The Starwalker successfully dropped Megatron’s alliance off to the fallback universe near Vorton and was returned to After Academy’s new shipyards. Megumi, Haruna, and Richard were in Haruna’s new clothes shop at After Academy. Haruna measured Richard and did some calculations for the dress he was going to wear. “And that’s all!” cheered Haruna. “You’ll have your dress after the 3V2R is over.”
“Thanks,” muttered Richard.
“I assure you, it will look flattering on you,” insisted Haruna. Just then, Megumi’s phone rang.
“Er, is there a private place I could take this?” she asked.
“My supply room,” replied Haruna as she pointed to a door.
“Arigato,” thanked Megumi. She entered the supply room to see all sorts of fabrics, threads, yarn, and other various clothing supplies. “Dang, she’s got a supply!” breathed Megumi before she recalled her still-ringing phone. She answered it. “Moshi moshi,” she greeted.
“Surrender Megatron, Dr. Borg, and Hiro to me at once!” demanded War’s voice.
“We’ve checked them out,” replied Megumi. “They’re NOT under Caan’s influence. You were wrong and this is NOT a good way to get back into the F.N.S!”
“I’m not interested in rejoining your group!” snarled War. “Whether or not Caan has them under his sway makes no difference now! All that matters is that the multiverse will be safer without them! Now, surrender them or I will have no choice but to take them by force!”
“And risk war with me?” warned Megumi.
“If a war starts between us,” hissed War, “the blame will be placed on your head!”
“I doubt history will agree,” answered Megumi.
“History is written by the victors!” declared War. “I know you hear that speech every time you enter one of Death’s classes each semester!” She then hung up. Megumi sighed as she looked to the sky in frustration. She left the supply room and Richard followed her out.
“Everything all right, sweetie?” he asked.
“War’s still sore about what happened,” sighed Megumi.
“Did you tell her we confirmed they weren’t working with Caan?” inquired Richard.
“She didn’t care,” replied Megumi. “She’s only interested in ridding the multiverse of them.”
“That’s really not her place,” muttered Richard. Their conversation was interrupted by the sounds of fighting. “Who in the…?” asked Richard.
“Over there!” called Megumi. The source of the noises came from Batman, Ichigō, Gandalf, and Wyldstyle fighting Hiro as Tora-Otoko (Tiger Man)! Megumi fastened her Vortex Driver to her waist and inserted her i.d. tag.
“Henshin!” she called, attracting Tora-Otoko’s attention. Tora-Otoko then grabbed her head once her transformation into Royal was complete and ran to the fountain at the entrance. Once there, he shoved Royal back and slammed a metal disc to the ground, creating an energy dome that kept them in and everyone else out. The fountain was inside the dome as well. “What is this?!” demanded Royal. “I recall saving your…!”
“No more!” roared Tora-Otoko. “I’ve had it with you! Always smiling when life is just a tragedy! Always winning despite the odds being stacked against you! Always having friends while my empire crumbles! Always changing while my belt was lost to War! Always standing with your husband while I have no one! No wife! No children! No true allies! No empire! No real future! No belt! Well, I’m going to get satisfaction one way or another, and if killing you is the only way I’ll ever get it, so be it! No more friends interrupting! No more backing out! No more pretense of mercy! The only way that dome vanishes is if one of us is finished! Megumi Hishikawa, Kamen Rider Royal, my greatest failure, you will die at my hands!” He extended his claws and slashed at Royal. Royal retreated towards the dome.
“I’m not fighting you, Tora-Otoko!” she proclaimed. “End this now!”
“NO!” roared Tora-Otoko. “NOT UNTIL YOU’RE DEAD!” Royal ran along the edge of the dome, trying to find a way out, but couldn’t find it. She turned…then felt a knife penetrate her left side. Her air was forced out of her as her eyes registered Tora-Otoko. He then backed up, leaving his knife in her side. Outside the dome. Richard and the Keystone Bearers were pounding on the dome’s exterior. Royal couldn’t hear them, only concentrating on the pain in her side as she slumped down to her knees, her hands around the knife as it rested in her side. The pain then dulled, reduced to only a mild throb. She then regained her breath and her normal breathing. Tora-Otoko was wondering why Royal wasn’t dead yet. She then…stood up! She took the knife out and the wound healed itself as the undersuit re-stitched itself. “…Bakana!” (Impossible!) breathed Tora-Otoko.
“That’s the word,” remarked Royal. She tossed the knife aside. “All right then, if you really leave me no choice, we’ll play your game!” She then charged at Tora-Otoko and they traded blows at a tremendous speed! Soon, Royal overcame Tora-Otoko’s attempts to block and delivered two solid punches to his ribs. She then thrust her palm into his chin, grabbed his head, and tossed him over her shoulder. She then spun the wheel.
“Final attack!” called the Vortex Driver as she leapt into the air.
“RIDER ROYAL KICK!” she shouted as she flew towards Tora-Otoko and kicked him right in the chest. She then landed behind him as he exploded. The fire and smoke then died down to reveal Tora-Otoko turning back into Hiro. The dome then died down and Richard and the Keystone Bearers ran to give Hiro more of a beating, stopping only when Royal held her hand up. She cancelled her transformation and knelt by Hiro, turning him over so his face was facing up. His eyes opened and he saw that the dome was gone.
“…Goddammit,” he swore, “it faded the instant I turned human again. …Well, what are you waiting for, Megumi? I invaded Vorton on numerous occasions, I enslaved my allies, I attacked your friends, I stabbed you, why not just stab me in my head and get your standing ovation?”
“Because I’m doing this by the book,” replied Megumi, “and I never wanted to kill you. Don’t you understand? I don’t want you to die! I want our relationship to be better, but we’re running out of options now. You know it, I know it, maybe it all hinges on today. Maybe this is our last chance to sort this mess out, otherwise we’re going to kill each other. I don’t want it to end like that. I believe it doesn’t need to end like that. I don’t know what caused you to join the original Shocker, but, who knows, I could have been there myself. Maybe I can help you. You don’t need to be alone. I can help you get your life back together. What do you say?” Both enemies stared at each other. For once, there was no hatred, no anger, just one stare born of a desire to help versus a stare of hopelessness.
“…No,” sighed Hiro. “I’m sorry, but, no. It’s too late for that. It’s too late for me. I’m too old and have lived too long with my hatred.” He laughed weakly. “You know, now I think I get the Joker’s joke after all.” A rift opened. “Ah, that must be my ride.” Dr. Borg then stormed out.
“Hiro, you are needed back at base!” demanded Dr. Borg. “Return at once!”
“Yes, My Lady,” sighed Hiro. They both entered the rift and it closed behind them.
“…Why mention one of the Joker’s jokes?” asked Megumi.
“He’s referring to a joke the Joker told me once,” explained Batman. “The only one that made me laugh.”
“How did it go, if you don’t mind my asking?” quizzed Megumi.
“There were two insane asylum inmates,” began Batman. “One night, they planned an escape and succeed by climbing onto the rooftops. All that’s left is one narrow gap between the buildings. One of the inmates leaps across the gap, but the second is too afraid of falling, so he doesn’t jump. The first one then calls ‘I’ve got an idea; I’ve brought a flashlight! I’ll shine it across the gap and you can walk along the beam and join me!’ But the second one says ‘What do you think I am, crazy? You’d turn it off when I was halfway across!’”
“…And, in this instance, Hiro viewed me as the inmate with the flashlight,” muttered Megumi.
“Just as the Joker viewed me,” replied Batman.
“…I’m sorry, but while I DO get the joke,” sighed Megumi, “I don’t find it funny.”
“I can’t say I’m laughing either,” mumbled Richard.
“Right now,” continued Megumi, “I want to know about how I survived that stab. I could feel the blade piercing my lung.”
“Emily and I found an answer,” declared Batman.
“Have you, now?” asked Ichigō as he reverted back into Hongo.
“The whole of the F.N.S has the healing factor,” explained Batman. “It’s because there’s something in this universe’s water. Frequent exposure to it only extends your life-span. Daily exposure over a long period of time, two years, for example, renders you unable to die of age or injury, even when you’re thrown into space.”
“…We’re…immortal?” gulped Megumi.
“Somehow, that just makes me sad,” muttered Richard.
“Wait, does that mean we’re immortal too?” asked Wyldstyle.
“No, we haven’t been in contact with the water as long as they have,” answered Batman.
“Can you determine how powerful of immortals we are?” asked Megumi.
“You’re not Chizaran levels, thank goodness,” answered Batman. Megumi released a breath. “You don’t have god-like powers, you’re just people that can’t die.”
“Wait, that doesn’t make sense,” muttered Richard. “Amelia and Brendan died before they came to After Academy and they use the same water we do.”
“They’re back to life,” replied Batman. “How do you think Emily can conduct a normal check-up on them?”
“I thought that was just part of the physical laws of this universe,” muttered Richard.
“As did the Horsemen and I,” supplied Batman.
“Wait, the Horsemen didn’t know about the water supply?!” yelped Megumi.
“No,” answered Batman. “Death had discovered that the life-timers of the students were purposefully mislabeled as mortal. She found the source of the mislabeling to be from Vortoranii.”
“…You mean…Queen Vortoranii? The Vortonian ghost that lived in Megumi’s old Vortex Driver and its iterations?” asked Gandalf.
“The same,” confirmed Batman.
“Why would she do that?!” snapped Richard.
“I want answers from her!” snarled Megumi.
“You’ll have to get in line,” answered Batman. “Death’s finding her now.”
“…How did the Chizarans cope before the 3V2R?” sighed Megumi.
“So that’s what’s going on now,” muttered Rosadera as she met Mirai-Megumi. “What made you think about your current immortality?”
“Richard,” answered Mirai-Megumi as she removed the perception filter and dispelled the illusion that she was an older woman. “When Mickey was discovered to be working with Caan, Richard chased him to Chima. He was then shot by Caan as he came to pick Mickey up. The second time, he was stabbed in the back and rushed to the Virginia’s sick bay so Emily could heal him. She discovered that the stab wound closed itself and the clothes repaired themselves. By now, my past should have fought Hiro and have been stabbed only to survive it and have her wound close itself as well as her Rider form’s undersuit. Batman should be telling her the results of his investigation and I’ll get the message by then. I can’t die and neither can the F.N.S. and our families. All this time, Vortoranii knew I would turn immortal when I started using After Academy’s water supply on a daily basis.”
“Well, getting her soul is easy for me,” remarked Rosadera. “Perhaps we can get answers from her.” She snapped her fingers and Vortoranii’s ghost appeared. She looked startled.
“What in the…?!” she spluttered. She then saw Rosadera. “My Goddess,” greeted Vortoranii with a smile. “We haven’t spoken in a long time.”
“No, we haven’t,” replied Rosadera. “Tell me, did you know about the immortality-laden water After Academy and Beyond City use?”
“…Yes,” answered Vortoranii.
“Batman’s giving my past,” explained Mirai-Megumi, “the results of his investigation into that and Death’s looking for you.”
“Correction: Death found her!” hissed Death’s voice. Death approached, looking incredibly angry. “I found your journal!” she snarled. “I distinctly told you that no student may claim immortality! The student body, as a rule, don’t WANT that kind of power since 67% died before they were accepted! What’s the idea?! Planning to make an immortal army?!”
“No!” answered Vortoranii. “I just…” she sighed in defeat. “I just wanted someone that wasn’t a Vortonian to have that power. It was a way to keep Vortech from taking it.”
“What do you mean?” asked Mirai-Megumi.
“Vortech was going to use that universe as a source of power,” explained Vortoranii. “If even one non-Vortonian touched it, it would have scuttled his plans. I knew you and your sister Horsemen were capable guardians and I wanted others to learn from you as a means to give asylum to those that were worthy enough to continue learning instead of moving on to Heaven. Some good people feared that Heaven is too much of a utopia, and we know such a place stifles individuality. The instant he heard about the school’s founding, he went insane and killed us all, thus prompting the search for the Foundation Elements.”
“Then you have deceived me and got away with it!” hissed Death. “You have already reached your version of Heaven, but know this, you share the blame of the Vortonian genocide!” She shoved Vortoranii into a portal leading to a paradise and closed it the instant Vortoranii went through. She breathed heavily before steadying herself.
“It wasn’t pleasant for me when I first heard about her motives from you,” sighed Mirai-Megumi. Rosadera had an uneasy look on her face. “Something wrong?”
“Looking at you now,” sighed Rosadera, “knowing what happened to you, I’m afraid you’ve turned out wrong.”
“Thanks,” grunted Mirai-Megumi.
“I can’t help it, I’m a Chizaran,” continued Rosadera. “It’s instinct for me to be immortal. You, you’re supposed to be ephemeral, a fixed point in time and space. Even the Doctor would say your current state is wrong.”
“So, what, you immortals are prejudiced?” mused Megumi.
“Perhaps,” muttered Death. “I never thought about it like that.”
“Shame on you,” joked Megumi.
“One of our earlier experiments with our power was a universe that granted immortality to its denizens,” recalled Rosadera.
“We must have found it,” guessed Death. “Maybe you could help undo it!”
“It was a botched experiment,” replied Rosadera. “That kind of immortality rendered the universe unchanging, no room to grow, no room for life. It could only expand through artificial means. I suppose we’ll have to figure out how to make it grow by itself so it can’t be overpopulated.”
“Then it all comes down to one question,” resolved Death. “Megumi, do you want your mortality back? Do you want the ability to die again?” Mirai-Megumi seemed distracted as she stroked her hair.
“…Maybe I should wear a flower in my hair more often,” she mused.
“Megumi,” urged Death.
“…I don’t know,” sighed Mirai-Megumi. “I thought I did, briefly. But, fighting in the 3V2R, seeing other universes begin and end, seeing life change and grow,” she grinned as she finished, “it tends to make you greedy for life.”
“You discovered the Chizaran secret to happiness at a faster rate than we did,” chuckled Rosadera.
“Thank you for the offer, Death, but I must decline,” declared Megumi. Death grinned.
“That’s good to know,” she praised. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must tell present-day you what I’ve learned.” She then vanished in black smoke.
“I better return as well,” mused Mirai-Megumi. “When the Semifinals are done, more explanations will be made.”
“I’m going to hold you to that,” declared Rosadera. A time portal then opened for Mirai-Megumi and she went through it. It closed behind her and Rosadera sighed, her head reeling with all the new information.