Ultimate Origins: Chapter Twenty-five

City at War: Sabbath

 

Men and women tried frantically to climb from the pit in the heart of Demon City. They scrambled up walls of rubble but fell, as the eclipse shined down upon them. Crimson light ebbed from the cracks in the pit.

 

Chiyome stood at the edge of the pit along with Hunter, who keeled over and gripped his chest.

 

Nearby, Azmodai and the Black Queen tied Tyler to a pedestal in the center of a demonic engraving. They stood on top of Xanathor’s palace of black stone.

 

Simon and his allies watched the scene unfold from a pile of rubble just within sight. Hordes of fighting villains cluttered their path towards the palace.

 

“OK. Two ceremonies. We stop both,” Simon said.

 

“I’m going after Hunter,” Blake said.

 

“Justin, Rachel, Chalice, go with him,” Simon said. “Me, Zadie, Kou, Ken, and Benjamin will go after the Black Queen and get Tyler.”

 

Justin and Rachel armed their morphers. “Senpu…”

 

Blake armed his morpher. “Gorai…”

 

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

 

Zayden swiped his card through his belt buckler. “Transform.” His belt spoke the command: “CHANGE.”

 

His body rippled as he transformed into Kamen Rider Chalice.

 

Ken and Benjamin flipped their bucklers. “Transform!” Their bucklers spoke the command: “TURN UP.”

 

Their belts emitted card-shaped walls of blue energy that wrapped around their bodies and turned them into Kamen Rider Blade and Kamen Rider Garren.

 

Simon didn’t bother morphing He charged forward with Zadie at his side, and the Rangers and Riders followed.

 

***

 

DECA Red opened fire with his D-Magnums. High-yield bullets ripped through Jonin with bursts of spark.

 

The villain Night Stalker landed behind the Red Ranger and slashed across his back, knocking him forward.

 

DECA Red stayed on his feet and whipped around, opening fire with bullets that Night Stalker batted aside with his sword.

 

The Red Ranger cursed beneath his breath and leapt at the villain with a jump kick.

 

Night Stalker blocked the blow and swung his sword wide. The blade slashed across DECA Red’s armor with bursts of spark and whipped him backward.

 

DECA Red crashed against the ground hard.

 

DECA Break moved towards Night Stalker from behind. The White Ranger armed his Throttle Brace. “Electric Fist!”

 

The Ranger slapped his palm against the ground. Tendrils of electricity lashed from his hand, snaked across the ground, and shot upward towards Night Stalker.

 

The villain leapt from the ground and dashed past DECA Break while slashing his sword across the Ranger’s armor. The blow sparked across the White Ranger and whipped him aside.

 

DECA Break immediately rolled to his knees and looked up to see Night Stalker charge forward.

 

The White Ranger armed his Throttle Brace. “Lightning Fist!”

 

He swung an energized fist through rapid punches that moved through blurs of motion. The punches sparked against Night Stalker’s chest, forcing him back a step with each flurry of blows.

 

Night Stalker managed to grab the last punch, twist the White Ranger’s arm aside, and bash a roundkick against the Ranger’s helmet.

 

DECA Blue, DECA Green, DECA Yellow, and DECA Pink bashed past the Jonin and moved in to help. But Night Stalker dashed through the Rangers, back and forth through blurs of motion, while slashing across their armor, blade sparking with each strike.

 

DECA Red climbed slowly back to his feet. He heard the screams of the Hand’s prisoners as they scrambled to escape the pit nearby.

 

We’re in over our heads this time…He shook his head. No…I’m not going to start thinking that way. Not now. Not ever.

 

The Red Ranger gripped his blasters and charged towards Night Stalker.

 

The villain dashed at DECA Red and swung his sword. But the Red Ranger used one blaster to block the blow, and swung his second blaster towards the villain’s chest. He opened fire at near-point-blank-range, bullets sparking against the villain’s armor and knocking him back a step with each burst. 

 

“Hybrid Magnum!” the Red Ranger combined his two blasters into a mini-rifle. “Fire!”

 

DECA Red triggered a twirling burst of crimson energy that shot towards Night Stalker. The villain leapt aside—but not fast enough. The blast punctured through his upper shoulder with a burst of spark, whipping him backward.

 

The villain crashed against the ground and skid backward. He gripped his injured shoulder. Tendrils of electricity lashed out from the injury. The blast had shot off a chunk of his chest armor. The gaping wound revealed rotting, demon flesh that dripped with black ichor.

 

Night Stalker stumbled back to his feet and leapt away before the Rangers could destroy him.

 

DECA Red regrouped with his team, just as a wave of Jonin rushed towards them.

 

The Red Ranger separated his weapon into twin blasters and took a deep breath. “This is going to be a long day…”

 

***

 

Hunter grasped tightly onto his chest. He breathed deep, despite the pain with each breath.

 

Chiyome looked down at him and smiled. “I know it hurts,” she said. “But once you’ve pushed past the pain, you’ll be reborn.”

 

Hunter clenched his jaw. “I’m…going to kill you…”

 

“No…” Chiyome said. “I’m afraid your situation is hopeless. Deep down, you know that. Give into that feeling. Give into that despair.”

 

A crack formed along Hunter’s skin and glowed with black-purple light. He narrowed his eyes at the wound. “What…?”

 

Chiyome’s smile widened. “It’s almost time.”

 

“Hunter!” Navy Thunder shouted. He knew his brother was still too far away, but he called out the name anyway.

 

The Navy Thunder Ranger dashed towards the pit along with Hurricane Blue and Hurricane Yellow. Kamen Rider Chalice followed as well, but stayed farther back.

 

The villain Death Hand landed in front of them to block their path. The three Power Rangers skid to a halt, but Chalice didn’t even pause.

 

The Rider leaned forward and held his bow-blade back while charging towards the villain.

 

Death Hand swung his sword and hurled a blade of fire at the Rider.

 

Chalice swiped the Eight of Hearts through his rouzer. “REFLECT.”

 

The rouzer emitted a card of energy that splashed across the Rider’s chest.

 

The Rider swung his bow-blade and reflected the energy blast towards Death Hand. The blast slashed against the villain with bursts of spark that knocked him back several steps.

 

Chalice spun past Death Hand and slashed across the villain’s chest with a burst of spark. He turned and swung his bow-blade through several quick and powerful swings that slashed across the villain, sparking on impact. The Rider followed with a sidekick that bashed against Death Hand’s face.

 

The three Rangers moved in to attack.

 

Navy Thunder leapt through the air and smashed a flying kick against Death Hand. Hurricane Blue and Hurricane Yellow moved in low, slashing their blades across the villain with bursts of spark.

 

“Go,” Chalice said to the Rangers.

 

The Rider pushed forward and swung his bow-blade through a series of broad swings and shorter strikes. Death Hand used his short sword to parry most of the blows, but some slipped through and sparked against the villain’s body.

 

Death Hand countered with wide swings from his sword, which Chalice used to his bow-blade to block.

 

“Come on,” Navy Thunder said as he turned towards the pit and ran towards his brother.

 

Hurricane Yellow and Hurricane Blue followed.

 

***

 

The Hand’s prisoners screamed as pain ripped through their bodies. Cracks formed along their skin. The cracks glowed with deep purple light that seared through their souls.

 

The eclipse above burned with pale light.

 

***

 

The stone palace of Xanathor hummed with power. The scar within the palace extended from Earth to Hades. The scar itself was impassable, but still weakened the barrier between the two realms.

 

The Sabbath deepened the scar, further weakening the fabric of reality.

 

“It’s almost time…” Azmodai said as he stood alongside the Black Queen on a demonic engraving. The engraving was etched in a circular pattern across the entire rooftop.

 

At the center of the engraving was Tyler, unconscious on a pedestal of black stone. The rooftop, and pedestal, was directly above the scar within the palace.

 

The members of the Inner Circle stood nearby, as did Zero and Samuel.

 

Samuel knitted his brow with concern. He watched Azmodai slit his hand and drip his blood along Tyler’s forehead.

 

“What is he doing?” Samuel asked.

 

“Don’t ask questions, Sammy,” Zero said.

 

Tyler stirred awake. He tried to move. But iron bindings held him against the pedestal.

 

The Black Queen smiled down at him. “Good morning, my grandchild.”

 

Whgo away!” Tyler screamed as he struggled to break free. “Lemme go!”

 

Samuel stepped into the circle. “You’re hurting him…”

 

“My child,” the Black Queen said. “This is for the best.”

 

“How is this for the best? What are you doing to him?” Samuel asked.

 

The Black Queen looked to Zero. “Zero…take your brother back into the palace.”

 

Samuel opened his eyes wide with shock. “My brother?!”

 

Zero grabbed onto Samuel’s shoulder. “Come on, Sammy…”

 

“Stop calling me that!” Samuel shrugged off Zero’s hand and smashed a sidekick against his chest.

 

Zero glared at his younger brother. “You runt…”

 

He armed his sword and swung the blade through a circle overhead.

 

Samuel armed his sword and swung the blade in a circle overhead.

 

“Zero!”

 

“Garo!”

 

Light flashed around their bodies as they transformed into their wolf-like armor.

 

Zero dashed and tackled Garo, and they shot from the rooftop. They plummeted downward, and Zero slashed across Garo’s armor, whipping him aside.

 

Garo bashed against the side of the palace and slid downward, his armored feet tearing through the palace walls while falling. He pushed off and shot towards Zero.

 

The Golden Knight swung his sword wide. But Zero blocked the blow, and their blades locked as they spun and plummeted downward.

 

Garo kicked against his brother, and Zero crashed against the side of the palace. The Silver Knight kicked against the side of the building, pushed off, and shot towards Garo. He slammed against the Golden Knight, angling their plummet diagonally.

 

They crashed against the ground and skid sideways, ripping up dirt and pavement as they tore across the ground.

 

The two Knights rolled into crouched positions and shot at each other like cannonballs. They crashed against each other with a thundering boom. The impact ignited a shockwave that tore across the ground.

 

***

 

Simon, Zadie, Blade, Garren, and Hurricane Green dashed towards Xanathor’s palace.

 

Kamen Rider Leangle suddenly rushed through the air as if from nowhere and bashed against Simon, knocking him backward.

 

Zadie smashed a kick against the evil Rider and stabbed her dagger against the villain—but the dagger was harmless. Leangle grabbed her by the wrist and tossed her aside.

 

Hurricane Green leapt through the air and chopped his sword at Leangle. Leangle parried the blow and bashed his staff across the Green Ranger’s head.

 

Dragonfly Undead landed alongside the evil Rider and shot through the air to attack Hurricane Green.

 

The Green Ranger pulled a ball out from behind his back. “Sonic Style! Spinning Barrage Jutsu!”

 

He tossed the ball upward as he would a baseball, and the ball created dozens of sonic echoes that dropped in front of the Ranger. Hurricane Green spun like a tornado and swung his holstered sword like a bat to knock the spheres towards the Undead. The sonic spheres exploded against the creature with massive bursts of spark that hurled him backward.

 

Dragonfly Undead crashed against the ground.

 

Kamen Rider Blade tossed an empty card at the Undead. The card sucked the Undead inside and shot back into Blade’s hand.

 

Nearby, Leangle armed his staff and charged at the Green Ranger.

 

Blade stepped between the Ranger and evil Rider and looked over his shoulder. “You guys go…Benjamin and I will hold him off.”

 

Simon looked to Zadie and Hurricane Green. “Come on…”

 

The Rangers and Zadie rushed towards the palace.

 

Leangle lunged at Blade. Kamen Rider Blade blocked several staff swings and smashed a sidekick against the evil Rider’s chest.

 

Kamen Rider Leangle swung, and Blade dodged. Kamen Rider Blade smashed a front kick against leangle and slashed upward with a burst of spark against the evil Rider’s chest.

 

Kamen Rider Garren rolled his hands into fists but hesitated. Was he really ready to fight again?  No…he told himself. But I won’t watch the Undead manipulate anyone else…especially not a kid…

 

Kamen Rider Garren charged at Leangle.

 

Leangle bashed Blade aside and looked towards Garren.

 

“You’re finally back…Garren…” Leangle said as he swung his staff into a defensive stance.

 

Garren leapt with a spinning heel kick towards Leangle. The evil Rider dodged and swung his staff towards Garren. But Garren ducked beneath the swing and smashed a punch against Leangle’s gut. The Rider hopped with a hook kick that smashed across Leangle’s head, whipping his body backward.

 

Leangle crashed against the street and rolled back to his feet.

 

Garren charged forward and swung a punch towards Leangle. But Leangle used his staff to knock the punch away, and he speared the staff against Garren’s chest with a burst of spark, knocking the Rider to the ground.

 

Kamen Rider Garren quickly rolled back to his feet and charged at Leangle. The evil Rider swung his staff, but Garren dodged, slammed an uppercut against Leangle’s side, and bashed a sidekick against the evil Rider’s chest.

 

Leangle staggered back but stayed on his feet.

 

The evil Rider swung his staff, bashed the weapon against Garren’s chest, and used the staff to hurl Garren through the air.

 

Garren arced through the air while pulling out his blaster and firing at the evil Rider. Explosive rounds burst against the evil Rider with sparks, taking him off guard.

 

Kamen Rider Garren landed and opened fire, his bullets sparking against Leangle.

 

Garren flipped open the fan of cards on his blaster. He pulled three cards from the deck: the Five of Diamonds labeled with a whale, the Six of Diamonds labeled with a firefly and the Nine of Diamonds labeled with a zebra. He slid his cards one-by-one through a slit on his blaster. “DROP; FIRE; GEMINI.”

 

The Rider crouched down and held his weapon in front of him. Three cards of energy projected from the blaster and splashed across his armor.

 

Garren sprang through the air, somersaulted forward, and extended both legs as his feet radiated with fiery energy. He split in two, creating an energy duplicate of himself. The two Garrens smashed dropkicks against Leangle with massive bursts of spark that hurled him off his feet.

 

Leangle crashed against the ground hard. The Undead he had under his control fought through the Worms nearby and regrouped around the evil Rider.

 

Kamen Rider Leangle looked to Blade and Garren, and the Undead followed the silent command to attack.

 

Locust Undead, Jaguar Undead, Deer Undead, and Boar Undead charged towards Kamen Rider Blade and Kamen Rider Garren.

 

The two Riders returned the charge.

 

Blade slashed across Locust Undead with a burst of spark and sidekicked the monster backward. Garren blocked a blow from Deer Undead and punched the creature back a step.

 

They fought with renewed fervor. Blade swung his sword through quick and efficient strikes, parrying the Undead’s blows and slashing them with bursts of spark. Garren dodged and blocked, punching the creatures with great force, and kicking them backward.

 

Kamen Rider Garren swiped the Two of Diamonds and Four of Diamonds through his blaster. “BULLET; RAPID.”

 

Kamen Rider Blade slashed the Two of Spades through his sword. “SLASH.”

 

Cards of energy projected and splashed across the Riders.

 

Garren opened fire with energized, rapid blasts that sparked through Deer Undead’s body and knocked the creature off its feet.

 

Blade’s sword energized with blue-tinted power. The Rider dashed past Locust Undead while slashing the creature through the chest with a burst of spark, and then swung a final strike through Jaguar Undead. The two Undead collapsed.

 

Garren turned towards Boar Undead and smashed the handle of his weapon across the monster’s head.

 

Blade pulled three empty cards from his sword holster. He snapped the cards towards the three fallen Undead, and the cards stabbed against their bodies. The cards sucked the Undead inside and shot back into the Rider’s hand.

 

He immediately swiped the cards through his sword slit: “KICK; THUNDER; MACH.”

 

The Rider crouched down as three cards of energy projected from his sword and splashed against his armor. He charged forward through a burst of speed, leapt through the air, and aimed a flying sidekick that crackled with lightning.

 

The kick bashed against Boar Undead with a thundering boom that knocked the monster off its feet. The creature crashed against the ground and tumbled backward, its body smoking from the wound.

 

Blade landed, pulled an empty card from his holster, and hurled the card at the Undead. The card struck the Undead, sealed the creature, and shot back into Blade’s hand.

 

***

 

Kabuto and Gattack didn’t understand the scope of the battle around them. They knew nothing of the Sabbath or Tyler, and they knew nothing of the Hellfire Club.

 

Still, they knew the fight had to be important to attract such a diverse group of heroes. So they fought with all their strength.

 

A group of Worms surged towards them.

 

kabuto-vi-genomyaswormOne of the Worms molted into monster with a bluish-gray-tinted exoskeleton. The creature was the Fire-ant Worm, with claws growing from its wrists.

 

The lesser Worms charged forward to attack while Fire-ant Worm led from behind.

 

Kabuto smashed a trio of punches against a Worm, knocking the creature back. A Worm swung its claws at the Rider, but Kabuto ducked beneath the blow. He rose to full height, bashed the back of his fist across the Worm’s head, and smashed a sidekick against the Worm’s gut.

 

Kamen Rider Kabuto smashed a front kick against a Worm, slammed a back-fist strike against a second Worm, and dodged another Worm’s claws.

 

Three Worms surrounded the Rider. He armed his dagger, blade held downward, and slashed through the Worms one by one with bursts of spark. The creatures collapsed onto the street and exploded with bursts of green flame.

 

Kabuto stalked towards Fire-Ant Worm and the two lesser Worms at the creature’s side.

 

The Rider activated three buttons on his buckler: “ONE; TWO; THREE.”

 

“Rider Kick.” He flipped the kabuto horn on his buckler, which crackled with electricity. “RIDER KICK.”

 

He lunged at the Worms with a spinning inner-crescent kick. Fire-ant Worm grabbed the lesser Worms and pushed them forward, using them as shields. The energized Rider Kick bashed through the creatures with bursts of spark and electricity, and the grunts exploded with green fire.

 

Fire-ant Worm dove into the earth and dropped out of sight.

 

Gattack slashed his blades through a group of Worms and ran to Kabuto’s side.

 

They watched the street ripple beneath their feet as the Fire-ant Worm dug around them.

 

“What’s it doing?” Gattack asked.

 

The ground collapsed, and the two Riders fell into the abandoned sewer beneath the city street. They watched Fire-ant Worm leap from the ground to leave the Riders behind.

 

Gattack intended to follow. He activated three buttons on his buckler: “ONE; TWO; THREE.”

 

The Rider leapt through the opening and somersaulted through the air towards Fire-ant Worm.

 

“Rider Kick!” He flipped the stag horns on his buckler, which crackled with electricity. “RIDER KICK.”

 

Gattack smashed an energized hook kick against the Fire-ant Worm, hurling the creature through the air. The Worm smashed into the pavement and exploded with a burst of green fire.

 

***

 

Garo had lost sight of Zero. And swarms of Worms had turned their attention to the Golden Knight, as had the ninja of the Hand.

 

Garo cleaved through a Worm and bashed the handle of his blade against a Jonin’s head.

 

The knight turned to face a trio of Worms. But three Ikkazuchi ninja dropped onto the creatures while twirling bladed staffs. The staffs hacked through the Worms’ shells, sparking on impact and tearing through the creatures' flesh. The blades splattered dark-green ichor across the scarred streets.

 

Two of the Ikkazuchi leapt from the Worms to attack Garo. The knight swung his sword through a powerful arc that ebbed with golden light, and the blade sliced through each ninja, their blood splashing against the knight's armor.   

 

Garo felt the heat of his armor’s power. The feeling burned through his skin and deep into his soul.

 

I have to power down...he thought frantically. Soul Metal was powerful, but imperfect-- it could only be worn for a short period of time before burning its wearer's soul into nothingness.

 

The knight felt a cold chill, and then a burst of icy energy smashed against his body, knocking him off his feet. Garo crashed against the pavement and skid backward. He rolled into crouched position and looked up to face his attacker: A Death Knight.

 

The Death Knight hurled a bolt of unholy energy that Garo swung his sword to deflect. The Soul-Metal sword slashed through the energy blast with a burst of golden power.

 

Garo swung his sword into a defensive stance and traced his hand along the blade, which started to glow with green flickers of flame. He tried not to let the heat of his armor distract him, despite the searing pain.

 

The Golden Knight swung his sword, firing a blade of green fire that cut through the air towards the Death Knight.

 

The runes on the Death Knight's blade ignited with icy-blue power. The villain charged forward, cut through Garo’s energy blade, and swung his sword towards the Golden Knight's head.

 

Garo swung his blade to block the blow. The Death Knight’s sword clashed against the Golden Knight’s sword with a powerful energy discharge that sparked against Garo’s armor and knocked him off his feet.

 

The Golden Knight crashed against the ground, and his armor powered down with a pulse of golden light.

 

***

 

Simon, Zadie, and Hurricane Green ran into Xanathor’s palace. They moved through the corridors and headed upward, towards the rooftop where the Hellfire Club had Tyler.

 

“Karas!” a voice shouted from the other end of the hall.

 

Hurricane Green turned to see Xanathor standing in the corridor.

 

The Green Ranger looked over his shoulder to Simon and Zadie. “Go. I’ll hold him off.”

 

The two teens said nothing. They ran off, leaving Hurricane Green to face Xanathor.

 

Hmph.” Xanathor said with amusement. “They didn’t even hesitate.”

 

“They have a kid to save,” Hurricane Green said.

 

“Is that what this is about?” Xanathor asked. “Does the inner child in you feel bad for the Oliver boy? There is no ‘inner child’ in you, Karas. You are a spawn of evil.”

 

“I know that,” Hurricane Green said.

 

“Ever since you came here, Karas, you’ve been morphed. In your armor. Why is that?” Xanathor asked.

 

Hurricane Green said nothing as he unsheathed his sword.

 

“You haven’t fully accepted the truth,” Xanathor said. “Not yet. You wear your armor as a last, feeble attempt to grip onto something more noble and good than the darkened husk that you are.”

 

“…I know that too.”

 

Hurricane Green charged forward to attack. 

 

Xanathor thrust his hand forward. His palm fired a bolt of blue fire that sparked against Hurricane Green and whipped him off his feet.

 

The Green Ranger crashed against the ground and dropped his sword.

 

Xanathor walked to the fallen Ranger and lifted him by the neck. The villain bashed Hurricane Green’s head against the wall, then slammed his head against the other wall.

 

Xanathor released his grasp and smashed a kick against the Green Ranger’s chest. The villain’s armored boot sparked against the Ranger’s armor and hurled him down the corridor.

 

Hurricane Green crashed against the ground and skid backward, the impact knocking him out of his armor with a flash of green light.

 

***

 

Chalice bashed a sidekick against Death Hand and slashed upward across the villain’s body, blade sparking on impact. The Rider swung down with a powerful arc that slashed across the creature, then slashed across the villain’s gut.

 

Death Hand staggered backward while grasping his wound.

 

Chalice swiped the Five of Hearts and Six of Hearts through his rouzer: “DRILL; TORNADO.”

 

Two cards of light projected from the weapon and splashed across the Rider’s chest. Chalice crouched down, and as strands of energy circled around him like a cyclone, he leapt upward.

 

The Rider somersaulted through the air and shot at Death Hand with a spinning corkscrew kick. The kick smashed against the villain and hurled him off his feet with massive bursts of spark.

 

The villain crashed against the ground hard as Chalice landed. Death Hand stumbled to his feet and leapt away, as dozens of Jonin turned their attention to the Rider and charged forward to attack.

 

Kamen Rider Chalice kept the soldiers at bay, giving Hurricane Yellow, Hurricane Blue, and Navy Thunder time to dash closer to the crater.

 

A wave of Jonin suddenly dropped to the street to block their path.

 

The three Rangers charged ahead and slashed through the demonic ninja.

 

***

 

Simon and Zadie ran up a stairwell and turned a corner. They stopped in their tracks to avoid falling into the open air. The stairway had led to a massive breach along the side of the palace.

 

Simon cursed beneath his breath. “There’s no time to back-track.”

 

“Unless you’re Spider-Man or something, that’s our only option, blondie,” Zadie said. 

 

Simon looked up along the side of the jagged palace. “No…there are enough footholds. I can jump up.”

 

“You can’t just-”

 

Simon leapt upward, leaving Zadie on the stairwell below.

 

***

 

Azmodai waved his hand across Tyler’s body and whispered an incantation.

 

The demon sensed his son approaching and looked over his shoulder to the members of the Inner Circle. “It seems Simon is anxious for a family reunion. I’m not ready…so deal with him.”

 

The Black Queen stepped to the edge of the palace and looked down. She saw Simon leap upward from foothold to foothold with impressive speed. “He’s coming this way. Rooks…”

 

The Black Rook and White Rook stepped to the edge of the rooftop and looked down. They slapped their hands against the rooftop, and strands of electricity arced from their palms and spread across the rock.

 

Waves of rock crackled with energy and rippled down the side of the palace towards Simon.

 

The teen leapt sideways to miss a wave of rock, but the second wave crashed against his body and knocked him downward.

 

Simon twisted in midair and grabbed hold of the rippling stone. He used his grasp to push upward, leaping back towards the rooftop. He landed against the side of the building, gained a foothold, and leapt higher.

 

The alchemists transmuted the stone wall into spires of rock that shot downward like thick spears.

 

Simon leapt straight upward into the wave of spires. He ricocheted from spear to spear, leaping from spire to spire while gaining momentum.

 

With a final push, he leapt upward with a flying kick that bashed the White Rook from the rooftop. 

 

Simon lunged forward, grabbed the Black Rook in an arm lock, and snapped the arm. The Black Rook screamed, and Simon spun forward with a reverse sidekick that bashed the villain from the roof.

 

“Well…” Azmodai said, impressed. “You are your father’s son.”

 

Simon pounced at Azmodai.

 

The villain extended his hand and gripped Simon in an invisible vice. He smiled wickedly. “Hello, son.”

 

Simon glared at the demon. “Don’t you dare call me that!

 

The teen pulsed with a flare of Kiryoku and broke free from the invisible grasp. Simon landed on his feet, leaned forward, and charged towards the demon.

 

The ranger launched a flying hook kick. But Azmodai merely ducked and sidestepped to gain distance from his attacker.

 

“I am not a fighter…” Azmodai said.

 

“Sucks to be you then,” Simon said. “Whirling Knuckle!”

 

He lunged at Azmodai with a punch charged with Wind energy.

 

Azmodai sidestepped and blocked the blow. He swung his palm forward, and his hand ignited with black flame that splashed across Simon’s chest and pushed him backward.

 

Simon staggered but stayed on his feet as he clutched his chest. He felt the heat of the flame but wasn’t physically injured. “What…”

 

“My Shadow Fire burns the Soul,” Azmodai said. “It’s quite unpleasant. But you’re my strongest child. You can take it…”

 

He thrust his palm forward and fired tendrils of black flame that lashed out as if alive. The fire plunged into Simon’s body and forced him to his knees.

 

Azmodai intensified the Shadow Fire, which ignited through the ranger’s body as he screamed. The heat penetrated the ranger’s skin and bones and burnt his soul, his very life force. He felt as if ice-hot water had poured through his body, washing through his veins. 

 

Simon screamed louder, but the screams were choked by a stream of Shadow Fire that slithered down his throat like boiling oil.  

 

Tyler could see Simon wiggle in agony. The boy cried and screamed, frantically trying to break free from his bindings.

 

The boy’s cries echoed through the air with supernatural force, touching Hunter near the pit of the Hand, Kamen Rider Leangle, and Hurricane Green.

 

***

 

Hunter felt despair threaten to overwhelm him. Cracks of glowing energy webbed across his skin, threatening to tear his soul and physical body apart.

 

He thought of Keiko. He had failed her. Now he had failed his brother. His family name. The legacy of the Ikkazuchi. He had failed.

 

He heard the cries of Tyler Oliver. The cries of a child screaming for his father.

 

“Father…” Hunter whispered. The thought of the twisted man filled Hunter with rage.

 

Then he remembered. Not too long ago, the ghost of their father had nearly driven Blake mad; mad enough to nearly kill Tommy.

 

“You killed her!” Navy Thunder shouted at Tommy and swung his staff through a random, ridged pattern of blows. “You killed Sensei Omino!”

 

Crimson Thunder seemed to notice his brother’s rash actions. And for the first time, he seemed to notice the bladed staff in his brother’s hands. “Blake…that staff, it’s father’s. Where did you…”

 

“He picked me to use it!” Navy Thunder shouted. He swung a flurry of strikes that Tommy blocked.

 

Crimson Thunder lowered his staff with disbelief and watched his brother lunge forward at Tommy. “Blake…father’s dead.”

 

“And I’m avenging him!” Navy Thunder shouted. “He doesn’t think I can, but I’ll show him!”

 

“Blake, listen to me,” Crimson Thunder said. “Father’s gone. He can’t hurt us anymore. We don’t have to live in his shadow or try to live up to his warped expectations.”

 

Navy Thunder screamed and stepped back, swinging his staff into a defensive position. “Get out of my head!”

 

“Blake, he has no power over us anymore,” Hunter said as he powered down his armor. “He can’t hurt you.”

 

His father was gone. He didn’t have to live in the shadow of the man, who was the source of all his pain, all his despair, all his guilt.

 

He heard Tyler cry for his father. A crying boy, screaming for his dad. How often had Hunter heard Blake cry and scream? How often had Hunter wanted to do the same?

 

“Blake, listen to me,” Crimson Thunder said. “Father’s gone. He can’t hurt us anymore. We don’t have to live in his shadow or try to live up to his warped expectations.”

 

He let himself feel the memory again.

 

“Father’s gone. He can’t hurt us anymore. We don’t have to live in his shadow or try to live up to his warped expectations.”

 

Hunter rolled his hands into fists.

 

***

 

Xanathor kicked Kou upside the head. The blow whipped the Ranger backward, and he landed on the ground.

 

“You are, and always will be, a pathetic non-boy,” Xanathor said.

 

Kou heard the cries of Tyler, the cries of a child screaming for his father. He thought of his own father—the real Kou’s father—Shadam, and his fists tightened. That man...that evil man…the only thing real in Kou was the remnant of the non-man Shadam, the blood of a false Gorma. He inherited everything from Kou’s father, all the bile, all the evil—everything that wasn’t human. Everything from the father. Nothing from the mother.

 

“Mother…” Kou couldn’t help but whisper.

 

He heard Tyler cry, and the cries sparked his memories.

 

A young Kou, no older than five, sat on the floor of a strange shrine at night. He cried as his mother held tightly onto his arm.

 

“Let go, momma!” he shouted, unable to understand what was happening.

 

His mother’s face was damp with tears. She was pained by her own grief. Pained by what she had to put her son through. She finished heating an iron stamp with the symbol of the tiger. “I’m sorry, Kou…I must do this…”

 

Kou cried, trying desperately to take his arm away.

 

She burned the tiger clamp onto his arm as he screamed.

 

“Kou!” she shouted, dropping the clamp aside and reaching forward to embrace her son as they both cried.

 

Kou shook his head.

 

“Mother…” he whispered.

 

The ground shook from the battle above. Kou’s mother struggled to keep her balance within the cave. She placed her ring in Byakko’s mouth again. She raised the saber and whispered a spell. Blue light shot from Byakko and blasted through the cave’s ceiling. The resulting rubble knocked Kou’s mother off her feet.

 

Byakko,” she said as she stood and raised the saber again. This time Byakko was struck by blue lightning as she screamed. Then she walked over to Kou with the saber.

 

She placed the saber over Kou, and his body was baptized in the blue energy. As Kou began to float, his tiger brand began to glow, and small explosions rang throughout the cavern and knocked Kou’s mother off her feet.

 

She placed Byakko in the ground and ran over to Kou, hugging him as she screamed his name. More rubble fell as the ground shook with a violent tremor. Her tears fell on his tiger brand, and the brand started to glow blue once more.

 

Kou opened his eyes slowly. “Mother…”

 

“Kou!” they hugged. “Oh my son, I love you so much.”

 

“Mother…” Kou said, holding his mother tight. He was not even sure if she was real or a dream. He did not care.

 

Byakko shouted. “Be careful…the battle outside is…”

 

A violent tremor shook the cave. Rubble fell from above towards mother and son. Kou’s mom pushed her son out of the way as a giant boulder collapsed on the bottom half of her body. Stone continued to fall as Kou ran to his mother’s side.

 

“Mother!” He ran to her.

 

“Get out of here Kou!”

 

“No,” Kou said frantically as he tried to push the boulder off his mom. “You have to get free!”

 

“Kou…you have to go,” she said. “You are the Kiba Ranger…you have to help your friends.”

 

“But mother…”

 

“Please, Kou,” she said. “And please understand, Kou…I was only trying to protect you. You and your brother. I never stopped loving either of you.”

 

Tears streamed down Kou‘s cheeks as he tried to pull his mother free. “Mom…get up…”

 

“Go,” she said as she touched his face. She screamed as more rocks started to fall. She pushed Kou out of the way as a rock wall piled up and separated the mother and son.

 

“Mother!” Kou shouted as he tried to fight against the falling rocks, the ground threatening to shake him off his feet.

 

“Kou!” Byakko shouted. “Where are you Kou!

 

Kou grabbed Byakko and left the cavern. He screamed with anger as tears streamed down his face.

 

Kou rolled his left hand into a tight fist and used his other hand to grab his morpher.

 

***

 

Leangle slashed through a pair of Worms and charged towards the palace of black stone. He needed to recapture the boy. He needed the boy’s power.

 

He heard Tyler’s cries, the screams of a boy shouting for his father.

 

He collapsed to his knees as his mind, his real mind, fought back against the Spider Undead that controlled his body and thought. A powerful memory, buried years ago, tore to the surface.

 

No older than two, Nicolas cried out for his parents from within a dark basement. He screamed frantically, as tears streamed down his cheeks. He wanted his mom. He wanted his dad. He wanted to go home.  

 

Nicolas didn’t understand he was trapped in the basement because of his father. His father and mother had gotten a divorce, and his mother had won custody. Enraged, his father had kidnapped Nicolas and hidden him in a basement for weeks. For weeks, the boy saw nothing but darkness.

 

He was born from that darkness. Born into darkness. That was why the Spider Undead found him to be such an attractive host.

 

One day the doors of the basement opened, casting pale light below. Nicolas squinted into the light to see two policemen who had come to save him. They wrapped him in their arms and carried him up the steps to see his crying mother.

 

He rolled a hand into a tight fist and pulled the Spider Undead card from his buckler, powering down his armor and releasing the control of the Spider Undead.

 

***

 

Kou armed his morpher. Shurikenja ball!

 

Bringing the sphere to chest level, he shouted. “Tenku! Ninjetti Change!” He thrust the sphere forward. “Ha!”

 

Green energy twirled around him like a cyclone as he morphed into the green-and-golden armor of the late Shurikenger. He snapped into a fighting stance. Midori no Kodan! Tenkuninja, Hariken Green, Sanjo!

 

“Found your second wind?” Xanathor asked.

 

“I may not be human,” Hurricane Green said. “I may not be Kou. But I have his memories…his feelings…and that makes me better than you.”

 

“Don’t be so sure,” Xanathor said.

 

“Sure? I’m not that sure,” Hurricane Green said. “Just sure enough to kick your ass. I’m a Ranger. And I’m done with you, Xanathor.”

 

The Green Ranger pressed down on his belt buckle to unhook his golden vest, which crashed against the ground. Face Changee!” The top of his helmet twisted around and changed his visor. “Hariken Green: Faiya Modo!

 

He pulled a small sphere out from behind his back. “Sonic Style! Sound Barrage Jutsu!”

 

Hurricane Green charged the ball with jade-tinted energy and hurled it at the villain. The spinning ball produced dozens of sonic duplicates that exploded against Xanathor with massive bursts of sparks. The blows battered against Xanathor, hammering at his armor and eventually driving him to his knees.

 

***

 

Hunter’s skin returned to normal, the cracks of purple light sealing. He narrowed his eyes. He felt the darkness stir within him, but no longer threatening to burst free.

 

The ranger climbed to his feet and glared at the pit, where the prisoners scrambled to escape.

 

Chiyome opened her eyes wide with horror. “No…you shouldn’t be standing. You can’t be. Jonin!”

 

Three Jonin charged at Hunter.

 

A soldier swung its blade towards Hunter. The ranger grabbed the soldier by the wrist, twisted, and plunged the grunt’s own blade into its gut. Hunter kicked the soldier backward.

 

The ranger dodged the sword swings of two more grunts. He smashed a kick against a soldier’s head and spun forward with a reverse sidekick that bashed the second grunt off its feet.

 

***

 

Nicolas climbed to his feet. The haze over his mind pealed back. He saw clearly, and felt sick. He was free from the Spider Undead’s control but still felt the creature’s influence.

 

The battle raged around him. But he could do nothing. His fear clutched his throat.

 

***

 

Tyler’s cries touched Simon, deep within his soul. But the cries struck chords of darkness only. Anger.

 

Tyler cried for his father. But Simon’s father was what? Man? And demon? The body and mind of his father had died. And the soul of his father had been possessed by the demon trying to kill him. Or maybe bend him? But into what?

 

His mind raced. His heart pounded in his chest. The pain within his body ignited. Simon grabbed hold of that pain and used it as fuel for his anger. His power. 

 

Simon smashed his first against the rooftop. “Whirling Quake!”

 

His knuckles burst with wind energy that tore the roof upward from beneath Azmodai’s feet, hurling the demon backward.

 

“Wind Fire!” Simon thrust a punch that blew a force of wind power, which ignited into flames.

 

The flames splashed against Azmodai and knocked him to the rooftop.

 

The villain laughed and climbed to his feet. “Not this time…” he said. “No, not this time. No last-minute saves. No last-minute bursts of will to turn the tides in your favor. You’ve lost.”

 

He wiped the blood from his lip and flipped the droplet towards Tyler. The blood splattered onto Tyler’s head.

 

As hard as Simon and his allies had fought—they were too late. Golden energy shot from Tyler and stabbed into the skies, aimed towards the eclipse. The energy tore reality and stabbed downward as well, into the scar of Demon City.

 

The scar pulsed with purple-tinted energy that spread through every crevice and crack throughout Demon City, completely covering the war-torn landscape in the center of Angel Grove.

 

Within the pit, the prisoners howled with pain. Cracks of purple-tinted energy spread across their bodies. The energy exploded outward as demons burst through their bodies and souls.

 

The Phantom Demons howled with delight, touching the mortal world for the first time.

 

Chiyome smiled down at them. “Yes…my army. Now the Hand will-”

 

The Phantoms leapt from the pit and scattered haphazardly. They slashed and fought through Worms and ninja, scattering outward from the heart of Demon City.

 

“No…” Chiyome said. “No! I have freed you! Return to me!”

 

She looked to Hunter, who stared aimless at the creatures. “This is your fault! You were to lead them. Without you, they are nothing more than flailing limbs!”

 

She swung a dagger towards Hunter. The teen caught the blade with his hand and glared at her with eyes that were not his own. The blood cut deep into his skin, dripping with blood, but he didn’t notice or care.

 

“I’m stronger than you thought,” Hunter said. “You released a Phantom in me. But I didn’t break. The Phantom is under my control…”

 

“You’re a fool if you truly believe that,” Chiyome said.

 

Hunter morphed without touching his bracer. Crimson fire washed across his body and activated his armor. The armor had the same pattern but with different material, edged plates of metal and steel. The armor looked jagged and evil. 

 

He unsheathed his staff and stabbed the weapon through Chiyome’s chest. He twisted the blade, and she opened her eyes and mouth wide with a silent scream.

 

“You’re right,” Crimson Thunder whispered. “I don’t just forgive you…I thank you.”

 

He pulled his blade free and kicked her lifeless body to the ground.

 

Above, the flare in the skies intensified.

 

The scar of Demon City pulsed with an energy blast that hurled everyone through the air.

 

Nine bursts of shadow power shrieked and flew from the palace. The streams of energy circled the structure with frightening cries that shook the ground and made the heavens tremble. 

 

The clouds parted with a thundering boom, expanding from the palace and circling around with the force of a tornado.

 

Explosions erupted from the earth, hurling concrete and debris in every direction, tearing through the ground and hurling Worms and ninja through the air like rag dolls.

 

Tyler pulsed with a final burst of fiery light, and the shriek of the Phoenix. The blast hurled the Hellfire Club from the palace.

 

The lights died down and everything stopped.

 

Silence.

 

The eclipse ended.

 

Black clouds floated slowly back over Demon City.

 

The skies turned to gray, then back to crimson.  

 

Simon groaned with pain and pushed himself to his feet. He found himself back on the ground outside the palace. Clouds of dust and debris stung his eyes, and smoke singed his lungs. He coughed, covering his mouth.

 

Zadie coughed from the ground nearby. Simon walked to her and helped her to her feet.

 

“What the hell just happened?” he asked.

 

She shook her head, saying nothing. 

 

***

 

Azmodai stood within the cloud of smoke and debris that saturated the air. The Black Queen walked to his side.

 

“I don’t understand…” she said. “The power…where is this power we were supposed to release.”

 

“Released,” Azmodai said. “When the Life Giver created the One Power to bring balance to his creation, he gave life to 13 immortals, Priests of the One Power. When the Dark One Mephisto rose to power to fight against the Life Giver, he took nine Priests under his control. They became the Forsaken. And they learned to serve the Dark One willingly.

 

“The forces of the Life Giver imprisoned the Forsaken before the gods crafted the Wheel of Time. Now…by breaking the First Seal…we have released the Forsaken into this world.”

 

“Then where are they?” the Black Queen asked.

 

“I thought this ceremony would bind them to my control,” Azmodai said. “It should have…”

 

“But it didn’t,” the Black Queen said.

 

“No,” Azmodai said. “But they are free. And this is the first time they’ve touched the Earth since time began. I’m sure they’ll find something to occupy their time.”

 

***

 

Samuel stood hidden behind a corner and watched Azmodai and the Black Queen walk away, along with the Inner Circle and Zero—his other brother, apparently.

 

A part of him wanted to follow. They were his family. His first family.

 

But they had nearly killed or injured an innocent child. How could he trust people like that?

 

He started to look for Simon but collapsed. He felt pain like fire burning from his chest. He narrowed his eyes. What was happening?

 

The young knight slipped from consciousness and collapsed.

 

***

 

“Hunter!” Blake shouted as he, Rachel, and Justin ran towards the Crimson Thunder Ranger.

 

Crimson Thunder stood over Chiyome’s body. He looked to face the rangers, and even through his helmet, his look gave his younger brother chills.

 

Blake narrowed his eyes with concern. “Hunter…what the hell happened?”

 

“The Phantom tried to break me,” Crimson Thunder said. “It almost did. But I didn’t give in to despair. The demon’s in my mind. In my body. But I refused to let it free. I control it now.”

 

Crimson Thunder turned and started walking from the crater.

 

“Hunter, wait!” Blake shouted.

 

Crimson Thunder said nothing. He leapt into the distance, and what remained of the Hand and Ikkazuchi forces followed.

 

***

 

Nat and his teammates regrouped near the scorched, empty crater. The Hand and various evil groups were gone. They looked towards the distance to where the Power Rangers gathered.

 

“Shouldn’t we go say hi or something?” Bridge asked.

 

“No,” Nat said. “We’ve stayed out of their way so far, and it’s worked out well. Well enough, at least.”

 

“Well enough?” Z asked defensively as she looked to the crater. “Our mission failed. All those people…dead. Maybe we could have saved them if the Ranger teams on this planet actually knew how to cooperate to get things done.”

 

“Maybe…” Nat said.

 

“We don’t even know what happened here,” Sky said. “Kruger’s going to want a full report.”

 

Nat shook his head. “Evil won. We lost. End of report,” Nat said. He looked to the crater and felt his guilt swell. “Now come on…let’s go home.”

 

***

 

Kou walked off into Demon City. He didn’t believe he belonged in the evil place anymore. But he didn’t believe he belonged in Angel Grove either.

 

So he walked aimlessly. I have to figure this out…

 

He heard a voice whisper his name in the wind. He looked over his shoulder but saw no one.

 

The voice whispered his name again. “Kou…”

 

Kou could barely hear the voice but thought he recognized it. “Byakko…?”

                                                                       

***

 

Ken handed the Dragonfly Undead card to Zayden.

 

Zayden took the card, his face emotionless. “That’s all I wanted…”

 

He turned and walked away.

 

Benjamin shook his head. “I don’t understand how you trust him.”

 

“I don’t trust him completely…but enough. More so after today.”

 

“Why?” Benjamin asked. “He only helped to get his card back.”

 

“Then why’d he listen?” Ken asked.

 

“What?”

 

“He listened,” Ken said. “When Simon told him to head to the pit, he listened, even though the Undead weren’t anywhere near there.”

 

“Well…” Benjamin hesitated. “Huh.”

 

‘Huh’ indeed,” Ken said. “‘Huh’ indeed…”

 

“What about Nicolas?” Benjamin asked.

 

They looked to Nicolas, who sat on a pile of rubble while rocking back and forth. He’d broken free from the Spider Undead’s control. But the creature still influenced his thoughts and emotions.

 

“We have to find a way to help him,” Ken said. “Somehow…”

 

***

 

Simon clenched his hands into fists as he walked away from Demon City with Zadie at his side.

 

“I couldn’t stop him…” Simon said. “The bastard said he’s not a fighter, but he’s too powerful.”

 

“Then you’ll just have to get stronger,” Zadie said.

 

“That’s so helpful,” Simon said sarcastically. “Thank you.”

 

“I mean it,” Zadie said. “There are ways to become just as strong as he is. You have his blood in you, after all, so it’s wouldn’t be that much of a stretch.”

 

“It sounds like you have something specific in mind,” Simon said.

 

“Wow, pretty and smart,” Zadie said. “I do have something specific in mind. Your daddy’s the first demon, right?”

 

“Apparently, but I wish you’d stop calling him my ‘daddy’,” Simon said.

 

“There’s only one way to beat a demon that strong,” Zadie said. “Find as many lesser demons as you can…and then bind their spirits to your own.”

                                                                

***

 

Tommy collapsed onto the war-torn streets of Demon City with a flash of dark light. His vision blurred slowly back into focus as he pushed himself to his feet. He looked up to see the base of the black-rock palace.

 

Rachel carried Tyler from the exit of the palace, and Justin and Blake walked at her side.

 

“Tyler!” Tommy shouted.

 

He ran to his son and swept him into his arms. Tommy hugged Tyler tightly as the boy sobbed. “It’s okay, I’ve got you…it’s going to be okay…”

 

He looked to Blake, Justin, and Rachel. They each looked tired and defeated. 

 

“What happened?” Tommy asked.

 

The villains—the Hand, the Hellfire Club, Xanathor, the Marauders and the Undead—had survived.

 

Hunter was…something different.

 

Kou refused to leave Demon City.

 

Simon had run off with Zadie.  

 

And the First Seal to the Dark One’s prison was broken, having unleashed a dark force the Rangers didn’t know or understand.

 

“What happened?” Blake asked. “We lost. We lost big time.”

 

THE END

 

… New Generation will continue in Year Three