Chapter 16: Ultimate Samurai

Prince of the Underground

 

Beneath Angel Grove

Days after the Second Countdown to Destruction

 

The Vorlock tunnels still trembled from the aftershocks of the battle between the Mogralord and Earth’s champions. Prince Brai walked through those tunnels along with his father, Emperor Zarui. Zarui wore dark robes of green and gold that matched the color of his mask.

 

“I don’t understand…” Brai said. “The fighting stopped…so why are the tunnels still shaking?”

 

“They shake because the Earth is broken,” Zarui said. “Those on the surface have injured their own planet to the core of its existence…”

 

Brai shook his head with disbelief. “How could they let that happen?”

 

We let that happen,” Zarui said. “We were the First of Men, and we hid our presence. We’ve stayed hidden since the Great Frost, but instead of hiding, we should have been leading. It was our destiny.”

 

Zarui looked upward, as if staring through the tunnel ceiling to the surface above. “Maybe now they’ll finally understand…”

 

“Understand what?” Brai asked.

 

“The need for peace. Stability,” Zarui said. “The battle above nearly wiped them out. Surely they understand by now that their actions are driving the world to an end…”

 

“But they’re savages…” Brai said.

 

Zarui said. “They are…But perhaps they can change, with the proper guidance. Our guidance. We are a people of honor. A concept they’ve lost through their ‘evolution’ above.”

 

“What are you saying?” Brai asked.

 

“You know as well as I do that our people grow restless. Your generation isn’t as content as others to stay hidden in the shadows,” Zarui said. “They’re intrigued by the world above. Maybe now is the time to make ourselves known to that world.

 

“You wouldn’t!” a voice shouted from the shadows. They turned to see Lal walking towards them. “They’d wipe us all out!”

 

Lal…” Zarui said with disappointment. “You are so much like your mother.”

 

“She was a great woman,” Lal said.

 

“She was quite insane,” Zarui said.

 

“You can’t expose us to the surface,” Lal said.

 

“My dear, you misunderstand,” Zarui said. “First we must see if they are ready to accept us and truly change.”

 

“But how?” Brai asked.

 

“You,” Zarui said as he looked to his son. “You’re not like the others of our people, Brai. You are innocent and pure. That innocence will lend itself well to truly understanding the spirit of the world above.”

 

“You mean…” Brai started, then shook his head. “No one’s been to the surface since…No one’s been to the surface.”

 

“It’s time to change that,” Zarui said. “I want you to go, learn what you can, and report back.”

 

“Just like that?” Brai asked.

 

“No…”Zarui said. “We will prepare first. Come…there is much to discuss.”

 

They turned and left Lal standing alone in the darkness. The girl tightened her fists and narrowed her brow with disdain. “The fools…”

 

***

 

Lal left her father and brother and walked into the deepest tunnels of the Vorlock. Her people evolved in the darkness, so her eyes allowed her to view the infrared spectrum. Heated stones lined her descent, to where she would meet the White Skins.

 

An offshoot of the Vorlock, the White Skins evolved somewhat differently. They still looked human, but their skin appeared chalk-white, and their eyes solid black. The various Vorlock tribes often skirmished with the White Skins over territory, food and water.

 

Lal entered a dome-shaped cavern and looked to the center of the room, where a White Skin waited. He stood tall and strong, with a black cloak wrapped around his powerful body. He held a black staff that he leaned on, not for support, but to extend his senses through the tunnels and caverns.

 

“You’re late,” the White Skin said.

 

“Do you want a false apology? To waste more of your time?” Lal asked.

 

“Speak carefully, girl…” the White Skin said. “I could crush you with a thought.”

 

“I know,” Lal said. “That’s why I came to you. You have strength. You have power. A kind of strength and power my people seem to have outgrown, unfortunately.”

 

“You have only your father to blame,” the White Skin said.

 

“I know that,” Lal spat. “Now that he’s united the tribes of our people, he’s looking above. To the surface. The fool wants peace and stability…”

 

“Some would call that an admirable pursuit,” the White Skin said.

 

“It’s foolish,” Lal said. “Even now that he’s united the Vorlock Tribes, our people still war against one another. Peace and stability are unnatural — they exist nowhere. To pursue such a fantasy leaves us weak and vulnerable.”

 

A blood thirsty grin crossed the White Skin’s face. “What would you have me do?”

 

“You know the answer to that,” Lal said.

 

“I do,” the White Skin said. “But say it. Say it.”

 

“Kill my father,” Lal said. “Take his throne. Restore the strength to my people.”

 

“Have you formed a plan?” the White Skin asked.

 

“Yes,” Lal said. “We disguise you as one of us. A true Vorlock-”

 

The White Skin slammed the end of his staff against the ground. “I am a true Vorlock! My mother was royalty. A queen…”

 

“And your father a White Skin rapist,” Lal said.

 

“The Vorlock are my people,” the White Skin said. “Do not forget my true face, my niece. Or my true name.”

 

“I have forgotten neither,” Lal said. “Kraigen…”

 

***

 

Lal waited months for her brother Brai to finally finish preparing and leave for the surface.

 

The princess walked into the chambers of her father, who stared silently at a stone mural.

 

Emperor Zarui didn’t bother turning to face his daughter. “Leave me, Lal.” He spoke her name with venom in his voice. “I don’t wish to hear any more of your prattling.”

 

“Prattling?” Lal asked.

 

“I said leave,” Zarui said again.

 

Lal lingered near the doorway. “You’ve always hated me, father. Haven’t you?”

 

“You remind me of her,” Zarui said. “Your mother. A witch of a woman.”

 

Lal clenched her jaw. “Very well,” she said. “I’ve come here to give you one last chance. Send for my brother. Allow him to return. And end your foolish quest to make ourselves known to the surface.”

 

Zarui sighed with agitation. “I said leave…you pathetic little wench.”

 

Lal’s heart hardened. “Very well…Goodbye, father.”

 

She stepped back and left the room while saying a single name. “Kraigen.”

 

Emperor Zarui snapped around at the sound of his half-brother’s name.

 

Kraigen had already rushed through the doorway with his staff in hand. The villain plunged the staff through his brother’s chest with a burst of spark.

 

Zarui grabbed the staff and tried pulling it free. But Kraigen snarled and pushed the weapon further through his half-brother’s chest. The villain stepped close enough so that his face was mere inches away from Zarui’s.

 

“Long live the emperor,” Kraigen said mockingly.

 

He pulled his staff free and sliced off the emperor’s head.

 

***

 

Lal felt nothing for the loss of her father. He hated her. And she despised him. He was an embarrassment to his people.

 

Kraigen would spend the next few months forcing the Vorlock tribes under his control, with promises of power and greatness. She didn’t care much for her uncle either.

 

Lal stood on the highest rooftops of Angel Grove and looked down at the city beneath her. Vaelel suddenly leapt onto the rooftop and landed at Lal’s side. 

 

“Juzou cured the Red Ranger,” Vaelel reported.

 

“Of course he did…” Lal said. “My brother’s a fool…even as a demon.”

 

“What now?” Vaelel said.

 

“Now…we wait,” Lal said. “My former brother seems determined to fight the Red Ranger. So let’s let them fight. I’ll have my revenge, no matter who wins.”

 

***

 

Master Xandred hurled a bolt of fire that knocked Dayu onto the deck. “I told you to kill Juzou and the Vorlock! And you come back without even drawing your sword? What is the meaning of this?”

 

The squid-like Shitari waddled to Dayu’s side. “Master…Even Dayu can’t defeat Juzou in a one-on-one battle.” He looked to Dayu. “Apologize, Dayu…”

 

Dayu lifted her gaze to meet Xandred. “If you’re angry, then cut me down.”

 

Master Xandred looked taken aback as Dayu continued. “Ever since I fell to the Gedoushuu, my whole body has been devoted to a single emotion. All this time, stuck…just like the mud….” She rubbed her hand along her precious shamisen as she spoke. “Cut me down. Break my emotions into pieces! This is the only thing I wish for…”

 

“Hmm,” Xandred grunted as he crouched next to Dayu. “You seem intent on that.”

 

He grabbed the shamisen from her hands, ignited the instrument with flames and tossed it to the deck. Dayu dove frantically for the instrument and smothered its flames with her robe.

 

“Dayu…” Xandred said as he stood. “Do you really think you can be free of your service so easily? No….you can never leave him.”

 

The damaged shamisen sizzled with smoke. Dayu rubbed her hand along the instrument’s scorch marks and cracks. “No…” she said. “No…I’ll save you…I will.”

 

She cradled the shamisen in her arms as she ran from the deck.

 

“Dayu!” Shitari called after her.

 

“Shitari…” Xandred said as he sat casually on his mat. “Summon him: Yumebakura.”

 

“What is your plan, master?” Shitari said.

 

Xandred looked aside and said nothing.

 

***

 

Juzou crouched on the rooftops. The demon warrior leapt through a streak of motion and landed on the street below. A car honked its horn and swerved to avoid the demon. But Juzou unsheathed his sword and slashed through a streak of energy that cut the car in half with a massive explosion.

 

“Come…Samurai Red…” he whispered.

 

***

 

The alarms blared in Ops. Tommy sent the Samurai team into the city to face Juzou. But by the time they arrived, Juzou was gone.

 

“Well…” Samurai Green said as he looked around the vacated street. “This was pointless.”

 

“He killed someone,” Samurai Red said as he looked towards the demolished car in the middle of the street. “Just like he said he would…”

 

The Red Ranger tightened his grip on his sword. Bryce — no, Juzou — had killed. And it was all his fault.

 

***

 

Dayu watched the Rangers from the shadows. She clutched her shamisen and waited. She knew she needed the despair of humans to repair the instrument. But she wasn’t sure how to make that happen. She felt helpless. Useless. What could she do to fix her beloved?

 

The demon’s mind flashed back.

 

***

 

1495 AD, Japan

 

Dayu possessed a woman named Usuyuki and lived within her body for years. The woman served as a shamisen player and watched a man named Shinza from afar. Dayu grew to admire Shinza for his strength and handsomeness.

 

But Shinza loved another woman. Dayu had tried to leave Usuyuki and overtake the other woman. But the other woman was too pure for possession.

 

So Dayu turned to other methods.

 

The demon waited until Shinza’s nighttime wedding ceremony. Dayu ignited a torch and stalked towards the wedding hut. She slid the rice-paper door open, to where Shinza and his bride kneeled as part of their wedding ceremony.

 

Shinza opened his eyes wide with horror. “Usuyuki…”

 

Dayu slid the door shut and dropped the torch. The hut erupted into flames as the wedding guests scrambled to escape. They tried to slide open the doors. But Dayu used her demonic energy to seal the exits shut.

 

Smoke quickly filled the hut as flames lashed up the walls and across the floor. The wedding guests choked on the smoke and collapsed, as did Shinza and his bride.

 

Dayu walked slowly towards Shinza and kneeled at his side. “Shinza…I waited all this time for you to come to me. Now...once again…I am alone…”

 

Shinza squirmed weakly and reached towards his fallen bride.

 

Dayu shook with rage. “Even in the end, you do not choose me?” She grabbed his hand and cradled him in her arms. “No…we were not together in life. But we will be together in death…”

 

Shinza rasped his last breaths. “Usuyuki…” he whispered. “Forgive me…I…”

 

“Shut up…Shut up!” Dayu shouted.

 

Her power surged through her body and into Shinza, who pulsed with crimson light. The light completely enveloped him as he transformed into Dayu’s shamisen. Shinza’s moans of despair wailed from the demon’s instrument.  

 

***

 

Teddy met with Tommy alone in Ops. The teen paced back and forth with his hands rolled into fists. He had just learned the demolished car was driven by a single mother and her three children. They didn’t survive.

 

“I’m starting to think you’re right…” Teddy said. “That attack was my fault. He killed that family to get to me.”

 

“You can’t blame yourself,” Tommy said.

 

“Wouldn’t you?” Teddy asked.

 

“I’m not really the best example when it comes to guilt,” Tommy said.

 

“This isn’t funny.”

 

“I wasn’t joking,” Tommy said.

 

Teddy stopped pacing and turned to face his brother. “He’ll do it again tomorrow if I don’t stop him,” he said. “How can I do that? How can I fight him?”

 

The alarms suddenly blared. The computer monitor tuned into a flare of demonic energy near the shore. Teddy recognized the energy signature immediately.

 

“Juzou…” Teddy said. “He’s challenging me.”

 

Teddy stared at the monitor. He wasn’t ready to let go of hope he could save Bryce from the demon he had become. But he knew he couldn’t go another day without fighting the demon, or someone else would die. Juzou had vowed to kill an innocent every day until Teddy agreed to a duel. 

 

“He’s gone…” Teddy whispered. “Isn’t he?”

 

Tommy nodded. “I’m sorry…”

 

Teddy shook his head. “Don’t be. I’m getting this over with…”

 

***

 

Teddy stepped out of the dojo to find the other rangers standing near the steps. At first he thought they meant to stop him or dissuade him from going off alone. Then he realized from their posture and expressions that they meant to send him off. To support him.

 

He looked to Anthony, who nodded with support, as did Bradin.

 

Ryan stepped forward reluctantly. “I wanted to stop you…”

 

“But you’re not going to try,” Teddy said.

 

“No…” Ryan said. “You need to do this. Even if I don’t like it…”

 

They heard the alarms blare from within the dojo.

 

“Now?” Anna asked.

 

Tommy rushed outside. “Guys, trouble…”

 

Ryan looked to Teddy. “Leave the Ayakashi to us,” he said. “We don’t know how long Juzou will wait for you…”

 

Teddy nodded. He reached in his back pocket, pulled out the Samurai Seal, and handed the black box to Ryan. “Here…Take this. And be careful.”

 

“You too,” Ryan said.

 

Teddy ran off to face Juzou, as the other rangers ran to stop the Ayakashi.

 

***

 

shinken-va-yumebakuraThe Ayakashi named Yumebakura stomped through the streets.

The monster had the head of a rhino. Swirls covered his twisted skin, tainted half red and half green. He carried a jagged sword in his right hand, and his left fist was a claw.

 

“Come, humans!” he shouted. “I will eat you all raw!”

 

“Gedoushuu!” a voice shouted from nearby.

 

Yumebakura turned to see Ryan, Bradin, Anthony, Anna and Kirsten run to the scene.

 

The teens armed their morphers.

 

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

 

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

 

“Nanashi!” Yumebakura shouted to summon the grunts of the Gedoushuu.

 

The soldiers rushed towards the Rangers, and the Rangers returned the charge.

 

***

 

Teddy stepped onto the rocky shoreline and faced Juzou. The demon wore his human guise, appearing as Bryce. He carried his sword Uramasa by the scabbard.

 

“Are you ready now, Ranger?” he asked.

 

Teddy said nothing. He tried to bury the emotions that stormed in his heart. Bryce — no, Juzou — had killed. And he had to be stopped before he killed again. Teddy tried his best to view Juzou not as Bryce, but as the creature that killed Bryce and murdered in his name.

 

Juzou smiled, with a glimmer of bloodlust in his eyes. “It’s time.”

 

Purple flame washed across his body as he transformed into Juzou.

 

Teddy armed his morpher.

 

“Samurai scribe.” His drew his kanji symbol, which wrapped around his body as he morphed into Samurai Red.

 

The opponents unsheathed their swords.

 

zzzSamurai Red stepped back and lifted his blade into a defensive stance. He did his best to bury his emotion. He faced an opponent, he told himself. A faceless opponent that killed and threatened innocents. That was all.

 

Juzou grasped his sword with both hands and shifted the blade into a forward fighting stance.

 

As one, they struck. They each slashed and dodged at the same time while swinging their blades through a trio of strikes.

 

Samurai Red blocked Juzou’s sword with a burst of spark, knocked the weapon aside, and slashed. But Juzou dodged and twisted his blade through a strike aimed towards Samurai Red’s head. Samurai Red parried the blow while spinning forward, and he stopped when standing back-to-back with Juzou.  

 

As one, they turned and chopped their swords. Their blades clashed with bursts of spark. They pulled away, and slashed with a flurry of quick strikes they dodged and parried with ease. Neither gained the advantage — Samurai Red pushed forward with a blow, then stepped back with a parry or dodge, and Juzou did the same.

 

They started twirling around one another. Samurai Red slashed high and hacked low. Juzou parried, dodged, and slashed. Their blades clashed with the sound of steel against steel as they moved through what looked more like a dance than a battle.

 

***

 

Samurai Blue twirled his blade through a series of fluid strokes that slashed through Nanashi with bursts of spark. He swung his sword through a butterfly pattern to slash the last two grunts away, then turned his attention to the Ayakashi.

 

The Blue Ranger charged forward and chopped his sword. The Ayakashi blocked and swung low. But Samurai Blue dove over the blow, rolled across the ground, and rose to his feet behind the monster.

 

Yumebakura turned and chopped towards Samurai Blue’s head. But the Blue Ranger blocked the blow and parried the sword aside.

 

The monster managed to twist its grip, parry Samurai Blue’s next strike, and slash the Blue Ranger off his feet with a burst of spark.

 

The Blue Ranger crashed and tumbled towards his teammates, who regrouped around him.

 

“Ryan!” Samurai Pink shouted as she helped him to his feet.

 

Samurai Gold unsheathed his blade. “Let’s go.”

 

Samurai Gold, Samurai Green, Samurai Pink, and Samurai Yellow charged to attack. They swarmed around the monster with blades swinging. And the Ayakashi twirled his sword fast enough to block and parry their blows.

 

Yumebakura slashed Samurai Pink aside, then hacked Samurai Yellow to the ground.

 

Samurai Gold and Samurai Green rushed the monster and grabbed hold of its arms. Yumebakura struggled, but the two Rangers held him in place.

 

The Gold Ranger looked to Samurai Blue. “Ryan, use the Samurai Seal!”

 

“Got it,” Samurai Blue said as he armed the Samurai Seal and Super Disc. “Teddy,” he said quietly, “hope you don’t mind…”

 

The Blue Ranger opened the Samurai Seal. He attached the 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 Blue. The white robe glistened with gold trimming and the symbol of the Samurai Rangers on the left chest.

 

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

 

Yumebakura spun and slashed Samurai Gold and Samurai Green aside.

 

Samurai Blue leaned forward and charged towards the monster to attack.

 

The Ayakashi swung its blade. But Samurai Blue somersaulted through the air over the monster, landed behind the creature, and swung his blade through an x-shaped pattern that slashed through the monster with bursts of spark.

 

zzzThe Blue Ranger’s sword ignited with blue-tinted power. The Ranger spun past the Ayakashi and swung his blade through a streak of blue energy that slashed through the monster with massive bursts of spark and hydro energy.

 

The creature collapsed as his body exploded into bursts of flame.

 

But the flames and smoke took form and grew giant to form a mega-sized version of the monster.

 

Below, the five Rangers regrouped as Samurai Blue armed the Super Disc. The Super Disc allowed the Rangers to call and combine their zords, even with Samurai Red missing.

 

“Samurai-zords, rise up!” Samurai Blue shouted.

 

Samurai Gold and the other Rangers leapt into their cockpits, and Samurai Blue slid his blade into his control console. “Origami assemble!” he shouted. “Samurai fusion!”

 

The five Samurai-zords shifted shape and combined. “Samurai Megazord!” the Rangers shouted. “Shinkenou!”

 

Clawzord!” Samurai Gold shouted. “Rise up!”

 

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

 

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

 

The 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.

 

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

 

Yumebakura hopped into the air and blinked sporadically around the Megazord. He appeared in front, then behind, to the side, the other side, back and forth without pattern.

 

The Ayakashi blinked close enough to slash the Megazord with a massive burst of spark.

 

***

 

Samurai Red and Juzou slashed and parried as they moved across the shore. They circled one another and moved with deadly grace as they splashed across the shallow waves.

 

Juzou parried and slashed. Samurai Red blocked the blow, which knocked him off balance. The Red Ranger crashed into the shallow water and rolled to avoid the chop of Juzou’s sword. The demon warrior chopped again. Samurai Red rolled aside as the villain’s blade slashed through water and against wet sand.

 

Samurai Red rose to his feet just in time to parry and block a flurry of sword swings. Juzou pressed forward, forcing the Red Ranger back. One of the demon warrior’s strikes slid past Samurai Red’s blade and slashed the Ranger with a burst of spark.

 

The Red Ranger staggered backward but kept his balance.

 

Juzou stepped forward slowly and lifted his blade into an offensive stance. “This is as perfect as I imagined…the more we fight, the more your reactions improve…”

 

The opponents charged at one another as their feet splashed across the water. They slashed and parried with renewed speed and strength. Blade clashed against blade with bursts of spark and clangs of steel.  

 

Samurai Red slashed at Juzou. But the demon lifted his sword at a slight angle. The Red Ranger’s blade slid across Juzou’s sword with bursts of spark, and the momentum carried the Ranger forward. The Red Ranger passed Juzou, and the villain snapped around while slashing the Ranger with a burst of spark.

 

***

 

The Super Samurai Megazord swung its blades at Yumebakura. But the Ayakashi blinked away, reappeared behind the Megazord, and slashed the robo with a burst of spark.

 

The Ayakashi blinked around the Megazord while slashing across its armor and disappearing before the Rangers could counterstrike.

 

The Rangers shook within their cockpit.

 

Samurai Gold looked to the others. “Wait till he’s in front of us.”

 

“Then what?” Samurai Green asked.

 

“You’ll see,” the Gold Ranger said.

 

The Ayakashi blinked in front of the Megazord and chopped his sword.

 

“Now!” Samurai Gold shouted.

 

The Super Samurai Megazord swung its blades in an x-shaped pattern to catch the monster’s sword. The robo kicked the monster with a massive force that hurled him off his feet. The Ayakashi crashed against the street and skid backward.

 

Battlewing!” Samurai Gold shouted.

 

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

 

Battlewing!” Samurai Gold 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 Gold 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 him into ash.

 

***

 

Samurai Red and Juzou’s battle moved upward to a grassy cliff that overlooked the ocean. Their swords clashed with a clanging sound that echoed through the air.

 

Juzou landed two strikes that sparked against Samurai Red. The demon warrior pushed forward with a low blow Samurai Red hopped over, and then landed. But he landed off balance and staggered backward.

 

The Red Ranger’s body ached with fatigue, and his heart pounded with anger. He tried to let that anger overpower every feeling of grief, guilt, and doubt. He tried to think of his opponent as nothing but another Ayakashi. Sorrow clenched his throat, and he turned that sorrow into anger. Anger at Bryce for lying about his past and surrendering to a demon. Anger at Juzou for killing.

 

Juzou shifted his blade into an offensive stance. “How long has it been since I’ve felt chills such as this…?”

 

Juzou pounced and swung a blow that Samurai Red ducked to avoid. The demon warrior pressed forward with a flurry of swings the Red Ranger ducked and dodged as he scrambled backward.

 

They moved near the edge of the cliff as Samurai Red regained his footing. He lifted his blade and blocked a saber strike, and Juzou pressed his sword down hard, nearly knocking the sword from the Red Ranger’s grasp.

 

Samurai Red twisted his grip and parried the sword. But Juzou sung low with a strike across the Red Ranger’s gut. The blow knocked the Ranger back several steps. 

 

The Red ranger stabbed his sword against the ground to keep his balance.

 

Juzou shifted his grip. “I suppose it’s time for me to finish this…”

 

Juzou swung his saber. Samurai Red used his right hand to lift his sword and swing the blade. But before the blade could strike the demon, Juzou’s sword slashed beneath the Red Ranger’s right arm with a burst of spark. The demon warrior twisted the blade, which sparked against the Ranger Ranger’s armor and nearly carved to the skin.

 

zzzSamurai Red dropped his sword towards his left hand, held low, and caught the blade. The Red Ranger lunged forward, letting Juzou’s blade cut against his armor. He slashed his sword through a wide streak of fiery red power. The blade carved through Juzou with massive bursts of spark.

 

Juzou staggered backward and lifted his sword. But Samurai Red chopped his blade through a streak of power that slashed the demon’s blade in two and carved through the warrior with bursts of spark.

 

Juzou staggered and fell back into a crouched position. “You let my blade strike you…to get at my body?”

 

The demon rose to his feet and laughed with weakened breath. He looked towards the ocean. “Samurai Red…well done. There is no greater pleasure than…this…”

 

The demon collapsed and tumbled forward, falling from the cliff towards the water below.

 

Samurai Red collapsed into a crouched position as his armor peeled away with glowing strands of kanji symbols. He clutched his injured side and breathed heavily.

 

“Bryce…” he whispered as fatigue washed across his body. “I’m…sorry…”

 

Teddy collapsed onto the dirt and lost consciousness.

 

***

 

Lal staggered and clutched her chest. “Brai…” An unexpected and unfamiliar feeling of sorrow numbed her body as she collapsed to her knees. “What…Have you finally…?”

 

A tear streamed down her cheek.

 

Lal wiped the tear away and narrowed her eyes. She called on her anger to bury the sadness. “You fool…” she whispered. “You died long ago. The second you betrayed your people…”

 

***

 

The Sanzu River thrashed violently as the water level surged. Waves rocked the Gedoushuu ship Rokumonsen.

 

Master Xandred stumbled across the deck and staggered to keep his balance. “What…What is this?”

 

“A surge!” Shitari shouted. “A surge of despair unlike any we’ve seen!”

 

***

 

Teddy awoke with a scream. Sorrow and despair clenched his throat and chest. “Bryce…” he whispered. “What did I just…No…” He looked towards the cliff and clenched his hands into fists. “No…”

 

***

 

A pair of demonic, three-slitted, yellow eyes peered across the Sanzu River. The villain Serrator smiled.

 

“It’s time…” he whispered as he watched the body of Juzou wash onto the shore.

 

To be continued…Chapter 17