Chapter 14: Ultimate Samurai

Surging Rampage

 

The Sanzu River churned with waves of despair from the mortal world. Master Xandred locked himself in the bowels of his ship and absorbed the power as tendrils of crimson energy lashed across his skin. The villain screamed with painful delight.

 

Shitari leaned on his staff to keep from falling. “Master Xandred’s energy is surging. This has never happened before…”

 

“The Sanzu River has never risen this high,” Dayu said as she strummed her shamisen. “The despair of the mortal world throbs with unpredictable intensity…”

 

Shitari waddled across the deck as the river outside stormed with power. “The master will be vulnerable as he draws upon that intensity…”

 

“Few would challenge him,” Dayu said.

 

“But they will come, Dayu,” Shitari said. “They will come…”

 

***

 

Juzou walked through the woods in the outskirts of Angel Grove. In his human form, he carried his sword tightly in hand and noticed crimson light leak from cracks in the ground and trees.

 

“Master Xandred must be absorbing the energy of the Sanzu River. He’ll be vulnerable…” He tightened his grip on his sword. “This is the perfect time to challenge the Red Ranger without interference.”

 

***

 

The rangers and their newest teammate joined Tommy and Ashley in Ops. The teens eagerly waited for Tommy to finish his explanation of the Gold Ranger.

 

“I finished making the Gold Ranger powers a few days before Anthony snuck into Ops,” Tommy said. “I was waiting to find the right candidate, but when he came here, the Gold Ranger morpher reacted.”

 

Anthony nodded. “I could actually sense it,” he said. “It was intense.”

 

“I was just about to kick him out when I noticed,” Tommy said. “They shared a connection — he was meant to have the morpher.”

 

Anthony smiled with pride and looked to his friend, Teddy.

 

“But…” Tommy said. “He wasn’t supposed to go into action this soon. He’s not ready yet.”

 

“What do you mean I’m not ready?” Anthony asked. “I saved all five of them. Twice. Within 10 minutes.”

 

“Let’s not exaggerate, here,” Bradin said.

 

“But it’s true,” Anthony said.

 

“Anthony,” Teddy said. “If he says you’re not ready, you’re not ready.”

 

“Seriously?”

 

“Sorry…” Teddy said.

 

Anthony shook his head and looked at his friend with disappointment. “What’s gotten into you?”

 

The alarms suddenly blared. Ashley pulled up an image on her main monitor. The image showed a Gedoushuu twirl across the street like a mini tornado while slashing through cars and buildings.

 

“Another one?” Bradin asked. “Already?”

 

“He’s in Angel Grove East,” Ashley said.

 

Tommy looked to his team. “Get going. Anthony, you’re staying behind.”

 

Anthony started to protest, but Anna interrupted. “We could use his help.”

 

“You heard Tommy,” Teddy said. “Anthony stays. Let’s move…”

 

***

 

shinken-va-hyakuyappaThe Ayakashi named Hyakuya spun through the streets and slashed at everything within reach.

 

The monster looked as if curved blades wrapped around his entire body and head. He carried two long, curved broadswords.

 

“Gedoushuu!” Samurai Red shouted as he and the others ran to the scene.  

 

“Rangers…” the monster said as he stepped into a fighting stance. “I am Hyakuya, Master of 100 Blades. I have come to avenge my comrade, Kitsune.”

 

“Who?” Samurai Green asked.

 

“The fox guy,” Samurai Blue said. “We beat him less than two hours ago.”

 

“Right,” Samurai Green said. “Got it.”

 

The Rangers surrounded Hyakuya and attacked as one. They swung their blades through several patterns—quick and deadly, long and elegant—but the monster’s broadswords parried or blocked each strike. 

 

The monster swung his massive blades through wide arcs that parried two or three swords at a time. And when he struck back, a single stroke of his sword slashed two or three Rangers with bursts of spark.

 

He moved quickly despite the weight of his blades, which sparked and hacked against the Rangers every time they moved close to attack.

 

Samurai Red and Samurai Green blocked the villain’s sword and twisted downward to hold the weapon in position. Samurai Blue moved in and blocked the other sword. 

 

“Now!” Samurai Red shouted to the others.

 

Samurai Pink and Samurai Yellow dashed at the creature from behind.

 

But the monster’s body sprouted flexible blades that whipped the girls off their feet. Hyakuya swung his body blades around and whipped Samurai Blue and Samurai Green to the ground.

 

Samurai Red spun back and lifted his blade in a defensive position.

 

“Red Ranger…” the monster taunted. “You too can have a taste of my steel!”

 

The Ayakashi leaned forward and charged at the Red Ranger.

 

Samurai Red returned the charge, and his blade clashed against the monster’s weapons. They shifted stances and slashed at one another while moving across the pavement. Samurai Red’s every block and strike sparked against his enemy’s blade.

 

The Ayakashi swung low with a blow Samurai Red hopped to avoid. Hyakuya pushed forward with a flurry of slashes that forced the Red Ranger back several feet. The Red Ranger spun and swung his blade to block and deflect the blows.

 

Samurai Red leapt onto a nearby car to gain distance.

 

Hyakuya merely swung his blades through the car, which exploded in a sphere of flame that hurled the Red Ranger through the air.

 

Samurai Red crashed against the ground and quickly rose to his feet.

 

“Body Blades!” the Ayakashi shouted.

 

Every blade on the monster’s body bent and shot towards the Red Ranger like a spear. Samurai Red swung his sword to block most of the blades. But many stabbed against him with bursts of spark. The last blade stabbed Samurai Red with a burst of spark that hurled him backward.

 

Hyakuya twirled his blades to attack again. But he staggered, as his skin started to dry.

 

“You’re lucky…” the monster said as he pulsed with red energy and bled through the nearest crack to return to the Sanzu River. 

 

***

 

Shitari watched through a scrying bowl as Hyakuya returned to the Sanzu River.

 

“It’s started already!” He shouted to Dayu. “Hyakuya attacked on his own. He’s gone rogue!”

 

Dayu strummed her shamisen. “Stay calm, Shitari,” she said. “The Master of 100 Swords and Master of 100 Spells were comrades. He’s avenging his friend. I doubt his attack has anything to do with Master Xandred’s state.”

 

shinken-va-gozunagumoThe boat shook as an Ayakashi climbed up the hull. The monster named UshiOni landed on the deck as the water of the river dripped onto the wooden planks beneath his feet.

 

He looked odd. His chest appeared similar to the face of a bull with a ringed nose. His head looked like a shell with a spider’s face and mandibles sticking out. Claws grew from his forearms, feet and shell-like head.

 

Shitari staggered backward. “UshiOni…”

 

“So…” the monster growled. “For the first moment since time began, the master slumbers…”

 

“You tried to betray him centuries ago, UshiOni,” Shitari said. “He banished you. So be gone! Even in his weakened state, you cannot defeat him.”

 

“No…You are right,” the monster said. “He cannot be defeated. But he can be sealed.”

 

“Sea…sealed?” Shitari stammered.

 

“Yes,” the monster said. “I’ve been watching these Samurai Rangers and their special breed of magick. I believe the Red Ranger holds the power to seal Master Xandred for all eternity.”

 

Shitari mentally kicked himself for not noticing sooner. The Symbol Power’s unique properties did seem a viable option for sealing Xandred. The Rangers obviously didn’t know they possessed such potential, or Shitari would have sensed the possible threat sooner.

 

“You really didn’t know?” the monster grumbled. He snorted with disbelief. “I thought you would be of use to me. But it appears you are useless. No matter. I have other potential allies.”

 

“No…” Shitari said. “You can’t mean…”

 

“Yes,” the Ayakashi said. “You saw them through the mirror of Kitsune. The Vorlock.”

 

***

 

Anthony sat on the steps of the Hayate Way dojo and looked out at the woods up ahead. Ryan walked outside and took a seat next to the newest ranger. “Still here?”

 

“Just for a minute, then I’m heading out,” Anthony said. “How’s Teddy?”

 

Ryan sighed. “His usual self, I guess. Has he always been like this?”

 

Anthony smiled and shook his head. “No. He was always the hopeful, optimistic one. I was always the pessimist.”

 

Ryan nodded. “Did you two ever…I mean…Were you…”

 

“What? No,” Anthony said. “No, no. Just friends. Why? Do you like him?”

 

Ryan blushed.

 

“You like him, don’t you?” Anthony said with a smile. “Does he know?”

 

Ryan shook his head. “He’s still in love with Bryce.”

 

“The Gedoushuu guy?” Anthony asked.

 

Ryan nodded.

 

“Teddy always did have questionable taste,” Anthony said. “When he falls for someone, he falls for them hard. The last guy he dated moved away right after the Second Countdown to Destruction. The asshole cheated on Teddy about a week afterward. He moped for months…He can brood just as well as his big brother when he has a reason.”

 

“This is different,” Ryan said.

 

Anthony nodded. “Right…which is why he needs his friends.

 

“He never listens,” Ryan said.

 

“Then just get up in his face about it,” Anthony said.

 

“Seriously?”

 

“Yeah. He’s stubborn when he gets like this,” Anthony said. “Then he gets afraid that if he stops being stubborn, he’ll be vulnerable again. And get hurt. Again.”

 

Ryan nodded with understanding. “That makes sense.”

 

“So go talk to him,” Anthony said.

 

“I’ll get Anna to come with-”

 

“Don’t gang up on him,” Anthony said. “Talk to him alone. Just be direct And try to act cute, that helps.”

 

Ryan smiled and rolled his eyes.

 

***

 

UshiOni didn’t have the slightest idea how to track down the Vorlock. He only hoped the villains would take notice of him if he trampled through their turf.

 

The Ayakashi moved into the tunnel entrance where Samurai Red had first stumbled upon the underground race. The monster walked aimlessly for about an hour before stumbling upon a patrol of Anglars.

 

“There you are…” the monster grumbled.

 

Another wave of Anglars swarmed into the tunnel behind the Ayakashi.

 

“Gedoushuu…” Lal hissed as she stepped through the ranks of grunts. The black-and-purple clad ninja Vaelel walked at her side. “Your kind would dare return to our tunnels?”

 

The monster tilted its head with confusion. “Return?”

 

Lal looked to Vaelel and the Anglars.

 

“Kill it.”

 

“Wait!” the Ayakashi shouted. “I am not one of Master Xandred’s puppets. I have come here of my own will and power. We have a common enemy: The Red Samurai Ranger…”

 

Lal lowered her guard and silently instructed Vaelel and the grunts to do the same. “I’m listening…”

 

***

 

Teddy sat on the deck in the rear of the Hayate Way dojo. He faced a courtyard dotted with several sparring dummies and racks of swords. He stared ahead silently with his hands folded in his lap.

 

Ryan walked onto the deck and moved closer to Teddy. “Your friend’s leaving…”

 

Teddy nodded. “It’s for the best.” He stood and walked towards one of the sword racks. “He hasn’t been trained.”

 

“I don’t think that’s the reason you’re letting him go…” Ryan said as he followed Teddy into the courtyard.

 

Teddy lifted a practice kendo sword and started swinging the weapon against a sparring dummy.

 

Ryan sighed and shook his head. “Ya know…I thought you were starting to…Never mind.”

 

He turned and started walking away.

 

“Starting to what?” Teddy asked as he turned around.

 

Ryan shrugged. “I don’t know…lighten up, I guess.”

 

“I haven’t changed…” Teddy said.

 

“I think you have, as much as you can,” Ryan said cautiously. “But now with Anthony here…I know you’re saying you’re sending him off so he doesn’t have to get involved. But I have a theory there’s another reason. You’ve known him for years…it would be hard for you to keep your guard up with him around. He might actually be able to get past that wall you’ve put up around yourself and everyone else.”

 

“Like you said…” Teddy said as he turned back towards the practice dummy. “That’s your theory.”

 

“Teddy…” Ryan said as he walked closer to his friend. “If you’re scared of opening up, we’re going to lose. If you’re scared of getting close, we’re going to lose. We’re a team. And like it or not, that team now includes Anthony. Your friend. Just like the rest of us are your friends.”

 

“Ryan’s right…” Anthony said as he stepped into the courtyard. “How long have you been around the Rangers? How many times have you watched them learn the same lesson? The importance of friendship and teamwork and all that sappy stuff.”

 

“It might be sappy, but it’s true,” Ryan said. “You need your friends. You need your team.”

 

“Right,” Anthony said. “So quit being stubborn and let me help you kick some demon ass.”

 

Teddy lowered his gaze and said nothing.

 

“Teddy…” Ryan whispered. “Look at me…”

 

Teddy lifted his head, and his eyes locked with Ryan’s. They said nothing as their eyes lingered on one another. 

 

Bradin, Anna, and Kirsten suddenly rushed into the courtyard.

 

“That Ayakashi’s back,” Bradin said.

 

Teddy nodded. “Let’s go…”

 

He started off and then paused to look over his shoulder at Anthony. “You coming?”

 

Anthony smirked. “Thought you’d never ask.”

 

***

 

Teddy and his teammates ran to the city streets to find Hyakuya on a rampage. The six rangers quickly armed their morphers.

 

“Samurai scribe! Ha!” Energy wrapped around them as they morphed into their Ranger forms and snapped into fighting stances.

 

“Blade of the Flame! Samurai Red!”

 

“Blade of the Woods! Samurai Green!”

 

“Blade of the Water! Samurai Blue!”

 

“Blade of the Earth! Samurai Yellow!”

 

“Blade of the Wind! Samurai Pink!”

 

“Blade of the Light! Samurai Gold!”

 

“Symbol Task Force!” Samurai Red called. Together, they shouted: “Samurai Rangers!”

 

The Ayakashi sharpened his blades against one another. “So it’s true…there is a sixth Ranger. Nanashi! Attack!”

 

The six Rangers and Nanashi charged. The opponents bashed against one another with the clanging and clashing of swords. The Rangers tore through their opponents with powerful strikes and slashes that sparked on impact.

 

Samurai Gold held his blade in a reverse grip and parried every blade that swung towards his body. He pressed forward and slashed through the Nanashi. His blade streaked through golden light with every strike.

 

Nearby, Samurai Red spun his Symbol Disc. “Fire Breaker!” His sword glowed with red energy and transformed into a massive zanbato blade.

 

The Red Ranger twisted his grip and twirled the blade through a wide, circular arc that tore through Nanashi with massive bursts of flame.

 

“Nice move,” Samurai Gold said as he ran to his teammate’s side.

 

The Ayakashi turned his attention towards the two Rangers. “Shuriken scatter shot!”

 

The monster hurled a volley of spinning blades that shot towards the two Rangers.

 

Samurai Red held the flat of his blade like a shield in front of himself and the Gold Ranger. The shuriken slashed against the blade with bursts of spark. The final impact exploded and knocked the Rangers off their feet.

 

The Red Ranger and Gold Ranger rolled into crouched fighting stances.

 

“Anthony,” Samurai Red said. “His blade splits. He’s impossible for anyone to take on alone.”

 

Samurai Gold unsheathed his blade. “Good thing there’s two of us.”

 

The two Rangers charged at the monster. Hyakuya chopped his blades as the two Rangers passed; but the Rangers parried each strike.

 

The Ayakashi swung wide with a blow the two Rangers had to duck to avoid. The monster twisted his grip and chopped both swords at the Rangers. But the Rangers lifted their blades and blocked the swords.

 

The two Rangers pressed forward and held the advantage. They twisted their sabers through quick and powerful strikes that forced the monster backward as he blocked and parried each blow.

 

Hyakuya countered with two high swings the Rangers blocked. Samurai Red and Samurai Gold parried the blades aside. Samurai Red swung low, and Samurai Gold swung high—their blades slashed the monster with bursts of spark that forced him backward.

 

The monster staggered but stayed on his feet. “Body blades!”

 

The blades around the monster unraveled like tendrils and snapped towards the Rangers like whips and spears.

 

“Here we go,” Samurai Red said.

 

The two Rangers pressed forward through the attack while hacking and slashing their way through the enemy blades. They moved as if they had fought alongside one another for years, rotating high and low attacks, spinning forward in unison, parrying blades left and right. Each of their strikes shattered an enemy blade to pieces as they moved closer to the monster.

 

Samurai Red and Samurai Gold stepped within striking distance and slashed the monster with bursts of spark that hurled him off his feet.

 

The two Rangers armed their Symbol Discs.

 

“Light Disc!” The Gold Ranger spun the disc. “Golden Flash!”

 

He leapt upward and swung his blade through strikes that fired volleys of energy blades.

 

“Fire Disc.” The Red Ranger spun his Symbol Disc as waves of fiery energy twirled around his blade. “Blazing Strike!”

 

The Red Ranger swung his sword through a wide arc that hurled a wave of fiery energy.

 

The energy waves slashed through the monster one-by-one, tearing through his body with massive bursts of spark and flame. The monster crashed against the ground with a final burst of flame that tore his body to pieces.

 

The six Rangers regrouped near the monster’s smoking remains. Samurai Green looked to Samurai Gold. “You’re going to want to get used to the part that comes next.”

 

The monster’s ashes reformed with a surge of energy and grew giant. The newly reborn Ayakashi armed its double blades and looked down upon the Rangers.

 

The core five Rangers placed their Origami onto the ground. “Samurai-zords, rise up!”

 

They swiped their morphers over their Origami to paint their symbols, which glowed with power. The symbols splashed across the Origami, and the emblems grew giant. Each emblem unfolded to form a Samurai-zord.

 

The Rangers dropped into their individual cockpits.

 

Samurai Red swiped his morpher to write the kanji for “combine” above his control pedestal. “Origami assemble!” he shouted. “Samurai fusion!”

 

The five Samurai-zords shifted shape and combined.

 

“Samurai Megazord!” the Rangers shouted. “Shinkenou!”

 

Shinkenou armed its shield and Samurai Megazord Saber as the monster charged. The Ayakashi swung his blades while passing the Megazord, and the robo parried the blades with bursts of spark.

 

Hyakuya spun and slashed the Megazord’s shield with a burst of spark. The impact knocked the shield wide, creating an opening.

 

“Body blades!” the Ayakashi shouted.

 

The blades around his body unwrapped like tendrils and shot towards the Megazord like spears. The spears stabbed Shinkenou with bursts of spark that forced the Megazord backward. The impact knocked the Megazord off its feet.

 

Below, Samurai Gold armed a Symbol Disc on his morpher. “We’re up, Octozord.”

 

He dialed a code into his morpher, which projected a kanji of golden power.

 

Octozord!” the Gold Ranger shouted. “Rise up!” The purple-tinted, white-armored Octozord arose in midair near the battle.

 

The Gold Ranger leapt into his cockpit. Samurai Gold slid his Barracuda Blade into the control console and attached his Symbol Disc to the weapon’s hilt.

 

Octozord!” Samurai Gold shouted. “Equip!”

 

shinken-og-ikashinkenohThe Octozord surged with energy and combined with the Megazord. The Octozord formed an arm blade on the Megazord’s right arm, and three of its tendrils formed a tri-bladed shield in the Megazord’s left hand.

 

Samurai Gold joined the others in their cockpit.

 

“Samurai Megazord!” they shouted. “Ika Shinkenou!”

 

The monster charged as the Megazord stepped into a fighting stance.

 

Octo-Blade, spear strike!” the Rangers shouted.

 

The Megazord swung the spear, which thrust back and forth while stabbing the monster with bursts of spark.

 

Shinkenou lowered its arm blade and swung its shield.

 

Octo-Shield, blizzard burst!” the Rangers shouted.

 

The shield fired a cloud of mist that surrounded the monster and froze him in place.

 

Samurai Red pulled his sword from his control console and spun his Symbol Disc. “Samurai Megazord!” He shouted. “Spear flash!”

 

The Octo-Blade pulsed with energy and slashed through a streak of golden power that ripped the Ayakashi in half. The monster exploded with massive bursts of spark and flame.

 

***

 

The six rangers regrouped at the dojo following the defeat of Hyakuya. Anthony smiled with pride at the defeat of the monster, and Bradin couldn’t help but be impressed.

 

“I’ll admit,” he said. “That wasn’t too bad. You may not be completely useless after all…”

 

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” Anthony said.

 

“I wouldn’t go that far,” Bradin said.

 

Kirsten playfully nudged him in the ribs. “Bradin…be nice.”

 

Ryan smiled as he looked at his teammates. “I was thinking we could go out and celebrate. Nothing fancy, just maybe some coffee or something.”

 

“I’m game,” Anthony said. He looked to Teddy. “You coming?”

 

 Teddy shook his head. “Nah, I’m going to stay here and practice.”

 

“By practice you mean mope,” Anthony said. “Come on, come with us, or I’ll tell them embarrassing stories about your freshman year of high school.”

 

Ryan smiled. “Like what?”

 

“Well, this one time I was walking by the bleachers after soccer practice-”

 

“Okay, okay, I give up” Teddy said with a smile. “I’ll go. Just stop.”

 

The other rangers could barely believe what they saw: Teddy. With a smile.

 

***

 

The teens gathered at an outdoor café in Angel Grove North and exchanged stories, although nothing too embarrassing.

 

Teddy talked about fighting Cogs alongside Simon in 2004 when the Machine Empire nearly conquered the Earth. And Anthony shared stories about his soccer games and extended family; he lived with his mom and four siblings in a run-down area of Angel Grove North. He used to have five siblings, but his father and youngest brother had died when caught in the middle of a gang shooting.

 

“That’s terrible…” Anna said as she rested a hand on his arm.

 

Anthony shook his head. “Yeah…but it was a long time ago. Besides…you won’t find many people in this city who haven’t lost someone.”

 

A server brought the rangers drinks, and they all took sips.

 

“So, Teddy…You seriously went to another planet?” Anthony asked.

 

Teddy nodded. “Eltar. We-” He coughed abruptly, then cleared his throat. “We needed to-” He coughed again; ten his cough turned into a fit of rasping as he stood, but quickly collapsed.

 

“Teddy!” Ryan shouted.

 

“The drink…” he said between rasps. “Poison…”

 

The other café patrons stood and watched with concerns. Anthony looked back at them. “Someone call 911!”

 

Then it happened. The Ayakashi named UshiOni bled from a nearby crack with a burst of crimson light. A group of Anglars suddenly leapt through the air as if from nowhere and stood alongside the monster.

 

Café patrons ran and screamed with panic.

 

Anthony stayed at Teddy’s side. “I’ll get him help. You guys go.”

 

Bradin nodded as he and the others pulled out their morphers.

 

“Let’s go,” he said as he, Anna, Kirsten and Ryan turned to face off with the monster and grunts.

 

“Samurai scribe! Ha!” Energy wrapped around them as they morphed into their Ranger forms.

 

The four Rangers leapt through the air and landed in the middle of the Anglars’ formation. They unsheathed their blades and slashed through the grunts with bursts of spark as they spread outward, smashing through the enemy lines.

 

Samurai Green cut through a wave of advancing Anglars. He struck hard and fast, twisting his blade through simple and brutal slashes.

 

The Green Ranger spun his Symbol Disc. “Wood Spear!”

 

His sword glowed and transformed into a spear.

 

An Anglar chopped its blade towards the Green Ranger. Samurai Green used his staff to block the blow, knock the weapon aside, and slash the grunt across the chest with a massive burst of spark.

 

Samurai Green twirled the weapon through a series of wide arcs that swept Anglars aside with bursts of spark. He turned towards an advancing grunt and speared him in the gut with a burst of spark while pushing him backward.

 

He released the grunt, slashed low through a second grunt’s legs, and swung through a wide arc that slashed three grunts to the ground with bursts of spark.

 

Nearby, Samurai Blue used a two-hand grip to swing wide and slash two grunts to the ground. He parried a blow, twisted his grip, and chopped through a soldier with a burst of spark.

 

The Blue Ranger spun his Symbol Disc. “Water Arrow!”

 

The sword glowed with blue energy and transformed into a bow.

 

Samurai Blue swung wide and triggered a volley of blue energy arrows that tore through Anglars with bursts of spark.

 

Meanwhile Samurai Pink and Samurai Yellow moved alongside each other as they slashed through waves of Anglars. The grunts advanced with clubs and swords swinging. But the two Rangers easily parried and blocked, and countered with slashes and strikes that sparked through the soldiers.

 

UshiOni suddenly leapt through the air and landed while bashing the two Rangers. Samurai Pink and Samurai Yellow staggered but stayed on their feet and swung their blades towards the monster’s midsection.

 

The Ayakashi used its claws to block the blades. The monster knocked the swords aside and slashed the Rangers with bursts of spark that whipped them off their feet.

 

Samurai Yellow and Samurai Pink tumbled across the ground but quickly rolled back into crouched fighting stances. They pounced and swung their swords at the monster. But the Ayakashi leapt into the air to avoid the strikes.

 

The monster landed behind the Rangers and spun through blurs of motion while slashing them with bursts of spark. He past them with a final burst of speed that knocked them off their feet.

 

Samurai Pink and Samurai Yellow crashed against the ground. The Ayakashi snapped its mandibles with anticipation as the two Rangers climbed slowly back to their feet. 

 

The Ayakashi thwipped a webline that wrapped around the two Rangers, pinning them together.

 

“Now, the finisher…” the monster grumbled.

 

Samurai Blue suddenly leapt through the air and fired an arrow volley that tore through the webbing with bursts of spark. The webbing snapped, knocking the Ayakashi, Samurai Pink, and Samurai Yellow to the ground.

 

The Blue Ranger landed between the monster and his teammates as Samurai Green moved to help Samurai Yellow to her feet. “Can you stand?”

 

“I’ll be fine,” the Yellow Ranger said.

 

Samurai Pink climbed to her feet. “Be careful…He’s strong.”

 

***

 

Anthony draped Teddy’s arm over his shoulder and started walking from the outdoor café. But the Vorlock warrior princess Lal stepped onto the street to block his way.

 

Anthony narrowed his eyes. “Who are you?”

 

Lal smiled mockingly. “You must be the sixth Ranger…I am Lal. Your friend corrupted my brother. Now thanks to my poison, I’ve ended him. For the most part at least…He’ll still have some use. As for you…I can’t say the same.”

 

Lal used her dragon rings to charge one hand with fiery energy and the other hand with lightning. She hurled bolts of fire and lightning that Anthony dove aside to avoid.

 

Anthony rolled aside and set Teddy down. “Wait here…” he said. “Just hold on…”

 

The teen rose to his feet and flipped open his morpher.

 

“Samurai scribe! Ha!” Energy wrapped around him as he morphed into Samurai Gold.

 

Lal hurled another volley of blasts that Samurai Gold slashed aside.

 

***

 

The other four Rangers scrambled around and slashed at UshiOni from all sides. But their swings grew slower as their fatigue increased. The monster possessed great strength and nearly overpowered the Rangers. The creature easily parried their blows and slashed their armor with bursts of spark.

 

As one, the Rangers slashed at the creature. But the monster shot into the air to avoid the attack.

 

The Ayakashi dashed downward through blurs of motion that slashed the rangers aside with bursts of spark.

 

UshiOni landed, lifted Samurai Yellow from the ground, and hurled her through the air.

 

The Yellow Ranger tumbled across the ground as Samurai Blue, Samurai Pink, and Samurai Green regrouped around her. The Green Ranger helped her to her feet.

 

The Ayakashi’s eyes flashed red, and invisible bursts of energy exploded against the Rangers and hurled them off their feet.

 

Samurai Blue slowly climbed to his feet and rushed to attack.

 

UshiOni rushed forward, grabbed the Blue Ranger by the shoulders, and tossed him aside. But Samurai Blue stayed on his feet and slashed his blade. The Ayakashi blocked the blow and slashed the Ranger’s gut with a burst of spark.

 

Samurai Blue twisted his weapon and slashed again. But the monster parried and grabbed the Blue Ranger in a chokehold.

 

“You fool…” the monster grumbled. “You are weak without your leader. And now…he belongs to me.”

 

The monster released his grasp and slashed twice across the Blue Ranger’s helmet with bursts of spark that whipped him off his feet.

 

Samurai Green and Samurai Pink leapt through the air to attack. But the Ayakashi fired strands of webbing that wrapped around the Rangers and whipped them to the ground.

 

The Ayakashi fired strands of crimson electricity across the webbing, and the bursts of power exploded against the Rangers as sparks tore across their armor.

 

The Green Ranger and Pink Ranger collapsed to their knees as the monster released its webbing.

 

UshiOni rushed at the two Rangers and slashed his claw through a streak of crimson power that sparked against the Rangers and knocked them backward.

 

Samurai Green and Samurai Pink hit the ground hard, and the impact knocked them from their armor with flashes of light.

 

Samurai Blue and Samurai Yellow regrouped with one another and charged. But the monster spun and slashed them with bursts of spark.

 

The Ayakashi blocked a sword chop from Samurai Blue and slashed the Ranger across the chest. He then parried a blow from Samurai Yellow and slashed her aside.

 

Samurai Blue pounced from behind, but the monster turned and slashed the Ranger to the ground.

 

The Blue Ranger crashed and tumbled next to Samurai Yellow, and they rose to their feet just as the monster fired a flurry of crimson energy blades that slashed and tore across their armor with massive bursts of spark.

 

The impact knocked the two Rangers from their armor and hurled them to the ground.

 

***

 

Nearby, Teddy crawled across the street and tried to rise to his feet despite the burning pain in his chest, which spread like tendrils of white-hot flame through his limbs.

 

Samurai Gold fought to keep Lal away from his leader and friend. He held his blade in a reverse grip and slashed at the villain. But she dodged each strike with ease and smashed a roundkick against his gut.

 

Lal followed with a blast of electric tendrils that thrashed around Samurai Gold and pushed him backward with bursts of spark.

 

None of the combatants noticed a shadowy figure watch from the rooftops across the street. The figure was Juzou in his human form, standing casually with his sword held over his shoulder.

 

***

 

Dayu stopped playing her shamisen when she noticed the screams of Master Xandred had stopped. She stood cautiously as the deck creaked beneath her feet in the eerily quiet chambers.

 

“Master Xandred?” she spoke his name into the shadows.

 

He answered with a growl from within the bowels of the ship.

 

***

 

Ryan could barely lift his head. But he did, and saw the Ayakashi stalk forward. The ranger lifted his morpher to write a kanji symbol but didn’t have the strength.

 

UshiOni stepped alongside the fallen ranger and raised is claw to kill the teen.

 

Suddenly, a crack of crimson energy formed along a nearby tree.

 

“UshiOni!” Master Xandred’s voice shouted from the crevice.

 

A red tentacle lashed from the opening, lashed around the Ayakashi, and pulled him inside with a burst of crimson light as the crevice sealed.

 

Ryan dropped his morpher and slipped from consciousness.

 

***

 

Lal kicked the legs out from under Samurai Gold and swung a fiery punch at his fallen form. But he used his blade to parry the blow, slash the villain aside, and rise to his feet.

 

Samurai Gold slashed at Lal. But she dodged and smashed a hook kick across his helmet.

 

The villain hurled a bolt of fire that exploded against the Gold Ranger’s chest and hurled him backward. Samurai Gold smashed against a parked car and crumpled to the ground.

 

Nearby, Juzou leapt onto the street and walked slowly towards Teddy, who had lost consciousness. Samurai Gold didn’t notice—he rushed to his feet to attack Lal.

 

Lal dodged Samurai Gold and spotted her brother through the corner of her eye. “Brai…”

 

Samurai Gold slashed Lal with a burst of spark and looked to Bryce and Teddy. “Juzou…”

 

Purple flame washed across Bryce’s body as he transformed into the demon warrior Juzou.

 

Juzou lifted Teddy over his shoulder and leapt into the distance.

 

“Hey!” Samurai Gold shouted as he ran after Juzou.

 

But he couldn’t run fast enough. He watched Juzou and Teddy streak into the distance through a blur of motion.

 

“Teddy!” He lowered his blade and looked back to the battle scene to see Lal gone, and the other four rangers unmoving on the ground.

 

To be continued…Chapter 15