Ultimate Samurai: Chapter Twenty-eight prologue

 

Angel Grove, three weeks ago

 

Tommy and Teddy stood alone in Ops. They looked at the main computer monitor, which showed the Japanese kanji for the word “seal” in thick red lines.

 

“This is it,” Tommy said. “This is how we’ll finally stop the Gedoushuu.”

 

“What is it?” Teddy asked.

 

“The Sealing Symbol,” Tommy said. “It needs your fire power to work, and once it does, it can seal Xandred beneath the Sanzu River for good.”

 

“There’s a ‘but’ coming isn’t there?” Teddy asked.

 

Tommy nodded. “This symbol needs a lot of power to work. More power than you’ve ever channeled.”

 

Teddy knitted his brow. “Are you telling me I can’t use it?”

 

“No,” Tommy said. “I’m saying you can’t use it yet…You weren’t technically meant for these powers, so it’s going to take a lot of work.”

 

“Okay…” Teddy said. “So when do we get started?”

 

Chapter 28: Ultimate Samurai

Sealed? Xandred’s Fate

 

The Samurai team practiced in the Hayate Way courtyard. They split into pairs and sparred with bamboo swords. Anthony paired with Bradin, Kirsten sparred against Anna, and Teddy paired with Ryan.

 

Ryan pressed forward with graceful and fluid swings Teddy parried. With each parry, Teddy thought more and more of Bryce — no, Juzou. The villain’s words echoed strongly: “Why have you become weaker? You value your life now.”

 

Teddy had started to move on. He had started to let go of his anger and guilt. Now all those feelings returned, and he hated Juzou for that, which made him feel even more guilty. Bryce…

 

Teddy didn’t even realize he had knocked Ryan’s sword away and kicked the teen to the ground.

 

Ryan knitted his brow with concern and looked up to Teddy.

 

“What was that for?” Ryan asked.

 

“I…” Teddy hesitated and lowered his sword. “Nothing…just got carried away. I’m going to head inside…You guys keep practicing.”

 

Teddy dropped his practice sword and walked towards the dojo as the others watched with growing concern.

 

***

 

About a dozen Susukodama descended from the roof of the interior of the Gedoushuu’s ship. The tiny creatures resembled small balls of fur with beady eyes and fanged teeth. The barely-sentient creatures hummed an imitation of Dayu’s absent shamisen as they hung from strings.

 

Master Xandred looked out the viewport as the creatures dangled behind him. “Shitari…aren’t you getting sick of them imitating the shamisen?”

 

“Master?” Shitari asked.

 

“I said I’m sick of it!” Xandred turned and swatted several Susukodama from the ceiling.

 

Shitari looked down at the fallen vermin. “So…What would you have me do? Bring back Dayu?”

 

Xandred said nothing. He sat on the deck, poured a bowl of sake, and drank deeply.

 

***

 

Shitari called for Serrator, who arrived on the Gedoushuu ship. The waddling demon wasted no time demanding Dayu’s shamisen. But Serrator feigned ignorance.

 

“The shamisen, you say?” Serrator asked.

 

“You have it, Serrator, just hand it over,” Shitari pleaded.

 

“I don’t know anything about this instrument,” Serrator said. “Why mention it now?”

 

“The master needs it!” Shitari said.

 

“Is that so?” Serrator asked. “Well…then I will bring it soon, after I lift it from its hiding place.”

 

Serrator started to leave the ship, but Shitari called for him to wait.

 

“We can’t trust you, Serrator…” Shitari said. “I’ll go with you.”

 

“As you wish…”

 

***

 

Dayu walked through the woods while holding a single Susukodama in her hands. The small creature hummed the sound of her shamisen.

 

She stroked the fur of the creature. “I’ve never gone this long without playing…”

 

Juzou walked towards her from behind while in his human form.

 

“It’s about time for you to demand your shamisen back…” he said. “And for me to do the same with Urimasa. He’s taking too long to fix them…”

 

Dayu said nothing. She merely stroked the Susukodama and listened to its hums.

 

***

 

Serrator led Shitari across a rocky shoreline. The squid-like demon struggled to keep up as he waddled and used his staff for balance. Serrator didn’t bother to slow or break his stride.

 

“The master seems to care for Dayu a great deal…in his own way,” Serrator said. “For him to go out of his way to retrieve her shamisen like this…”

 

“You make him sound human,” Shitari said. “You know what we Gedoushuu are like.”

 

“Of course, of course,” Serrator said. “Born of the Sanzu River. Unable to live in the mortal world, and unable to live within the very Hell through which our river flows. We starve for the feelings of pain and suffering we are denied…Does Master Xandred feel the same way?”

 

“I’ve never asked,” Shitari said impatiently. “Where is the shamisen?”

 

“This way…” Serrator said as he walked to a boulder formation. “Within this crevice. I just need to undo the spell.”

 

He waved his hands over the boulder as his palms ebbed with yellow light. He chanted in a demonic language, and the words singed the air with heat.

 

***

 

Teddy joined Tommy alone in Ops. Teddy sat on the couch in the corner, and Tommy sat across from him. 

 

“He said that?” Tommy asked.

 

Teddy nodded. “That I was weaker. And maybe he’s right. I started to let go and move on. I lost some of that…anger I had. Maybe I lost some of the strength that came with it.”

 

“He’s just messing with you,” Tommy said. “Trying to get into your head.”

 

“And it’s working,” Teddy said. “How could I think I could just move on? Let go? After everything that happened with us…After I killed him.”

 

The teen pulled his morpher from his pocket. “You should never have given this to me…I wasn’t meant to have it. And I sure can’t handle it. I have no idea what I’m doing or how I’m feeling.”

 

“You can’t just shut down,” Tommy said. “You have to deal. Like you were doing before this happened. Especially now…We need you. The Forsaken could try to crack the Second Seal any day now and we still don’t know who they are or what they have planned.”

 

“That’s just the thing,” Teddy said. “I can’t even care about that right now. I just want…I want the Gedoushuu and Vorlock gone. I want to stop feeling this way.”

 

“Then stop,” Tommy said. “Every day is a fresh start. Every day you choose your attitude and outlook. You can choose to close down and give up, to give into despair. Or you can choose to move forward, like you were doing.”

 

“And look where that got me,” Teddy said. “Nowhere.”

 

“Really?” Tommy said. “You have five teammates out there who would disagree. You even earned Bradin’s respect.”

 

Teddy scoffed. “I wouldn’t say that.”

 

“You haven’t noticed?” Tommy asked. “You’ve worked hard, and you’ve come far. You really want the Gedoushuu and Vorlock gone? Then you have to keep moving ahead.”

 

Teddy sighed and looked at his morpher. “I guess…” he said. “It just isn’t easy…”

 

“It never is,” Tommy said. “That’s why you have friends and people who can help you. Go back out there and be with your team, little brother.”

 

***

 

Serrator chanted and waved his hands over the boulder. Shitari grew tired of watching and walked closer to the rocky shoreline, to look out upon the ocean.

 

The squid-like demon remembered Serrator’s question about Xandred, and his mind flashed back…

 

***

 

1495 AD, the Sanzu River

 

The Gedoushuu ship rocked on waves of anger and rage. Xandred stomped mindlessly through the vessel while slashing at shadows. His latest outburst of irritation pulsed with power that shook the ship.

 

He slipped into mindlessness for weeks.

 

Then one day, from the mortal world, he heard a sound. A sound like the gathering of the world’s tears. The sound of Dayu’s shamisen. 

 

Xandred walked towards the nearest crevice of the chamber and peered through it. His line of vision extended through a rippling wave of red energy, and he saw Dayu sitting with her shamisen in her lap.

 

Dayu possessed a woman named Usuyuki at the time. She loved a man named Shinza, but Shinza loved another woman he intended to wed.

 

Dayu played her shamisen day after day and poured her heartbreak and sorrow into every note. And day after day, Master Xandred listened from the river of Hell. The sounds of despair soothed the great demon for days. Days turned to weeks. And then months.

 

Then one night, Dayu stopped playing.

 

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.  

 

The flames engulfed Dayu and her human host, burning them body and soul. But a dark wave of crimson energy washed over them and dropped them onto the shore of the Sanzu River. Dayu, now in her monster form, still clutched to her shamisen.

 

She looked up, confused. “Where…”

 

“You have fallen to Gedou…” Xandred said as he walked towards Dayu. “There is no going back…”

 

Dayu scrambled to her feet to flee, but Xandred grabbed her by the shoulders. “I’ve been waiting for you…Dayu.”

 

***

 

“Shitari…” Serrator said as he walked towards the squid-like demon. The villain carried the broken shamisen in hand. “Thank you for waiting.”

 

“What took you so-

 

Serrator chopped his fan at the demon. Shitari barely managed to lift his staff and block the blow.

 

“Serrator?” Shitari said. “What are you doing?”

 

Shitari twisted his staff and parried the fan aside. Serrator spun and stepped back, gaining his distance.

 

“My deepest apologies…” Serrator said. “I’m afraid there’s something I’d very much like to do…and I need the shamisen for that.”

 

Serrator swung his fan and fired a bolt of purple energy. Shitari leapt and spun like a tornado to avoid the blow. The squid-like demon landed on a rocky hill behind Serrator.

 

Serrator turned to face the Gedoushuu. “I tried to think of a clever excuse…another story. But I could not. So I suppose my deception of Master Xandred has come to an end.”

 

“I knew it,” Shitari spat. “You’ve planned this from the beginning!”

 

Serrator giggled and placed his fan over the lower half of his face.

 

Shitari stepped backward towards a crevice. “The master will never forgive you for this.”

 

The crevice glowed with crimson light, and Shitari slid into the light to escape into the Sanzu River.

 

***

 

The alarms blared in Ops to alert the Samurai team of the disturbance at the shore. Tommy and Ashley pulled up the location on the computer terminal, and the rangers ran from Ops to handle the threat.

 

***

 

Dayu heard the gasping moans of her would-be-lover, trapped in the shamisen. She snapped her head and faced the shore in the unseen distance. 

 

“Damn you, Serrator…” she whispered.

 

***

 

Serrator walked across the rocky shoreline while carrying the shamisen in one hand and an oddly shaped compass in the other hand. He looked at the compass while searching for the perfect spot.

 

He stopped when the compass needles started spinning. “It’s surely here…” The shamisen groaned as if in pain, and Serrator looked to the instrument. “This is where you will spit up your agony…”

 

“Serrator!” a voice shouted from a rocky hill. The villain looked to see Teddy and the Samurai team run to the scene. “What are you doing here?”

 

“Well, well…” Serrator said. “Welcome, welcome. As you can see…I am doing nothing.”

 

Bradin narrowed his eyes. “Cut the bullshit.”

 

Teddy armed his morpher, and the others did the same.

 

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

 

Serrator lifted his fan in a defensive stance and called for reinforcements. “Nanashi…”

 

The grunts leapt from the ground and charged to attack. The Rangers returned the charge, and they clashed against the grunts with bursts of spark and clangs of swords.

 

Serrator stepped back. “Now’s my chance…”

 

Suddenly, Dayu leapt through the air as if from nowhere and chopped her dagger at Serrator. Serrator leapt upward to avoid the strike. The villain floated backward and landed on a nearby hill.

 

Dayu held her dagger in a fighting stance. “Serrator…what are you doing with my shamisen? You promised to fix it…”

 

“I must say, I really only wanted the blade of Juzou,” Serrator said. “The extreme suffering in this shamisen was an added bonus I never intended to fix.”

 

“You bastard!” Dayu shouted as she pounced through the air.

 

She chopped her blade at Serrator. But Serrator extended the shamisen as a shield. Dayu stopped her blade an inch away from the instrument.

 

Serrator laughed mockingly. “I am so very sorry…”

 

He armed his claws and slashed upward with a burst of spark that whipped Dayu off her feet and hurled her through the air.

 

The demon crashed against the ground and tumbled aside. Dayu pushed herself into a crouched position and stood while gripping her dagger.

 

“You bastard…” she hissed again. “It’s mine…return what’s mine!”

 

Dayu held her blade forward and charged.

 

Serrator lifted his hand.

 

He hurled bolts of yellow energy that sparked against Dayu, slowing her advance. The villain thrust his other palm forward and fired a bolt of purple lightning that exploded against Dayu with massive bursts of spark. The impact knocked her off her feet, and she fell against the ground as secondary explosions tore across her body.

 

“Dayu…” Serrator said with pleasure as he stalked towards her. “I just can’t get enough of your vexation…”

 

“Betrayed…” Dayu whispered. “Again…”

 

Serrator stood over her and laughed.

 

Suddenly, the shore flickered with flashes of darkness as the ground shook. A scream of rage and irritation echoed throughout the air. The scream belonged to Master Xandred.  

 

***

 

The Sanzu River stormed with rage. The Gedoushuu ship shook on the waves, as Xandred stormed across the deck.

 

“Serrator!” he shouted. “You bastard!”

 

Shitari waddled next to his master to stop him from leaving the ship. “Master Xandred…I know you’re angry with Serrator, but you can’t go to the mortal world! You’ll dry up as soon as you leave!”

 

“Shut up!” Master Xandred knocked Shitari aside and slashed him to the deck with a burst of spark.

 

The villain gripped his sword tightly and stormed off the ship.

 

***

 

Darkness fell across the shore. The Samurai Rangers held their swords at the ready, having defeated the Nanashi.

 

Boulders rolled across the ground and formed a wall, with cracks that ebbed with crimson energy. The red light poured through the cracks with an intensity that exploded, scattering the wall into pieces with a burst of smoke.

 

Through the smoke walked Master Xandred.

 

Samurai Blue shifted his stance. “Is that…”

 

“Xandred,” Samurai Red said.

 

“The Big Bad?” Samurai Gold asked. “Really?”

 

Master Xandred stalked through the smoke and breathed deeply, each breath a soft growl.

 

He staggered as his upper left shoulder started to dry and crack. But the pain merely increased his anger and power.

 

“Samurai Rangers…” he cursed. “Serrator!”

 

The villain swung his sword and fired a massive wave of fire, wide enough to shoot at the Rangers and Serrator. The fire wave exploded against the Rangers with massive bursts of spark and flame, hurling them from their feet.

 

The shockwave knocked Serrator to his knees as smoke sizzled from his body.

 

Xandred thrust his palm forward and fired tendrils of black-and-purple shadow energy that snaked through the air towards Serrator.

 

Serrator swung his fan to start knocking the tendrils aside. But one tendril knocked the shamisen from his grasp. The villain laughed at his own surprise.

 

“I didn’t think you’d come to the mortal world, Xandred…” he said. “Perhaps I underestimated you. Although more than likely not…”

 

The villain jumped upward to avoid the rest of the shadow tendrils, and he leapt into the distance.

 

Xandred glared as he watched the villain flee. “Serrator…”

 

Samurai Red took advantage of the villain’s distraction and armed his morpher in brush mode. The Sealing Symbol…this is my chance…

 

The Red Ranger channeled all his power and started drawing the Sealing Symbol. The symbol glowed with each stroke, and each stroke made the Ranger feel like he had run a mile. Make that several miles.

 

His arm weakened, and the symbol vanished. The Red Ranger shook his head. He had to try again. He started to write the Sealing Symbol, but the amount of power required forced him to his knees.

 

It’s not working…he thought. I can’t make the symbol…Looks like I’ll have to do this the old fashioned way.

 

Samurai Red armed his Spin Sword and Symbol Disc. He spun the disc, weaving tendrils of flame that ebbed across his blade.

 

The Red Ranger charged and chopped the blade against Xandred’s shoulder with a burst of spark. But the blow didn’t even make the villain flinch.

 

“Samurai Red…” Xandred growled as he grabbed the Spin Sword by the blade. “The damn leader of the damn Rangers!”

 

Xandred chopped his blade, which shattered the Spin Sword and slashed Samurai Red with a burst of spark. The villain followed with an upward swing that slashed the Red Ranger off his feet with massive bursts of spark that tore across his armor and hurled him through the air.

 

The other Rangers shouted their leader’s name and regrouped around him. The Red Ranger struggled to rise. His teammates stood in defensive stances as they faced Xandred.

 

Samurai Gold shifted his blade into an offensive stance. “Come on, guys. Let’s hit ‘im.”

 

The other four Rangers armed their Symbol Discs and spun them to summon their special weapons.

 

“Element Flash Wave!”

 

They swung and triggered their weapons, firing energy waves that shot towards Xandred. The energy waves combined into a single golden blade.

 

Xandred chopped through the energy blade, which splintered into pieces. He swung his sword wide and fired a massive wave of fiery energy.

 

The energy wave splashed against the Rangers with massive bursts of spark that knocked them off their feet. Smoke sizzled from their armor as they crashed against the ground.

 

“That guy’s…a little too strong…” Samurai Green said as he reached towards his fallen sword.

 

But Samurai Red stood and lifted the blade for himself. The Red Ranger armed the black box and morphed into Super Samurai mode with a flash of golden energy.

 

Samurai Red armed his Bullzooka, slid the Spin Sword inside, and snapped the Tiger Disc into the Samurai Seal. The Red Ranger aimed the weapon at Xandred.

 

Master Xandred took a step forward but staggered as his legs started to dry. “Do it…” Xandred taunted. “Let me taste your feeble power…”

 

Samurai Red triggered a burst of energy. But Xandred slashed through the blast with bursts of spark.

 

The villain leapt forward to attack, and Samurai Red leapt backward to gain distance. While in midair, the Red Ranger triggered a volley of energy bursts that Xandred swatted aside with his sword.

 

Still in midair, Xandred tossed weaves of shadow energy that wrapped around Samurai Red and pinned his arms at his sides. The villain swung his blade through a streak of fiery energy that sparked against Samurai Red and knocked him to the ground.

 

Master Xandred landed near the fallen Ranger. The villain watched Samurai Red climb slowly to his feet. “The finisher…”

 

Xandred swung his sword and fired a fiery wave of energy that slashed against the Red Ranger’s gut with massive bursts of spark, knocking him backward as secondary explosions tore across his armor.

 

The Red Ranger collapsed, and his armor peeled away with flashes of small red kanji symbols.

 

Xandred grunted with satisfaction and walked off.

 

The villain lifted the fallen shamisen. But before he could speak, his body dried further. A gray, cracked hardness formed across his chest and midsection.

 

Xandred bit back the pain and leapt onto the rocky hill where Dayu lay on all fours.

 

“You’ve fallen to Gedoushuu…” Xandred said to her. “There’s nowhere else for you…”

 

Xandred peeled one of the scales from his leg and placed it against the shamisen. The instrument absorbed the scale and used its energy to knit itself back together.

 

Dayu gasped at the sight. “Master Xandred…you…”

 

He extended the shamisen, and Dayu took it gently from her master’s hands. She hugged and stroked the instrument as she would a lost lover.

 

Xandred turned towards the fallen Rangers, but Shitari appeared at his side.

 

“Master, you’re out of time!” Shitari pleaded. “You’ve dried out…you must return to the Sanzu River!”

 

Dried cracks split across Xandred’s graying body. Shitari practically had to force the villain through the nearest crevice, which ebbed with crimson light as they slid back to the Sanzu River.

 

***

 

The rangers returned to the dojo. Teddy lay unconscious in the resting area as his older brother placed a cold compress on his head.

 

This is my fault…Tommy thought. That Sealing Symbol almost burnt him out. He wasn’t meant to use it…I want to believe in him, and I do…but he just wasn’t meant to use it.

 

He started to think, that maybe, he needed to find the person The Power meant to have as Samurai Red.

 

***

 

Shitari stood at the bow of the Gedoushuu ship and watched Master Xandred fall into the water below.

 

“Master…” he said quietly. He knew Xandred would need a long time to recover because of the severity of his dryness.

 

Laughter came from the deck. Shitari turned to see Serrator standing with his arms folded across his chest.

 

“Serrator!” Shitari shouted as he lifted his staff.

 

“Stop right there, squid demon,” Serrator said. “You know you don’t have the power to force me off this ship…”

 

Shitari slumped his shoulders with defeat.

 

Serrator merely laughed and covered the lower half of his face with his fan.

 

***

 

Dayu cradled her shamisen and looked out upon the ocean. She remembered Xandred’s last words before returning to the Sanzu River. “You’ve fallen to Gedoushuu…” Xandred said to her. “There’s nowhere else for you…”

 

To be continued…Chapter 29