Shaded Relics: Chapter 28

Open Wide, the Gates of Hell

 

PART ONE: Eighth Circle

 

A bloody haze clouded Simon’s vision. The ranger felt like a walking wound that kept scabbing and tearing open, repeatedly. He moved with labored, heavy steps as he carried his black katana at his side, about to drop.

 

Still, his black-and-red eyes glimmered with power, and he smiled with insanity.

 

Moridyn thinks I need him?” he asked with a hollow voice. “He thinks he can use me…?”

 

He laughed softly. I’ll show them…he thought from the deep screams of his mind. I’ll show them all…

 

The ranger approach the edge of a cliff that dropped into darkness.

 

From the darkness, a massive demon shot upward. The beast’s body looked like a wyvern, with lion-like paws, hawk-like wings, and a reptilian tail. The creature’s face looked human, like that of beautiful man with long, blonde hair. Its name: Geryon.

 

Simon smirked at the sight. “Looks like my ride’s here.”

 

His spiritual pressure intensified and shook the cliff. With renewed strength, he leapt through a blur of motion, landed on Geryon’s back, and stabbed into the creature’s collar bone.

 

Simon grabbed his sword and twisted, sending the creature into a deep dive towards the Eighth Circle of Hell.

 

***

 

PART TWO: Jacob’s Ladder

 

Xanathor sat on his iron throne within the heart of demon city. DaiShi approached the throne, and young Evan followed. The boy glanced at the dozen Death Knights who stood along the walls. Each warrior carried a massive broadsword that ebbed with frost energy.

 

Xanathor leaned forward. “Why have you come here, demon?”

 

“The great powers of this world are aligning,” DaiShi said. “Soon, I will unleash-”

 

Xanathor waved his hand dismissively. “I know your plans. You wish to repeat of what the humans called the Second Countdown to Destruction. You wish to become the next Mogralord. But you don’t have the Demon Tablet, do you? No…And without it, your plans are as wasteful as your existence.”

 

DaiShi narrowed his eyes. “The Tablet was stolen…but my allies will find it.”

 

“Allies?” Xanathor asked.

 

“The Questers. And Akuma, who controls the Marauders as well as the Hand.”

 

Xanathor leaned back. “I’ll ask again…why are you here?”

 

“The Forsaken have been busy since their release…as has Azmodai,” DaiShi said. “But you have remained…silent. Why?”

 

Xanathor rolled his right hand into a fist. “Do you wish to recruit me to your cause? Ask me to join your petty Alliance of Evil? No…One-by-one, the Seals break. I’m simply…waiting for the right one. The one that will unleash my full fury.”

 

DaiShi knitted his brow.

 

Xanathor smirked. “Confused? Of course you are. You are simply a demon, while I am the avatar of the God of Death.”

 

The villain slammed his fist against the arm of his throne. At the command, the Death Knights raised their swords into fighting stances.

 

Xanathor stood and unsheathed his blade. “I allowed you here to tell you one thing, DaiShi. You may think yourself the next Great Beast of Hell, but you are nothing more than a pawn of Akuma. You cannot begin to fathom the greater powers at play. I allowed you here, to tell you, that you are beneath me. The Fifth Seal will soon break, and then the Sixth, and each breaking will render you even more inconsequential. Then, it will be my time. Then, I will not be silent. I will be a roaring force of power beyond your comprehension.”

 

The villain waved his hand and summoned a gateway of shadow and frost.

 

“Please…” Xanathor said. “Do show yourselves out…”

 

***

 

DaiShi stepped through the portal and back into the RinJuken Akugata palace. He punched through the nearest column, scattering debris across the floor.

 

Evan knitted his brow. “Why did you let him talk to you like that?”

 

“Xanathor is strong,” DaiShi said. “He would have made a powerful ally…but attacking him would have accomplished nothing.”

 

The demon walked onto the dais and kneeled. He slit his palm, and let the blood drip.

 

“No matter…” he said a she tightened his fist. The blood dripped faster and ebbed with power that flowed throughout the dojo. “Demon Tablet or no, my time is now.”

 

Countless Rinshi sprouted from the ground surrounding the dojo. DaiShi smiled, and his black eyes glimmered with fiendish delight.

 

“Start the countdown…”

 

***

 

Rick arrived at the Tokyo Branch of the Knights of the True Cross. An escort led the priest to a wide office, decorated with tapestries and paintings. He paced back and forth as he waited for the new leader of the True Cross — his birth father, apparently.

 

The doors opened, and an old man walked into the room. He wore bishop’s robes with a white mask that covered his upper face. Golden lines edged the mask, and he wore a monocle over his left eye.

 

The strange man, Ernst Frederick, smiled. “My son.”

 

Rick narrowed his eyes and adjusted his glasses. “You’re the new leader of the True Cross?”

 

“That I am,” Ernst said as he took a seat behind his long, gilded desk. “It’s been a long time…Rick, is it? I haven’t seen you since you were an infant.”

 

“You really expect me to believe you’re my birth father?” Rick asked.

 

“I brought you to the doorstep of Father Amantini,” Ernst said. “I knew I couldn’t raise you myself…and that he would be the kind of father you deserved. The kind of father I could not.”

 

“You abandoned me…” Rick said.

 

“I had no choice,” Ernst said. “You see…shortly after you were born, a demon possessed your mother. A hunter exorcised the demon, but not before the creature burnt her body into dust.”

 

Ernst lifted his mask, revealing a scarred face. “The attack scathed my face. And my spirit. The hunter who killed the demon, a priest, told me of the darkness hidden in our world. So I joined him, and the church, to become an exorcist, and avenge your mother. To join the priesthood…to become the exorcist I needed to be…I had to leave you behind.”

 

Rick narrowed his eyes. He had heard enough. “You said you could cure R.J.?”

 

“I can remove the demon taint in his blood and soul, yes. I can cure him, and all the Shaded…by destroying Hell itself,” Ernst said.

 

“You realize that sounds insane,” Ernst said.

 

“Hell is a physical place. A physical realm,” he said. “It can be destroyed as easily as Hiroshima.”

 

Ernst activated a panel on his desk. A wide-screen television lowered from the ceiling behind the bishop, and the images displayed a massive missile tipped with a green projectile. The projectile ebbed with energy.

 

“This…is Messiah,” Ernst said. “A bomb formed with a fusion of magick and technology, crafted by the greatest alchemists of our time. Its power rivals that of any conventional warhead.”

 

“And you honestly think something like that can destroy all of Hell?” Rick asked.

 

“Its spiritual pressure will ignite with a force no less powerful than a giant asteroid or comet,” Ernst said. “It is the greatest force of destruction ever created by man.”

 

Rick shook his head. “Even if that’s true…how will you get a bomb like that into Hell?”

 

“That is what we are here to discuss,” Ernst said. “Operation: Jacob’s Ladder.”

 

***

 

Kyle crossed his arms over his chest and paced back and forth in the hallway of the True Cross Academy. R.J., Enzo, and Rika stood nearby.

 

“This is bullshit,” Kyle said. “We’ve been waiting here all morning. We should be back in Angel Grove…Did he forget about Evan? When was the last time we looked for him?”

 

“Rick knows what he’s doing,” R.J. said.

 

“You’re just saying that because he’s your older brother,” Kyle said. “Why did you even come here?”

 

“For the friendly company,” R.J. said sarcastically.

 

Enzo laughed. “I like him.”

 

Finally, Rick walked into the hallway after finishing his talk with Ernst.

 

Rika sighed with relief. “Finally.”

 

“So what’s the deal?” R.J. asked. “Can we trust them?”

 

“I’m not sure yet,” Rick said. “But it’s worth a try. He’s organizing groups of exorcists to fight back against demons worldwide.”

 

“What about us?” Kyle asked. “I suppose you’ll want us to stay here with some babysitter.”

 

“No, I want you with me,” Rick said. “The bishop’s holding an assembly soon. We’ll meet up after. In the meantime…get to know the other students here. Talk to them…see if you can learn anything.”

 

Rick turned and started to walk off.

 

“Rick, hold up!” R.J. called out as he followed his brother. “You’re seriously going along with this? I thought you didn’t trust the True Cross anymore...”

 

Rick adjusted his glasses. “We can’t judge the entire organization based on a few fanatics,” he said. “Or the one or two people who may be possessed.”

 

R.J. narrowed his eyes. “What did that guy tell you?”

 

Rick shook his head. “It’s nothing…Like I said, I think all of this is worth a try.”

 

“But why?” R.J. asked. “Why’d he say that was so convincing?”

 

Rick adjusted his glasses again. Saying nothing, he turned and walked down the hallway, his conversation with Ernst still fresh in his mind.

 

“In order to launch Messiah into Hell…we need a gateway,” Ernst said. “A portal, linking our world to Hades. We believe we can open such a portal…by using this…”

 

Ernst placed a suitcase onto his table and opened it. The suitcase held the Demon Tablet. “This Tablet is the key to opening a gateway into Hell. However, in order to maintain this gate for an extended time, we require massive amounts of demon blood.”

 

Rick knitted his brow and turned away. “And you really think…destroying Hell will turn my brother back into a human?”

 

“Not only Rin, but all the Shaded,” Ernst said. “Including you…”

 

“What?”

 

“Did you really think that I, of all people, wouldn’t notice my own son?”

 

***

 

The Knights of the True Cross gathered in a massive chapel decorated with stained glass and tapestries.

 

Bishop Ernst Frederick stepped up to his podium and spoke to the assembled exorcists.

 

“Comrades! For as long as we can remember, we’ve lived in fear of the demons’ existence. And in recent years, that fear has grown exponentially. However…that chapter of our history ends today.

 

“Just as the light of civilization drove out the darkness, our power will shine and exterminate every demon in existence! I, Ernst Frederick, hereby order every exorcist in the world, to launch Operation Jacob’s Ladder!”

 

***

 

The armory door slid open beneath the True Cross Academy. Kyle, Enzo and Rika joined their fellow exorcists as they browsed the weapons.

 

Kyle pulled an odd-looking, black rifle from the rack. “What exactly are these?”

 

“Demon-slaying weapons, specially crafted by the Vatican,” a young student said. “They absorb the energy of demons you kill. It boosts the efficiency of your exorcisms.”

 

“Not bad,” Enzo said as he lifted a semi-automatic from the rack. “Kind of puts you in the mood, huh, packing something like this?”

 

“Enzo, that’s not a toy, OK?” said one of the students of the Japanese branch, Konekomaru, or “Kon” for short.  

 

Rika arced an eyebrow as an exorcist handed her a bow. “Actually…I’m training to become a tamer.”

 

“Oh,” the exorcist said. “Well in that case, feel free to use that grimoire over there.”

 

Nearby, Kyle clutched his rifle. Something doesn’t feel right…

 

***

 

The exorcists launched their attacks.

 

In Tokyo, Shura Kirigakure led a group of priests through the tunnels beneath the streets. They spotted a nest of decay demons, like bloated flies.

 

Shura placed her hand over her chest. “‘Devour the eight Princesses, slay the Serpent.’”

 

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

 

The priests pulled out their handguns and rifles and opened fire. Their runed bullets blasted through demons with splatters of black ichor.

 

In Washington D.C., a dozen possessed congressmen sat in the back of a shady diner. A group of priests bashed through the door and opened fire. They blasted the possessed politicians before they could even stand.

 

In Hong Kong, a squad of exorcists slashed through a trio of possessed men in a city market. Their blood splattered against the sidewalks.

 

East of Angel Grove, Rick led dozens of exorcists through the dense woods. R.J., Kyle, Enzo, Rika and their new friend Kon joined him. 

 

They chased an odd target — boars. Demon-possessed boars. Dragoons opened fire with rune-tipped bullets that blasted the animals.

 

Enraged, a dozen boars circled around and charged at the exorcists. R.J. armed a sword and slashed through the nearest creature.

 

Kyle cocked his rifle and blasted a boar through the air.

 

And Rika whispered a new spell that fired a pair of jade energy bursts shaped like foxes. The blasts penetrated two boars and burned them into ash from the inside out.

 

The exorcists tore through the last of the boars. Afterward, Kyle noticed their weapons hum with power.

 

***

 

Later that night, Rick’s group of exorcists camped outside Angel Grove. They surrounded themselves with a devil’s trap to keep out wayward demons and evil spirits.

 

R.J. left his brother and walked around the edge of the camp. A part of him felt guilty for leaving behind the Rangers, which surprised him. But he couldn’t shake the feeling he needed to stay with his brother right now. 

 

Suddenly, a massive boar stomped through the woods. The creature howled with pain as exorcists blasted the creature. With a final roar, the boar, a spirit, crashed and skid across the grass. 

 

You…” a hollow voice echoed from the creature. “Damn humans…how dare you hurt my comrades! Those who have helped me protect this forest for 2,000 years!”

 

Tears swelled in the creature’s eyes.

 

R.J. watched in horror as the exorcists opened fire and killed the spirit.

 

The ranger narrowed his eyes and walked towards the lead exorcist. “What were you doing? He was just pissed because we killed his friends.”

 

“We’ve been ordered to eliminate every demon and spirit from the face of the Earth,” the exorcist said.

 

“Well what about me?” R.J. asked as his aura flickered with purple light. “I have demon blood in me. What are you going to do about that?”

 

“Good point,” the exorcist said as he lifted his gun.

 

R.J. grabbed the gun and ignited with purple Ki. “Are you serious?!” He knocked the gun aside and elbowed the priest’s chest, knocking him to the ground. “Since when are priests murderers?!”

 

A priest snuck behind R.J. and bashed a gun against the back of his head, knocking him down. R.J. collapsed into unconsciousness.

 

The exorcist re-holstered his weapon. “Take him into holding,” he said to his squad-mates. “Make sure to use the runed chains.”

 

***

 

“Blood-sucking weapons…” Kyle said as he looked at a runed sword. “Why would they give us something like this?”

 

Kon swiped the screen of his smart phone. “I looked into it further…That sword in particular used to belong to a Transylvanian Count. It’s since been turned into a weapon for exorcism.”

 

“So I’ll ask again…” Kyle said. “Why would they arm us with weapons like these?”

 

Kyle tossed the sword aside and walked deeper into the camp.

 

Enzo followed. “Hey, where are you going?”

 

“To talk to Rick,” he said. “He’s supervising this thing…so he should have some answers.”

 

***

 

R.J. stirred awake within an old jail cell, beneath a church. He climbed to his feet and looked up to face Bishop Ernst Frederick.

 

R.J. narrowed his eyes “You…”

 

The bishop smiled. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Rin. I am Bishop Ernst Frederick.”

 

“What do you want?” R.J. asked.

 

“I have a very…important mission for you,” Ernst said.

 

***

 

Kyle and the others walked through the camp to find Rick. But Kon stopped them when his phone beeped with a text message.

 

“Rin ‘R.J.’ Amantini…He’s that Ranger friends of yours, right?” Kon asked.

 

Kyle knitted his brow. “I wouldn’t say ‘friend,’ but yeah.”

 

“According to the students at the Angel Grove Branch…he’s about to be executed.”

 

***

 

Ernst and a group of exorcists led R.J. onto the rooftop of the True Cross Academy’s Angel Grove branch, a towering building. Runed cuffs clamped his hands together.

 

Priests stood around a massive, demonic circle etched on the rooftop. A gilded throne sat at one end of the circle. And a wooden post stood at the other end of the symbol.

 

Ernst sat on the throne and smiled as priests led R.J. to the post.

 

***

 

Kyle, Enzo, Rika and Kon tried to find Rick so they could warn him about R.J. But they couldn’t find their teacher in the camp. So they decided to head to the True Cross Academy on their own.

 

The exorcists-in-training ran towards the massive building. But Arthur Angel dropped to the street and blocked their path.

 

“Children…” he said as he armed his Cross Knuckle. “If you dare to move beyond this point…I won’t be responsible for what I must do.”

 

Kyle rolled his hands into fists and shifted into his Shaded form. “Out of my way, blondie.”

 

The paladin sighed with a smile. “Very well.”

Arthur armed his Cross Knuckle: “READY.”

 

“I!” he shouted. “Arthur Angel! Paladin of the Knights of the True Cross! Guardian of goodness and justice! Do, with all of my power, command you to stop! Or…face my might! Awaken!”

 

He snapped his Cross Knuckle onto his Cross Belt: “AWAKEN.”

 

Energy flashed around him as he transformed into Kamen Rider Cross.

 

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

 

“Ugh,” Enzo cursed beneath his breath. “We so need Ranger powers.”

 

***

 

Priests tied R.J. to the stake. The teen tried to lash out with his power, but his chains suppressed that energy.

 

Ernst walked towards him.

 

R.J. glared. “You bastard…what do you think you’re doing?”

 

Ernst lowered his head and chanted in Latin. The other priests lowered their heads and did the same.

 

R.J. knitted his brow and looked around. For the first time, he noticed piles of weapons at various points around the magick symbol on the rooftop.

 

The weapons pulsed with power and bled, seeping the blood of the demons they slayed. Trails of blood streamed across the rooftop and pooled into the center of the magick circle.

 

Ernst pulled the Demon Tablet from his robes. He clutched the relic, as its word glowed with crimson power.

 

The bishop placed his hand on the Tablet, which fired strands of energy that thrashed R.J. like bolts of electricity. The teen screamed as he shifted into his Shaded form.

 

***

 

Kyle charged at Kamen Rider Cross. The Shaded swung a punch, but Cross sidestepped and bashed the teen to the ground.

 

“Return to your posts,” Kamen Rider Cross said. “The operation is still in progress.”

 

Kyle rolled into a crouched stance. “Why are they executing R.J.? He didn’t do anything!”

 

“The Children of the First Demon…for them, it’s a crime to merely exist,” the Rider said.

 

Rika glared. “Is that what you True Cross fanatics call justice?”

 

“The Vatican’s orders are absolute,” Cross said. The Rider shifted his grip on his weapon. “Now…since you continue to defy me…I will cut you down.”

 

Kamen Rider Cross charged and slashed at Rika. But suddenly, a purple blade blocked his sword and slashed him with a burst of spark, knocking him several steps backward.

 

The teens looked to see Shura with her sword in hand.

 

Kamen Rider Cross lifted his blade into a defensive stance. “Such a shame. I never thought you would defect to the side of the demons.”

 

“No…” Shura said. “You just piss me off. A lot.”

 

The Knight looked to the Shaded. “Leave him to me. Get going…”

 

Enzo nearly drooled on himself at the sight of her. “And who are you, exactly? Because I’d really like to-”

 

Kyle grabbed him by the shirt. “Come on.”

 

***

 

PART THREE: The Great Beast

 

Adam and the Jungle Fury Rangers scattered after ZECT’s attack. Later, they regrouped on a rooftop in Angel Grove East.

 

Lilly scowled into the distance, towards the Black Sash Dojo. “What was that all about?”

 

“A fight I don’t want a part of,” Adam said.

 

“Doesn’t look like they got that memo,” Lilly said.

 

Theo knitted his brow with confusion. “Shouldn’t they be helping us? We’re all supposed to be the good guys.”

 

“It’s not that simple,” Adam said.

 

Casey narrowed his eyes. “It should be.”

 

Dominick nodded. “Can’t argue with that.”

 

“I mean it,” Casey said. “What’s the use of having all that power if they use it to pick on people? They’re just…bullies.”

 

Suddenly, explosions sparked around them. They dove aside and rolled for cover, and when they looked up, they spotted Kamen Rider TheBee, Kamen Rider Kick-Hopper, and Kamen Rider Punch-Hopper.

 

TheBee stalked towards his opponents. “Running was smart…but you didn’t run far enough.”

 

***

 

DaiShi stood on a rooftop in Angel Grove North. He lifted his arms, twisted his hands into fists, and chanted.

 

His Rinshi teleported to the streets through streaks of shadow energy. Like comets, the energy beams shot through the skies, splattered onto the ground, and took form as the grunts of the RinJuken.

 

The villain thrust his hand upward and fired a stream of shadow energy that punctured through the dark clouds.

 

In Angel Grove South, a RinJuken monster named Porcupain stood on a towering skyscraper.

 

geki-vr-marashiya

 

He felt his Rinki churn into DoRinki, spread his hands, and summoned waves of Rinshi.

 

The Porcupine-Fist user ignited his power, which shot into the skies like a column of energy.

 

In Angel Grove East, The monster Barakouza stepped onto a rooftop. 

 

geki-vr-pouote

 

The Archer-Fist user lifted his hand, spread his palm wide, and summed waves of Rinshi. The grunts tore through the streets like a tidal wave of destruction, attacking everything in sight.

 

The monster’s Rinki churned into DoRinki and blasted upward through a column of power.

 

In Angel Grove West, the Fox-Fist user Tsuneki stepped onto a building.

 

geki-vr-tsuneki

 

He hurled darts that stabbed into the street, formed portals, and spawned Rinshi. The grunts spread through the city like a plague.

 

The monster ignited his Rinki, which churned into DoRinki, and stabbed into the skies.

 

***

 

The White Rhino Ranger chopped Punch-Hopper with a burst of spark that drove him to his knees.

 

Kick-Hopper charged at the White Ranger from the side. But the Ranger side-kicked the Rider’s faceplate. The impact whipped Kick-Hopper off his feet.

 

Nearby, Adam narrowed his eyes as he felt strange energy intensify throughout the city.

 

“That spiritual pressure…” he whispered. “I’ve felt it before…”

 

Then, in the distance, he noticed a column of shadow power swirl between the ground and sky. He recognized the energy signature as DoRinki, connected to three other points around the city. The result: A spiritual pressure just like the kind he felt before the Second Countdown to Destruction.

 

“No…” he whispered.

 

He looked to Red Tiger, who along with Yellow Cheetah and Blue Jaguar, surrounded Kamen Rider TheBee with punches and kicks.

 

“Guys!” he shouted. “You have to head towards that column and knock it out!”

 

Yellow Cheetah ducked beneath a kick. “What about Bumblebee?”

 

Adam hurled a Ki blast that knocked the Rider off his feet.

 

“I’ll hold them off,” Adam said. “Get Dom and go.”

 

The three Rangers leapt to the next rooftop, and White Rhino followed. There, explosions blasted their armor and knocked them to the street. They crashed with an impact that knocked them from their armor.

 

Slowly, they climbed to their feet, just as Silver Guardians and ZECT Troopers surrounded them. The soldiers opened fire; bullets blasted the Rangers with bursts of spark as they dove across the ground.

 

Red Tiger rolled to his feet, flipped a soldier over his shoulder, and bashed his palm upside another soldier’s face.

 

“Stop!” he shouted as he powered down his armor. He breathed heavily and rolled his hands into fists. “We shouldn’t be fighting each other. We’re on the same side.”

 

The guardians kept their weapons raised at the teen.

 

Yellow Cheetah looked over her shoulder. “Casey, what are you doing?! Armor up, or they’ll kill you!”

 

“No,” Casey said as he shook his head. “They won’t. We’re not fighting each other like this. We’re supposed to be the good guys.”

 

A guardian stepped forward with his gun aimed at Casey. “Drop to your knees, kid.”

 

“No. Call off your men,” Casey said. He pointed towards the distance. “Do you see that column over there? Whatever it is, we have to stop it. Or bad things will happen…”

 

The lead guardian hesitated and lowered his weapon, slightly.

 

Suddenly, a burst of golden energy blasted through the streets and tossed the Rangers and soldiers aside.

 

Casey rolled into a crouched stance and looked up to see Jarrod stalk towards him.

 

Jarrod smirked. “Red Tiger.”

 

The villain hurled a bolt of Ki. Casey snapped to his feet and swatted the blast away.

 

Jarrod’s smile widened. “Good…I can feel your spiritual pressure…You are ready.”

 

Casey narrowed his eyes and rolled his hands into fists. “I’m…I’m not letting you do this anymore. You’re a bully. A lonely coward. You want to be stronger? For what? For what?! While we’re fighting each other, the world’s going to hell. You should be fighting with us.”

 

Jarrod smirked. “Boy…You’ve finally shown that you’re a worthy opponent.”

 

The villain charged to attack, and Casey returned the charge. The opponents clashed with punches and back-hand strikes they blocked and dodged. Their blows struck hard as they circled one another, a familiar dance.

 

Jarrod’s eyes glowed with fiendish delight. “You are no longer a scared little child. You are a tiger. This is perfect…”

 

“Stop talking,” Casey said with a volley of punches.

 

“I knew from the beginning…” Jarrod said as they exchanged blows. “That you were my fated opponent.”

 

“I said stop talking!” Casey shouted with a powerful punch that bashed Jarrod’s chest.

 

Jarrod laughed, grabbed Casey by the arm, and round-kicked his side. Quickly, Casey twisted free and launched a volley of punches and palm-heel strikes Jarrod blocked.

 

“You think you’re something special?” Casey asked as he blocked a blow. “I’ve fought against people like you my whole life. People who use their strength to pick on others.”

 

Jarrod shifted his stance, moved behind Casey, and grabbed him in a chokehold. Casey grabbed Jarrod’s arm, pulled it back, and elbowed the villain’s ribs. The ranger back-kicked the villain, knocking him back several steps.

 

“All you do is hurt people, Jarrod,” Casey said. “But that stops today.”

 

Jarrod smiled. “Yes…Stop me. Show me your power.”

 

The villain palm-heeled the ranger’s chest and knocked him off his feet. Quickly, Casey rolled into a crouched stance.

 

Jarrod grinned. “Come. Red Ranger! Strike me with all of your Geki! Our battle…will make me king!”

 

Casey stood and shifted into a defensive stance. “Jarrod…” he said. “I’m tired of hearing you ramble.”

 

“Then do something about it,” Jarrod said. “I will become more powerful than anyone who has ever walked this earth! Push me past my limits, Red Ranger!”

 

The villain roared with a battle cry that ignited his Genki. Casey ignited his Geki. Their spiritual pressure collided and exploded around them with massive bursts of power and flame. 

 

Jarrod transformed into the armor of GenJyuOu. Casey morphed into Jungle Master Mode. They pounced at each other and clashed with fierce blows. The sounds echoed across the streets and shattered windows.

 

Red Tiger slashed GenJyuOu with a burst of spark. The villain spun with the blow and punched the Red Ranger with enough force to hurl him off his feet.

 

Red Tiger crashed and tumbled across the street.

 

GenJyuOu leapt through the air and aimed his decent towards his opponent.

 

The Red Ranger rolled away just as GenJyuOu kneed the ground with a massive shockwave.

 

Red Tiger kicked GenJyuOu with a burst of spark. The villain spun with a back-fist blow the Red Ranger blocked, then upper-cut punched his gut with a burst of spark.

 

The villain swung the back of his fist at the Red Ranger’s head. But Red Tiger blocked and round-kicked GenJyuOu’s chest.

 

The Red Ranger fired his thrusters with bursts of KaGeki. He shot at GenJyuOu with punches and slashes that forced the villain backward.

 

GenJyuOu flared with Genki and shot forward, bashing the Red Ranger with bursts of spark that whipped him aside.

 

The Red Ranger rolled across the ground, stood, and snapped a jump-kick that bashed GenJyuOu upside the head.

 

GenJyuOu grabbed Red Tiger by the neck lifted him off his feet, and bashed him to the street. The Red Ranger kicked the villain backward and rolled back to his feet.

 

GenJyuOu lunged with a volley of punches the Red Ranger dodged. Red Tiger slashed. But GenJyuOu grabbed his arm and elbowed his faceplate. Red Tiger staggered backward; GenJyuOu grabbed the Ranger’s head and knee-slammed his visor. The impact whipped the Red Ranger onto his back.

 

GenJyuOu charged to attack the fallen Ranger. Red Tiger snapped up his legs and kicked the villain backward. His visor shattered, the Red Ranger flipped back to his feet.

 

GenJyuOu charged to attack, and Red Tiger returned the charge with a flare of KaGeki.

 

The Red Ranger leapt, spun, and stabbed his fist blade against GenJyuOu’s chest; the impact sparked a shockwave of bright energy that ripped through the streets and hurled GenJyuOu off his feet.

 

The villain crashed and skid across the pavement. The impact knocked him from his armor with a burst of golden light.

 

Weakly, Jarrod stumbled to his feet. “Is this…defeat?”

 

The villain staggered away and shifted back into his armor — just as secondary explosions tore across his body and forced him to his knees. 

 

Red Tiger breathed a sigh of relief, just before he collapsed to all fours, weak with fatigue.

 

***

 

Ernst read from the Demon Tablet, as its words glowed with crimson power. On the rooftop, the pool of blood churned and crackled with energy.

 

R.J. screamed as his ShiGeki ignited with violet light. The bishop walked to the teen and slit his arms. Blood splattered onto the rooftop and streamed towards the pool of demonic ichor. 

 

The ranger’s blood mixed with the demonic blood, which ignited with shadow fire.

 

The bishop smiled at the sight. “Yes…Your Blood is truly that of the First Demon. The Blood of Shadow Fire.”

 

He lifted the tablet, which pulsed with crimson light, sending an invisible shockwave across the city.

 

***

 

The Demon Tablet’s shockwave spread across the scene of the Red Ranger’s battle with GenJyuOu. The energy stirred something dark and deep within The GenJuken King.

 

Suddenly, GenJyuOu stood, and his Genki flared like golden fire. He screamed with pain and insanity as his powers intensified. The villain swung his arms wide and grew giant.

 

The Rangers regrouped and looked up with disbelief.

 

Blue Jaguar shook his head. “I didn’t think he could do that…”

 

Nearby, Camille opened her eyes wide with horror as she watched GenJyuOu spasm and scream.

 

“Jarrod…” she whispered.

 

Long smiled as he stepped alongside her. “Finally… Even though he lost…he’s surpassed his mortal limits and become a Great Beast of Destruction.”

 

GenJyuOu swung his arms wide with a shockwave of golden energy. The blast tore through the streets, decimating building after building. 

 

Slowly, the Rangers climbed to their feet as fire and smoke sizzled around them.

 

White Rhino armed his dagger. “I’ve got this. Rhino Steel Zord!”

 

The Rhino Steel Zord, SaiDain, charged onto the scene.

 

The White Ranger leapt onto the zord and thrust his dagger.

 

Juken KyoJin!

 

The zord pulsed with energy, shifted shape, and assumed a humanoid form armed with a sword and shield. The White Ranger dropped into his cockpit.

 

“Rhino Battlezord!” White Rhino shouted. SaiDaiou!”

 

GenJyuOu growled like a mindless beast and hunched. He faced SaiDaiou and fired a pulse of golden energy. The blast smashed the Battlezord with massive bursts of spark that tore the zord’s armor.

 

The White Rhino Ranger stumbled and nearly collapsed. But he stood his ground.

 

Geki Waza!” White Rhino shouted. Dai Dai Saidai Giri!

 

The Battlezord swung its blade through streaks of golden energy that slashed GenJyuOu with bursts of spark. The zord swung its final blow. But GenJyuOu used his forearm to block the strike.

 

The villain grabbed the blade and twisted downward. GenJyuOu growled, ignited with Genki, and smashed his palm against the zord. The impact sparked with golden light and hurled SaiDaiou through the air.

 

The Battlezord crashed and knocked the White Rhino Ranger from his cockpit.

 

Long laughed at the sight.

 

Suddenly, GenJyuOu flashed with golden energy and crashed to his knees. His power sizzled and pealed from his body as he reverted to his normal-sized, human form.

 

Slowly, Jarrod climbed to his feet. What was that energy…it was like my power had an existence of its own…

 

“Jarrod!” Casey shouted as he and the other rangers ran towards him.

 

Explosions blocked their path. Long held his hand forward and stalked towards the teens. “Just a bit longer…We needed just a bit longer. What returned him to normal?”

 

Long tilted his head with curiosity and walked towards Jarrod.

 

Jarrod glared at the Forsaken. “What…?”

 

Camille leapt through the air and flying side-kicked Long off his feet. She keeled next to Jarrod.

 

“He’s a schemer! Don’t trust him!” she shouted. “He’s using you like a tool.”

 

Camille helped him to his feet, and they leapt away through a streak of green energy.

 

Long leapt after them through a streak of golden energy, and they clashed through midair.

 

***

 

The pool of demon blood churned with power and burned with fire. The pool rose from the rooftop and expanded.

 

Ernst tightened his grip on the Demon Tablet. “And now…open wide, the Gates of Hell!”

 

***

 

PART FOUR: Fraud

 

Geryon plummeted into the Eighth Circle of Hell as Simon twisted his blade in the creature’s back. The demon crashed with a shockwave of dust and flame, and Simon leapt free.

 

He landed in the Eighth Circle, rolling hills of crushed bones and countless pits with the souls of the damned.

 

The ranger heard a chuckle come from behind.

 

“So you are the student of the Dragon Ranger?” a voice asked.

 

Simon snapped around to see Shadam — the false Shadam that fought the Power Rangers in 2002.

 

The villain smirked. “I’ve heard you-”

 

Simon slashed through the villain with a burst of black flame. Shadam collapsed, and Simon stabbed through his head; the villain’s soul exploded into ash.

 

The ranger twirled his blade. “How many of you sons of bitches do I have to kill?”

 

Insane laughter echoed through the Eighth Circle.

 

Bones sprouted from the ground and stabbed through Simon to hold him in place. He ignited with black fire that burnt the bones, but more speared through his body, faster than he could burn them away.

 

The false Gorma Emperor floated into view through the smoke of Simon’s flames.

 

“Simon,” the emperor said, his mad voice echoing through the darkness. “You are in the new land of the Gorma. Hide your face when you appear before me.”

 

The emperor lifted his hand and summoned a mask of bone that slapped onto Simon’s face. The bone seared his skin and ebbed with power. His eyes glowed with maddening pain through the mask’s two slits.

 

To be continued…Chapter 29