Jungle Fury: Recap

 

Years ago, Azmodai, the First Demon, possessed a man named John and impregnated Madelyn, who would become Black Queen of the Hellfire Club. She gave birth to Simon Kaden. Azmodai possessed five other men to have five other children with Madelyn: Zen, Samuel, Brandon, Owen and Rin “R.J” Amantini. 

 

Azmodai and Madelyn abandoned each child after birth.

 

Father Amantini of the Catholic Church adopted R.J. and raised the boy alongside another adopted son, Rick, at the Southern Cross Cathedral in Angel Grove.

 

Azmodai attacked the Southern Cross to capture R.J., as part of a larger plot to round up his scattered children. Simon Kaden, formerly Hurricane Red, tried to stop the demons.

 

During the battle, Azmodai possessed Father Amantini. He enraged Simon, and Simon plunged his sword through the demon’s chest. Azmodai survived. Father Amantini did not.

 

R.J. witnessed the murder of his father and attacked Simon. Afterward, the Hellfire Club convinced R.J. to join them.

 

Azmodai used his children to take physical form and set foot on the mortal plane, which broke the Third Seal to the Dark One’s prison. With the Third Seal broken, children like Simon, whose parents were possessed by demons, lost the ability to control their demon power. They gained the ability to “demon morph” into stronger forms, called Shaded. A demon morph often happened uncontrollably and caused the Shaded to go berserk.

 

After the battle at the Southern Cross, exorcists organized into a formal group called the Knights of the True Cross, under the control of the Vatican. R.J.’s brother, Rick, joined the organization.

 

Chapter 10: Ultimate Jungle Fury

Knight of the Wolf

 

Rin “R.J” Amantini ran through the alleys of Angel Grove. His heart pounded in his chest. And his vision appeared blood red. His heightened senses heard every sound and smelt every scent.

                                           

He lost control of his instincts, the instincts of his Soul Metal Armor. Not active, the armor still corrupted him. Forged by The Power and spirits of extinct werewolves, the armor drove him berserk after his battle against Azmodai in the Hellfire mansion. 

 

The teen snarled, baring his jagged teeth.

 

R.J. shifted into his Shaded form, his skin and hair chalk white. But unlike other Shaded, his eyes glowed purple and wolf-like.

 

The teen heard the sound of a heartbeat. He smelt sweat. Sweet, human sweat. He wanted to control himself. He wanted to run the other way. But the demon in him, and the wolf, screamed for carnage.

 

R.J. leapt towards the scent.

 

***

 

The Jungle Fury Rangers found and rescued three other Shaded, all students of the Black Sash dojo: Kyle, a teen with curly black hair and tan skin, who often acted tough and angry at the world. Enzo, Kyle’s friend with red hair, a mischievous grin, and the personality to match. And Rika, a young girl who wanted nothing to do with the Shaded, Rangers, or anything else in the stupid world.

 

Along with Evan, they sat in meditative poses on the sparring mat of the Black Sash dojo.

 

Kyle sighed and stood. Muscular, he wore a loose fitting jacket that matched the color of his black hair.

 

“This is bull,” he said. “I’m leaving.”

 

“Kyle…” Adam said.

 

“No,” Kyle said. “You can’t just hold us here like this, dammit.” 

 

“Just relax,” Enzo said to his friend. The fifteen-year-old wore an unbuttoned black shirt over a white t-shirt. “It could be worse. You could be stuck at home with your Jesus-freak mom and her white trash-”

 

“Enzo, I swear to god,” Kyle said.

 

“What are we even doing here?” Rika asked. “Shouldn’t we be someplace else if these…

 

“Demons,” Kyle said, his voice cold. “You can say it. Shouldn’t we be someplace else if these demons are after us. 

 

Enzo shook his head. “Yeah, I’m not ready to grasp that yet.”

 

“You’re safe here for now,” Adam said. “We set wards around the school a couple days ago. No demon can get in.”

 

“But these Shaded people can, or we wouldn’t be here,” Rika said.

 

“And what about the stronger demons?” Kyle asked. “Like that Menace freak. He used his host to appear in physical form. How the hell did he even do that? That shouldn’t be possible.”

 

Rika arced an eyebrow. “What, you’re a demon expert now?”

 

“My dad was a hunter,” he said. “Bite me, by the way.”

 

“Guys, stay calm,” Adam said. “This is just a temporary stop. We’ll get you someplace where the demons can’t find you.”

 

“And then what?” Kyle asked. “You keep us locked up there instead? Away from our families?”

 

Enzo wrinkled his nose. “I don’t think any of us actually like our families…that’s why we come here.”

 

“This is all happening a lot faster than I planned,” Adam said. “But there is a plan. I just need you to trust me...”

 

***

 

Adam walked into his office, where Miki waited.

 

“There is a plan?” she asked.

 

Adam shook his head. “No. But they’ll be safe here for now.”

 

“They can’t live in your dojo,” Miki said. “Maybe you should talk to Rick again…”

 

“No,” Adam said. “We don’t know if we can trust him.”

 

“He saved me,” Miki said.

 

“I’m not even sure I can trust you.”

 

Miki sighed. “Well that’s your problem. Isn’t it?”

 

“Tommy asked me to take care of these kids,” Adam said. “I can’t let them down.”

 

“Then learn how to accept help,” Miki said. “Call Rick. Take him up on his offer. It couldn’t hurt…”

 

A week ago: Rick Amantini adjusted his glasses. “I don’t understand…”

 

“I can’t let you take Evan,” Adam said. “He stays here with me.”

 

The two stood in Adam’s loft above his pet shop. Rick had asked to take Evan to the True Cross Academy, where he would learn to control his demon power. But Adam refused. He didn’t know anything about the Knights of the True Cross, or whether he could trust them.

 

“You don’t understand what he’s going through,” Rick said. “You can’t help him. But we can. We have the resources. We have the experience. And we’ve helped others like him.”

 

Adam knitted his brow. “Others?”

 

Rick nodded. “Seven so far.”

 

“The Shaded didn’t even exist until a few months ago,” Adam said. “How did you track them so fast?”

 

Rick sighed. “Look, I’m not here to force you into anything. Why don’t we let Evan decide?”

 

“He’s just a kid,” Adam said.

 

“A very special kid, who needs special attention,” Rick said.

 

“I can give him attention,” Adam said.

 

“Really? Where is he now?” Rick asked.

 

“With the Rangers,” Adam said.

 

“Where?”

 

Adam hesitated. “I trust my team. I don’t need to keep track of them 24/7.”

 

“At least come see the academy for yourself,” Rick said. “We’re good people. Most of us, at least. Then you can decide…”

 

Adam leaned against the wall and crossed his arms over his chest. He lowered his head with defeat.

 

“I’ll call Rick…And I’ll see this academy,” he said reluctantly. “I’ll need you and the Rangers focused on watching the kids while I’m gone.”

 

Miki smiled and nodded. “That should be easy enough. Especially since we haven’t heard from the RinJuken in a while.”

 

Adam sighed. “You really shouldn’t have said that.”

 

***

 

Days ago

 

In his Shaded form, Jarrod walked through the wilderness of Japan and approached the hidden tomb of the first Kenma: Kata. The tomb rested several feet behind a mountainside.

 

Jarrod charged his fist with Rinki and punched the mountain, pulverizing rock and stone with a burst of rubble and dust. When the dust cleared, Jarrod saw the mummified corpse of the man Kata possessed. Master Mao hid the body here, and scattered the bodies of the other Kenma to keep them separated.

 

Kenma…” Jarrod said as he stepped closer to the corpse. “Your frozen body will once again have the flame of life.”

 

He stabbed the nail through the corpse. The nail pulsed with shadow energy that bled into the body and spread through its dried veins. The dead eyes snapped open with yellow light, and the mouth opened with a rasping howl.

 

The spirit of the Kenma traveled through Jarrod’s bracelet and entered the body with a pulse of dark power.

 

JSG-KataThe Kenma shot from the tomb and landed on a rocky hill. His body shifted shape to form a bird-like warrior, with a hawk’s head on its chest. 

 

He snapped into a fighting stance. “I am the Kenma of the Sky! RinJuken Hawk Fist, Kata!”

 

The demon crossed his arms over his chest and floated to the ground. “Young lion…I have responded to your call. What is your wish?”

 

“My wish…My wish…is this!” he thrust his hand and fired a pulse of energy shaped like a black-and-gold lion.

 

Kata blocked the energy pulse and swatted it aside. He lowered his hand, casually.

 

Jarrod stepped back. “To deflect my best attack one-handed…” The teen smiled. “You’re worthy to be my instructor.”

 

“You’re saying you were testing a Kenma’s strength?”

 

“Yes,” Jarrod said as he stepped closer to the demon. “As the successor of the RinJuken, I wish to inherit your power.”

 

Kata nodded. “Very well, young lion…”

 

***

 

Jarrod brought Kata to the RinJuken Akugata dojo, where Camille waited in the courtyard. She kneeled, along with an army of Rinshi.

 

Kenma of the Sky, Kata,” she said. “It is a blessing that you have been revived…”

 

Kata looked down upon her with disgust. “What is this ugly thing?”

 

“She is my right hand,” Jarrod said. “Camille.”

 

“Is such a person reliable, young lion?” Kata asked.

 

Camille stood. “I offer the screams and despair of humans to my master.”

 

“Very well…” Kata said. “If the young lion becomes stronger, the RinJuken will flourish. I will teach you powerful Ringi. As of now, your training has started.”

 

***

 

The present

 

Kata snapped his wings, shot at Jarrod and grabbed him in a chokehold while flying into the sky.

 

“In deadly battle, there is training,” Kata said as they flew higher. “Trying to kill one another…is training.”

 

Kata tossed Jarrod aside. The teen rolled his hands into fists as he plummeted downward.

 

Rinki Gai Sou! He morphed into the armor of DaiShi with a pulse of gold-and-black light.

 

DaiShi landed in a crouched position that smashed the RinJuken courtyard.

 

Camille ran to his side. “DaiShi, please stop! This isn’t training…”

 

DaiShi pushed her aside and stood. “Don’t interfere.”

 

Kata landed in the courtyard and waved DaiShi forward. “Come, little lion.”

 

DaiShi’s aura pulsed with dark golden light. He charged and launched a volley of punches and back-hand strikes Kata blocked and dodged with ease. 

 

DaiShi snapped a round-kick, and a crescent kick, but Kata blocked and dodged the blows.

 

The Shaded swung a punch at Kata’s face.

 

Kata caught the villain by the wrist. “What good Rinki! Not bad…” He twisted DaiShi’s arm. “But that fist reeks of Geki Juken.”

 

“I once trained in Geki Juken…but it couldn’t give me power,” DaiShi said.

 

“Naive training like this cannot make you stronger,” Kata said. “Young lion…do you wish to know a new RinJuken Ringi?”

 

DaiShi nodded. “If it will make me stronger.”

 

“Very well,” Kata said as he knocked DaiShi’s arm aside and stepped back. “If you show me your despair.”

 

“Despair?”

 

Kata moved his arms into a fighting stance. “RinJuken, Hawk-Fist Ringi…” He thrust his hands at the warrior. “AnKoKu Ho!

 

Kata’s palms fired a massive wave of black-and-purple Rinki. The energy splashed across DaiShi and nearly knocked him off his feet. The energy blast formed the shape of a hawk’s talons, which grasped the teen and seared into his body. DaiShi screamed with pain as the energy pierced his soul and mind. 

 

The talons grasped for the teen’s most painful memory…

 

A boy, Jarrod stood in the pouring rain. His foster home sat in ruin behind him. His foster father. Foster mother. And foster brothers and sisters. All dead. And scattered across the wet ground. In the mud.

 

Jarrod kept his head down. The rain soaked his hair and clothes, and dampened his skin. He rolled his small hands into fists.

 

The teenage Jarrod stepped into his own memory.

 

He knitted his brow at the vision of his younger self. “This moment…”

 

 He walked towards his younger self and reached out, but his hand passed through the image.

 

“This is that day…”

 

Jarrod’s body stood still as a statue. Camille walked around him and knitted her brow with concern.

 

Camille touched his chest, barely, yet he fell onto his back. She crouched and tried to shake him awake.

 

DaiShi!” she shouted. She glared at the Kenma. “What have you done with him?!”

 

Kata stood with his arms across his chest. “Currently, the young lion is within his own nightmare. And in the end, he will scream within his own despair. That will become my power.”

 

“This was never any kind of training…”

 

She morphed into her armor, armed her sai blades, and leapt at Kata. She landed with a chop and several slashed that Kata dodged. She pressed forward with a slash and kick, but Kata blocked and knocked her aside.

 

The demon walked to Camille and lifted her by the throat. “Teacher and student…They hate and try to kill each other. Then they devour their opponent’s power. That, is RinJuken!”

 

***

 

Adam arrived at the True Cross Academy in Rome. The academy looked like a network of Catholic churches and schools, with rich architecture and ornate decorations.

 

Rick led Adam down a hallway lined with tapestries and painting.

 

“I have to say, I’m surprised you came,” Rick said.

 

“Figured it couldn’t hurt to look,” Adam said. “And besides, I’m interested to learn more about the kids you already have here.”

 

Rick nodded. “They’ve grown fast, some in a short time. Some even plan to become exorcists. We keep them with the student body most of the day, but at night they study in special classes, where they learn more about controlling their power.”

 

“It’s quite impressive for an organization that didn’t exist a few months ago,” Adam said.

 

“Exorcists have always existed. We’ve just organized. This is our main headquarters. We have branches in Tokyo, France, the U.S. and even Russia.”

 

“Sounds ambitious,” Adam said.

 

“The number of possessions have spiked drastically across the globe. And now with these Shaded, and demons using their possessed hosts to take physical form…” He shook his head. “We need to be ambitious.”

 

They walked into the office of the school’s headmaster, Mr. Faust. The strange man wore a purple suit, in contrast to his pale skin and long black hair.

 

He leaned back and laced his fingers when he saw Adam. “Well, well…You must be Adam, of the Heaven Illusion Star. How lovely to meet you.”

 

“Adam, this is Headmaster Faust,” Rick said.

 

Adam knitted his brow. He sensed something dark within the headmaster.

 

“What are you?” the former Ranger asked.

 

“My, my, how very perceptive,” Faust said. “I am a demon, of course.”

 

Adam snapped into a fighting stance and powered up a bolt of Kiryoku. But Rick held him back.

 

“Wait, it’s OK,” Rick said. “He’s been helping exorcists for 1,000 years. We can trust him.”

 

“He’s a demon,” Adam said. “Your headmaster’s a demon. Were you planning on telling me?”

 

“Eventually, yes,” Rick said. “But I wanted you to see the good we’re doing here first. I didn’t expect you to sense his presence, since the demon that possessed Miki snuck right past you.”

 

“You’re quite hit-or-miss with your demon detection, aren’t you?” Faust asked with an amused tone. “I certainly understand your concern, Lion Ranger, but I assure you, I have the best interest of the students here at heart.”

 

“Why should I believe you?” Adam asked.

 

“See for yourself,” Faust said as he stood. “My prized pupil brought you here so I could continue with your tour, so the tour shall continue on. Come, Lion Ranger.”

 

Adam didn’t notice a crystal ball flicker with violet energy on Faust’s desk. The flickering signaled a Shaded, in Angel Grove.

 

***

 

R.J.’s form became more wolf-like, with claws and fangs, fur along the sides of his face, and a beastial brow. His skin and hair looked chalk white.

 

The teen tore from his shirt and pounced through the streets, lustful for blood.

 

The attack attracted the attention of the news, which the rangers spotted. Casey, Theo and Lilly ran to the scene to find R.J. pouncing at civilians in a crowded plaza.

 

“Is that a Shaded?” Theo asked.

 

“He’s…something,” Casey said. “Come on.”

 

The rangers charged to attack.

 

R.J. snapped his head towards the teens and snarled. His violet eyes glowed with madness, and he pounced at the rangers.

 

He landed and swiped them aside with massive force. They crashed and skid across the street, then rolled into crouched stances.

 

Casey lunged with a kick. But R.J. grabbed his leg and smashed him to the ground.

 

Theo moved in from the side. R.J. back-hand swiped the ranger and kicked him aside. The wolf moved like a beast, crouched and predatory.

 

Lilly launched a flurry of high-speed punches that bashed R.J.’s chest. But the moves barely fazed the wolf. R.J. stood his ground and kicked her backward.

 

The ranger crashed onto her shoulder and rolled aside.

 

Lilly rose and clutched her wounded shoulder. “He shouldn’t be this strong.”

 

“There’s something different about him,” Casey said.

 

“That goes without saying,” Lilly said.

 

R.J. crouched like a wolf, and his aura flared with violet light, like flame that flickered across his skin.

 

He hurled a bolt of violet energy that exploded around the rangers, tossing them through the air.

 

***

 

“This is where I once lost everything,” Jarrod said within his vision.

 

“This is your despair?” Kata asked as he stepped into the dreamscape.

 

Jarrod snapped around to face the demon. “Kata. I see…So this is your Ringi?”

 

“Yes,” Kata said. “I draw out the despair in my opponent. And I devour it. That, is my Ringi. You will die inside your own nightmare.”

 

Kata lunged and bashed Jarrod with a flurry of palm-heel strikes. The last blow hurled the teen off his feet, and he crashed against the ground.

 

The demon stepped onto the fallen warrior’s face and pressed down hard.

 

“I don’t know what you experienced here…but that terror, even now, binds you.”

 

Jarrod looked to see his younger self glance up, with cold eyes, at the dark shadows and smoke in front of him.

 

The teen struggled beneath the foot of the Kenma and screamed.

 

***

 

Faust and Rick showed Adam down the halls of what looked like a normal Catholic school. The students wore neatly pressed uniforms and carried book bags as they walked to and from class.

 

“Most students here are just that,” Rick said. “Students.”

 

“Students who pay tuition,” Faust said cheerfully. “Money we need for our true operation. Come, come. Let me show you the real classes. The cram school.”

 

“Cram school?” Adam asked.

 

“It’s where we train the exorcists,” Rick said.

 

“Rick here is our finest student,” Faust said. “Already a master Aria and Dragoon.”

 

Adam knitted his brow, and Rick noticed.

 

“We split exorcists into different specializations,” Rick explained. “Aria’s specialize in incantations. Dragoons fight using firearms. We also have Knights who use swords, tamers who can control lesser demons and doctor for healing.”

 

Suddenly, an explosion tore through the hallway. The shockwave hurled Rick and Adam off their feet but breezed past Faust.

 

The headmaster sighed. “Oh, I was afraid this would happen. Silly zealots.”

 

A priest stepped into the hallway. An exorcist, he carried two guns: a standard handgun, and a gun that fired miniature grenades.

 

The Dragoon glared at Faust.

 

“You brought one of them here?” the exorcist asked. “A Ranger?”

 

Adam climbed to his feet and narrowed his eyes at the exorcist.

 

“If you really wanted to convince me to bring Evan and the others here,” he said to Rick, “you failed miserably.”

 

“I can understand that,” Rick said as he adjusted his glasses and stood. Neuhaus. What are you doing?”

 

Neuhaus reloaded his weapon. “These Rangers pervert the name of God with their so-called magick.”

 

Faust sighed. “Oh, Neuhaus. Silly Neuhaus. I think you need a hug.”

 

“Do not mock me, demon,” Neuhaus said. “He is a perversion. A perversion!”

 

“Now, now, Neuhaus,” Faust said. “Remember, you and some of your fellow exorcists use the same Power as this Ranger here. Not nearly as well, of course.”

 

“Our power comes from our Lord God,” Neuhaus said. “The Ranger’s power is an abomination.”

 

The Dragoon swung his gun and opened fire. Bullets blasted the hall as Adam and Rick dove for cover.

 

Neuhaus stopped firing and rolled up his sleeve. Runes marked his skin. He bit his thumb, drawing blood, and marked the blood across a rune.

 

Dark energy ebbed on the floor in front of him, and several demon dogs burst through the portal.

 

Rick rolled into a crouched position, pulled out his guns, and blasted the demons with rune-marked bullets. Their bodies smashed against the wall and crashed to the floor.

 

Adam rushed to his feet and thrust his hand. “Ki!”

 

He fired a burst of invisible energy that knocked Neuhaus off his feet. The exorcist crashed and skid across the floor.

 

Faust dusted off his suit and walked towards the fallen exorcist.

 

“You’ll have to excuse the mess,” Faust said. “Neuhaus lost his family during one of your little Countdown to Destruction thingies. He’s quite unstable.”

 

“And you keep him here?” Adam asked.

 

“All who want help are welcome,” Faust said.

 

Neuhaus coughed and sat up. He reached for his fallen weapons, but Rick kicked them away.

 

Neuhaus glared at his fellow exorcist. “How could you, of all people, side with this Ranger? After what his kind did to your brother?”

 

Rick narrowed his eyes. “My brother’s a Shaded. That has nothing to do with the Rangers.”

 

“No,” Neuhaus said. “He is more than a Shaded. Even more twisted…and evil, thanks to the Rangers.”

 

“What are you talking about?” Rick asked.

 

“Haven’t you seen?” Neuhaus said. “The rest of us learned hours ago. Your brother, Rin, has become twisted not by the energy of a demon alone. But by the spirit of the wolf.”

 

“You’re saying he’s a…”

 

“A werewolf,” Neuhaus said. “A new breed of a race long extinct.”

 

***

 

R.J. lifted Casey by the neck. The wolf’s nails cut through his skin, drawing blood.

 

The teen narrowed his eyes and struggled to break free. “Let…go!”

 

He kneed R.J. in the gut. The wolf dropped Casey and staggered backward. The ranger pressed forward with a palm-heel strike and reverse sidekick.

 

Casey poured his Geki into every blow, which struck hard. But R.J. acted immune to the pain.

 

The wolf slashed his claws upward, swiping Casey with enough force to whip him off his feet.

 

Casey slammed onto his back. He grasped his injured chest, soaked with blood, and climbed slowly to his feet.

 

R.J. leaned forward and growled, a powerful sound that shook the streets. His aura flared with violet energy as he transformed into the Soul Metal armor of Gou, the Storm Knight.

 

The rangers regrouped.

 

“What is that?” Lilly asked.

 

Casey shook his head. “Not RinJuken.”

 

“I think…” Theo started to say. “I think that’s one of the Hellfire Knights!”

 

“The what?” Lilly asked.

 

“Didn’t you listen to Adam?” Theo asked. “They’re Shaded who work for the Hellfire Club.”

 

“Oh, that makes sense,” Lilly said. “So this guy’s a Shaded, a werewolf, and a knight of some-”

 

Gou slashed his swords and fired waves of violet light. The teens dove aside as the energy blade passed between them.

 

They rolled onto their feet and armed their morphers.

 

“Jungle beast! Spirit unleash!” Their animal auras washed over them as they morphed into their Ranger forms.

 

They stepped into fighting stances.

 

“With the speed of the Cheetah! Jungle Fury, Yellow-”

 

Gou shot forward and slashed the Yellow Ranger off her feet with a burst of spark.

 

Red Tiger and Blue Jaguar moved in with a flurry of punches and kicks. Their blows bashed the Knight’s armor.

 

Gou growled and spun, twirling his swords through blurs of motion that slashed the Rangers through the air. They smashed against the side of a building and crashed to the street. 

 

Red Tiger staggered to his feet. “We need our weapons.”

 

“Right,” Blue Jaguar said.

 

Geki Nunchuk!” Red Tiger shouted as he armed his nunchuk.

 

Geki Tonfa!” Blue Jaguar shouted as he armed his tonfa.

 

The Yellow Ranger climbed to her feet behind the Knight. She summoned her Geki Tonfa and connected the weapons into a staff.

 

Geki Bo!” she shouted.

 

Yellow Cheetah twirled her staff into a fighting stance and charged. She swung the weapon hard and fast. But Gou blocked the strikes with savage ferocity.

 

The Knight swung low, slashing the legs out from the Ranger. He chopped, cutting her to the ground with massive bursts of spark.

 

Gou lifted his blade to strike again. But Blue Jaguar rushed in, used one tonfa to grab the Knight’s blade, and bashed his second tonfa against the Knight’s chest.

 

Red Tiger lunged and swung his nunchuk, bashing the Knight’s head with a burst of spark. The blow sent the Knight staggering backward.

 

Yellow Cheetah climbed to her feet and tossed her staff aside. “The Claw Cannon.”

 

Red Tiger shook his head. “We might kill him.”

 

He might kill us,” Yellow Cheetah said.

 

Gou crossed his swords, which ebbed with violet light. He thrust the blades and fired a wave of energy shaped like a wolf. The wolf aura smashed the Rangers with massive bursts of spark, hurling them backward.

 

The Hellfire Knight turned and slashed his swords through aimless, random strikes. Each slash hurled a wave of violet energy into the city. The blasts tore through buildings and shattered windows with massive explosions.

 

“Casey, he’s out of control,” Blue Jaguar said. “We’ve got to put him down.”

 

“We don’t kill,” Red Tiger said.

 

Blue Jaguar shook his head. “We couldn’t kill him if he wanted to. Best case? We knock him out. Or at least damage that armor.”

 

Red Tiger sighed and nodded. “Fine. Let’s do it.”

 

They stood in formation. “Claw Cannon!”

 

They summoned the weapon and aimed at Gou. The Rangers poured their Geki into the cannon, which whined with power.

 

Geki Waza!” they shouted. “Geki Geki Hou!

 

The cannon fired a twirling sphere of orange energy. The blast struck Gou’s back with massive bursts of spark. He staggered forward but stabbed his swords into the ground for balance to stay on his feet.

 

Gou growled and snapped around while swinging his sword and firing a wave of violet power. The energy wave slashed the Rangers with bursts of violet lightning that hurled them through the air. 

 

Their Claw Cannon dropped and sizzled with static.

 

Yellow Cheetah climbed to her feet and coughed. “Yeah…Don’t wanna kill him, do we? Wouldn’t want that…”

 

Red Tiger climbed to his feet and rolled his hands into fists. He couldn’t believe the power of the Hellfire Knight. The raw energy. He couldn’t let that power win.

 

The Red Ranger screamed and charged to attack.

 

Gou slashed his swords and fired an energy wave. But Red Tiger dove beneath the wave, rolled across the ground while lifting the Claw Cannon, and rolled into a crouched stance while aiming the cannon inches from Gou’s gut.

 

Red Tiger fired a burst of energy at point-blank range. The explosion ignited an orange shockwave that shook the street and hurled the Knight and Ranger off their feet.

 

Gou crashed onto his back. He grasped his gut, where the explosion chipped and cracked his armor. The Knight’s armor shimmered with violet light and powered down.

 

R.J. rolled onto his stomach and climbed slowly to his feet.  He looked normal, with tan skin and brown hair.

 

The teen coughed and staggered. “What the...what? Where am I?”

 

The Red Ranger climbed to his feet as smoke sizzled from his armor. He powered down with a flash of red light.

 

The other rangers powered down and joined him.

 

“It’s OK…” Casey said as he walked towards R.J.

 

“I…” R.J. said as he staggered backward. The teen collapsed and lost consciousness.

 

***

 

Jarrod stopped moving within the dreamscape. He lay motionless.

 

Kata turned and walked away from the fallen teen.

 

Then, black-tinted, purple energy ebbed from the fallen warrior. Kata turned to face the glow of the aura.

 

“This can’t be…There should be nothing but despair within you.”

 

Jarrod stood. His Rinki flowed across his body like dark purple flame.

 

The warrior turned to face the demon. “A great evil took everything from me that day. I fell into despair. If despair makes RinJuken Akugata stronger…then I’ll devour it myself. My own despair.”

 

Jarrod faced the image of his younger self. He snapped his arms to his side, and his aura expanded. The power washed across the dreamscape and scattered the images into particles of energy.

 

Jarrod screamed, his jaws open wide, as the images and power poured into his mouth through a stream of dark energy. His eyes glowed with purple light, and his body ebbed with shadowy power.

 

He consumed the power with a final burst of light, leaving nothing but darkness.

 

Jarrod snapped around to face Kata. He lifted his hand in a fighting stance. Rinki Gai Sou.”

 

A golden aura flashed around him as he morphed into the armor of DaiShi.

 

The dreamscape shattered, revealing the landscape of the woods at day.

 

Kata stepped back. “You turn the despair of your own youth into power?”

 

“It was delicious…”

 

His aura flared like golden flame that ebbed across his body. He charged with a burst of speed and a palm-heel strike. The blow bashed Kata and knocked him several steps backward. 

 

DaiShi launched a flurry of kicks Kata dodged and blocked. But each attack pushed the Kenma farther backward as he struggled to defend himself.

 

DaiShi moved low and punched Kata’s chest.

 

Kata swung his palm at DaiShi’s faceplate. But DaiShi caught the demon’s wrist, twisted his arm behind his back, and grabbed the back of his neck.

 

DaiShi lifted the demon and smashed him to the ground. He kicked the fallen monster with a burst of gold light that hurled him backward.

 

Kata tumbled and rolled into a crouched position.

 

DaiShi stalked towards the demon. RinJuken Lion Fist. Ringi…”

 

His hands glowed with golden power. Gouyuu Sou Ha!

 

He charged through a streak of golden power and swung an energized uppercut, which bashed Kata’s gut with massive bursts of spark.

 

Kata collapsed as secondary explosions tore his body.

 

“Well done…” he whispered.

 

“I will take your power,” DaiShi said.

 

The dreamscape exploded into pieces.

 

Jarrod’s eyes snapped open. He climbed to his feet and faced Kata. 

 

The demon staggered and collapsed to his knees.

 

With relief, Camille ran to Jarrod and threw herself against his chest.

 

“You’re alright…You’re alright…” She turned and glared at Kata. “Now let’s finish this guy.”

 

“No…” Jarrod said. “It’s because he pushed me to my limit that a new power awoke within me.”

 

“How interesting,” Kata said as he climbed to his feet. “Young lion…You might be able to master the RinJuken…”

 

Jarrod walked to Kata and kneeled in front of the demon. “My sensei…”

 

“My pupil…”

 

Jarrod looked up at the demon. I will become strong. And in time…your despair will become my power.

 

***

 

R.J. stirred awake. He sat up slowly on a small cot in the Black Sash dojo.

 

The teen knitted his brow with confusion. “Where…”

 

“It’s OK…” Miki said as she walked towards him. “You’re safe. What’s the last thing you remember?”

 

R.J. backed away from the young woman. “Who the hell are you?”

 

“My name is Miki,” she said. She looked over her shoulder to the rangers. “And this is Casey, Theo and Lilly. They brought you here.”

 

R.J. started to stand. But pain stabbed through his head and forced him down. “What did you do to me?”

 

“Nothing,” Casey said. “You lost control. When we found you…”

 

“You were attacking innocent people,” Theo said.

 

R.J. rolled his hands into fists. He still felt the power of the demon blood in his veins. He still felt the singe of his Soul Metal armor. And he still felt the hunger of the wolf.

 

“How long was I out?” R.J. asked.

 

“Hours,” Miki said. “You broke into a fever. But it’s come down. Some, at least.”

 

The teen shook his head. “What about the others?”

 

“Others?” Miki asked.

 

The Black Sash’s doors opened, and Adam and Rick rushed inside.

 

Rick stopped in his tracks at the sight of his brother. “Rin…You’re OK.”

 

“Rick…” R.J. said as he climbed to his feet. Grief clutched his throat. And the grief quickly turned to rage.

 

R.J. rushed and punched his brother to the ground. “Where the hell have you been?!”

 

He leaned down and lifted Rick by the shirt. Adam moved to help, but Rick waved him off.

 

“No,” Rick said. “It’s-”

 

R.J. punched his brother’s face. Tears streamed down the teen’s cheeks. “They killed him! They killed Dad! And where were you afterward, huh?! Where have you been?!”

 

“Looking for you,” Rick said. “Rin, you’re not yourself.”

 

“Don’t tell me who I am!” R.J. shouted.

 

“Dad always was the only one who could calm you down when you got like this,” Rick said softly. “Wasn’t he?”

 

R.J. held back his next punch. He dropped his brother and stepped back. 

 

“Dad…” R.J. whispered as his mind flashed back.

 

Five-year-old Rin “R.J” Amantini screamed and knocked over his desk. His teachers tried to calm him. But he threw chairs and books at anyone who came close.

 

Father Amantini walked into the classroom. “What happened?”

 

“He won’t calm down,” the teacher said. “He’s a little...a little demon!”

 

“Don’t call me that!” R.J. shouted.

 

Father Amantini walked slowly to his adopted son. “Rin, what happened?”

 

“They wouldn’t stop…” R.J. said as he sniffed back his tears. “They wouldn’t stop calling him names.”

 

“They were picking on one of your classmates?” Father Amantini asked as he crouched in front of his son.

 

R.J. wiped his tears and nodded.

 

Father Amantini sighed. “So you got angry. I can understand that, Rin. I can understand that. They hurt your classmate. But don’t you see…What you’re doing now is hurting them. All of them.”

 

“I…I didn’t mean…” He broke into tears and hugged his father. “I didn’t mean to. I’m sorry, I just wanted them to stop.”

 

“I know, Rin, I know,” Father Amantini said as he hugged his son. “But you’re a strong little guy. You have to be careful. It’s OK to feel angry. It’s OK to protect others. But to hurt others? That’s not you, Rin. That’s not someone you want to be…”

 

R.J. dropped to his knees and breathed heavily.

 

“Rick…” he whispered. “What the hell? I mean, seriously, what the hell is going on? With all of this? Ever since that day, when they killed dad…it’s like a blur.”

 

“I know,” Rick said as he stood. “I know. But we’ll figure it out together. Adam and his Rangers-”

 

“Rangers?” R.J. asked with a glare. He looked to Casey, Theo and Lilly, rolled his hands into fists, and stood. He remembered them morphing. He remembered them turning into Rangers.

 

And he remembered Hurricane Black driving a sword through Father Amantini’s chest.

 

Anger thundered through his veins. He snarled, bearing fangs, as his skin and hair paled to white. His eyes shifted color to violet and wolf-like, and his forehead contorted into a beast-like shape.

 

Lilly sighed. “And now we’re back to this. Great…”

 

Rick reached slowly for a vial of wolfsbane in his belt. “Rick, calm down. The rangers aren’t responsible for what happened. It was the demons.”

 

R.J. pounced at the rangers. They dove aside, and R.J. landed while chopping his claws with enough force to splinter the floorboards.

 

The wolf growled and leapt towards the teens.

 

Rick hurled his vial of wolfsbane. The vial shattered against the wolf and splattered his skin, which sizzled on contact.

 

He howled with pain and crashed to the floor.

 

The wolf climbed to his feet, snarled at his brother, and leapt through the door.

 

***

 

R.J. ran aimlessly until he collapsed from the pain. He snarled and grasped his wound, where the wolfsbane burnt his skin.

 

“My, my. That looks like it hurt,” a voice said from the shadows.

 

The teen looked to see Faust walk towards him.

 

To be continued…Chapter 11