Ultimate Samurai: Chapter Twenty-five prologue

 

The Sanzu River, weeks ago

 

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.

 

Serrator walked to the body of Juzou and leaned down, waving his clawed hands over the fallen warrior’s chest. The demon’s hands glowed with yellow light that washed across Juzou’s body and turned deep purple and crimson.

 

Juzou’s chest spasmed, and he snapped up, howling with pain as he grasped onto the handle of his broken sword. The demon warrior breathed deeply and looked upon his surroundings.

 

“What has happened?” he asked. Then he remembered. He remembered his defeat by the blade of the Red Ranger. He glanced down at his broken sword and tightened his grip with rage. “Without my sword I am nothing…leave me to die.”

 

“I have other plans for you,” Serrator said as he stood and folded his arms across his chest. “What if I told you that I could repair your precious blade Urimasa? And in return, I would ask only one favor.”

 

“I do not know you, demon,” Juzou said. “Why would I grant you a favor?”

 

“I ask of you something you already desire,” Serrator said. “If you allow me to fix your sword, in return, you must use your blade to cut down the Red Ranger.”

 

***

 

Angel Grove, three days ago

 

Dayu walked across the rocky shore south of the Glimmering Coast. She moved aimlessly while carrying her broken shamisen. She cradled the instrument as she would an injured lover — which wasn’t far from the truth.

 

The demon noticed a piece of metal gleam in the sun in the distance. Curious, she moved closer and found the broken blade of Juzou’s sword. She didn’t question how she stumbled upon the broken blade. She stopped questioning fate years ago.

 

She lifted the broken saber from the shore. “Juzou…so you’ve been defeated after all.” 

 

Dayu felt a kinship with Juzou, even though she didn’t know him. She sensed his broken heart as soon as she saw him, and she related to that tragic feeling of lost love. The fool.

 

She lifted her hand and almost hurled the broken blade into the ocean. But a voice called to her from behind.

 

“What rough treatment…” Serrator said as he walked towards Dayu from behind. “That is a very rare, and very precious katana…”

 

Dayu lifted her instrument in a defensive stance. “Who are you?”

 

“My name is Serrator,” he said as he walked towards her casually with his arms folded over his chest. “And I have need of the broken blade you carry so very tenderly. Do you really think its holder could be killed so easily?”

 

Dayu looked down at the blade and felt the metal stir. “He lives?”

 

“And I intend to repair his sword,” Serrator said. “I could do the very same for your precious shamisen.”

 

“In exchange?” Dayu asked.

 

“Does it really matter?” Serrator asked. “I’ve watched you, little demon. I know you would do anything to repair your instrument. And…it seems you have nothing to do with your time.”

 

“Then what it is you ask?”

 

“One thing,” Serrator said. “Loyalty.”

 

Chapter 25: Ultimate Samurai

Prayers of the Vorlock

 

PART ONE: AMBUSHED

 

Teddy sat alone on the cliff where he fought and killed Juzou…Bryce. He visited the cliff every day following the battle. But his trips became less frequent as of late.

 

He sighed and looked out upon the ocean beneath the cliff. Bryce never liked the ocean, or water in general, Teddy remembered. He tried taking Bryce to one of Angel Grove’s remaining swimming pools once, but Bryce acted frightened and foreign to the concept of swimming.

 

At least now Teddy understood why.

 

Teddy heard footsteps from behind. His friend Ryan Phillips walked to the cliff and took a seat.

 

“Hey…” Ryan said.

 

“Hey…” Teddy said.

 

“You haven’t been here in a while,” Ryan said.

 

Teddy nodded. “I’m still not sure if that’s a good thing. Killing someone isn’t something you should let go of that easily.”

 

“That wasn’t Bryce,” Ryan said. “Not really.”

 

“I know that,” Teddy said. “And I keep telling myself I knew that when I fought him.”

 

“Didn’t you?” Ryan asked.

 

“I knew he killed, and that unless I stopped him, more people would get hurt,” Teddy said. “I knew Bryce would never do the things Juzou did. But…”

 

Teddy shook his head.

 

“What is it?” Ryan asked.

 

“I was mad at him, Ryan,” Teddy said. “When I fought him, I let myself get mad at Bryce. Not Juzou, Bryce. I let myself get angry at him for keeping secrets and making me doubt whether what we had was real. I let myself get angry at him for turning into Juzou in the first place. A small part of me still believed Bryce might be alive in there somewhere, so I let myself get mad, and I killed him.”

 

“You were with him a long time,” Ryan said. “To find out he was keeping a secret like that? Why wouldn’t you get mad? You didn’t get a chance to argue with him about it when he was alive…so you took it out on Juzou.”

 

Teddy shook his head. “You make it sound so simple.”

 

“Of course it isn’t simple,” Ryan said. “But it sounds like the problem isn’t that you got mad at him. The problem is you never got a chance to argue with him about it. To fight with him about it, or work it out. You let yourself get mad at him when you fought Juzou, but you never got a chance to tell Bryce how you feel.”

 

“And I never well,” Teddy said.

 

“Well…” Ryan said. “After my dad died, I started watching these cheesy dramas to help me…I don’t know…cope. If there’s one thing I learned, it’s that you can still talk to him. You should still talk to him. You never got to tell him how you felt…so tell him now. Talk to him now. It might help…”

 

Ryan stood and started walking away to give Teddy privacy.

 

“Hey Ryan?” Teddy said. Ryan stopped and turned towards his friend. “Thanks…”

 

Ryan smiled. “Anytime.”

 

“No, I mean it,” Teddy said. “You really helped me these past few weeks. If you hadn’t been around…” Teddy shook his head. “I don’t think I could have made it this far without you.”

 

Ryan smiled and blushed slightly. “Yeah, well…what are friends for, right?”

 

“Right,” Teddy said. “Thanks again…”

 

***

 

Squid-like Shitari waddled towards the nearest viewport of the Gedoushuu ship Rokumonsen. He looked towards the shore of the Sanzu River and saw dozens and dozens of Nanashi sprout from the water.

 

“Strange…” the villain muttered. “So many Nanashi appearing, and yet the master has done nothing to summon them…”

 

shinken-vi-akumaroA figure suddenly dropped in front of the viewport and hovered. The creature’s face looked frozen in a wide, insane smile. His three-slitted eyes glowed with yellow light.

 

“That would be my doing…” Serrator said. He laughed with amusement, his voice high-pitched and maddening.

 

“Who are you?” Shitari asked.

 

“I was sure you would recognize me…” Serrator said as he hovered away from the viewport and floated into the ship.

 

The ship shook as Master Xandred stomped onto the deck. He grumbled with annoyance at the sight of the visitor. “You look the same as every other Ayakashi.”

 

Serrator laughed and spread his arms wide with a greeting. The villain held a fan in his left hand.

 

“Far from it,” he said. “I am Serrator. I spent countless years frozen at the bottom of the Sanzu River. Powerless and weak spirited. Unable to rise to the surface. But then, thanks to your power surge, Master Xandred, I was able to reach this level of power.”

 

Serrator extended his hand to his side, towards the viewport. He didn’t even look. He simply fired a crackling sphere of yellow energy from his palm. The energy bolt shot across the river and exploded with a massive shockwave that incinerated every Nanashi on the shore.  

 

“Master Xandred…” Serrator held his fan in front of his chest and kneeled. “I will help you flood the mortal world. I swear, with my power, I can do this for you…”

 

Xandred grumbled. “You look like all Ayakashi…and you sound like them too. All talk.”

 

Xandred unsheathed his sword and chopped Serrator’s shoulder with a massive burst of spark. Serrator didn’t even flinch.

 

Master Xandred grunted. “You didn’t even try to dodge that…”

 

“To show you proof I will not resist you, Master Xandred,” Serrator said, keeping his head low. “Please…allow me to go to the mortal world. I will force tears of despair that will flood your mighty river.” He laughed at the thought. “Tears of blood and suffering…”

 

Master Xandred lowered his sword. “Very well…” he said dismissively. “Do what you want.”

 

“Thank you, Master Xandred,” Serrator said.

 

***

 

A small sleeping area adjoined the dojo in the Hayate Way. The room gave the rangers a chance to rest between practice sessions or after monster battles.

 

Ryan lay on a bed with a pillow over his face.

 

Anthony walked in and arced an eyebrow at his teammate. “What’s gotten into you?”

 

Ryan sighed beneath the pillow. “I’m in love with Teddy.”

 

“Didn’t I tell you that, like, weeks ago?”

 

“I’m being serious.”

 

“Me too,” Anthony said as he sat on the edge of the bed. “This isn’t exactly brand new information.”

 

Ryan moved the pillow and sat up. “He’s barely over his last boyfriend, who turned into this demon he had to kill,” Ryan said. “What am I supposed to do?”

 

“Again…didn’t I tell you this weeks ago?” Anthony asked.

 

“It’s different now,” Ryan said.

 

Anthony rolled his eyes. “Now you’re just being a girl.”

 

“That’s sexist,” Ryan said. “And I am not.”

 

“A little bit, yeah,” Anthony said. “You like him. So tell him. Don’t overthink it.”

 

Ryan sighed. He laid down and placed the pillow back over his face. “Or I could just lay here all day and feel sorry for myself.”

 

Anthony shrugged. “Whatever works, man.”

 

Suddenly, the alarms blared throughout the dojo.

 

“Looks like it’s time to quit moping and start morphing,” Anthony said as he and Ryan ran towards Ops.

 

***

 

shinken-vi-sakamataA pair of Gedoushuu Spit Fangs stood on a grassy mountaintop that looked down upon Angel Grove North.

 

They opened their gaping maws and spat bolts of fire that rained upon the city like cannonballs, exploding through buildings.

 

Teddy and the Samurai team ran to the mountain to face off with the demons. They 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 Rangers and Spit Fangs charged at one another. But before they could strike, bolts of lightning struck the ground between them with massive bursts of spark and flame. The shockwave hurled the Rangers and Spit Fangs through the air.

 

The Rangers hit the ground hard and rolled into crouched stances as smoke clouded around them.

 

“What was that?” Samurai Pink asked as she held her sword at the ready.

 

Samurai Green shook his head. “Someone who doesn’t care of they fry the freak fangs to take us down.”

 

The Rangers heard insane laugher come from above. They looked to see Serrator float to the ground with his arms folded across his chest.

 

“So…you are the famed Samurai Rangers,” the villain said mockingly. “I bring you the fairest of tidings. I am called Serrator, the newest passenger aboard Master Xandred’s ship. Before I make the mortals of this world cry tears of sweet despair...let’s test your skills, shall we?”

 

The villain thrust his hand, and his fingers extended like tendrils that stabbed towards the Rangers. The Rangers managed to leap just in time to avoid the tendrils, which stabbed into the dirt.

 

Samurai Red somersaulted through the air and chopped his sword towards the villain. Serrator retracted his claws and used his hand to block the blow. He knocked Samurai Red’s sword aside and clawed the Ranger with a burst of spark. The villain swung his hands relentlessly, his claws sparking across the Ranger’s armor. The villain clawed upward with a burst of spark that whipped the Ranger off his feet.

 

The other Rangers swarmed around Serrator and chopped as one. The villain laughed and spun, his claws parrying their blows and slashing their armor. He tore through the Rangers one by one, blocking their swords and clawing their chests, sparking with each blow.

 

Serrator kicked the legs out from under Samurai Green while spinning and clawing Samurai Blue. He parried Samurai Yellow’s sword while clawing Samurai Gold, and he grabbed Samurai Pink by the helmet. He tightened his grasp, claws sparking against the helmet, and then tossed the Pink Ranger aside.

 

Samurai Blue rolled into a crouched stance, pounced through the air, and aimed his descent towards Serrator. The Blue Ranger held his sword high.

 

Serrator’s claws grew as long as spears. The villain launched a flurry of stabs so fast, they appeared as blurs of motion. The blows speared against the Blue Ranger while in midair with showers of sparks that hurled him backward.

 

Samurai Yellow moved in from the side and slashed towards the villain’s head. But Serrator ducked and kicked the legs out from under the Yellow Ranger. Samurai Yellow crashed to the ground, and Serrator stomped on her chest with a burst of spark.

 

The villain laughed softly with amusement and stomped again.

 

Samurai Green pounced and slashed upward. But Serrator parried the blow and clawed the Ranger, left and right across head, chest, and gut. The blows sparked on impact and whipped the Green Ranger off his feet.

 

The Red Ranger leapt through the air and chopped towards Serrator’s back. But the villain vanished and reappeared behind Samurai Red as soon as he landed.

 

Serrator armed his fan and slashed at the Ranger. Samurai Red parried the first few blows. But Serrator managed to land a slash across the chest, and then a slash across the gut. The villain swung a wide back-handed slash that sparked against Samurai Red’s armor and whipped him off his feet.

 

The Red Ranger tumbled across the ground, and the others regrouped around him. 

 

Serrator laughed mockingly. “Is this all the power you have?”

 

Samurai Blue armed his Spin Sword and Symbol Disc. “Hit ‘im at once!”

 

The Blue Ranger, Green Ranger, Yellow Ranger, and Pink Ranger spun their Symbol Discs. Elemental energy pulsed around their blades.

 

“Spin Swords!” they shouted. “Element Wave!”

 

They swung their swords, firing blades of energy that shot towards Serrator.

 

Serrator knocked the energy blades away and thrust his hand forward, firing bolts of lightning from his palm.

 

The lightning exploded against the Rangers with massive bursts of flame and spark. 

 

Through the flames, Samurai Red pounced towards the villain. “Fire Breaker!”

 

Samurai Red energized the blade with fire and stabbed towards Serrator. The villain sidestepped away, so Samurai Red twisted the sword and slashed towards the villain.

 

Serrator caught the sword, which singed his body with bursts of spark.

 

Samurai Red pulled the sword free, stepped back with a spin, and snapped his weapon to Blaster Mode. The weapon fired a burst of fiery energy that slammed against Serrator.

 

Serrator caught the blast, which forced him back as his feet skid across the dirt. The villain skid to a halt and held the energy blast between his palms.

 

He laughed as he intensified the blast with his own power. “I can’t get enough of this sensation…this thrill…”

 

The blast burned hot enough to burn blue, and Serrator hurled the bolt at Samurai Red.

 

Samurai Red lifted the flat side of his Fire Breaker like a shield. The energy blast exploded against his sword with massive bursts of spark and flame that knocked the weapon from the Ranger’s hands and hurled him backward.

 

“This is odd…” Serrator said with false wonderment. “I heard the Rangers were strong and powerful. A force to be reckoned with.”

 

He laughed as he looked to the other fallen Rangers. “Thank you for this introduction. I leave you with a parting gift.”

 

Serrator thrust his hand and fired a burst of yellow energy from his palm. The energy blast exploded against the already wounded Rangers.

 

They crashed against the ground as smoke sizzled from their armor.

 

When they rose into crouched positions, they saw no sign Serrator.

 

***

 

PART TWO: BLINDED

 

The Vorlock named Kiros walked through the tunnels beneath the underground empire.

 

He wore his fiery hair slicked back. Armor of white leather and pelts covered his body, beneath a dirt-gold vest. His skin appeared tan, and his eyes golden. Golden accents trimmed his gauntlets, chest piece and boots, matching the golden headpiece that framed his face. He looked no older than 20.

 

Kiros carried a heated stone to see with his infrared vision. He searched for signs of a myth — the Lizzardogler. The Vorlock believed the creature of legend could breathe new life into the dead. 

 

He wanted to find this creature to revive his prince. Brai. Kiros always felt infatuated with the prince. The topsiders might call it love, but Kiros called it admiration, loyalty and respect.

 

The villain stopped in his tracks when he saw a patch of dirt shaded differently than the rest of the ground. Legends told that Lizzardogler bled and died on this ground.

 

“This is it…” he whispered. He looked over his shoulder. “Giza!”

 

Giza dogglerThe Vorlock monster Giza stepped from the shadows.

 

Giza possessed the lower body of a humanoid and the upper body of a serpentine creature.

 

He wore Egyptian-style armor across the chest and strips of cloth over his body and arms. The monster carried a spear with a pyramid-shaped tip.

 

Kiros pointed towards the soil. “Here…Use your power, beast.”

 

Giza aimed his staff at the dirt. The staff and dirt both pulsed with red energy, and the soil clumped into bricks of crimson power that shot upward.

 

***

 

The Vorlock palace shook.

 

Emperor Kraigen grasped his staff tightly with annoyance and summoned a viewscreen of heat. Through the images, he saw Kiros and Giza gather bricks with a torrent of crimson power that shot upward towards the surface.

 

“Him again…” Kraigen grumbled.

 

Cye-Axe stood nearby. He narrowed his eyes at the sight of Kiros. “The one who courted the prince…”

 

Kraigen snapped around and glared at Cye-Axe. “Have you learned how he escaped from Hell’s Wind?”

 

Cye-Axe shook his head. Five years ago, Prince Brai nearly fell into a chasm called Hell’s Wind while on an expedition. Kiros saved the prince but fell into the chasm in the process.

 

“He was swept into that chasm five years ago,” Cye-Axe said. “No one falls into the Hell’s Wind and lives.”

 

“This one does…” Kraigen said.

 

***

 

Ryan lost himself in thought as he walked through an abandoned industrial park in Angel Grove North. He knew he should have felt nervous about their new enemy, Serrator. And he did. But he felt more nervous about Teddy. Was Anthony right…? Should I just say something?

 

Suddenly, the ground shook.

 

A geyser of power erupted ahead, and bricks of energy twirled within the geyser. The energy quickly dissipated, and the red bricks fell into a perfectly-stacked pyramid about six-feet tall.

 

Ryan stepped back defensively and narrowed his eyes. “Gedoushuu?” Kiros stepped out from behind the pyramid. “Vorlock…”

 

The villain narrowed his eyes. “I recognize you…You’re one of the Rangers who killed my prince.”

 

“Your prince? Who are you?”

 

“Your death,” Kiros said. “Giza!”

 

Giza stepped out from behind the pyramid. The monster aimed his staff, which pulsed with crimson light. Invisible energy blasts exploded around Ryan and knocked him to the ground.

 

Giza twisted his staff, and the red pyramid flew apart, shot towards Ryan, and reassembled around him like a prison.

 

Kiros grinned with satisfaction. “These bricks are stained with the blood of Lizzardogler. You’ll make the perfect sacrifice to summon him…”

 

The pyramid flashed with crimson energy that electrified Ryan as he screamed.

 

“It will not be pleasant,” Kiros said.

 

Five streaks of energy passed overhead as the other Rangers leapt to the scene. They landed and immediately unsheathed their swords.

 

“Vorlock!” Samurai Red shouted. “Let him go!”

 

“You…” Kiros said with venom in his voice. “I have heard your name whispered with the greatest contempt. You corrupted my prince.”

 

“What?” Samurai Red asked. “Who are you?”

 

“I am Kiros,” he said. “Prince Brai’s consort.”

 

Samurai Red tightened his grip with rage. “Say that again?”

 

“His consort. Is that so hard for you to believe?” Kiros asked. “Can you imagine my pain, returning after five years, only to find him slain? By surface dwellers? One of whom he bedded? I will have him back again…”

 

***

 

Ryan fell to the ground within the pyramid. Its inner walls cast a ruby-red light that felt like fire. He struggled to rise, but couldn’t. And his head spun with vertigo. The pain intensified, and he squirmed on the floor.

 

The sound of the pyramid thrummed, but Ryan thought he heard something else as well. Chanting. The chanting grew louder and louder and eventually pounded in his head like a drum.

 

The teen screamed with pain.

 

***

 

The other Rangers heard Ryan scream within the pyramid.

 

“Ryan!” Samurai Red shouted as they dashed towards the pyramid.

 

But Kiros stepped in front of them and snapped a whip that fired a surge of energy. The energy surge sparked against the Rangers and knocked them backward.

 

Samurai Green rolled across the ground, rose into a crouched position, and leapt through the air towards the pyramid. But Kiros snapped a boomerang that slashed the Green Ranger from the air with a burst of spark.

 

Samurai Green crashed on the ground, and the other Rangers regrouped around him.

 

Samurai Red spun his Symbol Disc. “Fire Breaker!”

 

His sword glowed with red energy and transformed into a massive zanbato blade. He snapped the handle downward, holding the blaster like a cannon. “Fire Breaker! Blaster Mode!”

 

The other Rangers placed their Symbol Discs along the spine of the weapon. The discs spun and charged with energy. “Fire!”

 

The cannon fired a massive pulse of fiery energy that shot past Kiros and Giza, with a shockwave that hurled them backward. The blast exploded through the top of the pyramid, scattering the bricks.

 

“Ryan!” Samurai Red shouted as they ran towards the ruined pyramid. The Red Ranger knelt at Ryan’s side and helped him sit up. “Are you alright?”

 

He blinked and rubbed his eyes. “I can’t…I can’t see anything.” He staggered to his feet but nearly fell. “I can’t see…” Voices still pounded in his head. Chanting. And the chanting boomed louder. And louder. “What is that?”

 

“What’s what?” Samurai Gold asked.

 

Ryan gripped his head. “That chanting…don’t you hear it? It…it hurts!”

 

He scrambled away and broke into a run, a wild run without sight to guide him.

 

“Wait!” Samurai Red shouted.

 

Kiros smirked and snapped a bladed boomerang at Ryan. 

 

Samurai Red quickly dashed to his teammate and slashed the boomerang aside with a burst of spark. He looked to Ryan, who crouched on the ground and grabbed his head, shivering with agony.

 

The other Rangers regrouped around their leader, who aimed his blade at Kiros. “What did you do to him?

 

“Truly? Nothing,” Kiros said. “This magick isn’t my doing…but it’s certainly convenient.”

 

Ryan screamed and ran.

 

Before the other Rangers could follow, Kiros armed a weighted chain and twirled it like a propeller. The weapon emitted rippling waves of energy that splashed against the Rangers with bursts of spark, knocking them back.

 

***

 

Ryan ran frantically and aimlessly through the darkness of his blindness. The chanting pounded in his head like a maddening drumbeat. The teen tripped over something and fell — he didn’t know where. He saw only blackness.

 

The chanting quieted slowly, and then stopped. Ryan breathed deeply as his mind returned to normal. He still couldn’t see. But he no longer felt pushed towards the edge of insanity.

 

“What was that…?” he whispered.

 

He extended his hand and felt a wall — or maybe a boxcar within the industrial park. He stood and activated his communicator.

 

“Tommy, it’s Ryan…Something happened. I can’t see anything.”

 

“We’ll have to take a look when you get back to Ops,” Tommy said. “For now, stay put until the team finishes off those Vorlock. You’ll be safe where you are until then.”

 

“How are they doing?” Ryan asked.

 

“They’ll be okay,” Tommy said.

 

“That’s debatable,” Ashley chimed in.

 

“They’re in a tight spot, but they’ll pull through,” Tommy said. “Just sit tight.”

 

Ryan lowered his communicator and sighed. He couldn’t stand by and do nothing while his friends fought, especially if they fought a tough enemy. But he knew he couldn’t be much help without his sight.

 

The teen kept his hand along the wall and walked back towards the scene of the battle. I’ll do this the Ranger way…figure it out when I get there.

 

***

 

Kiros’s powers came from his weapons. Bladed boomerangs etched with runes. Wrist-mounts crossbows, armed with arrows dipped in arcane energy. An enchanted kusarigama. His pet Giza’s magick came from its staff. They threw everything they had at the Rangers and beat them back with attacks powerful enough to knock them from their armor.

 

Teddy crashed against the ground near his teammates. He tried to stand, but couldn’t summon the strength. He ached with fatigue, as did the other rangers.

 

Kiros and Giza stalked towards the fallen teens. “I refuse to believe whelps as weak as you could defeat my prince.”

 

Teddy looked up and glared. “Actually…I stopped him myself.”

 

Kiros snarled and lifted the blade of his kusarigama.

 

“Hey!” a voice shouted nearby. “Leave them alone!”

 

The teens looked to see Ryan stumble onto the scene.

 

“Ryan, get back!” Teddy shouted.

 

“Did that pyramid make you mental?” Bradin shouted.

 

Kiros looked to Ryan and smirked. “This…This amuses me.”

 

The villain leapt through the air and chopped a bladed boomerang towards Ryan. Ryan heard the villain and dove aside, barely missing the blade. The teen scrambled to his feet and snapped around, trying to pick up the sound of the villain’s footsteps, movement or breathing.

 

Kiros stalked towards the ranger. “Do you have a death wish?”

 

The villain kicked Ryan with enough force to hurl him backward. The teen smashed against a utility pole and crashed to the ground.

 

Nearby, the rangers pushed themselves up to help Ryan. But Giza stood in their way and slammed his staff against the ground. The impact flashed with yellow light that knocked the teens back.

 

Ryan pushed himself to his feet and took a step back. He placed his right fist against his left palm and lowered his head. He reached for his Kiryoku and felt the energy pulse through his body like the blood of the soul. He called upon that power and reached out with his senses.

 

Kiros smirked and charged. He chopped a blade boomerang. But Ryan ducked, high blocked the blow, and punched Kiros in the gut with enough force to knock him several steps backward. The teen followed with a front kick that whipped the villain off his feet.

 

“I may not be able to see…but I’m not powerless…” Ryan said as he stepped into a defensive stance.

 

Kiros stood and looked to his monster. “Giza!”

 

Giza slammed his staff against the ground. The weapon pulsed with yellow energy and hurled a wave of bricks at the teen. But Ryan dove aside before the bricks could imprison him.

 

The other rangers pushed themselves to their feet and regrouped with Ryan.

 

Kiros kicked Giza in the leg. “Stop being a coward and kill them!”

 

The teens armed their morphers.

 

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

 

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

 

The Red Ranger somersaulted through the air and chopped at Kiros. Kiros parried the blow, but the Red Ranger twisted his blade around and slashed. Kiros stepped back to dodge the blade.

 

Samurai Pink and Samurai Yellow slashed at the villain from the sides. But Kiros parried their blows.

 

Samurai Blue, Samurai Gold, and Samurai Green surrounded Giza. The monster swung low and knocked the Blue Ranger’s legs from beneath him, sending him tumbling across the ground.

 

Samurai Blue rolled into a crouched position and lifted his sword. He reached out with his Ki and sensed the monster’s attack.

 

Giza thrust his staff and fired bolts of yellow energy. The Blue Ranger dove and rolled across the ground as the energy blasts exploded around him with massive bursts of spark.

 

But even his Ki senses couldn’t help him avoid every blast. A barrage of energy bolts exploded against his armor with massive bursts of spark that hurled him backward.

 

Giza charged towards the fallen Blue Ranger.

 

Samurai Blue used his sword for balance and stood. He heard each approaching footstep and shifted his blade into a defensive stance.

 

Giza leapt through the air to attack. But the Blue Ranger dropped and slashed upward as the monster passed overhead. The blow sparked against the creature and whipped him from the air.

 

Nearby, Kiros fired a volley of arrows that sparked against the other Rangers, knocking them to the ground.

 

Samurai Gold rolled to his feet and armed his Symbol Disc.

 

“Light Disc!” He spun the disc. “Golden Flash!”

 

Samurai Gold dashed and leapt back and forth across the villain while slashing through streaks of golden light. His blade pulsed with power that tore through the villain and hurled him backward.

 

Meanwhile, Samurai Blue lifted his sword straight and placed his free hand on the blade. He heard Giza charged from the side.

 

The monster swung towards the Blue Ranger’s legs. But Samurai Blue dove over the blow and rolled across the ground.

 

The Blue Ranger rolled into a crouched position, and Giza charged to attack. The monster chopped its staff. But Samurai Blue used his left arm to block the blow and used his right arm to spear the creature in the chest with a burst of spark.

 

The monster stumbled backward as the other Rangers regrouped around Samurai Blue.

 

Samurai Green tilted his head with surprise. “You did all that blind? Not bad…”

 

Giza stabbed his staff against the ground and surrounded himself with a pyramid of bricks. 

 

Samurai Red lifted his sword. “Let’s tear down that wall.”

 

The Rangers armed their Spin Swords and spun their Symbol Discs. Elemental energy twirled around their blades.

 

“Spin Swords!” they shouted. “Element Wave!”

 

They swung their swords, firing energy blades that shot towards the pyramid. The energy blades smashed through the pyramid and tore through the monster with massive bursts of spark and flame. Giza’s staff shattered as he collapsed, and his energy overloaded and exploded.

 

Nearby, Kiros stood and narrowed his eyes at the defeated monster. He couldn’t summon the Lizzardogler without the monster’s powers.

 

The villain glared at the Rangers. “I’ll remember this.”

 

Kiros leapt onto a nearby warehouse and jumped from sight.

 

***

 

PART THREE: TAKEN

 

Tommy and Ashley couldn’t explain what happened to Ryan’s sight. Medically, his eyes looked fine. Scans showed no reason for his blindness. Tommy and Ashley both promised to work tirelessly until they could find a way to reverse the effect.

 

Ryan sat on the steps of the Hayate Way Dojo later that day. Teddy walked up and took a seat beside him.

 

“How you feeling?” Teddy asked.

 

“Okay, I guess,” Ryan said. “It’s not as bad as you think. I mean, I know I can’t see. But there’s still plenty I can feel. Hear. Smell. It’s like this whole other world’s opened up to me.”

 

Teddy smirked. “You’re always the optimistic one.”

 

Ryan smiled back. “Someone has to be.”

 

“How do you do it…?” Teddy asked. “How do you stay positive after something like this happens?”

 

“I dunno,” Ryan said. “Hope, I guess…”

 

***

 

The last of the White Skins gathered in the deepest pits beneath the underground Vorlock Empire. Numbering fewer than 10, they prayed to an altar of their demon god, the Lizzardogler. The Vorlock viewed the Lizzardogler as a creature, but the White Skins thought of Lizzardogler as a king. A god.

 

White Skins prayed to Lizzardogler for as long as they could remember, although their god never answered.

 

Still, when the last of the White Skins escaped the evil that wiped out the Vorlock, they started to pray non-stop, in shifts, taking breaks to sleep, eat and drink only.

 

Their chanting prayers kept them from falling into despair. But recently, their chanting gave them hope as well. For the first time in the history of their people, their prayers stirred a powerful force. Or perhaps a powerful force stirred their prayers.

 

The altar’s urn throbbed with golden light and flame as the White Skins continued to chant, their voices echoing throughout the cavern. Suddenly, the urn burst with a pulse of dark light that shuddered the cavern and knocked the White Skins backward.

 

armor4From the dark light stepped a Vorlock monster with thick leathery skin, broad shoulders, and a helmet and pauldrons of bone.

 

Two White Skins — children, a boy and a girl — scrambled backward with fear.

 

“That’s not him!” the boy shouted.

 

Laughter echoed in the darkness. Lal and Vaelel stepped into the cavern and walked towards the Vorlock monster. 

 

Lal looked at the White Skins with a mix of amusement and contempt.

 

“This is how you fools have been spending your days since the tunnels were purged?” Lal asked. “Laughable…”

 

She looked to the monster. “And what have we here…”

 

The monster resembled a creature of myth, Armorg, who carried the Armor of Unas. The White Skins believed Lizzardogler wore the Armor of Unas into battle.

 

Lal traced her fingers across the monster’s shoulder. “You’ve somehow summoned a monster based on your superstitions…Well done.” She looked to Vaelel. “Kill them.”

 

Vaelel armed her daggers and attacked the helpless White Skins. The Vorlock warrior didn’t notice the two White Skin children scurry to safety in the midst of the slaughter. They alone survived.

 

***

 

The alarms blared in Ops. Teddy and the rangers gathered around Tommy and Ashley at the computer terminal. The screen showed an image of the Vorlock monster Armorg charging through the streets.

 

The monster detached its upper armor, which floated as if alive and latched onto victims. The victims screamed and collapsed with pain, and the armor then detached and floated back to the monster.

 

“What’s it doing?” Anna asked.

 

“Nothing good…” Bradin said.

 

Ryan couldn’t see the images. But he somehow felt the monster. He shifted uncomfortably as a wave of vertigo washed through his head.

 

“Something’s…something’s happening…” he said as he stumbled backward. The teen grabbed his head and gasped with pain. “Not this again...”

 

“Ryan-” Teddy started to say.

 

But Ryan screamed and ran into the nearest corner. He practically slammed against the walls and crouched, covering his head with his hands.

 

Tommy knitted his brow with concern. “Ashley and I will watch him,” he said. “You guys go.”

 

***

 

The Armor of Unas attached to a helpless man in the middle of the road. He tumbled across the pavement as cars swerved to a halt. The man screamed with pain as the armor seared against his skin.

 

Samurai Red, Samurai Green, Samurai Gold, Samurai Yellow, and Samurai Pink leapt to the scene.

 

“We’ve got to get that armor off,” Samurai Red said.

 

The Rangers ran to the man and started tearing off the armor. But the armor took a life of its own and lifted free. 

 

armor2The Armor of Unas hovered towards the bridge over the road and slid into place over the body of Armorg.  The creature stretched its powerful arms and glared down at the Rangers.

 

Samurai Red armed his Spin Sword and spun his Fire Disc.

 

“Fire Disc. Blazing Strike!”

 

He swung his sword through a wide arc that hurled a wave of fiery energy towards the Vorlock monster. But the monster swatted the energy aside with bursts of spark.

 

When the sparks cleared, the Rangers saw Lal and Vaelel step towards either side of the monster.

 

Lal smiled wickedly. “Hello again, Rangers…”

 

“Lal!” Samurai Red shouted.

 

“You say my name with such contempt,” she said. “As if I corrupted and killed your brother, and not the other way around.”

 

“What are you doing here, Lal?” Samurai Red asked.

 

“This monster is based on a creature of legend: Armorg,” Lal said. “He searches for someone to wear his Armor of Unas and become a Knight of the Vorlock.”

 

Samurai Gold looked to his leader. “Why do you let them talk?”

 

Lal pointed towards the Rangers. “Anglars!”

 

The Vorlock grunts leapt from the bridge and aimed their descent towards the Rangers. Lal, Vaelel, and Armorg followed.

 

Samurai Red armed his sword and charged at Armorg. The Ranger swung a pair of strikes aimed at the monster’s sides. But the monster used its bone gauntlets to parry the blows and bash the Ranger’s helmet.

 

The Red Ranger started to counter, but Anglars moved in from behind him. He turned and cut them down with two powerful chops that burst with spark.

 

The other Rangers scattered and clashed with their enemies.

 

Samurai Pink and Samurai Yellow stayed back to back as they twirled their weapons, slashing grunts with bursts of spark that whipped them back.

 

Samurai Green hacked the legs out from a grunt and chopped the fallen soldier’s chest with a burst of spark.

 

Vaelel dashed at the Green Ranger. He dove just in time to avoid a slash of her daggers. Samurai Green rolled to his feet and slashed at Vaelel. She blocked and kicked the Green Ranger backward.

 

The villain hopped and stomped her heel towards the Green Ranger’s chest. But Samurai Gold dashed past her and slashed her back with a burst of spark.

 

Lal stayed back and noticed a member of the Rangers missing. “Samurai Blue is gone…” she said quietly. “He must still be blinded…”

 

***

 

Ryan fled from Ops as pain pounded in his head, driving him mad. He stumbled blindly across the city streets, drawn towards Armorg.

 

***

 

“They’re not at full strength!” Lal shouted. “Crush them!”

 

Samurai Pink and Samurai Yellow somersaulted through the air and chopped their blades towards Armorg. But the monster parried their swords and bashed them aside with bursts of spark.

 

The two Rangers tumbled across the ground as the others regrouped around them.

 

Lal charged her dragon rings. One fist crackled with electricity. The other fist ebbed with flickers of flame. She swung a punch that hurled a bolt of lightning, then swung another punch that hurled a bolt of fire.

 

Fire and lightning exploded around the Rangers with bursts of spark, hurling them backward.

 

“Take them now, Armorg!” Lal shouted.

 

armor3Armorg charged at the Rangers. But his armor glowed with white light and lifted from his body. The armor hovered away and shot through the air.

 

Lal knitted her brow. “The armor…”

 

***

 

Ryan stumbled closer to the scene. He nearly collapsed but kept moving, He felt an energy call to him. He found the call maddening and irresistible.

 

Suddenly, the Armor of Unas flew through the air and latched onto the ranger. Ryan screamed as the armor seared against his skin, mind and soul. Tendrils of energy lashed from his body and thrashed across the street.

 

Lal and Vaelel dashed to the scene and stood in shock as the armor flashed with power and drove the ranger to his knees. The other Rangers followed the villains and skid to a halt.

 

Samurai Gold shook his head. “Tell me that’s not Ryan…”

 

unasThe armor flashed with a final burst of energy. Ryan stood in the Armor of Unas. Black padding covered his chest, forearms, and ankles, beneath a suit of white cloth. Horned pauldrons covered his shoulders, matching the design of the horned headpiece that framed his face. A black bandana wrapped around his eyes.

 

The teen unsheathed two slender swords and snapped into a fighting stance. “Knight of the Vorlock! Unas!”

 

Samurai Red shook his head. Panic flooded his body. First Bryce. And now Ryan? “No…” he whispered. “This isn’t happening…”

 

Lal laughed as she and Vaelel stood alongside Unas. She placed a hand on Unas’s shoulder and smiled wickedly at Samurai Red. “Will you kill him too? Like you did my brother?”

 

“What did you do to him?!” Samurai Red shouted.

 

“He’s become one of us,” Lal said. She looked to her new warrior. “Unas, show him.”

 

Unas held his blades forward and leapt through the air. He landed while chopping at the Rangers. But the Rangers scrambled aside, not wanting to fight.

 

Unas slashed through the fluid and powerful strikes of Samurai Blue, keeping the Rangers back as they dodged and sidestepped each blow.

 

“Ryan, stop!” Samurai Red shouted.

 

“It’s that psycho armor,” Samurai Green said.

 

“Then we’ve got to get it off,” Samurai Red said.

 

Unas slashed the legs out from beneath Samurai Gold with a burst of spark. He spun and slashed Samurai Yellow and Samurai Pink, and then bashed the hilt of his sword across Samurai Green’s head.

 

The Vorlock Knight chopped towards Samurai Red. But the Red Ranger sidestepped and spun behind Unas, grabbing him in an arm lock.

 

“Ryan, it’s us!” he shouted. “I’m not losing you too, so snap out of this!”

 

Unas shrugged Samurai Red aside and slashed him with a burst of spark that knocked him backward.

 

***

 

Kiros stood on a rooftop and watched Unas attack the Rangers. He knitted his brow quizzically. He knew the legends of the Armor of Unas, but thought the armor worn by Lizzardogler only. Could this boy have somehow descended from Lizzardogler?

 

Suddenly, a figure landed on the rooftop behind Kiros. The villain turned to see Serrator standing with his arms folded across his chest.

 

“You…” the Vorlock said coldly.

 

“Is that any way to great the demon who freed you from the Hell’s Wind?” Serrator asked.

 

“That was before I realized your people slaughtered mine,” Kiros said.

 

“And yet they seem to be doing quite well, your people. Commanding monsters and magick. Quite an improvement to a people who never even had the magick to light a flame,” Serrator said.

 

Serrator stepped to the Vorlock’s side and glanced down at the battle between the Rangers and Unas.

 

“Was the Red Ranger happy to see you?” Serrator asked.

 

“Why does it matter?” Kiros asked.

 

Serrator laughed. “It matters a great deal. His despair is one of the ingredients I need to break the world.”

 

To be continued…Chapter 26