Shaded Relics: Chapter 29
Into the Blood
PART ONE: Ninth Circle
The false Gorma laughed as he watched Simon writhe with agony. The teen grasped his mask and tried to pry it off. But it seared his skin with sizzling power.
“What…?” Simon muttered as he collapsed to his knees. “What…?!”
“Did you really think it would be so easy, Simon?” the emperor asked in a high-pitched voice that echoed through the Eighth Circle. “Did you think you could defeat us, so close to the source of our power?”
“I…don’t…care!” Simon shouted.
“You should,” the emperor said. His third eye flashed with crimson light. “The Mogralord himself granted us strength. Strength to-”
“You’re nothing but clay…” Simon said as he lifted his hand. “Clay!”
He tightened his fist with a burst of shadow that turned the emperor into stone. The ranger shot forward and slashed through the emperor, who shattered into pieces.
Howling with pain, Simon dashed deeper into Hell. He passed pits of false prophets, flatters, corrupt politicians and thieves, and ignored them all.
The ranger ignited with power and shot into a dark blizzard of black snow. The ice chilled past his flesh and through his bones, with white-hot cold. The freezing temperatures agitated his Gorma mask, which flared with crimson power.
A third eye opened on the mask; the eye pulsed with a shockwave of shadow fire, which cleared the blizzard.
Simon skid to a halt outside the Ninth Circle. He tightened his grip on his sword and looked ahead, to where massive chains blocked his path. Frost and ice coated the chains, which stretched as far as he could see.
“Chains?” he whispered. “Chains?!”
Simon shot through the chains and slashed them to pieces. The bindings tore loose and scattered, as Simon pushed further and further into the Ninth Circle of Hell.
Simon barely noticed, but the chains suspended frozen souls of sinners trapped within the Ninth Circle. When the chains snapped, the souls fell and descended into darkness.
The ranger moved across a bridge that spanned a lake of ice. Legend said the lake formed from the tears of Lucifer himself, frozen by his wings.
Simon skid to a halt on a dais of black rock, surrounded by darkness. He stood in the center of the Ninth Circle.
Above, icy chains grasped a single soul: Owen, his half-brother.
A memory seared through his mind. The ranger remembered slashing his sword and firing a burst of power that tore Owen apart. He remembered killing his own brother.
Guilt clenched his throat, but the guilt turned into anger, and he screamed with rage. With hatred.
The Gorma mask melted across his face and slithered beneath his skin.
Suddenly, his body ignited with Rinki, Ki born from a heart of darkness. His raw emotions empowered the flare of energy, which shook all of Hell.
Simon collapsed to his knees as the power died down. Still in his Shaded form, he breathed heavily as sweat dripped down his forehead.
Cold, whispering laughter echoed through the darkness.
“And so you have come…” the voice whispered. “Such a journey. A journey through darkness. The darkness of your own soul…Are you finally ready to shred that last piece of humanity and accept the truth? The truth that you live in a world of monsters and demons, but mankind itself is the source of all evil that plagues existence?”
Simon climbed to his feet and narrowed his eyes.
“Lucifer…” he whispered. “Satan. Am I supposed to be impressed?”
Lucifer appeared as a monstrous shadow and flashed closer to Simon.
“I am the First Fallen,” the creature whispered. “Not demon. Not angel. Something in between. You, of all mortals, can understand that.”
Simon slashed through the shade, which tore as easily as shadow, and then reformed behind the ranger.
Lucifer hissed with laughter. “You have the blood of the First Angel. And the blood of the First Demon. Can you comprehend the power you hold? The potential?”
The ranger snarled. “Stand still…”
“Do you think of me as a monster?” Lucifer asked. “Do you know what my crime was, Simon? My ultimate sin? I loved God too much. He created these…mortals…who were unworthy of the unconditional love He showed them. They were flawed, corrupt creatures. Yet He cared for them more than He ever did His Angels. I questioned Him. His judgment. And I refused to bow to man. In return, He tossed me into the Lake of Fire. My own father…”
“Why are you still talking, you son of a bitch,” Simon said as he shifted his stance. “Come on. Let’s get this over with.”
“You don’t understand the nature of my existence,” Lucifer said. “My true form is caged in a prison deeper than the Ninth Circle.”
Simon narrowed his eyes. “I said come on!”
He stabbed the ground with a shockwave of power that tore through the Ninth Circle.
PART TWO: Great Beast of Destruction
Nothing stood in DaiShi’s way. The demon spread his arms wide and gathered the spiritual energy released through the destruction caused by his Rinshi, across all of Angel Grove.
He snarled with delight. “This is perfect….” he said. “With Rangers fighting Rangers, humans fighting humans, nothing will stop my ascension, my transformation into the next Great Beast of Hell!”
Young Evan took a step back and knitted his brow with concern. He looked to the streets, where countless Rinshi spread a wave of destruction.
The boy shook his head. “You…You can’t do this…”
“They are ants,” DaiShi said. “They deserve their fate.”
“Ants…” Evan said. “Is that what you think about me?”
DaiShi knitted his brow, kneeled next to Evan, and placed his hands on the boy’s shoulders.
“Never…” DaiShi said. “The Mogralord abandoned me. I would never do the same to you. My blood flows through your veins. You are special, Evan. You are my son.”
“Then stop this…” Evan said.
“It is not that simple,” DaiShi said. “I cannot allow a world such as this to exist. A world filled with…human weakness. I will bring strength to this place. And you, my son, will help me.”
“No…” Evan shook his head. “No!”
Evan turned and ran towards the nearest fire escape. He scrambled down the ladder and metal steps.
DaiShi leapt from the rooftop and landed in front of Evan before he could escape. The demon grabbed the boy by the arms.
“Jarrod betrayed me…as did Camille…” DaiShi said. “I will not allow you to do the same.”
Jarrod snapped open his eyes and sat up. He breathed heavily, his heart pounding in his chest.
Camille laid a hand on his shoulder. “You’re awake…”
Jarrod scowled. “What happened…? That power flowing through my veins…I became a monster, didn’t I? A beast?”
Camille looked down and said nothing.
Jarrod’s scowl deepened. “The spiritual pressure that flowed through me…I recognized it. That feeling, felt the same as the spiritual pressure of DaiShi after he slaughtered my family.”
The teen rolled his hands into fists. “You said Long was using me…How?”
The wall exploded with a burst of golden flame, and Sanyo stepped into the shack.
“Sanyo!” Camille snapped to her feet.
The monster looked to Jarrod. “Come with me. Long’s orders.”
Jarrod narrowed his eyes. “Long…”
Camille stood between Jarrod and the monster. “I won’t let you touch him!”
She thrust her hand with a burst of fire that Sanyo swatted aside.
“There’s nothing you can do,” Sanyo said. “I am unbeatable…”
Sanyo flared with Genki. But before he could attack, a blur of motion knocked him off his feet. The blur landed, revealing herself as Hiso, Pixie-Fist user and Camille’s SouGenShi.
Hiso kneeled before Camille. “Lady Camille, take Jarrod and run.”
“Wait!” Sanyo shouted.
Hiso snapped into a fighting pose. “Genki! Shinken Shouku!”
She fired darts of energy that Sanyo blocked with bursts of spark and smoke. When the smoke cleared, Camille, Jarrod and Hiso were gone.
“What…” Sanyo grumbled. “She got away!”
Casey, Theo, Lilly and Dom regrouped in a park in Angel Grove East. Fires raged through the city around them as the Rinshi attacked.
“OK,” Casey said as he looked towards the distance, where a pillar of shadow energy stabbed into the sky. “We’re almost there.”
Suddenly, blurs of motion dashed into the park. They landed — Jarrod, Camille and Hiso.
Camille glared at the rangers and snapped into a fighting stance. “You…”
The rangers snapped into fighting stances.
Theo narrowed his eyes. “We didn’t come here to fight…”
Casey nodded. “Look at what’s happening,” he said. “The Rinshi are everywhere. They’re destroying the entire city. Is that what you want?”
Jarrod rolled his hands into fists. “I care about one thing only…”
“If you say ‘power,’ I swear to god, I’m going to snap,” Casey said.
Hiso laughed. “Now…Now I understand.”
The monster stabbed her chest, and explosions tore through her body. She collapsed to her knees and exploded into ashes.
Jarrod and Camille stepped back in shock.
Camille narrowed her eyes. “What...?”
Laughter echoed from the trees. Long, in his human form, stepped into the clearing. “Did you really think Hiso was loyal to you? Like all the SouGenShi, she was loyal to me.”
“Why?” Camille asked.
Long looked to Jarrod. “To find your remaining attachment…Even though your fated battle with Red Tiger ended, you didn’t become the next Great Beast. In your heart…you maintained a connection with your humanity.”
Jarrod cursed beneath his breath. “What is it you want, Long?”
“To turn you into the next Great Beast of Destruction and break the Fourth Seal,” Long said. “You carry the blood of DaiShi, heir of the Mogralord, the Great Beast of Hell. The Beast of Destruction. With your power, you could level the entire world.”
Lilly shook her head. “Why would you do something like that?”
“Unlike you humans…I live eternally,” he said. “Even free from my prison, I find every day of my existence… a bore. An infinite Hell. I can’t stand it…unless I cause some excitement.”
Casey glared. “So all of this is a game to you?”
Jarrod growled. “Why me…”
“You’re the perfect vessel,” Long said. “A Shaded, a byproduct of the breaking of the Third Seal. Torn and broken at youth, thanks to the death of your family at the hands of DaiShi. Rejected, always, with a fierce desire to grow stronger, to push past your limits. I noticed you as soon as Graendal discarded you. That’s when I decided…that you would become my instrument of death.”
Jarrod narrowed his eyes. “You toyed with my life?”
Long smiled with pride. “Very much so.”
Casey looked at Jarrod with pity for the first time. He glared at Long and shook his head.
“How could you do something like that?” he asked.
Long smirked. “Easily, it seems,” he said. “And now that I have granted Jarrod with the power of the First Fist, nothing will stop his transformation. Not after I sever his last ties to humanity.”
Long shifted into his monster form, lifted Jarrod by the hair, and tossed him across the woods.
Casey and the rangers charged to attack. But Long hurled an invisible Ki burst that blasted the teens off their feet.
In her armored form, Camille leapt towards Long and hurled a stream of fire. The flames splashed harmlessly against Long, but distracted him. Her flying sidekick bashed him through the air.
Camille landed next to Jarrod and helped him sit up.
“Jarrod…” she said. “I’m so sorry. This is all my fault. If only I realized the truth about Long when he first appeared…”
Long climbed to his feet and glared at Camille.
Camille stood, rolled her hands into fists, and pounced. She snapped a jump-kick Long dodged, and launched a flurry of knife-hand blows and punches. Long dodged and blocked the blows with ease.
The Forsaken punched her gut with a burst of spark and clawed her chest, whipping her backward. The villain laughed with amusement.
Camille climbed to her feet and lunged with a punch. Long caught her fist and twisted her arm behind her back.
“Manipulating you was fun too, Camille, but your use to me is over,” he said.
He bashed her aside with a burst of spark that knocked her back into her Shaded form. She crashed and tumbled across the ground.
Slowly, she climbed into a crouched stance. “Bastard…I am not yours to play with. I belong to Jarrod.”
“Jarrod is a toy who dances in the palm of my hand,” Long said.
“No!” Camille shouted as she stood. “He chose me. He could have chosen anyone, but he chose me as his right hand. His companion…He extended his hand to me, and I owe him everything.”
She armed her sai-blades. “I won’t forgive anyone who insults his name.”
Long spread his arms mockingly. “Then by all means…show me how you won’t forgive me.”
Long snapped his fingers and sparked bolts of Genki that struck like lightning. The blasts exploded around Camille and whipped her to the ground.
Long lowered his arms and stalked towards her. “You are quite stubborn…”
Nearby, the rangers regrouped, morphed, and charged at Long. But he hurled a bolt of Genki that bashed their armor with bursts of spark, hurling them backward.
Camille snapped to her feet and charged.
Long swiped his hand with a wave of Genki that thrashed Camille and bashed her to the ground.
The villain lifted his hand and stalked towards the fallen Shaded.
“Now…” he said. “Disappear.”
His palm fired a stream of Genki.
Suddenly, Jarrod snapped to his feet and dashed in front of the blast. The energy splashed across his body and nearly knocked him off his feet, but he stood his ground to protect Camille.
Jarrod spread his arms and parried the blast with massive bursts of spark. The defense exhausted him, and he collapsed onto his chest.
“Jarrod!” Camille shouted as she kneeled next to him. “Jarrod!”
Long dashed and punched Camille in the gut. The impact knocked the air from her lungs, and she lost consciousness.
Long lifted her over his shoulder.
Slowly, Jarrod started to climb to his feet. “Long…”
“She was standing in front of me all along,” Long said. “Your attachment. This woman.”
He turned and started walking away. “I’ll be waiting at the RinJuken Akugata dojo. This time, I’ll be sure to turn you into the Great Beast of Destruction. Look forward to it…”
Golden mist swirled around him as he vanished from sight.
Jarrod staggered and limped after Long.
The Rangers powered down their armor.
“Jarrod…” Casey started to say.
“Don’t,” Jarrod said. “We are not friends, Ranger. I don’t have a heart of gold hidden beneath my rough exterior. I am not an anti-hero, or whatever stereotype you wish to label me. I will stop Long and save Camille.”
“And then what?” Casey said. “You don’t have to keep pushing yourself. You don’t have to be the strongest. As long as you have the strength to protect the people you care about…that’s all that matters.”
Jarrod narrowed his eyes and moved forward.
Dom looked into the distance, where a column of shadow energy churned between the streets and clouds.
“So…” he said. “Do I need to remind everyone about the big scary demon ceremony?”
“No,” Casey said. “Let’s-”
The rangers’ communicators toned, and they answered.
“This is Casey,” he said.
“It’s Adam,” the teen’s mentor said. “Forget the shadow pillars for now. We have a bigger problem…the Knights of the Tue Cross just opened a gateway.”
Dom sighed. “I don’t suppose that gateway leads to Narnia.”
“No,” Adam said. “To Hell.”
PART THREE: Demon Swarm
Kyle, Enzo, Rika and Kon hurried onto the rooftop where Bishop Ernst Frederick held R.J. They skid to a stop when they noticed the portal of blood hover in the air.
The portal expanded and bubbled, with discharges of shadow fire.
“Holy crap!” Enzo shouted.
“Come on!” Kyle shouted as they ran towards R.J., suspended on a stake.
Ernst thrust his hand; TK energy blasted the teens off their feet, and they skid across the rooftop.
“Stay back, children,” the priest said as the Demon Tablet glowed in his hand. “You’re too late!”
He turned to the priests who surrounded the demonic circle etched on the rooftop. “Now! Launch the Messiah!”
Simon hovered among floating debris: Chunks of ice, broken chains and torn souls. He noticed Owen, still suspended, and shot towards him.
The ranger cut the chains loose and lifted his brother by the waist.
“Owen…” Simon whispered.
Then he noticed: the boy’s eyes looked solid black. Owen’s face twisted with a wicked smirk, and he grabbed Simon in a chokehold.
Owen spoke with the voice of the demon who possessed him in the world of the living.
“Isn’t this cute?” he asked. “Your baby brother actually prefers the company of demons over man. Because we accept him. We love him. We show him happiness and kindness. What does his own family offer him? Guilt? Pain?”
Simon kicked loose and flipped backward.
“Let him go!” Simon shouted.
“I am him!” Owen shouted. “All he wanted was happiness. Family. But in the end, his own brother killed him. Why wouldn’t he turn to me for comfort? There is no possession here in Hell. I have become him, and he has become me.”
Suddenly, the void above rippled like black, oily water. The void twirled and opened into a pool of blood. The pool ebbed with intense spiritual pressure from the mortal world.
Simon knitted his brow. “Is that…”
From the darkness, columns of smoke surged towards the pool. Demons, they recognized the pool of blood as a Gateway between Hell and the mortal world. A Gateway about to burst.
Owen grinned. “That’s my ride. We’ll meet again, brother.”
He twirled into a cloud of black smoke and surged towards the pool of blood.
The priests launched the Messiah missile. The projectile plunged into the pool of blood and vanished from sight. Seconds later, a massive explosion tore through the portal.
The result: The portal opened wider and tore through the sky itself.
An explosion of spiritual pressure blasted through the Ninth Circle. The shockwave ripped the blood portal into an open gateway, and demons poured into the opening.
Simon narrowed his eyes as he watched countless demons rush through the portal.
He ignited with shadow fire and shot towards the gateway.
Ernst spread his arms wide and laughed. Demons started pouring through the portal and raining across the city. Through comets of smoke, they splashed across the streets, took physical form, and lashed out with pure, destructive force.
Hundreds of smaller, decay demons fluttered through the opening and covered the skies like swarms of insects.
Weakened, R.J. narrowed his eyes. “What did you do?!”
Ernst grinned. “The Messiah wasn’t meant to destroy Hell, you fool. It was meant to wedge the Gateway open.”
His eyes turned black, demon-possessed.
Shocked, dozens of priests scrambled backward and nearly collapsed, their eyes fixed on the blood portal.
But several priests smiled with twisted grins as their eyes turned black. The demon-possessed exorcists armed their guns and blasted the priests before they could react.
Kyle climbed to his feet and rolled his hands into fists. The Shaded glared at Ernst. “You bastard!”
Rika shot to her feet and thrust her palms. “Kitsune!”
Enzo gripped his medallion. “‘Homage to the all-pervading Vajras, Destroy!’”
Rika fired bursts of electricity shaped like foxes, and Enzo fired a bolt of golden energy.
Two demon-possessed priests threw themselves in front of Ernst to protect the bishop. The attacks blasted the demons, singeing their skin off their bodies and hurling them through the air.
Ernst laughed at the Shaded. “Did you really think-”
A bullet blasted his shoulder and whipped him off his feet.
The Shaded looked to see Rick step onto the rooftop with his guns aimed at the bishop.
Rick narrowed his eyes. “Who are you?”
Ernst grabbed his wound and climbed to his feet. “Don’t you recognize me, Ricky? I’m crushed.”
“Faust…” Rick said.
“Very good,” Ernst said.
The demon thrust his hand with a TK burst that bashed Rick down.
Simon shot towards the blood portal. He swerved back and forth to dodge the demons that flew in the same direction.
Suddenly, strands of shadow wrapped around his leg and snapped him through the void. Simon flailed out of control and landed on the side of floating rubble.
The ranger rolled to his feet and looked up to see the massive shade of Lucifer, with eyes of hot coal.
“Your soul is mine, Ranger,” the villain hissed. “You will not leave this place.”
Simon twirled his black sword. He ignited with Rinki, Kiryoku, shadow fire and psionic energy — a torrent of power.
The ranger shot at Lucifer with the speed and force of a comet.
R.J. struggled against his bindings. He felt weakened from blood loss, and runed chains dampened his power, but he fought. He willed himself to break free — and he did.
The ranger snapped form the stake and landed in a crouched stance. He rolled his hands into fists and flared with ShiGeki.
“Faust!” he shouted at the demon.
Faust snapped around hurled a bolt of telekinetic energy at the ranger. R.J. leapt over the blast, flipped through the air and armed his morpher.
“Spirit unleash!” Purple energy washed over him as he morphed into his armor.
The Violet Wolf Ranger aimed his knee at the demon. Faust leapt aside, just as the Ranger landed with a shockwave of ShiGeki.
Faust landed on the roof’s ledge as demon-possessed priests regrouped around him. The villain lifted the Demon Tablet and smiled with mad delight.
“And now, it’s time for the final act…” he said.
His eyes glowed with black power. Faust burst from his host and assumed physical form. The priests screamed, and demons burst from their bodies.
Faust appeared as a human, with pale white skin, long black hair and purple lips. He wore a dark cloak that covered purple skin twisted like webbing.
His minions looked barely sentient, humanoid shaped, with bodies of black ooze.
Faust thrust his hand and fired lightning from his palm. The blast sparked against Violet Wolf and whipped him off his feet.
Kyle and the other teens rushed to help the Ranger.
Faust faced the Shaded and hurled a bolt of lightning.
Enzo gripped his amulet. “‘Grant us a symbol to protect us from harm, Spiritual Armor!”
A golden circle flared and blocked the lightning with bursts of spark.
Kyle and Rika leapt over the shield and angled their decent towards Faust and his demons. Rika hurled bolts of electricity, and Kyle tackled the grunts while tossing them aside.
Nearby, Rick climbed to his feet. He lifted his hand to adjust his glasses, but they had fallen and shattered. He could barely see, but he felt the spiritual pressure of Faust, Violet Wolf and the Shaded.
The energy stirred something deep and dark within Rick. And for the first time, his body shifted into its Shaded form. His hair and skin turned pale white, and his eyes turned solid black except for his blue irises.
The energy washed over his guns and transformed them into demonic looking weapons, with thick tri-barrels and silver engravings.
Rick laughed as he lifted the guns. “So…this is what it feels like? Such power!”
He fired volleys of bullets that burned with demonic energy. The bullets sparked against Violet Wolf, blasted through Faust and his minions, and sparked against Enzo’s shield.
“What the-” Kyle started to say as a bullet blasted his upper chest and whipped him off his feet.
Simon blasted through the shade of Lucifer with a shockwave that shook all of Hell. The blast tore the shade to shreds, but the shadow quickly reformed.
“You are a betrayer…” Lucifer hissed. “Your mentor. Your fellow Rangers. Your flesh and blood. You belong here with me.”
“Maybe someday…but not today, you son of a bitch.”
Simon flared with power that bashed the shade deeper into the abyss.
Simon looked towards the gateway and shot upward. He plunged into the portal and flew through currents of demonic blood and energy.
Violet Wolf grabbed Rick’s arms from behind. “Rick, get a grip!”
Rick knocked the Violet Wolf Ranger aside and blasted his armor with bursts of spark.
“Get a grip?” he asked. “Ironic, coming from you.”
Faust laughed as he watched. “How fitting.”
Suddenly, flares of orange energy shot through the air and incinerated Faust’s minions.
The demon narrowed his eyes as Red Tiger, Blue Jaguar, Yellow Cheetah and White Rhino landed on the rooftop.
“Rangers…” Faust said. “I don’t recall sending you an invitation.”
“Funny,” Yellow Cheetah said as she, Red Tiger, and Blue Jaguar shifted into Jungle Master mode. “I don’t recall caring.”
They ignited their KaGeki and shot towards Faust.
The villain leapt over their attack and fired darts of purple energy that blasted the roof. Red Tiger, Yellow Cheetah and Blue Jaguar dove and rolled for cover as sparks burst around them.
“I thought you Rangers would be busy with DaiShi,” Faust said with a sigh as he looked towards the distance. “That silly demon. He always did have daddy issues.”
White Rhino charged and chopped his fist weapon at Faust. But Faust burst into bats of shadow, reformed behind the White Ranger, and fired a burst of black energy. The blast smashed the Ranger with a burst of spark that knocked him off his feet.
Adam evaded ZECT and ducked into an alley. The former ranger leaned against a wall and breathed heavily.
Suddenly, a group of Rinshi leapt into the alleyway and attacked. Adam’s fists crackled with pale green light as he bashed through the grunts. He moved with quick and precise moves to conserve power. No longer as young, he didn’t want to risk flares of energy that could burn him out completely.
Adam kicked the last grunt to the ground.
But before he could take a break, every building on the street uprooted and shot into the sky. Dozens of winged demons — sinewy creature with slimy black skin and red veins — circled the buildings and pulsed with gravity energy. The buildings broke into chunks of concrete and debris that circled the creatures.
Then, they used the debris like cannonballs. The demons hurled chunks of concrete and rubble into the city. The projectiles bashed through skyscrapers and smashed smaller buildings with massive bursts of flame and smoke.
Adam knew he couldn’t hold back. Not anymore.
He ignited with Ki and leapt as high as he could. The former ranger jumped onto a piece of floating rubble, pushed off, and flying side-kicked a demon from the air.
He landed against a second chunk of debris, jumped to a piece of floating concrete, and pushed off.
“Hand of Fate!”
He thrust his fist with a beam of pale green light that tore through demons with massive bursts of spark.
From above, a group of demons dove and bashed against the ranger. They shot downward and smashed against the street with a shockwave.
The impact knocked the air from Adam’s lungs, and he could barely catch his breath.
The demons lifted their claws to slash at the fallen hero.
To be continued…Chapter 30