Ultimate Samurai: One-shot

Eye of the Impure King

 

PROLOGUE: Bradin and Kirsten

 

Bradin sat next to Kirsten at the side of her sister’s bed. Her sister, Belle, lay still and sick, as she had for years.

 

Bradin took Kirsten by the hand. “You’re sure you’re OK?”

 

Kirsten nodded. “I’m used to seeing her like this. I know that sounds bad, but…”

 

“It doesn’t sound bad,” Bradin said. “When you lose someone…it’s like losing an arm or a leg. You never heal. But you adapt. You might struggle sometimes, but you learn to cope.”

 

She laid her head on his shoulder. “Thanks, Bradin.”

 

He squeezed her hand. “Don’t mention it.”

 

She sighed. “We should probably go, though. It’s not safe to stay here. Did you hear what happened to Lauren?”

 

Bradin shook his head.

 

“The Silver Guardians showed up at her house. She was barely there a minute,” she said.

 

“Don’t worry,” Bradin said. “If they come here? We’re not the ones who’ll need to worry. They are.”

 

Belle snapped up from bed and grasped her sister’s throat. She hissed, hurled her across the room, and back-hand slapped Bradin to the ground.

 

The ranger crashed and rolled to his knees. “What the-”

 

“Belle!” Kirsten shouted. “What happened-

 

Belle pushed her sister aside and dashed from the room. Breathing like a beast, she dashed outside and frantically searched for…something. She felt a presence like a prickle in the back of her mind.

 

“The…Impure King,” she rasped as she ran into the distance.

 

Bradin and Kirsten dashed into the yard and watched Belle run off.

 

“Bradin…” Kirsten shook her head. “What just happened? The Impure King? What is that?”

 

“That…” Bradin flipped open his morpher. “Is a good reason to break radio silence. I’m calling the others.”

 

***

 

PART ONE: Teddy and Ryan

 

Will wrapped his cloak around his body and kept his head down, so his hat cast a shadow across his face. The ranger passed unnoticed through the courtyard of the Myoda Shrine in Japan.

 

Suddenly, alarm bells rang. Monks ran towards the shrine, where guards armed their staffs to defend their land and its treasures.

 

The monks didn’t realize Will already stole one of those treasures: The Eye of the Impure King. INET wanted the Eye, classified as a dangerous relic codenamed Precious, before it could fall into the hands of villains, codenamed Negative Syndicates.

 

The ranger hurried into the woods. Once in the clear, he breathed a sigh of relief and dropped his disguise.

 

Will flipped open his Overdrive Tracker.

 

“I have the Eye,” he said through the commline. “Man, that was too easy.”

 

“Let’s make it more challenging,” a voice said from the shadows.

 

Two figures drop-kicked Will and sent him stumbling across the ground. He dropped the Eye, which bounced across the dirt.

 

The ranger looked to his attackers: Teddy Oliver, the Red Samurai Ranger, and Ryan Phillips, the Blue Samurai Ranger.

 

Will pulled a tracker chip from his pocket. “That wasn’t very smart.”

 

He snapped the chip, which exploded with a burst of light.

 

The light distracted Teddy and Ryan while Will grabbed the Eye and ran deeper into the woods.

 

“That wasn’t very nice…” Ryan said as he rubbed his eyes. “Who was he?”

 

“No idea,” Teddy said. “Let’s find out…”

 

The two rangers followed Will.

 

Teddy flipped open his morpher and wrote the kanji for “flame” in midair. He swiped his morpher through the kanji, which ignited with red light.

 

A wall of flame burst in front of Will, who skid to a halt

 

Ryan flipped open his morpher and wrote the kanji for “splash.” He swiped his morpher through the symbol, which burst into a stream of water that bashed Will off his feet.

 

Will crashed and skid across the dirt.

 

The ranger coughed and climbed to his feet. “OK…If that’s how you want to play it? Good.”

 

He flipped open his morpher.

 

“Overdrive! Start up!” He swiped his tracker across his arm and sparked his morph into Titan Black.

 

Teddy and Ryan stepped into defensive stances.

 

“A Titan Ranger…” Ryan said.

 

“Great…” Teddy muttered. “So much for staying out of INET’s way...”

 

They armed their morphers.

 

“Samurai scribe! Ha!” They morphed into their armor with flashes of light and unsheathed their swords.

 

Titan Black tilted his head. “More Rangers?”

 

From above, the other four Titan Rangers dropped to the scene. They regrouped with Titan Black and snapped into fighting stances.

 

Samurai Red twisted his grip on his sword. “We don’t want any trouble. Just hand over the Eye.”

 

“To you?” Titan Blue asked with disbelief.

 

“Yes,” Samurai Blue said. “It doesn’t belong to you.”

 

“It doesn’t belong to you, either,” Titan Pink said. “And it’s dangerous. We’ll take it someplace safe.”

 

“It’s safe here,” Samurai Blue said.

 

“I doubt that,” Titan Black said. “I stole it in six minutes.”

 

Titan Yellow looked to Titan Black and whispered. “Black…who are they?”

 

Titan Pink overheard. “Wanted terrorists.”

 

“You’re crazy if you actually believe that,” Samurai Red said.

 

Samurai Red and Samurai Blue shifted into defensive stances, and the Titan Rangers did the same.

 

Neither attacked first.

 

They faced each other silently.

 

Awkwardly.

 

Titan Black cursed beneath his breath. “This is ridiculous.”

 

He pulled out his Drive Defender and fired bursts of orange energy. Samurai Red and Samurai Blue deflected the blasts with bursts of spark.

 

The Red Samurai Ranger swiped his sword’s Symbol Disc and slashed, firing a wave of fiery energy. The wave bashed the Titans with bursts of spark that knocked them off their feet. 

 

Samurai Blue dashed towards the fallen Black Ranger.

 

Titan Black climbed to his knees. “Drive Slammer!”

 

He armed his hammer and swung at the Blue Ranger.

 

Samurai Blue parried and swung upward; he slashed Titan Black with a burst of spark that whipped him off his feet.

 

The Black Ranger dropped the Eye, which bounced across the dirt.

 

Titan Pink snatched the Eye before the Samurai Rangers could catch it.

 

Samurai Red charged towards her with a slash of his sword. She dove beneath the swing and rolled into a crouched stance. 

 

Titan Pink swung her blaster and opened fire.

 

Samurai Red deflected her blasts and chopped, firing a blade of flame that slashed Titan Pink off her feet with bursts of spark.

 

The Eye fell from her hand and skipped across the dirt.

 

Samurai Blue dove, rolled across the ground while grabbing the eye, and rose into a crouched stance.

 

He swiped his Symbol Disc. “Water Arrow!”

 

His sword glowed with blue energy and transformed into a bow.

 

The Blue Ranger fired hydro arrows that stabbed the Titans with bursts of spark, whipping them off their feet.

 

“Enough!” a voice shouted.

 

The Rangers looked to see a group of monks step into the woods. Their leader, Tatsuma Suguro, carried a ringed staff.

 

“You come onto our land, and fight?” Suguro asked. “Don’t bring your Western conflicts here.”

 

Samurai Red and Samurai Blue powered down their armor.

 

The Titans did the same.

 

Rose stepped forward. “We meant no disrespect-”

 

“They stole the Eye,” Ryan said.

 

Suguro narrowed his eyes at the Titans. “Did you, now?”

 

“You have to understand,” Rose said. “It’s not safe.”

 

Shane nodded. “But we can protect it. Before it falls into the wrong hands.”

 

“The hands of INET are the wrong hands,” Suguro said. “Please, Rangers. Leave my property…”

 

Shane nodded; he never took Precious from civilians by force. “All right…We’ll give you some time to reconsider.”

 

“We need no time,” Suguro said. “Be gone.”

 

The Titans backed away and left, leaving Teddy and Ryan with the monks.

 

“We’re sorry…” Ryan said. “We didn’t mean for that to happen.”

 

“It is all right,” Suguro said. “We are grateful for your help.”

 

Ryan nodded. “We’ll do whatever we can.”

 

“Good…” Sugoro said. “Your father would be proud.”

 

The father of Ryan Phillips served the Hayate Way before his death. During that service, the man befriended the monks of the Myoda Sect in Japan.

 

The Myoda monks recently joined the Knights of the True Cross, an organization of exorcists from various religions — although they reported to the Vatican. The monks suspected several demons infiltrated the organization, and they believed the demons wanted the Eye of the Impure King.

 

The monks tried to reach out to the Hayate Way for help, only to find the school no longer existed. So they requested the help of one of its heirs, Ryan, who brought Teddy along. 

 

One of the monks knitted his brow. He lifted the Eye and rolled it across the palm of his hand. His scowl deepened.

 

“Suguro…” the monk said. “We’ve been tricked…”

 

“What?” Suguro said.

 

“This is not the real Eye!” the monk shouted.

 

“The Titans…” Teddy cursed. “They must have pulled a switch.”

 

“No…” Suguro said as he closed his eyes and reached out with his senses. The monk possessed slightly heightened Ki, not nearly as much as the Rangers, but enough to sense certain disturbances. “It’s out in the open…but not in the direction the Titans fled.”

 

“If you can track it, we can back you up,” Teddy said.

 

Suguro nodded. “Come.”

 

The monks dashed deeper into the woods, and the two rangers followed.

 

***

 

Suguro, the monks and the rangers dashed into a clearing. They saw another monk, his robes ragged, crouched on the ground. He cradled something and grinned with a wide, maddening smile.

 

He carried the Eye.

 

“Todo!” Suguro shouted, calling the monk’s name. “What have you-

 

Todo’s eyes glowed solid black, demon-possessed. “Those Titans gave me the perfect distraction…you fools!”

 

Teddy and Ryan armed their morphers. But the demon fired a TK burst that knocked the teens off their feet. They crashed and skid across the dirt.

 

The monks lifted their staffs and chanted exorcism spells. But Todo swatted them aside with bursts of invisible energy.

 

The demon glowed with dark power and burst from his host. In physical form, the creature looked somewhat human, with slick, oily skin as black as pure darkness, and glowing red eyes.

 

Todo punched the ground with a shockwave of sludge and ichor that bashed the rangers and monks backward.

 

Teddy and Ryan rolled to their feet and armed their morphers.

 

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

 

They unsheathed their swords and charged.

 

Todo spat a wad of goo that splashed Samurai Blue’s sword hand and stuck to a tree.

 

Samurai Red leapt and chopped towards Todo. But the demon formed a wave of goo that bashed him from the air.

 

The demon gripped the eye, which glowed with dark power.

 

“You little stains. Stains!” he shouted. “This Eye belongs to the Impure King! He will rise onto the mortal plane…and bring it to the brink of decay!”

 

The villain thrust the Eye into his face, which swallowed the relic whole.

 

Todo staggered backward, and dark energy surged through his body. He exploded with a shockwave of black smoke that hurled the Rangers and monks off their feet.

 

Samurai Red and Samurai Blue crashed against the ground, and the impact knocked them from their armor with bursts of light.

 

They lost consciousness as black smoke surrounded them.

 

***

 

Teddy’s vision blurred slowly into focus. He pushed himself up and looked around, noticing every tree and bush in sight had died. A black smog hung in the air like a dark mist.

 

“Ryan…” he called out. “Ryan!”

 

“Over here…” Ryan said as he climbed to his feet. “What was that?”

 

“The Eye…” Teddy said. “He used it somehow. Are you OK?”

 

Ryan nodded. “I’m fine. But the monks…”

 

They noticed Suguro and the others on the ground nearby. The rangers ran to the monks and helped them sit up. Welts and lesions covered their bodies.

 

“What…” Ryan started to say.

 

Suguro pushed them back. “Stay back. The Impure King…is poison. A demon of decay. Everything that crosses his path…will die.”

 

“Our armor must have protected us,” Ryan said.

 

Teddy narrowed his eyes. “We have to find that Eye.”

 

“It is no longer an Eye,” Suguro said. “The Impure King…has been born.”

 

***

 

PART THREE: The Impure King

 

The Myoda Sect arranged an infirmary within its shrine. Healers tended to sick monks, infected by the Impure King’s disease.

 

Ryan knitted his brow at the sight. “All this from one demon?”

 

Teddy nodded. “We’ll stop him…”

 

The doors opened, and the rest of the Samurai team walked into the shrine. Even though they saw each other for the first time in months, they spared no time for pleasantries.

 

Anna looked around and shook her head. “What happened here?”

 

“The Impure King,” Teddy said. 

 

Bradin scowled. “Somebody better tell me what this ‘Impure King’ thing is before I start throwing stuff.”

 

“I…” Kirsten started to say. “I think it might have something to do with my sister.”

 

“Belle?” Anna asked.

 

“She…” Kirsten hesitated. “She woke up. But she wasn’t herself.”

 

“And guess whose name she said right before she ran off,” Bradin said.

 

“The Impure King’s,” Anthony said.

 

“You’re a smart man,” Bradin said.

 

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Teddy said. “How could something that happened here affect Kirsten’s sister…?”

 

“That’s what we need to find out,” Anna said.

 

“It’s not that complicated,” a voice said from behind. They turned to see a red-headed woman walked towards them. “My name’s Shura Kirigakure. Knight of the True Cross. You idiots must be the Power Rangers.”

 

“Samurai Rangers,” Teddy corrected.

 

“Like it matters…” she said. “You don’t even know what you’re dealing with…”

 

Bradin arced an eyebrow. “Then by all means. Enlighten us.”

 

Shura told the team about the Impure King.

 

Years ago, the high-level decay demon possessed several men and spawned dozens of children. When they reached 18, these children became sick with mysterious illnesses and fell into comas.

 

These sicknesses prepared them for the birth of their father on the mortal plane.

 

“Your sister sounds like one of them,” Shura said. “She hasn’t been sleeping. She’s been gestating. She, and all the others, were waiting for the Impure King to enter our world.”

 

Kirsten shook her head. “It can’t be…It just can’t.”

 

Bradin took her hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. He looked to Shura.  “That doesn’t make any sense.”

 

“Doesn’t it?” Shura asked. “He spawned his demon children all over the world, so when the time came, he’d have an army. Makes perfect sense to me.”

 

“Belle would never hurt anyone…” Kirsten said.

 

“She’s not herself anymore,” Shura said. “His children are being controlled by his sickness…and they’ve started spreading his disease. While making their way here…to join their father.”

 

“How do you know all this?” Anthony asked.

 

“The monks fought the Impure King in its last host,” Shura said. “They exorcised him, and destroyed the host body in the process. All that remained was the Eye.”

 

“How do we stop him?” Teddy asked.

 

You don’t,” Shura said. “We exorcists have handled demons long before you Rangers ever existed. We’ll handle this one too. You just stay here, out of the way.”

 

Ryan knitted his brow. “The monks asked for our help.”

 

“And all you’ve done is help the Impure King enter the mortal plane in physical form,” Shura said. “Your little fight with the Titans gave Todo the perfect distraction…”

 

“That wasn’t our fault,” Teddy said. “They tried to steal the Eye.”

 

Suddenly, the ground shook. Shura knitted her brow with concern. Then the ground shook again.

 

“He’s here…” she said.

 

Nearby, Suguro coughed and pushed himself to his feet. A healer tried to make him sit back down. But he waved her aside.

 

“He fled…just long enough to gather his strength,” Suguro said. “Now he’s come back…to destroy the one who exorcised him.”

 

“Who…?” Anna asked.

 

“Me,” Suguro said. “It was me.”

 

***

 

The Impure King moved across the landscape like a rippling wave of sludge. Several meters high and long, it enveloped the landscape and added to its mass. The creature looked like a giant, moldy blob.

 

Myoda monks scattered across the woods to intercept the massive demon. They joined alongside their fellow Knights of True Cross, reinforcements from the Tokyo and Rome branches. 

 

Dragoons armed rifles and shotguns loaded with rune-tipped bullets. They opened fire, and their bullets splattered harmlessly through the demon’s body.

 

Aria chanted verses meant to exorcise the demon. But the verses did little against a demon in physical form.

 

The Impure King sprouted a massive hand that swatted Arias through the air.

 

From behind, Knights armed mystical swords and charged to attack. They leapt through the air and landed on the demon while driving their blades through its flesh.

 

The creature rippled its body to toss the Knights through the air like ants.

 

Monks slammed her staffs against the ground and whispered more incantations. They bowed their heads and shouted their verses.

 

The Impure King sprouted spores that blew through the air. The Knights of the True Cross covered their mouths and backed away.

 

Some managed to scurry back far enough. But most breathed in the spores and collapsed with crippling pain.

 

Suddenly, dozens of Shaded leapt from the Impure King and smashed through the ranks of exorcists. They looked like typical Shaded, with chalk-white hair and pale-white skin, and solid-black eyes with colored irises. But lesions covered their bodies.

 

A Shaded tackled a monk to the ground and grabbed his face. Her hand burnt his face with plague, as boils burnt and scabbed his skin.

 

Two Dragoons fired at the Shaded. But she dashed back and forth to avoid the bullets, pounced at the exorcists and tackled them to the ground. She grabbed their faces, and their flesh sizzled beneath her palm.

 

The Shaded, Belle, grinned with fiendish delight and leapt towards her next target.

 

***

 

Shura ran into the courtyard. She saw the Impure King above the treetops in the distance, and she spotted the wave of Shaded charging in her direction, towards the shrine.

 

Suguro limped outside to join her.

 

She didn’t bother looking at him. “You shouldn’t be here, old man. Go back to rest.”

 

“No…” Suguro said with a rasp. “He’s come for me. It’s time...to finish what I started.”

 

“You won’t have to do it alone,” Ryan said as he walked into the courtyard along with his fellow samurai.

 

Teddy looked ahead. “We’ll fight our way past the Shaded and take on the Impure King. Try not to hurt them, though…” he looked to Kirsten. “One of them might be Kirsten’s sister.”

 

Kirsten nodded. “If she’s here, I have to reach her.”

 

“We’ll save her, Kirsten,” Bradin said. “I promise.”

 

“We should morph,” Anna said. “I can see that thing’s spores from here.”

 

Teddy nodded. “Let’s do it.”

 

They flipped open their morphers. “Samurai scribe! Ha!”

 

Energy wrapped around them as they morphed into their Ranger forms.

 

The Rangers unsheathed their Spin Swords and charged to attack.

 

***

 

A group of Tamers regrouped near the border of the shrine. The priests bit their thumbs, drawing blood, and smeared the blood across runes tattooed on their hands.

 

They thrust their hands and summoned minor demons: Short imps, ghostly dogs and cats, foxes of lightning and bat-like creatures.

 

The imps hurled fireballs the Shaded dashed aside to dodge. The cat and dog demons pounced towards their pray. But the Shaded swatted the creatures aside with ease.

 

One Shaded jumped into the air, grabbed a bat demon, and squeezed tightly until it crushed into a cloud of smoke.

 

The Shaded landed on a priest, knocking him to the ground.

 

Shura rushed towards the fight to aide her fellow exorcists. She smiled in anticipation of the battle. She fought demons as an exorcist her whole life. Now to see all exorcists organized into a grand army? She loved it.

 

She placed her hand over her chest. “Devour the eight Princesses, slay the Serpent.”

 

Her verse summoned her sword, which extended from her chest tattoo with a pulse of violet light. She grabbed the weapon, tinted purple with emblems like snake eyes along the blade.

 

Dabo! She slashed her sword, firing blades of energy that bashed Shaded off their feet and hurled them through the air.

 

A Shaded leapt towards her from the side. But she bashed her pommel across his skull, knocking him to the ground.

 

She felt a sizzle on her sword hand and looked; her skin boiled from even the briefest contact with the demon warrior.

 

“Christ…” she cursed.

 

***

 

The Samurai Rangers split up and surrounded the Impure King.

 

Samurai Red and Samurai Blue dashed around a group of Shaded on its left side. The Shaded lunged and clawed. But the Rangers dodged and kicked them from the air.

 

The Red Ranger and Blue Ranger leapt at the Impure King and swiped their swords’ Symbol Discs. 

 

“Fire Disc. Blazing Strike!”

 

“Water Disc. Hydro Splash!”

 

They swung their swords through streaks of power that hurled blades of energy at the demon. The fire blade and water blade splashed harmlessly against its skin.

 

The Impure King sprouted an appendage that swatted Samurai Red and Samurai Blue from the air.

 

The Rangers crashed and tumbled across the dirt.

 

A pair of monks helped them to their feet.

 

“Thanks…” Samurai Blue said.

 

Samurai Red tightened his grip on his sword. “Those attacks should have worked…”

 

“The Impure King’s real body lies buried within the mountain of sludge it has become,” a monk explained. “To strike at the Impure King, you must strike there.”

 

“Zords?” Samurai Blue asked.

 

Samurai Red shook his head. “Too risky with all the exorcists and Shaded everywhere…”

 

The Impure King sprouted an appendage that swung towards the Rangers and monks like a club.

 

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

 

His sword transformed into a massive blade with a flash of red energy. He used the flat of the blade to block the blow, which forced him to his knees.

 

Samurai Blue and the monks rolled from beneath the appendage.

 

Samurai Red pushed up and dove aside as the appendage struck the earth; the shockwave hurled the Rangers off their feet.

 

***

 

Samurai Gold and Samurai Pink rushed at the Impure King from its right side.

 

A trio of Shaded dropped to the ground to block their path.

 

Samurai Pink swiped her Symbol Disc. “Wind Fan!”

 

Her sword transformed into a fan. She swung the fan with a wave of wind that knocked the Shaded away.

 

Samurai Gold held his blade in a reverse grip and pounced at the Impure King.

 

“Light Disc!” He spun his Symbol Disc. “Golden Flash!”

 

Samurai Gold dashed back and forth across the demon’s side while slashing through streaks of golden light. His blade pulsed with power that tore through the Impure King as effectively as knives cutting through mud.

 

The Impure King sprouted an appendage that bashed the Gold Ranger’s chest and hurled him through the air.

 

***

 

Shura slashed; her blade snapped a wave of wind that bashed a trio of Shaded away from a priest.

 

A Shaded landed on her back and pushed her face into the dirt. She felt the Shaded’s palm burn her skin with sickness.

 

Suddenly, a blade flashed and slashed the Shaded from Shura.

 

Shura rolled onto her back and looked up to see the top exorcist — the Paladin — of the Knights of the True Cross. Arthur Angel. He stood tall with golden hair that flowed across his white jacket, and he carried a thick silver sword with a golden pommel.

 

Shura hated him. A lot.

 

Arthur extended his hand and smiled. “May I help you up, my dear?”

 

Shura swatted his hand away and stood. “No one likes you, Arthur. What are you doing here?”

 

“The Vatican sent reinforcements,” Arthur said.

 

“Just you?” Shura asked.

 

His smile widened. “I am all you need…”

 

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a device that wrapped around his knuckles.

 

Shura arced an eyebrow. “What is that?”

 

“A gift given by INET, as a good-faith gesture,” he said.

 

He pulled back his shirt and revealed a high-tech belt wrapped around his waist.

 

He armed the device in his hand, the Cross Knuckle, which spoke: “READY”

 

“I!” he shouted. “Arthur Angel! Paladin of the Knights of the True Cross! Guardian of Goodness and Justice! Do, with all my power! Command you to-”

 

Shura rolled her eyes.

 

Arthur continued. “-grant me your strength! And! Awaken!”

 

He snapped the Cross Knuckle onto the Cross Belt. “FIST ON”

 

KRIXAEnergy flashed around him as he transformed into a white-armored Rider: Kamen Rider Cross.

 

“Cross-Calibur!” he shouted as he unsheathed his sword.

 

A duo of Shaded lunged towards him. He swung wide and tore them apart with splatters of blood.

 

Shura opened her eyes wide with horror. “What are you…You killed them!”

 

“They are demon spawn,” Arthur said. “Too lost to save…”

 

Kamen Rider Cross charged deeper into the battle.

 

***

 

Samurai Green and Samurai Yellow pounced towards the Impure King. The demon snapped an appendage like a whip, which knocked the Rangers from the air. They smashed through trees and skid across the dirt.

 

Samurai Yellow rolled to her feet just as a Shaded pounced towards her. The Shaded chopped her hands like claws.

 

The Yellow Ranger lifted her sword to block the weapon. The Shaded grabbed the blade, tight enough to cut her palms, which dripped blood onto the sword and dirt.

 

Samurai Yellow looked up to face her sister. “Belle…?”

 

The Yellow Ranger pulled her sword away and scrambled back. “No, Belle, stay back! This isn’t you!”

 

Belle lunged. But Samurai Green grabbed her from behind and held her arms in place.

 

The Shaded narrowed her eyes and fired a TK shockwave that blasted the Rangers off their feet. They crashed and tumbled across the dirt.

 

Two more Shaded leapt through the air towards the Rangers. Bullets blasted them to the ground with splatters of blood.

 

“What the…” Samurai Green said.

 

He looked to see Kamen Rider Cross step onto the scene, with his Cross Calibur in blaster mode.

 

The Rider aimed towards Belle. Samurai Green pushed her away as bullets sparked against his armor.

 

“What are you?” Samurai Green asked.

 

The Yellow Samurai Ranger shifted into a defensive stance. “Leave my sister alone!”

 

“Your sister?” Kamen Rider Cross said. “Tragic. I am Arthur Angel, Paladin, Knights of the True Cross, defender of-”

 

Samurai Green cursed beneath his breath and charged. He chopped towards Kamen Rider Cross’s head. But the Rider parried and slashed the Green Ranger to the ground.

 

“I am the greatest swordsman to ever walk this Earth…” Kamen Rider Cross said.

 

Samurai Green used his sword for balance and pushed himself to his feet. He looked to Samurai Yellow.

 

“Get your sister out of here. Now,” he said.

 

Belle lunged at the Green Ranger.

 

Samurai Yellow grabbed her from behind and pinned her arms behind her back.

 

The Shaded bashed the back of her head against the Yellow Ranger’s faceplate, knocking her several steps backward.

 

Kamen Rider Cross slashed towards Belle. Samurai Green blocked and twisted the blade downward.

 

Kamen Rider Cross twisted his grip and swung upward; the blade slashed Samurai Green with a burst of spark that whipped him off his feet.

 

***

 

The Impure King entered the courtyard. Exorcists scrambled to attack the demon. But their attacks did little against a demon in physical form. Most of them could merely chant or shoot rune-tipped bullets. Few could harnesses verses or spells.

 

But among them, Suguro possessed the most power.

 

The monk lifted his blistered hand and glared at the Impure King. “So…you’ve come for me. Come to face the power that banished you before, and will banish you again!”

 

He bit his thumb, drawing blood, and wiped the blood across a rune tattooed on his hand.

 

“Blaze and shine, Karura!” Suguro summoned his familiar, a demon bird of fire that blazed in the sky.

 

The demon bird opened its beak and spat a torrent of blazing fire that splashed across the Impure King. Fires raged across its mossy, mucky body.

 

But the flames did little damage.

 

The Impure King sprouted tendrils of muck that lashed out, wrapped around Karura and reeled it in.

 

The Impure King swallowed the fire demon whole.

 

Suguro lowered his hands. His face paled. “God help us…”

 

***

 

Samurai Green and Kamen Rider Cross circled each other. Their swords clanged with bursts of spark as they exchanged blows.

 

Kamen Rider Cross parried, slashed the Green Ranger with a burst of spark, and chopped him to his knees.

 

“Your skills are no match for me, Arthur Angel, Paladin of the-“

 

Samurai Green swiped his Symbol Disc and swung upward with a wave of green energy that smashed Kamen Rider Cross off his feet.

 

The Rider crashed and tumbled aside; the impact knocked him from his armor with a burst of white light.

 

Arthur climbed slowly to all fours. But Samurai Green kicked him upside the head, knocking him out.

 

***

 

Samurai Red, Samurai Blue, Samurai Gold and Samurai Pink regrouped at the shrine.

 

“Suguro…” Samurai Blue said as he helped the monk stand.

 

“There’s no time,” Suguro said. “You must stop him, before he reaches the shrine…”

 

The Impure King loomed ahead, like an unstoppable flow of dirt and mold.

 

“How do we stop him?” Samurai Blue asked.

 

“Shatter the Eye…” Suguro said. “Before he reaches the second Eye…and becomes truly whole.”

 

“Second Eye?” Samurai Red asked.

 

“Kept secret,” Suguro said. “When I exorcised him, he left behind two Eyes, which became crystalized. I kept one of the Eyes hidden…”

 

“You could have told us that sooner…” Samurai Gold said.

 

“It doesn’t matter now,” Suguro said. “Destroy his main Eye, and his sickness ends, forever…”

 

The monk slipped from consciousness.

 

Samurai Gold shook his head. “Great…how are we supposed to reach the Eye in the middle of that thing?”

                                     

The Red Ranger tightened his grip on his sword. “We do what we always do. We keep fighting and find a way…”

 

“Great pep talk,” Samurai Green said as he and the Yellow Ranger leapt into the courtyard.

 

Samurai Yellow carried Belle over her shoulder.

 

“Is that…?” Samurai Pink asked.

 

“Belle…” Samurai Yellow said as she set the unconscious Shaded aside. “They almost killed her.”

 

The exorcists fell back, deeper into the courtyard to regroup. The Impure King sprouted appendages that squashed them and swatted them through the air.

 

The demon leaned upward like a slug and opened a mouth of jagged, mucky teeth. It roared with a force that shook the earth.

 

“We can’t let him reach the second Eye…” Samurai Red said as he stepped forward. “If he becomes even stronger…”

 

“That’s not going to happen,” Samurai Green said as he stepped alongside his leader.

 

“Right,” Samurai Blue said.

 

The six Rangers stood together, and their spiritual pressure flooded the courtyard.

 

They unsheathed their swords and leapt through the air to attack.

 

Samurai Red jumped meters above the Impure King. The Red Ranger spun his Symbol Disc and ignited fiery power along the blade.

 

The disc unlocked a new ability: Bankai.

 

“Blaze, Shinkenmaru!” Fiery energy surrounded his body and took the outline of a winged lion.

 

The Red Ranger aimed his sword downward and shot through a streak of fiery light. He punctured through the Impure King with massive bursts of spark.

 

Samurai Blue leapt at the demon from the side. He swiped his Symbol Disc.

 

“Freeze and Rage, Shinkenmaru!” His blade pulsed with hydro energy that solidified into ice.

 

The Blue Ranger slashed his sword, which spawned a serpentine ice dragon that tore through the side of the Impure King with massive bursts of spark and flame. The ice attack coated most of the creature’s bulbous body with frost.

 

The Green Samurai Ranger leapt at the Impure King head-on. He swiped his Symbol Disc.

 

“Scatter, Shinkenmaru!” He stabbed through the Impure King’s head with a pulse of jade light.

 

Columns of energy petals surrounded the creatures and fluttered like falling leaves. The petals tore through the creature with massive bursts of spark and ichor.

 

Samurai Pink leapt towards the demon’s side and swiped her Symbol Disc.

 

“Reap, Shinkenmaru!” She slashed her sword and fired a volley of wind scythes.

 

The scythes slashed through the demon with bursts of spark and splatters of mud.

 

Samurai Gold leapt towards the demon from above. He swiped his Symbol Disc.

 

“Flare and burst, Sakanamaru!” His blade fired a blinding flash of golden light.

 

The light washed across the demon, and energy blades tore through his moldy, rotted flesh.

 

Samurai Yellow stood protectively in front of her sibling. She swiped her Symbol Disc.

 

“Erupt, Shinkenmaru!” She chopped the ground with a seismic shockwave.

 

Rocks sprouted from the earth and hovered around her like a shield.

 

The Yellow Ranger sliced upward, sending a rippling wave of dirt and stone across the ground. The wave of stone and power smashed the Impure King and tipped him over.

 

The demon collapsed with a splash of muck and mildew. The muck sizzled and boiled while seeping into the earth.

 

From the muck climbed Todo, his body oiled with filth. The Eye of the Impure King rested in one eye socket, and the other socket remained empty.

 

The six Rangers leapt through the air and surrounded Todo, the Impure King.

 

Samurai Red slid his Ultimate Fire Disc against his sword’s hilt. He swiped the disc, which ignited his blade with white-hot flame.

 

The Red Ranger held his sword forward and charged. Todo snapped whips of much and mud.

 

Samurai Red didn’t slow his advance. He slashed through streaks of white energy that tore through the tendrils with bursts of spark.

 

The Red Ranger leapt forward, spun, and swung his blade through a wide streak of white power. The slash tore through Todo’s head and shattered the Eye into pieces.

 

The demon collapsed, and his body exploded into ash.

 

Samurai Green smirked beneath his helmet. He held his sword casually over his shoulder. “We’ve still got it…”

 

***

 

The Knights of the True Cross regrouped in the shrine and tended to their wounded. With the Impure King gone, the infected monks healed, including Suguro.

 

“I cannot thank you enough…” the monk said as he shook Ryan’s hand.

 

“Something tells me the feeling’s not mutual,” Ryan said.

 

Arthur Angel glared at the teens as he stormed towards them. “You attacked me…” The Knight unsheathed his thick, silver sword. “Why should I let you live, you abominations!”

 

Shura lifted her blade to hold him back. “Down, Arthur.”

 

Arthur glared at her. “You would speak to me as a pet?! I am Arthur Angel, Paladin of the True Cross, warrior of virtue, and keeper of-”

 

Shura whacked him over the head, knocking him unconscious.

 

She looked to the rangers. “You better leave before he wakes up.”

 

“Great,” Bradin said. “It’s bad enough we have to hide from INET. Now we have to dodge these True Cross nuts too.”

 

“Hey,” Shura said defensively. “He’s one man. Don’t judge us all based on one fanatic.”

 

Anthony arced an eyebrow. “Just one…?”

 

“OK…lots,” Shura said. “But they all follow the Vatican. And the Vatican has better things to do than chase after Rangers. The darkness is growing…every day. If we want to fight it, we can’t fight each other.”

 

“Tell that to INET,” Bradin said.

 

***

 

The surviving Shaded sat in mattresses scattered across the shrine’s floor. Healers tended to their wounds and made sure the sickness of the Impure King had vanished.

 

Kirsten sat at her sister’s side and took her by the hand. “I can’t believe…you’re really sitting here.”

 

Belle smiled weakly. “I can barely believe it myself. The last thing I remember…” She shook her head. “It’s been years.”

 

“You’ll be OK now,” Kirsten said. “I can’t wait for mom and dad to see…”

 

Belle lowered her head. “How can we explain this…that dad was possessed by a demon when he and mom…” She closed her eyes. “A demon of decay. Used me….”

 

“It wasn’t your fault,” Kirsten said. “Besides, the spores are gone now. No more plague.”

 

“But I’m still one of these…Shaded,” she said. “I can’t just go back home. Not now that I know…”

 

Shura walked towards the two girls.

 

“I couldn’t help overhearing,” she said. “And I think I might have a solution…”

 

“What’s that?” Kirsten asked.

 

“The Knights of the True Cross have a school. The True Cross Academy. It’s where we train new exorcists, including Shaded trying to learn to control their power,” Shura said. “Some of the staff are…lame. But I think we can help you.”

 

Kirsten narrowed her eyes. “You can’t take her away. We just got her back.”

 

“Kirsten…” Belle laid a hand on her sister’s shoulder. “What happened to me…If this academy can help…Maybe it’s for the best.

 

“You don’t have to decide at once,” Shura said. “We’ll be here for a while. Until we leave…think about.”

 

Shura turned and walked off, leaving the sisters alone.

 

***

 

In the end, Belle decided to leave with Shura and the Knights of the True Cross, headed back to Tokyo.

 

The teens stayed at the shrine to regroup.

 

“So what now?” Anthony asked. “We can’t go back to Angel Grove. We’re fugitives.”

 

“We’re not safe here either,” Anna said. “Cranston gave the Paladin Rider gear. How long before he turns the True Cross against us?”

 

“You heard what Shura said,” Teddy said. “We’ve known the same thing for a long time. The darkness is spreading. Wherever it goes? We fight back.”

 

***

 

A cloaked figure walked through the shrine’s courtyard. He lost himself in the commotion of healing and rebuilding, and fled into the woods.

 

There, he dropped his cloak.

 

Will smiled as he flipped the Second Eye in his hand.

 

The ranger opened his Overdrive Tracker. “I have the Eye.”

 

“Any trouble?” Jake asked through the comm-line.

 

“Not at all,” Will said. “I’m coming home.”

 

END