Chapter 15: Ultimate Samurai

Juzou

 

Master Xandred stormed across the deck of his ship. Each step ebbed with renewed strength and power. “Damn that Juzou…” Xandred growled. “Using these Vorlock to his advantage…”

 

The villain unsheathed his sword and stabbed through a nearby crate. “It would have been the perfect chance to kill Samurai Red.”

 

Xandred looked over his shoulder to Dayu. “Dayu…” he commanded. “I want Juzou found and killed. Then…do the same to these Vorlock.”

 

Dayu stopped playing her shamisen and lowered her head with a slight bow. “I understand…”

 

Xandred nodded with approval, then walked to the nearest view port. “Now all that’s left is him…”

 

He stared towards the banks of the Sanzu River, where the Ayakashi named UshiOni thrashed with pain. Tendrils of crimson lightning struck the monster and snaked across his body.

 

Shitari used his walking stick to wobble next to Master Xandred. “You’re infusing him with power…he’s on the verge of breaking.”

 

“Then he will break,” Xandred said. “Once he does, release him on the humans. It’s been a while since I drank the sweet sake of human screams.”

 

***

 

Teddy stirred within a dark cave and dreamed as his body fought the effects of the Vorlock poison. His mind flashed back.

 

***

 

Angel Grove, 2001

 

Teddy sat in front of his television. A control held firmly in both hands, he played the recent version of a PlayStation Final Fantasy game. His parents were in the adjoining dining room, quietly discussing their fears about the previous day’s attacks, the same attacks that had injured Tommy and killed his girlfriend Shannon.

 

The living room door slowly opened. Tommy stepped in. The teenager’s hair was disheveled. His eyes constantly narrowed. His hands clenched into fists. Teddy didn’t realize it at the time, but Tommy was under the control of Bandora.

 

Teddy raised his gaze towards his older brother. “Tommy, are you-”

 

Tommy used his leg to shove his younger brother aside.

 

“Tommy!” his mother by adoption scolded. “I know you’re upset, but that’s no way to treat your brother…”

 

“Upset?” His voice was like ice as he narrowed his eyes at his parents. “You know nothing…don’t pretend to understand.”

 

Tommy turned away from the living room and headed upstairs towards his bedroom. His parents were stunned silent.

 

***

 

Weeks passed, and Tommy broke control over Bandora’s spell.

 

Teddy knocked on Tommy’s door again. His older brother had not left the room all day. “Tommy! You missed school. Mom is going to kill you dead.”

 

Teddy knocked again. He knew it was a futile effort. But he loved his brother. He worried for him. “Tommy, come on…” He leaned his forehead against the door.

 

“Leave me alone, Teddy…” Tommy said quietly, his voice shaky.

 

“Come on, big brother,” Teddy said as he knocked again.

 

Tommy swung the door open. He leaned down and placed his hands on his younger brother’s shoulders. “You don’t understand, Teddy. I need to be left alone. My life…my whole life…is gone. Turned upside down and shaken so hard that it’s shattered. I need to be left alone.”

 

Tommy let go of Teddy and shut the door.

 

***

 

Teddy’s vision blurred slowly back into focus. He found himself on the damp ground of a dark cave near a campfire. Bryce sat on the other side of the fire and stared into the flames with a cold, heartless gaze.

 

Teddy moaned with pain as he sat up. “What did you…?”

 

“You were poisoned,” Bryce said. “I gave you a cure; pure water from the springs. I couldn’t let you die. Not before our battle…”

 

Teddy shook his head. He felt a flood of emotions: Anger, sorrow, guilt, worry. “I’m not going to fight you.”

 

“You will,” Bryce said as he ran his fingers across the blade of his sword like caressing a lover. “It’s your destiny.”

 

“I only fight to save others,” Teddy said. “Just like I’ll fight to save you. To bring you back.”

 

Bryce sniffed a mocking laugh. “You still think of me as the one called Bryce. Brai. As I have told you, he is no more.”

                                       

“I don’t believe that,” Teddy said.

 

“Then you are a fool,” Bryce said. “What you see before you is a Body. I’ve also started to regain some of his memory. His Mind. But is that what makes a person? Mind and Body? No. No, little mortal. I do not have his Soul. I do not have his Spiritual being. So I am not him.”

 

“You’re remembering…” Teddy started to say.

 

“It is of little consequence, Ranger,” Bryce said. “They are merely fragments with no emotion, like the memories of another played before my mind. They are of no significance.”

 

“I’m not giving up on you,” Teddy said.

 

“What makes you so sure your friend would want to return, even if he could?” Bryce asked. “As I already told you, he invited me into his body willingly. And now…now I remember why.”

 

The villain looked up and told his story.

 

***

 

Weeks ago, Angel Grove

 

The palace of the Vorlock stood still and empty — except for the central throne room. Emperor Kraigen sat on his throne and stared ahead somberly. He mourned for his people, but only for the briefest of moments.

 

They would be reborn, all of them, with him as their leader. 

 

Footsteps sounded from the stone entrance of the throne room. The villain Cye-Axe walked slowly across a cobblestone pathway and approached the emperor. The warrior carried an axe-tipped blade, drenched with blood.

 

Kraigen looked upon the warrior with twisted satisfaction. “What word?”

 

“The last of them were hiding in the lower tunnels,” Cye-Axe said with a stern voice that masked his pain. “They have been…removed.”

 

“Very well,” the emperor said. “Let us-”

 

“Kraigen!” a voice shouted from the shadows. The villain turned to see the prince named Brai step forward. The teen rolled his hands into fists and glared at the emperor. “You bastard. You’ve destroyed everything…Everything!”

 

“Not all is as it seems, traitorous prince,” Kraigen said.                                                                     

 

Brai had no interest in listening. He charged towards the emperor to attack.

 

The teen called upon all his rage and swung a punch at the emperor. But Cye-Axe dashed in front of the emperor and used the flat of the sword to block the punch. The villain smashed a kick against Brai's gut, knocking the teen to the ground.

 

Brai tried to climb back to his feet, but pain and vertigo pinned him down. The suspended animation of the ice had left him weakened.

 

“You are truly weak,” Kraigen said. “Like your father. Like most of our people.”

 

“You killed them,” Brai said as he climbed into a crouched position. His arms and legs burned with fatigue. “You killed them all, you bastard...”

 

“No,” Kraigen said. “The Gedoushuu killed our people.”

 

“You brought them here!” Brai shouted. “You summoned them!”

 

“By accident,” Kraigen said. “Not by design. Do you honestly think I wished for the death of our people? What good is an emperor without an empire?”

 

“You don't even have the right to call yourself that,” Brai said. “To call yourself emperor.”

 

“Your father would have left us here to rot,” Kraigen said.

 

Brai shook his head. “He was almost ready...to make ourselves known to the surface.”

 

“And they would have wiped us out the moment we showed that kind of vulnerability,” Kraigen said. “The surface world is filled with cowards. Cowards who kill what they fear and cannot understand.”

 

“You don't know them,” Kraigen said.

 

“And you do? You spend one year among them and consider yourself an expert?” Kraigen scoffed. “You're a foolish idealist.”

 

Cye-Axe walked over to the prince, lifted him by the back of the neck, and tossed him closer to the feet of the emperor.

 

Kraigen used his foot to turn Brai onto his back, and he stepped onto the prince's chest. Brai winced as he felt his ribs crack.

 

“You've become a worm,” Kraigen said. “You've become soft. You came here seeking vengeance and couldn't even stand to face me. Pathetic, truly...”

 

Brai grabbed onto Kraigen's ankle and struggled to break free. But the emperor merely stepped down, harder.

 

“Blame me, or blame me not, I do not care,” Kraigen said. “The Gedoushuu killed our people. You know this. Regardless of how they came here, or why, you know the demons annihilated our race.”

 

Brai glared upward at Kraigen. “I swear I'm going to kill you...”

 

Kraigen ignored the prince's words. “What if I told you I could give you the strength to fight back against the Gedoushuu? To carve through their ranks with a wave of blood and power. What would you say to such an offer, prince?”

 

“I'd say get your foot off me before I snap off your leg,” Brai said.

 

Kraigen laughed, a low rumble. “That's the kind of anger you need to direct at our enemies. Our real enemies.”

 

“You have a lackey,” Brai said as he glanced at Cy-Axe. “What do you need me for?”

 

“I need someone with your passion,” Kraigen said. “You are weak. But your passion, if properly honed as a weapon, could make you strong. Stronger than the Gedoushuu.”

 

“You'd have me become a monster?” Brai said. “You honestly think that's a tempting offer?”

 

“Yes,” the emperor said.

 

Kraigen lifted his foot, and Brai rolled aside. He climbed slowly back to his feet and stumbled, as a wave of vertigo washed through his head.

 

“Think of the values you learned as a child. Loyalty to your people. Honor...”

 

Brai shook his head. “I'll never let go of my humanity. Especially not for you...”

 

Kraigen narrowed his eyes. “Not for me, you fool. For your people. Your love for a surface-dweller is an abomination. Would you choose impure lust over the values and traditions of our people? The Gedoushuu wiped us out. We, in this room, are all that is left of our entire race. Hate me if you will, prince, but do not think for one moment that in my twisted heart I don't weep for that loss. I mourn for every woman and child butchered in their beds at the hands of these demon spawn. I am giving you a chance to seek justice. You blind, arrogant child. This is not a game. This is not a trick. I hide nothing back: You would become a monster. A demon, a warrior. But you would wipe out our enemies and allow the souls of our people to rest in peace.”

 

Brai breathed heavily and rolled his hands into fists. 

 

“You were their prince,” Kraigen said. “Now they are dead. Their souls demand justice. Royal justice.”

 

“They won't have their justice until you're dead too,” Brai said. “You had no right to the throne. You brought the demon butchers into our tunnels. You doomed our race to extinction.”

 

“Very well,” Kraigen said. “Blame me. Take the power I am granting you and use it to attack me. But only after you have wiped out the Vorlock.”

 

Brai's rage screamed at him to reach out and strangle the life from the emperor. But he couldn't resist the temptation to go after the Gedoushuu as well. He knew he could never accomplish such a task on his own. He could never help the souls of his people on his own. He would need power. 

 

“Let's say I accepted this offer,” Brai said. “What would I have to do?”

 

“You would become half Gedoushuu,” Kraigen said. “A demon. This would allow you to travel to the Sanzu River, where the dark-spawn live. Where the souls of our people are...trapped. Would you abandon them?”

 

Brai shook his head. He knew if he allowed himself to become a demon he could never be with Teddy again. But could he really be selfish enough to let his love for Teddy keep him from serving his people? Even in death, they needed him. They needed their prince.

 

“What you're asking is insane,” Brai whispered.

 

Emperor Kraigen pulled open his cloak and pulled out a curved, slender sword. The handle was white, and the hilt was dull gold. The edge of the blade was jagged and tinted red.

 

“This is Urimasa,” Kraigen said. “A demon blade.” He extended the blade towards the prince. “This is your destiny.”

 

Brai looked at the blade. He could feel the power ebb from the weapon. Power, and something else-- despair.

 

“I will make this simple for you, prince,” Kraigen said. “Take this blade. Save the souls of your people. Give them justice so they may rest in peace. Or die a meaningless death at my feet.”

 

Brai couldn't let himself die. He didn't fear death, not in the slightest. But he wanted his death to mean something. To matter.

 

Teddy...Brai thought to himself. I'm sorry...I'm so sorry...I'll always love you.

 

He didn't give himself time to hesitate or second guess. He reached out and grabbed the weapon by the handle. Crimson fire flowed from the blade and washed across Brai, searing through his body and into his spirit. He felt the flames peal his soul, and the sensation drove him to his knees. Pain shot down his spine and burst through his head. His Body. His Mind. His Soul. His Spirit. All violated. All torn and re-woven into something new. Something horrible.

 

The crimson fire ignited with a final pulse. Flames pealed back from his body, revealing his new form. The form of Juzou. 

 

The demon warrior leaned on his sword for support. His every muscle and bone felt as if on fire. His mind tried to think, but his thoughts and memories had shattered. He remembered only pain. And felt only despair.

 

Kraigen laughed softly, a deep rumble. 

 

***

 

Teddy shook his head with disbelief. “If you accepted this power to fight the Gedoushuu, why haven’t you?”

 

I did nothing,” Brai said. “I only took over this shell. My motives are my own. And my motives are to cut you down in the ultimate duel.”

 

“Why?” Teddy asked. “Did you ask yourself that? Your motives don’t make any sense.”

 

“Do not tempt me, Ranger,” Brai said. “I would prefer to fight you in your prime…but I could easily change my preferences.”

 

“Bryce, I know this isn’t you. I know what you’re going through, and I know you can fight this, OK? I can help you…” Teddy said, practically pleading. 

 

Bryce rose slowly to his feet and unsheathed his sword. “Stand, Ranger.”

 

Teddy narrowed his eyes and climbed to his feet. “I already told you…I won’t fight you.”

 

“Then perhaps I can motivate you,” he said. “For every day I am alive, I will kill a human. Innocent women. Children. Men of the cloth. Pure, unblemished souls. I will kill them all.”

 

Teddy froze with fear. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He couldn’t believe Juzou would be so cruel. A part of Bryce had to be inside the demon. And Bryce would never harm innocents, even if he was a Vorlock. He’d given his life to save his people. He wouldn’t needlessly slaughter others.

 

“Test me,” Juzou said. “Call my bluff. The deaths of innocents will fuel your rage and make our duel even more satisfying.”

 

“You wouldn’t hurt anyone,” Teddy said, more to convince himself than Juzou.

 

“As I said…Test me.”

 

Teddy couldn’t believe it. He couldn’t believe Juzou — no, Bryce —he couldn’t believe Bryce would hurt anyone. And yet he couldn’t take a chance that Juzou would harm someone.

 

Teddy armed his Spin Sword.

 

***

 

Bradin, Ryan, Anna and Kirsten lay in beds within the dojo. UshiOni had overwhelmed the teens and nearly killed them.

 

Tommy sat in a chair near their beds, and Ashley stood next to him with her hand on his shoulder. He reached up and took her hand.

 

“Teddy’s still out there,” Tommy said.

 

“I know,” Ashley said. “Anthony will find him.”

 

“I shouldn’t have gotten them involved,” Tommy said. “Any of them. They’re kids. They should be texting and going to the movies and drinking underage.”

 

“I’m pretty sure Bradin’s got that last part covered,” Ashley said.

 

“I’m being serious,” Tommy said.

 

Ashley sighed. “I know…But you have to stop beating yourself up over every close call.”

 

“It’s not the close calls, it’s the failures,” Tommy said. “Simon. Kou. Hunter. I failed them. I can’t fail this team too.”

 

He stood from his chair and walked towards the stairwell that led to Ops. Ashley followed.

 

“Where are you going?” she asked.

 

“I’m going to try the black box again,” he said.

 

“The Samurai Seal?” Ashley asked.

 

Tommy nodded as he walked down the steps and into Ops. He moved towards a back shelf and pulled out a wooden box. He opened the box, which contained the Samurai Seal: a handheld black box etched with a golden symbol.  

 

“When the Rangers and I fought Zedd, we had an advantage. An armor power up,” Tommy said. “This black box won’t do the same, but it’s a step in that direction.”

 

“But we couldn’t get the box to work,” Ashley said.

 

“I’ll try again,” Tommy said. “I’m tired of the bad guys having the advantage. They outnumber us so much we can’t even keep track of them all.”

 

“So what do we do?” Ashley asked. “You can’t keep trying to make a power-up disc over and over; you’ll burn yourself out.”

 

“I know,” Tommy said. “This time, instead of trying to make a disc that strong from scratch, we’ll use the discs we already have. Kind of like my old Inferno Armor. We’ll make the power-up mode a combination of all the other discs’ power.”

 

***

 

zzzShitari watched through the viewport as UshiOni snarled. The energy that violated the Ayakashi’s body had driven the creature mad, nearly mindless. The monster howled with primitive rage as curved horns elongated and sprouted from his head and hands.

 

Shitari nodded with approval. “His mind has broken. He’s nothing more than a beast now. A beast to set loose on the mortal world.”

 

***

 

Shitari wasted no time sending UshiOni to the mortal world. Citizens screamed and ran in panic at the sight of the beast, who snarled with rage.

 

The Ayakashi used its claws to hurl twirling blades of crimson energy across the city streets. The energy blades exploded through buildings and cars with massive bursts of flame, showering smoke and debris across the landscape.

 

***

 

Kirsten awoke and stumbled from bed. She nearly knocked over a divider, stirring the others awake.

 

“What the…” Bradin grumbled as he rubbed his forehead and sat up “Kirsten? Did we…What?”

 

Ryan and Anna stirred awake at the noise. They each shifted uncomfortably as pain throbbed through their bodies.

 

“Man…” Bradin said he pushed himself to his feet. “It feels like we were hit by a…”

 

“Rampaging demon monster from the river of Hell?” Anna asked.

 

“Basically,” Bradin said. “How long were we out?”

 

“Too long,” Ryan said. “Where’s Teddy?”

 

“And Anthony,” Anna said.

 

“Let’s find out,” Bradin said as he led the others downstairs.

 

***

 

The four rangers entered Ops to find Tommy sitting cross-legged on the floor, and Ashley at her computer terminal. Tommy’s eyes were closed as he held a small black box. Traces of flame flickered from his hands and wrapped around the box.

 

“New toy?” Bradin asked.

 

Tommy opened his eyes. “Something like that. It’s a power up…something you’ll need.”

 

Ashley turned towards the teens. “You should be resting,” she told them. “That fight took a lot out of you.”

 

“We’ll be fine,” Anna said. “Where are Teddy and Anthony?”

 

“Juzou took Teddy,” Tommy said. “Anthony’s looking for them now.”

 

“We’ve got to go help,” Ryan said.

 

“No,” Tommy said as he stood. “I need you for something…This Samurai Seal works as a power up, but I need your Symbol Discs to make it work.”

 

He set the black box on a nearby pedestal. “It shouldn’t take too long…I want to make sure we’re ready the next time that Ayakashi shows up.”

 

The four rangers handed over their Symbol Discs, and Tommy set them around the black box.

 

“How will this work?” Anna asked.

 

“It’s…complicated,” Tommy said.

 

“You have no idea. Do you?” Bradin said.

 

“Like I said,” Tommy said. “It’s complicated.”

 

“He really does have no idea,” Ashley said from her computer terminal. “But he’ll make it work.”

 

Tommy placed his right fist against his left palm and closed his eyes. He reached out with his Kiryoku and felt the spells infused within each disc. He ignited those spells and started channeling their energy into the black box. He fell into a deep trance, as he always did when creating new power. The experience often pushed Tommy to the limit.

 

The alarms suddenly blared. Ashley’s main computer terminal showed an image of UshiOni rampaging through the city. 

 

“Not him again…” Kirsten said.

 

“He looks different,” Ryan said.

 

“Much uglier,” Bradin said.

 

Ashley nodded as she reviewed the readings on her computer. “He’s even more powerful than the last time you fought him. You’ll need to wait for Tommy to finish with your Symbol Discs.”

 

“We can’t wait,” Anna said.

 

“Right,” Bradin nodded in agreement. “We can still morph, so we can still fight.”

 

Ashley started to protest, but they already bolted towards the exit.

 

***

 

Teddy narrowed his eyes and tightened his grip on his sword. “You want to fight so bad? Then leave Bryce. Find another host.”

 

“It doesn’t quite work that way, Ranger,” Juzou said. “This is no simple possession. I am Juzou.”

 

A golden kanji suddenly flared to light between the two opponents and ignited. The flash knocked Juzou backward as Anthony ran into the cave while carrying his morpher. 

 

“Teddy!” he shouted.

 

“Anthony…” Teddy said as he lowered his sword. “Where are the others?”

 

“Fighting,” Anthony said. “Again. I guess it’s safe to assume my social life is over…”

 

“Basically,” Teddy said.

 

Juzou snarled and unsheathed his sword as crimson fire transformed his body into its demon form. “I will kill you both.”

 

“Nice guy,” Anthony said sarcastically. “I see why you liked him.”

 

Juzou twisted his sword into an offensive stance.

 

“We don’t have time for this,” Anthony said as he punched a code into his morpher. “We have to move.”

 

The teen thrust his morpher forward and fired a kanji symbol that burst with light. When the light cleared, Anthony and Teddy were gone.

 

Juzou lowered his weapon and stared towards the entrance of the cave. “We will duel, ranger…We will.”

 

The demon didn’t notice Dayu watch from the shadows. She stepped backward and vanished into the darkness.

 

***

 

“Gedoushuu!” Samurai Green shouted as he and the other three Rangers ran to the scene.

 

The monster turned and growled at the Rangers. The creature’s mind clouded with rage as he leaned back and screamed.

 

Tendrils of crimson energy blasted upward from the monster’s claws and horns. The energy blasts arced towards the Rangers like lightning and exploded around them with massive bursts of flame.

 

The Rangers managed to stand their ground as the blasts and smoke cleared.

 

“That Ayakashi…” Samurai Yellow said between breaths. “He’s different from yesterday. It’s like he’s gone mad…”

 

“Be careful!” Samurai Blue warned as he spotted the monster lean forward.

 

UshiOni thwipped a pair of tentacles that lashed out and whipped the Rangers with bursts of spark.

 

***

 

Anthony and Teddy ran to Ops so Tommy could use their Symbol Discs on the black box. Tommy managed to finish the Samurai Seal in under a minute.

 

“There…” he said as he took a deep breath. He lifted the Samurai Seal and flipped the box open. He pulled out a black Super Disc infused with new power. “The Samurai Seal and Super Disc are both finished.”

 

Anthony grabbed the box, along with the other rangers’ Symbol Discs. He looked to his friend. “You up for this?”

 

Teddy nodded. His body still felt weak after recovering from the Vorlock poison. But he wouldn’t let that stop him. “I am. Let’s go…”

 

“Anthony,” Tommy said. “You have a second disc you might want to use this time. The Claw Disc.”

 

Anthony nodded. “Right.”

 

Teddy and Anthony bolted towards the exit.

 

***

 

The Ayakashi slashed through the Rangers one-by-one with bursts of spark that knocked them backward.

 

The Rangers rolled across the ground and rose to their feet to regroup. But UshiOni quickly hurled a pair of twirling energy blades that slashed the Rangers with massive bursts of spark and flame that hurled them backward.

 

The Rangers crashed against the ground as smoke sizzled across their armor. They tried to rise, but the blast had hurt them severely. 

 

The Ayakashi snarled with delight as the Nanashi gathered around him. But before the monster could attack, Samurai Gold and Teddy dropped to the street and faced off with the monster.

 

Samurai Gold handed the black box to his friend. “Skip the taunting and kick some ass?”

 

Teddy nodded and took the box. “Best plan I’ve heard.”

 

He armed his morpher.

 

“Samurai scribe! Ha!” His kanji wrapped around him as he morphed into his Ranger form.

 

The Red Ranger opened the Samurai Seal. He attached the black Super Disc to the inside of the black box, then flipped the device shut. He thrust the box forward and ignited its power. “Super Samurai mode!”

 

The black box flared with golden power that formed a robe-like suit of armor that wrapped around Samurai Red. The white robe glistened with gold trimming and the symbol of the Samurai Rangers on the left chest.

 

Samurai Red pulled the Super Disc from the black box, slid the disc over his sword handle, and attached the black box to the hilt.

 

“Blade of the Flame!” he shouted. “Samurai Red!”

 

UshiOni howled with rage. The creature knew nothing but primal emotion. Its conscious mind was gone. 

 

The Nanashi charged towards the Red Ranger. 

 

Samurai Red walked slowly through their ranks and swung his sword through a series of quick and powerful strikes. Each blow wasted no movement while slashing grunts with bursts of spark and knocking them to the ground.

 

He blocked a pair of strikes, knocked their blades away while slashing them backward, and turned while chopping a grunt to the ground.

 

The Red Ranger leapt and spun upward to avoid a wave of grunts that attacked at once. He landed while slashing three grunts to the ground, turned and blocked two swords while slashing back the grunts, and lunged forward to stab a soldier in the gut with a burst of spark. He slid his sword free and bashed a sidekick against the grunt’s chest.

 

Another wave charged. The Red Ranger quickly parried their blows and slashed them aside.

 

The Nanashi closed in around the Red Ranger. So the Red Ranger spun and swung his blade through a streak of red light that slashed the group back with massive bursts of spark and flame.

 

Nearby, UshiOni growled with rage and slashed aside the last of the grunts to clear a path towards the Red Ranger.

 

Samurai Red and UshiOni charged at one another. The Red Ranger passed the monster while slashing its armor. He turned and chopped, but the monster used its claws to block the blow.

 

The Red Ranger pulled his blade free and slashed the monster with a pair of strikes.

 

UshiOni clawed towards the Ranger’s head. But the Red Ranger ducked and dashed past the monster while striking low, slashing the creature’s gut.

 

The Ayakashi snapped around and slashed at the Ranger. But Samurai Red leapt backward to gain distance.

 

The monster’s eyes glowed with crimson power as he hurled a pair of spinning energy blades at the Red Ranger. Samurai Red easily slashed the blades aside.

 

The Red Ranger pulled his Fire Disc from his belt buckler and slid the disc into the black box. “Fire Disc!” he shouted. “Surging Flame!”

 

Fiery energy circled around the Red Ranger’s blade as he charged to attack.

 

Samurai Red gripped his saber with both hands and slashed towards the Ayakashi. UshiOni parried the blow, but Samurai Red twisted his grip and chopped the monster with a burst of spark. Secondary explosions tore through the monster as he crashed and exploded with a final burst of flame.

 

The other four Rangers had climbed to their feet to watch alongside Samurai Gold.

 

“Not bad,” Samurai Green said. “Do we each get one?”

 

“No…” Samurai Gold said as he pulled out the Rangers’ Symbol Discs. “But you can have these back.”

 

The Rangers took their discs just as the Ayakashi reformed and grew giant.

 

Samurai Red regrouped with his teammates. “You know what to do…”

 

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!”

 

Below, Samurai Gold attached the Claw Symbol Disc to his morpher. He dialed a code into his morpher, which projected a kanji of golden power.

 

zzzClawzord!” the Gold Ranger shouted. “Arise!”

 

The crab-like Clawzord 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.

 

Clawzord!” he shouted. “Rise up!”

 

The Clawzord shifted shape to assume its humanoid warrior form. “Claw Battlezord! Daikaiou!”

 

UshiOni hurled a pair of spinning energy blades the Samurai Megazord lifted its shield to block with bursts of spark.

 

Claw Battlezord armed a pair of curved katana and charged.

 

The zord slashed through an x-shaped pattern the Ayakashi blocked. UshiOni slashed Daikaiou with bursts of spark that knocked the Battlezord backward.

 

The Claw Battlezord stumbled but stayed on its feet.

 

UshiOni hurled another pair of energy blades that slashed the Battlezord with explosions of spark.

 

Tommy spoke to his team through their communicators. “Teddy,” he said. “The black box comes with a symbol disc for your zords too. Use the Super Gattai Disc.”

 

Samurai Red pulled his sword from his pedestal. He opened the Samurai Seal, attached the Super Gattai Disc inside, and slapped the lid shut. The Red Ranger spun his Symbol Disc. “Megazords assemble!”

 

shinken-og-daikaishinkenohThe Samurai Megazord and Claw Battlezord shifted shape and ebbed with power as they started to combine. The Claw Battlezord formed over the Samurai Megazord like an additional suit of armor, and the Megazord armed a pair of curved katana.

 

All six Rangers joined in the central cockpit. “Super Samurai Megazord!” they shouted. “Daikai Shinkenou!”

 

The Megazord stomped towards UshiOni to attack.

 

The Ayakashi hurled a volley of twirling energy blades the Megazord used its katana to slice and slash from the air with bursts of spark. Daikai Shinkenou continued its advance, but the creature’s claws fired bursts of crimson lightning that thrashed and sparked against the Megazord.

 

The impact shook the Rangers within their cockpit.

 

“We can’t get close!” Samurai Green shouted.

 

“We’ll use the Battlewing,” Samurai Red said.

 

Samurai Gold attached his Octo Disc to his morpher and punched in a code. “Octozord!” he shouted. “Rise up!”

 

The Octozord flew onto the scene with a snap of its armored tentacles.

 

Samurai Red looked to Samurai Green and Samurai Blue. “Bradin. Ryan.”

 

The three Rangers pulled their swords from their pedestals.

 

Samurai Red armed the Tiger Disc, Samurai Blue armed the Shark Disc, and Samurai Green armed the Beetle Disc. They swiped the discs.

 

“Tiger Origami!”

 

“Swordfish Origami!”

 

“Beetle Origami!”

 

Together, they shouted: “Battlewing, assemble!”

 

The Tiger, Swordfish, and Beetle combined to form a winged zord called the Samurai Battlewing.

 

Battlewing!” Samurai Red shouted. “Cannon mode!”

 

The Battlewing formed a mounted cannon that landed on the ground in front of the Megazord. The Octozord snapped onto the cannon like a massive barrel as the Megazord grabbed hold of the weapon.

 

“Stampeding blaster!” Samurai Red shouted.

 

The blaster fired bursts of energy shaped like the Origami. The energy shadows surged towards the Ayakashi and combined into one, powerful blast that washed across the monster and incinerated the beast into ash.

 

***

 

The rangers briefly regrouped at Ops. Teddy filled them in on the story of Bryce becoming Juzou, which brought up more questions than answers. Why would the Vorlock create Juzou to target the Gedoushuu, and then let Juzou go rogue? What role did Emperor Kraigen have in the destruction of his people, and how were some of them seemingly back from the dead?

 

Everyone started heading back upstairs to the dojo, but Teddy lingered behind to speak with Tommy alone.

 

“Tommy…” Teddy said. “Can I ask you something?”

 

“Always,” Tommy said.

 

“When you were the Green Ranger…what was the worst thing that you did?” Teddy asked.

 

Tommy’s shoulders sank. His guilt would never leave him — which he fully accepted. He never wanted to let go of the guilt. Not completely. The guilt had become a part of him and served as a powerful reminder of why he lived the life of a Master. “How come?”

 

“You did some bad things…but you came back,” Teddy said. “What was the worst?”

 

Tommy sighed. His mind flashed back as he told the story.

 

***

 

Angel Grove, 2001AD

 

The Battle Task Force Power Rangers battled Bandora’s snake-like DoraLadoon. The monster had released a volley of demonic snakes that wrapped around the Rangers and forced them to the ground.

 

A scream sounded nearby. The Rangers, still struggling on the ground against the snakes, turned to see Dragon Ranger standing near a fountain. The evil Green Ranger was grabbing hold of a young girl and holding his sword to her neck.

 

Dragon Ranger looked to DoraLadoon. “Call your little snakes off. I need to have a word with my good friends here.”

 

The snakes released their hold. The Rangers slowly rose to their feet, their bodies weak and battered.

 

“Bandora has a little job for you fools,” Dragon Ranger said. “I’m sure you’ve already heard all about it from that bloated head who calls himself your mentor.”

 

Tyranno Ranger raised his sword, despite his trembling weakness. Every joint and muscle in his body ached with pain, but he was not going to let that stop him. “You have five seconds to let that girl go, warlord.”

 

“Fine,” Dragon Ranger said. “In two seconds you’ll be in too much pain to count.” He extended his hand and fired a jade energy pulse that exploded against the Rangers’ armor.

 

“Now…” Dragon Ranger said. “About that job. You will bring the dinosaur eggs to me. At the top of the eTech skyscraper. You have thirty minutes. Not a second more.”

 

Tyranno Ranger rose to his feet, his body still trembling from snake bites. “Fine. But if you hurt even one hair on her head-”

 

Dragon Ranger plucked a hair from the girl’s head. “Spare me the false threats. Get the dinosaur eggs. Now.”

 

***

 

The Rangers met Dragon Ranger on the rooftop 28 minutes later. He held the girl in his arm and pressed his blade against her throat. He wondered if the Rangers knew that the girl’s fate was sealed. Her death would enrage the Rangers, make them act on emotion and not think. Her death would throw the team off guard. That’s what Dragon Ranger wanted.

 

The Rangers stepped forward and tossed down the chest containing the eggs. Zordon had teleported them to the chest and brought them back to the exchange point.

 

“There,” Tyranno Ranger said. “Now let the girl go.”

 

“But of course,” Dragon Ranger said in an icy tone. He slit the girl’s neck and tossed her aside.

 

“NO!” Tyranno Ranger shouted. The Rangers pounced forward to attack.

 

A group of rock soldiers suddenly appeared and blocked the Rangers from Dragon Ranger. Even the warlord was taken aback by the grunts. “What the hell?”

 

Goldar glided through the air and dropped onto the roof while retracting his wings. He armed his runed double-edged blade, the Golken, and aimed it towards the Rangers. “Your doom is here, Rangers!”

 

Goldar!” Dragon Ranger shouted. “What are you doing here, monkey brain!?” A telepathic spell suddenly cut through his mind, causing him to drop to his knees in pain. It was Bandora. She wanted the eggs.

 

“Damn her,” Dragon Ranger muttered beneath his breath as he retrieved the chest. He shimmered away back to the palace.

 

***

 

Teddy shivered at the story.

 

His brother looked down with shame. “You wanted to know…”

 

Teddy nodded. “Even after something like that…you came back.”

 

“I did,” Tommy said. “But what happened with Bryce is different than what happened with me.”

 

“If what Juzou is saying is true,” Teddy said.

 

“I don’t want to have the same argument again,” Tommy said.

 

“I don’t either,” Teddy said. “Besides…after the threat he made…I’m not sure if it matters. I can’t let him hurt anyone. I have to fight him.”

 

***

 

Juzou stood on the rooftops of Angel Grove with his sword in hand. He looked down upon the citizens walking and driving across the street, going about their daily lives.

 

He held tightly onto his sword and smiled with fiendish delight.

 

“This will work perfectly…”

 

***

 

Weeks ago, Angel Grove

 

Emperor Kraigen and Cye-Axe stood alone after the newly-born Juzou teleported away.

 

Cye-Axe looked to his emperor. “What will you do if he learns the truth?”

 

“It doesn't matter,” Kraigen said. “His mind is no longer his own. He is Gedoushuu now…And he will serve his purpose…”

 

To be continued…Chapter 16