I had tossed and turned in the real world. In the dream I was having, I was trying to explain myself. The corpses of my friends and family said that I had made a mistake in letting Hiro live. “No!” I said. “He had to live! Don’t you understand?!”
“You allowed him to kill us!” accused Hongo’s corpse
“You never killed him when you had the chance!” accused Gandalf’s corpse.
“You had numerous chances!” said Batman’s corpse.
“My own sister failed to protect the multiverse!” said Hiroki’s body.
“There is no hope now!” said Richard’s body. “It’s all thanks to you!” In a swift movement, his hand grabbed my face. I could feel myself decomposing slowly and deliberately. “You will join us as the restless dead!”
“NOO!” I screamed. I woke up before the decay could reach my jaw. Someone burst in at my outburst! I grabbed my sword and pointed it at the intruder.
“My dear young lady,” exclaimed the intruder, “put that thing down! I am not the enemy!” The shape then became recognizable. I smoothed out my nightdress as I lowered my sword.
“Gandalf, I must apologize,” I managed to get out between my gasps. I had managed to steady my breathing.
“I can see that something haunts your dreams,” observed Gandalf. No use in hiding my distress from a wizard. I sat down on my bed and recounted the dream. “I must admit,” gulped Gandalf, “I’m amazed my dead body would ever say that to you.”
“Gandalf, did I make a mistake?” I asked.
“In what way?” pondered the Istari.
“Letting Hiro live,” I elaborated. “In the long run, it may prove a pity that I allowed him to continue.”
“Pity?” quizzed Gandalf. “It was pity that influenced your decision. Unless, of course, my eyes deceive me.”
“No. maybe not,” I replied. “But what will that mean in the long run?”
“Perhaps he may be rehabilitated,” mused Gandalf. The thing is, his words echoed what was in my heart. I had always hoped Hiro could repent before his end.
“This whole business has me in a fluster, and I’m not used to flustering,” I sighed. “Lately, I’ve had moments where I wish I had never heard of this nonsense!”
“So do all who live to see such times,” replied Gandalf kindly, “but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” I smiled.
“You said that to Frodo in the Mines,” I recalled. I had calmed down at that point. “Thank you.”
“For what?” asked Gandalf, pretending not to know what he had done for me.
“Helping me settle my mind,” I explained. “I’m going back to sleep.”
“Of course,” said Gandalf as he headed to my door. “Good night.”
“‘Night,” I mumbled. I drifted back to sleep. My dreams were much more pleasant as I stood against Hiro. He was taken to some unknown court. My friends and I had testified against him. No one spoke on his behalf. While his lawyer was fierce, Hiro was found guilty and sentenced to live alone in a prison of unknown design. I woke up later, stretching and rubbing my eyes. I then went into the usual routine of getting into my dress.
- First, floof the skirts.
- Second, step into the skirts.
- Third, pull on the strings at the sides to close the skirts around my waist.
- Fourth, get on my knees and smooth my dress to give it the full circular shape.
- Fifth, lean forward, then back, then left, and then right.
- Sixth, get up and pull the shirt part over my head.
- Seventh, after getting my hair free from the neck, tilt my head into each sleeve.
- Eight, slide the panniers over my head until they cover the strings at my waist.
- Nine, twirl five times to let my skirts fly.
- Ten, put the tiara on and curtsey to my reflection.
Call me superstitious, but I always do this routine to bring me luck. I stepped out of the room to see everyone assembled in the cafeteria. After several good mornings, a grunt substituted Batman’s good morning, we got our breakfast. I had requested that Emily retrieve Elphaba so she could join us. Emily went to the brig and got the former Wicked Witch. Elphaba saw some glares. “How hospitable,” she snarked.
“Elphaba Thropp,” I began, “given the atrocities you’ve committed against the Winkies and Flying Monkeys, we had a debate on whether or not you should live.”
“What?!” yelped Elphaba.
“However,” I continued, “as leader, I had decided against your second death.”
“Very generous,” chuckled Elphaba with a relieved smile.
“Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness,” I snapped. “You have a long way to go before we consider you a teammate. Given that there are no replicators in your dimension, I assume you had help last night when you had a meal.”
“That would be me,” explained the mysterious voice.
“Work closely with the voice to figure out this mess,” I directed.
“I’ll do what I can,” obliged Elphaba.
“Good,” I nodded. “In the meantime, the Vortex Riders and I are off to find another Keystone. Speaking of which, who’s in control of the Chroma Keystone?”
“That would be me,” called Wyldstyle as she held up her gauntlet. She put it on her left hand. “In a bizarre form of behavior for me, I’ve read through the instructions.”
“Won’t hurt in this case,” I said. “Everyone, mount your steeds!” We had gotten on our respective vehicles and got ready to charge through the portal again. Elphaba was talked through manual operations.
“Good to go!” she called. “Your destination is dimension N-1-N-J-A-G-0!”
“CHARGE!” I shouted We charged into the portal.
The location in that dimension happened to be a gladiatorial arena. An afro wearing guitar dude in 60’s disco clothes was trying to get away from a guy in punk clothing and a glowing purple sword. He turned to the man in the box, who sported a large snake skull on his head with a long purple fake spikey snake around it, a mustache and goatee, thick eyebrows, sideburns, and hair, all black, and dark red robes with gold and black markings. Apparently, he’s from the Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu line Lego had set up. From what Haitao told us, the guy in the box is called Master Chen, a villain of the series. He had given the order to the punk man to finish the guitar man. As the punk man was about to lay the finishing blow on the guitar man, we fell on top in a tangled mess. Once we disentangled, we looked around. “Now where are we?” asked Wyldstyle. Another portal had opened, depositing a Japanese man. He wore feminine clothes and makeup and sported a muscular build, but unlike Emmanuel, he preferred pants. He dusted himself off with the wrap covering his bald head and looked around.
“An arena?” asked the man in a slight French accent. He smiled. “Well, my horoscope said I would find intrigue in new places and an arena will certainly develop such intrigue.”
“Oren Pierre Alfonzo!” cheered Hiroki.
“Who?” I asked.
“He’s one of the secondary riders in Kamen Rider Gaim,” explained Hiroki. “That fruit themed Kamen Rider show I mentioned.”
“I met those riders,” supplied Hongo, “though we didn’t make the best first impression.” He was interrupted by Chen’s laughing.
“What a delightful surprise!” he said in a thick Japanese accent. “More competitors for my tournament of elements!” We all looked at each other.
“I’d say it’s time for a show!” called Oren.
“Did you arrange this, Klaus?” asked Chen to his aide. Klaus shook his head. “No matter,” assured Chen. “I sense great power in them. Power that will soon be mine.”
“You may try,” called Emmanuel, “and you will fail.”
“Oren-san,” quizzed Hongo, “do you have your belt on you?”
“Sadly, no, it was destroyed,” sighed Oren.
“What’s that in your pocket?” asked Hiroki. Oren arched an eyebrow, then reached into his pocket to reveal a device in a similar shape to ours but lacked the blue circle and had a knife at a diagonal on the right with a faceplate on the left. The faceplate looked almost like a gladiator’s helmet facing the knife. He blinked in surprise, then smiled.
“Well now,” he chuckled as he put it to his waist. A yellow belt strap appeared and fastened the device to his waist. “And just to finish things off,” said Oren as he pulled a silver padlock out with a durian on it. For those who don’t know, a durian is a green, spikey fruit that has a very strong smell, a horribly strong smell. “Shall we entertain the masses?” asked Oren as he held the lock up.
“Do we look like gladiators to you?!” I quizzed.
“Come on!” protested Emmanuel as he got out his i.d tag. “Where’s your entertainer’s spirit?”
“But, we shall require an opponent,” called Oren. He pointed to Chen. “Monsieur, could you provide us with one?”
“As you wish,” chuckled Chen. He turned to a guy in a jogging suit about to eat a hot dog. “You! Bring our guests…up to speed!”
“Yes. Master Chen,” confirmed the jogger. Did I say jogger? I meant runner with speed that would give a certain video game mascot pause! I had a feeling Chen would be making puns during our stay. The runner circled us a few times before ringing a gong.
“Master Griffin Turner, element of speed, you’re up,” called Chen. “Let’s see how our new contenders fare!”
“Permettez-moi,” said Oren. He then looked at his lock. “Hen…shin.” After he said that, he sharply turned his head to Master Turner and opened the lock.
“DURIAN!” announced the lock as a ring of light around the durian symbol flashed on each syllable. After that happened, a zipper opened a circle above him, letting a large, metal durian with a large spike on each side float above Oren. He put the lock onto the belt and closed it. “Lock on!” called the lock. At that point, a guitar riff started looping. Oren threw his hands above his head, crossed them, then stepped back, putting his left hand down while his right went across his front. As he pulled the hand back, it pulled the knife down, revealing the inside of a durian and a spikey sword. The metal durian landed on his shoulders, covering his head and forming a neon green suit with purple highlights. The durian split into armor pieces. The top part with the two big spikes became shoulder armor. The front part went down to reveal a silver t shape on the other side, becoming the chest unit. The back simply swung down. The helmet had a spike on either side. The eyes evoked the interior flesh of a durian with the rim of the left eye having a crack. He had a Red Roman Crest running from the top of his head to the nape of his neck. As it unfolded, Oren stepped forward, opening his hands to allow a large, spiky, green sword to appear in each hand. “DURIAN ARMS!” announced the lock on the belt. “MISTER DANGEROUS!” A starting bell rang five times with a simulated applause giving a cheer.
“And thus, Kamen Rider Bravo appears!” cheered Hiroki. While the transformation for Bravo was going on, Turner was running around us.
“What is this, some kind of bonus round?” he quizzed. “No sweat. No one can match my speed!”
“Are you sure?” I asked. I lifted my skirts up and stuck out my leg. Turner moved to attack, but he didn’t see the leg that tripped him. The audience didn’t like that, so someone threw something at us. The impact revealed a blue disc. Wyldstyle’s gauntlet buzzed.
“Keep it up, guys!” encouraged Wyldstyle. Turner ran a few more laps and then charged at Wyldstyle who simply put her fist out, allowing his face to collide with it. He got back up as another object flew at Wyldstyle. She dodged, leaving the object to reveal a yellow disc. Another three laps and Bravo sidestepped, letting Turner trip over his feet. An object was hurled from the crowd once again as it revealed a red disc. Gandalf had managed to find something in the lake in the center. It was a snake statue holding a picture of something in its mouth. The picture was the same as the markings on Keystone device the Joker used to power that robot, a circle with two L-shapes facing each other. Unlike the Keystone device, however, all the shapes were in yellow. The snake had a Keystone power transmitter on it with markings from both the Shift and Chroma Keystones, so Wyldstyle decided to put her powers to the test. “Chroma Keystone, activate!” she said. The circles let a blob of paint come out of each other and hover in the air. “Chroma! Yellow! Wyldstyle!” She jumped into the yellow paint and was covered in the stuff. She then showed her left palm to the picture. “Chroma Lock, reveal!” she said. White lines formed to make the same shapes as the painting. She then jumped first into the right L-shape, then the left L-shape, and finally the circle. As she jumped on each shape, the shapes on the picture held by the statue glowed yellow. Colored beams of red, yellow, and blue light destroyed the picture. The fragments then grew and changed, collecting at a single point to become a panel that can rotate while being pushed. It connected to the snake statue via gears. As the paint slid off Wyldstyle’s body, leaving no trace of its existence behind on her, she pushed the panel to make the statue raise up until it could be raised no more. Apparently, it was in the ground so low because it was so top heavy. It fell to the ground and shattered. The only intact thing was the pillar it was built around.
“Let me have a turn,” called Xiomara as she drew her i.d tag. “Henshin!” She turned into Kamen Rider Seeker once again, surprising Bravo once she revealed herself. She then swapped her i.d tag for the Wyldstyle one.
“Wyldstyle Steel!” announced her belt as the wardrobe changed her armor. She managed to see parts and construct a treadmill with the pillar being the main roller part and the snake head being the control panel. Turner ran onto it.
“Whoa!” he yelped. “Who put that there?” The treadmill went faster and faster. “I can’t stop! Wait, I’m so fast, I can outrun this thing! Ha ha! Sure, I can!” He went faster, but his speech indicated he was getting tired. The treadmill started sparking. “I…can…run…*gasp*…no…getting…tired…noo!” He was then thrown into a wall as the treadmill exploded. Chen seemed enraged by this.
“Only ONE can remain!” he declared. He pressed a button on his chair which released a trap door, depositing Turner into the pit below. “Very creative, though,” admitted Chen. “Shall we say… ‘best of three’?” A man in a moustache-goatee, a maroon turban with a gold stud on the front, a maroon robe, and dark brown pants floated towards us. “Master Gravis,” said Chen, “element of gravity. He’ll turn your world upside-down!” Gravis used his powers to lift three stone platforms and turn the ones on his sides to be running vertically instead of horizontally while being suspended in the air. Batman checked his keystone gauntlet. Thankfully, the transmitter didn’t fall back in when the statue fell apart, so Batman could still use his powers.
“Shift Keystone, activate!” he announced. “Cyan, on the platform to my left! Yellow, on the platform in the middle! Magenta, on the platform to my right!” The portals appeared as Gravis hurled rocks at us as he stood in front of the Cyan portal. “Let’s see,” said Batman as he looked at Bravo. “Shift! Bravo! Cyan!” Bravo was taken by surprise as he was sucked in.
“Help!” he yelped. He appeared behind Gravis and whacked him on the back of the head. That made Gravis lose concentration on that platform, so it crumbled. Gravis floated to the right most platform.
“Shift! Bravo! Magenta!” directed Batman. Bravo, with a better understanding of Batman’s plan, jumped into the portal and reappeared behind Gravis. He swung his swords at Gravis as the master of gravity hurled rocks at him. Sadly, Gravis lost, making him lose concentration on the platform, allowing it to crumble. He floated to the middle platform. “Shift! Bravo! Yellow!” Bravo landed on the last remaining platform.
“Lifetime of Master Chen noodles to the winner!” announced Chen.
“Voila!” called Bravo to Gravis. He brought the knife on his belt down once. The lock glowed.
“DURIAN SQUASH!” announced the lock. A wave of light started forming on the crest of Bravo’s helmet. He swung his head, making the light knock Gravis silly. He fell to the ground, along with the platform. This time, Chen was intrigued.
“Most interesting and entertaining!” he cheered as he jumped in his seat. “Guard,” he ordered as he pressed the trapdoor button on his chair, “bring me more popcorn!” Gravis tumbled into the pit below as some of Chen’s cronies came into the ring. I noticed that an image appeared dirty, an image like the one’s the Chroma Keystone uses.
“Guys,” I called, “help me brush this off! Wyldstyle, is the Chroma Keystone still going?”
“No, sorry,” sighed Wyldstyle. “It switched off when I built that treadmill for Master Turner. On top of that, the circle faded away.”
“I see a new yellow circle in the mouth of that snake over the door,” observed Gandalf. He opened the snake’s mouth and got it down. Wyldstyle’s pocket started buzzing.
“Let me help!” called Seeker, still in Wyldstyle Steel. She pulled out another relic detector and found something that a batarang could knock down. “Batman! Michael! Help me out!”
“On it!” confirmed Michael. “Henshin!” After he formed the suit, he swapped the i.d tag for the Batman one along with Seeker.
“Batman Steel!” called the belts. The three had tossed their batarangs and knocked down a blue circle. Wyldstyle and Hongo had jumped up and used their combined weight to bring down the red circle from the side of the door. I had fully brushed the image off to reveal two yellow L-shapes and a red circle.
“Chroma Keystone, activate!” announced Wyldstyle. The circles suspended their respective paint blobs at her command. “Chroma lock, reveal!” The design appeared again in glowing lines of white. “Bravo, do you mind painting yourself red?”
“Not at all,” assured Bravo.
“Chroma! Red! Bravo!” announced Wyldstyle. Bravo jumped into the red paint blob and then jumped into the circle. “Chroma! Yellow! Richard! Richard jumped into the yellow paint, then jumped into each L-shape. The red, blue, and yellow streams of light hit the picture, destroying it, allowing something to burst through. It appeared to be a crane with the main body done up like a snake head. It was apparently alive as it roared and snapped at us. It was restrained by the door’s red frame. That’s when a man in black armor, a black helmet, a full beard, and large metal gauntlets in the shape of fists came into the pit.
“Now,” purred Chen, “for your final foe: Master Karlof, element of metal! Now’s your chance to prove your…well…METTLE!” That was awful!
“Ha!” laughed Karlof in a thick Russian accent, thicker than Mikhail’s father. “Is no problem for Karlof! Karlof crush you!”
“Okay, if we can drop the stupid fake Russian accent!” called Mikhail. “My accent is better anyways!”
“Nyet! Mine is!” argued Irina.
“We have the same accent!” protested Mikhail.
“Mine’s softer, therefore more enjoyable!” argued Irina.
“Are you kidding?!” countered Mikhail. “It needs to be hard, to show a Russian’s strength!”
“Can we save it?!” I snapped. Wyldstyle looked at the snake crane.
“Ooh, when master builds go wrong,” she commented. She got an idea. “Guys, aim for the arch Karlof’s on!”
“On it!” confirmed Bravo. He moved the knife on his belt down twice.
“DURIAN AU LAIT!” announced the lock. Bravo then swung his swords, throwing giant, energy based durians at the arch.
“Un! Deux! Trois!” called Bravo as he swung three times. It destroyed the arch, releasing the snake crane…er…wrecking ball. The ball on the machine dropped, insert ball-dropping joke here, which gave Wyldstyle room to use the remains of the arch to her advantage. Once they turned into Lego bricks, she made a magnet out of them.
“Metal Power!” boasted Karlof as he turned his entire body into silver metal. Gandalf had lifted the new magnet onto the cable the wrecking ball was on. Batman and Lukas got to the new snake electro-magnet’s controls and raised the magnet into the air. We taunted Karlof to come near the magnet, which worked well. Batman pressed the button and turned it on. Karlof was caught in the magnetic field, so he powered down his metal skin, but his gauntlets were still metal, so he was lifted off the ground.
“You…you…you cheated!” shouted Chen.
“Er, WE cheated?!” quizzed Bravo, indicating Karlof’s prison and taking off the durian lock.
“Lock off,” announced the lock as the suit and armor disappeared and revealed Oren Pierre Alfonzo.
“Nobody cheats in my tournament, NOBODY!” shrieked Chen as he slammed his fist on the trapdoor button. A trapdoor opened near us. No one fell through this time. Chen pressed another button, letting on of his guards in his box fall through. Another one dropped another guard. He kept pressing buttons and dropping guards. As that was going on, Wyldstyle started reading a newspaper, Batman looked at his batarang, considering upgrading it, Gandalf ate an apple and tossed it into a trapdoor that opened near him, and Hiroki and Oren explained what the concept behind the lock was. Apparently it’s called a Lockseed. It’s made by holding a fruit from an extradimensional forest called Helheim when you wear the belt Oren used, the Sengoku Driver. It has three finishing moves. Squash is used mainly to perform a fruit themed Rider Kick or charges up the armor, or Arms, to use an attack. Au Lait is mainly an Arms weapon attack, a stronger version of Squash. Last, but not least, the Sparking finisher gives the rider full finisher potential or folds the Arms into its fruit, seed, nut, or berry form to boost the defense of the Rider. Oren admitted that he never unlocked the Sparking function of the Durian Lockseed. The organic fruit version of the Lockseeds, the Helheim fruit, can change a person if eaten on its own. The person turns into a mindless monster called an Inves, which eats Helheim fruits and go after Lockseed users. There are two main types of Lockseeds, the silver Lockseeds that someone like Oren uses, and the clear blue Energy Lockseeds, used in a different belt called the Genesis Driver. Oren was about to talk about his past when a portal opened to deposit a giant mech suit with a bald man driving the thing. The suit was green and had purple trim. The pilot turned to Chen.
“The staff!” he demanded. “Hand it over!” Chen looked at the rather gaudy staff in his possession.
“No!” he snapped. “No more surprise guests!” He used the staff to cast a fireball at the mech, which the pilot just laughed off. “Uh oh! Everyone! Stop him!” ordered Chen. As the guards charged the mech, Chen waved goodbye as his seat went down into the pits below. The mech pilot grit his teeth and crashed through a door, flinging many of Chen’s cronies off. Batman recognized the pilot.
“Whatever Lex Luthor wants with that staff,” deduced the Dark Knight, “it won’t be good. Come on!” We followed Batman up to Chen’s box and followed Chen down the rabbit hole he and his chair made.