Suspended in Light
"I don't know about this."
He looked down at the book that had been thrust into his gloved hand, immaculate white pages, the decorative pink cover, an elegant butterfly design. Playfully, the other man reached out and shoved him, and Oogami Ryo stepped back in time for the other to bring up the edge of his blade, Onjuuken Suzune, its pink edge glistening as it rebuffed the shuddering thrust of a drill, forcing its monstrous owner to stumble back in a flurry of sparks.
"Come on, how often do you get to try a new Wonder Ride Book? It'll be fun!"
Oogami could imagine the look upon his friend's face behind the electric blue and jagged black of his mask, he could imagine the delight at such a prospect, the boyish enthusiasm, and even as he brought up his own massive sword, even as he cast the weight of the blade out in a swing that again crashed against the driving weapon of the apish Drill Mandrill, he still had his doubts.
There was something he had read once that had stayed with him; the Devil is the ape of G-d, he thought grimly. Not an actual ape, but as apes seemingly mimicked people, so too the Devil reflected humanity. Perhaps that's all the Meggido were, perhaps that's all they had ever been.
'Go! Bang! Bang!' cried a mechanical voice from Daishinji's blade as he reconfigured the weapon, the hilt snapping down, the blade becoming the barrel of a gun, one hand pulling free the Wonder Ride Book and sliding in a second.
Oogami winced. He hated it when his friend did this, hated the unbridled enthusiasm. Oogami Ryo was not a man easily embarrassed, but this… this got to him.
'Bremen no Rock Band!'
The other rolled his head, skipping from one foot to the other, pointing the transformed weapon in the direction of the Mandrill Meggido and letting loose a volley of shots, shards of light that shattered the pavement and sent the creature stumbling further back, its arms thrown up to cover its face.
"Yeah!" he brayed, his voice loud and abrasive. "That's what I'm talking about!"
This was a bad idea, Oogami thought, but maybe his friend was right. After all, how often did he get to try out a new Wonder Ride Book, especially since Touma had taken up the Sword of Rekka and seemed now to have a monopoly on wells of untapped powers.
Not that it bothered him, he thought, watching as the wicked machine-animal danced frantically to escape the blasts of Daishinji's weapon, a second Meggido, a hideous, horn'd creature with leathery bat wings, crouching just out of range, hesitant to commit, happy to let its comrade fall before it considered taking action.
Still, it would have been a lie if he had said he had not felt left behind, eclipsed by the younger man's growing strength. Now Touma had this 'Galaxy Sword,' a blade to unite each of their elements, a blade that called down power from the 3,000-year-old Star Beasts of the Ginga Forest.
Maybe this was what getting old meant, he reflected, this inability to keep up, this overshadowing by younger men. No, he thought, no, that wasn't him. What was that Dylan Thomas line? Do not go gentle into that good night. Beneath the helm he wore, his face was stern, sullen. He still had a promise to keep, a promise he had made to his son, a promise he had made to his wife.
With a sigh, he pulled free the weathered weight of his transformation book from the hilt of Dogouken Gekido, slamming in the second book that Daishinji has handed him, immaculate white and pink, untouched by any other.
'Wonder Rider! Kanon Specter!' the hilt proclaimed, serious and profound, and at once absurd and simplistic.
Light radiated from the book affixed to the weapon's hilt, pouring up his sword-arm, transforming the dull, grey plate armour into snow white and shimmering pink, the edge of his blade likewise now vibrant with radiant pink energy.
From behind him, a cloak swept down out of nowhere and wrapped itself about his form. He reached up, less than pleased, and pulled the hood back, looking at the glittering pink edge of Dogouken Gekido.
"It's pink," he murmured, feeling faintly embarrassed.
"Yeah!" Daishinji bellowed with enthusiasm, skipping forward, firing off another volley of shots at the two Meggido. "Pink's great, Oogami, what's wrong with you? Let's go!"
He let out a cackle, dancing back and forth, light exploding against the staggering shape of the Meggido.
Oogami sighed wearily.
"I resent this," he proclaimed, pulling the sword back, tensing the muscles of his legs.
It wasn't that he was embarrassed by the colour, it wasn't that he thought it unmanly or any of those ideas perpetuated by arrogant men too intimidated by anything they imagined would make them appear even remotely feminine—men like his old man had been—it was just that pink was not his colour, he literally had nothing in his wardrobe that went with pink, and, though he was uncomfortable admitting it, the one time he had tried wearing a Fred Perry shirt in pink, he had worried that it made him look as if he had gained weight.
You're still young, Oogami, he had told himself, staring into the mirror of the department store changing room. You can pull this off. You've got this.
He couldn't, and he didn't.
Channelling his embarrassment into action, he charged forward, swinging the massive blade in an arc of pink light and glitter, smashing through the defences of the Drill Mandrill, its drill arm exploding in shards of shimmering silver.
The beast howled in pain, and at last the second Meggido made its move, swooping forward on spread wings and seizing hold of its injured comrade from behind, pulling it up and away, ascending far out of range of the huge weight of Dogouken Gekido.
Daishinji cried out in frustration, firing off a handful of shots for good measure, and then, with a sigh, lowering his weapon, seeming to regain his composure.
"Well," he remarked, "that was an anti-climax."
Oogami looked down at the pink edge of his sword, the trailing white coat, and still he worried about looking like he had gained weight.
"Are we done? Can I take this off now?" he said, perhaps sounding more self-conscious than he would have liked to have admitted.
Above them, the retreating fiends, the leather-winged gargoyle and its wounded ape companion disappeared beyond the horizon.