Act 1: Gallant Appearance Of The Five Samurai
[Crevice], that is the space between our world and the next one. The entrance and exit for monsters, that is why you should never look into them, for beyond the crevice exists the Gedoushuu from the Sanzu River…
A young boy bounces a baseball against a wall of a building in an abandoned portside industrial area, wondering how much more he would need to practice before he is finally good enough to be his team's main pitcher. As he daydreams about throwing the first pitch in the upcoming tournament, his hand slipped, and the baseball flew into a narrow gap between the building and a cement pillar right next to it.
The young boy groaned as he went over to retrieve the ball, unaware that someone, or something, was watching him from within the gap.
"Come on… Come on…"
Just as the boy finally grabbed his baseball, a foot nearly stomped down on his hand. Shocked, the boy withdrew his hand and fell backwards, just as a red glow engulfed the gap and, to his horror, creatures of unknown origins emerged in swarms, surrounding the frightened boy. Their faces consists only of only a large lamprey-like mouth with fangs all around, their heads resembled anemones and they were dressed in dirty yellow and black tunics resembling. Each of them wielded a crude-looking blade that seemed to drip with ichor.
Just as one of them made to cut down the boy, something small but burning hotter than ordinary fire attacked the creatures, slicing through the front row and distracting them long enough for an older man in a yukata to swiftly snatched the boy away from them.
"Run away! Come!"
Holding the boy close to him, the older man made his way to a young man dressed mostly in red while as the small object that had ravaged the creatures came to a rest in his open palm, revealing itself to be some sort of sentient, mechanical lion that folded in on itself into a pentagram bearing the kanji [火] on it in red.
As the creatures recovered, the young man revealed a phone-like device in his right hand, which then opened up to form a brush of sorts. As he did so, two figures dressed all in black like the kuroko of kabuki theatre suddenly appeared and hurled smoke grenades at the creatures, causing them to back off.
When the smoke cleared, the young man had transformed into a red-clad warrior with the same kanji he had written now imposed upon his full-head helmet.
It was at this point the older man, having sent the boy running to safety, stepped forward to address the creatures. His name was Kusakabe Hikoma, a retainer of the Shiba Clan and the guardian of the current Clan Head.
"Gedoushuu-domo, listen well! Standing before you is the descendant of the samurai who obliterated your kind three hundred years ago, the Eighteenth Head of the Shiba Clan, ShinkenRed, Lord Shiba Takeru!"
"Shi-ba?" one creature asked.
"Shin-ken Red…" another snarled
"Now, Nanashi-renju, will you flee in terror back into the crevice, or would you prefer to become rust on the blade of my lord?"
"Jii," the red-clad warrior, ShinkenRed, interrupted.
"B-But, before you fight, first, we must…"
ShinkenRed took a disk-like object from a holder attached to his belt and loaded it onto the handle of his sword before drawing the weapon out.
"I'm going forth."
With that, ShinkenRed dashed towards the Nanashi-renju, quickly and gracefully slicing his way through their numbers despite being outnumbered, showing off his skills while the Nanashi were completely unable to land even a scratch on him. At one point, five Nanashi members find their attacks being parried by ShinkenRed all at the same time before he knocks them aside and cuts them down one by one. Even an ambush from underwater failed to faze ShinkenRed as he almost casually turned around to slash the two Nanashi ambushers, sending them back into the water, before turning his attention back to the others.
Once the Nanashi's numbers had been dwindled significantly, ShinkenRed loads another disk onto his sword. The disk was red and bore the image of a lion, and upon spinning it, ShinkenRed's sword was immediately engulfed in flames, which he used to quickly destroy the remaining Nanashi. With one final, fiery slash, every remaining Nanashi member exploded into ashes.
"Ah, tono-sama, another splendid performance. Simply splendid… Jii-san believe this is a result of my devotion in raising you," Hikoma said as ShinkenRed de-transformed back to his civilian identity of Shiba Takeru, who accepted a cup of tea from one of the black-clad servants while taking a towel from the other.
"Still, given the frequency of their appearances, this means their revival is probably near," Hikoma continued, his tone changing to one of concern.
Takeru did not reply as he wiped the sweat off himself while maintaining a stoic expression the whole time.
"We should make the first move and assemble the Shinkengers-"
"Enough of that," Takeru said at last and turned away from Hikoma.
"But, tono-sama, you must not underestimate the Gedoushuu! Someday, a time will come when you cannot handle them alone! That is why… Those four were raised to be samurai! They are waiting for the day they can fight be your side as loyal retainers."
"At any rate, I'm fine by myself. Besides, things like 'loyalty' or 'retainers', this isn't a period drama!"
Finishing the tea, Takeru returned the cup to the kuroko.
"I'm heading back," he said to them and Hikoma.
"Whay are you saying? If you say that, then that means your period has already passed, lord!" Hikoma called out to Takeru as the latter was walking away.
Hikoma's words struck a nerve in Takeru, who turned around and half-threw the towel he was still holding on to at Hikoma.
"Whose fault is that?!" he snapped at his guardian.
"Your recent behavior has Jii worried! Please, wait!" Hikoma scolded back as the two kuroko tried to calm him down while Takeru walked away.
All this time, the four were unaware of a sinister pair of eyes that had been watching the entire event from the gap, though its owner made no move to attack them despite their backs turned towards him…
Deep within the realm of the dead, on the banks of the Sanzu River, Hone no Shitari (Triumphant Bones) chuckled at what he had just witnessed through the gap of his staff. An octopus-like Gedoushuu who had been around for quite some time, he was about to take his leave when a sound caught his attention.
Turning towards the Sanzu River, Shitari noticed the waters of the normally calm Sanzu River starting to churn.
"Ooh, it seems they've finally awakened, eh?" he said to himself.
Geysers suddenly exploded all around the Sanzu River as an old, eerie junk emerged from beneath the water while an equally eerie shamisen music could be heard emitting from it.
"Ah, the Rokumon-sen, at long last…" Shitari commented before jumping into the Sanzu River and swam towards the junk.
Within the junk, a lone female humanoid creature resembling a mollusk/sea slug and dressed in robes continued to play her shamisen in silence as Shitari climbed aboard.
"Ooh, it's been a long time, hasn't it, Usukawa Dayu?"
The one called Usukawa Dayu (Thin-skinned Courtesan) did not reply, though she did give Shitari a slight nod without stopping her playing of the shamisen.
"Ooh, I don't see Doukoku. That is weird… Didn't the ship rise because he woke up?"
"Who knows? I am not Doukoku's accessory," Dayu retorted in an almost nonchalant tone.
"Come now, I didn't say that… Still, only your music and sake can calm Chimatsuri Doukoku, ha, ha-ha," Shitari explained when…
"You're too noisy, Shitari… I am right here," a menacing voice is heard.
Shitari turned around to see a lobster/demon-like humanoid emerge from the back of the ship, carrying a frightful-looking sword while casually ripping off the straw curtain that hung from the doorway simply because it got caught in one of the spines of his body. This intimidating figure was the one Shitari had been looking for: Chimatsuri Doukoku (Bloodbath Wailing).
And he was in a foul mood.
"Maybe I should wake myself up by splitting that ridiculously large head of yours? Your skull might make a fine bowl for drinking sake…" he commented.
"Ooh ah… Seems like you are in a bad mood! Hey, someone! Fetch the sake for Doukoku!"
Two Nanashi emerged from the waters and climbed aboard the junk carrying sake and a large bowl. The one holding the sake bottle nervously poured its contents into the bowl, both Nanashi not daring to look up at Doukoku's face as the leader of the Gedoshuu sat down at his favourite corner of the ship. True enough, Doukoku began to calm down once he had his fill of the sake.
"Seems your body, which had been split apart all those years ago, has finally been restored, Doukoku…" Shitari said.
"Damn right it is. It was a lot of work! It's that damn Shiba clan's fault! Well, I was at least able to kill the head of the Shiba clan while crippling his damned retainers, so I shall let this pass…"
"Ooh, well, oh no.., See, Doukoku, I was peering through the crevices and, well, the Shiba Clan still exists."
Dayu's music stopped mid-note as Doukoku slowly looked up at Shitari.
"Come again?" Dayu asked.
"The successor of the Shiba clan, he survived… And he is already a Shinkenger…" Shitari explained as he fearfully looked away from Doukoku, whose rage and bloodlust was starting to build up, and building up fast.
"Then, Shitari… Are you saying that… I GOT BEATEN?!"
Shitari flinched as Doukoku hurled the bowl to the floor while the two Nanashi quickly backed away for fear of having Doukoku's sword getting intimate with their necks.
"Wait, no! No! No! That isn't what I meant!" Shitari tried to explain as he back away from the raging Doukoku as well.
Splashing sound is heard as someone else boards the Rokumon Junk. This visitor was a strange one, habing a red upper torso and a blue lower torso which consists of a dress-like appendage that also bore a huge, smiling second face on it. If one were to look at him upside down, his upper torso resembled an angry face instead.
"What is all this? I came to celebrate because I heard the general had finally awakened… But this scene looks more like a funeral! What happened?"
"SHUT THE HELL UP! HOW DARE YOU SAY SUCH A SHITTY THING HERE IN MY PRESENCE!" Doukoku exploded as he stomped down hard, causing the junk to start swaying violently and scaring the absolute crap out of Shitari and the two Nanashi.
Once the swaying stopped, Shitari quickly took control of the situation.
"Hey, you, Kagekamuro, no? Go away for a bit to the human world. Collect some screams and despair for our general to calm his mood," he said to the newcomer.
Kagekamuro (Shadow Pocket) smirked.
"A distraction for the general, eh? Very well, I accept!" he said confidently before turning to leave.
As Kagekamuro jumped off the junk, Dayu gave a small chuckle, picked up her shamisen and struck a new note…
"Hey, Zenjiro, how's the Shishi Origami?"
A young man with an unkempt, short taper cut in his early twenties wearing a black unzipped windbreaker over a dark grey t-shirt looked up from the worktable as Takeru and Hikoma entered the workshop located at the back end of the Shiba mansion.
"Just a few scratches and a loose tooth. Should not take long and… Done," the young man replied as he dropped a small brush on the table while the Shishi Origami transformed into its lion form and flew into Takeru's hands before its owner started playing with it.
"Would you look at that. He looks good as new. Are you sure you did not replace the entire thing?"
The young man, Zenjiro laughed.
"C'mon, Shiba-tono, you should know that the Origami cannot be replaced, only healed. Once destroyed, they're gone for good, we can't even make a new one. Which is why my ancestors, minus the tenth, would be horrified if they saw the list behind me."
Zenjiro jerked a thumb at the direction of a whiteboard with many pieces of papers bearing drawings of mechanical animals with a corresponding disk held against it by magnets. Beneath each paper were writings indicating some kind of status.
All together, there were twenty-four, but only six were listed as active, which consists of a lion, a dragon, a turtle, a bear, a monkey and a rhinoceros beetle. The rest were listed as either inactive, missing or destroyed, and in the case of the picture of a bull, it was listed as "too dangerous, keep sealed at all cost", which caused Takeru to stare at it quizzically.
"Seriously, it really shows how high the stakes of the Shiba Clan's mission was. Only six out of the original twenty-four Origamis my ancestors helped create are still available, yet the Gedoushuu's numbers do not seem to have an end. It's like a bad horror movie with sixteen sequels, and now we're approaching the seventeenth and running out of cast members."
"Well, at least I can see why the previous head wanted your clan back, though it did not end as we wanted it… Still, I am glad that you decided to stay and help as much as you can despite your initial reluctance, Zenjiro," Hikoma said.
"I don't know. It just feels wrong for me to even be here- Oi, tono, what are you doing?"
Takeru was moving the owl picture from 'inactive' to 'active'.
"Zenjiro, you still have the Fukurou Origami with you," he said to Zenjiro when he was done.
A dark look fell over Zenjiro's face as his initial cheer vanished while taking out an object that resembled Takeru's Shishi Origami in its inactive form, except it was trapezium in shape and was black in colour, bearing the kanji of [月] on it.
"It won't do much to aid you. It only listens to me, and I can't convince it to go to your side," he said as he placed it on the table, where it 'unfolded' itself to form an owl.
"Does it even matter? You can command it yourself to aid our lord in battle."
"You mean to stand beside Shiba-tono in the field? Me, a member of the Yanagi Clan?"
"Have some pride in your lineage, Zenjiro…"
"There is no pride when you have a traitor who nearly ended the world with his selfish desires for an ancestor," Zenjiro replied coldly.
An uncomfortable silence fell upon the room. Takeru and Hikoma looked at each other uncomfortably, but then Zenjiro suddenly perked up.
"Now, if you do not mind, I have a craving for curry. Can I leave the mansion for a while?"
"We already told you, the front door's opened for you on both sides."
"Just make sure you come back by night."
Zenjiro nodded before grabbing a baseball cap and leaving the room. Once they were alone, Takeru and Hikoma sighed.
"Zenjiro… Seems like he cannot let go of his family's legacy," Hikoma said at last.
"Why would he be so held up by something that happened more than a hundred years ago?"
"It's not just him. After the betrayal of its tenth successor, the Yanagi Clan was temporarily exiled, but members snuck back into the Shiba territory to help defeat the traitor. They were welcomed back as a result, but instead of returning to their status as a retainer of the Shiba Clan, they swore never to take up a blade again, choosing to aid the Shiba from the shadows instead. It was quite a blow to the strength of the Shinkengers, considering that the Yanagi Clan weren't just skilled swordsmen, but also responsible for recruiting the Sakakibara Clan to aid them in creating the Origami."
"And this oath to never wield a sword again lasted even to this day?"
"Perhaps it is for the best, then…"
At an outdoor kabuki theatre, a young man practiced on his own, unaware of another, older man approaching him from behind. By the time he sensed his prescence, the older man was already behind him.
"Ryuunosuke," the older man called to the younger man.
"Father?" the young man responded as he got down to rest in a kneeling position as his father walked up to him.
"Please work hard on today's performance… Because it could be your last."
A confused Ryuunosuke removed the kabuki headgear he had been wearing and stared at his father, who took something out from his yukata and held it out to his son.
It was a hexagon-shaped object bearing the kanji [水] on it, coloured in dark blue. As Ryuunosuke accepted it, his father knelt down in front of him.
"It seems the time is near. Our Ikenami Clan has, for generations, served the Shiba Clan. It is all that I have taught you. When the time comes, no matter when it is, go and become a katana for your lord. All your unknown comrades probably feel the same way…"
"Yes, father," Ryuunosuke replied as he traced the kanji on the object with his fingers…
"Come, now, everyone, take turns," a pretty and gentle-looking young woman with long hair said as tried her best to appease the children surrounding her at a pre-school center.
"Hey, Mako-sensei, come on…"
"Everyone, let's all play. Everyone together…"
Unknown to the children, inside the pocket of their teacher's jacket was a circle-shaped object that bore a pink-coloured kanji of [天]…
"Woah, Chiaki, you're awesome," a high school student commented as he and a group of young people surrounded an older youth playing Tekken in an arcade.
"Way to go, you won the tenth round already!" another commented.
"I know, right? This is my special training!" the older youth, who had a friendly demeanor, replied while a square-shaped object hung from his belt bearing the kanji of [木]…
In the outskirts of a small town bordering a bamboo forest, a young girl sat outside a bamboo crafts shop playing a flute. Beside her was a letter bearing the words "to Kotoha, from Mitsuba" and worn around her neck was a triangle-shaped object which had on it the kanji of [土]…
"Hmm… Seems like I can fix this disk after all, but what does it do? " Zenjiro commented to himself as he stared at a cracked disk in his hands while the Fukurou Origami stays perced on his shoulders, staring curiously at an empty food box with the remnants of curry on the worktable…
To detect any intrusions by the Gedoushuu, the Shiba Clan had planted several special bells around the country that will react to the presence of the enemy and transmit that information as Mojikara (Word Power) back to the Sukima (Crevice) Sensor located at the Shiba Mansion.
Right now, one of these bells located near an outdoors riverside café was starting to pick up the presence of an impending intrusion as a couple walked past it.
Without warning, something grabbed the foot of the man, causing him to turned around just in time to see Kagekamuro emerge from the gaps of the boardwalk along with several Nanashi. The woman screamed, only to be knocked to the ground by the Nanashi and given a fatal stomp on the head as Kagekamuro slashed the man's stomach apart before dropping his corpse.
"Well then, shall we go?" Kagekamuro said out loud as the Nanashi went on the attack, cutting down every human in sight while chaos spreads throughout the area.
Meanwhile several crows, frightened by the appearance of the Gedoushuu, took flight immediately, but one particular crow flew a different direction from the others, towards the direction of the Shiba Mansion at the outskirts of the city…
Takeru, who was playing with the Shishi Origami, looked up to see Hikoma approaching with his sleeves rolled up and carrying a longbow and a quiver with four arrows in it, followed by Zenjiro who had a crow perched on his shoulders.
"It's the Gedoushuu, but…" Zenjiro's voice trailed off.
"It's not only the Nanashi-renju, but there is an even greater power with them: An Ayakashi has become active," Hikoma explained.
"Ichikuro here gave me a description. According to the records, this one is called Kagekamuro," Zenjiro said as the crow on his shoulders held out a drawn picture of Kagekamuro in the Shiba Clan Records for Takeru to see.
"You've been using your personal crow spies again, I see," Takeru commented.
"The Sukima Sensor can only detect presence. My crows can give us a visual description if they are in the area. Except I only have six of them and they can't be everywhere at once…"
"This Ayakashi has appeared before, first during the time of the fourth generation of the Shinkengers, then the sixth and the thirteenth. Not exactly powerful, but each time he appeared, he would destroy several villages and towns before retreating back to the Sanzu River when he believes he is going to be defeated by the Shinkengers," Hikoma explained.
"Then let's make sure he does not retreat this time," Takeru said.
"No. Not by your own this time, tono. We cannot wait any longer. Let us summon the samurai-tachi."
"Wait!" Takeru called out as he grabbed Hikoma's arm.
"I said I'd do it by myself, didn't I?"
"How long do you plan to keep on saying that? Now is not the time to be stubborn! You know as well as I do how powerful Doukoku is!"
Frustration began to show itself on Takeru's face as he released his grip on Hikoma's arm.
"That's why! That's why… I cannot be sure that I can just let these guys get caught in the battle! Zenjiro aside, these people, they've never seen the enemy before! How can I just lead complete strangers into battle without any regards for their welfare?"
"Have you forgotten what your late father said?"
Hikoma turned towards Takeru, who recalled the day his father died. It was a scene that he will forever remember. His father, stumbling towards him weakly through a burning corridor while wielding a katana before dropping to his knees right in front of him and placing the Shishi Origami in his hands.
Don't forget… From today forth, you are ShinkenRed! No matter what, do not run away… Protect this world from the Gedoushuu!
As the painful memories replayed themselves in his head, Takeru found himself unconsciously gripping the Shishi Origami hard in his hand.
"The samurai-tachi, those of the same generation as you, their fate was to be born as samurai. Everyone have surely come to terms with it. Also, just like you, my lord, as painful as it is, this is a burden that they must bear!"
With that, Hikoma fired the arrows, each marked with a note that says 'gather', one after the other into the air. Takeru wanted to stop him, but found himself being held back by his own indecision as his guardian's words resounded within him.
Once he was done with the arrows, Hikoma made his way past Takeru and Zenjiro and struck one of the tatamis in the room behind them, revealing a secret compartment which held four other Shodophones similar to the one Takeru uses.
"Here! The samurai-tachi will surely come forth!" he said to Takeru, who sighed as he finally accepted that there was no changing Hikoma's mind.
At this point, Hikoma turned towards Zenjiro.
"Zenjiro, there is something you should know as well. This, belonged to your clan."
To Takeru and Zenjiro's shock, Hikoma produced a sixth Shodophone from a pocket in his outfit. Unlike the others, the red portions of this particular Shodophone were black in colour, and it appears to be mirrored to the originals in design as well.
"Where did that come from?"
"The seventeenth head of the Shiba Clan had always hoped that the Yanagi will, one day, finally leave the shadows and stand alongside the others once more as a samurai. Since the original Shodophone used by your clan was destroyed a long time ago, he created this new one, based on the original's design. I do not know whether you would use it or not, but please, hold on to it for now."
Zenjiro looked at Takeru, then back at Hikoma.
"If I take that, it would be equivalent to me breaking my family's oath never to wield a blade again!" he protested.
"Jii! You're putting him in a difficult position! It was already bad enough that we half-forced him to come live here after his parents…"
"I am not forcing the issue on him. The truth is, we of the Kusakabe Clan had long been friends with the Yanagi, even after their exile. Like the seventeenth, I too wish to see the Yanagi stand beside the Shiba Clan as a samurai one day, but the choice is ultimately Zenjiro's to make."
Zenjiro closed his eyes to ponder for a moment, then he opened them. One look at them was moe than enough for Takeru to tell that Zenjiro was feeling conflicted, even slightly betrayed, but then Zenjiro gently pushed away Hikoma's hand, the one that was holding the black Shodophone.
"Sorry, Jii-san, but I think you'll have to hold on that for now. I stand by my clan's oath, and do not plan to hold a sword. In the meantime, I shall aid you all in what capacity I can."
Hikoma sighed, nodded and kept the black Shodophone.
"Now that we have that out of the way, Zenjiro, help me out in the field for today. Send out your crows, gather the samurai at one location. After that, see if you can assist the kuroko in saving as many people as you can."
Zenjiro only nodded in agreement before turning to leave.
As Zenjiro's bicycle was heard making its way out of the mansion gates noisily, Takeru grabbed the Shodophones and placed them in a bag before making his own way to the courtyard with Hikoma. Taking out his own and writing the kanji for 'horse', Takeru summoned a white horse before him, complete with saddle and reins.
"Our lord is going into battle!" Hikoma hollered.
On cue, a large group of kuroko carrying white banners of varying lengths and positions bearing the Shiba Clan's crest dashed out the gate to herald Takeru's riding to battle. Without another word, Takeru mounted his summoned horse and rode out the gate at full speed, his expression once again becoming stoic…
The youth from the arcade walked down a path, cheerfully taking out a meat bun and was just about to take a bite when something knocked it out of his hands. Looking down, he found his meat bun impaled by an arrow which also bear a note saying "gather" as well as a crest his father had told him about.
Taking out the square object, the youth stared at it for a moment before excitement showed on his face.
"Alright!" he uttered before taking off at full speed towards the distance…
The pre-school center's teacher was happily playing with the children when she witnessed an arrow embedding itself into the wooden notice board outside the center's gate. The sight of the note on it caused her smile to slowly disappear as she realized what was about to happen.
Quickly explaining to her colleagues that there was an family emergency and that she will not be back for a long time, the teacher said goodbye to the children she had been taking care off, much to their sadness. Unfortunately, the call must be answered, even though it broke her heart to just leave the kids like this.
Staring at the circular object in her hands, the teacher dashed towards the gate, where a pair of kuroko were already standing by with an old-fashioned wooden palanquin…
The girl with the flute had the shock of her life when an arrow narrowly missed her head by a few inches. As she recovered from the initial shock, she found herself staring at the note attached to the arrow.
Packing whatever she thought was necessary, she took a deep breath and one last look at the town and the bamboo forest behind the crafts shop before running towards the direction of the city…
Ryuunosuke and his father were performing before a live audience, not noticing that an arrow had landed on the stage until they both turned their heads to the right. The sight of the arrow caused them momentarily pause as they realized that Ryuunosuke was being summoned to battle.
The two at first continued their performance like as though nothing had happened until one particular stance where they both took a step forward, at which point Ryuunosuke's father slightly turned towards his son.
"It's time," he whispered.
Ryuunosuke nodded, threw his headgear into the air and leapt off the stage, surprising the audience with the sudden turn of events as he dashed out of the theatre…
Zenjiro could see the explosions in the city even from the distance. This Ayakashi called Kagekamuro was clearly wrecking a lot of havoc. Zenjiro sighed, wondering how many people he can save.
Still, he thought, once Takeru had gathered the samurai, they would most likely go straight for the Ayakashi, distracting him long enough to save more people perhaps.
Distracted by his thoughts, Zenjiro failed to check his left and right, and the next thing he knew, he was falling to the ground as someone crashed into his bicycle and sprawled on top of him.
"Ow, ow, ow! What was that for?" Zenjiro uttered as he held the back of his head in pain.
"Ah! I'm so sorry! I was running so fast that I did not see you! Are you all right?"
Zenjiro stared at the girl, who gives off the aura of a country bumpkin, that had crashed into his bicycle and was now lying on top of him.
A shocked Zenjiro shoved the girl off him in a panic, though he managed to do so gently out of fear he might hurt her.
"I'm so sorry! I did not mean to land on top of you!"
"Stop apologizing already! Geez, you had me scared for a moment. Still, you ran into me pretty hard. Did you injure yourself?"
"Oh, no! I'm fine! But you did hit your head…"
"No worries, I got a thick skull…"
It was at this point Zenjiro noticed the triangle-shaped object that the girl was wearing around her neck.
"Saru Origami…Are you a samurai of the Hanaori Clan?" he asked.
"Eh? You know of the samurai?"
"I work for the samurai. Yanagi Zenjiro. I'm the guy that'll be fixing your equipment and healing your Origami after each battle."
"Hanaori Kotoha, nice to meet you. Are you some sort of blacksmith?"
"Well, I guess you could say that…"
Another explosion from the city drew both their attentions back at the matter at hand.
"What is happening?" Kotoha asked.
"It's an Ayakashi attack. You need to find the rest of your comrades and meet up with Shiba-tono," Zenjiro explained.
"Got it. But… Eh, Zenjiro-kun…"
We've just met no more than five minutes and she's added -kun to my name? Zenjiro thought to himself.
"Sorry, but I don't really know much of the city. I know it's dangerous right now, but could you guide me around?"
She really is from the countryside! She is kind of cute, though… Zenjiro once again thought to himself.
"All right, I guess. After all, if I serve Shiba-tono, I serve his retainers too. But stick close, and run when I say to run, okay? Hop on," Zenjiro said to Kotoha as he picked up his bicycle…
The two kuroko carrying the palanquin halted in their footsteps as Ryuunosuke finally caught up with them. Literally skidding to a halt in front of the palanquin, the former aspiring kabuki actor got down on his knees immediately.
"Head of the Shiba Clan! I happened to catch sight of your palanquin, Shiba Takeru-sama!"
The two kuroko stared at each other, their masks concealing their faces thus making it difficult to tell if they were confused by Ryuunosuke's actions or amused by his soon-to-be-found-out mistake.
"I have come from the Ikenami Clan. My name is Ryuunosuke…"
The palanquin door opened, and the pre-school teacher popped her head out.
"Wait a minute, I'm not…"
Ryuunosuke looked up in surprise at hearing a female voice, and the pre-school teacher had a bad shock at seeing his face: Ryuunosuke was still wearing his kabuki makeup!
"This is… I had no idea that you were a lady, my lord!"
"I said that I'm not! I'm Shiraishi Mako, and what's with that makeup all over your face?"
"Ah! My deepest apologies!"
The annoyed young woman stepped out of the palanquin as a kuroko handed Ryuunosuke a wet towel for him to clean off the makeup.
The sound of a bicycle caused Mako and the kuroko to turn around just in time to see a young man of around Mako's age approaching with a young teenage girl as his passenger.
"Found them," the young man said as the teenage girl jumped off the bicycle.
"Tono-sama!" she called out as she ran towards Ryuunosuke.
"What, eh, wait! I'm not who you think I am!"
"Oi, Kotoha, I've lived with Shiba-tono for three years, and he sure as hell won't be caught wearing something like that," the young man said to the girl as he tried to suppress a laugh.
"How rude of you. I'll have you know that this costume is part of kabuki tradition!"
"Who are you anyway?"
"Wait, are you both samurai too?" Mako asked.
"Not me, just Kotoha over there," the young man replied while pointing at Kotoha.
"Then you are…"
"Oh, Zenjiro-kun serves our lord too, just not as a samurai. He helped to bring me here," Kotoha explained.
"But aren't the servants of the Shiba Clan supposed to be concealed at all times? He does not look like a kuroko…"
"Eh, I guess you can call me a blacksmith of sorts," Zenjiro said to Ryuunosuke while sneaking a mischievous wink at Kotoha.
"Hey… Are you guys my comrades?"
Everyone turned to see a youth that appeared to be slightly older than Kotoha approaching them.
"Man, you guys look amazing," he said.
Unable to detect the sarcasm in his words, Kotoha and Ryuunosuke immediately kowtowed to him and addressed him as 'lord'. Unable to hold back anymore, Zenjiro started laughing so hard that he collapsed to the ground with a bewildered Mako staring at him while the youth reacted with horror at two strangers practically worshiping him.
"What the hell? I'm not your lord!"
"Eh? You're not?"
"I'm like you guys. Wait, there's five of us?"
"No, there's four of you. I'm not counted…" Zenjiro replied as he sat up, having stopped laughing at long last.
"Then, are you our lord?" Ryuunosuke asked.
"Are you an idiot? I just told you who I was!" Zenjiro blurted out, completely baffled by how dense Ryuunosuke was, and his choice of words immediately triggered the kabuki actor.
"No, I was wrong! He is definitely not our lord! He is too uncouth and laid-back to be even a samurai!"
"Of course I'm not a samurai, and what the hell do you mean by 'uncouth', you clown!"
"I'm a CLOWN?"
"You're dressed so colorfully for a kabuki actor that you'll fit more in a circus than a traditional theatre!"
"ARRGHH! You cur! I'll get you!"
"Dude, I think you and I are going to get along just fine," Chiaki said to Zenjiro who now had to be pulled back from Ryuunosuke as they childishly squabbered with each other while trying to poke each other in the face.
"The, just who is our lord? What does he look like?" Mako asked.
"So, you guys are the samurai?"
Everyone looked up to see a stoic young man on a white horse approaching them. Zenjiro grinned, got to his feet and walked over to stand beside him.
"Shiba-tono, the retainers have gathered. From left to right, Shiraishi Mako, Hanaori Kotoha, Ikenami Ryuunosuke, Tani Chiaki. The four of you, this is your lord, Shiba Takeru, Eighteenth Head of the Shiba Clan."
"Wait, how did you know our names?" Ryuunosuke asked Zenjiro, who merely shrugged.
"Never mind that. The four of you, listen up. I shall say this from the start. If you proceed, once you've make the first stroke, there is no turning back. You will either defeat the Gedoushuu, or you will lose and die. If you are still willing to fight alongside me…"
Takeru took a Shodophone out of his bag and displayed it for the four of them to see.
"Then I shall give this to you."
Takeru got off his horse and took a step forward towards the four individuals that had gathered before him.
"However, do not choose because of things such as 'loyalty' or 'retainers'. Be resolute in your decision."
Takeru's words had a profound effect on the four. Zenjiro stared at them, then back at Takeru, starting to become nervous given how tense the situation suddenly was. No doubt that Takeru's choice of words had caused them to begin wondering if this had been a wise decision on their part, but then Ryuunosuke suddenly stood up and walked towards Takeru.
"Tono, if we are all here, that means we have all come to terms with this. Please, let us fight along with you, tono!"
"Well, I had that intention since childhood…" Mako added.
"I'll try my hardest," Kotoha chirped.
Chiaki, however, made a sound that indicates his annoyance.
"You guys sure make a big deal about such stuff. Let's just come to a conclusion already. Right, tono-sama?"
That guy's got guts, but I hope nothing bad happens because of it, Zenjiro thought as he observed Chiaki's rudeness towards Takeru.
"Hey, you! How dare you speak to our lord in such a manner!" Ryuunosuke chided Chiaki, but then Takeru suddenly tossed Shodophones at them, with each of the four barely managing to catch them before they hit their faces.
"Let's go," was all Takeru said as Zenjiro began directing the kuroko.
The four become bewildered as the kuroko appeared carrying white banners bearing the Shiba clan's crest and began to surround them.
"Eh? What? What is going on?"
"Oi, don't touch me like that all of a sudden!"
"Is that Zenjiro fellow directing them? Is he the lord of the kuroko?"
"What are you talking about? Hey? What are you…"
"Hey, Takeru," Zenjiro said to Takeru, who immediately noticed the change in his tone.
"It's war you guys are about to go into, right?"
"Yes… I tried my longest to avoid it, but it seems there isn't much choice. Zenjiro, watch our backs. Intervene when necessary."
"Done," was all Zenjiro replied Takeru with as he stepped backwards, took out a brush and wrote the kanji for "hide" in the air, striking it to cause the kanji to spin before he disappeared into the shadows of a nearby alley.
Kagekamuro laughed as his Nanashi troops continued to weave a path of destruction throughout the city. The lucky humans are the iones who died quickly. Those the Nanashi did not kill fast enough were subjected to more brutal means of death: A couple of people were thrown from an overhead pass, falling from a height of twelve metres, while a few others were beaten until they ceased to move.
Kagekamuro himself was not slacking off in his rampage. Any humans that failed to get out of his way were subjected to being sliced apart by him. It was not just humans that the Ayakashi murdered: Cats and dogs were no spared.
"This is getting boring… We need to wreck more havoc! Wooo!"
With that, Kagekamuro sliced every single car in a nearby parking lot into two while moving at high speed, causing all of them to explode altogether at once the moment he was in the clear.
"Nanashi-renju! Do more! I want to hear more screams and see more blood being shed!"
One Nanashi member tossed a man down the stairs and at Kagekamuro's feet. The man looked up to see Kagekamuro pointing one of his swords at his throat.
"Die, you fool!"
Kagekamuro raised his weapon and was about to strike when the sound of a daiko caused him and every Nanashi to look up the stairs to see white banners everywhere while five individuals stood in front of the biggest banner staring down at him.
"What's this about?" a distracted Kagekamuro asked as his would-be victim took the opportunity to flee.
"That's far enough… Gedoushuu," the one in the middle, presumably the leader, said to Kagekamuro.
"Wait! That family crest…Don't tell me you guys are…"
"That's right… ShodoPhone!"
Each of the five took out their Shodophones and transformed them from a phone to a brush.
"IPPITSU SOUJOU!" (One stroke, Imperial report)
[天] [木] [火] [水] [土]
Once each individual had finished their kanji, which manifested in the form of a two-dimensional writing floating in front of them, they swiped the kanji with their ShodoPhones, causing them to spin around, and initiate their transformation with the press of a single button, first with their suits forming around their bodies, then followed by each kanji wrapping themselves around the heads of the ones who wrote them out to form their helmets.
Taking out a disk, the five loaded them into their swords, the Shinkenmaru, before drawing them out as they performed their roll call.
"ShinkenRed, Shiba Takeru."
"The same, Blue, Ikenami Ryuunosuke."
"The same, Pink, Shiraishi Mako."
"The same, Green, Tani Chiaki."
"The same, Yellow, Hanaori Kotoha."
As the other four knelt down, Takeru took a step forward.
"The Samurai Sentai authorized by Providence…"
At this point, all four rose from their positions and joined their leader in brandishing their Shinkenmaru at the enemy.
"SHINKENGER, GOING FORTH!"
"Am I supposed to be impressed? Get them!" Kagekamuro yelled as the Nanashi rushed towards the Shinkengers while the kuroko that had been carrying the banners fled to safety.
Without fear, the five Shinkengers met the rush head-on by charging straight towards the enemy.
Being an experienced fighter, Takeru had little trouble dealing with the Nanashi, cutting and slicing through them as easily as peeling an apple.
Ryuunosuke's knowledge of sword techniques are put on display as he managed to hold off three Nanashi attacking him at the same time before dealing with the rest of the horde.
Kotoha was just as good at fighting a large number of Nanashi at the same time despite her more defensive stance. The Nanashi, underestimating her for her size, were quickly slained.
Chiaki, on the other hand, was utter chaos. His lack of training was quiclly made obvious by his haphazard fighting style, yet he was still somehow able to avoid being overwhelmed.
Mako's graceful swordsplay was simple yet deadly. One Nanashi found out the hard way that trying to backstab her was a bad idea as it spent a prolonged amount of time impaled on her sword.
More Nanashi showed up, this time wielding bows and arrows. They specifically targeted Takeru, but the leader of the Shinkengers was not only able to dodge and deflect multiple arrows with his sword at once, he even caught one arrow in mid-flight.
"Takeru, behind you," Zenjiro's voice called from the shadow cast by a nearby post.
"Not now, Zenjiro."
"Yes, now. This Kagekamuro, be careful of his Hiki Sōgantō (Joy and Sorrow Paired Face Swords). He's got guns hidden in them blades…"
Takeru sensed Zenjiro's presence vanishing, indicating that he had moved somewhere else, right before Ryuunosuke and Kotoha showed up to attack the bow-wielding Nanashi and rushing to his side. Shortly after, both Mako and Chiaki had joined them.
"What is this? There's so many of them!" Chiaki commented as the Nanashi started surrounding them.
"There's no end to their numbers," Mako added.
"Tono, I shall protect you. Please, get back and…"
"Protect youself," Takeru retorted as he slapped down Ryuunosuke's arm which the latter had raised to keep him back from the Nanashi.
"You're in the way," he added as he spun the disk around his Shinkenmaru, which began to produce red energy that engulfed the entire blade.
Takeru's weapon transformed into a ridiculously large zanbatou, after which he loaded his personal Shishi Disk onto the weapon.
Takeru was already swinging when he gave the warning, with the others barely dodging it just in time for him to strike the first few roles of the Nanashi. He then proceeded to rampage through their ranks, sending many of the Nanashi flying like as though he was a character from the Samurai Warriors series by Koei cutting through mooks. At this point, the Nanashi were not trying to charge him, but frantically trying to keep away from him.
"Incredible…" Kotoha commented.
"Just what you would expect from our lord! In that case, me too!"
Ryuunosuke charged forward, followed by the others. As they did so, Ryuunosuke managed to clear an area of the Nanashi before spinning his own disk on the Shinkenmaru. Blue energy engulfed the blade and transformed it into a yumi.
Loading his personal Ryuu Disk onto the Water Arrow, Ryuunosuke fired several arrows made of water at the Nanashi all at once, taking out several of them from a distance.
Meanwhile, the other Shinkengers are doing the same. Mako's weapon was the Heaven Fan, a war fan which she used to manipulate the wind around her to slash at the Nanashi without her having to even touch them.
Kotoha's weapon, the large shuriken-like Land Slicer, was cleverly utilized as a shield by her before she started slashing her opponents with it. She then surprised the rest of the Nanashi by throwing the Land Slicer at them, the weapon shredding through them before returning to her hands like a boomerang.
Chiaki, disarmed for the third time, managed to kick one of the Nanashi into the rest of it fellows before he managed to retrive his Shinkenmaru.
"I should have taken my training more seriously," he lamented as he transformed his weapon into the Wood Spear.
Surprisingly, Chiaki proved to be a much better fighter with the spear than with the sword. Nimbly avoiding enemy blows despite wielding such a long weapon, the Samurai of Wood quickly subjected the Nanashi to a series of slashes as he spun the Wood Spear at high speed, destroying all of them in a single blow.
With his Nanashi troops utterly demolished, Kagekamuro was forced to engage Takeru in a one-on-one. Firing energy bolts from the eye-like patterns on each of his shoulders, Kagekamuro failed to land a hit on Takeru who blocked them with his Rekka Daizantou before catching the Ayakashi in the gut. As Kagekamuro grunted in pain, Takeru hits him with an attack that sends him flying to a parking lot.
"Not enough, not enough… Have a taste of this!"
A furious Kagekamuro grabbed a nearby car and sends it careening towards Takeru at high speed. Unfazed, Takeru simply sliced the car into two before continuing towads Kagekamuro. Kagekamuro attempted to parry the next blow with his swords, but they were too small and thin compared to the size of the Rekka Daizantou, and the first hit on him by Takeru immediately disarmed him of both his weapons.
"How is this possible?" Kagekamuro asked, and Takeru took the opportunity to run the Rekka Daizantou right through the Ayakashi's torso.
However, the attack did not stop there. With a battlecry, Takeru began charging forward at high speed, pushing the still-impaled Kagekamuro along and ramming him through several objects to weaken him as much as possible until he finally slammed Kagekamuro against a pillar. The impact was so hard that the pillar actually cracked.
Removing the Rekka Daizantou from Kagekamuro's torso, Takeru swung a full 360 degrees to decapitate Kagekamuro instantly, the attack also cleaving through the pillar as well. Kagekamura's headless body gave one last jerk right before it exploded as the other Shinkengers regrouped.
"Tono-sama… Incredible…" Kotoha commented.
"Hey, I was incredible too, you know? I'm good at this," Chiaki said.
"Moe like a 'barely pulled this off' level," Mako retorted, much to Chiaki's annoyance.
"Tono!" Ryuunosuke called to his lord as he rushed to greet him.
"Wait! Don't let your guard down!"
Due to Takeru's warning, the other Shinkengers stopped what they were doing and turned to look at their leader, who was now walking away from the slained Ayakashi towards them.
"All Ayakashi have two lives. What we killed was just the first life. The second one is coming!" he said as he turned back to face the remains, which were now starting to glow with an eerie light.
Much to the other Shinkengers' shock, Kagekamuro's remains suddenly began to resurrect and grow in size. Within seconds, the Ayakashi was not only back on his feet, but he was now about eighteen to nineteen storeys high.
"I'll crush you guys!" Kagekamuro roared as he swung one of his blades at them, with the Shinkengers barely dodging/running away from it in time while the entire pavement they had been standing on earlier was turned into rubble.
"How is that possible?" Chiaki asked as the Shinkengers found temporary refuge inside a nearby garage.
"Come to think of it, I've actually heard of such a thing before…"
"You guys didn't study enough. Did you forget we have these for times like this?"
Ryuunosuke held out his hexagon-shaped object, which unfolded itself to form a blue-coloured Japanese dragon.
"Origami, it's the embodiment of each of our kanji. By becoming one with them, the second life of the Ayakashi will…"
"So, you do long-winded introductions as well?" Takeru interrupted Ryuunosuke as he sheathed his Shinkenmaru and took out his own Shishi Origami.
"Shishi Origami! Origami Big Transformation!"
With that command, Takeru wrote the kanji for "big" on top of the Shishi Origami, which then began to swell in size while Takeru disappeared into the Origami itself, reappearing in a cockpit of sorts. Loading another disk onto his Shinkenmaru, Takeru inserted his weapon into a slot, turning the sword into a joystick of sorts while the Shishi Origami bgan making its way towards the enemy.
"Please forgive me! We'll be there right away!" Ryuunosuke called out to Takeru before he and the others did the same to their own Origamis: Ryuunosuke's Ryuu Origami, Mako's Kame Origami, Chiaki's Kuma Origami and Kotoha's Saru Origami.
As the five Origamis charged at Kagekamuro, the Ayakashi began firing shots from his two blades. Having been pre-warned of this by a hidden Zenjiro, Takeru was able to avoid the shots before flanking Kagekamuro from the right, pounching on him and damaging his right shoulder.
The irate Ayakashi launched two energy slashes from his blades at the Shishi Origami, only to miss the target as the Shishi Origami started mauling him, no-selling the slashes being inflicted upon it.
"Tono, let us attack together! I will go from the left-"
Kotoha piloted the Saru Origami ahead before Ryuunosuke could even finish his sentence, launching it at Kagekamuro's face and delivering rapid punches to his face and distracting him from the Shishi Origami. When he attempted a counter attack, the Saru Origami leapt away, quickly made its way up a skyscraper and folded in back into its triangle shape before rolling towards Kagekamuro, the impact knocking both swords out of his hands.
As Kagekamuro tried to recover from the attack, the Kame Origami also folded in back ito its circle shape.
"This time, it's my turn!" Mako said as she had the Kame Origami spin rapidly, creating a whirlwind around it as it surged towards Kagekamuro.
Kagekamuro smacked it out of the air instead.
As Mako shrieked in surprise, Kagekamuro opened his second mouth.
"How cheeky! I'll bite you!" he declared as the second mouth clamped down on the Kame Origami.
"Hey! Let go!"
At this point, the Kuma Origami was rushing forward to the rescue.
"What are you doing?" Chiaki asked in exasperation as the Kuma Origami began to stand on its hind legs.
"Oh, you want to fight too? Come on!" Kagekamuro challenged while firing energy bolts from the eye-like patterns on his shoulders.
The attack failed to deter the Kuma Origami from pressing forward as it began clawing at Kagekamuro's second face, dealing quite a bit of damage before Kagekamuro finally picked the Kuma Origami up. Instead, Chiaki had the Kuma Origami transformed back into its square shape, surprising the Ayakashi into dropping it on his own foot. The pain was enough to cause him to release the Kame Origami.
"Wait! Come back here!" Kagekamuro yelled as Mako and Chiaki made their escape while the Ryuu Origami arrived to intercept, smacking him in the face while in its hexagon shape before unfolding itself.
"Leave this to me! Ryuu Bakufu (Dragon Waterfall)!" Ryuunosuke ordered.
In response, the Ryuu Origami fired a stream of blue flames which hurts Kagekamuro a lot, knocking him off his feet once again. The Origami then regrouped, with the Shishi Origami again leading the charge.
"Gokaku Daikaen (Five-side Giant Blaze)!" Takeru announced as he drew his Shinkenmaru out of the slot, spun the disk attached to it and pointed it forward.
The Shishi Origami folded itself back into its pentagon shape while its two front limbs remained outside, turning it into some sort of plane-like shape right before fire engulfed the entire Origami as it surged forward at high speed. Before Kagekamuro could react, the Shishi Origami had sliced right through his torso like a hot knife through butter.
As the flames disappeared from the Shishi Origami while it landed in its animal form, Kagekamuro danced wildly in pain with sparks flying out of every part of his body. With one final death cry, he collapsed to the ground and exploded.
"This brings this chapter to a conclusion," Takeru declared while the gathered Origami lets out a victory cry together…
Zenjiro emerged from the shadows to greet Takeru and the samurai as they transformed back into their civilian identities.
"Zenjiro, you know what to do once we get back to the mansion," Takeru said to him while flashing the Shishi Origami at him.
"Heh, who do you think I am, Shiba-tono? Still, could you not let the lion take so much damage on the back? That's the hardest part to fix despite what it looks like…"
Meanwhile, Kotoha stared at the Saru Origami in her hands, now folded in back to a triangle.
"We did it… Feels great," she said softly.
"Of course! That was a piece of cake," Chiaki replied while tossing and catching his own Origami.
"That's going a little too far, don't you think?" Mako asked.
The three of them looked up to see Ryuunosuke staring at Takeru.
"It's because our lord lead us in battle… Ugwah!"
"Oi, Jii-san, what's with the rush?" Zenjiro asked as Hikoma shoved Ryuunosuke aside by accident and grabbed Takeru's arms.
"TONO! Splendid fight! Jii-san is so happy!"
"What's this? Who's the old man?" Chiaki asked while the girls stared at Hikoma with confusion.
"That's Hikoma-san, he's a retainer of the Shiba Clan. He can get a bit weird…" Zenjiro explained while scratching his head.
"I'm going back," Takeru said in an annoyed tone as he shook off Hikoma and began to walk away.
"Oh, please wait! Oi, you guys too! Follow our lord!"
Hikoma smacked Ryuunosuke on the head before following Takeru, with Ryuunosuke and Kotoha doing the same. Chiaki and Mako stared at each other before doing the same as well, while Zenjiro tagged along from the back.
As they walked, Zenjiro silently took out his own Origami, still in its trapezium form, and stared at it.
"Samurai, huh?" he whispered before tucking it back into his pocket and continuing to follow the others.
At last, the samurai had gathered before Lord Takeru…
So, what kind of battle awaits them?
This ends the first act of Shinkenger…
Note: There won't be any "shipping" between my OC and the canon characters apart from some teases, reason being that at least 20% of my OC's personality involves self-insertion which is itself already something of a taboo in writing fanfiction.
And yes, I had people dying in this fanfic. When it came out in 2009, Shinkenger was almost immediately established as one of the darker series with the first episode alone seeing at least seven to eight on-screen human deaths (not as bad as Gorengers, J.A.K.Q. and Liveman's first few episodes. From what I heard, J.A.K.Q.'s storyline got too dark for a kid's show that they had to cut short the series), though it quickly mellowed out on human casualties as the series continued.