Ultimate Power Rangers Recap

 

The road so far…

 

During the Second Countdown to Destruction, a demon called the Mogralord used an army of monsters called Undead to fight Earth’s champions. The heroes defeated the Undead and the Mogralord.

 

BOARD, a division of INET, cloned the Undead for study. The organization used its research to create the Human Undead, a failed attempt at making an immortal.

 

Meanwhile, the Dark Shaper hacked INET’s research to create an Undead called Joker, who could absorb powers of other Undead. The Dark Shaper secretly exchanged information with INET founder Dr. William “Billy” Cranston. Cranston used the Joker as the basis for his Kamen Rider System.

 

The Dark Shaper lost control of Joker, who became Kamen Rider Chalice, and later Zayden after sealing the Human Undead.

 

To stop Zayden from going berserk in his Joker form, Ken used his King Form to become the Second Joker. An Undead.

 

Ken left Zayden and his friends behind, because he knew that, as long as he remained close to Zayden, he and Zayden would feel the urge to fight. 

 

Later, Ken learned that Lanfear, a Forsaken, manipulated BOARD in hopes of creating a true immortal and breaking the Second Seal of the Dark One’s prison.

 

In a battle against another Forsaken, the White Mage Rahvin, Ken’s King Form pushed him past the limits of humanity and the Undead. Ken became the first human to reach immortality, which broke the Second Seal of the Dark One’s prison.

 

Now

 

Shaded Relics: Chapter 23

The Immortal Blade

 

PROLOGUE: The Demon Tablet

 

DaiShi led Evan through the sewers of Demon City. The demon carried a torch that lit the dry corridors, thick with cobwebs. Demonic insects scurried through cracks in the walls and floors.

 

Evan wrinkled his nose with disgust.

 

DaiShi noticed, and smirked. “Do these insects repulse you? They should. All vermin are nothing compared to our power. The mortals of this world are as lowly as the cockroaches that infest this wretched place.”

 

DaiShi stepped on a bug, which splattered beneath his boot.

 

“Um…” Evan said nervously. “I’m…mortal.”

 

“You are my son,” DaiShi said. “My blood flows through your veins. You are more than mortal.”

 

Moving forward, they entered a wide chamber filled with skulls and bones. Evan hesitated at the entrance, shocked at the sight.

 

DaiShi narrowed his eyes at his son. “Do these dusty old bones frighten you?”

 

Evan shook his head and stepped into the chamber. “No…but the last bones we saw tried to kill us.”

 

DaiShi picked up a skull and crushed it into pieces. “I obliterated them. Didn’t I?”

 

Evan said nothing, and nodded.

 

DaiShi searched around the chamber while using his torch for light. He wanted the Demon Tablet, hidden within the bowels of Demon City.

 

“It should be here…” he grumbled with impatience as he looked for a hidden doorway or corridor of some kind. “Boy, help me search.”

 

Evan pulled his hands into his shirtsleeves, using them like gloves. He wrinkled his nose, squirmed, and started pushing aside skulls and bones.

 

“What are we looking for?” he asked as he rolled a skull away from the wall.

 

“Something hidden,” DaiShi said. “A lever. A slot. Something that could conceal the Demon Tablet.”

 

Evan knitted his brow with curiosity and dusted the stone floor. He noticed a pattern, etched across the bricks.

 

“Did you see this?” Evan asked.

 

DaiShi lowered his torch and looked to the floor. He saw a demonic pattern etched across the bricks.

 

His lips twisted in a smile. “A seal…” He looked to his son. “Well done.”

 

DaiShi dropped his torch. He pulled out a knife, slit his palm, and let his blood drip onto the ground. The blood seeped into the cracks of the demonic symbol and ebbed with black power.

 

The center of the seal ignited with dark light, and a platform rose from the floor.

 

DaiShi picked up his torch and lifted it above the pedestal. He scowled at what he saw — the pedestal was empty.

 

“It should be here…” he growled as he placed his hand on the pedestal. “It should be here!”

 

The demon hurled the torch across the room.

 

Frightened, Evan took a step back. “What…What is it?”

 

“The Demon Tablet,” DaiShi said. “Someone has already taken it…”

 

***

 

Long stood with Jarrod and Camille inside an abandoned warehouse. The Forsaken finished etching a strange pattern onto the ground, and then looked to the two Shaded.

 

He smiled at the sight of their anticipation. “Are you ready?”

 

Jarrod nodded, as did Camille.

 

“Good…” Long said. He lifted his hand over the symbol, and it started to pulse with golden energy called GenKi. “Repeat after me…Release the Rinki.”

 

“Release the Rinki…” Jarrod and Camille said.

 

“Accept the GenKi…”

 

“Accept the GenKi…” they repeated.

 

The next verse applied to Jarrod alone. “Become GenJuken’s King.”

 

“Become GenJuken’s King…” he said.

 

Long’s lips curled into a twisted smile. GenKi. TenRinGenDou!

 

Energy lashed from the pool and poured into Jarrod and Camille. The ceremony acted as a transfusion of spiritual energy. Their Rinki bled from their spirits, replaced with GenKi, as they glowed with golden light.

 

***

 

PART ONE: Neo-Undead

 

Ken delayed reuniting with Zayden, Benjamin, Nicolas, Megan, and Bobby. No longer a Joker Undead, he knew he didn’t need to keep his distance from Zayden. But at the same time, how could he explain his King Form pushed him to immortality? He still couldn’t grasp what that meant.

 

Regardless, Ken decided to return to his friends.

 

He rode through the woods towards the Jacaranda Café, to see Zayden.

 

Ken couldn’t help but smile at the thought of the artificial teen adapting to life without fighting.

 

I wonder how you’ve been blending in, Zayden, Ken thought.

 

Suddenly, he skid his cycle to a halt.

 

He looked ahead to see the café in ruin. 

 

Ken hopped off his bike and ran towards the wreckage. “No…Zayden! Cassie! Ava!”

 

Without thinking, he ran to the rubble and started digging. He had no idea when the damage happened. Still, he searched frantically for his friends.

 

What happened?! his mind screamed.

 

Suddenly, debris burst from the rubble like a geyser. A monster stood from the opening and roared, a powerful howl that shook the earth. The creature looked somewhat like a Trial Series, with the number “29” plated on its chest.

 

New Bitmap Image

 

Ken knitted his brow and stepped into a defensive stance. “It can’t be…Undead?”

 

The monster lifted a piece of rubble and hurled it at the rider.

 

Ken dove and rolled aside. The teen stood and armed his buckler, which wrapped around his waist, and stepped into his transformation pose.

 

“Transform!” He flipped his buckler, which spoke the command: “TURN UP.”

 

The buckler emitted a field of blue energy. Ken dashed through the field and transformed into Kamen Rider Blade.

 

Blade unsheathed his sword and charged. He lunged at the monster with a flurry of sword swings that sparked on impact. He chopped, slashed upward, and swung sideways, hacking the monster with bursts of spark.  

 

The creature barely felt the blows. He lunged, grabbed Blade by the neck, and tossed him aside.

 

Blade crashed and tumbled into a crouched fighting stance.

 

He opened his sword’s card fan, pulled out three cards, and swiped them through his sword slit. “KICK; THUNDER; MACH.”

 

The Rider stayed crouched as three cards of energy projected from his sword and splashed against his armor.

 

He charged through a burst of speed, leapt through the air, and aimed a flying sidekick that crackled with lightning.

 

His kick bashed the monster with a massive burst of spark that hurled him backward. The creature collapsed onto the rubble and exploded into ash.

 

The Rider breathed heavily and lowered his guard. He flipped his buckler and pulled out his Ace of Spades; a blue field slid across his body and powered down his armor.

 

Ken shook his head. “I’ve got to find Megan…”

 

“You won’t have to look far,” a voice said from behind.

 

Ken turned to see Benjamin on his motorcycle, alongside Nicolas on his bike.

 

“Benjamin…Nicolas…What happened here?” he asked.

 

Benjamin knitted his brow. “We were hoping you could tell us. What are you doing here, Ken?”

 

“You’re the Second Joker,” Nicolas said. “You shouldn’t have come back for Zayden.”

 

“It’s not like that,” Ken said. “I’m not an Undead anymore. I’m kind of…immortal.”

 

Benjamin narrowed his eyes with skepticism. “Immortal?”

 

“I’ll explain everything,” Ken said. “First let’s get to Megan. We have to figure out what happened here…and what that thing was.”

 

“It was an Undead,” Benjamin said.

 

Nicolas nodded. “Sort of. It came up as a Category Unknown, like the Trials, but…different.”

 

“All the more reason to figure out what we’re up against,” Ken said as he moved to his cycle. “Come on.”

 

***

 

Zayden’s vision blurred slowly into focus. He tried to sit up, but fatigue weighed him down. He knitted his brow with concern as he looked at his surroundings. He found himself in a dark cavern, lighted by heated stones.

 

A short man walked into the cavern. Plump, he moved with a hunched back and wore tattered clothes. His hair looked shaggy, and he stared through the darkness with large, round eyes.

 

“Don’t try to sit up, Joker,” the man said. “You’ll find you’re quite…poisoned, for lack of a better word.”

 

“Who are you?’ Zayden asked, his voice cold and calm.

 

“Aginor,” he said. “One of the Forsaken…You’re in the tunnels that used to belong to creatures called Vorlock. They’re my tunnels now. My…playground.”

 

Two of the Category Unknown Undead followed Aginor into the cave. They looked nearly identical to the creature who fought Blade, but with minor differences.

 

Zayden narrowed his eyes. “Undead…”

 

“My Neo-Undead, to be precise,” Aginor said with pride. “I must say, I watched Lanfear toy with the Undead for months. These creatures fascinated me…so I created my own. And you, Zayden…You fascinated me as well. That’s why you’re here.”

 

Zayden said nothing. He stared coldly at the Forsaken.

 

Aginor didn’t seem to notice. “Imagine what I can learn from you. Imagine an army of Joker Undead awaiting the Dark One’s return.”

 

“The Dark One…” Zayden whispered.

 

“Oh yes,” Aginor said. “I’ve been building armies. Creatures, for the Dark One’s rise. It’s something of a…specialty of mine. I’ll let my brothers and sisters worry about the Seals. I have much greater work…”

 

The villain walked closer to Zayden and leaned next to him. Aginor traced his finger across the artificial teen’s cheek.

 

Zayden glared, causing Aginor to smile.

 

“There’s fire in your eyes,” Aginor said. “Let’s see if I can recreate that fire.” 

 

***

 

Hell

 

Simon used his black sword for balance and climbed to his feet. He found himself in the Fourth Circle of Hell, the circle of greed.

 

He saw massive caverns of black rock, filled with golden coins. Creeks of molten gold flowed through the ground for as far as the eyes could see. And souls of the damned thrashed as they drowned in the gold, over and over, death without end.

 

Moridyn appeared in his astral form.

 

“Welcome to the Fourth Circle,” he said.

 

“No hell dogs?” Simon asked.

 

“Not here, no,” Moridyn said.

 

“I don’t suppose that means I can pass right through.”

 

“Most certainly not,” Moridyn said. “Do you understand the nature of greed, Simon?”

 

“I’m not in the mood for 20 questions,” Simon said.

 

Moridyn continued anyway. “To feel greed is to not long for material possessions only. With greed can come a need for power. A selfish need. You know this feeling well…”

 

Simon knitted his brow. “I wasn’t being selfish. I wanted power to stop Azmodai.”

 

“For selfish reasons,” Moridyn said. “You’ve wanted power your whole life. First, to become stronger than those who bullied you. Then, to stop the suffering of others, that is true. But in time, it became more about stopping the suffering that you felt. Your own suffering. And the feelings that washed over you from others. You craved power to end your own pain. Your own guilt. You craved power because you despised your own weakness.

 

“Tell me…how many demons did you absorb during your travels with Zadie? How many were necessary…and how many were for pleasure?” Moridyn asked.

 

“Did you come here to get me out of Hell or be my shrink?” Simon asked.

 

“To confront Hell is to confront your sins,” Moridyn said. 

 

“Listen to me, you son-of-a-bitch,” Simon said. “I’m not buying this nine-circles-of-the-guilt-train crap. You want me to fight my way out of Hell? Fine. But don’t expect self-reflection along the way. I’m getting Owen. Then I’m getting out.”

 

The ranger held his sword at his side and dashed ahead. He leapt over rivers of molten gold and hopped over piles of coins.

 

Ahead, he approached the edge of the circle, bordered by massive gold mines that extended several stories upward with rows of pulleys and wooden bridges. 

 

A figure leapt from the top of the mine and landed in front of Simon. He carried a kata and wore a ragged cloak over his pale skin. His hair looked chalk white, and his eyes looked solid black expect for his golden irises.

 

The Simon Kaden,” he said with a hollow voice that echoed throughout the cavern. “It’s an honor.”

 

“Who the hell are you supposed to be?” Simon asked.

 

“You can call me Zomari. A Shaded, just like you…”

 

“Great to meet you,” Simon said. “Now get out of my way, twinkle-eyes.”

 

Zomari laughed. “I don’t think so. I was paid handsomely to stop you. One-thousand years of a torture free existence.”

 

“Compared to eternity? That’s a pretty sucky deal,” Simon said.

 

The ranger shifted into his Shaded form, flared with black light and shot towards his opponent.

 

***

 

PART TWO: Homecoming

 

Benjamin, Nicolas and Ken returned to Bobby’s home in a rural area just outside Angel Grove. They walked upstairs to Megan’s office, where Bobby and Megan waited.

 

Megan looked at Ken as if seeing a ghost. “Ken…is it really you?”

 

Bobby took a step back. “Either way. Please don’t go crazy. You people have already doubled my insurance rates.”

 

Ken smirked. “It’s me…”

 

Megan rushed to Ken and hugged him. “We’ve been so worried.”

 

“I’m fine,” Ken said. “Really.”

 

Benjamin walked towards Megan’s computer, equipped with an Undead Tracker. “Any sign of Zayden?”

 

“Not yet,” Megan said. “But we’re still looking.”

 

Ken looked to Bobby. “What about Cassie and Ava?”

 

“They’re OK,” Bobby said. “They’re staying in your old room, actually.”

 

“What happened?” Ken asked.

 

Bobby sighed. “It’s going to be a long story. I’ll get some milk.”

 

Megan took a seat on the couch as she started explaining. “I was sorting through old BOARD data when the Undead Tracker went off,” she said. “At first I thought it was…you. But the signals came up as Category Unknowns, the same as the Trials, but…different.”

 

“Different how?” Ken asked.

 

“It’s hard to explain,” Megan said. “The Trials were made with Undead cells. But these new Undead…it’s more like they were augmented with Undead cells.”

 

Bobby walked back into the room while carrying milk. “Like monsters hopped up on Undead juice.”

 

Megan nodded. “They must have wanted Zayden for some reason. They appeared right outside the café and attacked without warning. Zayden transformed into Chalice and fought them off. He got Cassie and Ava out of the building, seconds before the Undead…destroyed it. Cassie and Ava ran as fast as they could while Zayden stayed back to protect them.”

 

Megan looked towards her monitor. “His signal just…vanished. I had called Benjamin and Nicolas…”

 

“We didn’t get there in time,” Benjamin said. “When we showed up, the Undead were gone. So was Zayden.”

 

“That was yesterday,” Nicolas said. “Then today, we got another signal.”

 

Megan nodded. “It must have been that Undead that climbed from the rubble.”

 

Ken knitted his brow. “This doesn’t make any sense…”

 

Bobby leaned back and took a chug of his milk. “That’s pretty much what we’ve been saying for the past 24 hours. Repeatedly.”

 

“I’ve been trying to find a link to INET, to anything…but no luck,” Megan said.

 

“And no sign of these new Undead since the attack?” Ken asked.

 

“Except for today, no, not yet,” Megan said.

 

“Benjamin and I have been patrolling, though,” Nicolas said with a hint of pride. He had pushed himself hard to become a true Rider, free of the Undead’s influence.

 

“What about you, Ken?” Benjamin asked. “What happened?”

 

“Well…” Ken said awkwardly. “I’m…an immortal now.”

 

Bobby arced an eyebrow. “Shut the front door.”

 

“Seriously,” Ken said. “I was fighting these Phantoms, and my King Form pushed me past my limits, past the boundaries of the Undead. I…I’m not a Joker anymore. I’m human.”

 

“An immortal human?” Bobby said.

 

Ken nodded. “Yeah…” he said. He left out the part about how his shift to immortality broke one of the Seals to the Dark One’s prison. “That’s why I came back. Since I’m not an Undead, I don’t need to keep my distance from Zayden…”

 

Bobby wiped milk from his mouth. “Which brings us back to our missing Joker.

 

“Who else knew about him?” Ken asked.

 

“Outside of INET?” Megan shook her head. “No one I can think of…”

 

A thought struck Ken. “The Forsaken…”

 

“Forsaken?” Bobby asked. “Like in World of Warcraft?”

 

“Wh- No,” Ken said. He sighed. “There’s something I didn’t mention before. About the Joker. And my…King Form.”

 

Ken told his friends everything about the Forsaken, their plans to break the Seals, and how Zayden and Ken played a role.

 

***

 

Aginor hurled Zayden into a pit within the Vorlock tunnels. The artificial teen climbed to his feet, narrowed his eyes, and looked up.

 

The Forsaken stood above the pit and smiled at the Undead.

 

“Now…” Aginor said. “Let’s test the limits of your powers, shall we? You should feel your strength returning as my poison wears off, but please don’t even think of escaping. Remember…I have Cassie and Ava as my captives.”

 

Zayden had no way of knowing Aginor lied about Cassie and Ava. “If you touch them…I will kill you.”

 

“No need to worry,” Aginor said. “As soon as I have what I need from you, you and your family are free to go.”

 

 Six Neo-Undead dropped into the pit. They all looked nearly identical, with minor differences, such as various shades of grays, and different numbers on their chest plates.

 

“Don’t go easy on them,” Aginor said. “I have plenty to spare.”

 

Zayden’s belt appeared around his waist with a shimmer. He pulled out his Category Ace.

 

“Transform.” He slid the card through his buckler, and his body rippled into the form of Kamen Rider Chalice.

 

Chalice armed his brow, crouched, and charged. He dashed through the Neo-Undead while swinging his bow, slashing the creature aside with bursts of spark.

 

The Rider turned and chopped, slashing a Neo-Undead to the ground with a massive burst of spark.

 

A second Neo-Undead lunged. Chalice swung upward, slashing the Undead through the air.

 

***

 

Bobby sat at Megan’s desk and took another sip of milk.

 

Suddenly Megan’s Undead Tracker beeped with alarm. Megan pushed Bobby to the floor — he spilled his milk — and took her seat.

 

She pulled up the tracker’s image, which showed a signal surrounded by six other signals.

 

“It’s Zayden,” Megan said. “He’s fighting six of those Undead.”

 

“Where?” Ken asked.

 

“Underground,” she said. “I’ll send you the location.”

 

“Let’s go,” Ken said as he grabbed his helmet and bolted out the door.

 

Benjamin and Nicolas followed.

 

Bobby sighed and wiped the spilled milk from his shirt. He mumbled something about this being his house and walked to the kitchen to grab a towel.

 

***

 

Chalice round-kicked a Neo-Undead and slashed upward, striking the monster with a burst of spark that whipped him off his feet.

 

Three Neo-Undead charged towards him.

 

Chalice pulled two cards from his belt and swiped them through his bow: “DRILL; TORNADO”

 

Two cards of light projected from his weapon and splashed against his armor.

 

Chalice crouched as strands of energy circled him like a cyclone. Then he shot upward and spun as fast as the tornado that surrounded him.

 

The Rider shot downward with a spinning corkscrew-kick that punctured through a Neo-Undead. The creature collapsed and exploded into debris.

 

Aginor leaned forward from above. “Delightful…Now show me this Wild Form I’ve heard so much about.”

 

The Rider aimed his bow and triggered a volley of blasts that ripped through Neo-Undead with bursts of spark.

 

Chalice lowered his weapon and looked up to Aginor.

 

“I don’t need Wild Form for this fodder…” Chalice said, his voice ice-cold.

 

Aginor smiled with twisted delight. “Very well. Perhaps you need a bit more of a challenge.”

 

The pit’s doors opened, and dozens of furred Vorlorcs entered the pit. Armored with black chainmail that matched the color of their fur, they carried thick, curved swords. 

 

Chalice shifted into a defense stance. “More of your creatures? How many does this Dark One need for his army?

 

Aginor’s smile widened. “Says the one who wields the energies of 13 sealed monsters. You Riders of all people should know, one can never have too much power.”

 

The Vorlorcs howled like beasts and charged. Chalice leaned forward and plowed through the beasts. He swung his bow through quick and powerful strikes that shattered broadswords and tore through flesh. His blade sparked with each strike as the Vorlorcs surrounded him.

 

The Rider spun and swung wide, slashing the creatures with massive bursts of spark that hurled them backward.

 

A beast leapt at Chalice, and the Rider side-kicked the monster, bashing him to the ground.

 

The monsters regrouped and surrounded the Rider. As one, they pounced and swung their blades. Chalice dodged and parried. But several blows slashed his armor with bursts of spark.

 

The Rider staggered backward and pulled two cards from his holster. He swiped the cards through his bow: “TORNADO; CHOP.”

 

A tornado of energy twirled around Chalice and knocked the beasts several steps backward. The Rider shot from the tornado with an energized swing that hacked through six beasts, hurling them off their feet.

 

The creatures crashed against the walls and exploded into bursts of flame.

 

The remaining Vorlorcs regrouped but stayed back. Kamen Rider Chalice stepped into a defensive stance. He waited for the monsters to resume their attack, but they did not.

 

“What are they waiting for?” Chalice asked. “You wanted to test my power? Then let them fight.”

 

Aginor chuckled, a demented sound that echoed throughout the chamber. “Is that you speaking, Zayden? Or the bloodlust of the Joker Undead?”

 

Chalice slid a card through his bow: “BIO.”

 

He snapped around, aimed his bow at Aginor, and fired a tendril of bio-matter. The tendril wrapped around Aginor and pinned his arms against his sides.

 

Chalice pulled, whipping Aginor onto the floor of the combat pit. The Rider rushed to the Forsaken, lifted him from behind and placed his bow along the villain’s neck.

 

Aginor laughed. “What are you planning to do, Rider? Use me as a shield against these mindless creatures? Slice off my head? I’m immortal, you know…I cannot be killed.”

 

Suddenly, a hand grabbed Chalice from behind and hurled him off his feet. The Rider slammed against the wall and crashed to the ground.

 

Slowly, he climbed to his feet and lifted his bow into a defensive stance.

 

The Rider faced a creature with yellow slits for eyes. His mouth looked twisted into a permanent, wide grin filled with needle-thin teeth. He wore black, scaled armor that covered his body and limbs. Tendrils extended from his bald head to his back, along his spine.

 

Aginor smiled with pride as he laid his hand on the creature’s shoulder. “My big brother can be quite protective…”

 

Your…brother?” Chalice asked.

 

“For the most part,” Aginor said. “His name is Ishar. I made some…minor improvements after his crushing defeat by the Samurai Rangers.”

 

“You turned your own brother into a monster?” Chalice asked.

 

“He forgot his place,” Aginor said. “I simply helped him find his way.”

 

Ishar breathed deep, a guttural sound of a barely sentient monstrosity.

 

The villain thrust his hand and fired a burst of yellow energy. Chalice slashed through the blast with bursts of spark that hurled him off his feet.

 

***

 

Ken, Benjamin and Nicolas rode their motorcycles through the Vorlock tunnels. Benjamin used his portable Undead Tracker to guide them towards Zayden. But before they made it to the fighting chamber, two Neo-Undead dropped into the corridor: Unit 42 and Unit 88.

 

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The riders didn’t skid to a stop. Instead, they popped wheelies and bashed past the creatures. The monsters crashed and tumbled across the cavern floor.

 

The three riders swerved around and pulled to a stop. Benjamin looked over his shoulder to his comrade. “Ken, go after Zayden. We can take care of these two.”

 

Ken nodded. Their portable Undead Tracker showed Zayden locked in a brawl. He didn’t want to leave his friend to fight alone for a minute longer. The rider swerved his cycle, opened his throttle to full and sped deeper into the tunnel.

 

Benjamin and Nicolas hopped off their bikes, armed their bucklers, and charged towards the Neo-Undead.

 

“Transform!” they shouted as they flipped their bucklers.

 

“TURN UP.”

 

“OPEN UP.”

 

Their bucklers emitted energy fields they ran through as they transformed into their armor.

 

Kamen Rider Garren and Kamen Rider Leangle slammed against the Neo-Undead with volleys of punches. 

 

***

 

Ishar growled, lifted Chalice by the throat, and hurled him across the fighting chamber. The Rider crashed, tumbled and rolled into a crouched stance. He looked up to see a wave of Vorlorcs charge towards him.

 

Suddenly, Ken’s motorcycle throttled into the chamber and arced through the air. The cycle landed in the pit and swerved past the Vorlorcs while bashing them aside. Ken leapt off his bike and ran to Chalice’s side.

 

“Zayden…” Ken said as he armed his buckler.

 

“Ken…” Chalice said. The Rider tilted his head. He didn’t feel any Undead emanations come from Ken. “How…?”

 

“Not an Undead. Human again. Kind of immortal,” Ken said. “Long story.”

 

He stepped into his transformation pose. “Transform!” He flipped his buckler: “TURN UP.”

 

His buckler emitted a blue energy field. Ken ran through the field, transformed into Kamen Rider Blade, and charged to attack.

 

The Rider unsheathed his sword and slashed through Vorlorcs with bursts of spark. He swung upward, chopped downward diagonally and slashed wide, tearing through creatures with massive bursts of spark.

 

Ishar rushed towards Blade from behind. He charged his palms with yellow-tinted energy and lunged to attack. But Chalice tackled the villain aside. The Rider slashed two Vorlorcs to the ground and stood back-to-back with Blade.

 

“It is…good to have you back, Ken,” Chalice said.

 

“You too, Zayden,” Blade said.

 

The Vorlorcs surrounded the Riders and charged. But the Riders slashed through the creatures, blades sparking on impact.

 

***

 

Leangle held his staff back and charged at Unit 42. The Rider chopped his staff and swung upward, slashing the monster with bursts of spark. Leangle swung wide. But Unit 42 swatted the staff aside and round-kicked the Rider, knocking him back a step.

 

Unit 42 lunged. Leangle swung upward, slashing the monster with a burst of spark.

 

The Rider pulled two cards from his holster and slid them through his staff: “BITE; BLIZZARD.”

 

The staff emitted two cards of energy that splashed across the Rider’s armor.

 

Leangle leapt forward, somersaulted through the air, and aimed his descent towards the Neo-Undead. His legs pulsed with icy energy, and he snapped a scissor kick. The kick bashed the Neo-Undead with a burst of icy power that hurled him backward.

 

Nearby, Unit 88 swatted its claws at Garren. The Rider blocked and dodged, and then launched a volley of punches that bashed the monster’s chest. Garren pulled out his blaster and opened fire, bullets sparking the monster and knocking him several steps backward. 

 

Kamen Rider Garren opened his blaster’s card fan, pulled out three cards and swiped them through his blaster’s slit: “DROP; FIRE; GEMINI.”

 

Three cards of energy projected from his blaster and splashed across his armor.

 

Garren sprang through the air, somersaulted forward, and extended both legs. His feet radiated with fiery energy, and he split in two, creating an energy duplicate of himself. The two Garrens smashed dropkicks against the Neo-Undead with massive bursts of spark. The impact hurled the creature off its feet.

 

Garren landed alongside Leangle. They watched the two Neo-Undead units climb slowly back to their feet.

 

Leangle shook his head. “They’re not really Undead,” he said. “We can’t seal them.”

 

“Then we destroy them,” Garren said.

 

Garren attached his Rouze Absorber to his gauntlet. He slid the Queen of Diamonds into the absorber. “ABSORB QUEEN.” He swiped the Jack of Diamonds. “FUSION JACK.”

 

Golden energy slid across his body as he shifted into his Jack Form.

 

Leangle pulled the Queen of Clubs and Jack of Clubs from his card holster. He swiped the cards through his staff. “ABSORB; FUSION.”

 

Golden energy slid across his body as he shifted into his Jack Form.

 

Leangle pulled three cards from his belt and slid them through his staff: “RUSH; BLIZZARD; POISON”

 

The Rider twirled his mace like a propeller, which pulsed with icy energy and mists of poison.

 

Leangle bolted forward and swung the mace, which bashed through Unit 42’s chest with an explosion of ice and smog. The blast hurled the Neo-Undead backward, and he crashed onto the ground as his energy overloaded and exploded.

 

Kamen Rider Garren swiped two cards through the slit on his blaster. “DROP; FIRE”

 

The Rider’s wings snapped open as he shot upward. He dove with a flying sidekick that energized with fiery energy, and the kick bashed Unit 88 with massive bursts of spark and flame.

 

The Neo-Undead crashed with an explosion that tore the creature to pieces.

 

Garren landed alongside Leangle. “Good work.”

 

“Thanks…” Leangle said as he lowered his staff and mace.

 

“Come on,” Garren said as he moved to his cycle. “Let’s head after Zayden…”

 

The Riders hopped onto their motorcycles and drove deeper into the tunnels.

 

***

 

Aginor unleashed another wave of Neo-Undead at Blade and Chalice.

 

Chalice hopped and landed with a chop that tore a Neo-Undead in half. Blade lunged with a duo of diagonal swings, up and down, that ripped a Neo-Undead apart.

 

Ishar hissed and pounced at the Riders. He grabbed their helmets, and his palms ebbed with yellow light that thrashed their armor with bursts of spark. Chalice and Blade side-kicked the villain, knocking him backward.

 

Kamen Rider Blade attached his Rouze Absorber to his gauntlet.

 

Chalice grabbed Blade by the arm. “Ken…your King Form.”

 

“It’s OK now, Zayden,” Blade said. “Trust me.”

 

He slid the Queen of Spades into the Absorber. “ABSORB QUEEN.” He swiped the King of Spades. “EVOLUTION KING.”

 

His cards shot from his buckler, circled his body, and splashed against his armor with bursts of golden light. He shifted into his King Form and armed his massive sword.

 

Chalice stepped back. He felt nothing. The Joker within his artificial soul stayed dormant.

 

The Rider swiped the King of Hearts through his buckler. “EVOLUTION.”

 

His cards shot from his belt, circled his body, and splashed across his armor, which rippled into Wild Form.

 

Kamen Rider Blade slid five cards into his sword: “SPADE TEN; JACK; QUEEN; KING; ACE — ROYAL STRAIGHT FLUSH”

 

Chalice swiped his Wild Card through his bow: “WILD”

 

Five energy fields slid into place between Blade and Ishar. Blade charged through the fields. They splashed against his armor one-by-one while energizing his sword. Kamen Rider Blade dashed past the monster and swung his sword through a streak of golden energy that tore through the villain.

 

Chalice triggered his bow and fired a pulse of jade-tinted energy that punctured through Ishar.

 

Ishar staggered backward as secondary explosions tore through his body. He collapsed to his knees.

 

Above, Garren and Leangle throttled into the chamber, arced through the air and landed in the pit. They skid their cycles to a halt, hopped off, and ran to Blade and Chalice.

 

“Ken! Zayden!” Garren shouted.

 

Slolwy, Ishar climbed to his feet as Neo-Undead and Vorlorcs regrouped around him.

 

The four Riders stepped into fighting stances and prepared to attack.

 

But before they could, Aginor stepped in between the two forces and lifted his hands to both sides. “That’s quite enough…”

 

Chalice held his blade back and charged. Aginor swung his hand and fired a wave of invisible energy that bashed the Rider off his feet.

 

“I said that’s enough,” Aginor said. “Save your energy for the Dark One’s return. The Immortal Blade has his role to play. As do I…Let’s not waste time with petty squabbles. I have what I need. You may leave.”

 

Garren aimed his blaster and fired.

 

Aginor lifted his hand, and the bullets sparked harmlessly against his palm. The villain tightened his hand into a fist; sparks thrashed Garren’s armor and hurled him off his feet.

 

“You Riders don’t listen, it seems…” Aginor said.

 

Blade stepped into a defensive stance. “You’re a Forsaken…What have you done?”

 

Nearby, Chalice climbed to his feet. “Ken…he’s building an army…”

 

Aginor smiled. “It is what I do. Now, as I told you, I have what I need. You are free to go. In fact, I insist.”

 

Blade shifted his grip. “We’re not going anywhere.”

 

Aginor chuckled. “You’re fighting the wrong fight.”

 

“The wrong fight?” Blade said. “You started this fight! You kidnapped Zayden. You destroyed his home. You hurt Cassie and Ava.”

 

“You have greater things to worry about,” Aginor said. “As the Dark One’s Seals break, bubbles of evil will rise from the cracks in his prison.”

 

Blade tilted his head. “Bubbles…?”

 

“Increased possessions, the rise of the Shaded, demons bursting into physical form…that’s all just the beginning. The first signs,” Aginor said. “Soon you will see even greater eruptions of darkness across your whole world. By the time the Dark One rises, by the time I bend the knee and grant him his army, you will have already lost.”

 

Aginor thrust his hand towards the ground with a massive eruption of light that nearly blinded the Riders. They staggered backward, and when their vision cleared, they saw no sign of Aginor of his creations.

 

***

 

Ken and the others returned to Bobby’s home after the battle. Cassie and Ava waited in the living room, and Ava’s face lit up when she saw Zayden enter.

 

“Zayden!” she shouted as she ran to him with a hug.

 

Zayden hugged her back. A subtle smile crossed his face. “Ava…” He looked to the girl’s mother. “Cassie…I’m glad you’re both alright.”

 

Cassie took Ava upstairs so Megan and Bobby could speak with the riders in the living room. Zayden finished telling them about Aginor, and Ken told Zayden everything he knew about the Forsaken and the Dark One.

 

Zayden stood and looked out the window. “I’m tired…of being manipulated.”

 

“We all are…” Ken said as he walked to his friend. “But at least now we know what we’re up against. These Forsaken…they’re the real enemy. And now that I’m…cured…we can fight them. Together.”

 

Zayden lowered his gaze. “I’m tired of fighting…”

 

Ken placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “I know…But this isn’t about fighting. It’s about protecting people. You heard what Aginor said…as bad as things have been…they’re going to get worse. We have the power to help people…and we have a responsibility to use that power. That’s part of what makes us human.”

 

Benjamin leaned against the entryway and crossed his arms over his chest. “How can we trust anything Aginor said?”

 

Nicolas shook his head. “We can’t. Not if they had something to do with BOARD and the Undead.”

 

Megan turned on her computer. “This goes beyond BOARD and the Undead…” she said. “Ken, I’ve been researching these Forsaken since you came back. I think Aginor was right. Things have been getting worse since the Second Sabbath. Demon attacks. Monster attacks. Supernatural deaths. And not just in Angel Grove.”

 

Nicolas knitted his brow. “How do we fight against something that big?”

 

Suddenly, Megan’s monitor crackled with static, and the lights started to flicker.

 

Zayden staggered and nearly collapsed, but leaned against the wall for support. Images flashed through his mind. War. Pestilence. Famine. Death. The Human Undead within him shared a connection to supernatural forces, and that connection shared visions with Zayden for the first time.  

 

“The apocalypse…” he whispered. “It’s coming.”

 

***

 

Aginor regrouped with Ishar, the Vorlorcs and Neo-Undead deeper in the Vorlock tunnels. The Forsaken hummed softly to himself as he moved towards one of the hidden chambers.

 

The villain slid open a massive stone door, revealing ranks upon ranks of new creatures. Each looked like the Joker Undead, but white, with red visors and highlights. 

 

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Aginor lifted his hand, which pulsed with dark light. The Albino Jokers stirred with power and howled, with a shockwave that rumbled through the Vorlock caverns.

 

The Forsaken smiled. “Thank you, Zayden…for helping me to unlock my grandest of creations.”

 

***

 

PART THREE: Greed

 

Zomari lunged and slashed at Simon, who leapt backward to gain distance. The ranger swung his blade and fired a wave of black light, which cut through Zomari and whipped him backward.

 

Simon charged at his fallen foe.

 

But Zomari snapped to his feet and lifted his hand. He spread his palm wide, and an eye opened within the palm. The eye flared with yellow light that drove Simon to his knees.

 

Vertigo washed through the ranger’s mind and nearly knocked him into unconsciousness. But he stabbed his sword into the ground to keep from falling.

 

Zomari stalked towards his fallen opponent. “I’m not just a typical Shaded like you…I come with a little extra demon upgrade. You like?”

 

Dozens of eyes opened and twirled around Simon. The eyes seared into his soul, piercing into the darkest parts of his mind and spirit.

 

The ranger groaned with pain and tightened his grip on his sword.

 

“Not…like…this…” he whispered.

 

“What’s that?” Zomari asked with a smile. “Are you begging?”

 

Simon closed his eyes. “I don’t beg. And I’m not going to let an ass-hat like you stop me…”

 

The ranger snapped his arms wide with a TK burst that hurled Zomari off his feet.

 

The Shaded crashed and skid across the ground, near creeks of molten gold.

 

Slowly, Zomari used his sword for balance and climbed to his feet. “Is that all the power you have, Simon? I heard you turned yourself into a demonic weapon…turns out it was a rather small weapon, it seems.”

 

Simon narrowed his black eyes. “You think you can taunt me? You?”

 

The ranger stretched out his arm and tightened his hand into a fist. Dozens of damned souls howled from the creeks of molten gold. Simon used his power to grasp their souls and siphon their spiritual energy. The souls bled power that poured into Simon, igniting his aura with a flare of black light, tinted red.

 

Black wind howled around the ranger, and he glared at Zomari with a twisted smile, and mad eyes.

 

“I haven’t come this far to be stopped by someone as insignificant as you…” Simon said, his voice hollow.

 

The ranger tightened his grip on his sword, and his spiritual pressure shook the entire Fourth Circle of Hell.

 

He extended his arm and held his blade pointed to the side. The weapon glowed with dark power that siphoned the souls of the damned trapped beneath the currents of gold.

 

“Look at me…” Simon said. “What can you, an insignificant bug, do against a force like this?”

 

Simon swung his blade, hurling a massive shockwave of black energy. The shockwave tore through Zomari and burst through the mine with a massive explosion. The explosion tore Zomari’s spiritual body to shreds, which vaporized into the black wind.

 

Simon breathed heavily and lowered his sword. Still in his Shaded form, he smirked with pride.

 

“I want…more,” he said.

 

The ranger stabbed his blade into the ground and started to absorb the very energies of the Fourth Circle of Hell itself.

 

To be continued…Chapter 24