Shaded Relics: Chapter 24

The Demon Bird

 

PART ONE: The Fifth Circle

 

Simon’s every footstep burnt the ground of Hell. He walked slowly and held his black katana at his side. Moridyn’s astral form walked beside the ranger.

 

“Do you realize what you’ve done?” Moridyn asked. “You’ve absorbed the energies of an entire Circle of Hell.”

 

Simon said nothing. In his Shaded form, he moved ahead with a feral grin. “Do you even know what that means?”

 

“Of course I don’t,” Moridyn said. “It’s never happened before.”

 

“You sound afraid,” Simon said.

 

“Fear is wise. Fear is caution,” Moridyn said. “If you are to escape from Hell, you cannot become reckless. You need your fear.”

 

“I’m tired of your lectures,” Simon said as he stepped into thick woods. Twisted, black trees reached into crimson skies. “What is this place?”

 

“The Fifth Circle. Anger,” Moridyn said. “Can’t you tell? The very air reeks of fury.”

 

Suddenly, black, scabbed arms reached from the ground and grasped at Simon’s ankles.

 

The ranger plunged his blade into the ground with a burst of black light that incinerated the creatures. He smiled with satisfaction.

 

“Well…” Simon said. “That was fun…”

 

“Keep moving,” Moridyn said as he walked forward.

 

After several minutes, they stepped onto a pier of stone, with two demonic statutes at its edge. The pier looked out upon a river of sludge. The souls of the damned thrashed in the river and screamed with anger and rage.

 

“This is what happens to those who succumb to anger in the Fifth Circle,” Moridyn said. “As you can see…this will be the most difficult Circle for you to pass. I suggest you bury your emotions, deeply, and without hesitation. Take the anger that rages in your soul and-”

 

Simon narrowed his eyes. “I thought I told you to back off with the therapy sessions, you immortal dick.”

 

Moridyn lifted his hand. A giant, hunched back rose from the river. The back heaved as the beast breathed, submerged almost entirely within the water.

 

“Behold Phlegyas, Guardian of the Fifth Circle,” Moridyn said. “He will grant passage across the River Styx.”

 

Moridyn stepped onto the creature’s back, and Simon followed. The beast started to move through the sludge, and Simon grasped onto a protruding bone for support.

 

“What kind of monster is this?” Simon asked.

 

“Phlegyas was the demi-god son of Ares, God of War,” Moridyn explained. “He fell from grace after being killed by Apollo, the God of the Sun. After death, Phlegyas was turned into a demonic giant and condemned to the Fifth Circle as punishment, for burning down the Apollonian Temple of Delphi.”

 

The back heaved, nearly knocking Simon into the river.

 

“Best be careful,” Moridyn said. “I’m afraid you’ll find this trip quite…bumpy.”

 

“What do you mean-” Pain shot through his head.

 

Simon staggered and collapsed to his knees. He felt the anger and rage of every damned soul within the River Styx, and the feelings overwhelmed him. Further, he felt his own anger and rage intensify.

 

The bullies who picked on him as a kid — he pictured himself punching their faces until their noses caved into their skulls. Azmodai and Madelene — he thought of burning them for condemning his entire existence.

 

Anger.

 

Rage.

 

His mind flashed back to days after the Second Countdown to Destruction:

 

“Ha!” Simon smashed a cross punch against the punching bag. “Ha!” Again. “Ha!” Again. “Ha!”

 

The teen was in a small, empty barn near the Hayate Way dojo. He set up the barn as a practice room with punching bags, weights, and other pieces of equipment, to have a place to work out alone.

 

The shed’s door opened slowly, and Tommy stepped in. He leaned against the wall and crossed his arms over his chest. He watched with concern as his young friend punched the bag with growing intensity.

 

“You’ve been holed up in here all day...” Tommy said. “Wanna talk about it?”

 

“Ha!” Simon’s punch knocked the bag off its chain and sent it smashing against the wall.

 

The teen stood and caught his breath. He used the back of his hand to wipe the sweat from his brow. “Not especially.”

 

“You missed the funeral,” Tommy said.

 

“Which one?!” Simon said louder than he meant to. He shook his head and walked over to the fallen bag. “How many of us died? How many people died?” Simon lifted the bag and started to hang it back up. “I felt them all die. I felt them!”

 

He gave up trying to hang the bag and let it drop onto the ground. “You have no idea what that was like...”

 

“Tell me...” Tommy said. “Talk to me...”

 

“The fear in some of them,” Simon said. “Kaitlin wasn’t ready to die, and she had to feel...” a tear streamed down his cheek. “She had to feel a damn snake literally eat through her body. And Sion...watching his best friend die, and having to sacrifice himself. The Turbos...dying just to prove their worth. Kimberly...dying, knowing that her son will have to grow up without a mom.

 

"It's too much to handle," he continued. "The irony is, I used to fantasize about this life, about being a Ranger. But now...it's too real. There's been too much pain. And I don't know how to handle it...but what I do know...is that I won’t let anything like this ever happen again.”

 

Simon rolled his hands into fists, and his body trembled with rage. “Ever.”

 

Simon screamed and collapsed to all fours. His anger intensified and threated to consume him. He nearly jumped into the river, to fight and maul everything — to break everything! Damn it all! His stupid life! His stupid existence! All of it, for what?! For what?!

 

Pain. Only pain. Loss. Anger. Self-loathing.

 

Moridyn grabbed Simon by the shoulder to stop him from jumping. “Don’t,” Moridyn said. “Control yourself, or you will-”

 

Simon knocked Moridyn aside and jumped into the River Styx.

 

***

 

PART TWO: Dark Trap

 

DaiShi sat on his throne within the RinJuken Akugata dojo. Young Evan stood at his side and shifted uncomfortably. The boy felt nervous at the sight of their guests: Quester Gai and Quester Rei, demons augmented with high-tech battle gears.

 

“Ashu…” DaiShi said. “I have called you here to serve the Great Beast of Hell.”

 

Gai snorted a laugh. “The Mogralord is dead…”

 

“And I am his heir…” DaiShi said. He leaned forward and placed his hands on his knees. “The Ashu once served him, proudly. I ask you to do so again.”

 

Rei waved his hand dismissively. “We are no longer Ashu. We are Questers…”

 

DaiShi narrowed his eyes. “I have no interest in what you call yourselves. I have need of something: The Demon Tablet. You will find it for me.”

 

Gai laughed. “Will we, now? The Questers serve no one.”

 

“You’ve developed…a reputation,” DaiShi said. “I have heard you are skilled with tracking and obtaining artifacts of power. Do this for me, and I will reward you greatly.”

 

“Hmph.” Gai shook his head. “Well, we are feeling hungry. Give us the boy, and we’ll negotiate…over a feast of his bones!”

 

Rei laughed at the joke.

 

DaiShi tightened his hand into a fist. Invisible energy strangled the Questers and forced them to their knees.

 

“Do not mock me a second time, or I will snap your heads from your necks,” DaiShi said. “You call yourselves Questers? You have interest in these relics called Precious? So do others. Gajah. Dark Shadow. Ryuuon. Perhaps I will reach out to them instead.”

 

DaiShi released his grasp.

 

Gai rubbed his neck and grumbled as he climbed to his feet. “Those fools…”

 

“Why ask for our help?” Rei asked as he stood. “You have the power of the RinJuken.”

 

“I have warriors. I need infiltrators,” DaiShi said. “And…let us not forget. We have common enemies…”

 

“Rangers…” Gai grumbled.

 

DaiShi nodded. “They stood together during what the mortals called the Second Countdown to Destruction. Now…they are fractured and hunt one another. They are their own greatest weakness, which we will exploit by doing something that they cannot.”

 

“And what’s that?” Gai asked.

 

DaiShi’s mouth twisted into a smile. “Unite.”

 

***

 

Yaiba and Shizuka kneeled before Gekkou in the Dark Shadow lair.

 

Yaiba lowered his head. “Master Gekkou…I have learned that the Questers are seeking a great relic known as the Demon Tablet.”

 

“Those demon beasts seek nothing of concern,” Gekkou said.

 

“Master…The Titans have interfered with our every venture. Allow me to seek the Demon Tablet, and harness its power, in the name of Dark Shadow.”

 

“You would unleash the powers of the Great Beast of Hell?” Gekkou asked.

 

“Yes,” Yaiba said.

 

“No…” Gekkou said.

 

“But if the Questers-”

 

“No!” Gekkou shouted with a flap of his wings. “Forget about that power. Now…Leave me…”

 

Yaiba bowed deeper. He stood and left the hut, and Shizuka followed.

 

“Yaiba…what did you mean? What power?” she asked.

 

“The power of the Demon Tablet,” he said.

 

“But what is that?” Shizuka asked.

 

“The scripture of the Mogralord, the Great Beast of Hell,” Yaiba said. “To harness its power is to become a force of darkness and destruction.”

 

“But if Gekkou says no…doesn’t that mean no?” Shizuka asked.

 

“I need that power to defeat the Titans,” Yaiba said. “My plan is already in action.”

 

***

 

The Angel Grove Museum of Mythology received a mailer: an invitation to the Hermit Ravine Springs. According to the mailer, the owner of the springs wanted the museum to send a team to visit. The springs claimed to possess artifacts of interest.

 

Kelsey saw the invitation as an opportunity for a vacation. Shane and Max didn’t want the entire team to go; they wanted at least half the team on standby. So Kelsey and Jake decided to travel to the springs, and they dragged along Eiji.

 

The three rangers walked through the woods and approached a wooden bridge.

 

“This is it!” Kelsey said as she hurried towards the bridge. “Come on!”

 

Jake shook his head as he looked around. “Are there really hot springs here?”

 

Eiji nodded. “The really good springs are deep in the mountains.”

 

Jake arced an eyebrow. “How do you know that?”

 

“I’m well-traveled,” Eiji said. “I killed a wendigo near a hot springs like this once.”

 

“That’s…pleasant,” Jake said. “I didn’t think your barrier magick worked against creatures like that.”

 

“No, but silver knives do wonders,” Eiji said.

 

***

 

Yaiba and Shizuka walked through the Hermit Ravine Springs. They moved towards a small shrine: Three small stones surrounding a larger stone, all connected with rope and engraved with kanji.

 

“I recovered the Demon Tablet weeks ago and hid it here,” Yaiba said.

 

Shizuka arced an eyebrow. “Why?”

 

“I learned that the demons sought the stone. But I wanted its power for myself,” he said. “It happens every 12 years. Tonight, on this mountain, a moon will rise and split in three. When the three moons shine on the Demon Tablet, all within the Hermit Ravine will die.”

 

“Then the Titans…” Shizuka said.

 

“I’ve already arranged for them to come,” he said. “All that’s left is…”

 

He unsheathed his sword and slashed through the center stone with a burst of spark. The stone shattered into pieces, revealing the Demon Tablet.

 

“That’s it?” Shizuka asked. “It’s an old piece of rock.”

 

“Wait for the three moons to rise. Then you will see…” he said.

 

***

 

Gekkou snapped open his eyes. He felt his energy wane. “Something has disturbed the Hermit Ravine…”

 

Gekkou chose the Hermit Ravine Springs as the Dark Shadow’s holy ground after forming the organization. As such, he maintained a link to the mystical properties of the land.

 

“Yaiba…” he whispered.

 

The Youkai flew from his pedestal but crashed onto the floor. He fluttered his wings, matted with blood. “Injured…Already…How?”

 

The villain flapped his wings, ignored the pain, and flew towards the Hermit Ravine.

 

***

 

Max carried his laptop into the SGS situation room, where Shane, Will and Rose waited.

 

“Guys, we may have a problem,” Max said as he set his laptop on the monitoring table.

 

“What is it?” Rose asked.

 

 “I analyzed the letter from the hot springs. It seemed a little…suspicious,” Max said. He swiped the images on his laptop. “This is what I found. The ink matched the scrolls used by Dark Shadow.”

 

“So that letter was some kind of trap?” Shane asked.

 

Will narrowed his eyes. “Kelsey and the others…they’re in trouble.”

 

***

 

Kelsey and the others walked along the creek in the mountains.

 

Jake sighed as they crossed the rugged terrain. “Are you sure this is the right way? The road stopped.”

 

“It should be fine…” Eiji said as he glanced at his map. “I think…”

 

Suddenly, they heard ruffling come from the tress to their side. Gekkou flew from the branches and crashed to the ground.

 

Eiji arced an eyebrow. “Is that a blue owl?”

 

“He’s hurt!” Kelsey said as she ran to the Youkai’s side. 

 

“It’s a blue owl,” Eiji said.

 

Weakened, Gekkou opened his eyes. He recognized Kelsey immediately. The Yellow Ranger…I can use this.

 

Gently, Kelsey lifted the bird into her arms. “It’s OK…It looks like you hurt your wing.”

 

Kelsey didn’t notice the owl’s eyes flash with gold. Kage Ninpo. Oboro Kage...

 

Kelsey and Gekkou shimmered from sight.

 

Eiji narrowed his eyes. “Kelsey…”

 

He ran to the spot where she vanished, and Jake followed.

 

“She’s gone…” Jake said.

 

“It can’t be,” Eiji said. “She was just here.”

 

***

 

Shane, Will, and Rose walked onto the bridge that led to the springs.

 

“Be careful,” Shane told his teammates. “We’re probably walking into a trap.”

 

Rose nodded. “Dark Shadow might be waiting for us…”

 

***

 

Kelsey didn’t notice Gekkou shift their location. She leaned down and bandaged the bird’s wings. “There you go,” she said. “Such a pretty bird…you should be all better now.”

 

She stood and knitted her brow. “Where did Eiji and Jake go?”

 

Gekkou looked towards the ranger. “I am very grateful to you, miss.”

 

Kelsey opened her eyes wide and looked to the bird. “You…” She crouched next to Gekkou. “Did you just talk?”

 

“Mmm,” Gekkou said. “I am no owl. I am a spirit, in owl form, the master of this forest. The last of my kind, I used its mystical energies to sustain me.” The villain glanced at Kelsey. “Does this not surprise you?”

 

“I’ve seen weirder things,” she said.

 

“I see…” Gekkou said. “Then this conversation will go quickly. I need a favor…”

 

Kelsey nodded. “OK…what is it?”

 

“I need you to take me to the summit of the Hermit Ravine,” he said.

 

***

 

Eiji and Jake tried to contact Kelsey through their Overdrive Trackers, but mystical energy blocked their signals. They walked through the woods and shouted her name as they searched for her.

 

“Wait…” Eiji said. “Didn’t we pass this way before?”

 

Jake nodded. “I think you’re right. Something’s weird about this mountain…”

 

***

 

Will sighed as he followed Rose and Shane up the mountain. “We haven’t seen any sign of Kelsey…or Dark Shadow.”

 

“No,” Shane said. “That’s not true.”

 

Shane pulled out a tracker chip and snapped it towards the branches. The chip smacked Shizuka, and she fell from the tree. She crashed and rolled into a crouched stance.

 

“Well…hi?” she said.

 

“You’ve been watching us, Shizuka,” Shane said. “Why didn’t you attack?”

 

Rose stepped closer to the villain. “What’s Dark Shadow up to?”

 

“How would I know something like that,” she said as she ran off. “Later!”

 

She leapt into the distance, and the rangers followed.

 

***

 

Kelsey carried Gekkou through the woods. “Is this it right ahead?”

 

“Mmm.” Gekkou said.

 

“How are you feeling?” she asked.

 

“I’m…fine,” he said.

 

“There’s a hot spring nearby,” she said. “Maybe we can go in…it might help heal your wounds.”

 

Gekkou thought of himself and Kelsey in the hot springs, and he shifted uncomfortably.

 

This girl is quite simple,” he whispered.

 

“What?” Kelsey asked.

 

“Oh! I said you are a beautiful, kind girl,” Gekkou said.

 

“Oh, thank you,” Kelsey said with a smile.

 

***

 

Shizuka leapt across the treetops to escape from Shane, Rose and Will. “Titans!” she shouted with annoyance. “I’m not fighting today!”

 

She landed in a clearing and looked up — to face Eiji and Jake. “Oh…no.”

 

Jake knitted his brow. “Shizuka. What are you doing here?”

 

She turned to run away, but Shane, Rose and Will ran to the scene to block her path.

 

Shizuka furrowed her brow with annoyance. “Oh…what will I do, what will I do…

 

She pulled pebbles from her pockets and tossed them to the ground. The pebbles rose and took shape to form Karths, provided by High Priest Gajah weeks ago.

 

The rangers armed their morphers.

 

“Overdrive! Start up!” They slid their trackers across their arms and sparked their morph into Titans.

 

The Karths armed their scythes and charged to attack. Titan Red swung his fists and bashed through a group of Karths before they could attack.

 

Titan Silver armed his Drive Detector and swung wide, slashing a trio of Karths with bursts of spark that hurled them backward. He chopped a Karth to the ground, and then swung upward, slashing a Karth with a burst of spark.

 

Titan Blue armed his blaster and leapt through the air. He triggered orange energy bursts that blasted through Karths with showers of spark.

 

The Blue Ranger landed and kicked his way past a group of Karths. He maneuvered towards his leader and round-kicked a grunt’s head.

 

“Chief, why is Dark Shadow here?” Titan Blue asked.

 

“Your whole trip was a trap,” Titan Red said as he kicked a Karth to the ground.

 

A Karth chopped its scythe at Titan Black. The Black Ranger grabbed the grunt’s wrist, twisted its arm behind its back, and kicked the grunt off its feet.

 

“Where’s Kelsey?” he asked.

 

Titan Silver slashed through a pair of Karths. “She vanished.”

 

“What?!” Titan Black said as he smashed his elbow against a Karth’s face.

 

Shizuka launched a flurry of kicks that Titan Pink dodged. The Pink Ranger ducked beneath a kick, rose to full height, and snapped a crescent kick the ninja ducked to avoid.

 

Shizuka stepped back and armed her daggers. “Take this!”

 

She chopped through streaks of energy that slashed Titan Pink with bursts of spark, whipping her backward.

 

***

 

Kelsey carried Gekkou deeper into the mountains. She stopped when she reached a clearing, decorated with a single shrine of four stones, connected with rope. The middle stone looked broken, with a tablet sitting on top.

 

“We’re here…”  Kelsey said.

 

Gekkou looked ahead. “I knew it…Someone has tampered with the grounds. Miss…can you do me one more favor?”

 

“Sure,” Kelsey said.

 

“That tablet…is poisoning this land. Will you put that mound onto that stand, and place these seals on it?” Gekkou asked. He pulled two paper seals from his feathers. “It is an important ceremony for my forest.”

 

“Sure,” Kelsey said. She set Gekkou aside and walked towards the broken shrine.

 

Suddenly, explosions tore across the ground in front of the ranger. She covered her eyes from the sparks, and when she lowered her arm, she saw Yaiba step in front of the shrine.

 

“You will not touch this mound…” he said.

 

“Yaiba…” Kelsey took a step back.

 

The villain unsheathed his sword. “Prepare yourself.”

 

The villain charged to attack. He swung a flurry of strikes the ranger dodged. She pulled out her Overdrive Tracker and used it block a sword swing while swiping across the blade.

 

“Start up!” She morphed into Titan Yellow and took a step back.

 

Yaiba lunged and swung wide. But Titan Yellow somersaulted over the villain.

 

She landed behind Yaiba and snapped her weapon into blade mode. “Drive Defender!”

 

The opponents lunged and clashed blades with bursts of spark. Yaiba unsheathed his second blade and dual wielded, slashing and hacking at the Yellow Ranger.

 

She twirled her blade to parry most blows. But a double strike slipped past her defense and slashed her with a burst of spark, whipping her backward. She crashed and tumbled across the ground.

 

Gekkou flapped open his wings. “Kage Ninpo! Utsushimi Bunshin!

 

The villain fired a flurry of paper slips that twirled around Yaiba and thrashed his armor with bursts of spark. Yaiba slashed through the paper scrolls. But they kept whipping across the wind and slashing his armor.

 

Yaiba growled with annoyance. “This is Gekkou!”

 

“Hurry!” Gekkou shouted to Titan Yellow. “Return to the mound! Or a great disaster will occur!”

 

Titan Yellow ran past Yaiba and dashed towards the mound.

 

Yaiba spotted Gekkou and snapped a volley of shuriken. A throwing star stabbed his chest with a burst of spark that knocked him backward.

 

The villain turned and snapped a chain, which whipped around Titan Yellow and pinned her arms to her sides. The ninja pulled Titan Yellow to the ground, and the impact knocked her from her armor with a burst of yellow light.

 

Yaiba snapped another chain that wrapped around Gekkou, and he whipped the Youkai to the ground next to Kelsey.

 

Gekkou struggled against the chains. “So…you were the one who defiled my land, Yaiba! If I wasn’t injured, I would crush you…”

 

“I needed the mystical energies of this land,” Yaiba said. “It is too late to stop me now. Let’s wait for the moon, together.”

 

***

 

The sun started to set. Titan Black chopped through an x-pattern that hacked a pair of grunts to the ground.

 

Titan Blue slashed through a Karth and side-kicked the grunt off its feet.

 

Titan Silver spun with a wide slash, hacking a group of grunts with bursts of spark that whipped them backward.

 

The Red Ranger parried a scythe and slashed the Karth to the ground. He spun and swung wide, slashing the last grunt with a burst of spark.

 

The Rangers regrouped and surrounded Shizuka.

 

Titan Red aimed his blade at the villain. “Shizuka! Tell us what you’re up to.”

 

Shizuka’s eyes darted back and forth. “Five against one…I can’t win against those odds, can I. So, time to run!”

 

She tossed a smoke bomb to the ground with a flash of spark and smoke. When the smoke cleared, the Rangers saw no sign of Shizuka.

 

But Titan Silver heard her rustle through the trees in the distance.

 

“This way,” Titan Silver said as he ran into the woods.

 

The rest of the Rangers followed.

 

***

 

Yaiba tied Kelsey and Gekkou around two posts near the mound.

 

“In 15 minutes, the three moons will appear…” Yaiba said. “When that happens, the power from that tablet will kill everyone in the Hermit Ravine.”

 

Kelsey knitted her brow and looked to Gekkou. “Is that true?”

 

Yaiba laughed softly as he turned to his captives. “Don’t you know who you speak with, Titan Ranger? That Youkai is the leader of Dark Shadow, Maboroshi no Gekkou.”

 

“It can’t be…” Kelsey said.

 

“Yaiba, listen!” Gekkou shouted. “You don’t understand the true power of that tablet! It contains the powers that gave birth to the Great Beast of Hell, the Mogralord himself! You cannot toy with that kind of power!”

 

“You speak of the power that can destroy the world…” Yaiba said. He snapped open his faceplate, revealing his metallic face, with yellow eyes and a grilled mouth. “I must see that power.”

 

“Yaiba!” a voice shouted from nearby. The villain looked to see Shizuka run onto the scene.

 

The Rangers followed at her heels.

 

Yaiba thrust his hand and fired an invisible energy burst, which sparked in front of the Rangers and kept them back.

 

“Welcome, Titans, to the Hermit Ravine,” Yaiba said.

 

“You’re here too…” Titan Red said.

 

Titan Black stepped forward. “Yaiba…What are you up to this time?”

 

Kelsey spotted her friends from behind the villains. “Will! Chief!”

 

“Kelsey!” Titan Black shouted. He tightened his grip on his sword. “Yaiba, you bastard!”

 

Shizuka looked to the posts and noticed Gekkou, chained and trapped. “Master Gekkou…Why is Master Gekkou…?”

 

“Focus on the Titans,” Yaiba said.

 

The villain stretched his arms. “Kage Ninpo! Paper Crane Blizzard!”

 

Dozens of paper cranes formed out of shadow energy and shot towards the Rangers. The barrage slashed their armor with bursts of spark that sent them staggering backward.

 

The villain held his hand forward. “Kage Ninpo! Yami Issen!

 

He formed a blue seal of energy, etched with kanji. He slashed through the seal with a streak of blue energy that struck the Rangers with bursts of spark, hurling them backward.

 

Yaiba aimed his sword towards the fallen Rangers. “You will not get in my way.”

 

Titan Red armed his blade. “Go!”

 

The Red Ranger rushed towards his opponents, and the others followed.

 

The Rangers swarmed around Yaiba and Shizuka with volleys of sword swings. Yaiba twirled his blades, and Shizuka twirled her daggers, parrying the strikes with bursts of spark. Metal clanged against metal, echoing throughout the ravine.

 

Above, the clouds cleared, and the full-moon appeared in the sky. The moon blurred, as if shifting into three, and shined upon the Demon Tablet. The light illuminated the runes, which glowed with dark power.

 

The Tablet pulsed with energy that seeped into the ground. The energy traveled across the ground’s connection with Gekkou, and poured into the Youkai. Gekkou screamed with pain as his body flared with a black aura.

 

The aura expanded with an explosion of power that transformed Gekkou and caused him to grow giant. Now a demon/Youkai hybrid, Gekkou spread its wings and screeched with power.

 

bou-vi-demonbird

 

With merely a fraction of its power, the tablet had transformed Gekkou into an engine of destruction. A beast.

 

The creature opened its beak and fired a torrent of fiery energy. The blast exploded around the Rangers and Dark Shadow with massive bursts of spark and flame that hurled them through the air.

 

Slowly, the Rangers climbed to their feet.

 

Titan Red looked to Titan Silver. “Silver, help Yellow.”

 

“On it,” Titan Silver said as he ran towards Kelsey.

 

The Red Ranger flipped open his Overdrive Tracker. “Voyager, undock!”

 

The Rangers summoned their newest zord, the Drive Voyager, a carrier combination of five smaller zords.

 

Gogo0

 

The Drive Voyager rumbled onto the scene. Titan Red, Titan Blue, Titan Black, and Titan Pink rushed into their cockpits.

 

“BattleFleet, assemble!” Titan Red shouted. He pressed the “robo” key on his tracker: “FUSION SYSYEM, ON! VOYAGER FORMATION!”

 

The carrier disassembled and combined to form a massive robo.

 

“BattleFleet Megazord!” Titan Red shouted. “First gear, in!”

 

bou-gg-daivoyager

 

Gekkou flapped its wings with gusts of wind that bashed the Megazord, knocking it back several steps. The winds thrashed the Megazord’s armor with massive bursts of spark.

 

The villain snapped its wings, shot forward, and tackled the Megazord with bursts of spark. The impact knocked the Megazord off its feet, and the robo crashed onto its back.

 

Gekkou stabbed its beak against the Megazord, repeatedly, with massive bursts of spark. The impact shook the Rangers within their cockpit.

 

“I won’t stand losing,” Titan Red said.

 

He gripped his controls; the Megazord swung a punch that bashed Gekkou and knocked him backward. The BattleFleet Megazord climbed slowly to its feet. 

 

“All cannons!” Titan Red shouted. “Fire!”

 

The robo’s cannons fired energy darts that stabbed towards Gekkou. The villain floated into the air, swung its wings, and swatted the blasts back at the robo. The blasts exploded against the BattleFleet Megazord with massive bursts of spark. 

 

“It didn’t work!” Titan Black shouted.

 

Titan Pink looked at her readout. “That Demon Tablet…its Hazard Level is off the chart!”

 

“And Gekkou’s absorbing its power!” Titan Blue said.

 

Max spoke to the team through their communicators. “Guys, that thing is getting stronger. If it gets even a fraction of the power levels of the Mogralord…we’re pretty much screwed.”

 

***

 

Below, Yaiba started to walk from the scene as the wind howled around him.

 

Shizuka ran after him. “Yaiba! Gekkou…we have to help him.”

 

“Leave him be,” Yaiba said.

 

“But Yaiba!” Shizuka shouted as she grabbed the ninja’s arm.

 

Yaiba turned and slashed through a streak of blue energy, striking Shizuka with a burst of spark that dropped her to the ground. Injured, she crawled and looked up to watch Yaiba walk away.

 

“Yaiba…” she whispered.

 

Nearby, Titan Silver helped Kelsey from the post. A rogue flare shot from the giant battle and exploded around them, hurling them off their feet. They crashed and skid across the ground, and the impact knocked Titan Silver from his armor.

 

“Eiji…” Kelsey said as she crawled to her feet. “Thank you…”

 

She looked to see the Demon Tablet throb with shadow power. That energy bled into the sky and poured into Gekkou.

 

“We have to stop that tablet!” Kelsey shouted as the wind howled around them. “It’s the only way to cut off the bird’s power.”

 

“I don’t think that’s a bird,” Eiji said.

 

“You know what I mean!” she shouted. She tried to stand, but pain shot through her legs, pinning her down. She handed Eiji the seals from Gekkou. “Here…take these!”

 

Eiji nodded and took the paper slips.

 

“Wish me luck,” he said as he moved towards the tablet.

 

Above, Gekkou hovered in midair and flapped its wings, summoning gale-force winds that thrashed the BattleFleet Megazord with massive bursts of spark.

 

The demon bird opened its beak and fired bolts of flame that bashed against the Megazord with explosions of spark and fire.

 

Below, Eiji ran towards the Demon Tablet. He started lifting the broken mounds to seal the Tablet’s power. With all his strength, he shifted the stones into position.

 

Meanwhile, Gekkou spread its wings and fired tendrils of energy. The tendrils thrashed the Megazord with bursts of spark. Secondary explosions tore across the robo’s armor.

 

“Hang on!” Titan Red shouted.

 

Below, Kelsey crawled to the mound and helped Eiji. The wind blew, and rain started to pour in rushing torrents.

 

“Kelsey…stay back!” Eiji shouted over the wind.

 

“No!” Kelsey shouted. “I’m helping!”

 

They lifted two stones, placed them on the mound, and slid them towards each other. They struggled and pushed as hard as they could, their feet slipping against the mucky ground. 

 

They slid the stones together, and Eiji slapped the seals onto the rocks. The seals glowed with blue energy that enveloped the shrine.

 

The rain stopped.

 

The winds died.

 

And Gekkou crashed onto the ground with a thundering boom.

 

The beat climbed to its feet and screeched with madness.

 

Titan Pink looked to his leader. “He’s weakened.”

 

“BattleFleet Megazord!” Titan Red shouted. “Corkscrew Attack!”

 

The Megazord’s fists spun like drills and ignited with orange energy. The robo double-punched the monster with massive bursts of spark that hurled him backward.

 

Secondary explosions tore through Gekkou, and he exploded with bursts of flame, smoke, and feathers.

 

The blast knocked Gekkou into his true form, and he crashed onto the ground near Shizuka. He lay unmoving and bloody.

 

“Master Gekkou…” Shizuka said. She scooped the bird into her arms, and they vanished with swirls of wind.

 

***

 

The rangers regrouped at the mound and contained the center stone — and the Demon Tablet within.

 

Will leaned against the containment unit. “Let’s make sure no one ever opens this thing. Like...ever.”

 

Kelsey looked towards the forest, her gaze distant.

 

Will knitted his brow when he noticed. “What is it, Kelsey?”

 

She shook her head. “Nothing…I’m just wondering what happened. To Shizuka and Gekkou…”

 

“I’m sure we’ll see them again,” Will said. “Not that that’s a good thing…”

 

***

 

Max leaned back in his chair and sighed.

 

“Did you see that?” he asked. “That bird thing almost turned into a second Mogralord. What kind of power are the bad guys playing with?”

 

“Too much power,” Tommy Oliver said as he stepped from the shadows. “Do you know what to do?”

 

Max nodded. “I do…I don’t like it, but I do. When the time comes, I’ll blow every relic into the sky.”

 

***

 

The Questers watched an SGS caravan transport the Demon Tablet to the Bank, the storage facility for Precious collected by INET. The building looked like a massive globe of concrete, with no windows, on top of a multi-storied base. The globe itself extended as high as a skyscraper.

 

Quester Rei crossed his arms over his chest. “So what do we do? Blast our way in and carve through the guards?”

 

Gai snorted. “That would be satisfying, but no. Remember…we are Questers now. This work will take subtlety.”

 

They stepped backward and vanished.

 

***

 

PART THREE: Anger

 

Simon flared with black, red-tinted light as he splashed through the River Styx. He slashed and hacked every soul, spraying water and ichor in every direction.

 

His black sword flared with each strike.

 

Memories flashed through his mind.

 

Gao Red’s shoulders hunched as he tried to catch his breath. The cold rain splashed across his armor as a storm raged across Angel Grove’s night sky. The thunder echoed the anger inside him.

 

Rubble from a nearby building laid across the streets around him. Most of the people inside the building never made it out alive.

 

He tightened his grip on his dagger. The weapon dripped with the black ichor of his fallen opponent. The Red Ranger’s body was bruised and battered beneath his armor. He had not slept for two days.

 

Irony, he thought to himself. Incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs.

 

The irony is that I wanted this kind of life when I was younger, Gao Red thought to himself.

 

He never truly understood the violence involved. The pain. I think I liked it better when I had amnesia…and being a Ranger was just a dream…

 

Gao Red turned towards the fallen building as his heart sank. The people inside never stood a chance. If only he had moved faster.

 

The attack had started without warning in the heart of the storm. An Org shaped like an assembly of lightning rods had started the biggest rampage yet, blasting apart building by building.

 

Gao Red literally had to tear the monster apart to stop its carnage.

 

Simon swung through a wide slash that fired a torrent of power, ripping through the river and dozens of souls. The ranger chopped with a shockwave that surged with power.

 

He snapped around and sliced off a soul’s head.

 

He spun and chopped a soul from the neck to the waist.

 

Furious, he smashed his fist through a soul; the soul burst into fragments of dark light.

 

Shortly after becoming Hurricane Red, Simon sat at the edge of Bear Lake while gazing thoughtfully across the water.

 

“You can’t sneak up on an empath,” he said without turning around. Simon had an unexplainable mental ability that let him sense other peoples’ emotions.

 

“I know,” Tommy said as he walked forward and took a seat next to Simon.

 

The two sat in silence for a moment before Simon turned to his mentor. “So let me get this straight,” he said. “If the other students hadn’t disappeared, you never would have given me these powers…”

 

“I never said that, Simon,” Tommy said calmly. “You were always a candidate. I was hoping I’d never have to make a choice. That they wouldn’t come.”

 

“A candidate?” Simon asked with disbelief. “A candidate? You’ve been training me as your little toy soldier since I was a kid.”

 

“It wasn’t like that,” Tommy said, “and you know it. And remember, it was your idea to enroll in the school.”

 

Simon shook his head. “A candidate…either you don’t trust me or you don’t think I’m strong enough.”

 

“I do trust you,” Tommy said, “and it’s not about strength.”

 

Simon shook his head. He didn’t say another word while looking out upon the lake.

 

Grumbling, Phlegyas stood to full height, towering above the river. The creature stretched its arms and growled.

 

Simon looked up and narrowed his eyes at the monster. “Shut up…Shut up!”

 

He shot at Phlegyas through a comet of power.

 

Simon struggled to break free from his chains. “Do you really think I’ll fall for this? Do you really expect me to believe you’re my mother?!”

 

“Of course I do,” the Black Queen said. “Reach out with your feelings. Sense it. You feel the truth behind my words.”

 

Simon scowled at the woman and said nothing. He sensed her honesty and amusement, and it sickened him. She was telling the truth.

 

“Fine…” Simon said. “Let’s say I do believe you. So what? Am I supposed to join your little cult? I don’t think so. Even if you did give birth to me, you’re not my mother, you sick, twisted psychopath.”

 

“I understand your hesitation,” the Black Queen said. “I know that you-”

 

“Stop talking,” Simon said. “Stop talking now. I won’t let you manipulate me. Even if you are my mom, you abandoned me. You-”

 

“I didn’t abandon you, you were-”

 

“It’s a good thing you did, too; being raised away from you was a blessing,” Simon said. “So what, was I some mistake?

 

“Far from it,” the Black Queen said. “Kimberly was the mistake. I never wanted to get pregnant. I had too much ambition. I craved too much power. But after she was born… I sensed the power within her, even when she was just an infant.”

 

Simon narrowed his eyes.

 

“Through Kimberly, I realized the power of my own blood. Blood strong with the One Power and attuned to the cosmic energies of the universe itself, the Power Cosmic. My body was already too old to harness these energies. But I knew that if I could bear children as strong as Kimberly by mistake, that I could bear even stronger children by design.

 

“So I traveled, in search of mates, strong bloodlines,” the Black Queen said. “They weren’t always willing. Some, like your father, needed…convincing.”

 

Simon blasted through the creature’s upper chest with a massive burst of flame and ichor. The ranger landed on the beast’s back and drove his sword through its skin.

 

“Move!” he shouted at Phlegyas.

 

The beast howled and charged forward. In pain, the creature swatted aside souls that got in its way. The souls screamed with rage, but the monster ignored their cries.

 

Simon snarled as he twisted his blade and looked ahead. On the shore, he saw massive gates of steel that stretched upward into the darkness.

 

Moridyn floated behind the ranger. “The City of Dis…” he said. “If you don’t break free from the hold this Circle has over you-”

 

“I told you to stop!” Simon shouted. He drove his blade deeper into Phlegyas. “Move!”

 

The creature charged onto the shore and bashed through the Gates of Dis.

 

To be continued…Chapter 25