The rented van drove slowly past the large house, then the tall, skinny man parked about a block and a half away, “Is this close enough, Sensei?” he asked Fukushima.
Fukushima nodded yes. He used hand signals to indicate Andrew and Gabriela should accompany him. Gabriela understood; Andrew was clueless. “Come with me,” he finally hissed at the young man with thick glasses and a bad haircut. “We must investigate the house of the enemy.”
All were now in the black garb that made them hard to see in the darkness of night. The ninja leader left the two novices in the yard and circled the house. Four women watched television in a front room of the house. There were also two babies in the room in a playpen. A second floor light suggested another bedroom. It might be the room of his enemy and Yori, or it might be another resident of the house. He returned to his students on the lawn.
“I am going into the house now. I will remain there until everyone has gone to bed. When everyone is asleep you will come to this back door and I will open it from the inside for you.”
“Sensei, how will we know when everyone is asleep.”
“I will send you text message. Go back to the van now. Wait.” Cell phones weren't old school ninjutsu, but they were pretty damned convenient.
Gabriela and Andrew returned to the van as Fukushima quietly explored what he could of the house while waiting for the women watching movies in the living room to go to bed.
Yori slept so deeply that, even though he was not training as he should, Ron was able to slip away from her and off of the futon. He seated himself cross-legged at the side of the room and began to draw on the mystical monkey power. He had gained better control over his power through the years, but was not certain he would be able to use it as he desired.
Half a world away Sensei led a class of advanced students at Yamanouchi. Suddenly, in the back of his mind, he heard an almost musical tone and a pleasant sounding female voice informed him, “You have chi-mail.” The old man quickly dismissed the class from the dojo and assumed a posture for meditation.
Within the old teacher's mind he heard a voice, “Sensei, is that you?”
“I am here, Ronald. You are the only person I know who gained the power of communication with less than fifty years of practice.”
“Cool. So, like there are even more people I can call like this?”
“There are only a handful of us in the entire world. But I do not believe you called for anything so mundane as showing off your control of the mystical monkey power.”
“Do they all speak English?”
“We aren't speaking English. We are not speaking Japanese. We interpret each other's thoughts in the language we best know. But you did not wish to discuss metaphysics either.”
“You know Yori is here--”
“Yes. I know. I am not happy about it.”
“Why, Sensei? Why is she marrying that jerk Hirotaka?”
“There are many reasons, Ronald.”
“I want the true one.”
“They are all true. Truth is not always as simple as you imagine. Some are more important than others.”
“Well, can you explain why she needs to marry Hiro?”
“Our family has provided leadership at Yamanouchi for many years. She is the heir. When I die her husband will assume a position as head of the school.”
“I am sorry, Sensei. I did not realize she was the only family you had left.”
“She is not. I have several children, and many grandchildren.”
“So, she's like the oldest? Is that why she is the heir?”
“No, in fact she is the youngest of my grandchildren.”
“So what makes her the heir?”
“Because she desires to maintain the family tradition. I cannot say my children are truly a disappointment. There is a doctor, a publisher, and a professional musician… Okay, perhaps he is a disappointment. But none of them wanted to follow me at Yamanouchi. The other grandchildren all visit here, but they always returned home and did not want to study here. Yori alone realizes how important our heritage is. I would have to say she is my favorite.”
“And so you punish her by making her marry Hiro?”
“Ron, you could not become head of the school--”
“It's 'cause I'm gaijin, right? That's the whole reason for this 'not good enough for my granddaughter' stuff, isn't it?”
“Not exactly Ronald. You are a good man. If she were not the heir I could wish no finer man than you for Yori. But yours is not the heart of a warrior. Look within yourself, you know it to be true. You stand up for what you believe. But you are a man of peace. The head of the school must have the heart of a warrior. Hiro, for all his vanity, has such a heart.”
“But he and Yori don't love each other!”
“I hope that will come. I did not love my wife when we were married, but I came to love her as we lived our lives together. Yori and Hiro will come to love each other in time. But I cannot have you at Yamanouchi. She loves you too deeply.”
“And I love her. I will never love another like I love Yori!”
“Ronald, do you really believe your heart is so small? You will find another. And when you do it will be as if this was not true.”
“I can't believe that.”
“You cannot believe that today. You will someday realize that when you are in love it is always for the first time.”
“I am sorry,” the old man told the grieving youth. “Have you no family traditions?”
“Oh, my grandparents had traditions like you wouldn't believe. My dad always hated them growing up. I don't know if we do anything that--”
“What do your grandparents think of that?”
“My grandfather is dead. Grandma… I think sometimes we disappoint her a great deal.”
“And why is she disappointed.”
“I guess because the traditions that kept us together and made us a people for hundreds of years are not being kept by her family.”
“So, you understand how you hurt her?”
“But don't my folks and I have a choice in how we live our lives? Do we have to work or not work, eat or not eat because of something some guys thousands of years ago made up?”
“We all make our choices, Ronald. Yori is not happy with all the family traditions. But she is putting family first rather than herself. Does she not have the right to make her choice?”
Ron was silent for a minute. “I'm not going to win, am I Sensei?”
“I think you have won a great deal, Ronald. But unfortunately it is not what you can recognize now. I hope--”
The communication ended abruptly. Ron wondered what had happened. Had Sensei been interrupted in Japan? Had he suffered some sort of mystical monkey power failure? As he tried to figure out what happened he felt the hairs on his body bristle, and sensed that somehow he or Yori was in danger.
Fukushima had waited a half hour after the women had gone to bed for everyone to go to sleep. He believed he had located Yori and Ron in a bedroom off the back stairway. He had trouble believing they could be lovers, although the sounds he heard suggested it. Still, if it were true it would only mean that much more pain for Stoppable when he kidnapped Yori.
He was not completely certain what he would do after he captured Yori. But the fact of her capture would hurt both Sensei and Ron Stoppable -- two men he hated -- and that made the attempt worthwhile.
Perhaps he could demand a ransom; reinstatement at Yamanouchi would give him what he wanted… But why settle for something as small as reinstatement? He could become a teacher at Yamanouchi… Why settle for something as little as becoming an instructor? If he could force Yori to marry him he would become the head of Yamanouchi when Sensei died. This was definitely worth any risk.
He sent a text message to the van and went downstairs to open the back door. The kitchen was far enough from the bedrooms that he risked giving them brief oral instructions. He pointed to the main stairs. “There are several bedrooms on the second floor. A Japanese woman sleeps in one of them, the daughter of my enemy. You will find her. When you find her, attempt nothing. Come back to kitchen. I wait here. You all will leave the house then. I take care of my revenge.”
“You aren't going to hurt anyone, are you Sensei?”
“Of course not. This is only to show that our school it greater than their school. Go now, I wait here.”
Fukushima waited until they left the kitchen, then headed up the back stairs. Soon the idiots would be discovered, and in the confusion he would find a chance to slip in and capture Yori.
Two of Fukushima's ninjas lagged behind the others. “I dunno about this,” the black man whispered to an acne-scarred teen. “I think there's too much chance of us getting into real trouble with this.”
“So what we gonna do?”
“I say go back to the kitchen and tell Sensei.”
“He's gonna be mad.”
“Yeah, well better that than the cops picking us up.”
They slunk back to the kitchen, only to find Fukushima had gone. “What we gonna do now?” the teen asked.
“I say we wait for the others.” As they waited, however, they heard a noise coming from the stairs. Not knowing if it was one of their own or not the black man warned his partner, “We'd better hide.”
Bonnie was in the mother of all rotten moods. Shego had let slip that Yori was from some sort of ninja school, apparently the one where Ron had trained the last two summers. Why had Ron never mentioned Yori to him? The two of them were together right now. Bonnie had a small headache, she wasn't sure if it was the tension or the MSG in the take-out. But she was also hungry. Perhaps a little peanut butter and jelly sandwich would help. She came downstairs in the dark, but flipped the light on when she got into the kitchen.
“Peanut butter,” she mumbled. “If I was peanut butter where would I be hiding?”
The ninja in the pantry noticed he was standing by the peanut butter jar. Trusting his black garb to keep him invisible in the darkness of pantry as Bonnie reached in he put the jar in her hands.
“Oh, good, there it is,” Bonnie muttered, taking the peanut butter out of the pantry.
The ninja had time to draw a sigh of relief -- before a hand reached back into the pantry and grabbed him.
The noise from the kitchen awakened Shego. It was a curious noise. It rather sounded like someone beating a ninja against the refrigerator. Slipping out of bed quietly enough to leave Kim asleep Shego went downstairs.
The light was on in the kitchen, and it took Shego's eyes a minute to adjust from the darkness of the hallway. “You've got to do that more quietly,” Shego told Bonnie, “You woke me up.”
“Be with you in just a second,” Bonnie said, slamming the ninja two more times into the 'fridge.” She dropped him on the floor. “Ron's little yellow girlfriend brought a ninja into the house with her.”
“Watch your language,” Shego warned her. She spotted a bit of black cloth sticking out of the cabinet under the sink. “And there are a couple things you need to keep in mind -- besides the racist comments. One is that ninjas are like cockroaches, there is never just one of them.” She opened the cabinet door and grabbed a second ninja.
“Let me take him off your hands,” Bonnie offered.
“Jesus, Bonnie, will you try to damage him more quietly,” Shego complained as Bonnie introduced the second ninja to Mr. Refrigerator. “You're going to wake up the babies.”
“Sorry. What else were you going to tell me?”
“These guys didn't come with Yori. They are another bunch of ninjas. You need to think about things like that before you break them. I don't think either of these two are in any condition to question.”
Another ninja had entered into the nursery. There were babies in two cribs, but no sign of a Japanese woman. Suddenly he shivered as what felt like an ice-cold hand grabbed the back of his neck. He whipped around, seeing no one. But his eyes caught something in the mirror. There was so little light in the room the man in black was virtually invisible, but the mirror showed a woman, all in white and faintly glowing, who had her hand on his neck. He looked around him again, but there was no woman there. He looked back to the mirror, which showed the white lady. He drew closer to the mirror, and she moved with him. He could see her clearly now, but her features melted and changed even as he watched the reflection. Her skin dissolved leaving a skull whose eye sockets burned with a hellish glow. Her teeth began to grow, longer and sharper as her jaws extended into a canine-like shape. He glanced around him again. There was no woman, but the icy grip on his neck was growing tighter and colder. He looked again in the mirror, the jaws were open now, and she was leaning towards him, the canine teeth ready to rip open his throat. He jerked out of her icy grip and ran for the doorway.
Oddly enough, someone had closed the door he had left open. In his panic he ran full-tilt into the door and fell to the floor of the nursery, stunned.
“What was that?” Kim grumbled, angry to have been awakened from her sleep. “Oh, God! The nursery!” Kim ran in, afraid one of the babies had climbed out of her crib and fallen on the floor. She tripped over a black-clad form on the floor. “What the--?” The nursery's outer door, which had been closed just a minute earlier, was open again and Kim saw the glow of the kitchen's light below. She grabbed the ninja by the right leg and headed downstairs.
The noise had awakened the infants, but they saw the white lady smiling down at them reassuringly and went back to sleep. They liked the white lady.
Here is Edward the ninja, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Kim Possible. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it. And then he feels that perhaps there isn't. Anyhow, here he is at the bottom, and ready to be introduced to the women in the kitchen.
Bonnie greeted Kim, “Let me guess, the damn ninjas woke you up too.”
“Gee, how did you guess?” a grumpy Kim asked, holding an upside down Edward out in front of her. “What's your story?” she demanded.
“Ghost…” the man stammered, “Ghost…”
“Where was he?” Shego asked Kim.
“I found him stunned in the nursery.”
“Sounds like you don't get to count him. That's one for the ghost. She's tied with Bonnie and me.”
“What are you talking about?” the redhead demanded.
As the three women chatted a muffled scream was heard, beginning on the second floor and heading towards the basement.
Repair work had begun on the elevator, to make the house more accessible for Felix, but it had not yet been finished. The ninja who had rattled Monique's doorknob could, of course, not have known that. When the sleeper had awakened and demanded, “Who's there?” He panicked and fled to the elevator. Perhaps he didn't even realize it was the elevator door and mistook it for a closet door. It was a very deep closet.
“Want me to bring him up out of the basement?” Kim asked.
“If you would, please,” Shego replied. “I'm putting a pot of water on for tea. Would you like a cup?”
“Yes, thank you,” the redhead replied as she headed for the basement door.
“Me too,” Bonnie requested.
“Could I have a cup?” one of the less battered ninjas asked. Bonnie moved towards him. “Oh, never mind.”
Kim suspected a greenstick fracture on the leg of the most recent arrival and put a split on it as the tea brewed.
While the women drank tea and talked in the kitchen the lights suddenly dimmed for a second, came back to full brightness, and then briefly dimmed again.
“What was that?” Bonnie asked.
Shego swore, “My guess is that booby-trapped doorknob on Justine's door. She says she designed it to keep people out of her room and avoid getting hazed at MIT and Berkeley. Kim, we've got to tell her she can't use it here. It's too dangerous when the girls start to walk.”
“Yeah,” Kim agreed, “and we're not into hazing.”
“She's probably worried about getting raped in her sleep by you dykes… I'm sorry, I'm just in a crappy mood,” Bonnie apologized.
“I think you've been in it as long as I've known you,” Shego said. “But it does seem even worse this morning. I think it's my turn to bring down Justine's catch.”
The hair that remained on Andrew's head was smoking. Hopefully a real barber could leave him looking better than he had when he started the evening. Shego left him in the pile with the others, “Keep my tea warm, I think I heard one in the library when I was coming downstairs.
Fukushima heard most of the conversation going on in the kitchen from the back stair landing outside of Ron's room. He sighed deeply; his students weren't even capable of creating a good diversion. Still, as far as he could tell, none of the events in the rest of the house had even awakened Ron or Yori. He had always felt he was more powerful than Yori, he had continued to train since he left Yamanouchi, surely he would still be able to restrain her by himself. Stoppable… Fukushima grinned to himself, Stoppable was a joke. It was his naked mole rat who had won the victory against Monkey Fist, Stoppable was beneath his contempt. How could Yori have fallen in love with a fool such as that?
As his hand touched the door the ninja felt a current of power such as he had never experienced. He had gotten a D in aura reading, but the chi power in the closed room was so intense even Fukushima could feel it. He paused for a moment, wondering how Yori could have grown so powerful, but refused to consider a change in plans. He would kidnap Yori right out of bed, leaving Ron asleep -- wondering where Yori was when he awoke in the morning.
A little light from the kitchen came up the back stairs. As he silently opened the door the sliver of light spread wide, revealing Yori asleep on the futon. The chi power in the room was so intense it struck the ninja almost palpably, but where was Stoppable?
Fukushima looked around the room, something crouched quietly to the side, its red eyes glowing with hate at the sight of the black clad man. The ninja tried to back away and close the door, but the beast leapt across the room, seizing him by the throat before he had a chance to cry out and choking him so tightly he could utter no sound. The beast then shook the man in black as a terrier shakes a rat.
Ron and Shego entered the kitchen with their captives at the same time. Gabriela had one arm twisted behind her back, “Go sit by the others,” Shego warned her. The woman complied quietly.
“Ah, Ron, you might want to let go of his throat before you strangle him,” Kim suggested.
“Just a couple seconds more, KP, I'm wondering if he will really turn purple.”
Shego directed a question to the woman, “Is this all of you?”
Gabriela looked them over, “Yes.”
Fukushima, having passed out, was dropped onto the floor with the others.
“How did you get here?” Shego continued to question the woman.
“You mean in the van this afternoon or the--”
“The van will do it. Who has the keys?”
The thin man held up the keys.
“Which way are you parked?” He pointed south. “Ron, will you go find a van and drive it up here? Our visitors need it to leave.”
Ron noticed a tag with the license plate number on the key chain before he went out. Shego continued, “Kim, could you go down to the basement and find those rolls of duct tape? I'm going upstairs for the explosives--”
“Explosives? I don't--”
“The small ones. I don't want to waste the big ones.”
Kim had no idea what Shego was talking about, but decided to say nothing.
Shego continued, “Bonnie, watch our friends while we're gone. If anyone moves… Try not to leave any dents in the fucking refrigerator this time, okay?”
“Okay,” Bonnie grumbled, watching the men closely. Those who were conscious decided that their unconscious brethren had the right idea and didn't move. Gabriela weighed her options, sitting quietly sounded safer than moving -- even with the talk of explosives.
When Ron got back into the house Fukushima was wrapped in duct tape like a mummy. A small box of some sort was strapped to his chest, and the tape didn't cover the face of a timer on the box. Two of the men already had a band of duct tape tightly wrapped around their right legs, which held a small tube covered with duct tape in place.
Shego was finishing a band of wire and duct tape on the leg of a third man. “Ron,” she asked. “Did you buy the twenty foot or fifty foot proximity fuses?”
“The twenty-footers,” he said happily, wondering what in the hell Shego was talking about.
Five minutes later all six student ninjas had wires and duct tape wrapped securely about one leg, along with a small cylindrical object.
“Okay, lady and gentlemen,” Shego began her speech. The proximity fuses are only good for twenty feet, so I won't push the transmitter to activate them until you're in the van. Once it's pushed if you move more than twenty feet from this guy--”
“Fukushima,” Ron interrupted to say.
“Fukushima here,” Shego continued, “and the transponder on his chest the little bomb on your leg goes off. It also goes off if you cut the wire holding it in place. And our transmitter will send a destruct signal to Fuku's transponder in five hours. But there's good news -- do you want to hear it?”
Those who could nodded their heads.
“I just saved a lot of money on my car insurance by switching to --”
Bonnie and Kim both burst out laughing at the looks of terror on the ninjas' faces.
“No, seriously,” Shego began again, “The transmitter only has a range of… Ron, was it a hundred and fifty miles or two hundred miles?”
“I think it was a hundred and fifty, but I'm not sure.”
“If you can get a hundred and fifty miles away in the next five hours --”
“Better make it two hundred to be safe,” Ron interrupted.
“Good idea. You should always be careful when you're wearing a bomb on your leg. Anyway, once you're out of transmitter range you're safe. The transponder is no longer active and you can remove the bombs safely. Now, two more things, first, don't come back here. Is everyone clear on that?”
Those who could nodded their heads.
“Second, does anyone need to go to the bathroom now before you start your trip?”
Two men cautiously raised their hands.
“Okay, well hurry up. Bonnie, show them to the bathroom under the stairs. I won't activate the transmitter until you're all in the van.”
Ron and Kim loaded the immobile students and Fukushima into the van. An unhappy looking Gabriela sat behind the steering wheel.
“Drive safely,” Shego cheerfully instructed Gabriela.
The woman glared at Shego, “Jodete, gringa de mierda.”
Shego grinned, “Yo pasar tiempo mucho en Mexico, senorita.”
The woman behind the wheel paled slightly, then hit the gas. Tires squealed as the van peeled out of the driveway and onto a street headed east.
“What did she say?” Bonnie asked.
“It's sort of the Spanish equivalent for a feat that's anatomically impossible. I think I told her I understand a little Spanish -- or maybe I challenged her uncle to a game of lacrosse.”
“You don't know a darn thing about explosives, do you?” Kim asked as they watched the van disappear from view.
“Nope,” Shego admitted, “but I'm a good liar and I don't think they know enough to contradict me. I'm a little worried about the woman though, she seems bright enough to realize those 'bombs' are the exact size of a tampon wrapped in duct tape.”
“And the men won't notice?” Ron asked.
Kim laughed, “Ron, did you recognize the size and shape? And you live in a house full of women.”
“Where did you get the wire?” Ron asked Shego.
“It was left over from the rewiring in January.”
“And the box on the one guy's chest?” Bonnie asked.
“Band-aid box… Damn, I forgot to take out the band-aids. We need another box for your bathroom.”
“Great improv,” Bonnie congratulated Shego. “That was a hilarious idea.”
“Glad you thought so, I used your watch for the timer on Fukushima's chest.”
Yori and Ron seldom left his room over the weekend. On Monday morning she gently shook him awake. “Ron-kun, I must return.”
He dressed silently, afraid that if he tried to speak he would break down again and beg her to stay.
“Are you going in to Global Justice today?” Kim asked at breakfast.
“Not today,” Ron said quietly. “Tell them I'm not feeling well. I won't be feeling well again tomorrow, but I'll be in.”
“You make me sorry that I came to America,” Yori said.
He tried to smile, with little success. “Don't be. You… You know what you mean to me. Thank you for coming to say goodbye in person.”
“Goodbye?” Kim asked.
“I don't want to talk about it KP.”
Out at the airport Ron used the method that worked before to get back to the gate with Yori. He was determined to stay with her as long as he could. They held hands as they waited for boarding to start. There were no words left to say, each felt the other's pain and had no words which could give comfort.
As the woman at the gate announced the start of boarding they stood and embraced each other tightly, remaining locked in the other's arms until last call forced them to separate. “I love you,” Ron said simply.
“I love you also, Ron.”
He watched as Yori and his heart went through the door. He moved to the terminal window and watched until the plane took off and disappeared in the distance. Only then did he begin the long walk to the parking lot.
Yori sat back in her seat and closed her eyes. She hoped to sleep for much of the way home. Kim's girls had been a surprise. When Kim had told her the story, however, she identified with Kim's fear of losing someone she loved.
Ron had saved the Lotus Blade, the treasure of Yamanouchi. He had saved her life, and that of grandfather. He possessed the power of their school's founder. Surely, despite all her grandfather said, Ron was the true heir of Yamanouchi. Yori took a great deal of comfort in the love she had seen between Kim and Shego and their children. She had gone off the pill a month ago. Hiro would head the school after her grandfather's death. She would let fate decide who was the proper heir. If she had conceived while in Middleton Ron's child would lead the school someday. If not, she would accept her husband as true head of the school.