belt shimmer with warm light as Kaname retracted part of it, as if unravelling a scroll, and let it slide back into place. The light expanded over Kaname’s entire body, securing her in a suit of black and silver accented with lively lines of violet. Hikaru could see both the courage of a motorcycle stunt driver and the bellicose grace of an Amazonian warrior in the Kamen Rider that stood to face him now. He quickly realized it wasn’t him she was readying herself for, however, as he was pushed aside by the gauntleted hand of the Ektroma. Vengeful or hopeful, he no longer had any control over this situation; the restless, throbbing energy that had driven him over the past few days left his body all at once, dropping him like a pile of wet laundry by the pathway.
Kaname had only a moment of fear when she saw Hikaru fall, but knew it was because the Ektroma was consolidating its power for this fight. It no longer needed him as a puppet. So, in theory, once she sent it packing for good, her friend should be back to his old wimpy self. Her bigger problem was mitigating the effects of Pandora’s Box; she knew she stood a chance against the monocular menace, but at this point the Pandora’s Box effects were so potent it felt like she was fighting while coated in molasses, after having been spun around to make her dizzy.
Her instinct was trying to tell her something, however. If there had been one thing Arc had said that seemed like worthwhile advice, it was that thing about using her instinct. She touched her belt and again and, feeling nothing reaching out to her, tried forcing it to do something useful. A comforting warmth spread over her, reaching her legs just in time to use them, as the Ektroma tried to bisect her with a heavy swipe of its arm. Calliope was starting to move more naturally again; she felt light and springy, able to vacate before the weight of Pandora’s Box could encumber her limbs again. She wasn’t going to stand there and take another pounding from her lumbering foe, and used her newfound speed to start sending punches back.
The Ektroma, its single eyeball swivelling about madly, let out a hiss that sounded like a hive of hornets being sprayed with hot water. “How dare you!” A choked, snarling voice erupted from its gnashing maw; from somewhere deep inside it, she could still recognize Hikaru. “This was my only chance and you’re taking it away! You will never understand, you outsider! You pretender!”
Calliope deflected another blow and followed up with a high kick, causing the Ektroma to end its condemnation in a squeal. “Oh great, it can even talk now. Best addition yet, I’d say.”
“You tricked him with false friendship! He can’t trust anyone aga-ooomph”
Calliope had expertly dodged both its left and right strikes, and ducked under its guard to deliver a devastating straight right to its stupid face. The Ektroma stumbled back and Calliope pressed the advantage, laying in with a tight combo of kicks and punches, trying to stave off its guard.
The monster finally made her back off with a wide sweep of its horn, combined with a burst of noxious energy that caused a heavy ripple in the air of Pandora’s Box. Calliope momentarily felt stuck again, as time was caught in the eternity between two seconds… and then hit the ground just before the Ektroma’s second swing could catch her.
“You’re still scared, girl!” The monster chided her in gurgling glee. “I’m stronger than ever now, and no matter how hard you fight, you’ll meet your death on the end of my horn!” It tried to punctuate its point by punctuating her, moments after she rolled away. “But flee now, and live! Listen to that fear and save yourself!”
“Tough words for a freak who has a magnetic attraction to my fists. Keep this up and I’ll tag in my grandma to finish you off.”
“Even more foolish not to fear,” it growled. Both fighters stood poised, ready to counter but not to attack just yet. The Ektroma’s eyeball swiveled about to stare at something past Calliope’s shoulder, and she immediately got a bad feeling.
Before she could lunge at it, the Ektroma let loose another energy blast, rippling time and space like a stone breaking the surface of a pond. Fast, then slow, go, then stop, Calliope felt like she was caught between two TV channels flipping back and forth madly. She saw the Ektroma rush past her, heading for a student a short ways off that had been caught on the edge of Pandora’s Box.
“Watch, helpless hero, as someone dies just beyond the reach of those prized fists!”
Cold fear rushed up her legs, through her torso, and nearly made it into her brain before a memory rose up to block it. Something about not being chosen by strength, but by her will to act. She wouldn’t be able to reach the monster and the victim in time; but maybe her fists didn’t have to reach them. Maybe something else could. Her stare still fixed on the Ektroma, Calliope reached behind her, finding her grip on a weapon she willed to be there. She pulled it up, the long shaft etched with streams of violet and silver. Its keen point was already aimed straight at her target.
“Oy, you bile-gargling coward!…”
It slowed only for an instant, but that was all she needed. Its massive single eye swivelled towards her, just in time to take in its last view; the tip, and then the following four feet of a spear that had been hurtled with perfect precision. It let out a final, pathetic scream as it fell to the ground, amidst the streams of hissing ooze that poured feely from its gaping socket.
“Keep your eye on that!”
~~ Next Time, in Part 8~~
It’s finale time! Was Calliope’s epic spear toss enough to send the cyclopean horror back into the realm of the imaginary? And will ridding Hikaru’s mind of the Ektroma’s influence be enough to restore the goodwill between two friends, broken by cruel words and harsh truths? It’ll all be revealed in the final part of Myth 1!
Tune in next Sunday. March 4th, 9:00a.m. EST!