Land of the Rising Sun: Chapter Three

Subtle Enemies

 

The sun was setting in the horizon. Nekomaru rode across the wooded, mountainous wilderness of Japan. A dirt road wound through the trees. Jonathan had assured the other teens that the dirt road was a short cut. He was at the wheel of the van.

 

“Man, I can’t believe you got us lost,” Zack said from one of the backseats.

 

Jonathan tried to scan the map while driving. “We’re not lost, per say.”

 

“No?” Trini asked, arcing an eyebrow as she sat in the passenger seat with her arms crossed.

 

Jonathan sighed. “Okay we are.”

 

Youkai had given the rangers much trouble that week. There didn’t seem to be any method to their madness. A brick monster had tried to single-handedly renovate Kyoto. And a monster whose body was covered with eyes had tried to seduce Trini.

 

The other teens sighed with frustration. Jonathan looked over his shoulder at them. “Look, I’m doing the best I-” the van jolted as it crashed over something and came to a stop. “Whoops.”

 

The rangers got out of the van to see what was wrong. Jonathan had driven over a boulder. Nekomaru had a flat tire on the front passenger side.

 

“Do we have a spare?” Zack asked.

 

Trini shook her head. “No.”

 

Jason looked ahead on the dirt road. The road wound uphill. Several walking paths branched off from the road. He noticed one of the paths led to an ornate dojo that blended in seemingly with the trees.

 

“Hey guys,” Jason said as he nodded towards the dojo. “Check it out. Let’s see if anyone’s there.”

 

The rangers started up the dirt road towards the dojo. Trini flashed Jonathan a look of annoyance for getting them into the situation. Jonathan smiled sheepishly and shrugged. Zack saw the exchange and simply smiled and shook his head.

 

The teens approached the wooden door of the dojo. Jason knocked, but no one answered. He slid the door open and peeked inside. He didn’t see anyone so he stepped in. The others followed him.

 

The teens turned a corner to see a young Japanese woman sitting on a floor mat while playing a Koto, a Japanese harp-type instrument. A short table was nearby. She was dressed in red and white robes. She looked up at the teens and smiled.

 

Her gaze captivated the rangers. Her voice was gentle and soothing. “Welcome,” she said. “Please seat yourself. Dinner is already prepared.”

 

The situation was clearly odd. The rangers’ instincts screamed at them, warning of danger. But the woman was captivating. Her offer enticing. Despite reason, they could not resist. The teens slowly walked over and sat on the mat around the low table.

 

The strange woman walked around the table while passing out small bowls of curry. She placed empty cups by the plates and filled the cups with tea.

 

“Guys…” Jason said, his instincts trying to fight against the unnatural feelings of comfort being forced upon him. “Isn’t this a little…”

 

“Yes,” Zack agreed. But he didn’t seem to care. None of the rangers seemed bothered by the abnormal circumstance. They could not help but enjoy themselves. They continued eating.

 

***

 

The woman stood in a small room adjoining the dining area. A feral grin spread across her face. Her plan was working even better than expected. She peaked back into the room, watching as the rangers drifted off into sleep.

 

***

 

Jonathan rubbed the back of his head as he slowly awoke. He looked up at an unfamiliar ceiling. Then he remembered where he and the other rangers were. He wrinkled his brow with confusion. “What the…what are we still doing in this place?”

 

Jonathan stumbled to his feet. He quietly moved into the side room to look for their host. He saw the woman hunched over a bowl of milk. She was sipping the milk like a cat.

 

“Crap,” he said beneath his breath. He ran into the other room to wake the others. He stumbled over his own feet, still groggy from…whatever had controlled them earlier. Jonathan tripped and fell face down.

 

The strange woman slid back into the room and smiled down at the unconscious rangers. “Humans are so vulnerable to drugs and pheromones…”

 

The woman, the Youkai named Bakeneko, transformed into her monster form. The Youkai appeared as a white-furred cross between a tiger and a cat.

 

The cat Youkai snapped her fingers. The rangers snapped to their feet, their eyes glazed over. The Youkai smiled at how easy they were to control. She snapped her fingers again. The teens collapsed. The cat Youkai had to stop herself from laughing as she stalked towards the rangers.

 

Jason suddenly tossed a handful of floor spikes in front of the Youkai. The monster yelped as she stepped on the spikes. Trini pounced forward and snapped a volley of throwing stars. The throwing blades exploded against the Youkai and knocked her out the window.

 

Jason and Trini, their will having been strong enough to break free of the monster’s pheromones, ran to the window and looked outside. “You help the others,” Jason said. “That Youkai probably drugged the food.”

 

Trini ran to her friends while Jason leapt out the window, his morpher in hand. The rear of the dojo looked out upon a two-story drop. “Shogun transform!” Energy swirled around him as he morphed into his Ranger form.

 

Ninjared landed in front of the Youkai monster and unsheathed his sword. “What did you do to us?”

 

“It was quite simple,” the Youkai said. “First I lured you in with my pheromones, then I drugged your food.”

 

“If they’re hurt, you’ll pay!” Ninjared leapt forward and swung his sword towards the monster’s head.

 

The cat Youkai parried the blow and swung her blade towards the Ranger’s head. The Red Ranger rolled beneath her blade. Ninjared rose into a crouched position and snapped a volley of throwing blades at the monster.

 

The throwing stars exploded against the cat Youkai. But in the blink of an eye, the cat’s body appeared to become a log and drop to the ground. The throwing stars were embedded in the log. It was an old ninja trick.

 

Bakeneko reappeared behind Ninjared and slashed her claws across his back, sparking across his armor. Ninjared turned to face her, but the cat Youkai slashed with another diagonal swipe that sparked across his armor.

 

The cat grabbed Ninjared by the throat and squeezed as hard as she could, her nails digging into his neck. ”Die…” she purred.

 

Bakeneko tossed Ninjared through the air. Explosions sparked across his armor. In the blink of an eye, his empty uniform crumpled to the ground. The suit exploded with a massive burst of energy that knocked the monster backward.

 

“That’s my new favorite trick,” Ninjared said as he reappeared on the roof behind the monster.

 

The Youkai extended her hand. Invisible bursts of energy exploded around Ninjared. He leapt from the explosions and somersaulted through the air. The Youkai used her attack to run for cover.

 

“Get back here!” Ninjared shouted as he ran after the monster.

 

***

 

Trini used Nekomaru to take Richie, Jonathan, and Zack closer to the city. They sat at a picnic table outside as Trini poured them tea. They were still drugged from the food the night before.

 

Jonathan swayed back and forth while slowly spilling his tea on the ground. Zack kept trying to spin his glass. Richie kept sticking his finger in the tea.

 

Trini sighed with frustration. “Oh, you guys are helpless.”

 

Trini’s morpher toned. Jason was sending her a signal.

 

***

 

Bakeneko was in her human form as she walked in the back door of a pet shop. The sounds of dogs and cats were absent. Instead, she heard only crying. Several children and teens were locked in cages.

 

The Youkai reverted back into her cat form as she walked through the aisles of cages. Two other Youkai were sitting at a table nearby. One was in a wolf-type monster form, and the other stayed in his human form.

 

Bakeneko grabbed a butcher knife from nearby and handed it to the two other villains. “Pick your meals.”

 

The wolf Youkai snarled with delight as he eyed a caged fat boy. “I’ll take the plump one.”

 

Bakeneko swung the cage door open and dragged the boy out by his shirt collar. She moved the boy towards the center of the room and tied his neck around a non-load-bearing post. The cat Youkai lifted the butcher knife.

 

Ninjared’s x-shaped blade suddenly cut through the air and knocked the knife from the monster’s hand. The cat hissed as the Red Slider arced around and spun towards the room’s entrance. Ninjared grabbed his blade.

 

Bakeneko glared at the Red Ranger and did not notice a white blur of motion to her side.

 

“Ninpo Shard Attack!” Ninjawhite shouted. A cloud of diamond-like shards appeared floating before her. The shards shot forward like a diamond storm and slashed across the Youkai with bursts of spark.

 

The cat Youkai was knocked backward. The wolf and his human companion ran for their lives, having no desire to fight against the two Rangers.

 

Ninjawhite leapt to the pillar and untied the boy. The White Ranger started to move along the aisle of cages, freeing the trapped kids as she went.

 

Ninjared leapt towards the cat Youkai to keep the monster away from Ninjawhite. Red Ranger swung his blade upward towards the monster’s side. The cat Youkai parried the blow while spinning forward, swinging her other paw around with her claws aimed towards Ninjared’s head.

 

Red Ranger blocked the blow and slashed his sword across the monster’s chest, his blade sparking against the Youkai upon impact.

 

The Youkai suddenly tele-skipped away from the pet store in a blink of eye, hopping across the city in a streak of white as Ninjared followed in a blur of red motion. The streaks of motion clashed against each other at frightening speeds as they moved towards a nearby rock quarry.

 

Ninjared and the Youkai landed at the quarry.

 

“You Youkai are sick,” Ninjared said as he stepped back into a fighting stance.

 

“Thank you,” the cat said as she pounced forward.

 

The opponents’ blades clashed against each other. The cat Youkai was surprisingly agile, managing to twist her saber through a complex series of movements that sparked with Ninjared’s blade upon impact.

 

The Youkai slapped the Red Ranger’s blade aside and slashed her sword across the Ranger’s armor. Ninjared arced his blade back around, but the Youkai chopped hard against his wrist. Red Ranger’s sword went flying from his hand.

 

The cat Youkai leaned forward and fired an optic blast at near point-blank range that exploded violently against Red Ranger’s armor, tossing him backward and sending him skidding across the ground.

 

Ninjared went limp and stopped moving.

 

The cat Youkai smiled approvingly. She ran off in a streak of motion.

 

***

 

“Hurry,” Trini said. She was in her ninja uniform. Kids scurried around her as they moved through a barren area outside the city. They were taking a shortcut through the rock quarry to get back to Nekomaru quickly.

 

The kids suddenly stopped in their tracks as their bodies stiffened. Trini wrinkled her brow as she turned to face them. “You’ll be okay, but we have to go. Now.”

 

Their eyes suddenly turned solid white with black slits for pupils. Claws grew from their fingers as cat-like maws sprouted around their mouths. The kids pounced on Trini and started clawing at her.

 

The ranger could have easily knocked the kids away. But she was afraid of hurting them. She did what she could to defend herself, but the small cat-like creatures overpowered her.

 

The cat Youkai appeared in a streak of white motion and lifted Trini by the throat. “You ruined dinner plans…” the monster said. “But don’t worry. There’s a way you can make up for it.”

 

***

 

Trini was tied with her hands behind her back and bindings around her legs. She was in the rock quarry, a massive drop below her.

 

Dorodoro gathered around a boiling pot of liquid below. One of the soldiers dipped a jagged blade into the liquid. The grunt removed the blade. It was scared and disfigured, burnt to a shrivel.

 

Trini glared down at the Youkai below. The cat monster was among them, a feral grin on the white-furred creature’s face. “You won’t get away with this!”

 

“I already have,” Bakeneko answered. The cat snapped her fingers.

 

Two Dorodoro stepped behind Trini and pushed her over the edge. The ranger tumbled down towards the acid pot.

 

Suddenly Jonathan, dressed in his ninja garb, leapt through the air and grabbed hold of Trini. He somersaulted across the pot and out of harm’s way before landing. He held Trini with her head in his right arm and her legs draped over his left arm.

 

He smiled down at her. “You okay.”

 

“Put me down,” she said.

 

Jonathan smiled sheepishly and lowered her to her feet before cutting her free of her bindings. Zack and Richie were nearby, bashing against the Dorodoro. The effects of the drugs had clearly worn off.

 

Zack roundhouse kicked a grunt aside. He dashed forward while cutting his blade through a second villain’s gut, his sword sparking as it ripped open the grunt’s body.

 

Richie jump kicked a grunt upside the head. He spun forward and slammed that soldier to the ground with a spinning sidekick.

 

The cat Youkai pounced towards the teens. But someone leapt from behind her as if from nowhere and slammed a kick against her back. The monster stumbled forward and turned to see Jason in his ninja uniform.

 

Bakeneko narrowed her furry brow. “But you-”

 

“I was faking it,” Jason said as the others gathered around him.

 

The rangers armed their morphers. “Shogun transform! Ninja Power!” Energy swirled around them as they morphed into their armor. They snapped into fighting stances and faced off with the Youkai.

 

“Ninjared!”

 

“Ninjablack!”

 

“Ninjablue!”

 

“Ninjayellow!”

 

“Ninjawhite!”

 

“Shogun Task Force,” they shouted together. “Ninja Rangers!”

 

“Let’s bag ‘em!” Ninjared shouted as he and the other Ranger charged into battle.

 

Ninjablack armed a golden knuckle weapon over his right fist. He slammed his fist against a soldier’s chest, sparking as the soldier was bashed backward. He swung the back of his fist to his side, bashing across the side of a second soldier’s face.

 

Ninjayellow flipped a grunt over his shoulder. Yellow Ranger turned while slamming a hook kick across a second soldier’s head. He unsheathed his sword to parry a flurry of slashes from an attacking soldier.

 

Ninjablue slashed his saber upward across a soldier’s chest. The sword sparked across the grunt’s chest on impact. Another soldier swung its jagged blade towards the Ranger’s back. Ninjablue extended his sword behind his back to block the blow. Ninjablue snapped a kick backward that slammed against the grunt’s face.

 

Ninjawhite dashed through a group of nine Dorodoro with her slender blade whirling. She parried a blow and slammed her hilt against a soldier’s face while spinning forward with an outer crescent kick that bashed a second soldier aside. She slashed through the next two soldiers with an x-shaped pattern.

 

Ninjared and the cat Youkai circled around each other.

 

Bakeneko pounced forward and swung her blade towards the Red Ranger’s head. Ninjared parried the blow and slammed a roundkick against the monster’s face. Ninjared slashed upward, his blade slashing against the monster with a burst of spark.

 

The opponents became blurs of motion, crashing back and forth against each other as they skipped across the rocks.

 

Ninjared and the Youkai landed and charged at one another again.

 

The Red Ranger swung his sword downward, but the monster vanished in the blink of an eye. A translucent image of the Youkai appeared around the Ranger. The ghostly monster slashed its claws across the Ranger’s armor with a shower of sparks.

 

Ninjared rolled away and grabbed his sidearm. “Shogun Blaster!” Red Ranger fired lances of golden energy that exploded against the ghostly image. The Youkai rematerialized and tumbled across the ground.

 

The cat Youkai rose back to her feet as the Rangers regrouped. The Youkai rose her hand towards the air and summoned bolts of lightning from the dark clouds above. The lightning expanded the creature, making the monster grow giant.

 

The Rangers readied their scrolls.

 

“Shogunzords, awaken!” They shouted. The five mighty zords rose from the earth as energy surged around them. The Rangers hovered backward and merged into their zords with pulses of light.

 

“Shogunzord Fusion!” Red Ape shouted. The five zords stomped forward. Each zord flashed with energy and started to reconfigure. The zords merged together, armor meshing and energy crackling with booming thunder. A flash of golden light erupted from the zords as they formed the ShogunMegazord.

 

The cat Youkai pounced forward and swiped her claws across the zord’s armor. Explosions sparked upon impact, but the giant zord stood his ground. ShogunMegazord smashed a backfist across the monster with a tremendous display of force. The Youkai went tumbling backward.

 

“ShogunMegazord Saber, Ignite!” the Rangers shouted as the Megazord armed its slender golden blade.

 

The blade pulsed with fiery energy. ShogunMegazord swung the weapon down with a streak of flame. The glowing saber tore through the cat Youkai. The monster fell backward, her energy overloading and exploding. The creature’s fiery ashes turned to dust before fading into the wind.

 

***

 

Zack shook his head as the teens walked towards Nekomaru, recently repaired with a make-shift patch over the tire. “I can’t understand these Youkai,” Zack said. “I mean, I know Bandora was just as crazy, if not crazier, but at least she had a purpose. These Youkai just run around causing trouble. They’re not organized.”

 

“It’s better that way,” Trini said. “400 years ago when they first surfaced, they did have a leader. So they were a lot tougher. Our predecessors had to sacrifice their lives to lock the Youkai in that tomb.”

 

The rangers continued to walk. Trini’s words hung in the air.

 

To be continued…Chapter 04