She stared back up into the dark mysterious eyes of her sensei and found she had nothing to say. She wanted open her mouth and tell him something – anything, whether it was true or not – but she didn't have the words to make a coherent statement.
So she closed her lips tightly and let it pass.
It wasn't the last time that she had something to say that she couldn't put into words. It happened more and more as the years went by. She wanted to tell them all something, but she couldn't quite place what it was.
So she kept ignoring it.
She continued to train, satisfied with how much the entire team was improving, but even she, with her rather naïve view of the world, knew it could not all be kittens and flowers forever. There would be an end to the easy pattern they had all fallen into. And it would be very soon.
It just came sooner than she wanted, and still she could not find the words to tell them what was in the back of her mind.
She watched as the team began to fall apart with all the losses, wondering time and time again if perhaps it was her fault; if she could say what she needed to them, then perhaps it would not seem as bad. But she did not even know what she meant to say.
"I…" she began one day as they all sat defeated around the kitchen table. Three pair of eyes – black, blue…green – gazed up at her expectantly, hoping she had some knew brilliant idea. The words left her. "I don't know. Never mind."
She turned, walking back to her sliver of a room.
Evil was getting the better of them. They lost battle after battle; Shen Gong Wu were disappearing like mad, and the little Japanese girl had no idea how to right it. She looked to her leader – her beloved leader – but saw only demise in the green orbs that usually held a twinkle of mischief. She often wished to take him in her arms and hold him there forever, but she never dared touch him. He was so unreachable to her.
They still continued to train, putting themselves on autopilot as they contemplated their impending doom and the 10,000 years of darkness that awaited them should they fail at their task. Their minds often turned to home – to their family and friends back in their home countries who had no clue of the danger the entire world was in.
But it was the Japanese girl who thought of her papa the least.
More often that not, she let her mind wander to what would happen if her friends were to give up finally, as she was sure they would, and she was left to herself. She shuddered at the thought, pushing back, ignoring it just as completely as the words that were on the tip of her tongue.
"I don't know what to do next, guys," their glorious leader said one day as he stumbled into the kitchen – late for breakfast as usual – bags forming under his eyes from lack of sleep. She gazed up at him sadly, knowing it may very well be the end.
But the smallest monk looked up; he hated change more than even she did.
"No, we must keep fighting," he said courageously. "It is our duty. If we are to fail…" he trailed off.
She stared in disbelief. For once the water dragon was lost for words.
The wind boy ran a hand through his ever wind-blown hair, sighing. For a moment, he gazed around at his friends, studying each of their faces. His evergreens lingered for a moment on the cowboy, the young monk, and – perhaps for slightly longer than they should have – they landed on her. She nodded once, showing her approval, and his face was suddenly filled with that smile that made her want to melt. He nodded.
"All right," he agreed. "We will win this!"
She cheered with her companions, and again the need to tell them something urgent entered her mind. She shook her head; she would never know what to say with them. Better to forget about it.
But they did fill her heart with absolute joy and pride.
From that moment on, they trained with renewed life, taking their leader's words to heart. They would win, she could feel it in her heart. They fell several times, of course, but never as far as they had fallen before.
And they were never alone. Jermaine, their friend from the city, came to join them in their battle. He proved most worthy when they fought. He knew how to escape sticky situations. And the supposed Evil Boy Genius somehow found his good his in the time that evil began to rise. He showed up on their doorstep one morning, begging forgiveness for past crimes. Offering his technological services, he asked to be accepted into the temple. He was quickly taken in.
The war raged on, and for a while, it seemed to the fire girl that everything might actually turn out the way it was supposed to.
And she managed to bite back the words that begged to be screamed at her friends.
But fate has a funny way of turning its back on you just when you need its good fortune the most.
She was sure that the plan would work perfectly. She would slip into the lair, steal the Shen Gong Wu, and be out of there without a glitch. Her sensei had thought it would work perfectly, as well. After all, they did have the Moby Morpher. Her friends had wished her luck and let her go, but the wind boy remained reluctant and uncertain.
"Rai," she told him when he followed her down into the Shen Gong Wu vault, pestering her about staying at home. "You don't understand. I have to do this."
"But why?" he persisted. "What if something goes wrong?"
She shook her head, her signature pigtails swishing back and forth as she did. "Nothing will go wrong. You're overreacting." She turned to him, Shen Gong Wu in her hand. For a moment, she was shocked into silence, surprised by the amount of concern and…something she couldn't quite place that filled his eyes.
Wetting her lips, she went on, "Do you know how…insignificant I feel sometimes?" He shook his head. "I know that you guys view me as perfectly equal to you…mostly." She frowned, thinking of the youngest monk. "But I have to do it. To prove something to myself. Can't you understand that?"
"…I guess," he answered reluctantly.
"Good." She turned to go, but as she was exiting the vault, he caught her arm, spinning her to face him.
"Just promise me…" he began. "Promise me you'll come back." She stared quizzically for a moment at the fervor that was so deep-set in his green orbs, unable to decide why he was asking this of her.
Once again, she longed to tell him the thing that she just couldn't seem to say.
And it was really frustrating her.
Instead, she nodded slowly. "I promise." Then, seemingly randomly, she stretched onto her toes and kissed him lightly on the cheek.
Smiling, she added, "I'll be back before you know it."
But she soon learned that she shouldn't promise things that she had no control over.
She had no idea how they knew she was there, but as soon as she had slipped into the door as an insect, that vile witch had caught her and handed her to her master. The Prince of Darkness swiftly snatched back the Moby Morpher and threw her into a prison. Screaming, she banged on the walls, tears rolling down her face as she realized that her friends would be wondering where she was. She had failed. She should never have gone through with it. It was a stupid plan in the first place…
The next thing she knew, she was lying on the cold dungeon floor as commotion started above her. She rubbed her eyes, wondering how long she had been asleep. Noise started at the end of the hall – two voices, both male…She braced herself, sure that this would be her end.
But just as she had started to ignite her hands, the prison was blast apart and she was pulled roughly from its remains.
"You stupid, idiotic, annoying brat!" her leader growled, hugging her closely to his chest. She sighed in relief as he shook her, trying desperately to knock some sense into her. Tears rolled down her face as she gazed back at her best friend.
"What did I – why couldn't you – [thank goodness you're all right!" the wind boy said urgently, breaking into his native language as he failed to reprimand her. "I told you this was a…oh, hell!"
Very suddenly, his lips were on hers. She couldn't recall the second that it took for him to land them there, but as sure as she was standing there, he was kissing her. She squeaked quietly as she realized this but found she didn't want to pull back. It felt good to do something so normal.
And it amazed her that kissing her best friend was suddenly "normal."
"Hey, lovebirds, hate to break it to you," the familiar voice of their city friend broke into their thoughts, causing them to reluctantly pull apart. "But there's a war going on upstairs – is now really the time?"
"Right, let's go," the Brazilian leader ordered. He looked back at the Japanese girl. "Stay here."
"That's an order!" he called back as the two boys turned and ran up the stairs. She glared after him for a moment, debating what to do before going on impulse. She raced up the stairs after them, gasping slightly at the image that greeted her when she reached the top.
It was a mix of their elements. Water, earth, wind. It was real war.
She quickly joined the fight, adding fire to the mix. It ignited the whole hall, causing sweat to pour from their foreheads. As the battle continued, she found herself back to back with her leader, who reprimanded her as they fought their enemies.
"I told you to stay," he yelled.
"Since when do I listen to y – Rai, look out!"
But he did not look fast enough.
She threw herself down next to his body, now consumed in the green flames of the Heylin witch. He struggled for breath, and she knew as he did that he was slowly leaving this world for one much better and brighter. But she did not want him to go.
"Please, god, oh, god – stay, Rai!" she begged him, the war forgotten. She heard the screams of her friends who had stopped fighting at her cries. She refused to think they, too, had fallen. "Stay with me!"
"Kim…" the wind boy mumbled as he took his last breath. Then his spirit was gone.
The Japanese girl let her eyes spill over with hot tears, anguish consuming her as she took in her leader – the fallen warrior. Then, slowly, she looked up to find her friends. Glancing around the room, she saw the Evil Boy Genius, the cowboy, and Jermaine on the floor, just as dead as her best friend. Only the youngest monk stood. She watched in horror as the Prince of Darkness and the Heylin witch ganged up on him.
She could not look away as he fell.
For a moment afterward, disbelief consumed her. They could not really be gone, could not be dead. She still had something she needed to tell them, something she could still not find the words for. But she would make the words come, and they would be there to hear them.
"Look, it's just the little princess left," the Heylin witch muttered, smirking as she basked in the defeat of her enemies.
And then the rage took over. Her head snapped up as she felt the fire build up inside her. They had taken away her friends. They had taken away everything, but they would not live to relish their victory.
She filled the entire room with her element, not letting the two evildoers escape her grasp. She let her agony take hold of her, and amazingly it gave her the strength to defeat the Prince of Darkness and Heylin witch for good.
It was the last time the world saw either.
She tearfully managed to find her way home, her friend's bodies nothing but ashes now. As she approached her sensei, she knew that her eyes and face told all. She walked up to him slowly, wanting so much to say something – anything – but she still had no words. And she hated it.
So instead, she wrapped her arms around her teacher's waist and bawled into his shoulder. He hugged her back, allowing her that small grace. Then she locked herself in her room and refused to come out for a long while.
There could be no burial service, per se, because she had unintentionally burned to bodies, but there was a memorial service. And she made sure there were gravestones, if only so she could visit them every once in a while.
She stood silently with the other families at the service, guilty that she was the sole survivor of the ordeal, but when she confessed her guilt to her best girl friend from Japan, Keiko Matsui simply shook her head sadly.
"No, they knew what it would cost them," she said confidently. "They knew they would have to give everything."
But the fire girl was hardly reassured.
She was the last one to leave the graves, as she felt she rightly should be. They had, after all, been her family, and in many ways she was closer to them than she could ever have been to anyone. She had let them in as she let no one else. She had shared with them her hopes, her fears, her secret desires, and her deepest pain. They had given her everything they had in return, and she was sure that she would never be able to share those things with anyone else again.
She knelt down in front of the graves, tracing the words that had been etched into the stone – words that meant nothing, that could hardly do justice to who they truly were. Beloved son…loving student…
Warrior, she thought fiercely. That will be on my grave. It should be on theirs…"Great friend," too. On all of theirs.
And suddenly the words she had never been able to say came crashing down on her. All those times she had been at a loss for words, and she now knew what she had meant to say the entire time.
And now it was too late for them to hear.
She stood up, gazing at the gravestones with a sorrow that would never be removed from her sparkling blue eyes. Wiping away a tear, she whispered, "I should have said it long ago. All those times when my heart swelled with something I couldn't name. I should have known. I should have seen it. But I'll tell you now because it was always there.
"I love you all. More than the stars and moon," she finished, borrowing an old saying of her deceased mother.
Then she covered her face with her hands and wept for all things lost.
Well, it's…different than things I normally do, but I must say I'm rather proud of it. I debated for a really long time whether or not to put the kiss in there, but in the end I just thought, "What the hell!" and put it in despite my hesitation. I just didn't want to make it too romancy…It was more supposed to be about Kim's love for them all.
I hope you enjoyed it and please, please review! Reviews are better than Christmas presents!