Land of the Rising Sun: Chapter Twenty-One

Heralds of the End

 

A full moon illuminated the night sky over Japan. The skies were clear, allowing the stars to shine brightly. The view alone often brought people into the wilderness to appreciate the sky’s beauty.

 

The view brought a young man and his girlfriend into the woods to stargaze. They were only there for a few moments when an eerie fog crept through the trees. The next thing they knew, they were running for their lives.

 

Hayaku!” the young man shouted as he ran as fast as he could, dragging his girlfriend along by her hand.

 

They stopped in their tracks and fell backward when a monstrous image floated forward through the fog.

 

The creature had bright crimson eyes and thick diamond-like scales of dirty, dull gold. She laughed, a voice of discord, as the young couple backed away. The Youkai creature continued her advance.

 

***

 

The teens stood near the shore of a gulf while buying sweet corn from a vender with a small wooden shop set up. The man and Jonathan exchanged a few words in Japanese.

 

“Corn?” Zack said as he shook his head and looked to Richie. “They have corn in Japan?”

 

Richie shrugged. “Could be imported.”

 

“Hey guys,” Jonathan said as he turned away from the man and looked towards the rangers. “You might want to hear this. This guy said the woods over there are haunted…” Jonathan pointed across the gulf to a wooded area. “A few people have gone missing recently, he says. Sounds like typical Youkai stuff to me.”

 

Jason nodded. “It’s worth checking out…” he shook his head. “Something’s been bothering me about the Youkai lately.”

 

Trini nodded. “Daimamou launched such a big attack with that Blue Globber, but since then things have been too easy…”

 

Jonathan smiled. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

 

“No,” Jason said, “but it probably means Daimamou’s up to something.”

 

“Well let’s check out these woods then,” Zack said.

 

The rangers piled into Nekomaru and started to drive towards the other side of the gulf.

 

***

 

The sun was setting as Nekomaru drove through the woods on its way to the haunted area. The dirt path they were traveling started to narrow, and they approached a fork in the road. A group of five strange scarecrows sat at the fork, and vultures were hovering above.

 

Nekomaru pulled to a stop as the rangers climbed out of their vehicle.

 

“Yep,” Jonathan said as he looked up to the vultures. “Definitely haunted.”

 

Trini nodded. “We probably should wait until daylight to look around.”

 

“What do we do in the meantime?” Zack asked.

 

Jason nodded back down the road from where they came. “There was a hotel back down the road. We can set down there.”

 

Richie wrinkled his brow. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

 

Jason placed his hand on Richie’s shoulder and started back towards the van. “We’ll be fine. We don’t have a lot of options, anyway.”

 

***

 

Nekomaru pulled up to the old well-kept house that served as a small hotel. An older Japanese lady walked down the steps to greet them with a large smile on her face.

 

“Welcome,” she said. “We don’t get many Americans out here. Just passing through?”

 

Jason smiled at the lady. “Something like that.”

 

A man in a suit stood by the woman and helped the rangers carry their things inside.

 

“Do you get many people here?” Richie asked.

 

“Some,” the lady said. “People mostly stop by for dinner or breakfast…but we do have some folks stay the night from time to time. Tourists mostly.”

 

The suited man led the rangers inside and upstairs to their rooms.

 

***

 

Night fell across the woods as the rangers cleaned up and got ready for bed. Trini had a room to her own while the others shared a room next door. The wall between the two rooms was paper thin, and Trini could hear the guys arguing about who would get the single bed. She smiled, glad no amount of Youkai action could dampen their spirits.

 

In the guys’ room, Jason quickly tugged the sheet covers, spilling Zack onto the floor.

 

“I called it,” Jason said.

 

“Hey guys,” Jonathan said as he peaked up at a narrow window near the ceiling. “Check this out…”

 

The others peaked up and looked out the window to see the butler man walking back and forth in front of a cage of chickens.

 

Richie narrowed his brow. “Weird…”

 

“Let’s see what he’s up to,” Jonathan said as he headed out of the room. The others followed and grabbed Trini along the way.

 

The rangers went outside, descending the stone steps at the side of the house while walking towards the man. The butler looked over at them and smiled. “I know what you’re thinking…we don’t exactly look like farmer types.”

 

Jonathan shrugged. “Now that you mention it…”

 

The man laughed and softly tapped the side of the chicken cage before walking back into the house. The others watched the strange man, keeping their eyes on him until he made it inside.

 

“He is weird,” Trini said.

 

“Yeah,” Jonathan said. “But I think we’re just being paranoid…we can’t go along accusing every loon of being a Youkai. Besides…they usually have some kind of deformity in their human form.”

 

“Either way,” Jason said, “we should stay alert until morning…”

 

***

 

Daimamou’s floating skull palace was set down on the side of a grassy mountain. The Youkai Lord sat in his throne as the two monsters that had terrorized the woods appeared in front of him. They did not kneel, like the lord’s other subjects.

 

The female Youkai, Darabotchi, smiled at Daimamou. “The rangers have arrived. Our plan is proceeding perfectly.”

 

The male, Yamanba, nodded. His massive body was made of various metal plates colored dirt gold. “She speaks the truth, brother.”

 

Darabotchi and Yamanba were the younger sister and brother to Daimamou.

 

“And then what?” Daimamou asked as he rose from the throne and walked down to his siblings.

 

Darabotchi inclined her head. “What do you mean? With the Rangers out of our way, we will-”

 

“I will,” Daimamou said. “This world is mine. They are my enemies. Do not forget your place…”

 

Darabotchi inclined her head. “Of course…”

 

Yamanba and Darabotchi stepped backward as they transformed into their human forms: the hotel’s maid and butler.

 

***

 

Richie’s eyes snapped open as he heard commotion outside. The noise was quiet, not loud enough to wake the others.

 

Richie shuffled out of bed and moved over to the window. He reached up and peaked out the narrow slot to see the butler out in the distance. He had a mad grin on his face and was removing one of the chickens from its cage. The strange butler started towards the woods with the chicken in his hands.

 

Too strange, Richie thought to himself. He left the room and headed outside to follow the butler.

 

***

 

Richie walked through the woods, following the butler through the fog. Something’s not right, he thought to himself.

 

The butler suddenly vanished from sight. Richie sprinted forward to where the man vanished and looked around, his fists tightened, ready for a surprise attack.

 

He heard a shrill laughter of discord split through the air. He turned to see the Youkai Darabotchi float towards him, her claws outstretched.

 

Youkai,” Richie said as he snapped into a fighting stance.

 

Darabotchi fired crimson optic blasts that exploded around Richie.

 

“Shogun transform!” he shouted while quickly morphing into his armor and somersaulting forward through the explosion.

 

Ninjablue rolled to his feet and leapt forward, swinging his blade towards the monster’s head. Darabotchi parried the blow with her saber and followed through with a diagonal strike across the Blue Ranger’s armor.

 

Ninjablue fought back with an outer crescent kick, but the villain vanished before his blow could connect. She reappeared behind the Ranger, and Ninjablue quickly turned while swinging his blade through a horizontal arc. Darabotchi parried the blow and struck with a vertical swing, her blade sparking across the Ranger’s armor.

 

Ninjablue stood his ground and swung his saber upward with a diagonal swing, but the villain vanished again. Darabotchi appeared behind Ninjablue and hacked against his armor with two blows in an x-shaped pattern.

 

The Ranger went stumbling across the ground and rose to his knees.

 

“Jason. Trini!” he called to the others as the ground started to shake.

 

A ghostly image of Yamanba’s head appeared giant sized in font of the Ranger. The monster’s eyes started to glow deep crimson as the ground continued to shake.

 

***

 

Jason, Richie, Zack, Trini, and Jonathan climbed into Nekomaru the next morning as the maid and butler said goodbye. Richie was even quieter than usual, and the bags under his eyes betrayed a night of sleeplessness.

 

Nekomaru pulled away from the hotel house and started down the street.

 

“See Richie?” Jonathan said. “There was nothing to worry about.”

 

Richie merely nodded.

 

Nekomaru pulled up near the scarecrows at the fork in the road. The rangers left the van while in their loose-fitting ninja robes, each ready to go out on patrol.

 

“Okay,” Jason said as he straightened his sword, “Trini and I will head east. The rest of you head west.”

 

The rangers split up and headed deeper into the woods.

 

***

 

It wasn’t far before Jonathan, Zack, and Richie met a cloud of fog, quickly spreading through the trees.

 

Richie stopped in his tracks and turned to face the other two rangers.

 

“What is it?” Jonathan asked. Richie said nothing.

 

Richie pounced forward and grabbed Zack and Jonathan in choke holds. He lifted the rangers up and tossed them over his shoulder. Zack and Jonathan tumbled across the ground before rising to their knees.

 

“What the hell are you doing, man?” Jonathan asked.

 

Richie unsheathed his sword and charged forward.

 

“Richie, stop,” Zack said as he and Jonathan stood.

 

Richie started swinging his blade as Zack ducked and dodged.

 

Zack grabbed Richie by the wrist and tried to disarm the blue ranger, but Richie snapped out with a round kick that slammed against Zack’s ribs.

 

Jonathan moved in from behind Richie, but the blue ranger turned and swung his blade horizontally, his sword sparking against Jonathan’s uniform. Richie stepped forward and stood behind Jonathan while wrapping his arm around the yellow ranger’s throat and holding a sword to his head.

 

“Richie, stop!” Zack shouted.

 

Darabotchi appeared from the fog and started floating towards Zack. The ranger narrowed his brow and quickly pulled out his morpher.

 

“Shogun transform!” he shouted as energy twirled around him and he morphed into his Black Ranger form.

 

Ninjablack leapt forward towards Darabotchi, angling his descent towards her head while unsheathing his sword. Darabotchi produced a blade of her own and quickly slashed Ninjablack from the air.

 

The Ranger fell to the ground and tumbled backwards as Darabotchi continued her advance.

 

image003“Shogun Blaster!” Ninjablack shouted as he pulled out his sidearm.

 

The ground started shaking before he could fire.

 

A ghostly image of Yamanba’s head appeared giant sized in font of the Ranger. The monster’s eyes started to glow deep crimson as the ground continued to shake.

 

A giant rocky hand erupted from the ground and wrapped its palm around Ninjablack as he shouted. “Jason! Trini!”

 

***

 

Jason and Trini heard Zack’s scream through their morphers. They looked at each other with concern.

 

“Trouble,” Trini said.

 

“Let’s go,” Jason said.

 

The two rangers ran through the woods as fast as possible. They hid behind a line of bushes and stared through the leaves. What they saw was not promising. Richie was standing alongside Darabotchi, staring down at Jonathan and Zack’s fallen forms. A group of Dorodoro walked forward, escorting a pair of doppelgangers of the yellow and black rangers.

 

The doppelgangers were identical to Jonathan and Zack in everyway, except for the dark wrinkles under their eyes.

 

Jason turned to Trini, keeping his voice low.

 

“They’re trying to replace us…” Jason said.

 

Trini nodded. “They must be keeping the real Richie somewhere.”

 

“We’ll have to follow,” Jason said.

 

“Agreed,” Trini said. “I have a plan…”

 

***

 

The doppelgangers of Richie, Jonathan, and Zack walked through the woods, calling for Jason and Trini.

 

Trini ran over to them. “What’s going on? I heard you scream…”

 

“Did you now…” the Richie doppelganger said as he walked forward.

 

Richie reached out and grabbed Trini by the throat as Jonathan’s doppelganger stepped up and slammed an uppercut blow against her stomach.

 

Trini landed on the ground, collapsing. Dorodoro escorted Trini’s doppelganger forward as Jason watched from a safe distance, perched in a tree. The doppelgangers walked off in one direction, and the enemy soldiers lifted up Trini and carried her off in another direction.

 

Jason followed.

 

***

 

Jason was darting through the woods, fast on the trial of the Dorodoro.

 

A volley of ropes suddenly erupted from the ground and wrapped around Jason, lifting him off his feet and into the air. The doppelgangers sprang out as if from nowhere and looked up at Jason, sick grins spreading across their faces.

 

The doppelgangers lifted their hands, causing the ropes to twirl as explosions blasted across his chest. The ropes suddenly snapped as Jason started to plummet.

 

Jason dropped to the ground, slamming his body hard against dirt and rock. The evil doppelgangers unsheathed their swords and charged forward towards the fallen ranger, twisted grins spread across their dark faces.

 

The doppelgangers surrounded Jason and aimed their swords towards his back. They speared their weapons forward, but their blades passed through nothing but empty cloth. Jason had vanished.

 

Ninjared suddenly jumped through the air and unsheathed his saber, angling his descent towards the villains. He twirled the sword in a circular pattern while charging it with crimson energy.

 

“Hidden style full moon cut!” he shouted as he swung his energized saber down hard diagonally and followed with a horizontal strike.

 

Ninjared’s blade ripped through the villains, tearing them to shreds as their bodies evaporated into smoke.

 

Ninjared re-holstered his sword. “That takes care of those clowns.”

 

Ninjared looked down and noticed a small glimmering object in a doppelganger’s ashes. He leaned over and noticed it was a necklace, one it only took him a moment to recognize.

 

“This necklace…” he said. It was the necklace their maid had wore.

 

image005The ground suddenly started shaking as Ninjared struggled to keep his balance. A torrent of flame suddenly erupted from the ground and started twirling through the air. The giant-form of Yamanba sprang through the earth and stood tall, glaring down at Ninjared.

 

Giant Yamanba stomped its foot down as Ninjared rolled out of the way to avoid being squashed. The Ranger rolled to his feet and pulled out his scroll.

 

Ninjazord, awaken!” the Red Ranger shouted as powerful lightning shot across the skies.

 

“Ninja Ape!” Ninjared shouted. The symbol on his scroll glowed and projected behind the Ranger before forming the mighty ape zord. Ninjared levitated backward and merged into his zord’s cockpit.

 

Ninja Ape leapt forward and swung its twin swords down towards the monster’s head. Yamanba used its massive left arm to parry the blow and slammed his left fist against the zord’s chest. The thundering blow produced a shockwave that tore through the ground below as Ninja Ape was slammed backward, tumbling out of control.

 

***

 

The maid sharpened her jagged sword as the other four rangers laid at the lawn of her hotel, tied and bound. The old lady smiled down at the rangers with a glimmer of insanity in her eye.

 

“Just sit still for a moment or two longer,” the maid said as her body rippled and she reverted back into her monster form.

 

“Interesting set up,” Trini said as she glared at the creature.

 

“Isn’t it though?” Darabotchi said.

 

The creature snapped her fingers, and the hotel vanished from sight. The chickens turned out to be illusions too, masking a group of captives.

 

Darabotchi laughed at the rangers’ shocked expressions. “We are going to have such good times…”

 

Darabotchi stalked towards Trini, her jagged blade extended forward towards the ranger’s head. The creature laughed as she raised her weapon to strike. Darabotchi swung downward to split Trini’s head open, but a blade blocked her blow, and a red-armored boot kicked her away. It was Ninjared.

 

“Jason!” Trini shouted.

 

Ninjared started cutting them loose with his blade. “Hey guys…”

 

“Took your time, I see,” Jonathan said jokingly as they stood.

 

Darabotchi shook her head. “My brother, Yamanba, you could not have beaten him…”

 

Ninjared pointed backwards with his thumb. “I didn’t…but I had a little help keeping him busy.”

 

The rangers and Darabotchi looked up to see Ninjor in his giant form holding a struggling Yamanba back.

 

“Hello, Rangers,” Ninjor said.

 

Ninjared cut the other captives free, and they ran off.

 

Darabotchi glared at the rangers. “You will not leave these woods alive. We are more powerful than any Youkai you have even faced.”

 

“That’s yet to be seen,” Ninjared said.

 

Trini readied her morpher. “Let’s go.”

 

“Shogun transform!” the others shouted as they morphed into their Ranger forms.

 

Dorodoro!” Darabotchi shouted as the blue soldiers appeared and charged forward towards the Rangers.

 

The Ninja Rangers sprinted forward to meet their opponents as Ninjor fought the giant Yamanba in the distance.

 

A group of Dorodoro surrounded Ninjared. The Red Ranger snapped out with a sidekick towards his right, smashing against a soldier’s face. Two soldiers rushed towards his front with their swords swinging. He parried each blow and cut them down with a pair of diagonal strikes. A group of Dorodoro came in from behind, and Ninjared turned to parry their blows with a single arc of his saber. He snapped out with a reverse crescent kick that slammed the soldiers backward.

 

image007Ninjablue flipped through the air and landed in a crouched position, kicking out and sweeping the legs out from underneath a pair of soldiers. Two Dorodoro swung their blades horizontally towards the Ranger as he rose to his feet. Ninjablue held his sword vertically and blocked both sabers. He knocked their weapons away and slashed them across their chests.

 

Ninjablack launched through a series of back flips and landed in the middle of a Dorodoro group. The Ranger spun forward while slashing horizontally at a soldier. Ninjablack hopped forward with a jump kick upside a soldier’s head. The Ranger landed in a crotched position and swept a Dorodoro to the ground. He continued to spin while rising and roundhouse kicking another Dorodoro to the ground.

 

Ninjawhite ran through a line of soldiers, cutting them down with diagonal and horizontal strikes that sparked through the creatures. She continued her advance and front kicked a soldier, but that Dorodoro caught her foot. The White Ranger flipped backwards out of the soldier’s hold while kicking that soldier upside the head. Ninjawhite continued forward while slamming a jump kick against a soldier’s face.

 

image009Ninjayellow leapt forward while wrapping his ankles around a soldier’s head and twisting. The Ranger landed on the ground and cut through a group of incoming soldiers with a fierce volley of swings and strikes.

 

The Rangers were about to regroup when Darabotchi started hovering forward, cutting down the Rangers one by one. Red, Black, Blue, Yellow, White…

 

She floated behind them and stepped back into a fighting stance as the Rangers regrouped and pulled themselves back to their feet.

 

Above, Yamanba was smashing his giant fists against Ninjor, causing several explosions to erupt from the blue warrior’s armor. Ninjor tried to counter attack, but the creature kept slamming his massive fists forward. Yamanba lashed out with a kick that sent Ninjor tumbling off balance and rolling across the ground.

 

Ninjor slowly rose to his feet as two glowing symbols appeared at his sides. The symbols radiated and materialized into the ShogunMegazord and NinjaMegazord.

 

Shinshou!” Ninjor shouted with relief at the sight of his former teachers. Fire radiated within his visor as he started his transformation process. “Ninja armor energize!”

 

Ninjor’s red shogun-style armor activated with a violent display of power as he built up a fiery energy blast between his hands.

 

Ninpo bomber!” he shouted as he hurled the energy blast forward.

 

ShogunMegazord ignited its saber and swung the fiery weapon towards its opponent. NinjaMegazord energized its wolf and ape fists and lunged forward to attack.

 

Yamanba was knocked backwards by the combined force of their blows, his body ripping apart as his energy overloaded and exploded.

 

Darabotchi looked up as her fallen brother’s remains were blown away by the wind. Yamanba!!”

 

The Rangers placed their sword together while the villain was distracted.

 

Shinobi spear!” they shouted while firing a golden lance of energy that exploded against the Youkai and sent her crashing down to her knees.

 

Darabotchi looked up and glared at the Rangers. “You will pay dearly for this, Rangers…”

 

Darabotchi teleported away with a burst of crimson lightning.

 

***

 

Daimamou sat upright in his throne while staring down at Darabotchi. “You failed…”

 

She nodded. “The fault was not mine, brother…”

 

“Of course not…you were weak,” Daimamou said. “But that will change…”

 

The Youkai Lord walked to the mouth of the castle and faced the dark skies. He lifted his hand and summoned a volley of crimson lightning bolts that struck Darabotchi, electrifying her with energy.

 

“That will change…” Daimamou said again while watching his sister shriek and grow in power.

 

To be continued…Chapter Twenty-Two