Ultimate Gao Rangers: Chapter Eighteen

Sparkling Birth! Gao Silver!

 

Shirogane’s vision slowly blurred into focus. His robes torn and tattered, the warrior slowly pushed himself to his feet.

 

The rangers stood around Shirogane. Simon and the others were visibly relieved that Zena’ku was gone. They had used the power of Gao King Striker to knock out the Predazord, the impact of which broke the wolf mask free from its captive. 

 

Shirogane knitted his brow with confusion as he looked over them, truly noticing their faces for the first time. Children…he thought to himself with utter disbelief. These are no warriors…they are children…

 

Shirogane, mind still clouded with confusion, took a step back from the rangers.

 

“What has happened?” he asked.

 

Simon took a step closer. “You’re free now. The mask doesn’t have a hold on you anymore.”

 

Shirogane narrowed his eyes. “I was not speaking of the mask,” he said tensely. “What has happened?”

 

His memories from his time as Zena’ku weighed heavily on his mind. Jungles of concrete and glass had ravaged fields of trees. Humanity had shed its waste into creeks and oceans. Men rode in chariot that pumped fumes into the air. Even outside the city, the fumes stung Shirogane’s nostril.

 

What had happened to his people? And was he really any worse than them?

 

As Zena’ku, he had killed hundreds of innocents, including women and children.

 

What is this cursed world I have been reborn into? Shirogane thought. What have I become?

 

The rangers noticed the pain in Shirogane’s eyes. Saiya reached to place a hand on the ancient warrior’s arm, but Shirogane knocked her hand away and stepped back.

 

“Fools!” Shirogane spat. “Do not touch me! The filth of this world…the filth of my heart and soul…”

 

Panic in his eyes, Shirogane turned and sprinted away from the rangers as fast as he could.

 

Simon and the others stood by helplessly and watched the ancient warrior run off.

 

Timothy shook his head. “I don’t get it. I thought he was supposed to be one of the good guys?”

 

“He is,” Simon said.

 

“No,” Timothy answered. “Good guys aren’t supposed to act that crazy in the head.”

 

Saiya held her gaze on the direction Shirogane ran off. “You don’t understand what he’s going through. None of us do.”

 

Michael nodded in agreement. “He was trapped as Zena’ku for centuries. Now everything he knew is gone.”

 

Ryan scoffed. “I hope it’s hard for him. You all may be willing to forget what he did as Zena’ku. But I’m not. At least not yet.”

 

Simon shook his head and sighed, dismissing Ryan’s comments without arguing. “We’ll give him some time to be alone for awhile. Then one of us will approach him. That way he won’t feel like we’re all cornering him.”

 

“Right,” Ryan said, a mocking tone in his voice. “Nothing worse than backing a scared animal into a corner.”

 

***

 

Shirogane ran as fast as he could through the woods. He leapt over fallen tree trunks and increased his speed with practically each step. Scraps of paper and litter strewn about artificially plowed trails caught his eye.

 

“Filth,” he spat between breaths.

 

His mind drifted back to the rangers. What had they wanted with him? More so, why had they fought to free him from the mask?

 

Shirogane shook his head to clear his mind. None of that mattered.

 

“The Org,” he cursed beneath his breath.

 

The Org were the only constant between his home and the mad world he was reborn into. Surely, all the madness and chaos in the world was the fault of the Org. Who knew how much damage they had caused in the past 1,000 years.

 

“The Org,” he cursed again. “I must find them…”

 

***

 

Toxica and Jindrax could not have been happier as they walked across the rocky shores outside of Angel Grove. Zena’ku, their competition for favor in the eyes of the great Highness Duke, was gone forever.

 

It was truly a cause for celebration.

 

“It’s about time we got that dog out of our way,” Jindrax said. “Now we can have some real fun!”

 

Toxica smiled with fiendish delight. “What sort of fun did you have in mind?”

 

Jindrax stopped for a moment and scratched his head. “You know, Toxica…I didn’t think ahead that far.”

 

Toxica’s eyes opened wide with fear as she stopped in her tracks and stared ahead. Jindrax looked at her quizzically. “What is it?”

 

Jindrax followed Toxica’s gaze and saw Shirogane standing on a tall mound of rock. 

 

“Zena’ku!” Jindrax shouted as he hid behind Toxica. “Or at least…the guy that used to be Zena’ku…”

 

Shirogane walked down off the pile of rocks and approached the two Duke Orgs. “Take me to Lord Ura.”

 

Toxica and Jindrax stepped back into defensive positions.

 

“If I wanted to attack you,” Shirogane said. “You would be dead beneath my heel by now. Lower your arms.”

 

Toxica and Jindrax reluctantly lowered their weapons. Toxica arced an eyebrow at the ancient warrior. “Why should we trust you?”

 

“Yeah,” Jindrax said. “We didn’t even trust you when you were Zena’ku.”

 

“I am Org,” Shirogane. “Now take me to Lord Ura.”

 

***

 

Toxica and Jindrax led Shirogane to a cave along the rocky shore. Highness Duke Ura stood at the cave entrance. A small, brown leather pouch was attached to the villain’s waist. The stolen animal crystals were inside the pouch. 

 

The villain casually held his fan while eyeing Shirogane. “You again, lost, lonely wolf,” Ura said mockingly.

 

Shirogane kneeled at the Highness Duke’s feet. “Lord Ura-sama,” Shirogane said. “With or without the cursed wolf mask, I am still Org.”

 

“Indeed,” Ura said. “What have you to-”

 

Shirogane sprang to his feet and unsheathed his dagger while swinging the weapon towards the Highness Duke’s face. But Lord Ura grabbed Shirogane by the wrist and twisted.

 

The ancient warrior winced as his dagger fell to the ground. Ura slammed a kick against the warrior’s gut, knocking him onto his side.

 

Ura laughed at the warrior. “You’re even more amusing than the rangers.” He looked up to Toxica and Jindrax. “Bind him and bring him with us.”

 

Toxica arced an eyebrow. “With us? To where?”

 

“On a trip,” Ura said. The villain sounded pleased at his own brilliance. “It’s time for the little wolf to return home. To Rokugan.”  

 

***

 

The Sacred Pool inside Gao Rock started to bubble with Org turbulence. The rangers gathered around Tetomu as they looked into the pool. 

 

Through the reflection, they saw an old, wooden ship with tattered sails setting to sea. Lord Ura was on the deck along with Jindrax, Toxica, and a bound Shirogane.

 

“Huh,” Timothy said. “Where did they get their own boat?”

 

Tetomu’s face grew pale. “They can’t be…”

 

Simon looked at her quizzically. “Can’t be what?”

 

“They’re going to Rokugan,” Tetomu said. “I can sense it by the energy around that ship.”

 

“How is that possible?” Ryan asked. “Rokugan was wiped out by the Org centuries ago.”

 

Tetomu walked quickly away from the pool and towards a rear chamber in Gao Rock. She pulled an old scroll out from behind a boulder and walked back towards a table in the center of the main chamber.

 

“Grandmother warned me of this…” she kneeled down at the table and spread the scroll across its surface. The scroll had a map of the once great empire of Rokugan. “The empire was destroyed. Completely,” Tetomu said. “A wall of fog surrounds what’s left of the island. The fog slowly appeared during the war against the Org. They say the fog is the dying breaths of the empire’s people.”

 

A chill crept down Saiya’s spine. She crossed her arms over her chest.

 

Tetomu continued. “Only Org or Gao can safely cross through the fog and reach what remains of the island.”

 

Michael narrowed his eyes. “But why is Ura going there?”

 

“The blood of the Org still runs thick on the empire’s soil,” Tetomu said. “Lord Ura likely plans to resurrect the same army that overthrew the empire 1,000 years ago. To do so, he will need the Oni-maho.”

 

“The what?” Timothy asked.

 

“Oni-maho,” Tetomu said again. “The demon’s dark, blood magic. My grandmother never told me the source of Oni-maho…but I believe that source is the same dark energy that was in the wolf mask of Zena’ku. This is why Ura has Shirogane.”

 

Simon knitted his brow. “But the wolf mask was destroyed. Shirogane isn’t Zena’ku anymore.”

 

“But residual energy from the mask may still burn in his veins,” Tetomu said. “Or he may have another power. One we aren’t familiar with.”

 

“So we follow him,” Ryan said.

 

Simon nodded. “Agreed. But how?”

 

Michael suddenly stepped back as his hand pulsed with bronze energy. A flash of light appeared in his palm, and that light slowly formed an animal crystal. The crystal had the image of a whale inside.

 

***

 

The rangers gathered on the rocky shore outside of Angel Grove.

 

“So, what?” Timothy asked. “Are we just supposed to call this whale and ride it to the island?”

 

“That’s the general idea,” Simon said as he and pulled out his morphed. “Let’s get ready guys…it’s morphin time.”

 

“I wish you’d stop saying that,” Ryan said as he and the other flipped open their morphers.

 

“Wild Access! Ha!” Golden energy wrapped around the group as their armor took shape and their helmets slid into place, visors snapping shut like the jaws of animals.

 

Gao Black inserted the whale crystal into his Gao Dagger’s hilt and raised the weapon towards the skies. “Arise! GaoWhale!”

 

A massive zord shaped like a blue whale, but with brown and bronze armor, leapt from the ocean with a massive splash of waves. The whale landed near the shore opened its gaping mouth.

 

“Let’s hop in, guys,” Gao Red said.

 

“Right,” Gao Blue said sarcastically. “Let’s hop into the big fish’s-” he sighed and shook his head. “Aw, hell…let’s just go.”

 

***

 

Highness Duke Ura kicked Shirogane upside the head. The ancient warrior’s body snapped backward and crashed back down against the wooden deck. The Org laughed mockingly at Shirogane.

 

The ship, made mostly of rotted wood, continued to sail through thick clouds of fog and mist. Jindrax and Toxica spotted the island of Rokugan in the distance.

 

“Lord Ura!” Toxica shouted, her eyes glowing with excitement. “We’ve arrived.”

 

Toxica and Jindrax had never physically been to Rokugan. But all Org were connected and shared base memories. The two Duke Orgs felt as if they were returning home, to the same lands their ancestors had walked centuries ago.

 

All Org shared a bond with Rokugan. The villains were all crafted from the hate and madness of one of the island’s natives: Yogo Junzo.

 

Ura lifted Shirogane by his robes. “Welcome home, Zena’ku.”

 

The ship reached the shore, and Jindrax extended a ramp onto the ground below. Ura hurled Shirogane from the deck, sending Shirogane crashing against the shore with a load thud.

 

Ura and his two Duke Orgs slowly descended the ramp and set foot onto the island, which was still surrounded by fog and mist that reeked of death and decay.

 

The beach was nothing but ash and black-blood stained rock.

 

Shirogane slowly pulled himself up and saw the remains of a forest mesh with the shore of ash. The twisted trees were all black and leafless. The ground beneath the trees was thick with black slime.

 

Ura walked up behind Shirogane and pushed the ancient warrior forward. “Welcome home…”

 

***

 

GaoWhale surfaced far from the island shore and swam across the waters. The Rangers gathered on top of the whale and watched as Rokugan grew closer in the distance.

 

“There it is,” Gao Red said.

 

An eerie wind blew across the ocean, but the waters were surprisingly still.

 

The ship moved closer to the shore, and the Rangers noticed dim candles shining beneath the water.

 

“Okay,” Gao Blue said. “That is too freaky.”

 

Gao White shook her head. “That’s impossible.”

 

Gao Red sensed a frightening presence from beneath the water’s surface. “This is insane,” Gao Red said. “But I think this island is still protected.”

 

“Protected by what?” Gao Blue asked.

 

“The people who died to protect it 1,000 years ago,” Gao Red said.

 

Corpses slowly started to rise from the surface. Each zombie carried a candle lit with mystical light. Their bodies were blue and torn, revealing rotted muscle and bone. Their pupils were shining with dull crimson light.

 

The zombies flowed across the water and moved to GaoWhale before slowly climbing up the zord.

 

Gao Yellow unsheathed his dagger. “They’re coming in from all sides.”

 

Gao Black drew his weapon as well. “Why would they attack us?”

 

The Red Ranger armed his Lion Fang over his right hand, and his Gao Dagger in his left hand. “It doesn’t matter. These people died a long time ago.”

 

The Rangers stood in a circle as the zombies slowly surrounded them and marched forward.

 

Gao Red narrowed his eyes beneath his visor and tightened his grip on his weapons. They’re not alive, Gao Red reminded himself. This is the Org’s fault…you’re fighting Org…

 

“It’s about to get messy,” Gao Red said.

 

A zombie lunged towards the Red Ranger. Gao Red smashed his Lion Fang across the zombie’s head and stabbed his dagger through a second zombie‘s chest. The two zombie’s crashed against GaoWhale, but slowly climbed back towards their feet and started forward again.

 

The other Rangers had similar problems. Gao Yellow hacked through a trio of zombies while Gao Black chopped away with his axe. The zombies they knocked down got back up and marched forward again, despite the gaping wounds.

 

“They’re not making this easy,” Gao Blue said as he swung his Shark Cutters through a zombie’s chest. “Can’t this fat whale move faster?”

 

The zombies pushed forward, grasping at the Ranger’s throats and limbs faster than they could be knocked away.

 

Gao Yellow cut the arms and legs from a zombie, but the detached limbs flopped forward and grabbed onto the Yellow Ranger’s legs.

 

***

 

The sun was setting in the distance. Lord Ura led Shirogane to the center of a clearing. The ground at his feet was bubbling with muck and slime that oozed around dead blades of grass.

 

Ura threw Shirogane onto the mucky ground. “This is the place, Zena’ku.”

 

“Dog,” Shirogane cursed. “Stop calling me by that name.”

 

Ura leaned down and used his fan’s sharp edge to rip the sleeves off Shirogane. The Highness Duke breathed an aw of delight and stroked his claw across the moon tattoo on the ancient warrior’s arm.

 

“It’s beautiful,” Ura practically purred with insanity.

 

Shirogane lunged forward to tackle against the villain, but Ura kicked the ancient warrior upside the head. Shirogane crashed back down into the muck. 

 

The Highness Duke extended his hand towards Jindrax. “Hand me the scroll, Jindrax,” the villain said in a calm, soothing voice. “We are about to begin.”

 

Jindrax pulled a worn scroll out from behind his back and handed it to Ura. The Highness Duke opened the scroll and tossed it to the ground.

 

As the Highness Duke stared down at the scroll, he pulled out the small mirror he had used to awaken Zena’ku from his tomb. The mirror reflected moonlight onto the scroll’s worn and tattered leather. 

 

The scroll’s kanji symbols burned with dark light and melted into the earth. The winds howled in protest as the dark energy spread across the slime-coated dirt.

 

The moon tattoo on Shirogane’s arm suddenly started to burn with pale-blue energy. He clenched his jaw to keep from screaming as the burning sensation spread across his body.

 

I will not allow this, Shirogane thought to himself. He did not know what the Org were up to, but he knew he had to stop them. He had to finish the task he failed to complete 1,000 years ago, or die trying.

 

Shirogane called upon the power burning inside of him and broke free from his bindings. Springing to his feet, the ancient warrior pounced at Ura to attack.

 

***

 

“Gaoling Cannon!” The Lion Fang on the Red Ranger’s hand formed a rifle blaster.

 

Gao Red fired rapid-volley jade energy blasts that exploded through a wave of zombies, which were ripped apart and sent hurling off of the whale zord.

 

Gao Blue speared his soldier through another soldier’s gut. He looked over his shoulder to his leader. “Isn’t that a bit overkill?”

 

“Yes,” Gao Red said as he triggered another burst of green energy blasts. “Are you complaining?”

 

“No,” Gao Blue said. “Just wanted to make sure we were on the same page.”

 

***

 

Toxica bashed her staff across Shirogane’s head. The ancient warrior crashed backward and went tumbling across the mucky ground.

 

Shirogane narrowed his eyes and slowly rose to his feet. The moon tattoo on his chest started to pulse with energy as he placed his palms across from each other. A sphere of pale-blue light slowly formed between his palms.

 

The warrior thrust his hands forward and shot the sphere at the Org. The sphere exploded around the three villains with a massive burst of spark that ripped across their bodies. When the spark and smoke from the attack cleared, Shirogane was gone.

 

***

 

GaoWhale slammed against the shore, sending the Rangers flying off the zord. The Rangers hit the ground hard and skid away from the ocean, but the zombies followed onto the shore.

 

Gao Yellow stepped back into a fighting stance and held his sword in a defensive posture while facing the incoming wave of zombies.

 

Gao Red placed his hand on the Yellow Ranger’s shoulder to pull him around. “No. We’ll leave them. We have to get moving and find Shirogane.”

 

Gao Yellow shrugged of Gao Red’s hand, and the Rangers moved into the decayed woods.

 

***

 

Shirogane ran as fast as he could through the remnants of his old homeland. The stench practically choked him, causing the ancient warrior to collapse into the muck. His hands became stained with the black ichor that seeped through dead blades of grass.

 

“Is this what I have been reduced to?” he asked himself quietly as he looked down at his stained hands. “Is this what my world has been reduced to?”

 

An eerie wind blew across the landscaping, tousling the ancient warrior’s hair. The wind howled the flute sound of Zena’ku.

 

Guilt and fear gripped at Shirogane’s throat. That is not possible…

 

He tightened his hands into fists and rose to his feet, his eyes darting around the fog for any sign of movement. “Show yourself, Org!” he shouted. “I am not afraid!”

 

“Then why do you run?” Zena’ku’s voice whispered in his ear. 

 

Shirogane snapped around, but no one was there. The ancient warrior knitted his brow. “What sort of trick is this, demon? Show yourself, or prove me right that you are a coward.”

 

Cold breath tickled his neck. “You are the coward…”

 

Shirogane snapped around, but again, no one was there.

 

The ground beneath his feet started to shake. The soil split open like a gaping wound and hurled Shirogane off his feet. Jagged pieces of black rock tore up from the wound. The pieces of rock were marked with the same moon tattoo on the ancient warrior’s arm.

 

***

 

The Rangers ran through dead woods in pursuit of Org. Puddles of muck splashed beneath their feet as they made their way through thick fog of death’s breath.

 

The wind suddenly howled and practically knocked the five Rangers off their feet. The Rangers braced themselves against the current of air.

 

But the wind died as suddenly as it began.

 

Gao Black narrowed his eyes beneath his helmet and looked down at the ground beneath his feet. Black slime-coated vines as thin as wires were slithering beneath his feet.

 

The vines snapped up and wrapped around Gao Black’s legs while whipping him off his feet. The Black Ranger crashed against the ground, and the vines started dragging him away.

 

“Black!” Gao Blue shouted, but vines snapped up and started wrapping around him as well. The Blue Ranger armed his Shark Cutters and started hacking at the vines, but they kept coming faster than he could cut them down.

 

Gao Red armed his Gao Dagger and started hacking at the vines left and right. A black vine suddenly wrapped around his chest and pulled him off the ground while tightening around his ribs.

 

The Red Ranger twisted his body and used his dagger to cut himself free. Gao Red dropped on the ground and landed in a crouched fighting stance as dozens of tendrils snapped towards him.

 

***

 

Shirogane’s eyes opened wide as he looked at the stone. What did it mean?

 

Pain shot through his head and forced him to his knees. Shirogane clutched onto the sides of his skull as if to keep his head from exploding. The tattoo on his arm started to glow and burn his skin.

 

Through his mind’s eye, he saw the five Gao Ranger hack their way through the vines and regroup. The warriors charged back into the thick of the rotting woods, regardless of further danger they would face.

 

“They followed me…” Shirogane whispered. After all he had done, they were trying to save him. But why?

 

Lord Ura, Toxica, and Jindrax suddenly stepped into the clearing.

 

Shirogane tried to rise to his feet and face the Org, but the pain in his head kept him anchored down.

 

Lord Ura was amused at the sight of Shirogane struggling. “Are you in pain?” the Highness Duke laughed. “Human flesh is weak, Zena’ku. You should have remained Org.”

 

Shirogane snarled. “I told you…stop calling me by that name!”

 

Shirogane ignored the pain and sprang towards Ura to attack. The Highness Duke grabbed Shirogane by the throat and hurled him backward. The ancient warrior slammed back-first against the ground.

 

Lord Ura extended his hand, and thick vines wrapped around Shirogane to trap him against the rock.

 

“Now,” Lord Ura said. “Let us begin…”

 

Shirogane’s tattoo started to burn even brighter. He howled in pain as pale-blue lightning shot down from the skies and exploded around the ground. Slime and ichor ignited with roaring flames that quickly ripped across the landscape.

 

***

 

The Gao Rangers ran as fast as they could, their boots splashing puddles of slime and ooze as they dashed towards the lightning in the distance.

 

“That’s got to be Shirogane,” Gao Red said.

 

“But what’s happening?” Gao Blue said.

 

Gao Yellow shook his head. “It doesn’t matter…” he inched his way ahead of the others. “Now move faster…”

 

***

 

Flames roared around the clearing where Shirogane was tied down.

 

Another bolt of lightning crashed down and splashed across Shirogane with a blinding burst of pale light. Small bolts of energy crackling along his tattoo while he screamed, lightning dancing between his teeth.

 

Ura extended his mirror towards Shirogane. A massive burst of pale-blue energy shot from the warrior’s tattoo and leapt into the mirror.

 

With a final burst of light, the flames and lighting died away, and the winds calmed to a dead still.

 

Lord Ura looked into the mirror and saw ghostly pale-blue energy swirling beneath the surface like a cloud. Lord Ura was captivated by its beauty. “The Oni-maho…”

 

The Highness Duke reached into a pouch and pulled out a clay statue. The statue was shaped like a Chimera, modeled after the captured power animals: GaoBear, GaoPolar, GaoGiraffee, and GaoElephant.

 

Energy from the stolen animal crystals snaked out and injected into the statue. The statue pulsed with power and assumed a lifeless, humanoid monster. The monster was in need of a soul.

 

Lord Ura extended his mirror and injected the Oni-maho into the statue with a burst of pale light. Chimera Org roared as it crimson eyes lit up and black blood started to pour through its artificial veins.

 

Jindrax tilted his head with confusion. “Wait…so all this fuss was just over some stupid new Org?”

 

Lord Ura ignored the duke and ran his hand along his new creation. “It’s beautiful…isn’t it?”

 

“We’d have to disagree!” a voice shouted from behind. The Org turned to see Gao Red and the other Ranger standing in fighting stances.

 

Chimera Org howled like the beasts of his creation and squared off with the Rangers.

 

As one, the Rangers leapt forward and slammed their weapons against Chimera Org, each blade and weapon sparking on impact while thrashing across the monster.

 

Strands of orange energy suddenly shot out from the creature’s body and exploded against the Rangers with massive bursts of spark that ripped across their armor. The blasts sent them flying backward and skidding across the ground.

 

The Rangers rolled back into fighting stances and regrouped while Chimera Org stalked towards them.

 

Gao Blue shook his head. “That thing is ugly.”

 

Gao Yellow narrowed his eyes behind his helmet. “That thing is made from our stolen Power Animals.”

 

“All the more reason to destroy it,” Gao Red said. “Now let’s bring ‘em together!”

 

The Rangers combined their weapons into a single long sword.

 

“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 towards Chimera Org, but the monster merely swatted the golden energy blade aside.

 

Chimera Org leaned forward and fired tendrils of crimson energy from its forehead. The energy exploded against the Rangers with massive bursts of spark, whipping them back off their feet.

 

Their weapons were knocked from their hands and went flying through the air before falling back to the mucky ground.

 

Chimera Org used its polar bear shoulder to fire a subzero blast that exploded against the Rangers with bursts of spark and shards of ice. The creature turned to use its bear shoulder, and fired a torrent of flame that exploded against the Rangers with massive explosions of spark and fire.

 

Chimera Org snapped out with five tentacles shaped like elephant horns. The tentacles wrapped around the Rangers’ bodies and squeezed tightly, nearly crushing them while Chimera Org fired a burst of golden energy that exploded against their armor.

 

Shirogane struggled against his bindings while watching the Rangers suffer another attack from Chimera Org. Why? he thought to himself. After everything I have done to them, why are they trying to save me?

 

He knew he was unworthy of such compassion. He had tried to kill him. He had killed innocents.

 

This is all my fault…Shirogane struggled harder against his bindings. I can not let the Org win…I can not let these Rangers die…

 

Shirogane shouted a war cry and tensed every muscle in his body, snapping free from his bindings. He shouted at the top of his lungs and charged towards Chimera Org while lifting the Eagle Sword from the ground.

 

“You idiot!” Gao Yellow shouted. “You’ll get yourself killed!”

 

Shirogane dashed past Chimera Org and slashed the monster across the chest. The warrior turned and swung the blade upward in an x-shaped pattern, and downward with two diagonal strikes, each blow sparking against the monster’s body.

 

The warrior twisted his wrist and brought the blade around towards the monster’s head, but Chimera Org caught the weapon and kicked Shirogane in the gut. The blow sent Shirogane flying off his feet and crashing against the slime-coated ground.

 

His robes covered with slime, Shirogane rolled back into a crouched fighting position and narrowed his eyes at Chimera Org. “I will not be beaten so easily, Org!”

 

Shirogane sprang forward and snapped a jump roundkick against the Org’s head. Chimera Org slammed its fists against the warrior’s gut and slammed its second fist against his back, smashing Shirogane to the ground.

 

Chimera Org kicked Shirogane onto his back and slammed its foot against the warrior’s chest.

 

Shirogane grinded his teeth as he felt his ribs pop. He grabbed the monster’s leg and snapped a kick up to bash the monster backward. The warrior rolled out from under the monster and rose to his feet.

 

The monster lashed out with a tentacle that wrapped around Shirogane’s neck and whipped him off the ground. The villain swung the warrior backward and smashed him back down.

 

Chimera Org retracted its tentacle, and Shirogane stumbled to his feet, despite the sharp pains shooting all across his body with every movement.

 

The monster fired another burst of orange energy strands that exploded around Shirogane, knocking the wind out of him and sending him crashing backward against a dead tree trunk before sliding to the ground.

 

Through sheer force of will alone, Shirogane climbed back to his feet.

 

“Stop!” Gao Red shouted as he tried to break free from the tentacle. “You can’t beat him like that! He’s going to kill you.”

 

“Then I will die fighting…” Shirogane said as he stumbled forward towards the Org. “I will die while fighting to redeem my sins. Redeeming my failures. And I will take this Org to the grave with me!”

 

With endurance that defied logic, Shirogane charged forward to attack. His body was fueled by his will and courage alone while he shouted a war cry.

 

Chimera Org fired crackling bursts of crimson energy from its eyes. The blasts exploded around Shirogane, sending him crashing off his feet and tumbling into a pile of muck. He winced in pain, having gone through a fierce beating that the human body was never meant to endure.

 

This time, Shirogane’s courage did not go unnoticed. GaoLion roared on the Sky Island, his mighty call spreading to the earth below.

 

The three animal crystals belonging to GaoWolf, GaoGator, and GaoHammerHead heard the lion’s call and flashed with energy. The animal crystals shot through the air with streaks of energy aimed at Shirogane.

 

The ancient warrior rose to his feet just in time to catch the three crystals, which materialized in his hand. He opened his eyes wide with amazement. “GaoWolf, GaoGator, GaoHammerHead…”

 

His eye was drawn to the wolf crystal. The crystal’s pulsing power matched the rhythm of his own beating heart. The crystals suddenly flashed with power and circled around his wrist with strands of energy.

 

The energy strands formed a G-Phone that wrapped around Shirogane’s wrist. The morpher was shaped like a blue-trimmed silver wolf head. “That’s…”

 

Chimera Org howled at Shirogane.

 

The ancient warrior turned and glared at the monster. The ranger felt the blood of the wolf coursing through his veins, fueling the heart of the hunter. He un-strapped his morpher and mimicked the movements he had seen the Rangers do dozens of times.

 

“Gao Access!” Shirogane shouted. He thrust his hand forward and pulled his morpher back. “Ha!”

 

Energy howled around Shirogane, empowering every cell of his being. His armor activated with a shimmer of golden light, and his helmet wrapped around his head. The silver-armored Ranger snapped into a wolf-like fighting stance.

 

“Howling Wolf!” he shouted. “Gao Silver!”

 

Lord Ura opened his eyes wide with horror. “That’s impossible…”

 

The Rangers looked up, the elephant tentacles still binding them to the ground.

 

“A Silver Ranger?” Gao Red said softly.

 

Gao Silver crouched down like a wolf and clawed at the ground. He dug his heels into the dirt and pounced forward like his namesake. The Silver Ranger dashed past Chimera Org while slashing his claws across the villain. Gao Silver landed and dashed past the villain again, his claws sparking across Chimera Org on impact.

 

Gao Silver landed, turned, and leapt back towards Chimera Org. The Ranger angled his decent towards the villain and unsheathed his saber/staff weapon. “Lunar Cue!”

 

Gao Silver landed while slashing his sword across the villain, blade sparking on impact. The Silver Ranger dashed past Chimera Org and slashed it across the body with a burst of spark.

 

Gao Silver turned, and slashed across the villain in an x-shaped pattern, each blow sparking across the villain’s body. The Ranger stepped forward and chopped his blade twice against Chimera Org’s head, each chop sparking, splitting open the Org’s head and splattering black ichor in every direction.

 

Chimera Org stumbled backward and skid across the ground. The villain rolled to a halt and slowly climbed to his feet.

 

Gao Silver switched his weapon to rifle mode. “Sniper Mode!”

 

Chimera Org fired a jagged burst of orange energy. Gao Silver dove over the energy burst and rolled across the ground. The Silver Ranger rolled into a  crouched position and held his rifle at the ready.

 

Chimera fired another jagged energy burst.

 

Gao Silver leaned back and let the burst pass by him. He leaned forward and triggered a volley of pale-blue energy blasts that streaked through the air and peppered against Chimera Org with massive bursts of sparks and explosions.

 

Chimera Org stood his ground and fired another jagged stream of orange-tinted energy. Gao Silver dove and rolled aside as the blast sparked around him.

 

The Silver Ranger sprang through the air and hovered past Chimera Org while firing another volley of pale-blue energy lances. The hyphens of power exploded against Chimera Org with massive sparks. The sparks tore open the Org’s body, and the wounds seeped with black puss and ichor.

 

“Whoa,” Gao Blue said. “He’s awesome.”

 

Gao Silver landed and switched his Lunar Cue back to staff mode. “Breaker mode!”

 

Gao Silver swung the weapon, emitting a wave of green energy that bound the monster in place and hung in midair like a table.

 

The Silver Ranger placed his three animal crystals on the table and used the end of his staff to shoot them forward. The animal crystals burst towards Chimera Org through streaks of energy and exploded through the monster, puncturing through the creature’s body.

 

The gems streaked back, and Gao Silver caught them.

 

Chimera Org fell backward and exploded with a massive eruption of flame and smoke.

 

Toxica extended her staff towards the oozing remains and shouted her incantation. The staff opened, and dozens of black seeds shot forth. The seeds took root in the ooze, and Chimera Org grew giant.

 

Gao Silver swung his staff, and the weapon emitted an energy wave that extended to the sky. Gao Silver placed his gems on the energy table and shot the crystals forward. The crystals ignited and burst towards the sky. “Wildzords, descend!”

 

A silver-armored wolf appeared with a flash of light 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.

 

Gao Silver made a claw with his left hand and held his palm over his chest. “Wildzords! Assemble!”

 

The Wildzords pulsed with energy and started to change shape. GaoGator formed a body and legs as GaoWolf and GaoHammerHead formed the arms. The wolf-like head of the zord rose from the body. The jaw of the wolf opened, forming the head and glowing-yellow eyes of the Megazord. 

 

Gao Silver appeared in his zord’s cockpit and slid his Lunar Cue down into his control console.

 

“Predazord!” Gao Silver shouted. “Gao Hunter Justice!”

 

Below, 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 six Wildzords charged forward as fiery energy surrounded them. GaoRhino and GaoMadillo 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 Striker!”

 

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 Striker!”

 

Gao Red glared at the monster through his cockpit. “It’s payback time…” he looked to the Predazord. “Let’s go, Silver!”

 

“Hai,” Gao Silver answered.

 

Chimera Org fired crackling, rolling spheres of energy that the two Megazords charged through while explosions thrashed across their armor.

 

“Shark Surge!” Gao Blue shouted. The shark fist energized and swung forward.

 

“Hammer Claw!” Gao Silver shouted. The Predazord swung its own shark fist.

 

The two fists smashed against the monster with a massive burst of spark.

 

“Tiger Fury!” Gao White shouted. The tiger fist charged forward.

 

“Wolf strike!” Gao Hunter’s wolf fist energized and swung towards the Org.

 

Both fists smashed against Chimera Org with a massive burst of spark, sending the Org stumbling backward.

 

“Fin Blade!” Gao King armed his sword and swung upward through a streak of blue energy that exploded against Chimera Org.

 

“Gator Blade-o!” Gao Silver shouted. Predazord armed its blade and swung downward through a streak of pale-blue energy that sparked against the monster on impact.

 

“Silver!” Gao Red shouted.

 

Gao Hunter and Gao King locked their arms together, and strands of energy danced between their fists.

 

“Roaring Fury!” the Rangers shouted as the Megazords swung their fists forward. The two Megazords hurled a roaring sphere of energy at the monster.

 

The energy crackling sphere exploded against Chimera Org with a massive burst of spark, sending the monster stumbling back.

 

Gao King charged forward and detached the armadillo. The armadillo started rolling forward like a soccer ball and gathering kinetic energy.

 

“Striker Kick!” the Rangers shouted. Gao King kicked the armadillo forward. The zord shot through the air like a flaming bullet and exploded against Chimera Org with a massive burst of spark.

 

Gao Hunter held its drill arm forward and shot towards Chimera Org while hovering above the ground. “Gator Blade! Howling strike!”

 

The drill started to spin as the wolf fist howled. The spinning drill punctured through the monster with a massive explosion. The Org crashed backward and exploded with a massive burst of smoke and flame.

 

Below, Lord Ura and the two dukes started to run towards the shore. Gao Silver spotted them and leapt from his cockpit.

 

The Silver Ranger landed in a crouched fighting stance and blocked the Orgs’ path. “You’re not getting away, Ura!”  

 

Gao Silver somersaulted forward through the air. He swung his staff down diagonally through a streak of pale-blue energy while landing. The cue slashed across Ura with a massive burst of spark, sending the Highness Duke stumbling backward.

 

The Silver Ranger leaned forward and speared his cue through Ura’s gut, impaling the Highness Duke. Gao Silver twisted the blade to open the wound, which dripped with puss-coated green slime.

 

Ura reached forward and grabbed Gao Silver by the neck while squeezing like a vice.

 

Gao Silver charged forward while pushing his cue deeper into Ura. Gao Silver continued his charge while pushing Ura backward, dragging the Highness Duke across the ground.

 

Gao Silver slammed Ura back-first against a boulder and pushed his cue in deeper. Ura shrieked with pain and fear as secondary explosions erupted inside his body, blowing off chunks of flesh and ooze.

 

Gao Silver pulled his staff free and stepped back, falling into an animal-like fighting stance as Ura crashed against the ground and exploded. The explosion ripped the golden crown free from the villain, and hurled the crown to the ground nearby the duke’s feet.

 

Toxica opened her eyes wide with fright as she lifted the crown. Jindrax grabbed her by the arm and started pulling her towards the shore. “Let’s get out of here!”

 

Gao Silver slowly walked towards the smoking remains of Lord Ura. He reached down and lifted the stolen animal crystals from the slime.

 

***

 

Shirogane and the other rangers regrouped at the shore, where GaoWhale was beached nearby. The newest ranger handed the crystals back to their owners.

 

“I have returned what was taken from you…” Shirogane said. He turned and started walking away.

 

“Wait!” Saiya called after him. “Where are you going?”

 

“Wherever the wind takes me,” he said quietly

 

“Will we see you again?” she asked.

 

Shirogane continued to walk, his heart a storm of conflicting emotions.

 

“We will,” Simon said to her quietly. “He’s one of us now.”

 

To be continued…Chapter Nineteen