Shadows of Evil: Chapter Fifteen

Through Hell

 

Lion Ranger braced himself as he and Phoenix Ranger shot like a pair of comets through a tunnel of fire and brimstone. Cerebus had escorted them to the gate into Hell’s lower levels, surprisingly without any tricks, and the two Rangers had entered only to be throttled forward out of control.

 

The tunnel came to an end as the Rangers were shot onto a cliff of brimstone and went skidding across its ashes. Lion Ranger recognized the area immediately from when he entered the Shadow World to save Kujaku’s soul. The burning sands and rising flames around them fit his stereotypical version of Hell almost exactly.

 

“Is this it?” Phoenix Ranger asked as she stood ready to defend herself from an attack at a moment’s notice.

 

Lion Ranger nodded. “I’m not sure where the gatekeeper is though. He has to be close by…”

 

As if on cue, a large humanoid black dragon sprang up from a pool of flame and landed in front of the two Rangers while grasping onto a pair of double-edged swords. The creature shouted at the two Rangers in a tongue they didn’t understand, and then the monster dashed forward with a powerful swoop from its wings.

 

The Rangers jumped cleared and barely managed to avoid the quick swings of the gatekeeper’s massive blades.

 

Phoenix Ranger extended her hand. “Cyclone!” she shouted while summoning a tornado of pink energy that swirled around the creature.

 

The cyclone held the monster steady, long enough for Lion Ranger to move in. He swung his fist towards the creature. “Hand of Fate!” he shouted while firing a pale green energy blast that slammed against the creature’s chest.

 

The dragon was forced back a few steps before opening his jaw and exhaling a massive torrent of black flame. The blast struck Lion Ranger in the chest and blasted him off of the cliff as he fell towards the pit of fire below.

 

***

 

Dragon Ranger, Tenma Ranger, and Kirin Ranger followed the serpent-men through the barren wasteland of the Seventh Circle. Mordanthos’ warrior Thrax took the point.

 

“How much further?” Dragon Ranger asked.

 

“I refuse to keep track of our mileage, mortal,” Thrax said as he continued forward. “You’ll know when we arrive.”

 

Before Dragon Ranger could snap back a comment, they heard the stampeding noises of thunderous hooves in the distance. Across the barren landscape, and among the twisted black trees, charged a cavalry of demonic, dark-purple horses with manes of black flame and blood-red eyes. Creatures that appeared as nothing but muscle tissue covered in Greco-roman style armor rode the horses while carrying various swords and axes.

 

In the center of the demonic formation rode a towering figure with red fire streaming from his eye sockets and open jaw. He was mostly skeletal with a few patches of muscle tissue.

 

“Alexander…” Thrax said through clenched teeth as he extended his arm blades.

 

“As in Alexander the Great?” Tenma Ranger asked as he and the others assumed fighting stances.

 

Thrax nodded as the demonic forces continued their advance. “He was not content with being trapped beneath boiling blood with the rest of the damned. He sold his soul to the service of the Atalok Clan and has been a plague to the Seventh Circle ever since.”

 

Thrax craned his head backwards and barked several commands to his soldiers. The serpent-men readied their slender blades and charged forward.

 

Dragon Ranger looked to his teammates. “Energy attacks. Throw them off guard.”

 

Kirin Ranger crackled with yellow energy as he extended his hands and shouted “Time Crisis!” A yellow distortion wave tore through Alexander’s left flank.

 

“Gravity Well!” Tenma Ranger shouted as he unleashed a torrent of blue gravimetric energy that ripped through the center of the army’s formation.

 

“Nova Force!” Dragon Ranger shouted as he hurled a destructive sphere of fiery energy that detonated among the army’s right flank.

 

The three Rangers charged in towards the disarrayed soldiers while alongside the serpent-men.

 

“Tenma Screw Kick!” Tenma Ranger shouted as he screw kicked a soldier from its horse. Tenma Ranger landed behind the purple beast as a dozen foot soldiers charged towards him with their swords drawn. He flipped one soldier over his shoulder before snapping out a sidekick against another villain’s face.

 

Dragon Ranger threw himself against a group of soldiers, fighting and kicking his way through as he moved closer to Alexander.

 

***

 

Teddy came to the realization that Xeria was quite young and more interested in learning from him than causing any actual harm. Of course, he knew he couldn’t say the same of her father.

 

This realization slackened Teddy’s fear when he was with Xeria.

 

“They’re coming for you,” Xeria said as she watched for a reaction from Teddy. “Are they your siblings?”

 

“One of them is,” Teddy said.

 

Xeria nodded and looked down as she thought for a second. “Are the rest his army? Or do they simply owe him a blood debt?”

 

Teddy shook his friends. “They’re his friends.”

 

Xeria nodded, and Teddy doubted that she understood.

 

“Do you have friends?” Teddy asked.

 

“I have a sister,” Xeria said. “But she crossed over to the mortal realm.”

 

“Azrael?” Teddy asked.

 

Xeria nodded, and Teddy could have sworn he saw a look of sorrow in her eyes. “She received the calling from a mortal sorceress, and she answered. She found her existence here too dull. She left me alone with father…”

 

“I see,” Teddy said. “What do you think of existence here?”

 

Xeria stared ahead blankly as she shook her head. “I don’t know. I don’t know if I have a place. A purpose.”

 

“Everyone has a purpose,” Teddy said. “You just have to find it.”

 

Xeria arched an eyebrow with interest. “How?”

 

“Follow your heart,” Teddy said. “At least that’s what my mother is always saying…”

 

Xeria nodded as she stared off thoughtfully.

 

Hurry up, Tommy…Teddy thought. This is just too crazy.

 

***

 

Lion Ranger unsheathed his Thunder Sword and Star Cutter and drove the two blades through the rock face to stop his fall. He hung from his swords as the dragon-like Gatekeeper leaned over the cliff above with a predatory grin on its face.

 

Lion Ranger used all his might and Kiryoku to spring up off his blades and rising kick the Gatekeeper upside the jaw as he flipped over the demon and landed behind the creature.

While it was still dazed from the attack, the two Rangers struck.

 

“Shining Fury!” Lion Ranger shouted as he extended his hands and launched a sphere of pale-green light.

 

“Tempest winds!” Phoenix Ranger shouted as she summoned a powerful gust of wind. The two blasts slammed into the dragon and sent the creature plummeting towards the pits below.

 

The two Rangers stood at the side of the cliff and looked down.

 

“Think he’s finished?” Phoenix Ranger asked.

 

“Let’s hope,” Lion Ranger said. “Come on…”

 

The two continued on their trek.

 

***

 

Tenma Ranger was surrounded by soldiers as he tornado kicked a demon in front of him, then swept the legs out from another.

 

“This is nuts,” he said as he crescent kicked another soldier to the ground, then elbowed a demon behind him.

 

Thrax used his elbow blade to decapitate a soldier nearby. “Shut up and fight, fleshling. The battlefield is no place for mindless rabble.”

 

Dragon Ranger leapt over a line of soldiers and flying sidekicked Alexander off his demon horse.

 

The damned warrior rose to his feet and pulled out a double-edged sword as he charged towards Dragon Ranger.

 

“The silent type,” Dragon Ranger said as he stood in a defensive stance. “I can deal with that…”

 

Alexander swung his blade horizontally towards Dragon Ranger’s head, but the Ranger outer crescent kicked the blade away before knifehanding the demon in the throat and slamming a sidekick against his chest.

 

Alexander counter attacked with a pair of optic blasts that exploded against Dragon Ranger’s armor and sent him crashing to the ground.

 

Dragon Ranger rolled backwards onto his knees and extended his hands while shouting “Star Fire!” and launching a comet of flame that crashed harmlessly against Alexander’s armor as the demon smiled.

 

“Great,” Dragon Ranger mumbled as he rose to his feet and assumed a fighting stance.

 

***

 

Lion Ranger and Phoenix Ranger walked along a rocky path that ran through vast pools of boiling blood.

 

“This is not at all pleasant,” Phoenix Ranger said.

 

“It’s Hell,” Lion Ranger said as they moved forward.

 

They heard a stampeding noise as they turned to see three demonic Centaurs appear through puffs of smoke and charge towards them while carrying spears.

 

“Company…” Lion Ranger said.

 

The three creatures tossed their spears as the Rangers unsheathed their Thunder Swords and deflected the weapons away while leaping forward.

 

Lion Ranger leapt over a Centaur while kicking the creature in the back and flipping over him. He landed behind the demon and turned while shouting “Hand of Fate!” and firing a pale-green blast of light that tore through the beast’s chest.

 

Two more Centaurs appeared in its place as Phoenix Ranger and Lion Ranger regrouped while standing back to back.

 

“Shining Fury!”

 

“Tempest Wind!”

 

For every Centaur the Rangers struck down, two or three more appeared as the two Rangers were quickly surrounded.

 

“We can’t keep this up forever,” Phoenix Ranger said as she extended her hand and fired a Ki blast that sent one of the creature’s splashing into a pool of boiling blood. The hands of the damned reached up from the pools to drag the beast down to their depths.

 

The Centaurs were charged with keeping souls beneath the pools, and they were despised by those whose fate it was to live in boiling blood for an eternity.

 

“I have an idea,” Lion Ranger said as he placed his right hand within his left palm, and the lion eyes on his helmet flashed. “Heaven Illusion Star, Illusion Mask!”

 

Lion Ranger created a massive illusion of hundreds of souls climbing from the pools of blood. The centaurs reacted on instinct as they moved to attack the illusions.

 

“Let’s go,” Lion Ranger said. “Before they figure things out…”

 

The two Rangers ran past the illusions as fast as they could, escaping the notice of the centaur guardians.

 

***

 

Xeria’s dragon-like father, Xeracon, paced back and forth across the floor of his private chamber within the castle of the Shadow Clan. His wings were folded upward, a sign of irritation.

 

His three advisors stood behind him, each concealed by dark cloaks and hoods.

 

“Nothing has ever crossed the Pools of Blood, and they’re older than time itself!” Xeracon shouted. “How is it these mortals passed the centaurs?”

 

The advisors whispered in unison. “The Ranger armored in green is an Angel of Light. No mortal on Earth has his power over night.”

 

“An Angel of Light?” Xeracon asked as he turned to face his advisors. “What of the girl?”

 

“Her heart breathes with Phoenix flame,” the advisors said. “Power cosmic flows through her veins.”

 

“The Phoenix?” Xeracon said in disbelief as his wings tensed. “What of the three who are defeating the army of Alexander?”

 

“The one in red is a master of Power. He will save mankind in their darkest hour,” the advisors said. “The one clad in blue is a powerful healer, though his gift is untapped. The yellow Kirin is a Shaper of things.”

 

Xeracon’s muscles rippled with rage. A Master, an Angel of Light, The Phoenix, A Healer, the Shaper…all in his domain.

 

“The end is almost near…” Xeracon said softly.

 

***

 

Alexander’s sword burst into flame as he swung the blade towards Dragon Ranger’s head.

 

The Red Ranger snapped an outer crescent kick against the demon’s wrist, knocking the blade away before knife-hand chopping the warrior in the throat. He followed with a jump reverse sidekick that slammed against Alexander’s chest and almost sent him tumbling off balance.

 

The demonic warrior recovered and spun around while charging a blast of energy around his fist. He swung his fiery fist towards Dragon Ranger’s faceplate.

 

Dragon Ranger reached out and caught the blow with his palm before bringing his other hand around and striking Alexander’s locked elbow, and snapping it. Dragon Ranger followed with a backfist across the demon’s face, and a sidekick against his chest.

 

Alexander fell to the ground as Dragon Ranger stepped back into a fighting stance. “You about done yet?”

 

Alexander rose from the ground and dashed forward while extending his sword like a spear.

 

“Guess not,” Dragon Ranger said as he ran towards the demon. He flipped over Alexander while grabbing onto his head and twisting, snapping the creature’s neck. He landed behind Alexander as the demon turned and swung his sword horizontally across Dragon Ranger’s chest, causing sparks to fly upon impact.

 

Dragon Ranger spun with the blow while snapping a reverse hook kick that slammed against the side of Alexander’s head.

 

“Stay down,” Dragon Ranger shouted in frustration as he slammed his fist against the demon’s face. The Ranger unsheathed his Thunder Sword and Star Cutter as he charged forward.

 

Alexander swung his blade down horizontally towards the Ranger’s head, but Dragon Ranger energized his sabers with crimson energy as he swung in an ‘x’ pattern, shattering the demon’s sword and decapitating him at the same time. Alexander’s body dissolved before it hit the ground.

 

Dragon Ranger lowered his weapons and surveyed the wide battlefield to see Tenma Ranger and Kirin Ranger, along with Thrax, round up and destroy the last few members of the army.

 

“It’s been a while since I’ve said this,” Tenma Ranger said as Dragon Ranger walked towards him, “but did that actually just happen?”

 

“Fool,” Thrax said as he pushed Tenma Ranger aside and began walking forward.

 

“I’m really starting to like that guy,” Tenma Ranger said sarcastically.

 

“I don’t think the feeling is mutual, pal,” Dragon Ranger said. “Now come on…let’s go find my brother.”

 

***

 

Lion Ranger and Phoenix Ranger stood on a black rocky cliff looking down into a barren valley where the Shadow’s castle stretched into the dark skies of Hell.

 

“This must be their castle,” Lion Ranger said.

 

Phoenix Ranger nodded. “How are we going to get in?”

 

Lion Ranger shook his head. “I don’t know. Let’s go have a closer look.”

 

***

 

Xeracon watched through a swirling vortex of black flame as Lion Ranger and Phoenix Ranger slid down the cliffside into the valley.

 

“The stupidity of the fleshlings will be their downfall,” Xeracon said. “Their stealth skills are impressive, and would succeed…if their powers didn’t signal their presence like a giant flare everywhere they went.”

 

He closed his eyes and reached out with his senses to his massive army of Wraiths, the creatures once summoned by Levina.

 

“Go, my dark soldiers,” Xeracon said. “Go forward and make the mortals remain here on a more permanent basis.”

 

***

 

Lion Ranger and Phoenix Ranger crept forward through a grove of dead and twisted black trees as they moved further into the valley and closer to the castle.

 

They came to a halt as dozens of shadows dropped from the sky, taking the shape of Wraiths as they leapt forward and attacked.

 

“Wraiths!” Lion Ranger shouted as he charged his right fist with energy. “Hand of Fate!” He launched a stream of pale-green light that sliced through several soldiers before their attacks could connect.

 

Phoenix Ranger stood with her back towards Lion Ranger as she extended her hands and shouted “Tempest Winds!” summoning a powerful blast that knocked the soldiers backward.

 

More Wraiths dropped from the sky as Lion Ranger twirled his staff and ran into the fray. Phoenix Ranger readied her two Star Blades as she ran in formation behind him.

 

Lion Ranger spun forward while slamming his staff against a Wraith’s chest, then jump hook kicked the soldier across the face. Another Wraith closed on his right as he jammed the end of his weapon against that soldier’s neck.

 

Phoenix Ranger leapt onto Lion Ranger’s shoulders and pushed off, making her landing while cutting through a Wraith’s chest vertically, then spinning forward while decapitating another demon soldier.

 

“Star Blade…” she shouted as the weapons vibrated with pink energy. “Lightning strike!” She twirled the blades in a circle before skipping forward and cutting down three soldiers with a single strike.

 

The two Rangers slowly inched their way towards the castle, but Wraiths kept dropping from the sky in frightening numbers to block their path.

 

Phoenix Ranger tossed her blades forward like boomerangs as they struck down several groups of demons before returning to her hand.

 

A larger shadow slammed onto the ground in front of the two Rangers, creating a massive shockwave that knocked them from their feet.

 

The shadow took shape. It was Xeracon.

 

“You don’t seem to have tapped into your full potential yet,” the demon lord said with a fierce grin. “Good…”

 

He extended his hands and fired a massive bolt of black lightning that exploded against the Rangers’ armor.

 

***

 

On the other side of the Shadow’s castle, Dragon Ranger, Tenma Ranger, and Lion Ranger stood alongside Thrax on a cliff looking down into the dark valley below.

 

“We have arrived,” Thrax growled.

 

The group noticed streaks of green light and swirls of pink energy coming from the other side of the castle.

 

“Is that who I think it is?” Tenma Ranger asked.

 

“Let’s go,” Dragon Ranger said as he flipped forward into the valley.

 

***

 

Xeria gave up her pacing and sat in front of Teddy while leaning forward on her knees. She stared at him silently.

 

Teddy sighed and shook his head. “Don’t you…do something?”

 

“I’m contemplating,” she said.

 

“Contemplating what?” Teddy asked, realizing he’d regret doing so.

 

“You’re pleasing to the eye,” she said. “Perhaps father would let me keep you.”

 

“I’m barely a teenager,” Teddy said as the fear returned to his throat.

 

Xeria smiled as she stood and walked over to Teddy. He resisted, but she grabbed the back of his forehead and pulled him close, kissing him full on the mouth.

 

***

 

Lion Ranger sprang to his knees and extended his arms while shouting “Shining Fury!”

 

Xeracon ducked under the blast and extended his hand, palm open, as daggers of silver energy launched out and cut across the two Rangers’ armor.

 

“I must say,” Xeracon said. “I am quite disappointed.”

 

A sphere of crimson energy slammed against Xeracon’s back, sending him catapulting through the air. Dragon Ranger, Tenma Ranger, and Kirin Ranger arrived and started kicking and punching their way through the Wraiths.

 

The five regrouped and assumed fighting stances as they turned to face Xeracon.

 

“Blast you!” Xeracon said as he rose back to his feet.

 

The Rangers each assumed their individual poses.

 

“Dragon Ranger! Heaven Fire Star, Red!”

 

“Lion Ranger! Heaven Illusion Star, Green!”

 

“Tenma Ranger! Heaven Gravity Star, Blue!”

 

“Kirin Ranger! Heaven Time Star, Yellow!”

 

“Phoenix Ranger! Heaven Wind Star, Pink!”

 

Dragon Ranger brought his left fist to the right side of his chest. “Power of the stars…” He extended his right hand into the sky. “…brought down.”

 

“Heaven Star Task Force, Power Rangers!” They shouted together in a voice that caused Hell itself to tremble.

 

The Wraiths gathered around Xeracon as he stood in between the Rangers and his castle. “This is my domain,” Xeracon growled. “Those that-”

 

“Can it!” Dragon Ranger shouted as he unsheathed his Twin Dragon Swords. “We’re getting back my brother, and you’re going down.”

 

The Rangers readied their Thunder Gems and shouted “Armor up!”

 

…but nothing happened.

 

Kirin Ranger shook his head. “We must not be able to access our power armor from here.”

 

Xeracon flashed the Rangers a predatory grin. “Pity…” He leaned forward while firing four optic pulses of dark energy that slammed the Rangers backward as the Wraiths moved in to attack.

 

Dragon Ranger rose to his feet while spinning and slicing a Wraith through the chest horizontally with his blades. He began slashing through the incoming soldiers as he remembered something he’d been told by the mages of Eltar as well as the Ancient.

 

“Guys,” Dragon Ranger said as he crescent kicked a soldier away and then finished the Wraith off with a diagonal chop from his blade. “We may not have our armor, but I bet we can still use our armor attacks. They’re just spells…”

 

Dragon Ranger swung his blades horizontally in opposite directions while cutting through three Wraiths. He then looked towards Xeracon while placing the handles of his blades together as they started to pulse with crimson energy.

 

“Wildfire Flare!” he shouted as he swung his weapon diagonally, producing a massive blade of energy that tore through countless Wraiths as it ripped apart the ground and slammed against Xeracon. The demon king braced himself as the energy blade tore up the ground around him and passed over him, ripping off most of his scales.

 

“Sweet,” Tenma Ranger said as he readied his Thunder Staff. He spun the staff around like a helicopter blade as he shouted “Iron Rock Crusher!”

 

The staff vibrated with cyan energy as Tenma Ranger struck the end of the weapon to the ground. The staff emitted a dome-like energy wave that ripped through the ground, tossing up debris and tearing through Wraiths as it moved in front of the Shadow King and exploded with a burst of blinding blue energy.

 

Xeracon leapt to escape the blast, but the shockwave slammed into him and knocked him from the air as Lion Ranger moved in with his Thunder Sword.

 

The sword pulsed with pale-green light as Lion Ranger shouted “Lightning Bolt, strike!”

 

The Ranger swung his blade horizontally as it emitted a curving stream of brilliant energy that slammed against Xeracon, taking out a massive number of Wraiths in the process.

 

Phoenix Ranger shifted her aim to the remaining soldiers blocking the route to the castle, and she formed her Celestial bow of energy and shouted “Arrow Shockwave!”

 

She fired an arrow of fiery-golden energy that slammed against the ground, producing a massive explosion that ripped through the soldiers like a cyclone of pure destructive energy.

 

Xeracon rose to his feet and readied a bolt of black lightning in his hands as he looked towards Phoenix Ranger. He never had a chance to strike.

 

Kirin Ranger aimed the end of his staff towards the villain while shouting “Super Wave Smasher!”

 

The end of his staff produced a massive distortion wave that tore through the villain.

 

The light from the various explosions and attacks slowly dissolved, and the only thing the Rangers saw before them was scorched ground, ash, and small rising columns of smoke where the Wraiths had once stood.

 

The Rangers caught their breaths, fatigued by the energies they had exhausted in battle.

 

Before they could move forward, a giant form of Xeracon rose from the ashes, larger than any monster the Rangers had faced, including the towering Daijinnryu.

 

“Apparently that trick works here too,” Tenma Ranger said.

 

Kirin Ranger inspected his Thunder Gem. “We can’t summon our zords from here…”

 

“Great,” Dragon Ranger said as Xeracon looked down upon the Rangers, opening his mouth while firing a massive wave of black flame.

 

The resulting explosion leveled the surrounding area as the Rangers were blasted away from one another.

 

“Those that challenge the power of the Shadow meet a fate worse than death!” Xeracon shouted as he prepared a massive bolt of electric energy between his hands.

 

The Rangers regrouped just as the giant demon hurled the blast forward.

 

Ki!” Dragon Ranger shouted as they extended their hands, erecting a force field of energy that blocked most of the blast, causing another massive explosion in the process.

 

Xeracon laughed, a rumbling roar that echoed through Hell. “Do not struggle. Your destruction is inevitable.”

 

Dragon Ranger rose back to his feet, despite the near crippling fatigue coursing through his body. He refused to die, because doing so would be giving his own brother a death sentence.

 

“Guys…” he said. “Give me your power…”

 

“Tommy,” Kirin Ranger said. “You can’t form the Inferno.”

 

“I won’t need it,” Dragon Ranger said. “Just do it, guys…”

 

The Rangers pulled out their Thunder Gems…

 

“Heaven Gravity Star!”

 

“Heaven Illusion Star!”

 

“Heaven Time Star!”

 

“Heaven Wind Star!”

 

The four Rangers radiated with energy that streaked from their gems and slammed through Dragon Ranger as he began to pulse with power.

 

He bent his knees and sprang upward, jetting through the air as a comet of fiery white-and-red energy formed around him. “Heaven Fire Star!” he shouted as he streaked towards Xeracon’s head while holding his two fists outward.

 

“Rage of Inferno!” he shouted as his flame intensified, and he ripped through Xeracon’s skull, causing a brilliant flash of white energy that vaporized the villain. The Rangers below had to shield their eyes from the blast.

 

Dragon Ranger collapsed to the ground, exhausted from handling so much energy. The other Rangers were fatigued as well, but unfortunately, their battle wasn’t over.

 

Thrax appeared behind them, after having taken shelter during the majority of the battle. He activated his arm blades as he stalked towards the Rangers and laughed.

 

“Thank you, Rangers. Now that Xeracon is out of the way, nothing can stop my people from ruling all of Hell!”

 

Thrax swung his arm blade horizontally, emitting an energy blade that exploded across the Rangers’ armor.

 

***

 

Xeria watched her father’s death through a viewscreen of fire and wrinkled her brow as her face turned red with anger. She snapped her head around to face Teddy.

 

“Why?” she asked as she stalked towards him. “Why did your brother kill my father? Answer me?!”

 

“He attacked first,” Teddy said, taking a moment to notice how calm he was being.

 

Xeria held up her hands, and Teddy’s bindings suddenly snapped off. Before he could move, she reached out and grabbed his throat. She tossed the boy backward, and he slammed against the wall before falling to the ground.

 

“You mortals are a plague!” she shouted as she dashed forward and extended her hands outward like claws.

 

Teddy rose to his knees and assumed a defensive stance. He sidestepped out of Xeria’s way and slammed a knife-hand blow against her neck, but she seemed to barely feel the blow as she turned and slammed the back of her palm across Teddy’s face. Teddy was slammed off his feet and fell to the ground.

 

Xeria pounced back towards Teddy in a fit of rage, but before she could strike, a streak of white light zoomed past her, cutting her across the face as it stabbed into the ground.

 

The light dissolved to reveal Byakkoshinken. “Teddy,” the saber said. “I hope you won’t be too offended if we save formal introductions for later.”

 

Teddy smiled. He knew what he had to do. He reached over and pulled the saber from the ground as a brace flashed over his left wrist, and a golden key appeared in his right hand.

 

Xeria rose from the ground and stared at Teddy with contempt. “What are you?”

 

“You’re about to find out, witch,” he said as he pointed Byakko towards Xeria.

 

“Chakra ignite! Kiba Power!” Teddy inserted the key into the brace as his body shimmered with white energy and grew to adult size. The armor of the White Ranger appeared around Teddy.

 

“Heaven Roaring Star!” he shouted along Byakko. “Kiba Ranger!”

 

***

 

Thrax stalked towards the Rangers as he laughed at their helplessness. “This is going to be too easy…”

 

“I don’t think so, scale face!” a voice called from behind the demon. He turned to a balcony hanging out from the castle, and he saw Kiba Ranger staring down at him with Byakko in hand.

 

Kiba Ranger aimed Byakko downward as he shouted “Heaven Roaring Star…Sound Bite!”

 

A jagged wave of white energy slammed into Thrax and knocked him backward.

 

“Jump, Teddy!” Byakko commanded as Kiba Ranger leapt from the balcony and flipped towards Thrax as the demon was rising from his feet.

 

“Kick!” Byakko shouted as Kiba Ranger launched a flying sidekick that slammed against the demon’s head. Byakko led Kiba Ranger through a strike, cutting horizontally across the demon’s chest, then turning and hitting him diagonally.

 

Thrax was knocked back as black ichor seeped from his wounds.

 

“Finish him, Teddy!” Byakko shouted.

 

Kiba Ranger placed his hands over the tiger seal on his chest as a massive bolt of white, crackling energy formed. “Sonic Force!” he shouted as he hurled the blast forward. It slammed against Thrax and caused him to explode.

 

Kiba Ranger ran over to the Rangers as they started to rise to their feet. Kiba Ranger helped up Dragon Ranger.

 

Ya know…” Kiba Ranger said jokingly, “I thought you guys were here to save me.”

 

Dragon Ranger smiled beneath his helmet. “Don’t start, Teddy.”

 

***

 

The six Rangers stood before Lady Freelyn in her chamber of ice.

 

“Cerebus will escort you out of here and back into the mortal realm,” she said. “Since you are still ‘alive,’ you’re still anchored to the mortal world, so the transition should be relatively simple.”

 

“Thank you,” Dragon Ranger said.

 

The demon smiled and nodded. “I’ll understand if you don’t come back to visit,” she said jokingly.

 

***

 

Teddy sat at Bear Lake while tossing pebbles into the water as Tommy watched from the trees, unseen behind him.

 

He needs time to think, Tommy thought to himself.

 

Tommy’s world was suddenly surrounded by a white void as he heard a voice speak. It was the Dark Man’s. “What did you think of the underworld?”

 

“Not exactly someplace I’d like to see again soon,” Tommy said.

 

“I would think so,” the Dark Man said in an amused tone. “How is your brother handling his newfound responsibility?”

 

Tommy shook his head. “I’m not sure. I don’t wanna talk to him about it until it’s sunk in.”

 

“Sunk in for you or him?” he asked.

 

Tommy smiled. “Both I guess.”

 

“What troubles you about this, Tommy?”

 

Tommy rolled his hands into fists. “We lost Kou…I won’t loose my brother too.”

 

“Do not worry, Tommy,” the Dark Man said. “His role is far from over.”

 

To be continued…Chapter 16