Author's note: Again, something of an interlude. This chapter also contains a kigo. But not the way you think.
Tomo sighed. He hated to admit it, but he was nervous and he really shouldn't be. There had been times when he had the right to be nervous. His first day of basic Tai Shing Pek Kwar training. When he stepped into the circle of jade statues. His first day travelling with Toshimiru. His first real fight. His first fight alone. Those were reasons to be nervous. This shouldn't be.
She was just a girl, he reminded himself. Sure, she was very beautiful….and she could handle a sword… and she was his teacher's daughter… and she was very beautiful. But all the same… apart from her beauty, her swordsmanship, family connections, beauty, perhaps good schooling, and beauty… she was just a basic average girl. Right? And he was going to be able to talk to her about something other than the best route, how to stay out of sight and things like that. Right?
Tomo sighed again. He had been raised in an all-boys orphanage, so perhaps it was all because he was not used to being around girls. Certainly not girls like Aiko.
She was sitting on a rock, a bit higher up on the mountain. Her hair was flowing in the cold breeze. The only thing that threw off the otherwise perfect picture was that she was wearing the clothing of an apprentice monkey warrior who hadn't yet been allowed to walk into the circle of jade statues. Had she been wearing a dress or something, it would have been a picture worth painting. But if she had been wearing a dress, Tomo would have really never dared approach her.
"Aiko-san", he said, steadying his voice as best as he could, "are you feeling alright?" Aiko looked at him solemnly.
"I miss my father", she said softly. Tomo gazed at her sadly. "He… He was only two days away. And now…" She paused.
"I know", Tomo said. "I miss him too." Aiko smiled at him.
"You saw him only a couple of days ago, how can you miss him already?" She asked. Tomo swallowed.
"Well, I… I mean… " He tried and failed.
"I know what you mean", Aiko said. "You saw him change. You miss the old him." Tomo nodded. "I'm… glad I didn't have to see that", she finished.
"I am as well", Tomo said. "But I do miss him the other way too. He is… my brother-in-arms, after all." Aiko seemed to sense his nervousness.
"He never told me how you met", she said.
"Well… There's not much too it, really", Tomo said, scratching his neck.
"Then sit down and tell me about it, Tomo-san." A phrase like that could alter the world, Tomo thought, as he sat down as carefully as he could.
He proceeded to tell her. He had grown up here, by the foot of Mount Yamanouchi, in the orphanage. When he turned twelve, he was sent to the fields, a week away by horse, to earn his keep. It had been hard work, but Tomo didn't have anything against it.
And then, one day, Toshimiru rode into the fields. He had explained to the foremen that he was looking for a new apprentice, and the stars had told him this was the place to find one. Of course, the foremen had let him take a look at the boys, but Toshimiru couldn't decide. So he arranged a competition. The boys, all 50 of them, in ages ranging from 11-16, would fight each other for the right to be his new student.
Aiko was visibly impressed.
"You defeated 16-year olds when you were twelve?" She asked. Sure, now he was a monkey warrior, but at twelve? Tomo smiled.
"I made it to the second round, and then I was defeated by an older boy, I forget his name", he replied. Aiko looked surprised.
"But if you didn't win…"
"How did I end up becoming his apprentice?" Tomo finished for her. "Well... I didn't really think I would be anyway. I did as best as I could, sure, but… The only thing I could think about was how everyone would be walking away with smaller injuries. So I started helping those who were defeated out of the ring, gave them water, small things like that. No one was more surprised than I when I was declared the winner. Except, maybe, for the boy who won." Aiko still looked surprised. Tomo smiled.
"When we rode away… I asked Toshimiru about it. And he said…" Tomo cleared his throat. "We can teach people to fight well, young Tomo. It is much harder to teach someone how to be a good person." His tone of voice resembled Toshimiru's so much, Aiko couldn't help but smile.
"He said things like that", she said softly.
"He did", Tomo agreed, not knowing what else to say. He looked into her eyes. They were hazel, to the degree that hazel itself must be thinking of renaming itself 'Aiko'. She took his hand, softly, as she looked out at the view again. Further down, the other monkey warriors were bustling about in the makeshift camp. Tomo smiled. With all his journeys and the things he had seen, he couldn't believe that what could be the happiest moment of his life had just happened on Mount Yamanouchi, the mountain in the shade of which he grew up. And he had no idea that Mount Yamanouchi would hold a few more interesting moments yet.
Almost 2 000 years later, Mount Yamanouchi had changed, although not by much. The school was there, sure, and but the overall feeling of the place had not changed. It remained a lonely place, even more so now, when three visitors were the only sign of life.
Ron Stoppable, who still referred to himself as such, opened the letter which had been left for him by the door to the main building he read it and smiled.
To avoid the coming storm.
But all storms must end.
"Heh. Five, seven, five and a kigo. Didn't know Sensei had it in him", he said, grinning.
"What are you talking about?" Warhok ask in his grumbling tone. Ron looked at him.
"A kigo is a Japanese term for a word that has some seasonal connection. Many say it's not a real haiku unless there is one, in this case" and he nodded at the paper in his hand, "it's 'cicadas', for summer. Never really cared for that rule myself, but I guess it takes all sorts."
"I meant", Warhok said, "what does it mean." Ron sighed.
"I thought that was obvious; they're hiding. You really should take the time to learn a little about the culture of the planets you are invading, Warhok." Warhok sneered, mostly to himself.
"Does this mean we can finally leave with our armada?" Warmonga interjected. "The only ones who could have stood in our way are clearly not going to take action against us. Wisely enough." Ron folded up the piece of paper and put it in his pocket.
"No. We are not leaving yet", he said. Warhok glared at him.
"Our ships have been ready to take us away for two weeks now. What else needs to be done? Surely they can not follow us to the stars?" Ron stayed silent for a moment.
"This is my world, Warhok", he said. "I may be leading you to… what was it, 'glorious victories and unrivalled conquest', but this is where I and my people will return to afterwards. And when we do, I do not want to find an army of Yamanouchi-trained ninjas armed with Drakken's weapons waiting to take me on. Grasp that?"
"The blue impostor couldn't create a weapon strong enough to take down the Great Blue", Warmonga said. "And besides, these… Yamanouchians are probably not more than a handful." Ron grinned a little as she berated Drakken, but sighed when she finished.
"I don't know how many there are. Like I said, I can't feel them at all. And according to Wade, the few I did know about has been erased from public records. There could be hundreds of thousands of them, maybe more. And even if I knew there was only a handful, ", he said, "they still have my dear Kimberly Ann."
"Ah, yes… I will enjoy seeing her again", Warmonga mused. "The rematch shall be a swift and merciless fight." Ron's eyes narrowed.
"It will be nonexistent", he said. Warmonga stared at him.
"I returned to exact my revenge on her! I will not be denied!"
"Think again", Ron said coldly, "or the first planet I attack will be Lorwardia itself." Warhok and Warmonga stared at him in shock.
"You can not possibly-" Warhok started, but Ron interrupted him.
"I can, and I will. If you wish to have me conquer for you, she will be by my side. If you so much as touch her, I'll make you regret it." With that, he touched his belt, and teleported away.
"The Great Blue… If he did not bear that title…" Warmonga sneered.
"I know, my dear", Warhok said. "When Warkrime saw his first emergence all those years ago, he truly found a-- what was the phrase? Double-edged sword, yes. But when the galaxy is ours, it will have been worth it." They both touched their belts and teleported away as well.
Monkey Fist sighed as he made his way up the mountain. It was going too slow for him, way too slow for a man like him. They had given him a wheelchair, except it had caterpillar tracks instead of wheels because of the terrain, and they hadn't given him a fast one, that was for sure. Two-year olds could outrun him. Perhaps that was why they gave it to him, he thought. So that he couldn't catch anyone and… what did they think he would do, exactly? Sure, he didn't have a spotless record, apart from that Endentin-thing, but…
He sighed again. The trackchair pushed on. The time he had spent here had not been good thus far. Everyone avoided him. He could handle that. Everyone despised him openly. He could deal with that too. His feet were gone. That bothered him, yes, but he had once learned to cope with monkey feet. He could learn how to cope with no feet. In time.
The problem he had was the Endentin-thing. It still bothered him. It bothered him because he still hadn't found an answer. Without the drug, would he have threatened to murder a pregnant girl if he had to? Perhaps. Would he have done it? Hmm.
He looked up to what seemed to be almost like a platform. Given that his trudge up here had taken him the better part of the day, he decided to turn back down once he had a moment of meditation up there. The air was cold and clean on this mountain, and he felt it did him good. He couldn't help but sigh again when he reached the platform. He was not alone.
Yori had found this place a few days ago, and found it to be a good place to train. She had recently decided to learn more Tai Shing Pek Kwar, but felt that she needed to be alone to focus.
"Your stance is wrong", a voice said. She knew that voice anywhere. She frowned.
"And I should listen to you for advice, Fiske-san?" She replied.
"I am a master of monkey kung fu, after all. And, as I remember, it took almost the entire graduating class of the Yamanouchi and some alumni too keep me from finding the Yono and the Han. I believe you know that I am quite skilled", he said. Yori hadn't looked at him yet, but she could imagine that he was holding his head a bit too high for his own good.
"We defeated you just the same, if you remember. And a true master has honour. A true lord has honour. You have none", she said as she turned and finally faced him. Now he frowned. His frown grew into a grin.
"I still managed to find out their names despite all your efforts, didn't I? If it hadn't been for the Endentin I would have found both the destroyer and the weapon by now! And if you think you can insult me for being a lord you should have met me when I was in my punk rock phase. It doesn't work as well now. Back then, I would have given you a right hook."
"And a right kick as well. But such is not the way now, is it?" Yori's words stung him. He wasn't prepared for that. "You disliked being a lord?" She continued.
"It wasn't until I graduated from Oxford that it did any good", he answered, simply. She glared at him.
"Apart from the wealth and the nobility, I assume?" She asked. He looked away.
"I was born into peerage but not into the wealth and the rest", he answered. "My father squandered most of it before I was even born. I even had to go to state school." He leaned in a bit. "Do you know how… interesting your school years turn out when your teachers have to call you 'Sir' or 'Lord Montgomery'?" Yori pondered it for a moment.
"I take it your class mates didn't take it too well?" She asked.
"Why do you think I started training martial arts? That got them off my back soon enough." He couldn't help but smile a little when he remembered it. Old names flew by in his mind. Yori looked at him angrily.
"You attacked them?" He nodded at her words. "Your teachers must have told you only to defend yourself, nothing else!" She said, furious.
"When it feels like you life is under constant attack…. Knowing what self-defense is gets rather hard", he responded. They stared at each other for a moment.
"If you where not born wealthy…" Yori started.
"How did I come to be just that later?" Fist finished for her, grinning.
"I could not imagine archaeology to be a lucrative field", she commented.
"Unless you know how", he said slyly. "After all… do I seem to be a man who thinks all discoveries should be kept in museums?" Yori's face turned sour again.
"Then you are nothing but a grave robber, Fiske-san", she said. He grinned a little.
"You've already insulted my lack of honour when it comes to being a master of monkey kung fu and a lord. Did you think I'd get angered by you insulting my professional honour as well? Really… Unless you hadn't understood this already… I am a bad man." His voice turned cold toward the end.
"I did not think otherwise", Yori said. She turned away for a moment. "Did no one realize this until you revealed what you had become?" He frowned.
"I can be quite an actor if I wish. Just ask Possible, she was fooled quite easily when we first met."
"Not even your Tai Shing Pek Kwar-teacher?" She asked slowly. He paled a little. He hadn't thought of Sensei Ito in years.
"No", he said and fell silent. His sensei had been a good friend. One of very few. Very few. "Why do you ask?" He couldn't help but say. Yori turned around with a grim look.
"Your sensei was my father", she said. Fist's jaw fell.
"I… I didn't know", he managed to say.
"How would you, you don't even know my last name"; Yori responded. She paused and looked away. "I have always wondered if he knew what you were. If he saw what I see now. I thank you for telling me."
"Is… is he here?" Fist couldn't help but ask. Yori shook her head.
"He died a year before you assembled the jade statues. And even if he were, my mother is the descendant. He wasn't."
Yori started to walk towards him now, still an angry look.
"He died, thinking you were his greatest student. He spoke about you often as such. And you dishonoured his teachings and him by becoming this… obsessed mad man." She broke into a run. From somewhere, she drew her war fans. Fiske raised his eyebrows. "Now you will pay!" She shouted. Fiske couldn't do anything but shield his head with his arms. But the blow never came. Instead he heard a metallic sound. When he looked up, he saw that she had cut both of the caterpillar tracks on his chair. She was now walking down the mountain.
He thought about what she had said. He really had no honour left. Not as a master, not as a lord, not as an archaeologist. When he closed his eyes, he could almost see his future. Considering his progress thus far… some day he might not need Endentin to do the unthinkable. He opened his eyes.
"Yori… did your father ever teach you Tai Shing Pek Kwar?"
"I was trained to be a ninja. Monkey Kung Fu was not something I studied", she replied, suddenly stopping. She looked back.
"If… if you want… I could teach you some of the moves he taught me", Fiske said, somewhat more nervously than he had imagined. Yori peered at him.
"I will think about it. But you still have to make you way down yourself", she said, starting to walk down again. Lord Montgomery Fiske sighed as he crawled out of his chair and began to, essentially, crawl down the mountain. It took him no longer than the chair would have.
"Come in!" Drakken yelled and Kim opened the door to his cabin. She was shocked by what she saw. The walls, the floor… even parts of the ceiling were covered in sheets of paper.
"I see you've been keeping busy", Kim said. Dear lord… Not even Ron could mess up a room like this. Even the Hatchet Decimal System had more order.
"Ah, Kimberly Ann, how nice to see you!" Drakken said. There seemed to be, paradoxically, both sincerity and malice in his tone.
"No big", she said, not knowing how to answer otherwise. "What is all this? Trying to get back to taking over the world?" She eyed him suspiciously.
"Not so much. I've merely been proving that I am a true genius, as I always have been!" Drakken put his hands on his hips and grinned, as if he had unveiled a new death ray. Kim raised an eyebrow.
"Still not grasping reality, Drakken?" She asked. "Your monkey powers don't work anymore, so there goes the genius thing." Drakken frowned.
"You would think so, but no! The monkey powers might have given me an edge, but I still am a genius, just look at this!" He grabbed a few papers and shoved them at her. They had many complicated equations on them. Kim looked at him again.
"Oh…Kay", she said slowly.
"Oh, come on! Is it that hard to understand? I was admitted to the same college your father was! I invented the Bebes before I got these…. These powers. I was a genius then and I still am now!" He said, tossing the papers to the floor again. Kim pondered. He did have a point. And besides… Sensei had said that the more people used the powers, the more evil they became. And Drakken had not been as evil as he could have been.
"Maybe you're right", she said. "Wanna prove it?"
"The proof is right here", Drakken replied. Kim sighed.
"Yeah, and no one's gonna understand it because you're the only genius here, right?" Drakken squirmed a bit.
"Well… Maybe… But still! I am not just a monkey powered dope, I'm the real deal!"
"But no one's gonna believe you unless you prove it", Kim reiterated. "And I might have a way." Drakken looked intrigued.
"Go on", he said.
"You know we've been looking for a way to find and rescue Rufus, right?" Kim asked. Drakken nodded.
"Do you want me to build a… pink…naked… rodent, whatever-it-is-detector?" He asked.
"It's naked mole rat, and no, we've already found him. He's in Middleton. The Space Center, to be exact."
"So…?" Drakken asked.
"So… Ron has built some very impressive security systems. The ninjas can't break in. So if you're such a genius…"
"I should be able to break in!" Drakken finished. "But… errmmm… Shego was always better at that sort of stuff…" He continued.
"But she can't help us now. Only you can", Kim said.
"And I would risk my behind for a naked mole rat…why?" Drakken said. Kim sighed.
"I just said: to prove you're still a genius!" She was getting fed up, but she knew Drakken was needed to pull this off. He pondered for a moment.
"I'll do it", he said, eventually. "But! Only if you… don't tell Shego I helped you save the world, ok?" He said, a bit sheepishly.
"My lips are sealed", Kim responded, and smiled.