Ultimate Origins: Chapter Fourteen

Fathers: The Hand

 

Simon and his teammates tried not to think about Kou. They didn’t want to think about Xanathor or his undead insectoid army. And they certainly didn’t want to think about the Shinzon, Marauders, or any of those Rangers and Riders that Billy Cranston kept mass producing.

 

Instead, they wanted to focus on finding Justin’s father, who in turn, would hopefully lead them to Simon’s father.

 

“Daddy issues,” Blake said as the five teens walked across the jam-packed streets of Tokyo. “I still can’t believe almost all Rangers have Daddy issues. Is being emotionally scarred a requirement for wielding The Power?” 

 

“If so, you’d be the strongest of us all,” Justin joked.

 

“I so am,” Blake said. “I can take any of you posers any day.”

 

Simon shook his head. “Let’s not go down that road again, please.”

 

Rachel arced an eyebrow at her boyfriend. “Did you just call me a poser?”

 

Blake’s face turned slightly blush. “No, I meant…you know what I meant.”

 

“No, I don’t think I do,” she said. “Please, explain…”

 

“Well…” Blake hesitated. “You know. You sure look pretty today.”

 

Rachel rolled her eyes and playfully nudged Blake in the ribs. “I hate you.”

 

“You love me.”

 

“Maybe I hate loving you.”

 

Justin cleared his throat. “Anyway. As cute—and slightly disturbing—you two have become as a couple, we are here on business.”

 

“I know,” Rachel said. She stepped closer to her friend and laid a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “We’ll find your father, Justin.”

 

“I didn’t mean to get touchy feeling,” Justin said. “I’m just saying.”

 

“How’s the search going?” Simon asked Hunter.

 

“Poorly,” Hunter said. “I have Ikkazuchi spread across the country. They’ve found nothing.”

 

Hunter had taken over the Ikkazuchi Way in Japan after traveling to the country following the defeat of Jakanja. He still hadn’t explained how, and Blake refused to tell the story. But the other rangers had learned to stop pressing for answers.

 

“We do have one problem, though,” Hunter explained.

 

Blake groaned. “Please don’t say the Hand.”

 

“The Hand.”

 

“You never listen,” Blake said. “That’s why you’re single.”

 

“The Hand?” Justin asked. “Like the Foot?”

 

“Tommy ran into them once,” Simon said. “They killed his sensei, Mugensai. That’s how he inherited the Hayate Way.”

 

Blake nodded. “The Hand and Ikkazuchi are like a really bad couple that keeps breaking up and getting back together, only their domestic disputes involve ninja swords.”

 

The Hand was an order of ninja assassins involved in organized crime. They originally formed as a secret society of nationalist samurai in 1588. At the time, they were honorable, but frustrated with a corrupt government tainted by foreign influences. They aimed to restore political power to the people, but the pursuit of their goal changed them for the worse. They became corrupt.

 

The Hand transformed from a group of freedom fighters into an organization of mercenaries for hire. However, the Hand weren’t content with simply providing their services to the highest bidders, as other factions of ninja, such as the Ikkazuchi. They worked as both assassins for others and sought power themselves.

 

“What is the Hand up to?” Simon asked.

 

“I don’t know,” Hunter said. “But they know I’m here. And they want to kill me. Badly.”

 

“They don’t exactly want to join my fan club either,” Blake said. “About six years or so ago the Ikkazuchi started loaning and selling recruits to the Hand. It was there version of a kiss-and-make-up after 30 years of trying to kill each other.”

 

“That arrangement ended when I overthrew the Ikkazuchi Way’s leadership,” Hunter said.

 

“OK,” Simon said. “That complicates things. I wish you would have mentioned this sooner.”

 

“I didn’t think the Hand could recover this soon,” Hunter said.

 

“Recover?” Justin asked. “From what?”

 

“After I took over the Ikkazuchi Way, I led an attack on the Hand,” Hunter said. “We crushed them.”

 

***

 

The tower of the Hand extended upward like a black dagger through the Tokyo skyline. At the top of the tower was a dojo walled with windows that looked out upon the night sky.

 

Kagenobu Sasaki sat cross-legged on a pedestal in the center of the dojo. The young Japanese man wore a black-and-white kimono, with a crimson handprint on the right side of his chest. His short black hair was slicked back, and his smooth features were tightened into a look of hate.

 

http://marvellegends.net/MarvelLegends/HMLTP02/HandNinja04.jpgOn the floor before him kneeled ranks of crimson-clad Chunin, the elite of the Hand ninja. At the head of the group kneeled a young Japanese woman in a white ninja uniform. Her name was Chiyome. She kept her head low to avoid the angry gaze of Sasaki, her older brother.

 

“Did you speak correctly, Chiyome?” Sasaki asked.

 

“Yes, master,” she said. “The Ikkazuchi brothers have returned. They’ve brought ranks of Gouraija, and three Harrikenjaa.”

 

Sasaki snarled. The news of the three Harrikenjaa upset him the most. “Those Hayate Way urchin were cleansed from this country six years ago. They dare try to rebuild? Here?”

 

“The Hayate Way remains strong in America, even this long after the death of Mugensai,” Chiyome said.

 

Mugensai was a fool,” Sasaki said.

 

“Our father respected him.”

 

“Don’t speak of our father unless you speak of vengeance,” Sasaki said. “Hunter…” he said the name as if chewing filth. “Hunter will die for killing our father. And the Ikkazuchi Way will die with him.”

 

***

 

“Explain again where we’re going?” Justin asked as the teens walked down the dark backstreets of the city. “If the Hand want you dead, why are we going to one of them?”

 

Shingen is not just Hand,” Hunter explained. “He’s a crime lord; one of the yakuza. A liar and a snake.”

 

“That’s supposed to make me feel better?”

 

“Yes,” Hunter said. “Shingen has no honor. He hates working beneath the Hand and wants power for himself. Helping us will hurt the Hand, and that’s what he wants.”

 

“Fair enough,” Justin said.

 

The teens approached a run-down pawn shop in a poorly-lit section of the block. They stepped inside, and Hunter led the group towards the rear counter.

 

The frail old man behind the counter opened his eyes wide with fear, as if seeing a ghost. “You…you’ve…returned?”

 

The man whipped his hand from behind the counter, pulling out a gun.

 

Hunter stepped forward and thrust his palm at the man, firing an invisible Kiryoku blast that knocked the weapon away.

 

Blake smirked at the man. “What did we tell you about playing nice, Doka?”

 

“I hate you both! Burn in a thousand hells!” Doka shouted. “You stupid fuck fuck Americans!”

 

Blake turned towards Rachel. “He hasn’t exactly gotten the hang of swearing in English yet, but the poor guy’s trying.”

 

The curtains in the back of the room parted, and Shingen stepped through, flanked by his guards. The Japanese men wore black suits, and the guards carried slender katana.

 

Shingen walked casually with his arms crossed behind his back. He looked to Hunter with great annoyance. “I told you if I ever saw you again, I’d kill you. Are you that anxious to die?”

 

“I need your help,” Hunter said.

 

Shingen laughed. “Yes, yes of course you do. I tried to help you before. I aimed you straight at the Hand. I practically handed you their heads. And yet they’re still out there, aren’t they? Choking my every breath with their filth.”

 

“I can finish what I started,” Hunter said.

 

“Doubtful, foreign dog,” Shingen said. “The Kagenobu children are just as mad as their father. They control the Hand now.”

 

“Whoa, wait a second,” Blake said. “Kagenobu had kids?”

 

“Who’s Kagenobu?” Rachel asked.

 

“He led the Hand,” Blake said. “Until Hunter killed him.”

 

“Sasaki and Chiyome,” Shingen said. “They’re both more talented than anyone thought. They know you’re back here in Japan, and they’re searching for you.”

 

“Help me stop them,” Hunter said.

 

“No,” Shingen said. “Helping you now would be too risky, even for me.”

 

“You’re terrified,” Simon said.

 

Shingen arced an eyebrow. “I don’t remember you.”

 

“We’ve never met,” Simon said as he stepped closer to the man. “You’re terrified, but not for yourself. Who do they have?”

 

Shingen’s entire face seemed to tighten.

 

“Who?” Simon asked again.

 

“Yukio,” Shingen said. “My daughter.”

 

Simon nodded. “OK then. You help us, we help you get your daughter back.”

 

“I don’t even know what you’d ask of me,” Shingen said.

 

“Information,” Simon said. “Everything you know about the Hand’s location, strengths, and weaknesses.”

 

“That’s not very precise,” Shingen said.

 

“I like to toss a wide net,” Simon said. “Also…we think a division of U.S. Intelligence is operating here.”

 

Shingen scoffed. “Of course they are. U.S. Intelligence is everywhere…you foreign dogs.”

 

“I’m not talking about mainstream intelligence,” Simon said. “Does the name Section 31 mean anything to you?”

 

Shingen’s eyes opened wide, and he pulled a gun from his jacket. Simon lunged forward, grabbed the man’s wrist, and twisted. Shingen flinched as his gun fell from his hand.

 

The guards pounced forward to attack, but the rangers took them down with ease, knocking away their swords and dropping them to the ground. 

 

“That really wasn’t necessary,” Simon said as he twisted Shingen’s wrist further, driving the man to his knees. “I’m going to let you up…because I’m such a pleasant person…but if you guys try that again…”

 

Shingen nodded, cursing beneath his breath. Simon let go, and Shingen rose to his feet.

 

“Start explaining,” Simon said.

 

Shingen looked to Hunter and narrowed his eyes. “I’ll help you attack the Hand, in exchange for freeing my daughter. But I will tell you nothing, nothing, of Section 31.”

 

Simon tilted his head quizzically. “Loyalty?”

 

“What?” Shingen asked.

 

“You feel loyalty for them. Section 31,” Simon said. “Are you some kind of double agent?”

 

Shingen’s face reddened as he looked to Hunter. “Who is this child?”

 

“That’s not important,” Hunter said. “Tell us what you know.”

 

***

 

The rangers learned that Section 31 was after the Hand, and had been for weeks. The intelligence organization planned to stop the Hand’s expansion into the United States and Europe. The rangers didn’t know for sure that Justin’s father was among the group, but they had to start looking somewhere.

 

The teens left the shop and walked into the dark alley.

 

“First thing’s first,” Simon said. “Let’s-”

 

Blurs of motion passed across the rooftops above, and the rangers stopped in their tracks.

 

“Company,” Justin said.

 

200px-Profile_footBlack-and-gray clad ninja dropped from the rooftops and surrounded the teens. They were Genin, standard grunts of the Hand.

 

The ninja pounced towards the rangers.

 

Simon ducked beneath a sword swing, smashed a roundkick against the grunt, and hook kicked the villain to the ground.

 

Rachel elbowed a soldier that closed in from behind and snapped her leg through a crescent kick that bashed a second grunt across the head.

 

Justin launched a tornado kick and reverse sidekick that knocked a Genin to the pavement.

 

Hunter grabbed a grunt by the sword arm, smashed his elbow across the soldier’s head, and sidekicked the villain back.

 

Blake dodged a sword swing and snapped a jump-roundkick that bashed a soldier in the face.

 

“I hate freaking ninjas,” Blake said.

 

“That’s kind of ironic,” Justin said as he flipped a soldier to the ground.

 

Strands of white cloth suddenly shot through the air, wrapped around Hunter’s legs, and whipped him off his feet. The cloth dragged him down the alleyway. The other rangers started after him, but more Genin dropped from above to block the way.

 

Hunter twisted free from the cloth and rolled into a crouched fighting stance. He looked up to see his attacker: a woman dressed in a white kimono with blue trimming. She wore white makeup with blue lipstick and eye shadow.

 

“Hunter,” she said. “We haven’t met. I am Yukionna. And you…are not impressive.”

 

Hunter wasn’t a fan of banter. He lunged forward to attack.

 

Yukionna simply waved her hand, and a flurry of snow blew from her palm and surrounded the ranger. The snow twirled around Hunter, biting his skin with supernatural cold that cut to the bone. 

 

Hunter leapt into the air, but Yukionna tightened her fist, and a block of ice formed around the ranger’s ankles and feet. The weight pulled the ranger downward, and he crashed against the ground.

 

The villain tightened her second fist, and snow fell across the ranger, spreading to form a thin sheet of ice that covered his body completely.

 

Yukionna smirked. “Not impressive at all.”

 

A white strand of cloth shot from her kimono and wrapped around Hunter. Yukionna leapt to the rooftops and dragged the fallen ranger with her.

 

***

 

The rangers regrouped in the alleyway and leapt to the rooftops, trying to spot Hunter. But he was nowhere in sight.

 

Blake rolled his hands into fists. “How’d she move so fast?”

 

“Who was she?” Justin asked.

 

Blake shook his head. “Don’t know. She must be new to the whole evil-ninja-death-cult thing.”

 

“Let’s go back and have another chat with Shingen,” Simon said. “Maybe he’ll know where the Hand is taking Hunter.”

 

***

 

Hunter’s eyes blurred slowly back into focus. The first thing he saw was the most beautiful girl in the world, with almond-shaped eyes and hair as black as night. Soft, delicate features. She reminded him of Keiko. Then realization hit. He was staring at his captor.

 

“You’re awake,” the girl said. “I’m surprised you fell to Yukionna so quickly. I was expecting more from you. My name is Chiyome. You killed my father.”

 

Hunter found himself tied to a chair in an indoor, Japanese garden. Cherry-blossom trees surrounded a cobblestone path that led from a small hut to a pond, topped with water lilies. The garden looked eerie, with moonlight shining inward from large windows that looked down upon the Tokyo skyline.

 

“Do you like it?” Chiyome said.

 

Hunter said nothing. He simply glared at the woman, doing his best to keep his head up. His body still felt weak and cold.

 

“You’re not a man of many words, so I’ve been told,” she said.

 

“Fight me if you want revenge,” Hunter said. “Spare me the speeches.”

 

“My brother would like that,” Chiyome said. “But he is a fool. The revenge I have in mind is far more…complete.”

 

She leaned closer to Hunter and traced her finger along the side of his face. “You have so much anger and misery buried inside you. You hide it, of course. But it’s there. I’ll drag you into your pit of despair, and once there…” She smiled. “My revenge doesn’t end with you dying.”

 

“You’re insane.”

 

“Everyone’s insane,” Chiyome said. Her facade dropped, and sorrow clouded her eyes. “I wanted this life even less than you wanted yours. But we didn’t have much of a choice, did we? We are who we are. We’re killers, Hunter. The both of us. The difference is, my path is the honorable one.”

 

Hunter said nothing.

 

“Do you doubt that?” She backed away. “You Ikkazuchi are the same as the Hayate Way. You’re not true ninja at all. You’re tainted, with your Kung Fu, Taekwondo, jujitsu…foreign dances, not ninja arts. Not ninja code. You’re mutts. The Hand…we are pure. Strong. At least…we used to be. And will be again.”

 

“What do you want?” Hunter asked.

 

“Losing your patience?”

 

“Yes.”

 

She smirked. “Nothing. Not now, at least. Just sit back. And wait. Wait for your friends to come. I fully expect them to free you, and take you away from this place. The fun will come after they do.”

 

***

 

Simon, Justin, Rachel and Blake landed on a rooftop and looked out at the neighboring building, the headquarters of the Hand.

 

“Nice place they’ve got there,” Justin said. “Let’s hope Shingen’s intel was accurate.”

 

“This is ridiculous,” Blake said. “We should just morph and blast our way in. We’re Rangers; they can’t stop us.”

 

Simon shook his head. “That would be overkill,” he said. “We don’t escalate unless we have to.”

 

“Is that in the Official Ranger Handbook or something?” Blake asked.

 

“Yes, actually,” Simon said.

 

“The scary part is, I can’t tell if you’re joking,” Blake said.

 

“We won’t need to morph,” Simon said. “As long as Shingen was right, we know enough about that building to slip in, take out the guards, and find where they’re keeping Hunter.”

 

“I sure hope you’re right, Red,” Justin said.

 

“…me too.”

 

***

 

Four crimson-clad Chunin stood on a balcony. They barely moved, staying as still as statutes, and keeping alert. Just not alert enough.

 

The four rangers dropped onto the balcony and attacked.

 

Simon bashed a spin kick across a grunt’s head. Blake smashed an uppercut against a grunt’s gut, grabbed the ninja by the back of the head, and slammed his face against the guard rail. Justin snapped a tornado kick across a soldier’s head. Rachel swung her leg through an outer crescent kick that bashed a soldier aside.  

 

“That was easy,” Justin said.

 

“Don’t jinx it,” Simon said.

 

The rangers entered the skyscraper through the balcony and kept to the shadows. They snuck through several corridors, crawled through the ventilation system, and climbed up an elevator shaft.

 

Eventually, the teens dropped into a wide hallway lined with rice-paper walls and doors. Japanese lanterns cast a dim, red hue across the corridor. 

 

“We’re getting closer,” Simon said.

 

The doors suddenly slid open, and a dozen Chunin filed into the hallway with swords and staffs drawn. Blake sighed, and Justin rubbed his eyes with agitation.

 

“I think I’d rather be in Demon City,” Justin said.

 

The Chunin dashed forward to attack, and the rangers charged back.

 

Simon dashed past a Chunin while ducking beneath a sword swing and sweep-kicking the grunt to the ground. He rose to full height just in time to grab a Chunin by the sword arm, smash a punch against the grunt’s chest, and spin forward with a reverse sidekick against the grunt’s face.

 

Chunin armed with double swords surrounded Rachel and swung madly to cut her down. But she moved with fluidity and grace to dodge each blow, while swinging her arms through powerful blocks and parries that smacked against their sword arms and wrists. She bashed her elbow against a soldier, snapped a spin kick across another grunt’s head, and continued her advance.

 

Justin split kick two grunts, and while still off the ground, snapped a front kick upside another grunt’s head. He landed and spun forward with a tornado kick that bashed a Chunin off his feet.

 

Blake grabbed a grunt by the wrist, flipped the soldier to the ground, and slammed a knife-hand chop against the fallen villain’s chest. He dove forward to dodge a sword, then rolled back to his feet and smashed a kick against a grunt’s face.

 

Spawn%20series29_ninja2_photo_01_dpThe corridor suddenly flared with heat, and an explosion burst from the center of the hallway, knocking the rangers back. A demonic figure leapt from the hole in the floor and landed in the corridor. He wore a red mask with black, demonic markings and wore black, leathery armor with a wing-shaped chest piece. The villain had a skull-shaped belt buckle, and a belt of red cloth that matched the wrappings around his head and forearms. The villain carried a massive, curved blade in one hand, and a curved short sword in the other. He was called the Death Hand. 

 

The rangers pulled themselves back to their feet.

 

“We morph for this guy, right?” Justin asked.

 

“Yeah, I would definitely say so,” Simon said.

 

The four rangers armed their bracers.

 

“Senpu…”

 

Gorai…”

 

“Ninjetti Change! Ha!” Energy twirled around them as they morphed into their Ranger forms.

 

Death Hand swung his short sword to emit a twirling blade of fire that exploded around the Rangers as they dove for cover.

 

Navy Thunder and Hurricane Yellow rolled into crouched fighting stances, pounced into the air, and leapt downward while swinging their weapons towards the villain.

 

Death Hand easily parried their blows while swinging his blades through a series of fluid, yet powerful strikes. Hurricane Yellow and Navy Thunder did their best to cut past the villain’s defenses, but Death Hand was clearly a master swordsman, swinging his smaller blade for quick parries and larger sword for powerful blocks. 

 

Death Hand swung his long sword through a wide arc that sparked across the two Rangers and whipped them backward.

 

“Whirling Flame!” Hurricane Red thrust his palms forward, heels together, and hurled a bolt of fire that twirled with wind energy.

 

The blast exploded against the villain with a burst of spark that knocked him through the wall and into the next room.

 

Death Hand immediately rolled back into a crouched fighting stance, and Hurricane Red leapt through the torn wall to attack the villain. The villain energized his short sword with fiery power and hurled the blade through the air.

 

Hurricane Red deflected the blade and landed while chopping his sword towards Death Hand’s head, but the villain’s sword blocked the blow and pushed the Red Ranger back. The villain lunged to his feet and swung a wide swing towards the Ranger, but Hurricane Red spun and swung his sword, batting the larger blade aside.  

 

The Red Ranger stepped close enough to a snap a jumpkick upside the villain’s head and spin forward with a reverse sidekick that smashed against the villain’s chest.

 

Navy Thunder, Hurricane Yellow, and Hurricane Blue moved in from the villain’s sides.

 

“Gyro Blades!” Hurricane Blue snapped a volley of H-shaped throwing stars from her bracer.

 

Death Hand swung his sword to deflect the volley, but his large blade moved too slowly to block all the throwing stars. Blades dinged against his sword and sparked against his armor as he swung the weapon through powerful arcs. 

 

Navy Thunder dashed past Death Hand while swinging his staff across the villain’s side with a burst of spark. Hurricane Yellow dashed past the villain from the other side and swung his sword through a quick strike that sparked against the villain’s armor.

 

Hurricane Red somersaulted through the air and landed while chopping his blade across the villain’s chest with massive bursts of spark.

 

The Red Ranger swung his sword back and stepped forward while swinging a punch. “Whirling Knuckle!”

 

His fist surged with wind energy and bashed against Death Hand’s cracked armor with bursts of spark that tore across the villain’s chest. 

 

Death Hand staggered backward and dropped to his knees. The Rangers would have continued their advance, but dozens of Chunin dropped from the ceiling to surround them.

 

***

 

“Your friends are coming for you,” Chiyome said. “They’re very determined. They must care for you deeply.”

 

Hunter said nothing.

 

Chiyome smirked. “I know what will get you talking again…I have a question for you. Do you honestly believe you’ve gained control of the Ikkazuchi Way? Do you really think that’s something they would allow?” 

 

Hunter narrowed his eyes at Chiyome, and her smile grew wider.

 

“You’re still their pawn, and you don’t even know it,” Chiyome said. “Do you know why? No, I suppose you don’t. They discovered something, about two years ago. They discovered that certain people who possessed remarkable abilities were Gates. Conduits, for powerful creatures to enter our plane of existence and walk upon the Earth. You are one of these Gates.”

 

“I’m not humoring you,” Hunter said.

 

“He speaks,” she said with a smile. “And I am humored.”

 

The rear wall of the garden exploded inward, and the bodies of crimson-clad Chunin flailed into the room. The defeated grunts rained into the pond and through the trees, snapping branches and scattering leaves.

 

Hurricane Red, Hurricane Blue, Hurricane Yellow, and Navy Thunder leapt through the opening and into the garden.

 

“Hunter!” Navy Thunder shouted.

 

Chiyome smiled at the four Rangers. “I’ve been waiting for you.”

 

Hurricane Red aimed his sword at the villain. “You’re way outmatched. Stand down.”

 

“Outmatched?” Chiyome asked. “I suppose that’s true. The Hand have fallen far, when we should have been climbing upward. We’ve lived far below the notice of Rangers and Riders, of grand battles for control of this world. Simple ninpo abilities and basic magicks are of no use in this age.”

 

“It always freaks me out when the bad guys agree with us,” Hurricane Yellow said.

 

“Let today be the day we step onto the larger stage,” she said. “Jonin!”

 

Ryu, New CostumeDozens of ninja dropped to the ground in crouched fighting stances, surrounding the Rangers. The grunts rose to full height and stepped back, holding their swords at the ready. They were no ordinary ninja. They were creatures, their bodies made of black, hardened muscle with red highlights, and their faces twisted upward in demonic grins below empty-black eyes. 

 

“My Jonin are ninja, transformed by black, Shadow Ninpo,” Chiyome said. “Enjoy.”

 

The grunts pounced forward to attack.

 

“You’re pathetic,” Hunter said. “You think you’re a contender just because you have meta-level grunts?”

 

“What I have is an army,” she said. “Why so talkative? Is it because your friends are in danger?”

 

“They can handle grunts,” Hunter said.

 

“Can you?” she asked.

 

Two of the Jonin dropped behind Hunter and slashed open his bindings.

 

Hunter snapped to his feet and armed his morpher. “Ninjetti Change! Ha!”

 

Energy twirled around him as he morphed into his armor.

 

He unsheathed his staff just in time to block a flurry of sword swings from the two grunts. He twirled his staff through several patterns to parry the blows, and he sliced through the grunts with bursts of spark.

 

The Crimson Thunder Ranger turned to face Chiyome, but she was gone.

 

Five more of the Jonin charged at Crimson Thunder. The Crimson Thunder Ranger leapt forward with a flying double sidekick that smashed against a grunt’s chest, and he pushed off, flipping backward and landing while slashing out the legs from under a second Jonin. Crimson Thunder spun to full height while slashing through the remaining Jonin with bursts of spark.

 

Two Jonin dashed past Crimson Thunder with wide strikes that sparked against his armor. The two grunts regrouped, leapt upward, and angled their descent towards the Crimson Thunder Ranger while chopping their swords. The Ranger lifted his staff, blocked their swords, and knocked their weapons aside. He spun with a wide horizontal slash that knocked the grunts back with bursts of spark.

 

A blur of motion suddenly slammed to the ground in the center of the room with a massive shockwave that knocked the Rangers off their feet and sent them skidding across the dirt. The Rangers rose into crouched fighting stances and looked up to see Death Hand standing with his sword held at the ready.

 

The five Rangers regrouped, and more Jonin dropped to floor.

 

“We’re not fighting him,” Hurricane Red said.

 

“Um, yes we are?” Hurricane Yellow said.

 

“No, we’re done,” Hurricane Red said. “Fall back. We need to get Shingen’s daughter and get out of here.”

 

“The windows,” Crimson Thunder said.

 

“Right,” Hurricane Red said. “Rachel, distract the demon-ninja guy. Guys, let’s cut a path out of here.”

 

Hurricane Blue placed her right fist against her left palm and summoned a twirling vortex of hydro energy and water that circled around her like a tornado. She thrust her palms forward, heels together. “Tempest Wave!”

 

The hydro cyclone spun forward and surrounded Death Hand, hacking against his armor with bursts of spark.

 

The other four Rangers dashed forward, swords and staffs spinning and hacking through Jonin, blades clashing against blades, and strikes sparking on impact. Hurricane Blue followed behind, twirling her blade to fight past the remaining Jonin.

 

The Rangers leapt upward and shattered through the window, leaping free from the Hand.

 

***

 

Chiyome stood on top of the Hand’s skyscraper and watched the Rangers leap through the window far below. Two Jonin stood at her side.

 

She watched the Rangers circle back towards the building, more than likely to save Shingen’s daughter.

 

“Let them free the girl,” Chiyome said. “She may be important to my brother’s plans, but my brother’s plans are not important to me.”

 

***

 

Hours passed, and dawn crept across the city’s skyline.

 

The rangers stood in the old pawn shop and watched as Shingen swept his daughter into a tight hug. “Yukio,” he said. “Did those filth hurt you?”

 

“No, father,” she said.

 

The rangers turned and walked away from the pawn shop, their debt paid.

 

“Did anyone else think that was weird?” Justin asked. “The girl wasn’t even guarded.”

 

“They probably didn’t think we would circle back for her so soon,” Rachel said.

 

“No,” Hunter said. “They let us take her.”

 

“How do you figure?” Blake asked.

 

Chiyome and her brother have different agendas,” Hunter said. “She wanted us to escape.”

 

“Then why all the freaky demon ninja?” Justin asked.

 

“A show of force,” Hunter said.

 

“That still doesn’t explain why she let us go,” Simon said. “Any idea what she wants?”

 

Hunter shook his head. “No.”

 

Simon sighed and shook his head. “Well...we can’t worry about it now. We have to get back to the reason we actually came here.”

 

Justin nodded. “Section 31.”

 

“You really think your dad will be there?” Rachel asked.

 

“Only one way to find out.”

 

***

 

Five hooded figures met in the wilderness that night, outside the Ikkazuchi Way in Japan. They stood around a roaring campfire that cast light upon their surroundings, but somehow left their bodies covered in darkness.

 

“Hunter is almost ready,” one of the men said. His name was Daito, of the Ikkazuchi Way. “The power of Shadow churns inside his body.”

 

“He has already cut the rotted wood from the Ikkazuchi,” another one of the men said. His name was Doka. “When he is ready, we will be stronger than ever. The Ikkazuchi will become the power it should have been decades ago.”

 

“Just be sure to remember your allies,” one of the hooded figures said. She lifted her head, revealing the face of Chiyome. “On the day of the Sabbath, the Gates will open, and the Hand will join you in gripping hold of this world.”

 

To be continued…Chapter 15