"Onyx and Vampire"

Chapter 32: "Catharsis of Black Knights"

Disclaimer: Kamen Rider Dragon Knight, Rosario + Vampire, School Days, Kamen Rider Den-O, Kamen Rider Kabuto, and Teen Titans do not belong to me. KRDK, Den-O, Kabuto, and all other Kamen Rider franchises belong to Toei and Ishinomori Productions, with KRDK being itself the creative property of Adness Entertainment and Steve and Michael Wang. R + V belongs to Akihisa Ikeda, VIZ Media, and Shonen Jump, while School Days belongs to Studio Overflow and Teen Titans belongs to DC Comics and Warner Brothers. The character of Ryuji Hasuma, a.k.a. Kamen Rider Ifrit, belongs to fellow fanfiction author Kamen Rider Chrome, who has been so generous as to allow me to use his character in my story.

Author's note: It was going to be one chapter, but after seeing how long it got, I figured I had no choice but to split it into two if I wanted to keep everything I wanted in the story proper. As such, the reunion of Ryuji and Adam is going to be mostly depicted here, and Kotonoha, a.k.a. Kamen Rider Tenshi, is going to get to know Moka and the other girls. As for the presence of Teen Titans' Raven here, you can credit that to my partnership with The Amazing Shrinking Violet, who is writing a massive crossover story tying into this one here, only they run in parallel instead of directly impacting each other. Anyway, that's enough explaining, as I now have to resume the story. Let's ride!

"Adam. Been a while."

"Yeah, Ryuji," Adam agreed. "Definitely been a while . . . you look . . . good, I guess."

"So these are your friends, Ryuji-kun?" a soft feminine voice asked, bringing attention to the young woman beside Ryuji. She wore a blue something that could have been a sleeveless long coat or an outdoor robe over a black tank top and buttoned blue skirt over black bike shorts. She had long black hair that came down to her hips and large brown eyes set in a beautiful, kindly face almost like that of an angel. "They seem nice . . . but you didn't have to put your sword in that guy's face."

"Wasn't gonna use it on him, Koto-chan," Ryuji protested gently.

"It's how he says hi," Adam remarked to Len. "Getting people to fight him."

Ryuji just smirked, before Nekonome-sensei brought herself to his attention. "Oh, hi, Ryuji-san! You've grown up so well since you were last in school!"

That was when it hit Adam, Moka, Kurumu, Yukari, Gin, and Mizore like a ten-ton hammer. "You . . . you're like ten years older than us! How did that happen?" Gin uttered.

"Time-traveler, remember?" Ryuji replied. "And before we waste time on that nonsense, I'd like to introduce my wife to you . . . Kotonoha Hasuma-Katsura . . . the love of my life."

"It's nice to meet you, minna-san," Kotonoha greeted demurely.

Ryuji glared at Gin. "Eyes back in your skull before I take them out for you . . ."

Gin backed off. "Sorry, sorry . . . it's just . . . wow!"

Kotonoha blushed slightly from the womanizing wolf's attentions, and Kurumu sized her up out of a mixture of curiosity and a hint of envy. Holy crap . . . her boobs are about as big as mine!

"You must be Adam . . ." Kotonoha greeted him. "You must be a good friend, for Ryuji to have been as eager as he was to come here."

"Eager?" Ryuji repeated incredulously. "Koto-chan . . ." It came out as more of a petulant groan than an expression of serious discontent.

"Wouldn't be the first word that comes to mind when it comes to what Ryuji thinks of me," Adam remarked ironically.

"Shut it . . ." Ryuji growled irritably.

"Still the same old grouch," Kurumu commented. "Nice to know that hasn't changed."

"Bite me," Ryuji retorted. Then he looked at Ruby. "You're new."

"My name's Ruby Toujou!" Ruby introduced herself, "but you can call me Cereza."

"That the name of your character?" Ryuji wondered.

"Oh, yes . . ." Ruby replied with a saucy smirk.

"There you are, Ruby," Nolan greeted, doing his best to keep his eyes on her face even though her costume sorely tempted him to look below her shoulders.

"Hi, Nolan . . ." Ruby greeted back, blushing slightly. "You like seeing me in this?"

"It looks good on you, yeah," Nolan answered politely, trying his best not to come on too strong and look like a pervert, especially since Souji seemed very protective of her, perhaps violently so.

"Glad you like it," Ruby purred.

"Oh, Eubulon-san!" Nekonome-sensei trilled excitedly. "I didn't think I'd be seeing you here!"

"I wouldn't have missed it," Eubulon replied, smiling gently. "Some of the more technologically focused exhibits have promise."

"Any you sponsored?" Nekonome-sensei wondered.

"Not exactly, but some friends at Smart Brain were partly behind a fair bit of the technology here," Eubulon admitted.

"Sounds fascinating," Nekonome-sensei remarked. "But, um . . . what do you think of my costume?" She did a brief twirl to display herself, waving her tail in the process, which most passersby would just think of as a super-realistic effect.

"It looks lovely on you, Shizuka-san," Eubulon replied with a gracious smile that just barely hinted at his baser thoughts about the cat-eared teacher's attire. Nekonome-sensei, picking up on those thoughts due to her superior senses, wasn't sure whether to blush like a schoolgirl with her first crush . . . or pounce on the Advent Master right then and there. Thus, she settled for . . .

"Oh, thank you, Eubulon-san! Ruby helped me with it."

"She did? Interesting. I'm to presume she helped with everyone else's costumes here?"

"Oh, yeah, she's really good at it!" Nekonome-sensei enthused.

Eubulon looked at the spandex-and-helmet-clad Kit and Adam, opting to play a little game with himself. "I'll wager you that Kit is the one in blue with the clear helmet . . . and Adam is the one in red who feels the need to hide his face."

Nekonome-sensei gasped. "Such good instincts!"

"A master knows his pupils, Shizuka-san," Eubulon answered with a slightly teasing smirk. "Even if they are identical twins."

"The name's Momotaros," M-Ryotaro introduced himself to Ryuji and Kotonoha.

"Momotaros . . ." Ryuji repeated. "You're Den-O, aren't you?"

"As Urataros would say, 'My reputation precedes me,'" M-Ryotaro commented, mimicking Urataros's more sophisticated tones.

"A.R.M.O.R. is aware of all Kamen Riders across all realities," Ryuji explained. Then he turned to the Ventaran Riders. "Applies to you, too, especially since your archenemy is trying to make himself into a multidimensional threat . . . and if Peach Boy and Kusakabe are here, that means it's probably working."

"Kusakabe?" Ruby repeated. "I thought it was Tendou."

The white-masked Souji glowered at Ryuji through the dark holes of his mask. "Ask him," was Ryuji's terse response. "Speaking of asking, Adam and I have things to discuss . . . alone."

Len and Kase looked like they were going to object, but Adam raised a gloved hand to stop them. "I'll be fine." He turned to the girls that comprised his unofficial harem, all of whom had uncertainty plain as day on their faces. "I'll be fine," he repeated. "Have fun without me. I'll get back as soon as I can."

Ryuji shared a look with Kotonoha, who nodded briefly before letting Ryuji leave with Adam. Once the two Riders were alone, the opaque-helmed Rider asked, "What did you want to talk about?"

"You mind taking that mask off first, 'Rinz'?" Ryuji asked.

Adam disconnected the latches on his mask and pulled it off his face, exposing his mussed sandy brown hair. "All right, done. What did you want to talk about?"

Ryuji sighed. "Figured we might as well talk. Catch up and crap like that."

"Fine," Adam grunted. "You want to know about me? I'm a monster, a traitor . . . I was one of the original 12 Riders of Ventara . . . until I fell in love with a girl, and out of desperation to be with her, I sold out my world to a monster named Xaviax. All he told me was that he could free me, free us all . . . and he vented nearly all of my comrades and enslaved my world because I was stupid enough to let him in and give him access to our Advent Decks. We stopped him in the end . . . but it was too much to take back, too much to forgive . . . I intended to pay it back with my life, worthless as it is . . . but for some reason I'm allowed to keep living."

Ryuji's answer was to punch Adam in the face, hard enough to knock the wind out of him and leave him with a bloody lip. "You're an idiot, you know that? You think you're such a monster? You were tricked, you moron. You want to know something about me? I'm more of a monster than you could ever be on your worst day. I was a killer, a vessel for the hate and anger and darkness inside a man much better than me . . . I bathed in the blood of anyone opposing me, and I liked it. The only reason I stopped was because they made me stop, and put me to work righting all the wrongs I'd committed. I was just doing it because I had nothing else, I either cooperated or I got locked up for good . . . but then I met Kotonoha."

"Your wife?" Adam asked.

"Yeah. I didn't know what it was about her, but something about her appealed to the last bits of good in me that I didn't know I had left," Ryuji confessed. "I felt this need to protect her, comfort her, be there for her in ways that bastard Itou wouldn't . . . and when he broke her heart because he couldn't keep it in his pants and couldn't wait for her, I was there to pick up the pieces, to protect her from his so-called friend when he tried to rape her. But it wasn't all me. She saved me, too, made me human again, or as close to human as a thing like me gets. If it wasn't for her, I'd have gone back to my old ways a long time ago."

"She really means a lot to you, doesn't she?" Adam mused.

"Damn straight she does," Ryuji confirmed with a small smile. "Just like those girls mean a lot to you, otherwise you'd have found a way to get yourself dead a long time ago if you felt that bad about what happened to Ventara on your watch."

"Yeah," Adam confessed. "I was allowed to retire as Kamen Rider Dragon Knight and live in peace with the girl I loved, Sarah, and help rebuild Ventara as a civilian. But I couldn't stay with her. The guilt of what I'd done, to her, to my friends, to my world . . . it obsessed me – and then I decided I had no choice but to leave, because I couldn't take lying next to her and remembering what I'd done in her name . . . so I packed my things, wrote a letter, and set off to do my penance. Master Eubulon found me, using his mirror-walking ability, and gave me the Onyx Deck and told me to go to a specific street corner where someone would be waiting to take me away, somewhere I could start again and find myself. That's how I got to Yokai Academy.

"And you're right. I'd have let myself die there if it wasn't for meeting Moka, and then Kurumu, and Yukari, and Mizore, and even Gin. They were the closest friends I had over there, the only friends I had . . . even if they all wanted to be more than that to me, except for Gin, of course. He's so aggressively hetero I doubt he even thinks of that."

Ryuji snickered slightly at the digression. "Yeah, he strikes me as a total freaking horndog."

"You'd be right . . . mostly," Adam agreed. "Thanks to them, I started to want to live again, if only to avoid causing them pain . . . for all the good I've been at that." His tone on those last words was filled with bitter self-recrimination. "I love them, Ryuji. All of them. They all have my heart, in their own ways . . . and I can't tell them even the half of it because if I make a choice, that's three other hearts I've broken. I can't . . . I won't do that to them . . . and honestly, I think they deserve better than me."

"Do I have to punch you again?" Ryuji asked. "Because I will. I used to think that way about Kotonoha, too, that she was far too good for someone like me . . . and then Koto-chan made it damn clear who she wanted. Not this hypothetical 'someone better,' me. I was the one she wanted, and she wasn't going to settle for anyone else, no matter what. That's . . . that's when I really fell for her, I suppose."

"She seems pretty strong," Adam mused aloud.

"You've got no idea," Ryuji agreed with a smile. "But keep your hands off her. You've got four girls of your own already."

"Yeah," Adam agreed with a slight chuckle. He began to put his mask back on. "The girls see me with blood on my lips, you'll have hell to pay."

"What about Wing Knight?" Ryuji inquired. "He wasn't looking so hot when I asked to talk to you alone, either."

"He's like my big brother," Adam admitted before closing the mask over his face. "He watched my back when we were starting out as Kamen Rider trainees, just like Nolan, Kamen Rider Wrath, did for him, since Nolan was the oldest of us. I was the youngest, the 'runt' of the litter, as some of the guys called me. I still outlasted those jerks, though." He snorted sardonically.

"The small guys are a bigger challenge than most people think," Ryuji remarked in agreement. "I learned that the hard way."

Meanwhile, the Newspaper Club girls, plus the female Riders Ruby, Kase, and Raven, not to mention Maya and Lacey were in a "girl chat" with Kotonoha. Raven was the most straightforward of them in her observations. "Your husband seems . . . difficult."

"He's not a people person," Kotonoha admitted, "but Ryuji-kun is very kind to me. It's just not a side he likes showing very often. You'd have to know him much better for that."

"You love him a lot, don't you?" Kurumu deduced.

"Yes," Kotonoha admitted with a soft blush.

"I can tell these things," Kurumu said. "Succubae aren't just demons of lust; love is what gives us our real strength . . . so we can tell when someone is truly in love, like you are with him."

"How did you guys first get together?" Moka wondered.

"It wasn't exactly a fairytale situation," Kotonoha admitted. "I was with someone else, whom I deeply loved at the time, a boy named Makoto Itou. Most of my life, I was terribly lonely because I was so shy and nearly everyone at my school seemed to think I was just some stuck-up rich girl, so some girls liked to be very vocal of their disdain for me. Ryuji-kun actually came to my defense, when I first met him, helped me out for no reason at all than he thought I could use some help . . . and I started to have feelings for him, because he was more attentive and openly caring than Itou-kun was acting lately.

"It was after I found out that Itou-kun was sleeping with my best friend Sekai Saionji behind my back that I tried to kill myself, and I would have succeeded if Ryuji-kun hadn't been there for me that night. He confessed that he had feelings for me, and we started to get more involved, but there were things he kept from me, like his identity as a Kamen Rider, and then his past. He was ashamed, because of the things he'd done before he met me, things that made him think he didn't deserve to be loved by anyone, least of all me. I made him see otherwise."

"And how long have you been together?" Kase wondered.

"Ten years," Kotonoha answered with a smile. "We've been married for almost that time, too."

"That sounds like real love . . ." Ruby mused aloud.

"It is," Kotonoha agreed, still smiling. "We make each other happy, happier than either of us has ever been alone."

"That's . . . that's like once-in-a-lifetime love . . ." Maya uttered, and even the usually talkative and bubbly Lacey was speechless with awe at the honest emotion expressed by Kotonoha.

"I don't know about 'once in a lifetime,' but I do know that what Ryuji-kun and I have is special, and I want to hold onto it," was Kotonoha's response. Then she stopped, as though something had just occurred to her. Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out a picture of a dark-haired little girl who looked about two years old. She had beautifully soft eyes like Kotonoha's, and messy short hair like Ryuji's. "This is our daughter, Kohana."

"She's adorable . . ." Kase uttered.

"She is," Kotonoha agreed with a soft smile. Then she turned to look at Moka, Kurumu, Yukari, and Mizore. "How about you? How did you meet Ryuji?"

"He came to Yokai Academy on a training trip when he was closer to our age," Moka explained. "Fighting everyone he could, and when he found out about Adam . . . he decided to challenge him. They fought twice, knocked each other around pretty badly . . . but then came this demon named Sauron, who waged an all-out assault on our school, mocking our hopes for humans and yokai to coexist in peace . . ." Her eyes slightly narrowed with quiet anger at the memory. "Mocking the feelings Adam and I share for each other . . . Adam and Ryuji teamed up, sharing Ryuji's time train, to defeat her."

"And we used to think Ryuji was a jerk for going after Adam the way he did, but when one of Sauron's Horrors attacked us, Ryuji took a hit to protect me," Yukari contributed. "I guess that's when we started to see that he wasn't as bad as he seemed . . . or even acted, for that matter. In the end, we kinda became friends, even if Ryuji played a mean prank by trying to challenge Moka to a fight."

Kotonoha looked at Moka curiously, who blushed slightly. "It's just that . . . when my rosary is removed . . . it unleashes my full power – and turns me into a very scary person. Ryuji saw that during our fight with Sauron back in Yokai Academy. That's why he wanted to fight me."

"But Adam is the only one who can remove it, for some reason," Kase added.

This made Kotonoha even more curious. "How did you all meet him?"

"It started when we crashed into each other on our first day . . . my bike and his motorcycle," Moka replied. "I smelled him bleeding, but the only thing he could talk about was if I was all right. He smelled so good that I . . . I bit him. I didn't take enough blood to hurt him, just enough to satisfy my thirst . . . he was so delicious . . . I couldn't get enough of him . . ." While she was talking about his blood, her cheeks had turned a cherry red with what seemed to be arousal from the memory of drinking his blood.

"She does it all the time," Kurumu groused. "Drinks his blood like he's her walking juice box. Don't know why he lets her."

"Maybe because he loves her?" Kotonoha proposed.

"Maybe he's one of those guys that don't mind being used by a girl," Ruby surmised, blushing oddly on the word "used," causing the other girls to look at her curiously.

"We became close after that, Adam and I . . ." Moka admitted. "He even fought to protect me despite knowing that I was a vampire and that everyone else in the school was some kind of yokai. And not just me, but . . ."

"I tried to seduce Adam away from Moka to spite her for stealing my popularity with the male students," Kurumu admitted. "But Adam was able to resist, and I was angry enough to try to kill him and Moka. They managed to beat me, but when the Inner Moka tried to kill me for trying to take Adam from her, Adam refused to let her . . . and that was when I fell in love with him."

"I wanted Moka for my girlfriend, and I thought Adam didn't deserve her at all for being a stupid boy," Yukari confessed. "Then some of the upperclassmen tried to kill and eat me, and Moka tried to protect me from them . . . and Adam actually joined in to save me. Despite trying to get between him and Moka, he swore that he wouldn't leave me alone . . . and then transformed into a knight in black armor on a metal horse to fight for me! I couldn't help it . . . I felt like a princess at that moment, with her loyal knight standing to protect her!"

"You fell in love with him, too?" Kotonoha wondered, puzzled at the girl who looked around the same age Kokoro had been when she first met Ryuji.

"Yeah . . . him and Moka," Yukari replied. "I want them both in my bed, making me a woman!"

That declaration caused anxious looks on the parts of Kase, Maya, Lacey, Kotonoha, and Raven, before Kotonoha hastily moved on to Mizore. "I was lonely for a very long time," the snow girl explained. "When I started reading Adam's articles in the school paper, I felt like I had found someone I could relate to, someone who shared my feelings of not belonging, someone I could love . . . so I tried to make Adam my own, to get rid of everyone standing in my way. When Adam fought me to defend Moka, I was heartbroken. I thought he didn't want me . . . and then he came looking for me, when the gym teacher Kotsubo tried to kill me and pass it off as a suicide to get me out of his way so I couldn't tell anyone what he'd tried to do to me. Then Adam came to defend me . . . and he made sure Kotsubo would never hurt me again."

"Made sure of that how?" Kotonoha wondered.

"Adam killed him," Mizore admitted. "He did it to protect me from him. And that was when I fell in love with him."

"I guess what you all have in common is that he protected you all . . . even when he had no reason to," Kotonoha concluded. "Someone like that . . . is very easy to fall in love with . . ."

"He is," Mizore agreed. "Adam is very lovable. It is why he will be the father of my children."

"Nonsense, stalker!" Kurumu objected. "She doesn't talk about this, but she follows Adam around all the time, hiding in weird places so she can watch him! And he doesn't even seem to mind or care that she's doing that! When he's my Destined One, my Mate of Fate, so he's not going to be making babies with a stalker!"

"Your Mate of Fate?" Yukari scoffed. "Boob brain, when are you going to understand? He won't have time for you because he'll be with me and Moka!"

"Um . . ." Moka hesitated.

"This happens a lot," Kase admitted. "It's something I've tried to curb, mostly for Adam's sake because it hurts him when he sees them fight over him like this."

"He must love them all a lot," Kotonoha mused.

"He does," Kase replied. "But he's scared to admit it because, given his past and the things he feels guilty for, he doesn't think he's good enough for them."

Kotonoha had a sad smile on her face. "He reminds me of Ryuji-kun, in that way . . . they both feel like they have too much to atone for to be loved. Then again, I had more time with him than they've had with Adam, it seems."

"Wounds like that take time to heal . . . and not all of us have gotten over what happened," Kase confessed, remembering the vendetta Hunt, Kamen Rider Axe, had for the original Dragon Knight.

It was around that point that Adam and Ryuji had gotten back to the girls, with Adam once again wearing his opaque mask and stopping the Newspaper Club girls from fighting. "We might as well check out the sights," he offered. "And maybe I'll get you some cotton candy. There is cotton candy here, right?"

Moka found it in herself to giggle at Adam's offer of cotton candy. "They probably have some in your hair color," Kurumu remarked.

"And yours, most likely," Mizore placidly jibed at the succubus.

"Yours, too, snow girl," Kurumu shot back.

Adam sighed. "They're always like this . . ."

"This is why I'm a one-woman man," Ryuji confessed. "Koto-chan's all I need, and any more than her is just asking for trouble."

"Let's go, guys!" Chance begged. "We're missing all the fun!"

The first on their order of business was a shooting game that used high-powered squirt guns to fill empty balloons on stands with water until one of them burst. The one whose balloon burst was the winner, of course, and would have the pick of the prizes presented to them. By the deathly serious expression on Ryuji's face and Adam's body coiling like a spring, the two dark Riders were ready to play . . . and win.

"Ready? Set! Go!" the booth's supervisor shouted.

Adam and Ryuji pulled the triggers on their squirt guns and began filling their balloons. As the balloons grew fuller and bloated, Ryuji's slightly faster than Adam's, Chance decided now was a good moment to crack wise.

"Wonder what would have happened if somebody had replaced those balloons with condoms?" came the off-color question.

"That is a good question, actually," Gin remarked contemplatively.

"You'd think superheroes would be a little less pervy," Lacey griped.

"It's Chance," Len grunted, although his expression said much about how unhappy he was with the mental picture he'd gotten courtesy of the gunslinger Rider.

"Where do you get off, asking questions like that?" Kurumu yelled.

"I was just wondering," Chance replied. "Don't bite my head off. I like it where it is."

"Who says that's the head I'm going to bite off, you pervert bastard?" Kurumu threatened.

Regardless of how they felt about Chance's off-color humor, nearly every guy in the vicinity sympathetically swallowed in fear. Adam had even gone pale underneath his opaque helmet, his finger clenched on his squirt gun trigger, while Ryuji scowled. Stupid perverted gun-toting Kamen Rider, making jokes like that in front of my Koto-chan, he thought irately. Teach him a lesson as soon as I'm done beating Adam here.

Indeed, it was Ryuji's wrath that had seen him through the contest, as his balloon had filled up faster thanks to his angry squeezing of the trigger and exploded. "I win . . ." he hissed, his eyes an unnaturally lit blue with his repressed anger at Chance.

"Hmm, guess I lose this one," Adam mused. Saves me the trouble of figuring out what prize to get and which girl to give it to.

Ryuji got his prize, which looked like a stuffed cute winged cat, and gave it to Kotonoha, pecking her gently on the cheek. Then he turned his icy blue gaze on Chance. "Watch your tongue, boy . . . or I'll have to silence you myself."

Kotonoha put her hand on Ryuji's shoulder to calm him down, while Chance looked like he was about to fight, until Price grabbed his arm. "You know, you did say some pretty off stuff in front of his wife. Some guys take that personally . . ." Then he leaned over to whisper in his fellow Rider's ear. ". . . like I do."

Chance got the message. If he didn't want to risk the cobra Rider's wrath, he would back down. After all, Price might have been a nice guy most of the time, but there was a reason Venosnaker had chosen him. To paraphrase a particular saying, a gentle man was merely a patient cobra, and cobras struck fast enough that they could afford to be patient.

"Sorry . . . I guess that was beyond the pale," the gunslinger acceded.

"You guess?" Kase asked, arching a slim eyebrow and smirking.

The next thing they tried was bumper cars, and they decided which girl was going to ride with Adam by way of a multidirectional game of rock-paper-scissors. It turned into a circular firing squad, in a manner of speaking, where Moka came out the winner, as if the universe had more favor for her than the others. Kurumu and Mizore paired off with each other, as did Yukari and Ruby, M-Ryotaro and Souji, Ryuji and Kotonoha, Len and Kase, Price and Maya, and Trent and Lacey, with even Eubulon being persuaded to join in by Nekonome-sensei.

"Nobody to ride with . . ." Chance pouted on the rail barring the arena from everywhere else.

The bumper cars also turned into a metaphorical circular firing squad, with everyone gunning for each other, but Adam and Ryuji especially. "You drive like a sissy!" Ryuji taunted, just for the fun of it.

Adam growled beneath his helmet and charged Ryuji, but Kurumu got him first, ramming him like he was an enemy ship. Ryuji rammed her back, only to be hit in turn by Adam. The others got in on the fun, too, with Len ramming Adam and M-Ryotaro ramming Len . . . and Maya and Lacey having their fun with each other.

"Why isn't anybody ramming us?" Ruby asked, smiling coquettishly.

"As you wish, cutie witchy!" M-Ryotaro shouted, ramming Ruby.

"So hard!" Ruby exclaimed. "Wow . . ."

Souji glowered at M-Ryotaro underneath his deathly white mask. M-Ryotaro just waved him off. "Come on, it's part of the game! Lighten up!"

In the end, they were wandering off in search of another activity, only for their search to end when Trent spotted a certain exhibit. "Hey, they're doing something about the Kamen Rider movie!"

"Kamen Rider movie?" M-Ryotaro repeated. "And I didn't know about it? I wasn't in it?"

"Maya wrote a book about our fight with Xaviax across Ventara and Earth," Price replied. "It's sold as fiction. Very popular fiction."

"Popular enough to make a movie," Chance added. "Wonder who's gonna play me?"

"Let's check it out," Kit suggested.

"This ought to be good . . ." Ryuji muttered.

When the trailer started, darkly atmospheric music began to play, setting the stage for the narration as a black-clad motorcyclist rode down an empty street, passing empty skyscrapers. "There was a war here. 12 of us fought. One of the 12 betrayed the others, sold us and our world down the river . . . For what, I don't know. I know what the outcome was. He took them. Every last one of them . . . except me – and he's coming for them next."

The trailer skipped ahead to a young man bonding with Dragredder to become Kamen Rider Dragon Knight. "The Advent Decks, the source of the Kamen Riders' power, were scattered across this world . . . and all in the hands of men who would abuse them . . . men who care for nothing but their own desires, their own power . . . even if it means their world burns." As that narration played out, so did images of the other Kamen Riders – Incisor with Volcancer, Torque with his Magna Visor pistol, Strike charging for his Final Vent with Venosnaker behind him, Spear striking down an opponent with a knee jab from his Final Vent, Axe charging with his Dest Claws, Thrust making a thumbs-down gesture and actually saying the words: "End game. You lose."

[Help me if you can / It's just that this / Is not the way I'm wired so could you please / Help me understand why / You've given in to all these / Reckless dark desires?]

"I have only a few I can count on . . . myself . . ." The screen showed Kamen Rider Wing Knight fighting monsters both in armor and out of the armor. ". . . a mixed-up kid who's in over his head . . ." The image shifted to Kamen Rider Dragon Knight fighting bravely yet unevenly against the same monsters Wing Knight was fighting.

[Lying to yourself again, suicidal imbecile / Pounding on the fault line / What will it take to get through to you, precious? / Why would I, why would I, why would I wanna watch you?]

". . . a patriot who's been tricked into selling out his country believing he's fighting for his country . . ." The screen shifted to Kamen Rider Sting pulling a Final Vent with Evildiver . . . against Wing Knight.

". . . and someone who shouldn't be alive . . ." The image this time was of a leather-jacketed blonde, her face obscured by her flying hair, doing a tunneling back-flip and landing in a crouch just as she slid a white Advent Deck into the front slot of her Advent Belt. Kamen Rider Siren, of course.

[Disconnect and self-destruct, one bullet at a time / What's your rush now? Everyone will have his day to die . . .]

"Against him . . . him and his Riders . . ." The images shifted to Wing Knight fighting Torque, Strike about to hit Dragon Knight with his Final Vent, Sting against Camo, and Siren and Wing Knight against Kamen Rider Wrath, who was dodging their attacks so fast that they were practically buried in golden feathers. The final image showed a man-shaped figure with insect-like red eyes behind a grilled visor, a grilled visor similar to Dragon Knight's, walking out from the shadows as a red-eyed black dragon coiled around him.

"And him . . . I've got something special just for him."

The last screen was Kamen Riders Dragon Knight and Wing Knight facing each other amidst bright flames, both transformed into super-powered versions of their armors.

"Dive into the mirror and find your fate. Kamen Rider: Shattered Reflection – coming this fall."

"Well, that was interesting," Kit remarked before turning to Raven. "I guess we've got a better idea of how you feel."

Raven looked at Kit with a curious lift of her eyebrow. "Hmm, really, Kit? You do?"

"Yeah, kinda . . ." Kit answered. "There's your story, up there on the screen for everyone to see . . . except it's not quite how it happened to you."

Raven paused in contemplation, but the look she gave Kit was one of almost-gratitude. The moment between them was quickly interrupted by Kurumu asking, "Why did they make Onyx evil?"

"Black-painted mirror image of the hero? That's how it usually works in these things," M-Ryotaro replied airily. "And I should know. I've got that damn Negataros bastard running around."

The next thing they tried was the UFO ride. "Haven't been in one of these for a while," Kit remarked. "Could be fun."

"Are these supposed to demonstrate the power of centrifugal force?" Eubulon asked.

"Yeah," Trent replied. "Just hang on and enjoy the ride."

The ride did start, spinning slowly and leisurely at first. "I'm bored," Ian said. "When is this thing going to really start?"

"Careful, man," Chase admonished. "You're gonna regret asking that soon."

Indeed, Ian did regret his question, as the ride simply built up speed, rotating faster and faster until it felt like the air would be sucked out of everyone's lungs from how fast it was spinning. All the while, they were firmly pinned to the circular wall of the UFO ride, all thanks to the power of centrifugal force. Not that everyone appreciated or even heard Trent's explanation, as they were too busy trying not to lose their breakfast.

By the time the ride ended, a lot of its riders felt very disoriented. "Is this what being on drugs feels like?" Ian wondered. "If so, I'm never starting."

"As if I'd let you," Eubulon remarked idly, while holding onto a dizzy Nekonome-sensei. "It would only impair your performance."

"That was the best ride of my life . . ." Nekonome-sensei murmured in Eubulon's shoulder.

"I thought cats were supposed to have great balance," Yukari mused.

"Pansies," Ryuji muttered.

"You're lucky," Trent said to Adam. "You could have thrown up all over yourself and nobody would see it because of your mask."

"I didn't," Adam replied tersely. Before he could say anymore, they all heard some live music playing, Japanese rock by the sound of it. Out of curiosity, they moved to check it out, and found a band playing . . . with a giant screen behind them showing clips from the Kamen Rider movie.

[Fly towards the unlimited world now / Open the closed door / The heart is a MIRROR that always reflects the reality / Don't be afraid of hurtful things – just be yourself / Grief will make you stronger / DIVE INTO THE MIRROR]

"What's this?" Gin wondered.

"Mirror World is pretty popular in Japan," Maya explained. "It got so big that a popular band there made a song based on the story . . . and it's been commissioned for the soundtrack to the movie."

"Wow . . ." Chris uttered. "Never would have guessed."

"It's kinda funny, how we've got international renown and yet nobody actually knows who we are," Van commented. "The things you can do when you pass stuff off as fiction." He chuckled sardonically.

"It was the only way Michelle would let me write the book at all," Maya admitted. "And if you guys were publicly known, your lives would be a lot more difficult."

"Uh-huh," Len admitted. "Panic in the streets because anything with a reflection could be used as a portal for someone to attack you or spy on you or break into your house or business . . . good enough reason for a lot of people to be afraid."

"And they'd blame us, even though we're trying to protect them," Kit added.

"Way of the world," Ryuji remarked cynically. "Humans tend to not be very appreciative of their heroes when they're too busy being scared of them."

"Unfortunately . . ." Kotonoha added.

[When you speed up / Rather than looking for an excuse / Destroy your timid self of yesterday]

[The quivering voice within my heart calls out / And miracles are born / The eye is a MIRROR that reflects tomorrow / For the drawn tomorrow, the color of the sky / Not to be clouded up / Tear apart the distorted memory now / DIVE INTO THE MIRROR]

The band finished their song to wild applause from the crowd that had gathered to watch them perform. "That was actually pretty awesome," Trent remarked.

"Sure was," Chance agreed. "And man, do I look good on that screen or what?"

"Technically, that's an actor wearing a mockup of your armor, not you," Price corrected.

"Let me enjoy my moment, man," Chance grumbled good-naturedly.

The karaoke section opened up and Adam was getting pushed to the stage. "Hey, what are you doing?"

"I wanna hear you sing!" Kurumu exclaimed. "Moka got to hear you! Why can't I?"

"Um . . ." Adam tried to say something, but with a mighty shove, he had been knocked up onto the stage by Kurumu.

"Oh, it looks like we've got our first volunteer!" the emcee shouted to the crowd. "Who might you be, masked stranger?"

"The Masked Singer," Adam replied sardonically.

"Well, we can live with that," the emcee brushed off. "What song do you want to sing?"

"My Ruin," Adam answered. "You know it?"

"Yes, I do!" the emcee shouted excitedly. "Good classic one there! Hit it!"

The song began to play, with a heavy atmospheric tone to the music as Adam stepped up to the microphone.

[Inside my shadow, I can hear you / Am I near you? / Inside my shadow, I can smell you / Can I tell you? / Inside my shadow, I can love you / Think I need you / Inside my shadow, I can feel you / I've embraced you . . .]

The plaintiveness of his voice as he sang touched something deep inside Moka, Kurumu, Yukari, and Mizore, as though he were singing to them in particular. As he sang those lyrics, he felt that they were quite appropriate to his feelings for all four girls; lurking in the shadow of his own bitter regret and self-loathing was his love for them. They had all touched him, in their own ways, and as hard as he tried not to get too close, he could feel them all . . . he wanted desperately to embrace them as they deserved to be embraced, love them as they deserved to be loved. . . .

[Am I real? Am I real?]

[Save my ruin, and us / My world has turned to dust / Save my ruin, and us / My world has turned to dust.]

[If there's tomorrow, would you give me / Please forgive me? / If there's tomorrow, you'd be buried / And that just scares me.]

The shattered mirror of his heart lay bare to his fellow Riders, those he called friends, and those he was too scared to embrace as lovers. His world had indeed turned to dust when he made the choice to betray Earth and Ventara for the sake of his love for Sarah, and he had never forgiven himself for that. In his heart, he knew he didn't deserve to be forgiven . . . no matter how much he wanted it, wanted to not be seen for the monster he really was. In truth, they did not see him as a monster, just a broken hero trying to put the jagged pieces of his soul back together . . . only said soul might be reconstructing itself as something else entirely . . . and that was what scared him.

[Am I real? Am I real?]

[Save my ruin, and us / My world has turned to dust / Save my ruin, and us / My world has turned to dust.]

[Save my world / My world . . .]

The musical solo – guitars, drums, and heavy bass – played through for about a minute, with Adam staring into his audience through his mask. He saw Moka, Kurumu, Yukari, and Mizore looking at him with astonishment, along with Gin, Nekonome-sensei, Eubulon, and his fellow Riders, which included Ryuji and Kotonoha.

"He . . . he hurts so much . . ." Kotonoha murmured. "No wonder you and he are drawn to each other . . ."

"I know," Ryuji whispered. Until his heart-to-heart with Adam, he had not quite recognized just how deep his fellow Rider's pain ran, how much the trauma of his past sins had scarred him. The song he was singing was just making that very, very clear to him now, and he had to admit, Adam could sing.

[Save my ruin, and us / My world has turned to dust / Save my ruin, and us / My world has turned to dust.]

[Save my ruin / My world . . . My world . . .]

"Wow . . ." Gin breathed out. "Guy really knows how to work those chords."

"Uh-huh," Ian agreed. "If we hadn't become Riders, he'd have made an awesome rocker."

The Newspaper Club girls overheard Ian's comment and began to imagine Adam as a rock star, with messier hair, some dark eyeliner, studded leather clothes, and them as his groupies. Their fantasies each placed themselves as the centerpiece of their would-be lover's "estrogen brigade" with the others in the background. Yukari, though, was willing to share with Moka because her longstanding fantasies featured both Moka and Adam as her lovers.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the Masked Singer!" the emcee shouted. "Give it up!"

Loud applause resounded through the open-air concert area, and Adam took a bow before walking off the stage. "Didn't know you had it in you," Kit remarked to his mirror twin.

"Yeah . . . blame Kurumu," Adam responded.

Kurumu stuck her tongue out at Adam. "Don't bite the hand that feeds you, Adam . . . although I wouldn't mind you biting elsewhere." She let that go with a coquettish giggle.

"The only thing you're feeding him is suffocation from your overgrown tits!" Yukari yelled.

"You're just jealous because you can't do it for Adam the way I can," Kurumu taunted.

"You poor bastard," Ian remarked to Adam. "Must be hard, having all those cute girls all over you."

"No idea," Adam answered wryly.

Next: Decay of the Dragon

Endnotes: Well, that should be enough for today, and enough to end this year on a high note. You won't have to wait for long next year, as I've got lots planned for Kamen Rider Onyx and his friends, allies, and would-be lovers. Some of them will make their first appearances within the next few chapters, and there will be new enemies coming along with them to start off the new semester at Yokai Academy. Our hero might be the new top cop of the Academy now, but not everyone is going to be so content with that . . . and they won't be taking it lying down, either. Of course, with the radical changes within Adam's body and soul, they might just be biting off more than they can chew . . . but at what price to Adam and his cohorts? To answer that and other questions, you'll just have to tune in for the next chapter of "Onyx and Vampire." Let's ride!

P.S. The songs used in this chapter are "The Outsider," by A Perfect Circle for the Kamen Rider movie trailer, the Apocalypse Mix from the Resident Evil: Apocalypse and RE: Afterlife soundtracks, "Dive Into the Mirror," by defspiral off the Japanese dub for KRDK, and finally, "My Ruin," by Sevendust and covered by Adam, the Masked Singer. Those of you who've watched Kamen Rider Double will understand the reference.