Chapter 40: Ultimate Samurai

A Crack in the World: Flood and Quake

 

PROLOGUE

 

Lal stood on a mountaintop and waited. Her brother. Dead. Again. Kiros took Juzou’s blade and fled. But why?

 

She stared towards the city. She knew Vaelel would track Kiros and find answers. Meanwhile, Lal would wait until the Red Ranger fell to his weakest point, and then strike.

 

“He corrupted my brother…” she whispered. “He killed him….twice…and now he moves on as if nothing ever happened.”

 

She didn’t trouble herself with wanting an honorable or worthy battle. She just wanted him gone. Even if that meant letting the Gedoushuu soften him up a bit first.

 

***

 

PART ONE: Samurai Spirits

 

Teddy and his five teammates ran to a cliff that looked towards Angel Grove West. The six rangers went without Lauren, too weakened from the Sealing Symbol and creation of the special Ultimate Fire Disc.

 

The wilderness ahead extended downward towards the city, mostly submerged by the Sanzu River.

 

Nanashi swarmed ahead of the floodwater. They moved across streets at a higher elevation and spread into the wilderness ahead of the teens. They numbered in the hundreds. Perhaps even thousands.

 

“That’s...a lot,” Bradin said with just a hint of eagerness.

 

Anthony looked to Teddy and smiled. “It’s been a while since we all went into a fight together…You ready for this?”

 

Teddy nodded. “No matter what happens…we stop the Gedoushuu.”

 

They armed their morphers.

 

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

 

The six Rangers leapt from the cliff to face the Gedoushuu.

 

***

 

Samurai Red landed among several dozen Nanashi that charged and chopped their blades. The Red Ranger dodged and parried while slashing the grunts aside. His blade tore through Nanashi with bursts of spark.

 

He tried to focus on the battle. But guilt lingered and tightened his throat. He had killed Juzou. Again. He had lost Bryce. Again.

 

Samurai Red pushed the emotions aside. But this time he didn’t leave a void, which would open to despair. This time he filled the void. With hope. Hope for the defeat of the Gedoushuu. Hope for his team. Hope for…Ryan. He cared about Ryan, and he knew Ryan cared about him.

 

The Red Ranger swung wide, and his blade slashed several Nanashi to the ground.

 

***

 

Samurai Blue swung his blade through fluid and powerful strikes that slashed Nanashi aside. His blade sparked through their bodies and chopped them to the ground.

 

He felt…right, now that he fought alongside Teddy again. He looked up to the Red Ranger and strived to fight at his level.

 

An endless wave of Nanashi surged through the wilderness. Samurai Blue tightened his blade and thought of his dad. His father had served the Hayate Way as a Harrikenjaa and died in the line of duty as a police officer.

 

The Blue Ranger felt his time as a Ranger would have made his father proud. But that time wasn’t up. Not yet.

 

He couldn’t fail.

 

The Blue Ranger swung upward, and his blade slashed a Nanashi aside.

 

***

 

Samurai Green swung wide. His blade ripped a Nanashi apart with bursts of spark. He spun, parried, and chopped a Nanashi to the ground.

 

He’d come a long way since his days on a Kansas farm. The Green Ranger still remembered the news that his parents died, and that his aunt would take care of him at her beach-front home in Angel Grove.

 

He didn’t fit in with his new family or school. So he drank and got into fights.

 

Then Tommy found him. And gave him a home.

 

For the first time since his parents died, Samurai Green felt like he had a family again.

 

He chopped a grunt’s skull and slashed a Nanashi with bursts of spark.

 

***

 

Samurai Pink didn’t like fighting. She didn’t like acting as a soldier. Even after nearly a year of fighting Gedoushuu and Vorlock, she didn’t think of herself as a combatant.

 

She wanted to help people, plain and simple.

 

The thought of everyone suffering in Angel Grove West gave her strength. Strength to protect them. Strength to keep the Gedoushuu from spreading further into the city.

 

The Pink Ranger spun with a wide slash that hacked a Nanashi to the ground.

 

***

 

Samurai Gold grew up feeling worthless. He grew up in the foster system, moving from family to family like warn baggage.

 

He never felt like he fit in anywhere until he started playing soccer. Even then…he didn’t feel like he belonged.

 

That all changed when he became the Gold Ranger. The powers of Samurai Gold gave him purpose. Gave him value.

 

The Golden Ranger carried his blade in a reverse grip and slashed through a wave of Nanashi.

 

***

 

Samurai Yellow wanted to make her sister proud. Originally, Tommy intended to recruit the Yellow Ranger’s sister into the Hayate Way. But her older sister became sick with a mysterious illness.

 

Tommy invited Kirsten to study at the Hayate Way instead, and then almost a year later, offered her the power of Samurai Yellow.

 

She took the power and practiced every day to master it. She took the power to live up to the kind of Ranger she knew her big sister could have been.

 

The Yellow Ranger swung low and slashed the legs from a Nanashi.

 

***

 

Xandred and Shitari stood on the bow of the Gedoushuu ship. The vessel floated on the red water that flooded the streets, several stories deep.

 

“They’re coming for us…” Shitari said. “They know the Sealing Symbol won’t work...and yet they still come for us.”

 

“This is why I hate humans,” Xandred said. “They should be selfish, as is their nature. They should cry and scream!”

 

The demon pointed his blade. “Today, I will make them do just that! They won’t be crying for their lives! They’ll be begging me to kill them as quickly as possible, to end their suffering!”

 

***

 

Samurai Red parried and slashed a Nanashi aside. He looked over his shoulder to see the Gedoushuu ship rush towards the edge of the floodwater, which became shallow.

 

The vessel crashed into the wilderness and skid to a halt.

 

Xandred leapt from the bow and landed near the Rangers. The Nanashi regrouped and formed ranks behind the demon general.

 

The demon grabbed tightly onto his sword. “Samurai Rangers…”

 

“Xandred…” Samurai Red said.

 

The Red Ranger looked to the wound on the upper left side of Xandred’s chest. He knew he needed to strike there. And he knew he could only use the new Ultimate Fire Disc once.  

 

The Red Ranger activated his Samurai Seal, morphed into Super Samurai mode, and attached the black box to his sword’s hilt. He snapped the Ultimate Fire Disc onto the box.  

 

The Nanashi rushed from behind their master and charged towards the Rangers.

 

Samurai Red readied his sword. “Guys, form a wedge and charge ahead of me. I’m going straight for Xandred.”

 

Samurai Gold took point and lead the charge through the Nanashi. He slashed the grunts aside with bursts of spark as Samurai Blue and Samurai Green followed. Samurai Yellow and Samurai Pink closed in from behind their teammates.

 

The five Rangers formed a wedge that plowed through the grunts with swords slashing left and right.

 

Samurai Red took the rear and charged through the Nanashi.

 

Master Xandred watched the Red Ranger’s approach.

 

“Come,” he whispered, his voice like gravel. “I will show you…despair.”

 

The demon swung his sword and fired a blade of energy towards the Red Ranger.

 

Samurai Blue and Samurai Green leapt in front of the blast, which exploded against their armor with bursts of spark, whipping them aside.

 

The Red Ranger charged ahead and spun the Ultimate Fire Disc. Wisps of fiery energy circled his blade, which pulsed with power.

 

Xandred swung his sword wide. But Samurai Red dove over the swing and somersaulted across the ground.

 

Samurai Red rose to his feet, parried a blow, and stabbed through Xandred’s wound with a burst of spark.

 

Xandred growled with pain as Samurai Red forced the blade deeper into the demon’s body. The blade’s flames thrashed the villain with bursts of spark that ripped across his chest.

 

The demon staggered but stood his ground. He grabbed the Red Ranger’s blade and growled.

 

“I see…Not a bad idea…but this isn’t enough to defeat me,” the demon said.

 

Master Xandred pulled the blade from his body and hurled the Red Ranger aside.

 

Samurai Red crashed and tumbled across the ground as his teammates regrouped around him.

 

Samurai Blue shook his head. “It didn’t work?”

 

Xandred laughed mockingly. “You’ve always been an imposter…”

 

The Ultimate Fire Disc sparked with energy and shattered, dropping into pieces.

 

“So…” Xandred said. “Shall we see how loudly you cry out?”

 

The villain thrust his hand and fired waves of energy from his palm. The waves blew past the Rangers with bursts of spark.

 

“Cry out!” Xandred shouted.

 

He thrust his palm and fired a burst of crimson energy that blasted the Rangers with bursts of spark and flame, hurling them off their feet.

 

They crashed to the ground, and the impact knocked them from their armor with flashes of light.

 

“What was that?” Xandred asked. “I heard nothing. If you want to cry for your lives, make it louder!”

 

The teens climbed slowly to their feet. Flames burned around them as they glared at the demon.

 

“That’s it…” Xandred said. “Those eyes! Why don’t you cry out?! Why don’t you fall into despair?!”

 

He thrust his hand and fired crimson energy bursts that exploded around the rangers. The shockwaves slammed the teens back to the ground.

 

“Samurai Rangers…” Xandred said. “I won’t kill you quickly. Why don’t I leave the head of the little red girl in front of you? Yes…wait here, and look forward to that…”

 

Xandred turned and started to walk away.

 

***

 

Lauren stumbled into the dojo. She laid a blank Symbol Disc onto the dais and flipped her morpher into brush mode.

 

Ashley stepped into the room. “Lauren…What are you doing?”

 

“The Disc,” she said. “I need to make another one.”

 

“You’re too injured,” Ashley said. “Come down to Ops. We can-”

 

“No,” Lauren said firmly. “I saw the way they fought. Teddy. Anthony. The rest of them. They’re not stopping until Xandred’s dead. And neither am I.”

 

***

 

Nanashi swarmed around the fallen rangers.

 

Teddy narrowed his eyes and started pushing himself to his feet. “You guys can stand, right…?”

 

“Sure…” Bradin said as he and the other started to stand.

 

“Just taking a little break,” Anthony said.

 

“Right,” Kirsten said.

 

Ryan nodded and knitted his brow with determination. “We’ve been fighting all year for this…”

 

“We’ve got to stop the Gedoushuu,” Anna said.

 

Teddy armed his Spin Sword, as did the others. “Then let’s go…”

 

The teens charged and slashed through Nanashi with bursts of spark, chopping and hacking the grunts to the ground.

 

They slashed the last of the grunts aside and ran to chase after Xandred.

 

***

 

The rangers ran through the war-torn streets of Angel Grove West. Debris and flames dotted the landscape.

 

They stopped when they noticed Lauren stumble towards them.

 

“Guys…” she said as she collapsed.

 

“Lauren!” Teddy shouted as they ran towards her.

 

Teddy crouched next to her and helped her sit up. “You should be resting…”

 

“I had to bring you this…” she said as she pulled out a new Ultimate Fire Disc.

 

“You made another one?” Teddy asked.

 

Lauren nodded. She pulled out a second disc, labeled with the kanji symbols for the word “double.”

 

“And this one…” she said.

 

Anthony smirked. “Well you’ve been busy.”

 

Teddy couldn’t help but feel impressed. Injured, drained from making the first Ultimate Fire Disc, she managed to craft two more discs. How did she produce that kind of power?

 

“Come on…” Teddy said as he helped Lauren stand. “We’ve got to get you back to Ops.”

 

“I’ll be fine here,” Lauren said. “Just go get Xandred…Stop him.”

 

***

 

Xandred led a wave of Nanashi across the ruined streets. The demon stopped and turned when he heard footsteps close from behind.

 

He faced Teddy and the other five teens. “I thought I told you to wait…”

 

“You did…” Teddy said.

 

“What can we say?” Bradin said. “We’re impatient.”

 

“We’re stopping you here, Xandred,” Anthony said.

 

The teens armed their weapons and snapped into their signature fighting stance.

 

“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!” Teddy called. Together, they shouted: “Samurai Rangers!”

 

Xandred grunted. “If you want to die this badly…then I’ll finish you off!”

 

The villain extended his sword, signaling the Nanashi to charge.

 

The grunts rushed towards the teens, and the rangers returned the charge.

 

The Nanashi and rangers slammed against each other. The teens moved with renewed strength and fervor, determined to end the Gedoushuu for good.

 

They parried and slashed with skills honed and perfected time and time again on the battlefield. Their swords clanged with sounds that echoed across the streets.

 

The teens slashed through the last of the Nanashi, faced off with Xandred, and armed their morphers.

 

“Samurai scribe! Ha!”

 

Xandred thrust his palm and fired a crimson energy blast.

 

The Rangers morphed and dove aside as the blast exploded around with them with bursts of spark and flame.

 

They rolled into crouched fighting stances, flipped their morphers into brush mode, and wrote different lines of the same kanji symbol. The lines glowed and shot towards Xandred, combined into the kanji for “bind” and splashed against his body with tendrils of energy.

 

The kanji knocked Xandred back several steps. Its energy tendrils thrashed the demon’s body with bursts of spark.

 

Samurai Red armed his Fire Breaker and attached the Double Disc to the weapon — which summoned a second Fire Breaker. The Red Ranger held one of the massive blades in each hand.

 

Samurai Red leaned forward and charged. He swung his first sword through a streak of fiery energy that slashed Xandred with bursts of spark, spun, and swung his second weapon through a wide arc that slashed Xandred with a burst of fire. 

 

The Red Ranger spun and slashed both weapons through a streak of fiery energy that tore through Xandred with massive bursts of spark and flame.

 

Samurai Red stepped back and speared both weapons into Xandred’s wound with massive bursts of spark.

 

Xandred opened his jaws and blasted a wave of energy that sparked against the Red Ranger and whipped him off his feet.

 

Samurai Red crashed and rolled into a fighting stance.

 

“Now!” Samurai Red shouted.

 

The other five Rangers charged and chopped their blades against Xandred with bursts of spark. They pressed their weapons down hard, holding the demon in place.

 

Samurai Blue stepped back, armed Lauren’s Ultimate Fire Disc, and spun the disc. Waves of Lauren’s fiery energy circled his blade as he stepped forward and stabbed the sword through Xandred’s chest with massive bursts of spark and flame.

 

The Blue Ranger pulled the sword free and chopped the blade through a streak of flame that tore through Xandred with massive bursts of spark.

 

The demon screamed with a shockwave that hurled the Rangers off their feet. They crashed and tumbled aside.

 

Xandred staggered backward as secondary explosions tore through his body. The wound on his upper left chest throbbed with fiery discharges.

 

Samurai Red stood and charged towards the villain. He poured all his power into his Spin Sword. He didn’t force the power. He didn’t try to wrestle it under control. He didn’t need to prove himself. Not anymore.

 

He was the Red Ranger.

 

He felt his Ki ignite through its own power, along with the power channeled through the Fire Symbol. His Kiryoku flooded his body with energy. The flames of his Spin Sword burned white-hot.

 

Samurai Red stabbed the blade through Xandred’s wound. The blade punctured through the demon’s body and stabbed from his back.

 

The Red Ranger twisted the weapon, and secondary explosions ripped through Xandred’s body.

 

Samurai Red pulled the sword free and kicked Xandred back.

 

The demon growled and collapsed to his knees as explosions ripped through his chest and gut.

 

“Samurai Rangers…” he whispered, his voice like gravel. “Even without me…someday…you will die. The crevice to the Sanzu River…is always open…always waiting…”

 

Tendrils of energy thrashed the demon’s body. His energy overloaded, and he exploded with a wave of fire that washed across the streets.

 

The flames burned hot enough to incinerate the demon’s ash into nothingness. He couldn’t reform. He couldn’t grow giant.

 

The Red Ranger lowered his blade and breathed deep.

 

Xandred was gone.

 

***

 

The red floodwaters receded through the cracks and crevices of Angel Grove West, dragging the Gedoushuu ship back to the Sanzu River.

 

The ship rocked violently, tossing Shitari back and forth as he stumbled to stay on his feet.

 

“Master Xandred…Dayu. I will survive. Whether in the Sanzu River…or in the mud…”

 

***

 

PART TWO: Rise of the Underground

 

Emperor Kraigen watched the battle in Angel Grove West through a viewscreen of heat. The villain Cye-Axe stood at his side, within the underground Vorlock palace. 

 

“Gedoushuu,” Kraigen said. “Heh. Fools…This was a useful distraction.”

 

“We’ve spread throughout the tunnels,” Cye-Axe said. “It’s our move now.”

 

Kraigen nodded. “Begin.”

 

***

 

The red-skinned creature Oyobur led a small group of Anglars through the outer tunnels of the underground empire. They headed towards the earth beneath Angel Grove East, at the command of Cye-Axe.

 

Suddenly, a blade boomerang spun through the air and slashed the Anglars to the ground.

 

Kiros dropped into the tunnel and charged towards Oyobur.

 

The creature hopped against the side of the tunnel and pounced at Kiros.

 

Kiros snapped his chain like a whip, which wrapped around the creature’s neck. He swung Oyobur and smashed him against the other side of the tunnel.

 

The villain pulled the creature close and grabbed him in a chokehold.

 

“Don’t awaken my fury…” Kiros whispered into the creature’s ear. “I have need of you…Come.”

 

***

 

Bradin sat against a ruined building in Angel Grove West. He leaned his head against the wall and sighed.

 

“Let’s try not to have any more life-or-death battles for a while…” he said. “Or ever.”

 

The other rangers sat near him. They each felt exhausted, too tired to move.

 

Ryan looked towards the scorch marks on the street where Xandred had stood. “Is he really gone?”

 

Teddy nodded. “He is.”

 

“He better be,” Anthony said. “I’m not going through all that again.”

 

Suddenly, a surge of electricity erupted above, with a shockwave that hurled the teens across the street. They skid across the pavement and landed near an alleyway.

 

Lal jumped to the street. The ring on her left hand crackled with electricity, and the ring on her right hand sizzled with fire.

 

Teddy stood slowly and narrowed his eyes at the Vorlock. “Lal…”

 

“It’s been a while, Red Ranger,” Lal said. “Have you forgotten my brother so easily? Forgotten how you corrupted him?”

 

Teddy glared at the young woman as his heart raced. “You’re insane.”

 

“So you’ve said,” Lal said.

 

She thrust her right fist and fired a burst of flame. The teens dove and rolled for cover as the blast exploded in the alleyway. 

 

Teddy rolled into a crouched position and breathed heavily. He didn’t have the strength to fight. None of his teammates did. Their battle against Xandred had left them weakened and injured.

 

Lal smirked at the sign of their weakness. “Did I come at a bad time…? Good.”

 

The Vorlock hurled bolts of fire and electricity.

 

Teddy morphed into Samurai Red and used the flat side of his Fire Breaker to block the blasts with bursts of spark.

 

The Red Ranger pounced and swung the massive sword wide. But Lal jumped over the swing.

 

She thrust her left fist and fired an electric burst that sparked against Samurai Red and whipped him off his feet.

                                                 

The villain landed just as he other teens morphed and charged to attack.

 

“Gotten your second wind already?” Lal asked mockingly.

 

“Stop!” Samurai Red shouted to his teammates.

 

The Rangers stopped and looked over their shoulders, confused by the Red Ranger’s order.

 

“Seriously?” Samurai Green asked.

 

The Red Ranger stood and walked slowly towards Lal. “Lal…You don’t know the truth. About what really happened to you and your people. It wasn’t the Gedoushuu…It was your own emperor. Kraigen.”

 

“You must think I’m mad to believe a lie like that,” Lal said. “You’re getting desperate, Red Ranger.”

 

“Think, Lal,” Samurai Red said. “Do you actually remember the Gedoushuu attacking? Do you remember them slaughtering anyone?”

 

Lal hesitated. “The emperor brought me back from the dead…” she said. “Why would he kill me only to-

 

“You don’t remember,” Samurai Red said. “And a part of you knows I’m telling the truth. That’s why you’re hesitating.”

 

Lal glared.

 

Samurai Gold looked to his leader. “Maybe you shouldn’t provoke her.”

 

Lal swung her fists and fired bolts of fire and lightning. The blasts exploded against the Rangers with a shower of sparks that whipped them off their feet. 

 

“You dare!” she shouted. She hurled another volley of energy blasts that exploded around the Rangers. “You corrupt my brother! You kill him! Twice! And then move on with your life like nothing happened! You destroyed my family!”

 

Samurai Red rolled into a crouched position and armed his Spin Sword. He swung the blade and deflected a volley of energy bursts.

 

“Kraigen destroyed your family!” Samurai Red shouted.

 

“He saved us! He saved us all! As I knew he would!” Lal shouted.

 

Samurai Red spun his Symbol Disc and hurled a blade of fire at Lal.

 

Lal lifted her rings and fired bursts of flame and lightning. The blasts exploded against the Red Ranger’s fire blade with a shockwave that slammed her to the ground.

 

The Vorlock climbed slowly into a crouched position. Her head throbbed with vertigo.

 

The Red Ranger held his blade in a defensive stance. “Remember!”

 

Fragmented images danced across her mind’s eye. Then she remembered…

 

Cye-Axe led an army of Anglars down the Vorlock tunnels. They hacked and sliced anyone who moved. Blood splattered across the stone as they pressed forward.

 

Cye-Axe didn’t let the screams of the dying unnerve him. He knew they would return — only stronger.

 

The warrior slashed his way through a central chamber and spotted Lal ahead. She knitted her brow as she stood cornered, with her back against a wall.

 

“Cye-Axe…” she said. “What sort of madness is this?”

 

“Not madness,” Cye-Axe said. “It’s for the greater good and glory of our people.”

 

“Greater good?” Lal asked.

 

“They promised us great power,” Cye-Axe said.

 

“Who? Who, you madman?” Lal asked.

 

“The Gedoushuu,” Cye-Axe said.

 

He plunged his sword through her gut.

 

Lal shook her head as the memory resurfaced. “No…no!”

 

“He killed you all,” Samurai Red said. “Just so he could turn you into living weapons.”

 

Lal’s eyes burned with rage. “That…that White Skin monster!”

 

Nearby, throwing stars buzzed through the air and slashed the Rangers with bursts of spark.

 

The Vorlock ninja Vaelel dropped to Lal’s side.

 

Lal nearly stumbled from vertigo but grabbed onto Vaelel’s shoulder for support. “Vaelel…”

 

“It’s Kiros,” Vaelel said. “He’s trying to revive your brother…”

 

“Uh uh,” Samurai Gold said as he shook his head. “No way. No. He stays dead this time.”

 

“Anthony…” Samurai Blue chided.

 

Samurai Red rolled his hands into fists. “Bryce…”

 

Lal looked to the Rangers and smirked. “We’ll finish this another time…”

 

Lal and Vaelel leapt to the rooftops.

 

Samurai Red grabbed tightly onto his sword.

 

“Follow them,” he said as he leapt upward.

 

The other Rangers joined him.

 

***

 

Kiros tossed Oyobur onto the floor of a cavern. Gold, jewels, statues and pieces of art cluttered the expansive cave. The creature didn’t try to break free from the chains that wrapped his arms around his back. Not yet at least.

 

“I have stolen countless artifacts from the surface world during my days,” Kiros said. “Gold. Jewels. And yet…Nothing compares to the beauty of my Prince Brai.”

 

The villain looked to a pedestal, where he kept a casket of ice. The block of ice contained the blade Urimasa, surrounded by the blood and ash of Juzou, like a frozen cloud.

 

“I know the truth of your emperor,” Kiros said to the creature. “I know he slaughtered the Vorlock race so they could be reborn. And…I’ve also discovered his deepest secret. He’s not truly Vorlock. He’s a White Skin. And not just any White Skin…he is the descendent of the Lizzardogler, a creature of myth who could breathe life into the dead.

 

“Only…the Lizzardogler was never a creature of myth,” Kiros continued. “He was a White Skin. A White Skin with powers…powers that eventually faded from the bloodlines of the White Skins. The cursed Forsaken released these dormant powers in your Emperor Kraigen. Now…Kraigen will use these powers to revive my prince.”

 

Kiros lifted Oyobur by the neck. “You will help me infiltrate the Vorlock palace. There…I will force your emperor to revive Prince Brai, or I will reveal his secret.”

 

Oyobur said nothing. But his eyes flickered with maddening rage.

 

Kiros released his grip. “You will not be threatened? What, then? Gold? Jewels? I will give you everything in this cave. I will give anything, for my prince.”

 

Oyobur said nothing.

 

Kiros placed a dagger against the creature’s throat. “Do you wish to die, creature?”

 

The creature shook with rage. His body pulsed with flames that snapped the chains from his arms.

 

Oyobur kicked Kiros aside and leapt to the other end of the cavern.

 

Kiros narrowed his eyes and unsheathed a longknife. “You freak…”

 

Suddenly, a throwing star sparked against the longknife and knocked it from the villain’s hand.

 

Lal and Vaelel rushed into the cavern.

 

“Kiros!” Lal shouted.

 

She hurled a bolt of lightning that sparked against Kiros and whipped him to the ground.

 

Lal looked to the pedestal and saw the casket of ice that contained her brother’s sword, blood and ashes. She opened her eyes wide with anger that masked her sorrow.

 

“His remains…” Lal whispered. “You’ve used an ice trap on his remains…for what twisted purpose?”

 

“To bring him back,” Kiros said. He clutched his wounded chest as he stood. “To see him again…”

 

“Your prince died the moment he set foot on the surface,” Lal said. “I won’t let you tarnish his memory even further with this nonsense!”

 

“Nonsense? Do you even know who you serve? Kraigen can-”

 

Lal stopped listening. She thrust her fists and fired bolts of flame and lightning that sparked against Kiros.

 

Oyobur rolled into a crouched position and blew a wave of fire that exploded against the villain.

 

Vaelel snapped a volley of throwing daggers that stabbed through his armor and whipped him off his feet.

 

Kiros howled with pain. One of the throwing blades had punctured the left side of his chest.

 

Lal narrowed her eyes and stepped closer to the ice casket. “This sword…This sword represents Gedou. The Red Ranger may have corrupted my brother, but this blade turned him into a mockery.”

 

She kicked the pedestal, which tipped over and dropped the ice casket. The ice crashed and shattered into pieces. 

 

“No!” Kiros screamed.

 

***

 

Teddy heard Kiros scream. The teen scrambled through a tunnel as he moved towards the cavern ahead.

 

The other rangers followed but struggled to keep up. They didn’t have his determination. Not when it came to Juzou.

 

Bryce… Teddy thought. He couldn’t shake the guilt that came with Lal’s words: “You corrupt my brother! You kill him! Twice! And then move on with your life like nothing happened!”

 

Teddy shook his head. He didn’t kill Bryce. He defeated Juzou. Juzou, who slaughtered innocents. Juzou, created by one the Forsaken.

 

Bryce…

 

Did he really want to remember Bryce as Juzou? As a demon warrior consumed by despair?

 

No…He wanted to remember Bryce. The real Bryce. Even though he hid his identity. Even though he hid his past. His feelings were real.

 

Teddy remembered their last morning together…

 

Teddy sighed, frustrated with himself. “I swear this is going to sound so sappy, so bear with me…I’ve had a lot of fun with you this past year…and I care about you a lot…and…I think I’m falling in love with you.”

 

Bryce lowered his gaze as a guilty expression crossed his face.

 

Teddy’s face turned slightly red. “Okay, I so should have kept my mouth shut.”

 

“No, it’s not that,” Bryce said. “It’s just…I don’t know what to say. I care about you a lot too. But…I’m not even sure I know what love is. Where I come from…my family, I mean…it’s so different than where you come from. Until I met you, all I cared about was…” He hesitated. “I don’t know what to say…”

 

“Don’t say anything…” Teddy said. “I’m sorry I-“

 

“Don’t apologize…” Bryce slowly pulled away and reached for his jeans at the foot of the bed. “Here…I have something for you…”

 

He pulled out a pennant from his pocket. The silver pennant was on a chain of the same color and etched in gold. The small object had intricate symbols etched along its edges. Bryce moved back up and handed the pennant to Teddy, placing it in the boy’s hand.

 

“What is it?” Teddy asked.

 

“Every member of my family is given one of these at birth. It’s a symbol of strength, determination and endurance. It’s supposed to symbolize everything that’s important to me. That’s why…I want you to have it. Because you’re the most important, and caring person I’ve ever had in my life. You mean everything to me…”

 

***

 

Teddy barged into the cave to find Kiros on the ground, clutching Juzou’s sword. Lal, Vaelel and Oyobur had left the Vorlock to die.

 

Urimasa…” Teddy whispered at the sight of the blade.

 

“You…” Kiros said as he glared at Teddy. The villain climbed to his knees. Blood seeped from his chest and drenched his armor. His hand bled from grasping the blade of Urimasa. “You took him from me…Not once…not twice…but three times. Three times.”

 

“You never even knew him…” Teddy said. “Not like I did.”

 

Kiros snarled. He tried to stand but staggered, and nearly fell. “He hid himself from you. He lied to you…I knew him as he was. As my Prince Brai.”

 

“What you had wasn’t love,” Teddy said.

 

“Love?” Kiros asked with a scoff. “A weakness of the surface. I felt admiration. Respect. Desire-”

 

“Obsession,” Teddy said.

 

Kiros snarled and lunged at the teen. The villain swung Urimasa. Teddy grabbed the villain by the wrist and kicked his chest. Kiros stumbled backward, and Teddy hook-kicked the villain across the face. The blow knocked Kiros to the ground hard enough to crack his back.

 

He howled with agony but kept hold of Urimasa.

 

“He never would’ve needed to lie about his past if you people weren’t so…twisted,” Teddy said. “Everything that happened to him in the end…that’s on you and the other Vorlock.”

 

“You killed him!” Kiros shouted through snarls of pain. “You killed him! I could have brought him back! I could have…I could have saved him!”

 

Teddy shook his head and felt the odd, unsettling sensation and sorrow that came with acceptance. “No…you couldn’t have. Bryce died a year ago. The moment your people took him back…I lost him.”

 

“He can still return…” Kiros said as he clutched the sword. “I have his blade…his ashes and blood…with the power of Kraigen…I can have him back again. I can!”

 

“He’s gone, Kiros,” Teddy whispered.

 

Kiros shouted with pain. He grabbed Urimasa with both hands. The villain snarled as tears streaked down his face.

 

“If I can never have him again in life…I will have him in death,” he said. He turned the blade so it pointed towards his chest. “Take me, my prince. My glorious prince!”

 

Kiros drove the blade through his heart. His eyes opened wide with pain, and a glimmer of maddening satisfaction, before dimming with empty lifelessness.

 

The body of Kiros collapsed onto the cavern floor.

 

Teddy didn’t notice the other teens had entered the cavern.

 

Ryan walked to Teddy and placed a hand on his shoulder. “You okay?”

 

Teddy placed his hand on Ryan’s. He nodded.

 

“I will be…” he said as he turned to face Ryan. He kept hold of his hand. “When this is over…we should talk.”

 

Suddenly, the cavern shook.

 

Teddy narrowed his eyes. “Did you guys see Lal or Vaelel?”

 

Anna shook her head. “No.”

 

“Which isn’t surprising,” Bradin said. “One of them’s a ninja.”

 

Teddy grabbed onto his morpher. “I have a feeling the Vorlock were waiting for this…to hit when we were at our weakest.”

 

“What are they planning?” Kirsten asked.

 

The cavern shook again. Anthony placed his hand against the wall to keep his balance.

 

“Something that involves a lot of shaking…” he said.

 

Teddy glanced at Kiros and the blade Urimasa.

 

“Juzou…the Gedoushuu…” he said. “This all started with the Vorlock. Now it’s going to end with the Vorlock.”

 

“Let’s just get it done before we pass out,” Bradin said.

 

Teddy nodded and flipped his morpher to brush mode. “Let’s try this…”

 

He wrote the kanji for “track” and swiped his morpher through the symbol. The symbol glowed and shot down the cavern to follow Lal and Vaelel.

 

Anthony smirked. “Nice trick.”

 

“Thanks,” Teddy said. “Let’s go…”

 

He led his team from the cavern as the Vorlock tunnels continued to shake.

 

***

 

Anglars finished setting pillars of stone within the Vorlock throne room. Cye-Axe watched as he carried his blade over his shoulder.

 

“Good…” the villain said. “The last pillar is in place.”

 

“Well done…” Kraigen said as he walked towards the pillars. The pillars served as part of an ancient Vorlock engine, with the power to lift the palace to the surface.

 

“Kraigen!” a voice shouted from the other end of the wide throne room.

 

Lal walked into the room while blasting Anglars with bursts of fire and lightning.

 

“You traitor!” she shouted as she blasted an Anglar through the chest with a burst of spark. “I put you in power to save our people. And you repay me by annihilating our entire race!”

 

Cye-Axe lifted his sword towards Lal. “He saved our race!”

 

Vaelel and Oyobur leapt from behind Lal and smashed against the Anglars.

 

Vaelel jumped upward, hung in midair, and then shot past several Anglars with a single stroke of her sword, which tore them to pieces.

 

Oyobur tackled an Anglar to the ground and blew a gust of flame, which sparked through a trio of grunts.

 

Cye-Axe narrowed his eyes at the creature. “Oyobur. You?”

 

Lal smirked. “He wasn’t too happy to learn his emperor was a White Skin.”

 

Cye-Axe opened his eyes wide with shock and rage. “How dare you call him that?!”

 

“It’s true,” Lal said as she blasted another Anglar to the ground. “I helped him rise to power. I helped him take control of the Vorlock.”

 

Kraigen stalked towards the princess. “And why? To make us strong,” he said. “To pull us from the abyss of weakness. I have done just that.”

 

“By turning us into soulless monsters,” Lal cursed.

 

Kraigen thrust his palm and fired a burst of shadow energy that exploded around Lal, hurling her backward.

 

“By turning you into weapons,” Kraigen said. “What did you hope to accomplish by coming here? At the setting of our Endless Night. Soon…the palace will rise, and in the process, Angel Grove will collapse into the Vorlock tunnels. The fallout will blanket the sky with cloud and ash, bringing endless darkness!”

 

Lal knitted her brow. “Collapse the tunnels…? Collapse our home?”

 

“Never going to happen!” a voice shouted from nearby.

 

Teddy and the other teens stormed into the throne room. They smashed through a group of Anglars with punches and kicks, knocking the grunts to the ground.

 

“You…” Kraigen growled. “Samurai Rangers…”

 

The teens armed their morphers. “Samurai scribe! Ha!”

 

Energy wrapped around them as they morphed into their Ranger forms, unsheathed their swords, and charged.

 

Lal hurled bolts of fire and lightning to blast Anglars from the Rangers’ path.

 

“Samurai!” she shouted. “Attack the pillars!”

 

Samurai Red slashed an Anglar to the ground. “You’re helping us?”

 

Lal blasted an Anglar with lightning. “I have no desire to see my home crumble.”

 

“Fair enough,” Samurai Red said as he slashed an Anglar aside.

 

Cye-Axe led a trio of Anglars in a charge towards the Red Ranger. The villain lunged and chopped his massive blade towards the Red Ranger’s head.

 

Samurai Red blocked the blow and slashed the three Anglars to the ground with bursts of spark. The Red Ranger spun and swung wide, his sword slashing Cye-Axe with a burst of spark.

 

“I owe you this,” Samurai Red said to the villain who kidnapped Bryce and dragged him back to the underground empire.

 

The Red Ranger swung upward through a streak of red energy that slashed Cye-Axe with bursts of spark. The blow knocked the villain several steps back, but he staggered and stayed on his feet.

 

Behind Cye-Axe, the stone pillars started to turn like the spokes of a giant wheel. The place floor shook violently and nearly knocked the Rangers and Vorlock off their feet.

 

“Yes…” Kraigen said as he looked upon the pillars. “Yes! Finally!”

 

Cye-Axe grasped his chest and collapsed. Shadowy energy ebbed from beneath his skin.

 

“What…” he whispered, his voice hoarse. “What is happening…?”

 

Lal screamed with pain and collapsed, as did Vaelel. The red-skinned Oyobur dropped to his knees, his eyes wide with pain. Shadowy energy ebbed beneath their skin.

 

Lal looked up and narrowed her eyes at Kraigen. “What have you done…?”

 

“I told you I made you into weapons…” Kraigen said. “With the power I used to revive you, I have linked you all with this engine. When the palace rises, your powers will explode, sinking the city into the earth!”

 

Lal glared with a fury beyond comprehension. “You would slaughter us and revive us…only to kill us all again…?”

 

“I care about the Vorlock. The true Vorlock. The ones you call White Skins. My people,” Kraigen said. “They will live. The rest of you are expendable…Those of you who survive will live as servants and puppets to the Vorlock Master Race.”

 

Samurai Green twirled his blade into an offensive stance. “Can we kill him now, please?”

 

“Let’s,” Samurai Red said.

 

The six Rangers held their blades forward and charged.

 

Emperor Kraigen swung his scepter and fired bursts of shadow energy. The Rangers dove and somersaulted aside the energy blasts exploded around them.

 

Samurai Red rolled into a crouched position and spun his Symbol Disc. Traces of fire wisped along his blade.

 

“Take out the pillars!” he shouted as he swung his sword, firing a blade of flame that streaked towards the pillars. 

 

Kraigen fired a bolt of shadow energy that blasted the fire blade aside.

 

Suddenly, the palace uprooted and titled, knocking the Rangers and Vorlock down the slanted floor. The place burst through the earth above with a massive shockwave that pulverized several city blocks.

 

“We’re out of time!” Samurai Pink shouted as she stabbed her blade into the floor to keep from sliding.

 

The palace tilted in the opposite direction, causing the Vorlock and Rangers to tumble. The other Rangers stabbed their blades into the floor to hold their ground.

 

The stone pillars ebbed with shadow energy that nearly reached its climax, seconds away from triggering massive explosions that would crumble all of Angel Grove.

 

Lal, Vaelel and Cye-Axe howled with agony as shadow energy nearly burst from their bodies. The same happened to the hundreds of Vorlock spread beneath the city.

 

Kraigen laughed with insanity as he landed on the side of a pillar. “Now, we will take our place as the-”

 

Samurai Red spun his Symbol Disc and triggered a wave of white flame. The flame washed over him and surged through his blade.

 

The Red Ranger kicked upward while pulling his sword from the ground and shooting towards the stone pillars. He slashed through the pillars with a wave of white fire as he passed them by, pulverizing them into dust.

 

The place shook violently and crashed to the surface. The impact collapsed the palace, which caved in around the Rangers and Vorlock.

 

***

 

The rubble settled from the collapse of the Vorlock palace. Its destruction had ruined several city blocks. But the rest of Angel Grove still stood. Samurai Red had managed to stop the pillars in time.

 

A white glove burst from the rubble. Samurai Red crawled from the debris, as did his teammates. They coughed as their lungs ached for fresh air, and they collapsed with fatigue.

 

Samurai Red rolled onto his back and tried not to pass out from exhaustion. “You guys okay…?”

 

They grunted and said yes.

 

“Your brother did this for how long?” Samurai Gold asked.

 

“Seven years…” Samurai Red said between breaths. “Only two or three collapsed palaces…”

 

Lethal Doggler_EmperorA monstrous figure burst from the rubble nearby. White, boney armor covered its body. Spikes and daggers of bone extended from its chest, back, neck and head. Its right hand formed a claw, which looked like the head of a beast. Its narrowed eyes sat above a jaw of jagged teeth and two fangs.

 

“Samurai…” the creature growled.

 

“Kraigen…” Samurai Red said.

 

The villain growled with a shockwave that trembled the earth. Kraigen’s power had contorted him into a powerful beast, much like the Vorlock monsters.

 

Slowly, the Samurai Rangers used their swords for balance and climbed to their feet.

 

Samurai Gold shook his head. “I sure hope he’s not as tough as he looks.”

 

“Even if he is…” Samurai Green started to say. He shook his head. “Never mind.”

 

Samurai Red armed his Samurai Seal and thrust the black box forward. “Super Samurai mode!”

 

His white robe flashed around his body with golden light as he morphed into Super Samurai mode.

 

Kraigen fired bursts of lightning that exploded around the Rangers and hurled them off their feet.

 

Samurai Pink rolled into a crouched stance and spun the Symbol Disc on her sword. “Wind Fan!”

 

Her sword transformed into a fan, and she swung a wave of wind energy that blew towards Kraigen.

 

The monster clawed through the blast with bursts of spark.

 

Samurai Red rolled into a crouched stance and spun his Symbol Disc. He swung his sword and fired a blade of flame.

 

But Kraigen clawed the blast aside and fired tendrils of crimson energy that exploded against the Rangers, knocking them backward.

 

Samurai Red rolled onto his back. Smoke sizzled from his armor. He felt too weak to move.

 

Suddenly, the black box started to pulse on his sword. He looked to the Samurai Seal, and the Super Disc inside shifted — into the Battleizer Disc. Tommy had transferred the Battleizer power from Lauren’s morpher into the Samurai Seal.

 

The Red Ranger used his sword for balance and climbed to his feet. He stepped into a defensive stance and swiped his hand across the Samurai Seal.

 

“Battleizer!” he shouted.

 

Red energy surged around his body as he transformed into Battleizer Mode. His armor looked similar to Lauren’s Battleizer mode, along with a white chest shield.

 

teddybattleizerRejuvenated, the Red Ranger unfolded his sword and dashed towards Kraigen — the Vorlock who created Juzou. The Vorlock who summoned the Gedoushuu. The Vorlock who started everything.

 

Kraigen fired blasts of lightning and crimson energy tendrils. But the attacks sparked harmlessly against the Red Ranger’s armor as he charged forward.

 

Samurai Red channeled white-hot fire through his blade.

 

“Inferno slash!” he shouted as he spun past Kraigen while slashing his blade through a streak of white energy.

 

The slash tore through Kraigen with massive bursts of spark and flame that punctured through his body. The villain growled with pain and stumbled backward as secondary explosions blasted through his chest and a part of his head.

 

Instead of dying, his shadow energy overloaded and expanded with a boom as he grew giant.

 

The Rangers regrouped below and stared up to face their giant foe. They armed all their Origami.

 

“Samurai-zords, rise up!”

 

The six Rangers quickly called on their zords and leapt into their cockpits. They assembled their Megazords: the Samurai Megazord, Claw Battlezord and Bull Megazord.

 

Samurai Red pulled the Giga Disc from his buckler. He snapped the Disc into his Samurai Seal. “Origami assemble!” he shouted. “Giga Fusion!”

 

All the Rangers’ zords shifted and pulsed with energy. They combined to form a massive, heavily armored Megazord.

 

“Samurai Gigazord!” the Rangers shouted. “Shinken Ha-ou!”

 

Too massive and heavy to walk, the Gigazord drove forward with the cart of the Bullzord beneath its feet.

 

Kraigen hurled bolts of lighting and tendrils of power that thrashed the Gigazord. But the Gigazord continued its advance.

 

Samurai Red rolled his right hand into a fist over his control console. “This is it…It started with him, and it ends with him!”

 

Samurai Red thrust his hand over his control console. “Now, guys!” he shouted. Together, they called out: “Samurai Gigazord! Giga Blast!”

 

The Gigazord swung its sword through a circle, forming a ring of kanji symbols that glowed with power. The Gigazord whined with energy that channeled into its helmet. The helmet fired a beam of energy that shot through the kanji ring, intensified, and stabbed towards Kraigen. 

 

The beam punctured through the giant’s body with a shockwave of white-hot flame. The blast incinerated Kraigen completely, burning even his ashes into nothingness.

 

The Gigazord lowered its blade and stood victorious.

 

***

 

The rangers returned to the dojo and practically collapsed onto the sparring mats. They sighed with fatigue and relief as they looked to the ceiling.

 

“Two Big-Bads in one day,” Anthony said. “That has to be some kind of record.”

 

He expected Bradin to chime in with a witty comment. But the teen had already started snoring.

 

Kirsten smiled at Bradin and rubbed his hair. “That’s adorable…”

 

Anthony rolled his eyes. “Please…”

 

***

 

Lauren slung her bag over her shoulder and started walking away from the Hayate Way Dojo.

 

Tommy called after her. “Lauren, wait.”

 

She turned to him and smiled. “Sorry…I’m not very good at goodbyes.”

 

“Who says this has to be goodbye,” Tommy said.

 

Lauren shrugged. “I did what you needed. In case you haven’t notice…I’ve kind of lost my relevance here…”

 

“You’re more relevant than you realize, Lauren…” Tommy said.

 

“How’s that?” she asked.

 

“There wasn’t time to tell you earlier, with all the rush,” Tommy said. “But now…I think it’s time we talk about your brother.”

 

***

 

Ryan walked outside and stretched after his brief rest in the dojo. Teddy joined him on the steps.

 

“Feeling better?” Teddy asked.

 

“Bradin has the right idea,” Ryan said with a smile. “I feel like I could nap for days.”

 

Teddy grinned. “Me too.” He hesitated and sighed. “Listen…about what I wanted to talk to you about?”

 

Ryan nodded. “Yeah…”

 

“You’ve really been there for me, and…I really suck at this,” he said with a blush.

 

Ryan smirked. “You’re doing fine. Please continue.”

 

“Do you want to go out? Like, on a date?” Teddy asked. “It’d be nice for us to get away from all this Ranger stuff for a while and just…talk. About…normal stuff.”

 

Ryan smiled. “Yeah, Id’…I’d like that.”

 

“Good…” Teddy said as he took Ryan’s hand in his.

 

***

 

EPILOGUE

 

Nearly a year ago, the shadowy stranger walked through the tunnels of the Vorlock and surveyed the corpses.

 

Now he did so again, adding to the collection he spent months and months obtaining.

 

He called himself Aginor — one of the Forsaken.

 

Aginor served as a sort of monster maker for the Dark One during the war against the Creator, before time. The Vorlock corpses gave him plenty of fodder to play with.

 

He dug through the rubble and pulled out the bodies of Lal and Vaelel, both dead — at least for now. Oh, the things he could make with them. Such strange creatures.

 

He hummed softly as he rummaged through the ruined tunnels.

 

Suddenly, he heard scuffling noises from behind. He looked to see a worn and tattered man crawl through the tunnel. He looked human except for the yellow slits he had for eyes, and his needle-like teeth.

 

“Ishar? Is that you my fishy friend? Well, not so fishy anymore,” Aginor said.

 

Aginor stepped from the shadows and into the heated light. He was short and plump for a Forsaken, with round eyes, shaggy hair, and worn-and-tattered clothes.

 

“Aginor,” Ishar said the name with contempt. He hated his fellow Forsaken. Most of them hated each other, this was no secret. But Ishar made no effort to hide his contempt. “What are you doing here?”

 

“Did you think the Dark One would ignore your little pet project? Here, with these...Vorlock? Ugly creatures. Worse than humans.” Aginor wiped the blood from his hands onto his torn jacket. “At least something wonderful will come from your failure.”

 

“Wonderful?” Ishar asked. He held his hand behind his back and formed a sphere of yellow-tinted energy in his palm. “What could possibly-”

 

“I wouldn't attack me if I were you,” Aginor said with a smug grin of insanity. “I'm not alone...”

 

Ishar heard growls come from deeper within the shadows. He powered down his energy sphere and looked deeper into the darkness, noticing dozens of beady-yellow eyes.

 

“These corpses you left behind made wonderful subjects for my experiments. The Dark One will have his army, all thanks to you,” Aginor said.

 

Ishar noticed the beasts step forward from the shadows. They had been Vorlock once, but they were now creatures covered with black fur, and faces that resembled beasts   boars, apes, falcons — all sorts of creatures. They wore armor of black chainmail and carried thick, curved sabers.

 

“My Vorlorcs,” Aginor said. “A clever name, yes?”

 

“You've always been the insane one, Aginor,” Ishar said.

 

“You just tried to spill Hell into earth because you like the way despair smells. Tell me, how is that sanity? And how did you survive? We watched you destroyed…”

 

“They destroyed my monster form…the form of Serrator,” the villain said. “I can’t…I can’t shift back.”

 

“Why you chose to conform to those Gedoushuu, I will never know,” Ishar said.

 

“They were a means to an end,” Ishar said as he staggered.

 

“A failure,” Aginor said. “I must say, Ishar, you look…ill…”

 

Ishar narrowed his eyes. He said nothing of the blade Urimasa, which he traveled to the Vorlock tunnels to find after his defeat at the hands of the Samurai Rangers.

 

“Go to hell, Aginor,” Ishar spat.

 

Aginor giggled. “I suppose that would make you very jealous…wouldn’t it?”

 

He looked to his Vorlorcs. “My pets…you look hungry. Please accept my...friend…as your meal.”

 

Ishar opened his eyes wide with shock. Before he could protest, the Vorlorcs tackled the villain to the ground and started to rip his body apart.

 

Aginor smiled at the carnage. “Perhaps I will make something useful out of you, Ishar…perhaps you will serve the Dark One after all.”

 

To be continued…Chapter 41