Basking in the light.

CIA Headquarters, LangleyVirginia

The package was delivered, as always, by two experienced agents, just in from the Tokyo CIA station. It came once a week, in a diplomatic pouch, and was never unattended. A day later, it went back out to Tokyo

Only a few Agents had seen it—it was at a classification that was itself classified above Top Secret. Those who did kept their speculations to themselves. Talking could blow secrets, which got field agents killed.

But using high school homework and correspondence tests to pass info was pretty damn odd—especially when they didn't go to the code department, but the Deputy Director (DDO) of Paranormal Threats, Steve Barkin.

"Man… he must be doing nothing else…" Ron said, looking at his paper, seemingly dunked in red ink. "Ms. Tomkin never was this harsh." Kim looked over and blinked.

"Actually, Ron, she gave you F's…she just never made this many comments on it." Kim looked at her own paper, and frowned briefly. She'd worked on it, but Barkin had sent it back with almost as much red as Ron's. He'd graded hers a B, but she was beginning to realize the down sides of having a personal teacher.

It was moving into summer, Kim thought. Back home, they'd be getting ready to end the year with the big rally. She wondered who was running the cheerleading team now?

That's over, Possible. Kim sighed. She knew that. As it was, they were still behind—even working faster, they weren't nearly finished, and the one time Kim had decided to ask for some extra time, the letter that came back managed to have the effect of a full blown dressing down even via text. Her faced reddened at what had been said.

Still on some level, it was…nice. Kim could pretend for a few hours each day that life was normal. Ron was even doing better. She noticed that he no longer leaned on her as much as he had at school. He would never be accused of being a straight A student…but he was certainly far different then the student who had been the despair of teachers at school.

Kim let her gaze go out to the school yards. There were still students drilling, but fewer than before—some students had left to return to their families, while the oldest students had left on…missions. Ron had gone on some of those, as had Kim—they ranged from simple hikes, to in one case an elaborate (and incredibly fun) week long game of "hide and seek" that involved everything from martial arts skills to computer use, where some of the class were designated as targets and the rest tracked them down. Just like Hide and Seek back home…except back home the designated playing field hadn't been the city of Tokyo. She leaned and stretched, at the memory, and the pride she'd known when she realized that her stamina was back. When she and Ron sparred, Kim won…about as often as she lost now.

"So KP?" Ron said again.

"Sorry, Ron…what?" Kim asked. Ron grinned.

"What do you want to do this weekend?" Kim looked at him. She hoped Yori hadn't told him.

Or maybe he detected your…baking…attempts. Kim thought. That might be more likely, especially after the time the blender had exploded in her face. Those machines were possessed of a living, malevolent intelligence.

"Well…I was thinking of spending some time in on Saturday…" Kim said.

"Oh." Ron said. Kim saw the disappointment in his face and smiled.

"But maybe we can do something." She supplied. "After, we-"

"Ah, Kim-san, Ron-San." Sensei said, once again somehow just appearing.

I have got to learn how to do that, both teens thought.


"I need to speak with both of you, please." Kim and Ron rose gracefully from where they'd been kneeling, and followed the school's master out into the sunny day.

"It has come time for you to take up the Lotus blade, Ron-san." Ron blinked. Blinked again.

"Sensei… I really don't need..."

"You will, Ron-san…and because of that, you must know things about the blade. You are not simply its wielder…but it's keeper. Because you and Kim-san are so close, I feel you should both understand these secrets." Kim and Ron looked at each other and followed the Sensei into the room that held the blade.

Sensei knelt, as did the two. By now, Ron and Kim were used to the fact that an acolyte provided them with tea and they drank it before speaking. They waited until the tea had been taken away.

"The lotus blade is not about…mystical monkey power." The sensei said quietly, "although that is what most, even Yori and Hirotaka believe. If that was the case…well, it would be far less dangerous."

"What do you mean, sensei?" Ron asked.

"What is magic?" Sensei returned. Ron and Kim looked at each other in confusion and then Kim started in.

"Well… I'd guess doing impossible stuff."

"Exactly, Kim-san." Sensei paused, "And that is what makes it so dangerous." He looked out the window. "Our world if bounded by rules—how fast does gravity make you fall…what is hot, what is cold… water is wet… Magic… magic, true magic is a condition in which those rules are not objective and eternal…but relative and changing."

"That doesn't sound so bad." Kim said.

"It doesn't?…what if your heart stopped, or the electricity you used in your nerves ceased?" Kim subsided.

"It has long been handed down, from Sensei to sensei…that this power, which was so prevalent at the beginning, the 'big bang', scientists would call it, has become rarer—where the lotus blade and its power was once the rule, now it is the exception. It was the limitless possibility inherent in chaos that made this universe, life possible, But equally, life cannot endure under such conditions." The Sensei looked up at the box where the blade lay. Ron suddenly felt like the blade was looking back at them.

"But magic is a limitless force—even though it is now largely barred from our reality, it could come back…especially through the holes overuse of something like the Lotus blade could cause—has caused."

"Has caused?" Ron asked.

"Japan is the land of kami, of spirits… and it is that, in large part, because our founder made such extravagant use of the blade…" Sensei paused, "Which is why one of the requirements for its wielder is not simply skill…but knowledge and wisdom…and strength, to not wield the blade to its full power, lest he unleash much sorrow."

"I said that you had a pure heart, Ron-san." Sensei said, "And that is true—but I did not hold you here the first time because a pure heart alone would not suffice. But you have strength, and you've shown it here… you are worthy, both as keeper and defender of this blade, and I lay this burden and honor now upon you, Ron-san." Ron went slack jawed.

"What about Yori or Hirotaka?" Ron asked, "They're better then me at fighting…and well, I know about the whole mystical monkey thing, but still…"

"Neither one has ever been tested as you have, Ron-san." Sensei paused, "They are good students and warriors—brave and true…but they have tested themselves in battle, where there is glory…lesser in duty, and obligation…and need. Not as you have, you always have had the inner strength and peace needed. You just never felt or believed it until this time." Ron realized that Sensei was looking over at Kim. "The blade provides power—and the temptation to always call for more power. You both understand the danger of that." Kim didn't flinch, but for a moment, she remembered the rush of godlike power the drugs had given her…and how it had almost destroyed her.

"And…" He continued, "they cannot wield the blade, and my heart tells me that the time is coming when it must be wielded. It is dangerous, but it is also a weapon against other Powers…and not all of them will be taken up by those with the wisdom to understand their dangers." He rose and walked to the box, and took it down.

"Ron-san. This is yours, by need…and by right." He smiled, "You will need to learn how to use it properly, even while we pray that you shall never need to use it to its fullest strength, but will you accept it?."

"I don't know what to say…" Ron said, staring at the blade. He could hear it now, not what it was saying, but it was almost… like a young child awaking from a warm sleep. Rufus took one look at it and dived into a pocket. Ron looked down at the scared little mole rat. Rufus had also used the blade…but there was something different about it now. More awake…more…aware. Kim lightly jabbed him in the arm.

"Say thank you Ron." She said. Ron looked at Kim.

"Thank you, Sensei."

"You will have to drill with the Lotus blade—make you its master, and not the other way around."

"I understand, Sensei." Ron said. He stretched out his hand…hesitated. And then took the blade in it.

"I think you do, Ron-san."

Over the next few days, Ron practiced with the blade. It was like an extension of his hand, his body. If he needed a sword, it was one, a whip, quarterstaff…or any other weapon he could imagine.

It was also dangerous. Ron found that out the first time he dueled with Hirotaka. Hirotaka had fallen back and down, and the blade had suddenly surged in his hand, driving for the other student's chest. Ron held it, and found himself gasping with effort, as another spirit seemed to try to take things into its own hands. Ron found himself standing, struggling with the blade, even while time seemed to stop.

Then, with an almost audible snap, the blade surrendered, and returned to his control…almost contritely, Ron imagined. Nobody else had noticed anything, save Sensei, who gave him an approving smile. Ron nodded back, but…

"Hey Hirotaka…let's practice with some regular weapons for a while." Hirotaka nodded, and they continued on. Next to them, Yori and Kim were finishing up, Yori with the staff and Kim with the escrima sticks. Kim, however, was not talking about fighting.

"Five eggs, one half butter stick…" Kim was saying even while she dodged Yori, dropped down and swept her legs out from under her. Hitting the mat with her hand, Yori surrendered.

"Very good, Kim!" She dropped her voice, "Is the battle with the oven going so well, neh?"

"Not even.." Kim said.

"would you like some help? My mother ran a bakery."

"I…" Kim's 'Kimness warred against Yori's help… and Kim grinned . "Yeah, Yori…I really would."

"Very well, and as this is Friday…"

The next morning, Ron stretched out, to find himself alone. He got up, took a shower and blinked. Even Rufus was nowhere to be seen. It was kind of depressing…you expected more on your-

"HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" The door opened up and a tide of students, Kim in the lead charged him. Kim gave him an uninhibited and unabashed hug, and then pulled him out of the room. Outside, there was a LARGE cake with 17 candles, presents, and Rufus…who was dressed like an old style Japanese Shogun.

"Kim!" Ron said, "You remembered!" Pause, "Rufus, my man, looking sharp!"

"uh-huh!" The rat said happily.

"Did you think I'd forget?" Kim asked.

"Uh-uh!" Rufus supplied.

"Well…. Of course not!" Ron said.

"liar…" Kim giggled, "And you even missed me trying to cook."

"You did?"

"Well…with some help from Yori." The asian smiled and came up beside Kim.

"It was only after she was almost eaten by one of the mixers, Ron-san. I only held her things while she beat them into submission." Ron knew how Kim felt about cooking…and for her to do that, well that was a bigger present then he'd had in a long time.

Not that the others were bad… Kim had picked up a unique new game system that Wade had provided her with. Yori had obtained some jade figurines… his predecessors as caretakers of the Lotus blade and several hundred years old and Hirotaka had a scabbard for the Lotus blade. He bowed when he presented it to Ron.

"This was once used by Hideoyoshi, who helped unify Japan under the Shogunate. I would be honored…"

"Oh yeah…" Ron said. Hirotaka got a grin on his face.

"Now… I could have a pop quiz to keep you busy while we eat…but I think... not this time, maybe—Happy Birthday, Ron-san." Ron blinked as Kim gave him a kiss and the others sang happy birthday. It was a bright day out, which was why he was blinking a bit to get the moisture out of his eyes, he concluded.

The day passed quickly—after the party, the entire school, descended en mass on the village and the village park. Granted the school itself had fields…but this wasn't an event involved at all with schooling. Kim, Ron, Yori and Hirotaka formed a tight pair of couples as they played, and strolled through the village, just enjoying the day—no missions, no training no nothing, just some teens out on the town. Kyoko showed up, gave Ron a new communicator, but suddenly found herself irresistibly drawn to Hirotaka. Ron grinned at his companions predicament as the ten year old attached herself to him. Later that night, Ron found himself and the others at a movie in Tokyo, where they'd driven. For the first time in over a half year he found himself eating real, live popcorn…although the movie, some romance between a failing college student and a backsliding demon wasn't anything he'd ever seen before. It didn't matter. The main attraction was Kim, curled up next to him in the seat, laughing at the movie's jokes…and giving him the odd kiss as the night wore on.

When they got back, Yori and Hirotaka were talking to Ron and Kim, and Hirotaka looked in at the new game machine that had been given to Ron. Yori took one look at Kim and…

"Well, it is very late, and Hirotaka and I must be off." She said, putting her hands on Hirotaka's back and making sure he would, 'be off'. As the door closed, Ron grinned and gave Kim a kiss.

"That was really, really, something, KP."

"Yeah." She said, softly, then turned and headed to the bathroom. Ron paused, and looked around the room, as Rufus dove into a remaining bag of chips.

"Hey big guy." Ron said, grinning, "don't ruin your appetite for breakfast."

"Uh-uh!" the Rodent said, not stopping in the slightest. Ron shook his head affectionately. Maybe when Kim came out they could play a-

"Ron?" Kim said from the door to the bathroom. Ron turned, and saw KP, dressed in her robe.

"Yeah, KP?" Kim walked up to Ron and he suddenly noticed she was trembling.

"I…" Kim paused, and looked into Ron's eyes. "I love you Ron Stoppable." Ron realized, as she put her hands out, that Kim wasn't wearing anything under the robe. He'd seen her nude before—many times, in fact, but now…she was…nude Ron suddenly felt a sensation like a few thousand butterflies start up in his stomach. Kim gave him a long, slow kiss, which Ron reciprocated. She'd done this before—but this kiss was different. It wasn't filled with the artificial passion that the moodulator chip had filled her with…but on a different level, it was the most passionate thing he had ever experienced. Ron put his hands around her, pulling her close as she did him, and they stood together.

"I love you too, KP." Ron said quietly, brushing the red hair back. Ron could feel Kim's trembling, and his own answered it—compared to this, a ship full of nukes was Easy. Kim looked at him, and quietly said. "Do you want to… make love?"

There. I said it. Kim thought, and for a second a thousand fears gibbered through her mind. What if she'd misread, what if things went wrong, what if what if what if…

"Kim…" Ron replied and paused. "Yes." He said, "More than anything." The two looked into each others eyes.

"Ron." Kim said, I want… to spend the rest of my life with you. Her thought continued as the robe slithered off her shoulders, stepping out of it and gently pushing Ron down to the mat, as they kissed.

It was scary, it was awkward, it was wonderful.

In his sleeping chamber, Sensei blinked as Rufus appeared and promptly took over his pillow.

"Rufus-san…what are you doing here? Why are you not back with Kim and Ron." The rat shook his head, turning a brilliant pink. Sensei looked blinked and then smiled.

"Ah… It is good. Americans can be so…repressed about affection." He said. "You may remain here, Rufus-san. I believe they will be finished by morning."

To be continued.