Disclaimer- Ninja Storm does not belong to me, it belongs to Disney and a bunch of other people. Please don't sue, I'm broke cause I spend all my money on Ranger stuff. :) This short is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for violence and language. This short can actually be considered in-continuity for the series, a first for yours truly...
Forged in Fire, Tempered in Ice
It was the stillness that alerted him first. Cam Watanabe was only seven, and far more interested in computers than camping, but you couldn't be the son of a ninja master and not learn a few things about nature. Like, when the crickets went silent, you were probably in for it.
Another thing he'd learned was that it didn't usually SNOW in Southern California. But the light crystalline flakes drifting down through the trees around him were paying absolutely no attention to that fact. Cam scanned the area warily, backpack held lightly in one hand, ready to attack or run.
"Note to self," the boy grumbled, absently pushing his glasses further up on his nose, "no more shortcuts." He was only a few hundred yards from the entrance to the Academy, but given the length of his seven-year-old legs, it might as well be on the moon.
"Little fire." The voice was soft, almost crystalline, like icicles chiming together in a frigid breeze. Cam turned almost robotically towards the sound, noticing absently that the temperature had now dropped far enough that he could see his breath.
She was beautiful. Long, black hair was twisted up on top of her head in a traditional Japanese topknot, and her kimono looked to be made of pure white silk. Her skin was pale, almost as pale as the snow around her. Almond-shaped eyes of purest black regarded him with no emotion. And, Cam realized with a start, she wasn't breathing.
Then she smiled. And suddenly her face blurred, cold, perfect features becoming warmer, stronger, less delicate. Color crept in, and she extended a hand to him.
"Cam..." his mother called."Come to me."
The boy wavered slightly. "M... Mom?" He took a hesitant step forward. "But... you're dead..."
"They let me come back, Cam... just for a while. Just to see you again... and to tell you something important. Come to me, little fire..."
Cam approached farther, still hesitant. His father was a ninja master-- he'd long since accepted the fact that there were some things people could do that seemed impossible. But this... something was wrong.
As he moved to take his mother's outstretched hand, Cam stopped. The hand was pure, white, unmarked. No scars, no calluses, none of the marks of the swordsman's craft that she took such pride in. These were not his mother's hands.
"You're not my mother," Cam blurted, backpedaling. The woman's face blurred once again, returning to its original configuration. One hand latched onto his arm, holding him with a grip as strong and chill as a glacier.
"Little fire," she hissed. "Such power within, just waiting... sleeping. But what if those flames go out? Or perhaps... freeze. Frozen fire... To burn with both the heat and cold..."
Cam jerked at her grip, but could not free himself. Slowly, inexorably, he found himself drawn into a cold embrace, and icy lips pressed against his forehead. Then the world exploded.
Scenes flashed by, too fast to truly see. Some wreathed in fire, others sheathed in ice. In the fire, he saw himself a warrior, beaten, bloodied, surrounded by comrades, tears, joys, victories, defeats, images spinning together in a kaleidoscope of color and light. The cold, on the other hand, showed him a throne of black ice, and a sword of the same. Frozen blood glimmered on an ebony floor, and devastation stretched away as far as the eye could see.
As the life ebbed from him, Cam felt the images coming closer, beckoning him, offering him something, though he didn't know what. One hand stretched towards the dancing fire--
And the world came crashing back in like a tidal wave. Cam blinked several times, wondering why he was staring up at bare trees and a grey sky, feeling like something had decided to tap-dance on his intestines. Somewhere nearby, he could hear his father's voice yelling words he didn't know. He wasn't sure he wanted to, either... sounded like they weren't suitable for conversation.
Then he was being lifted in a pair of strong arms, and instinctively he snuggled into his father's warmth. On his forehead, a spot of cold still burned, in the shape of a pair of lips.
It would take nearly a year for the silvery scar to completely fade.
His head hurt. Cam honestly wasn't sure whether that was from the lump he'd gotten during Lothor's attack on the school, or from the three... CHILDREN his father had chosen as Wind Rangers, to defend the planet. Well, maybe "chosen" wasn't the most appropriate word. After all, there hadn't exactly been a wide field of students left for selection. Heck, those three had only escaped Lothor's wrath because they'd been late! Again.
Cam sighed, pushing his glasses a little further up on the bridge of his nose. To be completely fair, he could- somewhat- see what his father saw hidden in those three. They'd taken the news of their new status amazingly well, serious and... fairly dedicated. They would make good Rangers. If they didn't kill each other first.
He just wished... Did he even know? It just seemed as though his father would never accept that he COULD fight, that he COULD be a ninja. He hadn't been allowed to officially enroll, even though he'd kept up his lessons with his father, and learned a few things from the other, older students on the sly. And he'd helped MAKE most of the Rangers' gear... but he himself could never use it. Maybe he just wanted to know he was worth something... that he could make a difference.
And now all those students- friends, mentors, kids- were trapped somewhere on Lothor's ship, locked away... and there was nothing any of them could do about it.
"Little fire... you've grown, little fire."
Cam whirled, the chiming, ethereal voice triggering memories that had lain hidden for years. Sure enough, she stood behind him, looking exactly as he remembered, still coldly beautiful, still pale as death.
Yuki-onna, snow woman. He'd devoured anything he could find on the ancient legend over the years, even when he'd thought the memories only a nightmare. A creature of snow and ice, luring men to their death in her frozen embrace. His forehead twinged in remembered pain as he dropped into a fighting stance.
She didn't react, only folded her arms across her chest. "He has come, has he not, little flame? As he swore he would... to wreak destruction in his wake."
"You KNEW," Cam's eyes narrowed, as he flashed back to those images from so long ago. "You showed me..."
"I knew he might come. What might be and what will be... those are two very different things, and only one of them can we ever know." Her shrug was like flowing water.
Cam relaxed slightly, though his wariness did not fade. "What do you want here?"
A slow smile spread across her face. "To offer you a gift, little flame. The power to destroy your enemy, and to rescue those you have lost. To finally prove yourself in the eyes of your father." Drifting closer, she extended a hand to him. A shard of something red rested within, glittering like bloody ice.
"And just what do YOU get out of this?" Cam threw back in challenge.
"I have no love of Lothor... I would revel in his defeat. And I like you, little fire. I want to see you reach your full potential... your power." Once again, she proffered the ruby shard, and slowly, his hand extended to hers.
It probably said something about his level of geekdom, but what popped into his head at that moment wasn't some bit of ancient ninja wisdom, or one of his father's lectures. It was Star Wars and the Lord of the Rings. Turning evil was always easy in the beginning. You started out with the best of intentions, but on the path of least resistance.
Half-forgotten images played in his head, frozen images of death and destruction, far more than Lothor could cause... wreaked by his own hand. And everywhere that stark black ice.
Cam pulled his hand back, fingers slowly tightening into a fist. His jaw hardened as he shook his head.
The change came like lightning. Her beautiful face contorted in a snarl, and she threw herself at him, teeth bared. Even his ninja-trained reflexes were unable to deal with the shock in time, and she knocked him to the ground, lips pressed to his. Cold exploded in his brain, seared into his chest from her hands, and he knew that having failed to take his soul, the demon now sought his life.
Faintly, somewhere beyond the cold, Cam could hear Tori calling his name, her light soprano quickly followed by Shane's bellow. In the blink of an eye, the yuki-onna disappeared, leaving him to stare numbly up at the cloudy, empty sky. His lips burned and he could still feel the imprints of those icy hands on his ribs.
It would take two months for the scars to fade this time.
Had the woods always been this silent? In all those years, no bird song, no animals? He couldn't remember ever having heard the normal sounds of the forest in this little grove, even before the demon had crossed his path. And now, he finally thought he knew why.
The leather of his uniform creaked as he moved, still so new that he could smell it. The new Green Samurai Ranger had a hundred things he should be doing, but this one took precedence.
Twenty years ago, this was where his uncle, Lothor, had first attempted to enspell his mother, convincing her to give him the amulet of the Samurai. Cam had interrupted them then... startling Miko out of her trance. Not far away was the place Lothor had practiced his dark arts, attempting to become the most powerful ninja in existence, one way or another.
What was she, Cam wondered. A demon summoned by Lothor and left bound, or a creature simply attracted by the dark magic of the place? Or could she be a fragment of his mother's mind, still caught in Lothor's spell, never leaving that single moment in time? He didn't know... but if there was any chance, Cam knew he HAD to try.
He didn't have long to wait. No sooner had he entered the clearing than she was there, not attacking, just... watching.
"So, little fire," she sighed, leaning against a tree, "you have made your choice."
One hand went up to touch the Samurai emblem on his shoulder. "I've found my destiny," Cam replied. "That's what you were trying to prevent, wasn't it?"
"You would have been strong in ice," she replied. "Everything I offered, you would have had."
"The price was too high." Cam shook his head. "I might have to share blood with Lothor... I DON'T have to become him."
A slight smile crossed her face. "You're driving him insane, you know."
Cam rolled his eyes. "That's not a drive, it's a short putt."
That got a laugh from her, a surprisingly pleasant noise, full of real emotion. Seeing his chance, Cam stepped forward.
"What are you?"
Something flickered in her eyes, too deep and quick to be fully seen.
His smile was wry. "Join the club." Stepping closer, he extended a hand to her. For a long moment, she simply regarded it, then she accepted the gesture and allowed him to be pulled into his arms.
Her alabaster skin was still ice cold, but the fire flowing in his veins easily pushed it aside, creeping through him and into her, pushing back the cold as she rested her head on his shoulder. Turning his head, Cam pressed a chaste kiss to her temple. She gave a little sigh, full of relief and exhaustion, and then she was gone. His arms were empty, and he was alone in the sunlit woods, with a hint of birdsong beginning to creep through the air. Cam took a second to look around, polishing his glasses on his sleeve. Then, smiling slightly, he turned and headed back to the falls.