Galaxy Rangers: Chapter Thirteen
The rangers gathered in front of Moku along with their young friend Ryuuta and the floating acorn boy named Boku. Boku had taken a liking to Ryuuta and was often found hovering over the child's shoulder.
Ryuuta grabbed onto Ryouma's forearm and opened his eyes wide with wonder as he looked at the ranger's morpher. He traced his fingers along the lines and curves of the bracer. "Whoa...so the Lights of Orion are in here now?"
Ryouma smiled down at his friend. "Looks that way."
"Yes," Moku said. "The Lights of Orion have separated and bonded with your morphers. The power of the Lights will be at your disposal when needed."
Worry furrowed Hayate's brow as he leaned against the wall with his arms crossed over his chest. "KuroKishi won't be too happy," he said. "He wanted those Lights almost as much as the Balban."
"Can you imagine what that psycho knight would have done?" Hikaru asked. "We've got to put him down before more people get hurt."
"No," Ryouma said. "There's something about him...I don't know what, but we can't just kill him. He has to have a reason for hating the Balban so much. A personal reason. If we find out what it is, maybe we can reason with him. Help him somehow."
"Or maybe he'll kill us for getting in his way," Hikaru said. "He tries to do that a lot. We have the scars to prove it. So let's just put him down and be done with it so we can stop the Balban and save our home."
"We're not going to kill him," Saya said. "Hyuuga would never..."
She hesitated and looked to Ryouma, who visibly weakened with grief at the mention of his brother's name. Ryouma shook his head, as if clearing the painful memories from his mind, and looked to his teammates. "She's right. Hyuuga would never do something like that. He wouldn't let us do something like that. Besides...the Balban are our real problem, not the Black Knight."
Capt. Zaihabu stalked back and forth across the deck of his ship while in a rage. "Budo...my most loyal general...betrayed me..."
Sherinda stood nearby, tracing her nails along the blade of her slender sword while leaning against the wall. "He's locked in the brig where he belongs," she said as she watched her nails scratch against the sword. "He'll eventually rot away...to him, a fate worse than execution."
"No, I want him dead," Zaihabu said. "But onto other matters...the Gingaman."
The captain's armored, Viking-like general stomped forward-- Batbos had been waiting for his moment. "My army will crush the Galaxy Rangers," he said, tightening his grip around his massive war axe. "I will not fail you. I'm not a psycho like Sanbashu, or a traitor like Budo."
"No..." Bukarates said as he waddled into the room. "But you are a dumb brute. My niece, Iresia, has the finesse you lack."
"What did you say?!" Batbos bent down and lifted short, stubby Bukarates by the collar. "You little keg...I'll punt you off this ship!"
Zaihabu lifted his hooked hand. "Stop...Bukarates is right."
Batbos grumbled and dropped the shorter minion to the deck. Bukarates wobbled back onto his feet and inclined his head towards his captain. "I will let Iresia know immediately."
Budo sat silently within the brig, deep in the bowels of the castle on top of Daitanix. His eyes were closed, and his posture calm, as he waited. He'd lost track of how long he'd been locked up. Instead, he focused on remaining in a deep, meditative state to keep his senses sharp. He would need them.
A panel from the ceiling above him suddenly splintered to pieces, raining down saw dust, as two ninja-like shark creatures dropped into the jail cell. They immediately kneeled in front of Budo and lowered their heads.
"My general," one of the Shark Brothers, Onimaru said. He pulled Budo's sword from behind his back and extended the weapon to the general. "Your blade."
"We came as soon as possible," said the other Shark Brother, Yamimaru.
"What have you learned?" Budo asked.
"It was Iresia," Onimaru said. "She betrayed you. One of her minions, Medusai, posed as you and tricked honorable Dotorumon into using the Lights on himself."
If Budo was angry, he didn't show it. "Very well. We must prove my innocence at once."
"How, my general?" Yamimaru asked.
"You will see..." Budo slowly rose to his feet, unsheathed his sword, and slashed through the bars of his jail cell to carve an opening. "Come..."
Budo stepped from the jail cell, and the Shark Brothers followed.
The shopping plazas of Stone Canyon were nowhere near as expansive as those in Angel Grove, but they were still a sight to behold. Trees and bushes decorated wide plazas of white concrete and brick, where pedestrians walked between towering city buildings. Tables and fountains dotted the plaza area, where shoppers could sit, take breaks, and eat at various outdoor cafes.
The scenic landscape was the perfect target for Budo and the Shark Brothers.
Onimaru and Yamimaru snapped volleys of throwing stars that exploded through tables and cut across the plaza with bursts of spark, scattering the civilians, who screamed and ran.
Budo unsheathed his sword, walked to the overhang of a building, and sliced through the overhang's columns, collapsing the structure.
"Balban!" someone shouted from nearby. Budo and the Shark Brothers looked to see Ryouma and his teammates run to the street.
"Gingaman..." Budo said. "You arrived faster than I expected. Leave..."
"Not a chance!" Ryouma shouted as he armed his bracer.
"Galaxy transform!" They turned the dials on their morphers. "Ha!" They slapped their morphers' activation panels, and columns of elemental energy circled around them as they morphed into their Ranger forms.
"Seijuukin!" Galaxy Red shouted. The Rangers unsheathed their swords, hunched over in animal-like postures, and charged forward to attack.
Onimaru and Galaxy Green leapt through the air towards one another, and the Green Ranger swung his sword at the villain. Onimaru grabbed the blade, grasped the Ranger's neck, and tackled Galaxy Green to the ground while holding him in place.
Galaxy Blue dashed to help the Green Ranger, but Onimaru snapped a volley of throwing stars that sparked against the Blue Ranger's armor and knocked him backward.
Galaxy Yellow and Galaxy Pink surrounded Yamimaru, but the shark monster easily slashed them aside with bursts of spark.
Meanwhile, Galaxy Red and Budo charged at one another. The Red Ranger hopped at the villain, and their swords clashed with a flurry of swings and strikes. Budo swung a wide arc that Galaxy Red ducked beneath, but when he rose to full height, Budo bashed the hilt of his sword across the Ranger's helmet with enough force to send him flying off his feet.
The Red Ranger tumbled across the ground and rose to his feet as the others regrouped around him, just as Onimaru snapped a volley of throwing stars that sparked against their armor.
Yamimaru stepped forward, whispered an incantation, and hurled a beam of crimson energy that stabbed against the Red Ranger's head. Galaxy Red's helmet flashed, and he groaned with pain, grasping his head, as he dropped to his knees.
"Ryouma!" Galaxy Pink shouted.
Budo and the Shark Brothers were about to close in on the Rangers when explosions sparked around them. Yattatoo suddenly ran onto the scene and surrounded the former Balban general and his two warriors.
The grunts were just the distraction the Rangers needed. Galaxy Green draped Galaxy Red's arm over his shoulder and lifted him from the ground. "Come on, we've got to get Ryouma out of here..."
The Rangers fell back, leaving Budo and the Shark Brothers surrounded by Yattatoo. Budo and his two warriors stood in defensive stances but didn't attack-- nor did the Yattatoo. The grunts merely circled around the honorable general who'd been branded a traitor.
Slowly, the grunts parted, making way for Medusai to walk towards Budo and the Shark Brothers.
"Budo," she said, her voice thick with amusement. "I would have thought one of your intellect would have stayed low after escaping from the brig. Tell your fish ninja to stand down, and come with me back to the ship. Your executioner awaits."
"The only thing that awaits me is the restoration of my honor..." Budo reached into his robes and pulled out a scroll, which he held out to Medusai. "Take this to Capt. Zaihabu. It is a message, meant for his eyes only."
Medusai reached out and grasped the scroll. Once the scroll was in her hands, Budo tossed a pellet to the ground, which erupted into a cloud of smoke that concealed Budo and the Shark Brothers as they vanished from sight.
The Yattatoo scrambled through the smoke to find any trace of where Budo and his warriors had escaped, but Medusai stood still. She slowly untied the scroll, opened it, and began to read. The message detailed Budo's plans, to separate the Rangers to make them weaker, and to kill them off one by one. Budo believed their deaths would free the Lights of Orion, which he intended to capture and bring to Capt. Zaihabu.
Medusai laughed mockingly as she scratched her nails across the scroll.
The teens led Ryouma down an alley, which was a shortcut on their way out of the city. Ryouma could barely stand and had to drape his arms around Hayate and Gouki's shoulders to keep from collapsing. His brow was knitted with pain as sweat dripped down his forehead, and his speech had turned into meaningless, raspy ranting.
"We have to move faster," Saya said. "Whatever's happening to him-"
Ryouma suddenly howled with agony and pushed Gouki and Hayate aside. Without warning, he unsheathed his sword and started hacking at his teammates with mad, wide swings.
"What the-- Ryouma!" Hikaru shouted as he ducked and weaved away from the swinging blade.
Ryouma howled with pain and dashed from the alley, his movements staggered, as if seeing through a haze. Pedestrians hesitated at the sight of Ryouma, but it wasn't until he started swinging his blade at random people that they started screaming and running to escape. Ryouma yelled after them, as he teammates rushed from the alley to hold him down.
They shouted his name, tried to get him to calm down while pinning down his arms, but he howled and pushed them aside while swinging his sword widely.
"What's wrong with him?" Gouki asked.
"It was those sharks," Hayate said. "We've got to get him back to Moku."
"Try telling him that," Hikaru said as he ducked beneath a sword swing. "See how well that works. Because he's clearly being reasonable right now."
Their bracers chimed, and Moku spoke to them through their morphers. "Rangers, the Balban Shark Brothers have renewed their attack, just outside the city."
The teens had to scatter to avoid a flurry of aimless swings from Ryouma's sword.
Hayate looked to Hikaru and Saya. "You two go, try to hold off the Shark Brothers as long as you can," he said. "We'll catch up with you after we get Ryouma under control."
"Do you even know how you're going to do that?" Hikaru asked.
"No," Hayate said. "But we can't just let him run free like this. People could get hurt, and he could hurt himself."
Ryouma chopped his blade and followed with a wide arc that Saya had to sidestep to avoid. She reached over and grabbed Hikaru by the wrist. "Come on, Hikaru," she said. "Let them do what they have to."
Saya ran off, her hand still on Hikaru's wrist, and Hikaru reluctantly followed.
The Shark Brothers hid behind thin shrubbery and waited. The rough terrain was near the shore, where short cliffs and rocky hills surrounded a valley with a small pond. Trees and bushes were scarce, but enough to provide the two Balban warriors with cover.
They looked towards the distance, where they saw Hikaru and Saya running towards them. Onimaru and Yamimaru patiently waited, and when their enemies were close enough, they leapt into the clear.
The Shark Brothers snapped throwing stars at the two rangers, who immediately armed their bracers.
"Galaxy transform!" They morphed into their armor and somersaulted forward across the ground as the throwing blades sparked around them.
Galaxy Yellow and Galaxy Pink rolled to their feet, raised their hands to the skies, and shouted: "Shine! Lights of Orion!"
But nothing happened.
Their morphers chimed, and Moku spoke to them through their bracers. "Rangers, all five of you must be together to activate the Lights of Orion."
Galaxy Yellow lifted his morpher to his faceplate. "You're telling us that now?"
The Shark Brothers dashed forward and slashed the Rangers across their armor.
Gouki and Hayate cornered Ryouma in an alley, but being cornered led Ryouma to swing his sword with even more madness. Ryouma screamed and wildly chopped his blade through wide arcs his two friends had to dive to avoid.
Hayate and Gouki rolled into crouched fighting stances and looked up as Ryouma charged towards them while swinging his blade back and forth. "Gouki," Hayate said. "Use your Aasu. Now!"
"Ha!" Hayate and Gouki thrust their palms forward and fired bursts of wind and water that splashed against Ryouma and slammed him back-first against a wall. The back of his head slammed against the brick, and his body toppled forward, hitting the pavement hard.
Somewhere, in the back of his mind, his memories flashed back.
Young Ryouma walked across a path through the Ginga Forrest on his way back home. The boy adjusted the strap over his shoulder, which carried a sack of fruits and apples his mother was going to bake into a pie. His friend Gouki would likely be over to watch-- he was fascinated with Ryouma's mother's cooking.
Ryouma was lost in thought when gallons of water splashed against the top of his head and tunic. "What the..."
He looked up to see two boys scurry from the branches while laughing. Each of them carried an empty bucket, and they leapt onto the trail. The lead boy slung his empty bucket over his shoulder and pointed at Ryouma while laughing. "You're so stupid, Ryouma. An old granny could have heard us coming, but by the time you knew we here, we'd already soaked you!"
"And watched you soak your trousers!" the other boy shouted, and they both laughed.
Ryouma knitted his brow with anger and rolled his hands into fists. He glared at the two bullies. "How many times have I told you to leave me alone!" He charged at them and held his fists back while shouting a war cry.
Before the lead boy could defend himself, Ryouma pounced and tackled the bully to the ground. Young Ryouma leaned forward and smashed his fists against the boy's face until his nose cracked and oozed with blood. The other boy screamed and ran, but Ryouma kept pounding on the lead boy, releasing years of pent-up anger.
A hand suddenly grasped Ryouma's wrist to stop the next punch."Ryouma..."
Ryouma, his eyes filled with tears, looked to see his older brother Hyuuga. The bully squirmed from the ground and ran off, and Ryouma stood to face his brother. "Hyuuga, they did it again...they keep picking on me and I just...I couldn't take it this time." He lowered his gaze with shame and slowly wiped the blood from his knuckles. "I know I shouldn't have lost my temper, but..." he shook his head. "I just want to go home."
Hyuuga laid a hand on his brother's shoulder and gave a comforting smile. "Ryouma...I understand. You and me...there's a lot of fire inside of us both, little brother. Sometimes it wants to get out so bad it can make the blood boil."
Ryouma looked up at his brother and arced an eyebrow. "You...? You never break your calm."
"That's because I learned how to focus. You will too," Hyuuga said. "The trick is to control your anger, and not let it control you."
"I normally do control it, it's just this one time-"
"You normally hold it in," Hyuuga said. "You hold your anger inside until it's ready to burst. Instead, control it."
"But how?" Ryouma asked.
"Focus," Hyuuga said. "Here...I'll show you..."
Hyuuga stood in a wide stance, closed his eyes, and placed his hands together in front of his chest. "Breathe in through the nose..." He took a deep breath. "And out through the mouth..." He exhaled.
Ryouma stood in a wide stance, closed his eyes, and placed his hands in front of his chest.
Budo calmly walked across a wide open field dotted with windmills, which spun slowly in the breeze. The villain was in the area to meet Medusai. He didn't have to wait long. The monster, along with a small group of Yattatoo, fanned out from behind the nearest windmill.
"Medusai..." Budo turned towards her while not showing the slightest bit of concern at the sight of the orange-clad grunts. "Did you deliver my message to our captain?"
Medusai pulled the scroll from behind her back. "You mean this message?" She tossed the scroll to the ground, and it unrolled, revealing the scratched parchment. "You're an idiot, Budo. You're supposed to be a master tactician, and yet you can't even tell when you've been set up. You're a joke!"
"Set up?" Budo asked.
"I took the form of your body to trick your minion Dotorumon into using the Lights on himself," she explained. "With you...disposed of...my mistress will be the one to revive Daitanix. This was her plot all along."
"And did you think..." Budo slowly lowered his hand to the hilt of his sword, "...that I didn't know that?" He unsheathed his blade, and with his free hand, he pulled a second scroll from his robes. "This scroll is etched with a special spell that took note of your every word. Your confession. I will bring this scroll, along with the defeated Gingaman, to our captain to prove my innocence."
"Ha!" Medusai laughed. "You really are an idiot. You think words on a scroll will save you! Yattatoo, kill him!"
The orange-clad grunts armed their curved sabers and charged at Budo to attack. The general stepped back into a defensive stance, and when the grunts pounced at him and swung their blades, he struck. His sword clashed against their blades, parrying their blows, as he swung flurries of strikes that ripped through their bodies with bursts of spark. He spun with grace and easily hacked the soldiers aside. None of the Yattatoo managed to land a bow of their own. Budo, the master swordsman, was too quick.
The last of the grunts fell, and Budo turned to face Medusai while keeping his sword held in a fighting stance.
"Do you think I fear you?" Medusai said. "Your honor makes you weak and stupid. I-"
Budo charged his blade with cyan-tinted energy, swung the sword, and slashed through the monster's body with bursts of spark. Medusai opened her mouth with a silent scream as smoke sizzled from her torn body. The creature reached her hand forward, as if to choke Budo, but she tumbled to the ground as her energy overloaded and exploded.
Galaxy Yellow and Galaxy Pink crashed onto their backs; Onimaru repeatedly stomped on the fallen Yellow Ranger's chest with bursts of spark, and his brother Yamimaru did the same to Galaxy Pink. The two Rangers tried to roll free from the monsters, but each kick pinned them down.
"Ha!" someone shouted from nearby.
The Shark Brothers looked to see Galaxy Red, Galaxy Blue, and Galaxy Green leap through the air. The Green Ranger slammed a flying sidekick against Onimaru to knock the villain backward, and the Blue Ranger smashed a flying double kick against Yamimaru to knock him back.
Onimaru and Yamimaru stumbled but managed to stay standing, while Galaxy Pink and Galaxy Yellow rolled to their feet to regroup with their teammates.
The five Rangers snapped into animal-like fighting stances.
"Ryouma..." Galaxy Pink placed a hand on the Red Ranger's shoulder. "I knew you'd be okay..."
"How..." Onimaru grumbled. "How did you break the mind warp?!"
"No power is greater than the human heart, Balban!" Galaxy Red shouted.
The Rangers quickly clawed at the ground and then reached their hands towards the skies. "Shine! Lights of Orion!" Golden energy enveloped the Rangers and swept across their armor. Bands of gold, each with an emerald gem, formed over their upper left arms, and clawed fist weapons covered their left forearms and hands. Thick golden bands wrapped around their gauntlets and boots, and golden bucklers, each engraved with a black V, formed on their belts.
They snapped into animal-like fighting stances and held their swords forward, blades pointed up.
"Ha!" Galaxy Red twirled his powered-up sword and swung the blade sideways, which fired a pulse of red light that exploded against the Shark Brothers with sparks and strands of golden energy.
The Shark Brothers collapsed to their knees as smoke sizzled from their armor.
"Gingaman..." a voice said from nearby. The Rangers looked to see Budo walk towards the two Shark Brothers, who were slowly climbing to their feet. "This was not the way it was supposed to be."
"Sorry to disappoint you," Galaxy Red said.
"No, Gingared," Budo said. He unsheathed his sword. "I will not let you rob me of my honor. We will duel. You and I only. No interference."
"General..." Yamimaru stumbled towards his master. "Let us fight together! There's no need-"
"No," Budo said. "This is my fight." Budo raised his sword in a defensive position and faced the Red Ranger. "Come, Gingared."
The Red Ranger held his sword forward, shouted an animal-like war cry, and dashed towards Budo. Their blades clashed as they passed each other, and they turned and swung their swords, clanging their blades together. They pushed their swords together hard and turned, each trying to gain the upper hand. At once, they pushed off, separating from one another and gaining distance.
They stood in fighting stances and faced each other, and they each started running sideways, never taking their eyes off of one another. Budo was the first to skid to a halt, near the edge of a short cliff, and Galaxy Red followed. They leapt at each other so fast they appeared as blurs of motion as they clashed and moved to the base of the cliff.
They landed, and they clashed their blades together. Galaxy Red twisted his sword to slap Budo's blade aside, and he sidestepped to swing a wide arc that Budo dodged. The villain spun and swung a blow that Galaxy Red parried, and the Red Ranger countered with a flurry of swings of his own that Budo had to continually step backward to block.
Budo parried a pair of strikes and went back on the offensive, clashing his sword against the Red Ranger's Seijuukin. Their blades clanged together, and they pushed hard, metal against metal, before pushing off and gaining distance once again.
"Haaaa...!" Galaxy Red stepped back and swung his sword through a slow, elegant arc as the fire of his own energy erupted around him, covering the small area with flame. He brought his blade down-- parallel to his body, held outward-- and he extended the claws of his fist weapon.
Budo dashed forward and chopped his blade towards the Red Ranger's head, but Galaxy Red parried the blow and dashed past Budo while slashing the villain across the chest with a burst of spark. The Red Ranger turned and swung a pair of strikes-- the first slashed across Budo with a burst of spark, but the villain used his blade to block the second.
Twisting his sword, Budo slapped the Seijuukin aside and slashed the Red Ranger twice with bursts of spark that knocked him back a step.
Budo energized his sword with pulsing blue power and chopped the blade towards Galaxy Red, but the Red Ranger used his claw to grab the blade and twist it downward, and he used his free elbow to shatter the blade in two.
The villain stumbled backward, in shock as he looked at his shattered sword.
Galaxy Red swung his sword through an intricate arc as the blade energized with fiery, golden power. The same energy pulsed along the claws of his fist weapon as he held his arms wide. "Mane of Flame!"
He swung his blade and fist weapon inward with an x-shaped pattern that streaked across Budo with massive bursts of spark that knocked him off his feet.
Budo crashed to his knees while holding his broken sword in hand. Smoke sizzling from his armor, he slowly climbed to his feet, barely able to stand, but determined none the less.
"Our fight..." his voice was as strained as his movement as he stepped, slowly, towards the Red Ranger. Each wobbling step was shorter and weaker than the last. "Is not over..."
Budo chopped his broken blade towards the Red Ranger. Galaxy Red parried the blow and slashed his blade downward with a single strike that ripped through Budo's body with massive bursts of spark. Budo's arms went wide as smoke sizzled from his wounds, and his broken sword dropped from his hand as he fell backward, his energy overloading and exploding.
"General!" the Shark Brothers shouted.
The monsters didn't hesitate. They immediately pulled vials of the Balban growth elixir from their armor and drank deeply. The elixir coursed through their veins as the two monsters grew giant.
“Star Beasts, arise!” Galaxy Red shouted.
The five giant Seijuu appeared, and the Rangers leapt onto their companions. Galaxy Red armed his Kiba Dagger and held the blade towards the skies. "Zord transform!"
The Star Beasts transformed into mystical suits of armor as the Rangers dropped into their cockpits. “Star Beast fusion!” Galaxy Red commanded. “Gingaiou!”
The zords rushed forward-- their bodies shifting and changing-- and combined into one armored warrior. A golden-hilted, double-edged sword appeared in the warrior’s hand. “GalaxyMegazord!” Galaxy Red shouted once the fusion was complete. “Gingaiou!”
The emerald gem on Galaxy Red's upper-arm band pulsed with golden power that illuminated the cockpit. The light was nearly bright enough to blind the Red Ranger's vision. "What..."
Light from each Ranger enveloped the entire Megazord, which transformed into a suit of armor. A triangular shield of golden-trimmed, white armor plating formed over the Megazord's chest. A golden trident of spikes extended from the helmet of the Megazord. Golden spikes extended from the hilt of the Megazord saber to cover half the length of the blade. The two spikes were parallel to the edges of the sword.
"The Lights..." Galaxy Red said. "They've powered up the Megazord!"
Yamimaru wasted no time charging at the powered-up Megazord. And the Rangers wasted no time taking him out.
"GalaxyMegazord Saber!" Galaxy Red shouted. "Blazing Slash!"
GalaxyMegazord held its sword back, and golden energy washed along the blade until the entire saber pulsed with light. Gingaiou chopped the sword through a streak of energy that slashed through Yamimaru and tore a gaping hole through the villain's body. The shark monster tumbled backward as his energy overloaded and exploded.
The second Shark Brother leapt at the Megazord from behind. GalaxyMegazord turned, ignited its saber, and slashed the blade across the monster, tearing him in two. The two halves of the final shark monster overloaded and exploded.
Bukarates waddled into his niece's chambers and parted the hanging veils that concealed her. Iresia was sitting on her mattress and looking at a crystal ball held in her right hand. "My niece..."
"I know," she said, never taking her eyes from the crystal sphere in her hand. "Budo is out of my way. His fish minions are dead. I saw the battle. Very amusing." She laughed quietly, an eerie sound that echoed inside the room. "He's had that coming for a long time..."
The rangers returned to the ranch following the battle. Hayate and Hikaru were speaking to Moku with Ryuuta, Gouki had gone into the house to cook, and Ryouma went to the stables to groom his horse.
Ryouma brushed back and forth across the animal's coat while Saya walked up behind him. "Ryouma...what are you doing out here? I thought you'd be with Moku."
"I needed some time to think..." he said.
"Are you feeling...normal?" Saya asked.
Ryouma nodded. "Yeah. That was scary though, losing control like that. I still remember everything."
"How did you manage to break free?" she asked.
He stopped brushing. "I know it sounds crazy...but it was Hyuuga. Somehow...somehow, at least a part of him is still alive somewhere. And he helped me."
To be continued...Chapter 14