Ultimate Gao Ranger: Chapter Twelve prologue

 

1,000 years ago, Japan

The Heian Period

 

Some Wildzords could not be tamed.

 

GaoWolf, GaoGator, and GaoHammerHead hunted across the northlands of Rokugan. Org soldiers and monsters were the most heavily concentrated in the those lands.

 

The three rogue Wildzords could not be tamed by any of the five Gao warriors or any tribe. They were relentless and savage. If the three zords were to move further south, they were just as likely to attack friendly forces as Org.

 

The massive zords stayed hidden as a two giant Orgs with boat-motif armor marched along the mountain line. Countless grunts and human-sized Org monsters walked at the giants’ feet.

 

Stretching as far as the eye could see, the Org army was the latest wave of evil reinforcements being sent into the heart of Rokugan.

 

A wolf’s howl suddenly split through the air, causing the Org giants to stop in their tracks.

 

The silver wolf zord suddenly sprang from the top of a mountain and landed on the back of a Boat Org.

 

GaoWolf bit hard against the giant’s shoulder, snapping through its armor and piercing rotted flesh with silver teeth. Boat Org howled in pain as the wolf thrashed its massive jaws back and forth, breaking through bone and tearing open wounds that dripped with puss-covered black blood.

 

GaoGator sprang forth from beneath a bend in the mountain and chomped down on the second giant. The gator crushed the Org in a single bite.

 

GaoHammerHead glided down from the air, flapping its tail while spearing its head against the first Org giant. The giant crashed backward, smashing hundreds of grunts beneath its massive body.

 

GaoWolf landed on the fallen Org and bit out the creature’s throat. Black blood dripped from the wolf’s jaw as he looked up and howled into the night sky.

 

***

 

An old man sat around a dim campfire within the woods. His head was bald, and he had a long white goatee on his face.

 

Two young children sat around the campfire with him. They were the last survivors of a village that had numbered in the hundreds.

 

“Tell us the story,” one of the boys pleaded while leaning forward, his eyes wide open with wonder. They had listened to the old man’s tales for nearly the entire day.

 

Poor children, the old man thought. They were oblivious to the death and destruction closing in on them.

 

The man looked into the fire as he spoke to the children. “The shogenjuu of the Wolf Clan speak of a demon that roamed the empire many moons ago. The demon was a creature of pure darkness, anger, and hate. These emotions made him powerful…”

 

The boys settled back as the old man continued to speak. “One day, a young boy spotted the dark spirit drifting through the woods. Foolish indeed, the boy decided to follow the dark spirit into the woods.

 

“You see, this boy lusted after adventure and battles. He craved excitement and conflict among his people.

 

“The boy followed the dark spirit for days and became captivated by the demon’s every movement. The dark spirit was powerful, graceful, and stealth, qualities the boy found appealing.

 

“After nearly a month of following the demon, the boy lost site of the dark spirit. The child grew angry, mad with insanity, and decided the best way to find the demon again, would be to burn it out of the woods.”

 

The boys opened their eyes wide with shock. They could not imagine such madness.

 

The old man continued. “ ‘Come out, fowl demon, creature of the night!’ the boy shouted at the top of his lungs. ‘You cannot evade me forever!’

 

“Little did the boy know that he had found the demon, in his own heart. He started attacking villages, burning homes to the ground and slaughtering everyone in his path. Mortal weapons could not even touch him.

 

“The boy became the very demon he sought out,” the man explained. “Villagers went one-by-one into the woods to hunt for the creature of the night. But you see, the pattern repeated itself. Those who hunted the demon were sickened with madness. They burned down trees and ravaged entire lands in their search.

 

“Other villagers started searching out the demon for the soul purpose of harnessing its blood-thirsty power.

 

“A shogenjuu unlike any other, one they say is not even from our world, spoke to the wisest elders in all Rokugan about the growing plague of madness. He warned our people that the dark spirit was spreading into the hearts of greedy, lustful men that gave into their most sinful lusts.

 

“The elders gathered and created a mystical mask they believed could contain the spirit that had spread to the hearts of so many. The Wolf Clan believe many were lost in the final battle against those possessed by the dark spirit.

 

“It was the shogenjuu of the Wolf Clan who imprisoned the darkness inside the mask. By doing so, they removed the Curse of the Wolf from our lands, forever.”  

                                                                                                            

Ultimate Gao Rangers: Chapter Twelve

Curse of the Wolf

 

The new Highness Duke had an odd obsession. The Highness Duke of all Org, the mighty and powerful Lord Ura, liked to look at beautiful things. The villain’s eyes lusted for intricately crafted objects of all kinds.

 

The Nexus, a haven of scum and hate, was decorated with multi-colored flowers and ornate stone carvings. He had been sending Toxica and Jindrax on various errands to retrieve such items that he could enjoy gazing upon.

 

Ura knew the dukes though their master foolish and insane. But they feared him too much to disobey.

 

While the two dukes were out on another errand, Ura planned to find a special masterpiece. It was a masterpiece only he could unlock.

 

Ura pulled out a small circular mirror covered with dust. He wiped the dust off the mirror and laughed quietly to himself. The eerie laughter softly echoed throughout the Nexus.

 

***

 

A wave of Org turbulence rushed through the earth as soon as Ura wiped off the mirror. The turbulence rippled through dirt and rock before splashing against a hidden tomb forgotten by time.

 

***

 

Gao Red pumped his legs as fast as he could while he and the other Rangers chased Toxica and Jindrax through the woods. The two Dukes had led the Rangers on a chase that lasted for countless miles all day.

 

The Rangers had no idea what the two dukes were up to. Their movements were chaotic and lacked strategy. They had not attacked a single person destroyed a single brick.

 

Toxica quickly looked over her shoulders and spilled a shellfish full of gray slime. The slime splashed across the ground and started shifting, taking shape while rising. A group of grunts formed.

 

Gao Red quickly unsheathed his dagger. “Ha!” he dashed past a grunt and sliced across its chest with a burst of spark, drawing black ichor and puss from the wound.

 

“Come on, guys,” Gao Red shouted as he speared his dagger through a soldier’s head. “We can’t let those two get away.”

 

“Why?” Gao Yellow hopped forward and slashed his blade through a grunt while landing. “We’ve wasted enough time chasing them. For all we know, they’re trying to distract us.”

 

“It’s not open for debate,” Gao Red said as he slashed open a grunt’s throat. “White, you and I are going after them. Yellow, you, Blue and Black stay back and keep these grunts busy.”

 

The Red Ranger was tired of arguing with Gao Yellow. Their relationship had improved somewhat, and they were normally civil with each other, but Gao Yellow’s habit of questioning his leader’s every move was starting to get annoying.

 

But the truth was, Gao Red was annoyed because the Yellow Ranger made him question himself. Every cynical comment and question of orders drove a sliver of doubt into the Red Ranger. Doubt in his leadership. Doubt in his skills.

 

Gao White noticed Gao Red’s frustration, even beneath his mask. “You can’t let him get to you so much,” she said as she ran alongside the Red Ranger. “He’s always been like that. It’s not personal.”

 

The Red Ranger shook his head. “It is to me.”

 

***

 

Highness Duke Ura walked through the woods outside of Angel Grove. The villain carried his small mirror in his left palm. The Highness Duke could feel the tremors grow stronger beneath his feet as he approached the concealed tomb.

 

The sun was starting to set in the distance.

 

It was almost time to reawaken his prize.

 

Ura extended his mirror towards the ground. The ground’s reflection rippled like a pool of water as cracks started to form across the real ground.

 

Steam that reeked of death leaked from the cracks. The smell spread across the forest, spreading the stank of rot.

 

The ground started to shake violently as a powerful wave of hate violated the soil. Black slime started seeping from the ground as the cracks formed a demonic symbol.

 

A block of stone slowly rose from the ground like a boil and slammed against the soil. The stone casket was cached with dry blood. 

 

***

 

Toxica and Jindrax had help in their search. An Org monster with the motif a vacuum helped suction in various items and trinkets that could please Highness Duke Ura. Vacuum Org served a second purpose too. The two dukes summoned the monster to keep the Rangers off their backs.

 

The five Rangers regrouped as Vacuum Org stomped towards them. The villain opened its jaws and created a massive suction force.  

 

The suction was strong enough to pull each Ranger of their feet. The Rangers skid across the ground as Vacuum Org dragged them closer.

 

Gao Yellow grabbed a tree trunk to stop himself from sliding and readied a pair of feather darts between his fingers.

 

“Eagle Darts!” he shouted as he tossed the small blades at the villains.

 

The blades speared through Vacuum Org’s mouth and caught in his throat with a burst of spark, cutting off the villain’s suction. The creature stumbled backward as the Rangers sprang to their feet and pounced forward to attack.

 

Gao Red leapt forward and grabbed the Org by the throat before bashing the villain’s head against a tree. He released his grasp on the villain and kicked him a way.

 

Gao Blue and Gao White leapt through the air with their weapons.

 

“Shark Cutters!”

 

“Tiger Baton!”

 

They swung their weapons downward while landing, slashing across the villains’ armor with bursts of spark on impact.

 

Vacuum Org stumbled backward as the Rangers regrouped. The villain armed a jagged blade as he would a vacuum attachment and charged forward to attack. One-by-one, the Org slashed across the Rangers, their armor sparking on impact as the blade cut across their bodies.

 

As one, the Rangers pounced forward and chopped their weapons down on the villain. The Org swung its body, knocking the weapons aside while slashing across the Rangers’ chests with burst of spark as sword cut across armor.

 

Gao Yellow rolled back into a crouched position before springing through the air.

 

“Ha!” he shouted while holding leaping through the air and swinging his sword towards the Org.

 

Vacuum Org caught the blade and activated another attachment. The villain pressed the attachment against the Yellow Ranger’s chests, causing tendrils of electricity to dance across the Rangers armor with massive bursts of sparks.

 

Vacuum Org knocked the Yellow Ranger aside, and he tumbled over next to the others. The villain fired massive strands that exploded against the Rangers, whipping them backward and sending them crashing against the ground.

 

“Gaoling Cannon!” Gao Red shouted as he armed his short-rifle blaster weapon. He aimed the weapon towards Vacuum Org, and the two opponents started circling around each other.

 

Vacuum Org snapped his weapon up and fired an electric energy stream..  

 

Gao Red dove over the electric blast and hit the ground rolling. He rolled into a crouched position and rose to his feet, but vacuum Org fired another electric blast.

 

Gao Red dropped to his back and let the blast past over him. The Red Ranger reached his blaster forward and opened fire with rapid volleys of green energy darts that exploding against the Org, ripping apart its armor with bursts of spark.

 

The Rangers regrouped and assembled their long Gao Blade by combining their weapons as Vacuum Org rose back to his feet.

 

“Gao Blade!” they shouted as the blade energized with fiery golden power.

 

See ya!” Gao Red shouted to the creature.

 

They chopped the energized blade downward. The golden blade extended while chopping through the Org, tearing its body apart, ripping through rotted flesh, armor and bone. The monster fell backward, its energy overloading and exploding, producing a shockwave that decimated the monster into nothing more than a boiling puddle of slime.

 

Toxica extended the end of her staff downward as it slid open like an iris, shooting out a dozen black seeds. Toxica started to scream a chant as the seeds rooted in the ooze remains. “Oniah-sha-shee! Kua-ta-to!”

 

Thick vines shot up from the ooze, extending as high as a skyscraper. The vines started to mesh together while twisting and thrashing back and forth. The vines formed a giant-sized version of a reborn Vacuum Org.

 

The Rangers unsheathed their Gao Daggers and extended the blades into the sky. “Wildzords, descend!”

 

The blades emitted an enchanting melody. The tone reached up to the sky island Anamarium and caught the ears of the Power Animals. A bridge of multi-colored light extended down from the island and towards the Earth. The Power Animals roared as they charged down the bridge and into battle.

 

The Rangers stood in a circle and thrust their daggers towards the center. Gao Red looked up while making a claw with his left hand over the right side of his chest. “Wildzords! Assemble!”

 

The five Wildzords charged forward as fiery energy surrounded them. GaoBison morphed into a waist and set of legs. GaoTiger and GaoShark formed the arms and attached to GaoLion, which served as the chest. GaoEagle attached to the lion and allowed the zord to hover over the ground as it zoomed forward.

 

The combined zord rose and back-flipped through the air as the formation completed.

 

“Soul Bird!” Gao Red shouted as the mystic-armored bird took shape with a flash of golden light.

 

The Rangers leapt into the air and landed on five slots that formed along the Soul Bird’s armor. “Soul Drive!” Gao Red shouted. “Gao King!”

 

The Soul Bird phased through the Gao King’s back and took its place in the zord’s cockpit. They placed their Daggers into the Soul Bird’s control slots and hovered their hands over pairs of black, organic-looking orbs.

 

“MegaWildzord!” the Rangers shouted from their cockpit. “Gao King!”

 

Gao King landed in a fighting stance as he and Vacuum Org started circling around each other.

 

The Org activated his suction mechanism. The vacuum created a massive suction force that tore across the ground and threatened to pull the Megazord off its feet.

 

“This guy sucks!” Gao Blue shouted.

 

Gao Yellow shook his head. “That was so lame.”

 

“White,” Gao Red said. “Get us some back up.”

 

Gao White lifted her Gao Dagger and placed the elephant crystal in its hilt. She raised the weapon upward. “Wildzord descend! GaoElephant!”

 

GaoElephant appeared on the scene in the distance. The elephant zord let out a powerful trumpet call through its horn and charged into battle. The zord smashed against Vacuum Org, knocking the villain aside and ending its suction attack

 

“Wildzords,” the White Ranger said as she laid her Dagger back into its slot. “Attach.”

 

GaoElephant transformed into a sword and shield that Gao King used as his weapons.

 

“MegaWildzord!” the Rangers shouted. “Gao King, Sword and Shield!”

 

Gao King charged forward to attack the Org monster. “Sword Whip!” the Rangers shouted. “Final Strike!”

 

Gao King’s sword energized and went slack. The Megazord swung the sword down hard like a whip. Each segment of the energized whip tore apart the monster with massive bursts of sparks and explosions. The villain’s armor was torn away as its undead body overloaded and exploded, a discharge of fiery, rotting flesh that vaporized into the wind.

 

***

 

Darkness slowly fell across the mountains like a damp blanket.

 

Ura wiped dry blood and slime off of two medallions that rested on the tomb. Each medallion was a shining mirror with a golden crescent moon along its edge.

 

Winds started to howl in protest at what Ura was releasing.

 

***

 

The Sacred Pool started to bubble within Gao Rock. Tetomu gazed into the pool’s waters, which displayed an image of Ura and the tomb. Tetomu narrowed her eyes.

 

“That tomb…” she recognized the crescent moon symbols on the tomb from stories her guardian had told her while growing up on the sky island. She could not remember the story.

 

Tetomu placed her hand over her forehead. Frustrated, she paced back and forth across the stone floor of Gao Rock. “I know I recognize that tomb…”

 

The story had taught her an important lesson as a child: not to chase after lustful desires. But why?

 

Her eyes opened wide as she remembered. “The wolf demon…”

 

***

 

Tetomu quickly told the Rangers to stop Ura, who was in the woods outside the city. The Rangers ran as fast as they could to the scene while holding their bodies in animal-like postures.

 

***

 

The full moon slowly revealed itself from behind the clouds. Ura would have smiled if he was physically capable of the act.

 

The Rangers gathered at the foot of the wooded hill Ura stood on.

 

Gao Red unsheathed his dagger. “You’re not getting away this time, Ura!”

 

The Red Ranger silently wondered if he and the others were ready for another battle with a Highness Duke so soon after their beating from Shuten’ a short while ago.

 

Ura ignored the Rangers and held his mirror upward towards the air. The mirror reflected a beam of pale moonlight that shined onto the tomb. The tomb splashed across the cold rock and rippled across the two medallions as something stirred within.

 

***

 

The creature within the tomb stirred for the first time in 1,000 years. His bright, yellow eyes slowly opened, providing the only source of illumination inside the stone casket.

 

Casket?

 

The villain reached up and struck the top of the casket hard with a sound like thunder, but the top would not rise. Anger welled up inside of, tightening his every muscle and flooding through his veins.

 

Where was he?

 

Brief shards of memory flashed before his mind’s eye. He saw mad villagers chasing after him while burning down villages and woods. He saw…not much else. His mind was as empty as the black void he was trapped in.

 

The struck the lid of the casket again. Where was he?

 

Then he remembered. He had been dreaming for the past 1,000 years. An image took shape in his mind’s eyes until it was crystal clear. The image was from his dreams. From his memory.

 

Takeru screamed a war cry and swung his newly forged Gao Dagger down towards Zena’ku’s head. Zena’ku caught the ranger’s wrist and twisted, snapping his bone and ligaments.

 

The wolf Org kicked Takeru, knocking him away.

 

The five rangers regrouped and their lips started moving. They were speaking, but Zena’ku could hear nothing above the sound of his own pounding heart.

 

The rangers rushed around him and started slashing their daggers across his armor. Each dagger sparked on impact, forcing Zena’ku backward. The Org felt each blade’s sting, even beneath his armor. The cold metal blades  felt like icy fire while tearing across his body.      

 

The rangers struck again and again, their attacks unrelenting.

 

Zena’ku snarled within his tomb. “Gao Ranger…”

 

***

 

The medallions on the tomb started top glow with pale moonlight. Chains holding the tomb together broke to pieces with bursts of spark.

 

The wind picked up an eerie breeze that howled through the trees, causing the hairs on the backs of the Rangers necks to stand on end.

 

The lid of the tomb was pulverized into a cloud of stone and debris as black-armored Zena’ku leapt from the casket. He hovered in the air briefly, the full moon behind him, before dashing down to attack and howling like a wolf. 

 

Zena’ku attacked so fast that he appeared as nothing more than a streak of darkness. In a blur of motion, he dashed back and forth between the Rangers while slashing against the armor, explosions spraining on impact.

 

The villain clutched on tightly to Gao Blue’s throat and leapt through the air. Explosions burst across the Blue Ranger’s armor as Zena’ku tossed him back. The Blue Ranger crashed back-first against the ground, the impact forcibly powering down his armor with a flicker of light.

 

Gao Black charged in from behind. Zena’ku immediately noticed the Ranger’s Dagger. It was the same type of blade that cut across his armor. It was the same type of blade he had been picturing for more than 1,000 years.

 

Zena’ku and Gao Black charged at one another. The Black Ranger never even had a chance to strike.

 

Zena’ku grabbed Gao Black by the throat and pushed him back hard. Gao Black shot backward through the air and crashed against the mountainside, which cracked like a crater upon impact.

 

The Ranger slumped to the ground as his armor powered down.

 

Zena’ku looked down at his fallen opponent.

 

Wolf’s blood poured through the Org’s veins, exhilarating him. Vengeance. After 1,000 years, he was finally free for vengeance. Anger and hate welled up inside of him, pumping power into every fiber of his being.

 

Gao Yellow snapped open his wings and glided down to attack with a flying jump kick. Zena’ku sprang through the air and knocked the Yellow Ranger’s leg aside while slashing across his chest. The impact burst with sparks and knocked the Yellow Ranger from the air.

 

Gao Yellow crashed against the ground as his armor shimmered and powered down.

 

Zena’ku dashed back in a streak of black light, zipping past Gao Red and Gao White repeatedly while slashing across their armor with bursts of spark.

 

The two Rangers crashed to the ground as Zena’ku landed in front of them. He looked down upon the fallen Rangers and rolled his hands into fists. “Gao Ranger…”

 

Gao White slowly lifted her head. “You’re not just another Org…Who are you?”

 

“I am the Duke Org, Zena’ku,” he said instinctively, not sure where the title came from. “I have been awakened to carry out 1,000 years of vengeance.”

 

Zena’ku slammed a kick against Gao White that knocked her backward through the air and sent her crashing against a tree. Her armor shimmered down as she slumped to the ground.

 

The elephant crystal rolled from her pocket. The Org bent down and lifted the gem with his gloved hand.

 

To hold a Power Animal’s crystal was to hold its soul. Zena’ku tightened his grip on the gem, the pressure creating a dark coat of grime which covered the animal crystal’s surface.

 

GaoElephant slowly turned black as he vanished in a cloud of dark smoke.

 

Saiya opened her eyes wide with horror. “GaoElephant…”

 

Injured, Gao Red rose into a  crouched position and glared at Zena’ku. “Give the crystal back. Now.”

 

Zena’ku turned and grabbed tightly onto the Red Ranger’s throat while lifting him off his feet. The Org tightened his hand, nearly snapping the Ranger’s neck. The Red Ranger’s armor powered down.

 

Simon was mere inches away from the Org’s eerie yellow eyes. Simon kicked at the Org’s side, but Zena’ku did not even flinch.

 

The Org snarled with delight while watching the young ranger struggle. A slight wave of confusion struck Zena’ku. This was not the same Lion’s Warrior he remembered from his dreams.  

 

Zena’ku tossed Simon aside like a rag doll.

 

The Org took a final look at the fallen rangers and started walking deeper into the woods, carrying the animal crystal tightly in the palm of his hand.

 

Highness Duke Ura watched with great amusement. Everything was going according to his master plan. The ultimate form would soon be his.

 

***

 

An early dawn pierced through the darkness over Angel Grove.

 

Simon and the other rangers regrouped in Gao Rock as Tetomu dressed up their wounds. She placed wet green plant leaves onto white bandages, and wrapped the bandages around the rangers’ wounds.

 

Saiya sat against a wall with her head hung low. Tetomu moved over towards her with one of the bandages.

 

Saiya shrank away from the bandage. She did not want the attention. “Zena’ku has the elephant crystal. I was supposed to protect it…”

 

Simon sighed and leaned his head against a wall. “It’s not your fault, White. Zena’ku beat all of us. Hard.”

 

Timothy looked to Tetomu while rubbing his injured arm. “Do you know what this Org is?” he asked her. “He seemed different from all the others.

 

Ryan answered before Tetomu had a chance to explain. “It’s not that complicated to figure out. He was an Org trapped by the original Gao Ranger 1,000 years ago. Now he’s free and wants revenge. What we need to know is how to stop him.”

 

Tetomu lowered her gaze and struggled to recall her grandmother‘s stories. “I remember my grandmother telling me of a demon wolf…but I can’t recall what she said. It was…a long time ago.”

 

The priestess rose to her feet and sighed. “I’ll try to remember. In the meantime, you should all try to get some rest.”

 

***

 

Zena’ku sat on a high tree branch within the woods.

 

The trees and grass around him made him uneasy. The woods was both a comforting place and hateful one at the same time. But why? His own memory continued to elude him.

 

All he remembered was pain. Hate. Anger. Revenge.

 

A ruffling noise came from the grass and bushes below. Zena’ku looked down to see Highness Duke Ura approaching. The site of the green Org made Zena’ku feel…annoyed.

 

Zena’ku leapt from the trees and landed in front of Ura in the blink of an eye. The Duke Org’s yellow eyes glared like daggers at the Highness Duke Ura. “I do not like being followed.”

 

Ura laughed with amusement. “I brought you back into this world, Zena’ku.”

 

“And for that, I should be grateful,” Zena’ku said.

 

Ura extended his hand. “I only ask a small favor in return. Give me the elephant crystal you stole from the girl.”

 

Zena’ku scoffed. “I think not.”

 

Ura struck his fan weapon forward. Zena’ku armed a sleek-black dagger and knocked the fan from the Highness Duke’s hand. Zena’ku swung the curved dagger towards Ura and stopped the blade a centimeter away from the Highness Duke’s nose.

 

Ura merely laughed and turned while starting to walk away. “Very well…I will let you roam free and do as you wish. As long as you keep fighting against the Rangers.”

 

***

 

Tetomu meditated within the sacred Pool. She rolled into a fetal position and concentrated, wading her way through a river of memories from 1,000 years ago.

 

Eleven-year old Tetomu rested on her back in the grassy fields of the sky island Anamarium. She smiled and took in a breath of the clean air while watching a flock of birds fly by up above.

 

Murasaki walked onto the field towards her granddaughter and student. The priestess was growing old, with wrinkles forming across her skin and hair turning gray. She died her hair pure white, so at least the graying was not a problem.

 

“Tetomu,” she said softly. “It is time for your studies.”

 

Young Tetomu wrinkled her nose. She detested her studies. “Why do I have to listen to all these dumb stories, grandmother?”

 

“They are not stories, child,” Murasaki said affectionately as she sat on the grass next to her granddaughter. “They are lessons. You have an important legacy to uphold after my passing…”

 

Tetomu could not comprehend life without her grandmother. Murasaki was the only friend or family Tetomu had. The two relatives had lived alone together on the sky island for most of Tetomu’s life. 

 

“How are stories supposed to help me take care of the Power Animals when I’m older?” Tetomu asked.

 

“Knowledge is the greatest weapon a person can possess,” Murasaki explained.

 

The priestess started telling another story of the sky island’s origins and the fallen kingdom of Rokugan. The lesson was about a demon wolf…

 

Tetomu snapped her eyes opened. She remembered!

 

The priestess teleported from the pool with a flare of golden energy and landed on the stone floor of Gao Rock. She placed her hand over the gem she wore on her chest. “Everyone…I remember the story of Zena’ku…”

 

***

 

Simon, Ryan, Timothy, and Michael returned to the main chamber of Gao Rock.

 

“You remember?” Michael was the first to ask.

 

Timothy slapped his right fist against his open palm. “How do we beat him?”

 

Simon narrowed his eyes when he noticed Saiya was missing. “Wait…where’s White?”

 

Timothy’s eyes opened wide. “You don’t think she went after her animal crystal alone…do you?”

 

Ryan flipped open his morpher and tried to cal her. No one answered.

 

Simon narrowed his eyes. “Let’s go.”

 

“Wait!” Tetomu shouted as the rangers ran out of the chamber. “What about…”

 

She was too late. The rangers were already gone.

 

***

 

Zena’ku kneeled over a pond nearby his tomb and dipped his hands into the water. He cupped his hands and slowly drank from the pond.

 

The Org hesitated when he saw his own monstrous reflection in the water. “That face…”

 

He did not even recognize his own reflection. That face felt…wrong. The image filled him with as much anger as the thought of the rangers.

 

Shards of memory danced across his mind’s eye.

 

Zena’ku ran across a dirt road that cut through a village. Blood-lust and rage clouded his vision and mind. The blood of the wolf pumped through his veins as his heart pounded in his chest like a war drum.

 

The villain’s crescent blade was already thick with blood, but Zena’ku wanted more.

 

The creature dashed forward with a streak of black motion and burst through a wooden hut, splintering it to pieces upon impact.

 

A group of villagers ran with panic nearby. A father fled with grasping onto his young son’s hand.

 

The sight seemed familiar to Zena’ku. It reminded him of a specific part in his own past. A part in his past that briefly filled him with sorrow. That sorrow turned into rage as Zena’ku pushed his emotions deep down and charged forward.

 

The villain speared his weapon through the man’s back and cut off the boy’s head. He slaughtered them as his mind fought against the memory.

 

Zena’ku clutched his head as pain shot through his skull. That couldn’t be right! He was a warrior, not a senseless butcher. Or was he? How could he even be sure? And what was it about the boy and his father that seemed so familiar? Why did the image stir a storm of grief and rage inside of him?

 

Takeru screamed a war cry and swung his newly forged Gao Dagger down towards Zena’ku’s head. Zena’ku caught the ranger’s wrist and twisted, snapping his bone and ligaments.

 

The wolf Org kicked Takeru, knocking him away.

 

The five rangers regrouped and their lips started moving. They were speaking, but Zena’ku could hear nothing above the sound of his own pounding heart.

 

The rangers rushed around him and started slashing their daggers across his armor. Each dagger sparked on impact, forcing Zena’ku backward. The Org felt each blade’s sting, even beneath his armor. The cold metal blades  felt like icy fire while tearing across his body.      

 

The rangers struck again and again, their attacks unrelenting.

 

Zena’ku dropped to his knees as the rangers surrounded him. Placing their daggers in the ground, they knees in a circle and made prayer-like gestures with their hands.

 

The hilt of each dagger flashed with energy and burned a star pattern across the ground. Zena’ku was at the center of the pattern when blue flame suddenly erupted from the ground and surrounded him.

 

Zena’ku screamed as the flame burned his armor and slowly froze the inside of his body. A stone casket suddenly took shape around the villain and sealed off his screams.

 

Zena’ku splashed the pond with frustration and bolted to his feet. Grabbing his head, he snarled with pain and frustration as what felt like dozens of hot needles drove into his brain.

 

“Why can’t I remember!”

 

***

 

Saiya walked through the woods nearby the tomb site of Zena’ku. The Org who had her elephant crystal had to be nearby somewhere.

 

Toxica and Jindrax suddenly stepped out from the trees as if from nowhere. The two dukes were determined to prove they were just as capable of beating the rangers as Zena’ku.

 

“You look lost,” Jindrax said as he twirled his daggers.

 

Saiya flipped open her morpher. “Wild Acc-”

 

Toxica fired a jagged burst of purple energy from staff that exploded around Saiya and threw her backward, sending her tumbling down a steep hill.

 

***

 

Zena’ku spotted Saiya laying on the ground injured. Just the site of the ranger filled his throat with bile. He could kill her right then and there and be done with it. Then only four rangers would remain.

 

Zena’ku armed his curved dagger and walked over to the unconscious girl.

 

He kneeled down and hovered the dagger over her chest.

 

No, he told himself. He was not a butcher.

 

Zena’ku cut a piece of fabric from his own black garment. The villain packed damp green leaves onto the fabric and wrapped it around her leg wound.

 

The villain perked his ears up when he heard shouting in the distance.

 

“White!” the voiced called. It was the other rangers searching for their teammates. “White!”

 

***

 

The rangers found Saiya and helped her to her feet. Her vision slowly blurred back into focus as she saw the others standing around her.

 

“What happened?” Simon asked.

 

“Jindrax and Toxica,” Saiya explained. “They took me off guard before I could morph.”

 

Laughter split through the air. The rangers turned to see Jindrax and Toxica stalk towards them.

 

Toxica tightened her grip on her staff and lifted her head proudly. “You won’t be leaving these woods alive, rangers.”

 

“Toxica,” Simon cursed as he and the others snapped into fighting stances. “What makes you think you can possibly beat us alone? You’re outnumbered and outwitted.”

 

The sound of an eerie flute suddenly flowed through the air. The tone was soft and thick with sorrow.

 

The Rangers and duke Orgs looked to see Zena’ku step forward on a hill nearby. He was playing his dagger, which also served as a flute.

 

Zena’ku lowered his dagger and glared at the two duke Orgs. “These woods are my home. And the rangers are mine to deal with.”

 

Toxica opened her mouth to answer, but decided to run off alongside Jindrax instead. 

 

The rangers turned to face Zena’ku. Simon narrowed his eyes. “Alright, Zena’ku…what are you?”

 

“I thought we already had our introductions.” Zena’ku started twirling his crescent blade in a butterfly pattern. “Moonlight-u sonic!”

 

Yellow, Crescent-shaped energy blades shot through the air and exploded around the rangers, knocking them off their feet and sending them flying through the air.

 

The rangers landed in a clearing and slowly rose to their feet as Zena’ku stalked towards them. The villain had his crescent blade slung casually over his shoulder.

 

“Let’s take care of business, guys,” Simon said as he flipped open his morpher.

 

 “Wild Access! Ha!” Energy shimmered around them as their armor wrapped around their bodies and their visors snapped into place. They morphed into their Ranger forms and snapped into animal-like fighting stances.

 

“Blazing Lion! Gao Red!”

 

“Noble Eagle! Gao Yellow!”

 

“Surging Shark! Gao Blue!”

 

“Iron Bison!” Gao Black!”

 

“Belle Tiger! Gao White!”

 

“Guardians of the Earth” Gao Red called, “United we roar! Wild Task Force!”

 

“Gao Ranger!” they shouted together.

 

Zena’ku snorted a mocking laugh at the Rangers. “You may carry the same weapons as the Gao Warriors from 1,000 years ago, but you lack their boldness and cunning. You cannot possibly hope to defeat me.”

 

Gao Red unsheathed his dagger. “We’ll do more than hope to beat you, dog breath.”

 

Gao Red and Gao White leapt through the air and swung their weapons down towards Zena’ku while landing. Zena’ku parried their blows, using their momentum to their disadvantage by making them stumble forward.

 

Gao Yellow leapt towards Zena’ku to attack next. The Org parried the blow and chopped his crescent blade against the Yellow Ranger’s shoulder. Zena’ku pressed down hard on the blade, pushing Gao Yellow backward.

 

Zena’ku slashed down across the Yellow Ranger’s chest. The blade sparked on impact and whipped Gao Yellow’s body off the ground.

 

Gao Black and Gao Blue moved in towards the villain’s side. The two Rangers held tightly onto their Gao Daggers.

 

Zena’ku snapped around and parried Gao Black’s strike. In a single motion, Zena’ku swung his blade horizontally and slashed across the two Rangers’ armor with a burst of spark that knocked them off their feet.

 

Gao White and Gao Red moved in from behind.

 

Zena’ku whipped his blade around to parry a blow from Gao White. The villain twisted his wrist and swung diagonally across the White Ranger’s chest, the blade sparking on impact.

 

Gao White tumbled across the ground as Gao Red moved in and chopped his weapon down hard.

 

Zena’ku parried the blow and slashed upward across the Red Ranger’s armor, snapping his body backward with a burst of spark.

 

Gao Red crashed against the ground and rolled back into a crouched fighting position. The Red Ranger bent his knees and sprang forward with a streak of red light.

 

Zena’ku leapt upward, moving so fast he appeared as nothing more than a dark blur of motion.

 

The streaks of motion danced across the air while clashing against each other before landing on a nearby cliff. 

 

Gao Red and Zena’ku dashed past each other. They both scored hits, blades sparking against opponents’ armor. Gao Red and Zena’ku turned while swinging their weapons towards each other.

 

The Red Ranger’s dagger clashed hard against the Org’s blade.

 

They pulled their blades apart and leapt through the air with streaks of motion. They clashed against each other while moving east and landed on another cliff.

 

Zena’ku stepped back while blocking and parrying a fierce flurry of swings. The Org parried a blow and slashed Gao Red across the chest horizontally. The Red Ranger stumbled backward, but stayed on his feet.

 

Gao Red dug his heel into the dirt and pounced forward with a streak of motion. Zena’ku did the same, and the streaks of sight danced downward while moving closer to the ground.

 

Zena’ku grabbed Gao Red by the throat while landing and held him above the ground. Zena’ku charged forward and skid to a stop while releasing his hold on the Red Ranger and sending him flying backward through the air.

 

Gao Red slammed against the ground and skid backward across the gravel.

 

Zena’ku mockingly waved the Rangers forward. “Try that again…”

 

Gao Blue sprang to his feet and charged forward to attack with his weapons held tightly in hand.

 

“Shark Cutters!” Gao Blue shouted as his weapons pulsed with blue power. “Surging chopper!”

 

He swung his blades horizontally, each weapon streaking with blue energy while slashing horizontally.

 

Zena’ku blocked the strikes and slapped the Blue Ranger’s blades away. The Org swung his blade down in a cross pattern that sparked across Gao Blue’s chest with each strike and sent him flying through the air.

 

Gao Blue slammed against his teammates, and they all crashed against the ground.

 

Zena‘ku swung his blade forward. “Moonlight-u sonic!”

 

Yellow, Crescent-shaped energy blades shot through the air and exploded against the Rangers with massive bursts of spark that bashed them off their feet. They laid unmoving on the ground as smoke still rose from their armor.

 

Zena’ku stalked over towards the fallen Rangers, each appearing unconscious. 

 

But Gao White, Gao Blue, and Gao Black suddenly reached up and grabbed Zena’ku by the leg.

 

Gao Yellow leaned up and hurled two feather darts that exploded against the villain’s chest, taking him completely by surprise.

 

“Gaoling Cannon!” Gao Red shouted as he rolled onto his stomach and armed the weapon.

 

The Red Ranger triggered rapid-fire green energy darts that exploded against Zena’ku with bursts of spark while forcing him backward.

 

“Final mode!” Gao Red shouted as he rose into a crouched position and aimed his weapon for another strike. The mouth of the lion opened to form a larger barrel. “Gao!”

 

Gao Red fired a roaring pulse of golden, crimson energy that rolled forward towards Zena’ku. The blast exploded against the villain’s armor with a massive discharge of spark and flame, forcing the Org further backward.

 

Taken by surprise, Zena’ku was forced to his knees by the attack. He used his crescent blade to steady himself, smoke still rising from his armor.

 

Gao Red boldly faced the villain. “We may not be the same warriors you fought against 1,000 years ago, but we’re still rangers. They beat you before, and we’re going to beat you now.”

 

Zena’ku pulled himself back to his feet. “An unimpressive speech. You’ve only begun to understand my power.”

 

Zena’ku pulled three gems from his back and extended them in his palm. They were dark-shaded animal crystals.

 

“Animal Crystals?” Gao Black said. “They can’t be…”

 

Zena’ku tossed the crystals into the air. The three gems fell back down, and Zena’ku caught them with three slots in his crescent-shaped dagger. The Org lifted the flute to his mouth and started playing a bone-chilling melody.

 

A flash of dark silver light appeared on the cliff behind Zena’ku. A silver-armored wolf appeared and howled into the skies.

 

A purple-armored hammerhead shark suddenly swooped down from the skies as if it were swimming, and a massive green-armored alligator stomped onto the scene.

 

“Behold,” Zena’ku said. “My Dark Wildzords! GaoWolf! GaoHammerHead! GaoGator!”

 

Gao Blue took a step back. “No way.”

 

Gao Red shook his head. “They can’t be real Wildzords, guys. Let’s take ‘em out.”

 

The Rangers unsheathed their Gao Daggers and extended the blades into the sky. “Wildzords, descend!”

 

The blades emitted an enchanting melody. The tone reached up to the sky island Anamarium and caught the ears of the Power Animals. A bridge of multi-colored light extended down from the island and towards the Earth. The Power Animals roared as they charged down the bridge and into battle.

 

Zena’ku charged forward to attack the Rangers while calling his own zords into battle. “Dark Wildzords! Charge!”

 

GaoBison and GaoHammerHead slammed against each other and pushed forward. The shark zord snapped its body, twisting the bison’s head and knocking the black-armored zord aside.

 

Gaorilla roared as it charged towards the massive GaoGator.

 

Gaorilla armed curved energy blades between his fingers, each blade appearing almost like a banana. Gaorilla tossed the energy blades forward, and each exploded around GaoGator with massive bursts of sparks that thrashed across its armor.

 

Below, Zena’ku slashed his blade across the Rangers, who were swarming around him like insects.

 

The villain parried a blow from Gao Blue and slashed the Ranger across the chest before turning, knocking Gao Yellow’s blade aside, and thrashing across his armor with a burst of spark.

 

Above, GaoGator opened its massive jaw and moved forward to bite down on Gaorilla. The guerilla zord pulled a tree it created from the ground and wedged it in the evil zord’s mouth, holding the gator’s jaw wide open.

 

Meanwhile Zena’ku blocked a blow from Gao Red and twisted his arm aside before slashing across his chest with a burst of spark.

 

GaoGator snapped the tree in half and took Gaorilla by surprise. The gator chomped down on Gaorilla, tightening its bite against the green-armored zord. The evil zord thrashed its head back and forth as Gaorilla struggled to escape.

 

Zena’ku slashed down in an x-shaped pattern that sparked against Gao Red’s chest and knocking him backward, sending him tumbling across the ground.

 

The Red Ranger rose to his knees and looked up to see Gaorilla trapped by the evil zord’s jaw.

 

“Gaorilla!” he shouted.

 

Gao Bear opened its jaw and fired a stream of fiery power, as GaoPolar opened its jaw and fired a stream of sub-zero energy. The blasts exploded around Gaorilla and thrashed against its armor, causing the beat to lose its grip on Gaorilla.

 

The guerilla went flying through the air and grabbed onto the wings of GaoEagle to keep from falling.

 

Zena’ku slashed across the Red ranger’s armor again, whipping his body backward.

 

Gao Red rolled across the ground and rose into a crouched fighting stance as the others gathered around him.

 

“Are you okay?” Gao White asked.

 

Gao Red nodded. “But the Wildzords aren’t.”

 

GaoLion and GaoWolf pounced through the air. They slammed against each other, a whirlwind of teeth and claws that thrashed through midair before crashing back against the ground.

 

The wolf howled and the lion roared as they bit against each other and clawed against their armor, a savage display of power that shoot the ground. GaoWolf bit hard against the lion’s neck while thrashing his head back and forth to dig his teeth in.

 

“GaoLion!” Gao Red shouted from below.

 

Gao Yellow unsheathed his dagger and looked to the Red Ranger. “GaoMuscle.”

 

The Red Ranger nodded in agreement.

 

The Rangers stood in a circle and thrust their daggers towards the center. Gao Red looked up while making a claw with his left hand over the right side of his chest. “Wildzords! Assemble!”

 

Gaorilla leapt through the air and streaked forward through a tunnel of energy. The green-armored zord shifted shape and formed a muscular chest that GaoBear and GaoPolar attached too. GaoBison formed the legs and waist, and GaoEagle wrapped around the bison head as if a belt buckle. An armored helmet flipped up from the body as the transformation completed.

 

The Soul Bird appeared with a flash of light as it swooped through the air. The Rangers leapt onto the bird. “Soul Drive!” Gao Red shouted. “GaoMuscle!”

 

The Soul Bird phased through the MegaKongazord’s back and took its place in the zord’s cockpit. They placed their Daggers into the Soul Bird’s control slots and hovered their hands over pairs of black, organic-looking orbs.

 

“MegaKongazord!” the Rangers shouted. “GaoMuscle!”

 

GaoHammerHead rammed against the Megazord as GaoWolf bit down hard against the zord’s legs.

 

The three zords fell back, and regrouped on a hill behind Zena’ku.

 

The Org slung his crescent blade over his shoulder and pointed up at the Rangers. “Your zord’s power is great, but my dark Wildzords…” He snorted a laugh. “I’ll show you another day…”

 

The Dark Wildzords and Zena’ku vanished.   

 

***

 

The rangers regrouped outside of Gao Rock as Tetomu told the story of Zena’ku. She only remembered bits and pieces of the tale, but enough to make sense.

 

“The Gao Warriors fought against Zena’ku 1,000 years ago,” Tetomu said. “The demon wolf’s power was strong enough to tame three Wildzords from the north: GaoWolf, GaoGator, and GaoHammerHead. Not even the chosen Gao warriors had been able to tame these zords.”

 

Timothy narrowed his brow. “So those things we fought actually were real Power Animals?”

 

Tetomu nodded.

 

Saiya’s face grew pale. “What happened to those zords…is that what will happen to GaoElephant?”

 

Tetomu lowered her gaze. “It’s possible.”

 

The howl of the wolf suddenly cut through the air.

 

To be continued…Chapter Thirteen