Chapter Seven: Ultimate Samurai
Blade of the Demon
Lal smiled wickedly at Teddy. “I’m going to enjoy watching you die.”
Teddy glared at the woman. His heart pounded in his chest. He had watched her imprison his boyfriend in a block of ice and drop him through a secret chamber. She had mocked Teddy, forcing him to choose between defending the city and saving the love of his life.
Teddy never knew he was capable of such hatred. “Where’s Bryce?”
“Aren’t you surface-dwellers familiar with the concept of a set-up? He was never here, you fool,” Lal said.
“I can see that,” Teddy said. “But you have to know where he is. So tell me.”
“He’s dead,” Lal said. “As are the rest of my people. As are you.”
Anglars leapt from the shadows to attack the rangers. The grunts were solid-black, with twisted vines growing around their heads, faces and chests. They swung blades and clubs of bone at the teens.
Teddy grabbed an Anglar by the wrist, flipped the grunt to the ground, and smashed his heel against the fallen soldier’s chest. He spun and snapped a reverse sidekick against a second grunt’s face. The blow knocked the soldier backward.
“We’ve got to get topside,” Teddy said as he smashed a front kick upside a soldier’s head. He felt completely enclosed—they had no room to maneuver.
Bradin smashed a roundkick against a grunt’s chest and bashed his elbow against the back of the Anglar’s neck. The blow knocked the grunt to the ground.
The black-and-purple clad ninja, Vaelel, pounced at the ranger and armed twin sai blades. She swung the blades mercilessly. Bradin struggled to dodge as he inched several steps backward.
“You’re going to hurt someone with those things…”
Ryan dashed to his teammate’s side with a spinning crescent kick that bashed the ninja across the head. But she spun with the blow and lashed out with a kick that smashed across the ranger’s face.
Ryan crashed to the ground, and the Anglars leapt on top of him to attack.
Teddy noticed and flipped his morpher to brush mode.
A bolt of lightning sparked against the morpher, knocking the brush from the ranger’s hand. The morpher clattered across the ground, near the feet of the Anglars who attacked Teddy’s teammates.
Another bolt of lightning splashed against Teddy’s back and hurled him forward. He crashed against the ground and skid across the pavement, tearing the front of his shirt.
Lal’s dragon rings energized her fists with power. Her right fist crackled with electricity, and her left fist sizzled with fiery energy. She stalked towards the fallen ranger with eyes like a predator.
Teddy stumbled back to his feet and turned to face his attacker.
She smiled wickedly. “Without your powers, you’re-”
Teddy thrust his hand forward. “Ki!”
He fired an invisible burst of Kiryoku that smashed against Lal and hurled her backward. She crashed against the floor and skid across the concrete. Teddy leapt at her with a flying axe kick aimed towards her head.
The villain rolled aside, and Teddy’s kick slammed against the concrete. Lal scrambled to her feet, and Teddy whipped his leg around through a hook kick. The kick bashed across Lal’s head, knocking her aside.
She stumbled but stayed on her feet. “I can see why he liked you,” Lal said. “You are strong for living such a pampered life.”
Lal thrust her fist forward and fired a burst of lightning.
Teddy dove aside and rolled across the floor while grabbing his morpher. He rose into a crouched position, flipped his morpher to brush mode, and wrote the Japanese kanji for “explode”, which glowed with red light.
He swiped his morpher through the kanji. The symbol spun and shot upward, exploding through the top of the utility tunnel. The explosion cleared an opening to the streets above, as rubble collapsed into the tunnel, forming a wall between Lal and the rangers.
The other four rangers fought against the last of the Anglars, as well as the ninja Vaelel.
“Guys,” Teddy called to them. “Use your symbols.”
Kirsten swiped her morpher to write the kanji for “wall”, and she swung her brush through the word. The symbol spun and splashed against the ground with a flash of yellow light.
A wall of earth erupted from the ground and blocked the rangers from Vaelel and most of the Anglars.
Anna and Ryan slammed against the remaining grunts with a flurry of kicks and punches, while Bradin turned towards the opening Teddy had created.
Bradin swung his morpher to write the kanji for “branch” and swiped his brush through the word. The symbol spun and splashed against the ground.
A thick branch erupted from the floor and reached through the opening at an angle—steep, but good enough to climb.
“Come on,” Teddy said as he scrambled up the branch.
The others followed, and they climbed upward to street level. Teddy silently whispered his gratitude that their escape plan had actually worked. They found themselves in an abandoned warehouse area, one of the many throughout the city.
The street suddenly tore apart with massive explosions, behind and in front of the teens.
Vaelel leapt through the explosion behind the rangers and landed in a crouched position with her sai blades held wide.
Lal leapt through the opening in front of the rangers and landed on the street. Her rings crackled with energy—fire and lightning.
She thrust her fists forward and fired a barrage of lightning, alongside a pillar of flame.
The rangers flipped their morphers to brush mode. “Samurai scribe! Ha!”
They morphed into their Ranger forms as the energy blasts exploded around them with massive bursts of spark and flame.
Another wave of Anglars charged onto the surface and rushed towards the Rangers. The Rangers unsheathed their swords and returned the charge.
Samurai Red launched a jump sidekick that smashed against a grunt’s chest. He landed and slashed his blade upward, striking down an Anglar. He turned and swung his blade wide, sparking through a trio of grunts.
A wave of fatigue suddenly washed across the Ranger. His muscles weakened, and he collapsed to his knees. He used his sword for support and breathed heavily.
What the hell…
Three Anglars charged towards the Ranger. He stayed in a crouched position but managed to slash the grunts aside with a series of quick strikes that sparked through their bodies.
The Red Ranger stabbed his sword against the ground to keep from falling. At first he though the Vorlock had cast some sort of spell. Then he realized the simple truth—his exhaustion had finally caught up with him.
Thin bolts of white-hot energy suddenly stabbed through the air. The bolts exploded against the Red Ranger with bursts of spark and whipped him off his feet.
Samurai Red tumbled across the ground and dropped his sword. Smoke sizzled from his armor, and his muscles burned with fatigue. He climbed slowly into a crouched position and pushed himself back to his feet to face his attacker.
The Vorlock monster named Spindrul had spider-like appendages growing from its back. Its body looked as if made of twisted muscle tissue, shaded black, purple and red.
The creature’s palms sizzled with white-hot power.
Samurai Red cursed beneath his breath.
The other Rangers noticed Spindrul stalk towards their weakened leader.
“Teddy!” Samurai Blue shouted as he slashed an Anglar aside.
The Rangers rushed towards their leader. But Vaelel snapped a volley of exploding shuriken that sparked against the Rangers and hurled them backward.
Lal followed with a barrage of lightning that splashed across their bodies. The lightning thrashed and sparked against their armor, pinning them down.
“Guys!” Samurai Red shouted.
Spindrul pulled two appendages from his back, and the limbs edged into blades. The villain dashed past Samurai Red and slashed across his back with bursts of spark.
Samurai Red staggered forward and collapsed to all fours. He breathed heavily as a wave of dizziness washed over him. Dammit, not now…
His teammates climbed slowly back to their feet as the Anglars, Lal, and Vaelel surrounded them.
Samurai Blue and Samurai Yellow somersaulted through the air and landed in front of Samurai Red. They armed their swords and stepped into defensive stances while facing Spindrul.
“Back away,” Samurai Blue said.
The monster gurgled with anger. The Blue Ranger noticed the gurgling actually came from a partial, upside-down face meshed on the right side of the creature’s chest.
Samurai Blue’s stomach twisted into knows. “That’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever-”
Spindrul swung his swords and hurled white-hot energy blades towards the two Rangers. The Rangers lifted their swords across their chests to block. But the energy blades cut across their bodies with massive bursts of spark. The impact knocked them back several steps, but they stood their ground.
The monster slid his swords through the partial mouth on his chest, coating the blades with slime. The slime sizzled and crackled with power.
Spindrul swung his swords and hurled another duo of energy blades at Samurai Blue and Samurai Yellow. The energy blades exploded against their armor and hurled them backward.
They crashed against the ground, and the impact knocked them from their armor with bursts of light. Smoke sizzled across their bodies. The blades had been laced with a toxin that weakened them.
“Ryan!” Samurai Green shouted as he cut through an Anglar.
“Kirsten!” Samurai Pink called out as she chopped her blade through a grunt.
Spindrul stalked towards the two fallen teens. Samurai Red barely had enough strength to stand, but he rolled across the ground and laid himself on top of his teammates, trying to protect them from the monster’s attack. He wouldn’t let them die. He couldn’t.
Samurai Green and Samurai Pink spun their Symbol Discs. Elemental energy washed across their blades as they swung their swords through streaks of energy. The energized slashes hacked and sliced through grunts with massive explosions and bursts of spark that hurled Lal and Vaelel backward.
The two Rangers somersaulted through the air and landed in crouched positions next to their fallen teammates. They lifted their blades into defensive positions and faced the approaching monster.
“Teddy, get up,” Samurai Green said.
Spindrul pounced forward and chopped his blades towards the Rangers.
Suddenly, a blur of motion leapt through the air and landed between the monster and Rangers. The demonic warrior blocked the monster’s blow, slashed him aside, and slashed aside Samurai Green and Samurai Pink with a pair of quick strikes that streaked with dark-purple shadow energy.
Samurai Red climbed into a crouched position and looked up to face the demon, just as the warrior swung his weapon to attack. The Red Ranger quickly lifted one of his teammates swords and blocked the blow with a burst of spark.
Samurai Red held the blade steady. The demon stared at him with glowing yellow eyes set in a red face that resembled a skull. His entire body appeared skeletal, like a thick suit of white armor modeled after bone. Red patterns that resembled ribs protruded from his chest plate. The same red material covered his shoulders, beneath white pauldrons. Parts of his armor were trimmed with dark gray, like shadows.
He called himself Juzou.
Juzou held his blade against the Red Ranger’s sword. The demon’s weapon appeared as a white handled samurai sword with a curved blade. The edge of the blade was tinted red and jagged like a saw.
The demon looked to the Vorlock monster. “Withdraw…” he said with a soft, casual voice. “This is not your fight.”
Spindrul hissed with annoyance. The Vorlock pounced and swung his blades towards Juzou.
Swords spun faster than sight as Samurai Red grabbed another one of his teammate’s Spin Swords, rose to his feet, and blocked the villain’s blades. He stood his ground despite his burning fatigue and held the villains at bay. He used his right saber to block Spindrul’s sword, and his left saber to block Juzou’s sword.
The villains pressed their swords against Samurai Red’s blades. The Red Ranger summoned all of his feigning strength to push them back.
Samurai Red stepped into a fighting stance, as did Spindrul and Juzou, as the three opponents started to circle around one another. The Red Ranger could barely keep his balance. He called upon every ounce of The Power he could channel to keep his strength.
The monster and demon warrior lunged at Samurai Red to attack.
The Red Ranger spun and twirled his swords to block and parry their blows. His blades clanged against their sabers as he moved through a series of quick and tight strikes. He didn’t want to waste any of his energy on unneeded movements. His swords slashed aside each swing of the Vorlock’s bone blades and each slash of the demon warrior’s sword Uramasa.
Juzou hopped forward with a vertical chop that Samurai Red caught with his swords. He quickly twisted the demon’s blade downward and held the sword in a grip.
The demon pulled his blade free and chopped towards the Ranger’s chest. Samurai Red swung one sword to block the blow and swung his other blade towards Juzou’s head.
Juzou twisted his sword around to block the blow, then swung his blade towards Samurai Red.
Samurai Red blocked the blow with his left saber and swung his right saber to block the swords of Spindrul, who had tried to sneak up behind the Red Ranger.
The Red Ranger pushed back and spun into a defensive stance to gain distance. He nearly stumbled, weakened by the fight. He could barely stay conscious but knew if he waivered for even a moment, the villains would kill him in seconds.
Spindrul leapt at Samurai Red and chopped his blades downward.
Juzou stepped in, high-blocked the blow, and spun with a slash across the monster’s chest. The blade sparked on impact, and Juzou stepped forward with a front kick that bashed the monster backward.
Samurai Red charged in and swung his swords towards Juzou. But Juzou blocked the swords and swung his blade towards Samurai Red. Samurai Red parried the blades aside as Spindrul charged to attack.
The three opponents flowed across the ground through a series of slashes and counters.
Samurai Red poured his fiery energy through his blades, so each swing streaked with waves of flame. Each parry ignited a burst of fire, and secondary explosions erupted across the ground with every strike, block and parry.
The Red Ranger knew he wouldn’t last long, despite his will, so he poured every drop of fire power he had into his two swords. The blades flashed through slashes that clanged and sparked against the villains’ swords.
The Vorlock and Juzou would turn their attention to Samurai Red. Samurai Red and Spindrul would shift, striking at Juzou. And Juzou and Samurai Red would twirl their blades into joint strikes against Spindrul.
Energy discharges sparked with every clang of their swords.
Their dance suddenly stopped as their swords locked in position. Samurai Red had used his right sword to block Spindrul’s saber, and his left sword lingered inches from Juzou’s throat. Juzou’s blade extended near Spindrul’s throat.
Samurai Red breathed deeply, waiting to see who would make the next move, and calculating whether the next move should be his.
Juzou suddenly spun and slashed the head from Spindrul with a burst of spark. The monster’s headless body crumpled to the ground and exploded with a massive burst of flame.
Juzou shifted his stance and faced the Red Ranger.
Samurai Red stepped into a defensive stance. “Who are you…?”
“A Gedoushuu. And yet not,” Juzou said. “Your true opponent.”
Juzou swung his blade through a series of high strikes.
Samurai Red twirled and parried each strike, taking a step backward with every counter. His grip on his blades started to slacken. Each parry became weaker.
Juzou slashed a blade from Samurai Red’s hand and chopped against the Red Ranger’s shoulder with a massive burst of spark that drove him to his knees.
Samurai Red dropped his other sword and clutched his wound. His armor powered down with a wave of light.
Juzou lowered his sword and walked closer to Teddy. “As I thought…You’re different from what I’ve seen. This isn’t the battle I craved.”
The villain aimed his blade towards Teddy so the curved, jagged edge faced the teen’s throat. “Uramasa’s true nature is to be a reverse sword,” he said. “Next time…You will feel this slash.”
He lowered the weapon as black-purple flames pealed back from his body, revealing his human form.
Teddy recognized him immediately. He was Bryce. He looked mostly the same, but with differences that made him appear more mature. His skin had paled, and he wore his hair darker, cut short. His black hair matched the color of the stubble across his chin. He wore a short, black jacket and a pair of dark slacks.
“Bryce…” Teddy shook his head. “It can’t be. This is a trick…”
Juzou casually swung his blade over his shoulder. He looked to Teddy with cold, hard eyes. “The one you called ‘Bryce’ is dead. This body is merely a shell.”
Teddy narrowed his eyes. His heart raced with panic. “I don’t believe you.”
“What you believe doesn’t concern me,” Juzou said. “Your friend, the Vorlock prince, he invited me into his soul. He needed my power and called upon it willingly.”
“Why would he do that,” Teddy said. “The Gedoushuu slaughtered his people.”
“His motives are forgotten,” Juzou said. “Mine, however, are not. My blade hungers…”
“You think I’m going to fight you again?” Teddy asked. “Now that I know the truth? Bryce, snap out of it! This isn’t you.”
“Bryce?” Juzou asked. “You never even knew his real name. His Vorlock name: Brai. How well could you have truly known him, Red Ranger?”
Juzou turned and walked slowly from the industrial park. He walked with strong confidence, carrying himself like a true warrior.
“Bryce!” Teddy shouted after him.
But Juzou did not break his stride.
Teddy heard Lal laugh from nearby. He turned to see the villain regroup with Vaelel and the remaining four Anglars.
“It’s nice to see my baby brother finally grew a spine,” Lal said.
“What have you done with him?” Teddy asked.
“Me?” Lal asked. “I thought he was dead, truly.”
“You expect me to believe that-”
“I don’t care what you believe,” Lal said. “Now…this day didn’t work out as I had hoped, but it was productive, none-the-less. We will meet again, Red Ranger.” She looked to her ninja companion. “Vaelel.”
The ninja tossed a smoke bomb onto the ground. The bomb exploded into a cloud of thick, white smoke that enveloped the Vorlock. When the smoke cleared, the Vorlock were gone.
Teddy and the rangers regrouped in Ops along with Tommy and Ashley. They studied readouts of Juzou, taken during his battle against Samurai Red. The computer monitors displayed various angles of the fight. Some monitors showed infrared readings, and others showed various energy patterns.
“I’m not showing any signs of a spell or coercion,” Ashley said.
Tommy looked to his younger brother. “You said he told you he did this to himself?”
Teddy nodded, his eyes fixed to the screens.
“If he turned into a demon willingly…there’s nothing we can do,” Tommy said.
“How can you even say that?” Teddy asked defensively. “You of all people.”
“I was under a spell,” Tommy said, speaking of his days as the Evil Green Ranger. “Bryce isn’t. He chose to become Juzou.”
“We’re supposed to just believe that?” Teddy asked.
“Look,” Tommy said firmly. “I’m not saying you should kill him. I’m just saying there’s no spell to break, and no way to force him into returning to the person he was.”
“The Gedoushuu wiped out his people,” Teddy said. “No way he’d let himself become some Ayakashi.”
“I think there’s more going on here than we know,” Ashley said. “You said you saw Lal die, but she was back. And so were the Anglars. Something happened with the Vorlock.”
“We need to know what,” Teddy said.
“That, I agree with,” Tommy said.
Teddy nodded. “OK…” he said, calming down. He had a plan of action: find out what happened to the Vorlock. Their secret would likely lead to the truth about what had happened to Bryce. “OK…”
Tommy looked to the other rangers. “Could you give us a minute?”
They started to file out of the room. Ryan looked over his shoulder to Teddy on his way out. “We’ll wait upstairs…”
“Thanks,” Teddy said softly. He looked back to his brother. “A lecture?”
Tommy nodded. “A small one. You nearly burnt yourself out.”
“Didn’t we already have this conversation?” Teddy asked.
“I just want to make sure we’re on the same page,” Tommy said. “You have two enemies now: the Vorlock and Gedoushuu. And don’t get me started on the other factions still around…the Dark Man, the Dark Shaper, Xanathor, the Hellfire Club, the Hand. Kou’s missing. Simon’s missing. Hunter’s…missing. Pace yourself.”
“I’m not giving up on him,” Teddy said.
“I’m not asking you to,” Tommy said. “I’m just asking you to be realistic. We know what happened to him now. We can try to track him with our sensors. You don’t have to search the tunnels every night until dawn.”
Teddy nodded, keeping his gaze lowered. “OK…”
“We’ll get through this, little brother.”
Teddy nodded, his face void of hope. “OK…”
Ashley waited until Teddy left before speaking up. “Are we going to talk about what happened? To Teddy?”
“He was just tired,” Tommy said. “That’s all…He hadn’t slept in days.”
Ashley shook her head. “You know that’s not the reason. The Power reinvigorates. But his power almost wore him down.”
“He was exhausted,” Tommy said.
“Tommy…” Ashley said. “Don’t lie to yourself. You know he wasn’t meant to have these powers in the first place.”
Teddy walked into the woods near the Hayate Way dojo. He sat on the ground and leaned against a tree, looking up towards the branches above. He couldn’t believe what had happened. He refused to accept Bryce was gone—corrupted by some demon. Willingly.
He felt lost. And a part of him felt angry. He felt angry at himself for letting this happen. He felt angry at Bryce for keeping his secret. And he felt angry at himself for not realizing Bryce was hiding something.
Now I’m angry that I’m angry…Teddy thought.
He sighed and reached for his morpher in his pocket. He traced his fingers along its edges and curves. What good was his power if he couldn’t use it to save Bryce?
His shoulders sank, and he felt his despair swell.
Teddy closed his eyes. His thoughts drifted to when he had first met Bryce.
More than one year ago…
Teddy and his friend Anthony walked home from the Angel Grove North Community High School soccer fields. Teddy had never enjoyed the sport, but his friend Anthony played in one of the local clubs.
“I can’t believe you never got into soccer,” Anthony said. “What’s wrong with you?”
Teddy smiled and shrugged. “Just not my thing, I guess.”
“But kung-kwan-fu is?” Anthony asked. He smiled and shook his head. “You’re never going to pick up girls that way, man.”
“I’m gay. I’m never going to pick up girls in any way,” Teddy said.
“You know what I mean,” Anthony said.
The teens cut through a small sliver of parkland wedged between two sprawling city blocks. A small creek ran through the park, dotted with trees, and a bridge crossed the creek.
Teddy and Anthony noticed a teenage boy around their age, sitting on the ground while leaning against a tree. The boy had dark hair, hazel eyes, and smooth, tan skin. He looked half asleep.
They were about to pass him by when Teddy noticed the boy’s blood-soaked side.
“Aw man, that guy’s hurt,” Teddy said as he ran towards the tree.
Anthony followed. “Dude, he’s just napping, relax.”
“Look at his shirt,” Teddy said. “It’s soaked with blood!”
Teddy kneeled down towards the teen and looked over his shoulder to Anthony. “Call 911.”
Anthony fumbled for his cellphone, and Teddy looked back to the unconscious teen. “Hey, can you hear me?” Teddy asked. “Hey…hang in there…help’s on the way.”
The injured teen’s eyes fluttered open, and he groaned painfully. “You people…” he said, barely conscious. “How could you…do this…?”
“Someone attacked you?” Teddy asked. He quickly looked around but saw no one. The teen had likely been left for dead long ago. “It’s OK, they’re gone. We’re here to help.”
Teddy had seen too much death in his lifetime. His passion burned with a desire to help anyone, anywhere, whenever possible. Anthony never understood why, but that was because Teddy had never explained his background as a former Ranger.
The injured teen’s eyes started to close.
“No, wait…” Teddy said. “Stay awake…you’ve gotta hang in there. Talk to me…what’s your name?”
“Bryce?” Teddy asked.
Bryce hesitated, but nodded slowly.
“OK…OK, I’m Teddy,” Teddy said. “My friend over there is Anthony. He’s calling for help; an ambulance should be here soon.”
Bryce’s eyes closed as he drifted back into unconsciousness.
Teddy rode in the ambulance that took Bryce to the hospital. Bryce then went into surgery, and Teddy waited in the hospital visitor room. The authorities couldn’t locate any identification on Bryce, meaning they couldn’t contact the teen’s family. Teddy didn’t want to leave him alone.
After the surgery, the hospital staff let Teddy into Bryce’s room. Teddy sat at the teen’s bedside and waited for him to awaken.
Bryce’s eyes opened slowly after several minutes. He started to rise, but stopped, pinned down by his pain and the after effects of the anesthesia.
“Where am I?” he asked, his voice hard, and yet weak.
“The hospital,” Teddy said.
Bryce narrowed his eyes with confusion and looked to Teddy. They stared at each other, silently, for several moments.
“Why did you come here?” Bryce asked.
“I…I honestly don’t know,” Teddy said. “Someone attacked you. I couldn’t just leave you behind. I would’ve been just as bad as the people who did this to you.”
Bryce looked aside thoughtfully, his mind dulled by the pain medication coursing through his veins. He laid his head back against the pillow. “The people who did this to me…”
“Who were they?” Teddy asked.
“I don’t know…” Bryce said. “Why did you help me?”
“Are you surprised someone would do something like that?” Teddy asked.
Bryce hesitated, uncertain how to answer. “Yes…”
Teddy smirked. “Well…I’m glad I could surprise you.”
Bryce looked back to Teddy and stared at the teen’s smile. He relaxed, letting his body surrender to his medication. “That look…I haven’t seen that in…I haven’t seen that.”
“What look?” Teddy asked.
“Hope,” Bryce said. “The look of someone with hope.”
Bryce—the demon Juzou in human form—walked along the shore of Angel Grove West with his sword Uramasa slung over his shoulder. His thoughts were scattered and disjointed except for one impulse—to battle.
He had felt an odd, unexpected connection to the Red Ranger. One he could not explain. But the connection could mean one thing, and one thing only. The Red Ranger was his fated opponent for the ultimate duel.
And only one of them would survive.
“Soon, Uramasa…” he whispered to his sword. “Soon…”
To be continued…Chapter 08