Kamen Rider Calliope
Part 8, Myth 1
Calliope was so proud of her quip that it took her a few seconds to remember she should be checking on the student whose roommate had nearly ended up with automatic A’s for the semester. By the time she had reached the body of the Ektroma, she noticed it starting to swell up in unnerving ways, persuading her to pick up the bystander and vacate the area as quickly as possible. They had barely passed beyond the field of Pandora’s Box when the remains of the Ektroma exploded behind them, just the right distance to be out of danger, but still be aesthetically pleasing as Calliope walked cooly away, carrying the fainted student in her arms.
Calliope held the girl out to Kokonoka and Shoki as they came running forward to meet her. “Take care of her. I’ll be back.” She hurried back the way she came, heading for where Yasuda was still lying on the ground. There was no trace left of the Ektroma, but her spear was still there, gleaming in the afternoon sun. Calliope pulled it out of the ground effortlessly and, with a quick spin, removed it from physical space. Odysseus had certainly chosen his weapon wisely.
Before heading over to Hikaru, Calliope also snatched up the pen that was lying right by the spear. It looked just the same as the one she had given Hikaru back on the first day they had met. Turning it over, she saw the ink gauge was empty, and she could feel no dangerous energies eminating from it. But she was wiser this time, and she wouldn’t be handing it off to anyone else.
Kaname felt the suit dissolve around her as she reached the spot where Hikaru was lying, and when he opened his eyes, he was in the arms of a friend. General confusion quickly gave way to stinging shame as the context of their situation came back to him. Nevertheless, he was hauled to his feet by Kaname.
“Crap… I can’t believe I did that… What the hell was I thinking…”
“Shut up, Yasuda. I’m not gonna hear it.”
Hikaru immediately lapsed into silence as Kaname shifted most of his weight onto her, pulling his arm around her shoulders. She realized he had probably taken that the wrong way.
“You were being controlled by that stupid pen. Don’t go blaming yourself for shit you wouldn’t have been doing otherwise.”
“I can’t really be sure that’s true. It might have affected my mood, but… I can’t deny much of what I’ve been saying. I regret it, but… I think it just revealed how much of an awful person I am.”
Kaname groaned and stopped walking, not even bothering to brace Hikaru as he stumbled forward from the sudden change in motion.
“Oh my god. Don’t start with that. Listen, Yasuda. I already get that was all stuff from your own head. But it was the pen that twisted you all up in it and made you go out of control. It’s some kind of evil tool that feeds off of people’s insecurities. And if all of that was true, so what? So part of you is an obsessive, condescending asshole. Welcome to the club, population, like, all of Earth.”
Kaname yanked on his arm again and they started off towards the nearest building. People were starting to arrive at the scene in groups; the usually-busy area had been conspicuously clear of other people once the fight had started. Fortunately Kaname’s high-intensity glare was successful at buffering other people’s urge to offer aid, and they had a clear path towards the medical office.
“You weren’t wrong about me either. I’ve been keeping it in for awhile now, but honestly, screw this university, and going to classes, and homework, and everything to do with it. I hate almost everything about this place and a large part of me wishes I had actually never gone back after the first day. Hell, if I hadn’t even gone on the first day I wouldn’t be wrapped up in all this mess now.”
Kaname heaved the heavy door open to the building they had reached, guiding Hikaru carefully over the threshold. “But y’know what. I don’t regret it. Yeah, I’m a know-nothing dipshit who’s probably wasting a space at this school when someone like your friend should actually be here. But y’know what, tough burgers. This is the way it is now, and I have every right to hate it as much as I want to, and maybe I’ll quit tomorrow, or a week from now, or never. That’s the kind of obsessive, condescending asshole I am.”
Hikaru was trying to look at her now, but it was Kaname’s turn to avoid eye contact, as she pushed him forward a bit more solidly than was called for.
“Maybe it’s assholes like you that can make this place bearable for assholes like me. Well, a few assholes and a really nice, kind, gentle soul who deserves a lot better.”
Hikaru gave her a weak laugh. “Sorry, it’s getting hard to follow when there’s so many assholes.”
Kaname grinned back. “If you can laugh, you can walk, buddy.”
Hikaru found himself relatively steady on his own feet by this time, and relieved Kaname of his weight. “There might be one less asshole soon, though. Now that the pen’s influence is gone, my grades are going to plummet. Even more than usual, since it wasn’t really helping me learn anything. I really screwed this up.”
“Don’t even worry about that. I’m gonna be making up all the times I didn’t come to your study club. In any way I can, I’m gonna make sure you at least pass all your stupid tests.”
“You don’t have to do that.”
“No shit. Didn’t you hear what I was just saying? I do what I want, baby.”
Hikaru smiled at this. He tried to laugh a bit, too, but he suddenly found the process too exhausting. He gave the nearby wall his weight as his vision started to blur, and a concerned-looking Kaname began to fade in front of him.
“Whoops. Okay, let’s get you into a bed, Yasuda. Enjoy your rest now, cuz as soon as you’re up again we’re hitting the books.”
Hikaru tried to give a response, but it was only heard in his dreams, now placid and unburdened by his own heavy desires.
“At least give it some thought.”
“Sure, here goes again. No. Not interested, sempai.” Kaname pushed the top of the paper offered out to her so it curled back upon itself.
Odakyuu sighed irritably and smoothed the application out. “Well, I’m not going to beg. Especially not to you. But I had to try.”
The two of them were standing in the dying light of the afternoon sun cast through the clubroom windows. Kaname had never been more ready to go home, watch some TV and forget that she had just fought off a cyclopean monstrosity, but Kokonoka had managed to catch her and let her know that Odakyuu had something important to ask of her. It had turned out be a request to join the Ancient Cultures Research Club.
“To be honest, I still don’t know if I should be here at this University for much longer. I’m going to help Yasuda study all this weekend,and he claims he’s gonna try and help me too, but I think I’m a bit beyond help at this point. But anyway, there’s gotta be plenty of folks who would be into… fanboying about old dead people with you.”
“You would think. This club has been particularly difficult to recruit for since last semester, and I can’t imagine that situation changing now. We are, however, in a particularly dire spot. I need to submit a report to the Student Activities Committee by the end of today, and if we don’t have any members signed on the ACRC will be disbanded.”
“Why would that happen? There’s still you and Ichiry- uh, Kokonoka-san at least.”
Odakyuu shook his frizzy head. “We both have troublesome circumstances. As you know, Ichiryuu-san’s father is an active policymaker in this University, and he’s never been fond of her spending much time outside of classes doing anything, as he would term it, “frivolous”. Her training to become the Ichiryuu’s successor at their temple is intensive. As for myself, I haven’t been quite as careful with my time management as I should be, between my studies and my research here. My family has never considered my passions to be anything but a… nuisance to achieving high marks. And while I passed everything last semester, it was closer than I would have liked. The bottom line is, if we can’t prove this club still has some life in it, neither I nor Ichiryuu-san can fend off the will of our families much longer.”
Kaname sighed heavily. “That does suck, man. I feel for you. But like I said, I really can’t be the person to help you. Even if I signed on, if I left soon after you’d be back in the same position. Possibly even worse off.”
She turned to make a hasty exit, in order to avoid any greater feelings of guilt that she knew would always get her in trouble for the sake of other people. Just before she could snap the door shut, however, she heard a different voice ask her to wait.
“What do you want, Arc.”
“First off, you were correct in supposing that I would not appreciate that moniker. But more importantly, we still have matters to discuss, miss Kamen Rider.”
Kaname turned around to stare down the blue-flamed specter now borrowing Odakyuu’s body. “No, I don’t think so. The Ektroma’s dead for real this time, and the pen is secure, so no more weird possession problems at this school. Well, besides the one in front of me I guess.”
“I expect you’re being sarcastic with me right now. I know you’re wise enough to realize that there’s more than one pen, and thus more than one Ektroma that will appear. They will all need the might of Calliope to stop them.”
“Well… Good thing I’ve got this superglued to my body then.” Kaname slapped at the belt on her waist.
“Correct. It would behoove you, Kaname, to stick close to your allies. They will need you here, and you will need their skills in time. If you’re looking for an excuse not to run away, consider this it.”
“What a way with persuasion you have. Anyway, I don’t see the connection between me staying here and my conscription as the local superhero.”
“That will also come with time. In any case, I’m ready to make you a deal. I understand your frustration at the situation you’ve been forced into. And while my duties in this time and place align with matters of higher morality, I do not find myself without empathy to your case. Therefore, if you’re willing to continue to fight as Calliope when you are needed, and to heed my advice, I shall consult the Gaia Record to find a way to release you from the belt.”
Kaname was a bit surprised, but she hid it well. She hadn’t expected Archimedes to go that far for her, especially since, as he so haughtily put it, he was concerned with “matters of higher morality”.
“You’re sure? You really mean it?”
“I will do everything in my power.”
This was a decision that had many aspects to consider, but Kaname felt her mind made up fairly quickly. She was tired of considering, and reconsidering, and just thinking about all the ways her actions could blow up in her face, when they inevitably did anyway no matter how much she mulled over them. Sometimes it’s just easiest to play ball.
“Alright then. We’ve got a deal.” Kaname snatched the application form out of Odakyuu’s grasp, where it had suffered slight mangling as Arc hadn’t taken much notice of what was going on with his borrowed vessel at the time. She scribbled her name on it and pushed it back to them.
“Here, hold this. Like that, fingers and all. When you hand the wheel back to Odakyuu he should go submit that before it’s too late.”
“Understood. And Kaname,” Arc called to her as she tried to make her exit once again, “you fought valiantly today. I have confidence in your abilities and potential as a Kamen Rider.”
Kaname felt like she owed him a thanks for this compliment, but she didn’t feel like giving it. “Well… you were right. About some things. Turns out I can’t just stand by doing nothing. Not sure I can call myself a hero or anything like that.”
“That… is not something to be concerned with.”
Before their conversation could be any more prolonged, Kaname snapped the door shut and hurried off down the hall towards the stairwell. Each time she tried to free herself of a troublesome responsibility, she managed to get herself tangled up in another one, like tendrils of seaweed wrapping around her in the ocean. All she wanted to do was to swim to the beach of freedom, if she was to keep up this metaphor. She had just won a fight against a shark, the Ektroma, and freed its small, twitchy sea-otter prey (Yasuda). And Odakyuu and Kokonoka were in there too (a pissy, pinchy crab and a kindly, beautiful sea turtle respectively). And that mysterious masked sea-urchin person, would probably be… well, a sea urchin. Anyway, the point is she was still much wetter than she would like to be.
But maybe an end was in sight. Hang around with Odakyuu and Kokonoka, beat up a few more Ektroma, and with any luck Arc would find a way to get the belt off of her fairly quickly. It was at that station that Kaname disembarked from that train of thought; done, as she had decided earlier, considering all of the potential dangers of her situation. She had stopped worrying about threats that were closer than she realized, closing in faster than she knew, and leading her down a path that she could never prepare herself for.
[ End of Myth 1 ]
Holy crap, where did 8 weeks go? If you ever want to make two-plus months go in fast-forward, try having a weekly deadline for serial-fiction posts. Anyway, thank you all so much for anyone who read any amount of this fic. This is the beginning of a potentially-enormous project, one that I have a lot of plans for, but still need to do the grueling work of actually putting into digital ink. So, I’ll answer that burning question right now:
When is Myth 2 coming out? Unfortunately that is a bit TBD. I can tell you that I am writing it right now, and that it shall continue to be on my project short-list until it’s done. However, between other BLP projects requiring more immediate attention and my impending return to Japan to fulfill a 3-month teaching contract in April, it might be a bit of a wait.
So to TL:DR – I am actively working on Myth 2 and beyond, and optimal plan A is to have it start publishing in April or May, to run partially over the course of when I’ll be teaching in Japan. Speaking of which, if you are someone who enjoys seeing pics of Japanese life and weeb culture, feel free to give my instagram a looksee (nagi_kaidashi_kikou). Also, comments and feedback are always encouragement for me to keep working on something, esp when I know there are other people waiting expectantly for it.
oh, also, just to give yall something to chew on in the meantime, I plan on publishing a Fourze fanfic piece that’s been sitting on my drive for a while now. Keep a lookout for that in late March or April.
So yeah. Once again, thanks so much for reading! Yall are great.