Ultimate Legacy: Chapter Eight

Brushstroke

 

Simon narrowed his eyes at the Dark Man: Death.

 

"Is this some kind of joke?"

 

"It's no joke, I assure you. Why do you think I was able to so easily bend the forces of good and evil to my whim? Death motivates all things," the Dark Man said. "You are the first to learn my secret."

 

"That you're...Death," Simon said. "You expect me to believe that?"

 

"It's not quite that simple." The Dark Man waved to the other side of the table. "Please...have a seat."

 

Simon knitted his brow and sat at the table. "You have 30 seconds..."

 

The Dark Man smirked. "I have as long as I wish, young Ranger," the Dark Man said. "Were you ever curious as to the source of my motivation?"

 

"Can't say I gave it much thought," Simon said.

 

"Before time and space, I existed as a mann, the son of an immortal Priest of the One Power. A Dragon Knight," the Dark Man said. "Even then I became weary of war and destruction. And eventually...I became a pawn. The Priests used me in their fowl games. I killed most of my comrades. And then...the Forsaken killed me."

 

"Too bad that didn't stick," Simon said.

 

"Indeed," the Dark Man said. "When I awoke from my apparent demise, the Wheel of Time had started to turn. I found myself at the beginning of the first universe. It was eventually destroyed, and a new universe born, as the gods played their games with the mortals. I watched this happen again and again, a universe born, a universe destroyed, an endless cycle. Can you imagine what that was like?"

 

"I'm missing the part where this makes you Death," Simon said.

 

"Of course..." the Dark Man said. "Before time and space, when the Forsaken sought to corrupt me, they exposed me to higher planes of awareness. Even then, entropy started to drive existence, and the chief forces of entropy were war, famine, pestilence and death: Unintended consequences born from the nature of existence itself.

 

"Much as the Creator developed awareness, so did the primal forces of entropy. Death found in me, a powerful soldier. A servant. You could call it a possession or a merger...but when I wielded the powers of the Green Dragon Knight to betray my allies, I wielded the powers of Death itself.

 

"And when I awoke within the first universe, I awoke as Death. The embodiment of Death. Unable to end my own life, doomed to watch the destruction of countless others.

 

"You see...the gods were clever when they started the Wheel of Time. They wove me and the other horsemen into the very pattern of existence, so we would remain the driving forces of each and every universe created and destroyed.

 

"The gods...doomed me to this existence. And I hate them for it. I want nothing more than to end this cycle and start anew, in a world without endless suffering, without endless pain, and without...death."

 

"Why tell me this?" Simon asked.

 

"Because you want the same thing," the Dark Man said. "You've felt the torment of the mortal realm, and you want its cycle of endless suffering to end. Think of the pain you've experienced in just two decades. Imagine that pain magnified throughout countless eons. I have felt such pain...and I carry it with me."

 

"What do you want?" Simon asked.

 

"As the Horseman of Death, I am bound by the Wheel of Time and its rules. That's why I sought Tommy, one who could break free from the strings of Fate. You interest me for the same reason. You have the blood of the First Demon and the First Angel, a unique convergence that gives you the power to defy Fate. You can use that power to protect this universe, as your mentor did. Or you can use that power to end this universe and create something better, where all your friends and family can be reborn."

 

"You realize that sounds insane..."

 

"Even to one who has fought his way through the Nine Circles of Hell?"

 

Simon looked away. "Even if I have that kind of power..."

 

"You do. And here is what I propose." The Dark Man placed his slender, silver blade, the Kuroryuken, onto the table. "Take my sword. And join the Forsaken."

 

"Are you serious?"

 

"Always," the Dark Man said. "I want nothing more than to see their plans fail. I hate them all, and if they release the Dark One, I fear he will create something even worse than this accursed Wheel of Time."

 

"Then why join them?" Simon asked.

 

"So you can help them break the Fifth Seal to the Dark One's prison." The Dark Man lifted his hand before Simon could speak. "Barriers prevent the gods from entering the mortal plane. They can manipulate. Scheme. Influence. But they cannot actually touch your world. If the Fifth Seal breaks, those barriers fall."

 

"Then what?" Simon asked.

 

"Then the gods and angels come to Earth," the Dark Man said. "And to end their games, you kill them all."

 

***

 

Mat blinked twice, speechless. Mostly. "Jesus Christ," he cursed. "No more Time Shards. I'm done. What the hell? Breaking Seals? Killing gods? No wonder reality broke."

 

"Calm down, Mat," Kym said. "We have to see how this plays out."

 

"We know how this plays out," Mat said. "N'Ma killed, Fifth Seal broken, green light for Armageddon."

 

Kira shook her head. "It can't be that simple..."

 

"Why not?" Mat asked.

 

Tyler stepped in. "Because it never is..."

 

***

 

Simon agreed to the Dark Man's terms. The former ranger crouched on a rooftop, closed his eyes, and reached out to the Astral Plane. He thought of Moridyn, a Forsaken, and tried to call for him. Signal him.

 

He didn't need long.

 

A line of silver light split through the air and turned to reveal a glass-like portal. Moridyn stepped through the gateway.

 

"Simon..." he said as he adjusted his cufflinks. "I can't say this is a surprise."

 

Simon stood and faced the Forsaken. "No?"

 

"No," Moridyn said. "You have learned the inevitable truth: That this world's failure is a certainty."

 

"That's right..." Simon said.

 

Moridyn smiled and placed a hand on the former ranger's shoulder. "Are you ready to join me, Simon? As a comrade? A brother?"

 

Simon shrugged off the Forsaken's hand. "To join you...but not as a brother."

 

"Very well," Moridyn said. "You are now the same as I…Forsaken."

 

***

 

Mikhail placed his hand over a map. His palm glowed with golden light, illuminating the dark warehouse. He stood alongside his unlikely comrades: Samuel, Eiji, Ryan, Zadie and Shirogane.

 

“This is worse than I feared…” he whispered.

 

“Always a good sign,” Eiji said sarcastically.  

 

“Simon has already encountered Death. And now…I can no longer sense the horseman’s presence. He has gone back into hiding…” Mikhail said.

 

“What does that mean?” Samuel asked.

 

“I do not know,” Mikhail said. “Death is the most powerful of all the horsemen, his energy immeasurable. He is limited only by the Wheel of Time, the same as a painter is limited by his canvas.”

 

“What makes him so special?” Eiji asked.

 

“He’s had the ability to interact with the mortal plane directly, since the birth of the first universe,” Mikhail said.

 

“So how do we stop him?” Shirogane asked.

 

“Wait a minute…” Ryan said as he glanced at Shirogane. “Why are you even here, again? We wouldn’t be in this mess if you hadn’t killed Simon in the first place.”

 

“I have told you, my actions were not my own,” Shirogane said.

 

“Which is why we shouldn’t trust you,” Ryan said.

 

“Boys,” Zadie chided. “Life’s easier when you don’t trust anybody. Move on.”

 

Mikhail shifted his palm across the map. “I should be able to pinpoint Simon’s whereabouts, as his energy grows stronger.”

 

“How much stronger are we talking about?” Samuel asked.

 

Mikhail looked up silently. His cold, golden stare said it all.

 

***

 

Simon cursed beneath his breath as he leapt across the rooftops. "Forsaken. What does that even mean?"

 

“Pointless titles,” DaiShi answered in his mind. “For pointless creatures. They are nothing compared to the Heir of the Mogralord.”

 

"Isn't that another title?"

 

“It is a birthright.”

 

"Sounds like another title."

 

“...you are lucky we still need each other, mortal.”

 

"Actually, I could do without you."

 

The demon laughed, a rumbling noise within the former ranger's soul.

 

Simon landed on a ledge and looked down, to where the Mystic Rangers battled Koragg.

 

The former ranger narrowed his eyes. "That's him. Koragg..."

 

“The Wolf Knight,” DaiShi said. “His magick can send you back into the Pit.”

 

"I spent a year getting out of there..."

 

“This is different,” DaiShi said. “This is not death. This is travel. A journey the knight makes every day. You would simply be a passenger.”

 

"And why the hell would he take me along?"

 

“You are of the Forsaken,” DaiShi explained. “The Chosen of the Dark One. Do not be surprised if he bows and kisses your feet.”

 

"How will he know that?"

 

“You have been gifted by Moridyn's touch,” DaiShi said. “He will know...”

 

***

 

Simon followed Koragg into the woods after the knight's battle. The villain placed his sword and shield over his chest and started to whisper an incantation to re-enter Hell.

 

Simon interrupted. "Koragg!"

 

The knight lowered his arms and looked over his shoulder. "What are you...?"

 

"Someone who needs a ride," Simon said.

 

Koragg turned to face his potential opponent. "You reek of Ranger magick. As well as something...darker."

 

Simon shifted into his Shaded form, with skin and hair chalk-white, and eyes solid black except for red irises. "I'm Forsaken..."

 

Koragg tilted his head with disbelief. "Forsaken are immortal, older than time. You...I sense...are not."

 

"But I've been touched by Moridyn..." Simon armed his black katana with a flash of dark light. He stepped closer to the knight. "Go ahead. Have a peak. See for yourself."

 

Koragg lifted his hand. But before he could reach out with his senses, sparks exploded around him.

 

Suddenly, Samuel, Ryan, Eiji, Shirogane and Zadie jumped into the woods.

 

Simon scoffed with annoyance. "Seriously, Sammy? What part of 'leave me alone' does your wolf brain not understand."

 

Samuel lifted his sword towards his brother. "Mikhail told us everything. You're a Forsaken now?! Tell me it's a joke."

 

"You're the joke," Simon said. "Now do you mind? I'm trying to have a conversation with my new friend Koragg, here."

 

"I am not your friend," Koragg grumbled.

 

"Not helping, Barney," Simon said.

 

Samuel narrowed his eyes. "I'm giving you one more chance, Simon. Come with us. Let us help you. You've been through Hell...literally...that's not something you have to go through alone."

 

"Who says I'm alone?" Simon shifted stances. His white, bone-like, Gorma mask formed over his face. He growled with the voice of DaiShi.

 

Samuel circled his blade through a ring of energy overhead, and snapped his sword to his side.

 

"Garo." The golden armor of Garo clamped around his body.

 

Ryan flipped open his Faiz Caller and pressed the "5" key three times: "STANDING BY."

 

"Awaken." He snapped the caller into his buckler; red energy flashed around his body as he transformed into Kamen Rider Faiz: "COMPLETE."

 

Eiji flipped open his wrist bracer. "Overdrive! Start up!"

 

Energy flashed around him as he morphed into Titan Silver.

 

Zadie sighed and shifted stances. She hated transforming with the use of her new power. Reluctantly, she sparked her virtual energy and shifted into the armor of the Red Python.

 

Shirogane shifted into his Shaded form, with chalk-white hair and skin, and solid black eyes except for silver irises.

 

Simon and Koragg shifted into defensive stances.

 

"Well..." Simon said with fake amusement. "Aren't we a fun little group."

 

Garo shot at his brother through a streak of golden energy. Simon swung his black katana and parried, knocking the Golden Knight aside.

 

Shirogane leapt at Simon from behind; Simon snapped around with a hook-kick that bashed Shirogane from the air.

 

Shirogane landed in a crouched stance and skid backward from the force of the blow. He looked up and glared at his former comrade and leader.

 

"Stop fighting, Simon. You saved me from evil once. Let me do the same for you," Shirogane said.

 

"Evil? What's evil about wanting an endless cycle of pain and suffering to end?" He thrust his hand with a TK burst that hurled Shirogane off his feet.

 

Garo dashed to attack with a wide swing of his sword. Simon blocked and side-kicked his brother with a burst of spark.

 

Nearby, Koragg lunged to join the battle. But Titan Silver blocked his path. The Silver Ranger spun with an upward swing of his staff. Koragg blocked with his shield, sparking on impact, and chopped his sword towards the Silver Ranger's head.

 

Titan Silver side-stepped and stabbed Koragg's gut with a burst of spark.

 

"You're kind of clumsy." Titan Silver hopped forward with a chop of his staff.

 

Koragg energized his blade and swung through a streak of purple energy, slashing Titan Silver with bursts of spark that hurled him through the air.

 

"Clumsy?" Koragg asked. "Your power is-"

 

Kamen Rider Faiz lunged to attack with a flurry of punches. Koragg lifted his shield to block the blows; each punch forced him a step backward.

 

Faiz snapped a side-kick that knocked the shield from Koragg's hand. Koragg stepped back and swung wide; Faiz ducked and gut-punched Koragg.

 

The Wolf Knight grumbled with annoyance. "You are an irritant."

 

"I've been called worse." Faiz punched Koragg in the faceplate.

 

The villain staggered backward.

 

Red Python leapt from the side and tossed her daggers through streaks of crimson energy. The blades struck Koragg with bursts of spark that whipped him off his feet.

 

Meanwhile, Simon and Garo circled one another. Their blades clanged with bursts of spark as they slashed and parried, blocked and countered. Simon smirked the whole time, and his arrogance only annoyed the Golden Knight.

 

"I thought watching you die was the worst thing that could have happened to me..." Garo said. "I was wrong."

 

"Cry, you'll get over it," Simon said with a wide swing of his sword.

 

Garo blocked; the impact sent him staggering backward.

 

"Dammit, Simon!" Garo shouted as he chopped his blade. "Snap out of it!" He slashed again. "You say you're so sick of pain and suffering...what do you think it is you're causing!"

 

"You've thought it yourself." Simon slashed Garo with a burst of spark. "You've wished the world had a reset button."

 

"Not literally!" Garo lunged with a chop Simon blocked.

 

"You're being too small-minded to understand." Simon parried and kicked Garo backward.

 

From behind, Shirogane leapt back to the scene and lunged at Simon with a diagonal swing. Simon caught the sword and hurled the former ranger overhead.

 

"Why won't you all just stay away..." Simon said. DaiShi shouted in his mind: “Do not try to reason with them! They are no longer your friends! Slaughter them all!”

 

Nearby, Faiz charged towards Koragg. The villain swung his blade through swift and powerful strikes the Rider dodged.

 

Kamen Rider Faiz darted forward, side-kicked the villain, and pommeled the Wolf Knight’s chest with volleys of punches.

 

Koragg regained his footing and swung upward, slashing the Rider with a burst of spark that whipped him off his feet.

 

Faiz rolled into a crouched stance and pulled his Exceed Barrel from his belt. He snapped the barrel onto his ankle: “EXCEED CHARGE.”

 

Red energy glowed from the barrel and spread across the red line of the Rider’s leg.

 

Faiz crouched, leapt forward, and somersaulted through the air while aiming a flying kick towards Koragg. A cone of digital energy formed around the Rider’s leg and aimed at the Wolf Knight

 

The energized kick smashed against the villain with a massive burst of electricity and fire that hurled him through the air.

 

Koragg crashed and skid across the ground, tearing through dirt.

 

The villain muttered curses as he climbed to his feet. He barely had a chance to switch stances before sparks exploded against his armor. Koragg looked ahead to see Titan Silver charging with his Drive Detector in Sniper Mode.

 

The Silver Ranger shot into the air and aimed downward. "Sniper Mode! Silver Blast!"

 

He triggered a massive spear of pale blue energy that stabbed the knight with massive bursts of spark, sending him staggering backward.

 

"Drive Detector! Spear Mode!" He snapped his weapon into a staff and landed with a chop Koragg parried.

 

Titan Silver hopped backward to gain distance. "Drive Detector! Silver Slash!"

 

He spun and swung wide, firing a blade of silver energy.

 

Koragg formed a magick circle beneath his feet and dropped through, vanishing back into Hell, as the blade passed through the air.

 

Titan Silver cursed beneath his breath. 

 

Meanwhile, Garo and Shirogane darted towards Simon. The Forsaken swung wide, firing a blade of black energy tinted crimson. The blast smashed Shirogane and Garo, hurling them through the air.

 

Samuel crashed with a pulse of golden light that powered down his armor.

 

Simon leapt through the air, angled his descent towards his brother, and landed with a chop of his sword. Samuel lifted his weapon; their blades clashed as Simon pressed downward and clenched his jaw.

 

Samuel narrowed his eyes. "Is this what it's come to? You going to kill me, brother?"

 

"It wouldn't matter if I did..." Simon said. "You could come back, into a world where death doesn't exist, where you, and everyone I cared about, are alive and at peace. No more pain. No more suffering. Just peace."

 

"You're insane!" Samuel shouted. "Snap out of it!"

 

"There's nothing to snap out of!" Simon shouted as he pressed his blade down harder. "This isn't a spell. This is me!"

 

Suddenly, wooden stakes shot through the air and stabbed into the ground, forming a ring around Simon and his brother. The stakes crackled with electricity that blasted Simon off his feet and hurled him through the air. The former ranger crashed against a tree and dropped to the ground.

 

Slowly, he climbed to his feet and looked up to a face a squad of Night Troops arrive on the scene.

 

"Back up?" Simon asked. "You brought back up? Really?"

 

The Night Troop Gen dashed forward and swiped his claws. Simon blocked and kicked the soldier upside the head.

 

Crescent energy blades shot towards the former ranger, but he slashed them aside, just as the Shaded named Gavin flash-stepped towards him from behind. Simon snapped around with a hook-kick, bashing Gavin's face and whipping him backward.

 

"This is pathetic," Simon said as he stabbed his black katana into the ground. "I don't want to fight you...any of you! I'm trying to end this!"

 

He unsheathed the sword of the Dark Man, the Kuroryuken, and flared with jade energy. His eyes flashed with green light; Simon reached for the powers he siphoned from the Horseman of War. Molten, fiery power glowed from beneath his skin.

 

"I never wanted this..." he whispered as he chopped the ground with a massive shockwave, carrying the force of several bombs. The blast hurled everyone through the air.

 

Simon shifted his grip on his sword, but before he could launch a follow-up attack, he felt a wave of vertigo and fatigue from the use of his heightened power. DaiShi screamed in his mind to hold on. But he collapsed and slid from consciousness.

 

***

 

Months ago, the Night Troops established a compound in Kansas to act as a U.S. stronghold.

 

There, Samuel and the others locked Simon in an iron, underground bunker. Symbols and ruins covered the walls, serving as wards to block all types of energy, from demonic and angelic, to channeling and Ranger powers.

 

"Fancy..." Ryan said as he felt the hinges of the door. "Why haven't we made something like this before?"

 

"We didn't know how," Samuel said. "Not before Mikhail..."

 

Mikhail entered the hallway and walked towards the two young men. "We have to act quickly...I don't know how long the power of these runes will be able to contain him..."

 

"What is it we're supposed to do, exactly?" Ryan asked.

 

"Simon's mind must heal from the scars of Hell," Mikhail said.

 

"But how?" Samuel asked.

 

"I..." Mikhail hesitated. "I do not know. It may not even be possible."

 

"That's reassuring," Ryan said sarcastically. "Thanks."

 

***

 

Hours passed. Simon paced back and forth within the bunker. He rolled his hands into fists and tightened with frustration. "Do they really think they can lock me up?"

 

He tried to channel The Power, but couldn't reach it. Nor could he tap into the power that churned within his own blood.

 

“Sorcery!” DaiShi howled from within his mind. “Only ancient magick from before space-time itself could create binding spells such as this!”

 

"Mikhail..." Simon said. "Cute."

 

Suddenly, light flared with intense brilliance that forced Simon to his knees. The doors opened, and Samuel stepped into the chamber. Simon tried to pounce, but the light pinned him down.

 

The former ranger cursed beneath his breath. "Heya, Sammy. Nice trick."

 

"I didn't want to do this..." Samuel said.

 

"I didn't want a lot of things," Simon said. "Shit happens."

 

Samuel stepped closer and pulled a needle from behind his back. 

 

Simon narrowed his eyes. "A needle? Are you freaking kidding me?"

 

"It's the blood of a holy man," Samuel said. "A priest. We're running low on options here...so we'll keep trying until something works."

 

"That has to be the lamest-"

 

Samuel plunged the needle into Simon's neck and injected him with the blood. The knight whispered an exorcism spell, and Simon felt the blood burn through his veins.

 

The former ranger collapsed onto his side. "Cute..." he growled between his clenched jaw. "Real cute."

 

"I'm sorry..." Samuel said. "One of us will be right outside. Just try to..." He shook his head. "Just try to come back."

 

Samuel stepped outside and closed the door behind him. The light dimmed, and Simon climbed back to his feet. "We have to get out of here..."

 

“Agreed. But these runes are too strong.”

 

"You're the Big Bad Heir of the Mogralord," Simon said. "The Great Beast of Hell. Do something...beasty."

 

“My powers are as blocked as yours.”

 

"Yet you're talking to me..." Simon said. "Maybe there's some type of astral loophole we can-"

 

Suddenly, sharp pain stabbed through Simon's head, and he collapsed. "What the-"

 

“You were supposed to be a hero,” a voice whispered. Simon looked up to face a 10-year-old version of himself. “We wanted to save people. Save everyone.”

 

Simon cursed beneath his breath. “I still do…”

 

Young Simon narrowed his eyes. “No. You don’t. Look at you…You’re a monster! The Rangers would never-”

 

“Stop being naive!” Simon shouted to his younger self. “Good and evil. Black and white. The world isn’t like that. It’s…pain. That’s all there is.”

 

“That’s what you’re causing,” young Simon said. “What would Tommy-”

 

“Stop it!” Simon shouted as he tore through the hallucination. He breathed heavily as his heart pounded in his chest. “That wasn’t…That wasn’t real.”

 

“Of course not, mortal,” DaiShi whispered. “Your human mind plays tricks on you.”

 

Simon cursed beneath his breath. “We’ve got to get out of here…”

 

***

 

Visions and ghosts of the past assaulted Simon. They berated him. Mocked him. Tried to widdle him down to nothing.

 

Simon curled up against the wall, lowered his head, and smirked.

 

“Astral magick…” he whispered at the realization.

 

Almost all magick came from the One Power, the driving force of the Wheel of Time, an ocean of energy that permeated all reality. Demonic energies split from the One Power like streams, as did holy energies.

 

Cosmic Power predated the One Power; cosmic beings such as the Phoenix, the Heavenly Saints and the gods wielded this ancient energy, the power of creation itself.

 

The bunker blocked these energies. But the Astral Plane existed as something separate, a plane of reality all its own, meshed with the mortal realms, and all the realms of the universe. A strong enough mind could alter its perception enough to enter the Astral Plane without the aid of the One Power or Power Cosmic.

 

Simon couldn't call on the core of his power. But he could reach out with his mind. He could sense Samuel and Ryan outside the cell. He could feel Mikhail and the others upstairs. And, as he turned his attention downward, he could feel the pits of Hell.

 

"Perfect..." he whispered.

 

***

 

Simon extended his astral form into Hell. There, he moved through the circles with ease and entered the Ninth Circle, where N'Ma stirred. Shadows surrounded the former ranger, and blue eyes burned from that darkness.

 

"So..." Lucifer whispered. "You have returned..."

 

"More or less," Simon said. "You never told me you were all globbed together with every god of the underworld from every mythology."

 

"I told you...my prison was not my own."

 

"Right," Simon said.

 

He parted the fog, and below, he saw boiling red pits. Massive stalactites and stalagmites extended from above and below, and the stones glowed with orange power.

 

Simon descended into the pits, hidden below the Great City of Hell itself, near the very core of Hades.

 

The former ranger landed near a bright red pool. Within, the Life Force of N'Ma stirred.

 

"Hey there, little guy..." Simon said as he reached out his hand. "I need the Fifth Seal to break...that means I need you to come out and play."

 

"Ranger!" a voice shouted from behind.

 

Simon turned to see Koragg stalk towards him. The former ranger narrowed his eyes. "Koragg...are you still relevant?"

 

"Step away from the pit," Koragg said. "I will be the one to release N'Ma. I was forged to be the Dark One's sword..."

 

Simon sighed. "I just...Really? Come on."

 

Koragg lifted his sword.

 

Simon shook his head. "No. I'm really not in the mood."

 

The Wolf Knight charged to attack.

 

Simon grumbled beneath his breath and summoned his black katana with a burst of dark light.

 

Koragg lunged with a powerful chop.

 

Simon lifted his hand and suspended the Wolf Knight with a net of TK energy.

 

"Do you have any idea how useless you are?" Simon asked. He tightened the net, cracking Koragg's armor as he growled with anger and pain. "Seriously, why are you even here?"

 

"I serve...the master..." Koragg grumbled.

 

Simon scoffed and shook his head. "You're all the same."

 

He thrust his hand and hurled Koragg backward. The Wolf Knight crashed and skid across the ground. 

 

Slowly, the villain climbed to his feet. "I am of the Twilight's Hammer..." he said with grim determination. "I am the weapon of the Dark One. I was forged in flame. Forged in darkness. And you would call me nothing?!"

 

The Wolf Knight's body trembled with rage. Suddenly, red light flared from the damage in his armor. The light sealed the cracks and covered him completely. Then, with a final pulse of crimson energy, Koragg stood with his armor converted into a suit of red and gold.

 

Simon knitted his brow. "I recognize that energy. You're Tommy's son...but not. Like a shadow of a person..."

 

"No!" Koragg shouted. "Mystic Red is the Pretender!"

 

The villain shot through a streak of red energy and clashed against Simon, their swords sparking on impact. Koragg poured black and crimson energy into his blade, and Simon did the same. The former ranger's eyes flared with dark light, and Koragg's visor flared with crimson energy.

 

Simon smirked at the sight of Koragg's struggle. "You really want to do this? You really think you can take me?"

 

Koragg reached for his power, the true power of his birthright. He ignited with energy that shook the cavern, knocking himself and Simon off their feet. Their combined energy misfired and blasted into the pool of N'Ma. The pool crackled and rippled, singed with the energy of the Son of the Dragon, along with the Child of the First Demon and First Angel, Heir of the Mogralord.

 

The pool ripped apart.

 

And N'Ma rose.

 

***

 

Simon's body flared with crimson light, singing the runes from his prison and blasting the door from the bunker. Samuel and Ryan started to rush towards him, but he blasted them with TK energy that hurled them down the corridor.

 

"I warned you to stay away, Sammy," Simon said. "Now it looks like you're going to get a front row seat."

 

Simon flash-stepped out of the compound and rushed towards the site of the Apocalypse.

 

***

 

The images shifted to N'Ma rising above a Middle Eastern city. His arrival tore through the fabric of space, with fracturing rifts of green energy that poured demons across the streets.

 

The fissures stretched for several blocks as citizens screamed and ran with panic.

 

Tyler and the rangers watched Tommy Oliver run to the scene, quickly joined by Adam Park, Rocky DeSantos and Jason Scott. They battled the demons, until eventually, Simon arrived.

 

Tommy broke away from his comrades and faced Simon alone.

 

***

 

Tommy and Simon faced each other on a rooftop.

 

"Simon..." Tommy said. "I'm glad you're alive..."

 

"Are you?"

 

"What kind of question is that?" Tommy asked. "Of course I am. That doesn't mean I exactly prove of your lifestyle choices. What you've been doing..." Tommy shook his head with disappointment. "It has to stop."

 

"Funny you should say that," Simon said as unsheathed his silver sword, the Kuroryuken.

 

Tommy narrowed his eyes at the sight of the weapon, which he recognized immediately. "That sword..."

 

"It's the Dark Man's," Simon said. "Death's."

 

"Death?" Tommy asked. "What are you saying?"

 

"That the Dark Man is the embodiment of Death. Who knew, right?"

 

"How did you get that?"

 

"He gave it to me," Simon looked along the edge of the blade. "I can't say I like the guy...but he has nice taste in swords."

 

"You can't listen to anything he has to say Simon," Tommy said. "He'll try to manipulate you. Use you."

 

"He already has," Simon said. "That doesn't mean I can't use him too." The former ranger pointed his sword towards the distance. "I'm the one that helped N'Ma get lose. And when your little Mystic Ranger team kills him? They're in for a surprise. See...N'Ma isn't a monster. He's a mesh of every God of Hell from every mythology, ever. When he dies...the Hell Gods get lose. And then I'll kill them all."

 

Tommy knitted his brow. "What the hell happened to you?"

 

"Hell happened to me," Simon said. "I'm just doing what you couldn't, Tommy. You had your chance to make everything right...and you past it up. You weren't willing to cross the line. But I am. Because I've seen things way worse than petty, morale dilemmas."

 

"Simon..." Tommy started to say.

 

Then he heard N'ma roar in the distance. He knew he didn't have much time, so he leapt from the rooftop and dashed towards the scene of the Mystic Rangers' battle with N'Ma.

 

***

 

Again, the images changed. Tyler and the rangers saw the Mystic team defeat N'ma, releasing the Hell Gods, and causing countless angels to fall from the Heavenly Realms.

 

The vision zoomed in on Tommy, who had regrouped with Adam on a rooftop.

 

***

 

Tommy and Adam watched comets streak from the skies. Falling Angels, they crashed across the city, and the entire planet. The barriers weakened between Hell, Earth, and the Heavenly Realms, allowing the gods to set foot in the mortal world for the first time.

 

Adam shook his head with disbelief. "Is this the end...? I can't accept that."

 

"No..." Tommy said. "It's not the end. Not yet."

 

"You sound so sure," Adam said.

 

"I am..." Tommy said. "Because I just realized something. I told you about that vision I've been having ever since the Second Countdown to Destruction. The world unraveling, a kirin destroying everything. I thought that represented Billy...and I still do. But I also saw, in the middle of all that destruction, a red star circling a green star."

 

"What do you think that means?" Adam asked.

 

Tommy swallowed the lump in his throat. "I think it means...when the end comes...I'm going to have to face Simon. I think I'm the red star. And he's the green.”

 

***

 

The images ended as the Time Shard dimmed. Tyler and the rangers stumbled within Gao Rock and nearly collapsed.

 

"OK..." Mat said. "That was intense."

 

"What happened?" asked young Simon, at an age before he ever became a Hurricane Power Ranger, let alone a force of destruction bonded to demonic power.

 

"You..." Mat started to say. "Yeah, you have some issues you might want to get checked out."

 

Simon arced an eyebrow. "Huh?"

 

"It's nothing," Kym said as she laid a hand on his shoulder. "We...saw what we needed."

 

"By the way," Mat asked, "who's Billy? That Tommy guy said something about some Billy guy destroying everything in a vision."

 

Suddenly, Gao Rock shook. The chamber flashed with light and started to peel back with strands of energy, revealing the open island of Anamarium, which started to disintegrate.

 

"No..." Simon whispered as he rolled his hands into fists. "What's happening..."

 

"Simon..." Kym whispered. "I'm sorry for what happened to you..."

 

He narrowed his eyes. "What are you-"

 

Simon, Tetomu, and the samurai of the Anamarium shattered.

 

Tyler sighed and looked ahead, to where the Legacy Galleon sailed towards them.

 

"Come on," he said. "Let's get out of here before we're caught in the storm."

 

They leapt from Gao Rock and landed on the ground below, just as it pealed apart into strands of energy that shattered. The rangers lost their footing and nearly fell into a vortex of broken space-time.

 

But the Legacy Galleon lowered its grappling lines. The rangers grasped onto the lines, which reeled them back inside their vessel.

 

Tyler ran into the cockpit and snapped his wheel, turning the ship away from the Anamarium. The entire island unraveled into strands of color that thinned or broke into pieces. Then, the fragments collapsed and exploded with a flash of light that smashed the Legacy Galleon with a giant shockwave.

 

The shockwave sent the ship spinning out of control. Tyler grasped his wheel and tried to get back onto a stable course. But he crashed his head against the deck and lost consciousness.

 

To be continued…Chapter 09