The World of If
Henshin 1: Ryuki/Ryuga
It was possibly the quietest it had ever been inside Atori. Shinji didn't speak as Ren and Yui looked at his phone, reading the ORE Journal article:
Attorney Kitaoka Syuichi (30) was found dead in his home today. Though he has made many enemies, including serial killer Asakura Takeshi, who is still on the loose, police suspect no foul play. Sources indicate that he has been suffering from a progressive disease, though his personal assistant has neither confirmed nor denied this.
Reiko's article was short, due to lack of available information, but it gave everything that they needed to know. Ren looked up from the phone and said, "So it's true."
Shinji nodded. "Reiko-san wants to interview Goro-san later, but I told her I'd check first. Since he and Kitaoka-san were close."
"I don't know why you're getting so involved," Ren started, and Yui immediately glared at him.
"You know what it means," he reminded them. "Another Rider down, another one less that we have to fight. It's just Ouja and Tiger now."
Yui looked away, but Shinji burned. Ren never failed to get to him with his attitude about the Rider War. Damn his personal strife—Shinji was done with it, and he went straight up to Ren and grabbed him by the shirt. "Maybe you can think that way, but I sure can't! A human being just died right now, and all you can think about is the battle? It doesn't matter if he was a Rider or not—you should care because he was still human!"
"Shinji-kun!" Yui cried, pushing her way between them before it came to blows. Ignoring Ren for the moment, she put her hands on Shinji's shoulders and tried to calm him down. "Please. It's not going to solve anything if you start fighting now."
"In case you forgot the article, Kitaoka was sick anyway," Ren said. "Whether he was a Rider or not doesn't matter—he didn't have much time left, and he knew it. If you think stopping the fighting would have prevented it…"
He didn't finish, leaving it for Shinji. But Shinji stared back at him, still too angry to give in. Instead, he backed away and said, "I'm going over now. If anyone's looking for me…"
"We'll let them know," Yui promised.
Shinji nodded before giving one last glare to Ren and walking out.
The ride to Kitaoka's house wasn't long, but even if it had been all the way to the southernmost point of the country, it wouldn't have been long enough to improve Shinji's mood. No one managed to aggravate him quite like Ren did; though Shinji liked to think they were friends, it made it all the more infuriating when Ren was being stubborn about fighting the other Riders. He could understand why Ren felt like he had to, but it never ceased to anger him when Ren casually brushed off serious issues like killing other human beings. And he said that Shinji was the simple one!
Shinji brought his moped to a stop and took off his helmet, trying to calm down a bit. It wouldn't do either of them any good if he tried to talk to Goro while angry. He was trying to be there for him as a friend—or at least friendly acquaintance or whatever kind of respectful relationship they had.
As he made the slow march up the stairs, he noticed that the door was ajar—in fact, it looked like it had been kicked open. Concerned, Shinji quickly and silently made his way up and peered through the door. Inside, the house was trashed—there were books and artwork strewn all over the place and broken glass on the floor. For a moment, he considered calling out to Goro, but he decided against it quickly. It was possible that Goro might be in danger, and any sound could get him killed. So he cautiously made his way inside, taking note of the upturned furniture and smashed glass. And halfway hidden by Kitaoka's desk was an unconscious Goro.
Choking back the instinctive shout of concern, Shinji ran over to the other man. There were marks around his neck as if someone had tried to strangle him and a bruised and bleeding gash on his head from a bad blow, and Shinji quickly checked his pulse, breathing a sigh of relief when he felt it strong.
"Goro-san," he whispered, and the slight sound caused Goro to stir. "What happened? Who did this to you?"
But before Goro could wake, Shinji heard the sound of shattering glass coming from further in the house. The attacker was still there, and he wasn't done yet.
Taking his helmet as a makeshift weapon, Shinji crept toward the sounds of destruction. He couldn't see the vandal, but he knew he was dangerous—the injury to Goro proved that much. It was imperative that Shinji be absolutely silent as he snuck up on the intruder.
So, naturally, that was when his cell phone rang.
Shinji let out a small cry of panic as he put the call directly to voice mail, but it was too late. The attacker came at him, and it was only his improved reflexes from being fighting as a Rider that let him bring up his helmet in time to block a blow from one of Kitaoka's curios. But in that moment, Shinji managed to see the face of Goro's attacker, and he would wonder later why he had been so surprised.
The serial killer swung the small statuette again, this time hitting Shinji's upper arm and pushing him into the doorframe. Once again, Shinji raised his helmet to block against any more blows, but Asakura kneed him in the stomach, forcing him to double over and hold his helmet over his head. This brought his phone into Asakura's line of sight, and perhaps fearing that Shinji had answered and anyone on the other end could call the police, he fled.
Breathing heavily in relief, Shinji took just a moment to rest against the wall before he remembered that Goro was still injured. He ran over and started shaking him, crying, "Hey! Hey, wake up!"
Goro moaned in pain and opened his eyes, but it took a little time before he could focus on Shinji's face. His words were a little slurred as he tried to ask, "What are you…"
"Do you remember what happened?" Shinji asked.
With Shinji's help, Goro managed to sit up, but Shinji was hesitant to let go of him out of fear he might fall back to the floor. "Asakura broke in. He demanded to know where Sensei was. He didn't believe me when I said he was…"
There was a horrible feeling in Shinji's stomach, like he'd swallowed a stone. It was the same feeling he'd had when he learned of the news from Reiko, and he realized that Asakura must have felt the same shock and disbelief. He'd dedicated so much of his battle trying to defeat the lawyer that it must have hit him hard. Asakura was grieving, and for the first time, Shinji truly pitied him.
"Did he…" It was hard to ask the question, but he knew Asakura's pattern. He'd already added Tezuka's and Shibaura's Contract Monsters to his collection after killing them; would he have done the same with Kitaoka's? After swallowing, he asked, "Did he take anything? Kitaoka-san's deck?"
"No," Goro answered, moving slightly so he could take the deck out from underneath him. "I thought I could use it to fight him, but it only enraged Asakura more."
"Makes sense," Shinji muttered. It supported his theory: Asakura wanted to fight Kitaoka, not Zolda. "I'm going to call the hospital. Will you be okay until the ambulance gets here?"
"Yeah," Goro replied. "Please. Stop Asakura."
Shinji nodded solemnly, then raced out the door.
Under normal circumstances, Shinji would have just transformed and entered the Mirror World from right where he'd been. But there would be paramedics and police there when he returned, and on top of all of that, he had to be sure that Asakura had gone to the Mirror World instead of rampaging in the real world.
He had one thing in his favor, though. With his moped, he was able to catch up to Asakura quickly, who was still running. When Asakura saw him, he came to a stop by a nearby car and held out his deck.
Shinji didn't waste a second once he saw Ouja enter the Mirror World. He got off his bike and held out his own deck to one of the side mirrors. It would have been smarter to call Ren for backup, but he was afraid that any time he waited would be a chance for Asakura to cause more harm. So he crossed his arm in front of him and slid his deck into place on the V-Buckle.
Ouja turned as Ryuki emerged from right behind him. For a moment, both Riders were silent. Then, hoping his theory meant there was some chance of reasoning with Ouja, Ryuki said, "I understand what you're feeling right now, about Kitaoka-san. But there's a chance we can stop—"
Ouja cut him off with a slash from his sword. Ryuki was too surprised to avoid the attack, and the force made him turn. But he saw the next attack coming and ducked out of the way, scanning one of his cards.
Ouja was coming at him with an overhead swing, but Dragreder arrived in time to deliver the sword, and Ryuki was able to block the attack and throw it off.
"Asakura, you don't have a reason to fight anymore!" he shouted. "End this!"
"I was vexed learning that Kitaoka died on his own, and I didn't get the chance to kill him," Ouja admitted, stretching his neck muscles. Ryuki couldn't believe the understatement; he called ransacking a house and attacking both him and Goro a matter of being vexed? "But I think you're more vexing than that right now."
Ouja rushed Ryuki again, but he'd expected the attack this time and summoned his shield guards. The sword bounced off of them, giving Ryuki the chance to counterattack with his own sword. But for all he tried, he couldn't get an effective enough attack against Ouja. The other Rider was crazed with bloodlust and kept pushing Ryuki farther and farther down the highway, into narrow streets where he was at a disadvantage.
The battle edged closer and closer to another fight, and Ryuki looked over in surprise when he heard Ren's voice. Knight was fighting desperately against Alternative, and Ryuki immediately knew that something had happened to Yui. Breaking away from his fight with Ouja, he rushed over to help Knight, delivering a slash that threw Alternative into a nearby building.
"Ren, where's Yui-chan?" Ryuki asked in fear.
"Alternative grabbed her," Knight explained. "I told her to run."
That sense of dread only got worse. "So she's still here in the Mirror World?"
"It was the only thing I could do!" Knight argued. "You didn't answer your phone!"
"Wait, you're the one who called?" Ryuki asked. It was unlike Ren to call for help, especially when he and Shinji had just had a fight. "Why?"
Knight was holding himself tensely, and Ryuki knew it was more than just Yui he was worried about. On a hunch, Ryuki asked, "Is it Eri-san?"
"Look out!" Knight shouted suddenly, shoving Ryuki out of the way.
He hit the ground harder than he would have liked, but he hadn't been given much in the way of warning. Complaining and rubbing his head, Ryuki looked over to see Ren doubled over on Ouja's blade—Ren, not Knight.
Ren slid off the blade and fell to the ground, and Ouja raised his sword. Without realizing it, Ryuki scanned his contract card, and Dragreder flew in, blasting Ouja with fire. With Dragreder providing cover, Ryuki ran over to Ren. His shirt was torn from the blade, revealing a cut from the blade—miraculously not deep, and only the result of sliding off the sword. But his deck was in pieces on the ground, having taken the full force of the attack. It had saved his life, but for how long?
"Ren, can you get up?" Ryuki asked, but he put Ren's arm around his neck as support anyway, trying not to wince at Ren's pained almost-cries. He hated hurting him, but they had to hurry. It wouldn't be long before Ren started to disintegrate. "Where'd you come in from?" Could he even get Ren back the way he'd come without a deck? Then again, he didn't need to, not if a Monster emerged into the real world. "Never mind. Dragreder!"
The dragon roared and flew through the nearest window. Supporting Ren the way, Ryuki followed it through to the real world. Once they'd made it through, Ryuki set Ren on the ground and knelt next to him, remaining wary of Dragreder's presence in the human world.
"Are you okay?" he asked, giving a cautious look to the cut across Ren's waist. "You should probably go to the hospital…"
Struggling to stand, Ren insisted, "I'll take care of it after…" and then trailed off, his expression distant.
Hesitantly, Ryuki asked again, "Is it Eri-san?" When Ren didn't answer, he said, "Okay. You head to the hospital to check on Eri-san. I'll save Yui-chan."
"You won't stand a chance," Ren protested, shaking his head. "There's more of them this time."
More Alternatives? They had a hard enough time with the two and Tiger. Still, refusing to let his fear show, Ryuki confidently insisted, "I'll think of something. Now, go!" With a look toward Dragreder, who made its way back to the Mirror World, Ryuki charged through behind.
Shinji always had felt a bit of a pre-battle rush after transforming: thrill and anticipation, but never nervousness. But now, the thrill was eclipsed by anxiety. Ren was safe for now, but there was nothing to keep Darkwing from eating him now that his deck was destroyed. Yui was still in danger, with an unknown number of new enemies after her. Asakura was still on the loose and out of control. And that didn't even count Kanzaki and his machinations!
Ren was right; he did take too much on his shoulders. The only way Ryuki would be able to get through this was one step at a time, handling the imminent crises before worrying about the rest. Right now, that was Ouja, who was engaged in battle with Tiger.
Ouja swung wildly with his sword, striking Tiger over and over without giving a chance for him to counterattack. The claws over his hands were acting as shields, keeping him from taking a deadly hit, though it was clear that he was tiring.
It was probably a mistake; Tiger was definitely an enemy and he wanted to kill Yui, but Ryuki couldn't bear to let another Rider die. He ran in and grabbed Ouja around the middle, wrestling with him to try to stop his attacks.
"Run!" he ordered. "Hurry!"
Tiger didn't hesitate to escape. Ryuki knew he'd have to stop him too to prevent him from attacking Yui, but at least then, he'd be able to do it non-lethally. This way was wrong.
Ouja hit Ryuki's back with the hilt of his sword, forcing him to let go. A swift kick under Ryuki's chin sent him flat on his back, where he just rolled in time to avoid the sword coming at him.
"You've been a lot of fun," Ouja remarked, laughing. "But I think I know how to make this even better."
The wind picked up as he displayed a card—Ren's Survive card, Ryuki recognized much to his horror. Slowly getting to his feet, he realized that Ren must have been preparing to scan it when he took the blow meant for him.
This wouldn't have happened if Shinji had been paying attention in battle. If he'd answered his phone when Ren had called for help. If he hadn't gotten mad at him and stormed off before Yui was taken.
Ouja's Visor became a wrist-mounted shield and sword, much like it had with Knight Survive, only the shield was cobra-themed and the sword looked much like Ouja's normal sword. Wicked-looking blades jutted out from the armor on his shoulders, and armor extended down from his helmet to better protect his neck. It was, by far, the most frightening thing Ryuki had ever seen.
Ouja Survive cracked his neck before charging at Ryuki, who had no choice but to scan his own Survive card. A fire burned around him, trying to keep Ouja at bay. The Drag Visor disappeared from his arm in a swirl of flames, forming the Zwei version in his hand. He placed the card in the Drag Visor Zwei, and his Survive armor formed over him in a burst of fire. A blade then extended from the Visor, and he charged at Ouja Survive.
Their swords clashed with a tremendous amount of force that made Ryuki's arm ache. Belatedly, he remembered how Asakura had hit his arm earlier in the house, and he knew he was going to have a hard fight of it. He'd been able to forget about it in the heat of battle before, but now he couldn't focus on the fight. Too many things were worrying him, and it made it hard to forget that he'd been hurt. Ouja's sword struck him wherever his armor was lightest—his arms, his middle, his legs. Ryuki struck back as fiercely as he could, but his arm was too sore to hit him hard enough to really be effective.
Another blow to his face sent Ryuki reeling, making it impossible for him to counter Ouja's next strike to his arm. It took all of his strength not to drop his Visor, and he quickly scanned his next card.
Dragreder roared as it flew into battle, its form shattering and evolving into Dragranzer. A storm of fireballs rained down on Ouja, forcing him back as he reached for a card.
Venosnaker arrived and evolved into its Survive form, Venoviper. Spitting venom, it transformed into a motorcycle, and Ouja leapt onto it. Ryuki hurriedly scanned his own Final Vent card, but Dragranzer barely had time to complete the transformation before they were hit.
Dragranzer exploded violently, but Ryuki had been hit by the venom and the shockwave. He landed several feet away, his Blank Form shattering as the acidic venom ate away his deck. The explosion had been enough to knock him out, and the Mirror World would finish the rest.
"Feh," Ouja commented, bored. "How vexing; you died so easily."
Ouja walked away, ready to face his next opponent, as Shinji's body began to disintegrate. But though he was unconscious, he could hear a dragon roaring above him, and he could see someone walking toward him.
The figure was dressed all in black, and Shinji suddenly realized he was looking at his own reflection. Above him was a black dragon, identical to Dragreder aside from the color, who flew down and circled him.
"I can give you power," Shinji's doppelganger promised. "Power enough to save Yui and Ren."
How? Shinji wanted to ask. Tell me.
Though Shinji couldn't form the words, his twin understood and replied, "First, there's something you need to give me."
Shinji hesitated, unsure if he could trust this shadow. But the dark reflection insisted, "There's not much time. Otherwise, you'll never save them."
That was all Shinji needed, and he forced out the word:
The shadow smirked, but before Shinji could realize he'd made a huge mistake, the black dragon flew into his body, and the shadow disappeared. Only one Kido Shinji remained, alive and strong, standing from where he'd fallen. A black deck was in his hands as his belt formed around him.
The passionless call summoned dark images of the Ryuki armor, converging on his body. The armor had turned completely black, save for the glowing red eyes of his mask.
And Kamen Rider Ryuga stalked off to find Yui.
"The Alternatives have her," Kanzaki had said. Ryuga could hear the man's voice in his mind. "Room 401."
And he hardly needed the instructions. It only made sense. The same lab where Kanzaki had held his experiments, the same lab where Kagawa and his followers hoped to end the Rider War. Where else would they go?
Dragblacker roared as Ryuga silently ordered it to blast a dark fireball at the lab's wall. There was hardly a need for cards between them; they had been created to be perfectly synched—dark, perfect counterparts to the bright red thorn in Kanzaki's side.
A crowd of twelve Alternatives was within the lab, circling Yui and staring at Ryuga and Dragblacker in shock.
"Shinji-kun!" Yui cried.
He leapt across the gulf between buildings and into the lab, hardly glancing her way. Shinji would have checked on her immediately, would have done everything in his power to be sure she was safe and reassured. But he was no longer Shinji, and so he corrected, "I'm Ryuga now."
Some of the Alternatives seemed to remember what that they had to fight him, and they drew their swords. Easily dodging, Ryuga scanned a card into his visor, prompting the deep voice to intone, [Sword Vent]
Quickly, fiercely, he struck back at the three Alternatives, cutting deep. Swords clattered to the floor as their owners cried in pain then were effortlessly thrown down. More joined the battle, though Kagawa and Nakamura pulled Yui aside, intending to complete their mission. Refusing to waste more time on this battle, he cut his way past the other Alternatives, finally discarding his sword in favor of another weapon.
Dragblacker passed along its own variant of the Drag Claw, and Ryuga immediately rushed toward Alternative and Alternative Zero. Zero held Yui by the wrist to keep her from running off as Alternative came at her with a sword. Without hesitation, Ryuga fired, point-blank into Alternative's back. He fell forward, his sword clattering to the ground as his transformation shattered. Yui stared in horror as Nakamura's body dissolved into particles of energy, but Ryuga's attention and sword was on Alternative Zero.
"So, Kanzaki has recruited even you to stop me," the scientist noticed.
"No, that's not Shinji-kun," Yui denied. "Something's wrong with him—he's not himself!"
Ryuga pulled his fist back to blast with the black Drag Claw again, but to his surprise, Yui dove, pushing Zero to the ground with her. The dark flames went over their heads, destroying mirrors against the wall.
"You saved me," Zero said in surprise, staring at her.
Ryuga hesitated only briefly, bewildered as to why Yui would have tried to save the man who was trying to kill her. But he had no time to stop. The eleven surviving Alternatives had recovered and were now on the attack, swarming him. By the time he had the chance to look to Yui and Zero again, they'd run.
He blocked oncoming attacks with the Drag Claw, allowing one Alternative to apply enough force to bring his arm down, giving him perfect aim at another attacker. The black flames shot off, hitting the rushing Alternative in the chest and causing him to hit the ground, disintegrating. Ryuga's unwitting helper gasped in shock, and Ryuga took the opportunity to wrench his sword away, blasting him in the stomach. The Alternative screamed before dying—a voice like a teenage boy, which stirred something within Ryuga.
No. No, this was wrong. Somehow.
He hesitated again, almost wavering. But his hesitation allowed a sword to strike him, and he threw aside his humanity once more. He blasted back, more violently this time, causing an explosion to rock the building. The Alternatives stopped their attacks in desperation to keep their footing, and Ryuga scanned another card.
Roaring, Dragblacker blasted fire inside as Ryuga deftly leapt out of the way, allowing all of his opponents to be consumed by the dark flames. He landed outside the building, where Yui and Zero stood not far away, and he slowly and deliberately walked toward them.
Fearfully, Yui turned to Zero and pleaded, "Tell me! How can I stop my brother? How can I prevent this from happening?"
The professor sounded regretful as he said, "There's nothing you can do other than die."
And that was absolutely what could not be allowed to happen. Ryuga approached, preparing his attack…
And Kamen Rider Tiger was charging at Yui.
It happened in an instant. Ryuga had no way to register what had happened or why. One moment, he had been watching Tiger ready his attack, and the next, he leapt in front of Yui, taking a set of claws in his chest. He grabbed onto Tiger's arm, but he didn't try to remove the claws from his body. Doing so would only put Yui in more danger, and….
Awakening from the darkness in his mind, Shinji asked, "Yui-chan, are you okay?"
Choking back a sob of relief, she nodded.
"Good," he answered. The claws were embedded deep in his chest, and they hurt like nothing else. It was a miracle he was still alive, but then, it was his shadow that had died. Ryuga had healed his body and taken his mind. Now, Shinji was taking it back, no matter how broken it was.
And how he knew he would die.
"Just let me finish…" he begged softly.
He pushed Tiger back, managing to get the claws out of him. The pain was excruciating, but for Yui's sake, he refused to let her see. Just managing to keep himself standing, he took a card from his deck and scanned it.
His body didn't have the strength left anymore, but he forced himself to leap into the air, with Dragblacker circling him. He couldn't flip in the air the way he normally could, so he simply extended his leg as Dragblacker breathed out dark fire, engulfing him as he kicked. Tiger staggered backwards and collapsed, reaching toward Alternative Zero as flecks of energy aggressively came off of his body.
"I'm sorry, Professor. I couldn't become a hero…" he apologized weakly as he disintegrated.
It was over. Yui was safe. Ryuga was gone. And Shinji had killed, and it weighed heavily on his damaged heart.
He dropped to his knees, the transformation breaking. Yui caught him just before he could collapse, crying out his name.
"Yui-chan, I'm sorry," he whispered. "I shouldn't have killed him…"
Yui shook her head. "You were trying to stop him. You were trying to protect me."
She didn't understand. It was more than that—it was the one thing he refused to do, no matter what. "But I killed all those people. The Alternatives."
Tears were running down Yui's cheeks as she insisted, "That wasn't you. Ryuga did that. You're free now."
He had to smile, even though she was crying. Maybe there was a shadow over him, but at least he could die free, with his friends alive. "At least I managed that. I saved you. And Ren."
He had to struggle to keep his eyes open, and Yui begged, "Please, Shinji-kun. Don't die."
"Sorry I made you cry," he apologized. He didn't want her to be sad. He didn't want anybody to be suffering—not her, not Ren, not Kitaoka or Asakura or even Kanzaki. Ren always said it was his greatest weakness, caring too much, but now he knew better. He couldn't be emotionless like Ryuga, a force of destruction that took out everything in his path. It hadn't saved anyone. The only way he could save his friends was through his true strength.
"Tell Ren…" he started, trying to put this sentiment into words, but he had no strength left in him, and so he shook his head. Somehow, he had the feeling Ren would understand anyway. Closing his eyes, he let himself fade into the ever-consuming darkness.
Kamen Rider Ryuki is the property of Ishimori Productions and Toei. This story is based off of the sidestory "World of If" from the S.I.C. Hero Saga stories published in Monthly Hobby Japan, summaries of which I found once on /m/. This fic differs a bit from the original story (for one, omitting Ryuga Survive) and is written nonlinearly—it follows the characters' storylines throughout and often reinterprets scenes. At the end of the story, a linear version will be posted for comparison on my Livejournal.