As some of you may know, this fic takes place between Season One and Season Two of my other fic, X-Men: Evolution Redux. I am planning on this fic being a sort of introduction to the New Mutants, and there will be some excitement in later chapters. I hope you like!

Shout-Out to Spaceman for creating Masato Kimura, the first member of the New Mutants introduced. Hopefully all of you will like him!

Chapter One:
The Hand and the Heart

"They're coming after us, aren't they?" the boy asked, running for his dear life.

The woman nodded, barely audible over her labored breathing as they ran toward the parking garage. "Yes, they are."

The garage was only about fifty yards from the laboratory, but fifty yards is a long way when lives are in danger. The woman cursed under her breath that the boy was even involved in all of this. She knew she was to blame, and she was prepared to take him with her to the only place where she knew they might be safe.

Fleeing was not her favorite plan, but she had to do it for Masato's sake. If something happened to him, she would never be able to live with herself.

When she finally crossed the street, she turned and saw the three men following them, dressed in business suits so they could blend into the daylight. But she knew who they were, who they were behind the masks, and what they could do. They were part of something she didn't even know still existed, much less operated to assassinate others.

The scientist grabbed Masato's hand, and he squeezed it back appreciatively as they ran toward the entrance as quickly as they could.

"Keiko, are we going to get away in time?"

She chose not to answer, dragging him as fast she could to the nearest elevator. She pressed the button, but when nothing happened, she cursed again. "Come on, the stairs are over there."

But they didn't make it as one of the three men suddenly appeared in front of the door, seemingly dropping out of nowhere. She turned both of them around but found herself blocked on all sides by the three men, all of them smirking at them.

The woman groaned. Masato squeezed her hand before leaning toward the ground and placing his palm against the concrete. He felt the familiar feeling of something oozing over his skin, and when he pulled his hand away, his entire body was covered in a layer of what looked like black rock. His hair had turned from white to black, and was now pointing outward like a set of spiky quills on a porcupine.

"We're going to have to fight, Keiko," the boy said, definitely not a suggestion.

The man near the stairs looked at him with newfound interest. "So the kid does have some tricks."

"Let's see how many tricks he has left when the boss is through with him," said another.

Keiko squeezed his hand, ignoring the claws digging into her skin. "I know." She pressed the button on her watch and the hologram fell away, revealing her own strange appearance.

Masato had only seen it once, but she basically looked like she was wrapped in thin sheets of paper. She still retained the shape of a human, but inside and out her body was made of the paper-like substance. She had explained it to him the last time that he had to see it, but he couldn't remember exactly what she had said.

"Ah, so the chick has a few tricks too?" the third man said. "It doesn't really matter though." He slid out a sword from his back, concealed someone within his clothing. The other two did the same, revealing their ancient-style katanas with black edges that glinted in the light of the empty parking complex. "We have a few tricks too." He adeptly swung the blade through the air, and Masato would have been impressed if the men hadn't been trying to kill them.

Without warning, the man near the stairs rushed forward and swiped at Masato, who side-stepped the first strike and caught the second on the steel-hard skin of his forearm. The young boy grabbed the blade and spun, dropping the gasping man to his knees.

One of the other men tried to rush over to help, but Keiko waved her arm and unleashed a cloud of razor sharp paper kunai from the folds of her body. The last man laughed as the paper flew through the air, but he stopped when they embedded themselves in a concrete pillar.

The third man rushed the paper woman and arced his blade from overhead. The woman crossed her arms in defense and a wall of thick, dense paper jumped from the folds of her body and stopped the sword. The man was dumbstruck.

"How'd you do that? It's paper!"

"Not quite," the woman said, before morphing one arm into a sort of blade and slashing downward. The man tried to slice through it, but it held strong, even though it was as light as a feather. The assassin leapt backwards with near superhuman speed before he was slashed to bits.

Masato back-tracked, keeping his distance from the two close-hand combatants. He was trying to whip up a strategy against their swords, but even he wasn't that durable. One of them dashed forward and swiped at his feet, but instead, Masato crunched into a fist and jabbed the oncoming man in the gut. The man was helplessly tossed nearly thirty feet away and into an SUV, and his sword skittered across the concrete.

The other man was weary now of getting close to the boy. "If you know what is good for you, you'll leave. Right now," the young mutant tried.

Instead, the man rushed him and tried aiming directly for Masato's heart. Instead, he grabbed the blade with both hands and snapped it clean in half, shocking both conscious assassins. The distraction was enough for Keiko to slash into the man's chest, now sputtering blood, even though it wasn't a deep cut. Masato kneed the last man in the chest, rocketing the warrior into the ceiling of the parking deck and knocking him unconscious.

"Now, will you please leave us alone?" Keiko asked, her papery body folding back together like an unraveled origami figurine.

Without warning, the building was suddenly flooded with men, and a few women, all of them with the hard look of someone trained to kill. Neither mutant wanted to stick around to see if they could battle all of them, and Keiko grabbed Masato's hand for support.

"Can't you fly us out of here? I've seen you do your little wing trick."

"I could, but I can't carry a four-hundred pound mutant with me," she answered. "We're going to get through this, my little Stone-Heart."

The boy smiled. "Only with your help, Origami."

Life at the Xavier Institute, despite what had recently happened on Asteroid M had never been more unexciting. Things were essentially just boring.

Everyone settled into a routine. School was nearing its close, so not even homework could break the tedious afternoons. Xavier led the X-Men on training exercises, believing that it was important now more than ever to prepare for Magneto's next move. Not even the Danger Room could spice up the boring, and the Brotherhood had been too quiet lately.

"Geez, something needs to happen soon," Kris complained, his usual cynical self worried that he might explode as he laid there. "I'd almost consider heading into that video game again."

"It feels like PTSD or something," Alex murmured. "Well, PTSD with mutant powers."

"I almost miss Logan," Ava said, cringing at the thought as she stared bored at the television. "At least he found ways to make training interesting."

"Yeah, does anyone know when he'll be coming back?" asked Rivera, genuinely curious. "He's never left for this long before. And Ava, at least you don't have Logan for your triple sessions anymore."

"I guess that's a bright side, but Xavier is still strict," she said solemnly. "Of course, I am not complaining."

Alex could only shrug, dipping his hand into his bag of Cheetos. "Who knows when he'll be back? It could be weeks, possibly even a couple of months."

"Surely not," Dean said, very quietly from the corner of her book. "He'll be back soon, right?"

No one had an answer.

Until the doorbell rang.

"Is that him?" asked Alex, excitedly as the group stood at the front door.

"Why in the world would he ring the doorbell, Beam Boy?" Ava asked, looking at him incredulously. The others chuckled as they headed out to the foyer.

Storm and Xavier were just arriving, and the tall woman opened the door to reveal a tall, very thin Asian woman with an almost mousy appearance. She looked very sophisticated, with long black hair and square frame glasses over her eyes.

The boy behind her was almost obviously a mutant, or he was wearing some sort of contacts. His hair was frost white, almost the color of Storm's own hair, but his eyes were completely black and his skin was very tan. He too was of Asian descent, and Kris was practically dying to greet them.

Both were very nervous, almost looking as though something was going to jump out of the bushes to grab them. They kept looking over their shoulders in suspicion.

"May we help you?" asked Storm, but Xavier waved it off.

"Dr. Watahari, it is good to finally meet you in person, but I wish the circumstances were better," the telepath said, shaking the woman's hands. The woman then bowed in greeting, and everyone but Alex bowed as well; Kris jabbed him in the side and the energy converter awkwardly caught up and then blushed.

"Likewise," the woman said, the hint of a Japanese accent. She sounded exhausted, very worse for wear. "Xavier, they attacked us."

The bald man in a wheelchair stared ahead, a knowing look on his eyes as he scanned their recent memories. "Are you two all right?"

The woman nodded. "Yes. I fled to the States as soon as I could with Masato here. They've targeted us, Xavier. And if I had to guess, they might have followed us."

"Who might have followed you?" Ava asked, almost demanding.

The scientist cleared her throat. "The Hand."

Xavier, Ororo, and Keiko headed into the main office, leaving the others to get acquainted. Xavier had a calm look on his face, but his eyes lied for him. He was utterly worried, as he had seen what these people could do in Logan's memories.

"If only Logan were here," the white-haired woman said. "He could help, as he's seen these people before."

"Yes, he's the one with the claws, right?" Keiko asked.

The professor nodded. "Yes, he might know what to do."

"Why did they go after you?" Storm asked, her worry starting to take an effect on the sky outside, and rain clouds seemed to appear from nowhere.

She gestured to the door. "My research with Masato. They want to use me to recruit others like him into their ranks. I refused to let them use him, and the Hand were not happy."

"What exactly was this research?"

"It was standard mutant genetic research, stuff that I have been working on in secret for years, with Xavier's help." She turned to the professor. "If not for your letters, I might never have gotten very far or even started."

"Oh, I'm sure that's not true," Charles said, but the woman just shook off his words.

"No, really," the Japanese woman said with a smile. "I had never met a mutant in person, and when you helped me locate Masato, I was utterly grateful. I have been trying to create a mutant antibody that can fight off illnesses, but I haven't made any breakthroughs."

"So they want this antibody?" asked Storm, interested.

"Maybe. I don't know, I just think the Hand wants us in order to find other mutants, and turn as all into ninja robots."

"Well, so what do you think we should do, Charles?" asked Ororo, a pure deluge outside now. The rain rhythmically danced on the roof.

He sat with his hands folded together, watching the weather. "I think that we should offer protection. I'm not certain if I like the idea of the students being exposed to such dangerous conditions, but we're the best place you can go. Maybe you might even stay here, since it would certainly help with your research. What do you think?"

Keiko smiled. "Don't you already know what I'm thinking?"

Xavier grinned. "Only if you're projecting."

"I think it's a good idea. I'm sure that with all the firepower here that this would be the best place, but are you really going to let the students get involved? Is that the best plan?"

"Not unless it becomes necessary," Xavier said. "The outside defenses have never been better, and the inside defenses can be activated if anyone was to break inside. With Storm, you, and I in the front lines and the students on the sidelines, how can we go wrong?"

"I like that attitude," Keiko said, grinning.

Back in the den, Masato was sitting on the couch with all the other students surrounding him, and Kris was on his direct right.

"So Masato, how are you?" Ava asked, patting his shoulder. The boy just shrugged it off.

"I'm fine." The amaranth-streaked girl peered at his coldness.

"Are you sure?" Rivera asked. "I'm sure that we can help you with whatever goes wrong."

"Yeah, what she said," Alex added.

"We're here for you," Grant explained, a small but encouraging smile on his face.

"Exactly," Kris said with a jab to the ribs.

The Japanese boy sucked in his breath and then exhaled calmly. "Listen, I'm grateful and everything, but I'm not really the buddy-buddy type." He stood up from the couch and looked around, deciding to go find anywhere else to be but here.

He headed down the hall, not really caring where his feet took him. He was exhausted and in a completely strange place with completely strange people. Annoying people, in a way. They almost had some weird sense of seniority over him, even though the youngest was only a year older than him. Sure, he was younger, but far more mature than at least half of those people. The only one he liked was the girl who never talked, and he wasn't sure if she even could talk.

He sighed as he found another room, a sort of dining room. He sat at the table and felt it creak under his four-hundred pound body. One of the disadvantages of his powers, even without his armor active.

He thought back to his family, whom Keiko and he had contacted on the way here. After a long conversation about coming here to the Institute for protection, he shared a tearful goodbye with them on the telephone, but no one in his family except his sister Masami cried like he did. Keiko comforted him as best she could, but not knowing when he could return to them was horrible.

And what was the deal with this place anyway? Mutants living together to one day create a utopian society where mutants could live in peace alongside humans? If racism and homophobia were any indication of how mutants would be treated, they'd never have a chance. Keiko had shared her opinion with him about the manner, and she leaned more toward an upcoming war, but she believed that Xavier was the best bet to prevent it.

Why can't they settle for what they know now? Or, in this case, what humans didn't know now. The mutant secret was going to come out sooner or later, but if Masato had to bet, it would be later. Maybe it was blind hope, but he wasn't ready to walk through a park and get insulted or denied his favorite food at a restaurant.

He sat there for a good thirty minutes, thinking over all the questions and problems he was facing right now. When the door finally opened and revealed the orange-haired boy named Kris, he nearly groaned.

"Hey, sorry to bother you. Do you want to come see your room?" he asked.

My room? He hadn't even thought of that, but he stood and stretched and then followed the other Japanese boy.

"So what exactly happened?" Kris asked. When Masato ignored him, Kris sighed and redirected his question. "So what's your power?"

Masato sighed, nearly turning around and leaving him. He was really not feeling like questions, and the jet lag was starting to catch up with him. "I am a terra-kinetic energy absorber. Or at least that's what Keiko calls it."

Kris was dumb-founded. "And that means…?"

The newcomer frowned. "I can touch the ground or anything made from stone and absorb energy from it, turning my skin black and stone hard. I'm strong enough to life a few tons and I can endure most hits."

"A few tons?" Kris exclaimed. "That's amazing!"

Masato only shrugged as they ascended the stairs to the second floor, where the boys' rooms were.

"I can supercharge mutants by touching them and absorb any kind of energy-based attack and then redirect it at double the power," Kris explained proudly. "They call me Sparkplug."

Masato almost laughed at the name, but tried to keep his composure. He didn't want to be plain mean. "Stone-Heart is what Keiko has always called me."

"That's cool. What exactly are Keiko's powers anyway?"

"She calls it paper mimicry, but it has a whole bunch of other things tagged onto it. Her entire body is made of strips of something that looks and feels like paper. She wears an image inducer wrist watch to hide it."

"Grant has one of those," said Kris, eyes widening. "In fact, he invented it, so how does she have one?"

"I think she actually built her own model of it then, and maybe Grant's name for it rubbed off on her in her letters with Xavier," he explained, shrugging.

"He's actually got gold skin, and he and his brain named his power malleability, which lets him stretch and mold his body," Kris explained.

Masato just nodded as they came up to a door at the end of the hall. The room was very simple, but very spacious, enough to house another student if it needed to. It had all the regular accoutrements like a bed, a dresser, a desk, and a closet, and it was decorated like the rest of the mansion: very eloquently. He plopped down onto the bed, and it lurched slightly, almost like it was screaming in pain when his heavy body landed on it. But it held just the same, thankfully.

"All right, I'll let you get settled in," Kris said awkwardly. "Dinner's on the table in thirty minutes."

He didn't answer and just stared up at the ceiling fan, and he couldn't tell how many times he had counted the five fan blades. Kris had really hit him when he said, "settled in." He didn't have any of his things, like his Consadole Sapporo jacket or his book collection. Maybe Xavier could arrange for them to be shipped to America.

He drifted off soon after laying down, not even bothering to undress first. If his dream self was aware, he was happy no one woke him up for dinner.

Late that night, everyone in the Institute woke up to the sound of the alarms going off, and Masato lurched awake. He ran to his window, where he could see the front yard. It was covered with turrets and cannons firing blasts of energy and ball nets, and it took a very trained eye to see the Hand ninja down below. They were still at the edge of the yard, and the defenses seemed to slow them down to a steady crawl.

"Everyone, remain calm and meet me downstairs in the Danger Room. Masato, follow Kris and he'll show you to the lower levels." The voice was of Xavier, and he wasn't sure how he liked having a telepath in his head.

He opened his door and was surprised to see Kris in bright orange pajamas. Before he could say any disparaging remarks, the other Japanese boy beckoned him to come.

"It's the Hand! We've got to get downstairs!" he said, trying to pull the stone boy faster but the weight was slowing him down.

It only took a moment to reach the elevator, where the other students were already waiting. Rivera had her hair sticking out in about a thousand places, Dean had gray circles under her eyes, and Alex had so many eye-boogers that it would make your head hurt. Grant hadn't bothered to grab his image inducer, so he was reflecting the light of the elevator off of his too-metallic skin. Ava looked the worst though, as she had drool hanging from her lips and her hair was so messed up that Rivera's looked styled.

"Guys, we need to suit up quickly," Ava said, going into leader mode as she tried to flatten her hair. "You have exactly three minutes to be in the Danger Room before anyone can get skewered by a katana. Any questions?"

Masato could see why she commanded respect.

He marveled at the lower levels, which were very high tech. The walls were lined with pipes and wires, but it was all very impressive. The hangar was on one side, and although he wanted to see the jet, they didn't have time.

He and the other guys headed into the male locker room and changed into their uniforms, and Masato didn't know what to put on. Alex was in a green and black leather jacket with a spandex suit underneath, Kris had on an orange and black skin-tight suit, and Grant was wearing a sleeveless yellow and black suit.

"Here, just grab one of the spares," Alex said, pulling out an all black uniform with yellow gloves, belt, and boots. "Hurry."

Embarrassing changing scene later, they finally got into the Danger Room, a large circular room made of metal. Xavier was on one side of the room, but Storm and Origami were not anywhere in sight.

"Where are the others?" asked Ava as they joined Xavier and the room sealed itself off.

"They are trying to stop the Hand from ever getting close. I am in constant contact with them, and they are doing well with the automated defenses on their side. The Hand still hasn't breached the inside of mansion," explained Xavier.

"We should help them," Ava tried, but the professor shook his head.

"No. The Hand is dangerous, too dangerous for you to get directly involved. If the time comes and you are needed, they will have to come here first."

No one wanted to accept that answer, but even Masato knew the merits behind the decision. Keiko could handle herself though, that much he knew.

The weather witch took an air position and the paper lady stood in front of the front door. They had sealed off all the other entrances, and the only way the Hand could get in is through the front foyer. Storm had asked why they didn't just close off all the doors, but Xavier said that the Hand needs to be dealt with. By allowing one entrance, they were allowing the Hand to try to continue their mission so the mutants could finish them off.

The first wave approached silently but swiftly, and the automated turrets kicked in and began blasting towards the stealthy targets, and flying saws were only stopped by the slashing of katanas.

Storm created a thunderstorm to boost her usual lightning and began blasting the entire front of the area with electricity, and it stalled anyone who managed to get through the first line of turrets. She hurled winds that pressed the Hand members backwards and small vortexes lifted trees off of their roots and headed straight toward the ninjas, who didn't know what to think of the weather witch.

"At this rate, there won't be any left!" Origami called up, and that's when the first ninja snuck up to her. She turned at the last moment and caught his kunai with a small paper shield and then pushed him backward, throwing him a few feet away. Another popped up on the other side, and she threw paper chains from her arms and ensnared the enemy on the ground.

"You aren't doing so bad yourself," Storm said as she blew back the next few that approached, but their sheer number was beginning to shock and amaze them both.

A sudden cloud of thirty ninja began rushing from all sides, and not even a lightning storm could stop them. They continued their approach, some getting taken down but others avoiding the tempest. Origami waved her arms and paper kunai flew out to meet a few of them in the stomach, but they kept coming. And not only that, but others were coming as back up, and the two mutants knew what they had to do.

"Get inside!" Storm yelled, creating a huge cylinder network of lightning around them in a semi-circle, stopping the enemy momentarily. She touched down and fled inside with Keiko, never skipping a beat.

Ororo created such strong winds that the smoke bomb one of the ninja tried to detonate was forced from his hand and landed harmlessly in the fountain outside. The sheer wall of wind was so impeding that no one could venture much closer without being knocked off their feet. Keiko took the chance and threw out her arms, throwing small paper logs out and slamming the crowded group, knocking a majority of them in the legs.

"I didn't realize the Hand was so extensive," exclaimed Ororo, her concentration fading. "Logan never mentioned their sheer numbers."

"Me neither," Keiko muttered as hurled more paper daggers and stopped a few of them from moving.

To their shock, Storm's winds and lightning suddenly died down and the Hand began to flood the room. Origami tried her best to defend both her and the exhausted Storm, but it was obvious that they were about to be overpowered. She held out a shield wall in front of her, blocking off the paths and allowing her to grab the weather witch and hold her around the waist. They slowly walked backwards, together, and she reinforced the shield with more of her own body when she needed to, and kept it as sharp and dense as possible. Soon enough, they were at the elevator, and Keiko began to retract the paper shield and pulled it back into the folds of her body as soon as the doors revolved shut.

Origami relaxed a bit, and Storm held up her hand and pressed a code into the elevator's pad. It began to glide down the ropes and into the lower levels. When it finally stopped on the Danger Room level, she pressed another button and the elevator locked.

"It won't stop them, but it will buy us some time," the mutant said, exhausted.

"Good. Let's get to the Danger Room."

"They're coming!" Rivera said, worried, but when the doors opened, it was just Storm and Origami. The two women were exhausted, and neither was sure how long it would take for the ninjas to catch up with them.

"All right, everyone get ready," Ava said, helping Storm and Origami to get behind them. The X-Men stood in front of Xavier and the two harmed women, almost like a semi-circle. Masato didn't know where he fit into it. The team already knew how to work together, and they seemed so easy-going around each-other.

When the door was blown open by a katana slashing the controls, it seemed like thirty to fifty ninja were waiting to get inside. The mutants watched with surprise as they seemed to form up, and a very tall, very large man walked in. He looked like he was their leader, except with silver styling on the robes. His katana was already unsheathed, and he stared ahead.

"We will capture you all, if we have to," the man said, his long dark hair ringing his face. "All the more mutants to join our cause."

"We'll never join you!" Alex yelled, his hands charging with green energy.

"Oh? I have always wanted to test just how persuasive I can be," the man said, raising his sword, and the entire group seemed to get into position.

Masato suddenly stepped forward, right in front of everyone. "You are supposed to follow a code of honor."

"And your point?"

"Well, I challenge you, and only you, to a sword fight. No powers, no gimmicks, and no help from either side. Just me and you and our blades," Masato said. "Single combat. If you win, you can try to take us and do with us what you will. If I win, you have to leave and never bother us again."

The man considered it, and after a long moment, he grabbed a sword from one of the nearest Hand assassins and threw it, sheath and all, across the room. Masato caught it adeptly, and he silently prayed that all those hours of practicing with his grandfather would pay off.

"I agree. Let's do this," the man said, bowing before him.

Masato bowed in return.

"You aren't seriously going to do this, are you?" asked Ava, concerned. "We can help you."

"No, you can't. I brought this upon you, and I will end it."

The two combatants met in the middle and bowed again, and immediately began to circle each other, giving each other taunting looks. Masato kept his training in mind, not thinking too much and yet at the same time, he was analyzing the assassin's every move.

The man made the first move, striking at Masato's left side. The young boy barely parried the blow and then swung the blades around in an arc, before flicking up and jabbing at the man's chest.

Their blades met in the middle with a clang, and neither wanted to back down. It became a battle of strength, and despite the natural added weight of Masato's powers, it wasn't helping much here.

Masato was the first to break away and he had to back-step to evade the strike, and then arc toward the man's underarm. The mutant took the first blood, and the cut on the Hand leader's arm was not deep but enough to give the boy a proud feeling.

The man was not happy and began brandishing his katana adeptly, and it was all the boy could to block each strike while taking a step back each time. Each pound of metal against metal wore the opponents down, and the sound was enough to make their ears ring. But they continued their blade dance, each occasionally overtaking the other.

Without warning, their blades met and locked, and the man slammed his shoulder into Masato's with enough force to knock the four-hundred pound mutant to the ground. Masato heard someone from the X-Men complaining about the low blow. He swung the blade down, but the metal floor took the strike as the boy rolled away and then jabbed out, slicing through the man's calf muscle and leaving a deep gash that spewed blood on the floor.

Masato took the opportunity to stand quickly and swung his blade toward the man, but the enemy parried the blow and then slid his blade down the length of the Japanese boy's sword, and sliced right into his sword arm. Masato clutched it with the other hand and nearly dropped the ground from wincing.

"You're mine now," the man said, before swinging his sword right at Masato's unarmed side.

The mutant was never sure how it happened, but he felt a sudden surge of strength and he swung his injured arm in the direction of the oncoming attack and sliced right through the man's hand, and the Hand member's hand and sword fell to the ground in a puddle of blood.

The man refused to scream, but he was wincing as he tried to cover the wound with his shirt. One of his other Hand members stepped forward and put pressure on the wound to keep from bleeding out.

"By your honor, if you refuse to accept the arrangements of our agreement, I will ensure that you go back to Japan in shame," Masato said, feeling no remorse for what he had done. He could still hear the other mutants gasping, and Rivera was practically hyperventilating. Blood was not her forte, apparently.

The Hand leader nodded, grabbing his now useless hand, and the group began to file out of the room. But before the leader left, Dean ran up to him. Everyone stared at her in amazement.

"I can't refuse your hand to your arm," the Inuit girl said. "But I can do this. Stop the bleeding and clot over the wound, and then form a scab." She added a few more details, and before the man knew it, he had a rather thick layer of scab tissue over the place where his wrist once was. The bleeding did stop, but Masato looked at her like she was crazy.

"What did you do that for?"

"It was the right thing to do," she said as she returned to the group.

Masato looked at her incredulously, but as the Hand members fled from the scene, he was suddenly grateful.

"Well at least that is over," he said as he returned to the group. Dean headed over him and offered to heal his arm, but he shook his head. "I'd rather have a scar."

The others congratulated him, and everyone praised him. Kris begged him to teach him those sword moves, and Rivera wanted to know where she could get some of that natural talent for fighting. Grant was busy trying to calculate how much advantage the man's size should have given him, and he even factored in how much the boy weighed and wondered if the extra weight behind the swings evened the odds. Alex joked with him and asked what he would have to eat to get half as strong as he was, and Ava clapped him on the back and praised "the little runt" for saving the day, and Masato wondered how she could call him that when she was two inches shorter than him.

"Excellent job," Xavier said. "I never doubted you for a minute."

"Well, that's good," he said, looking from him to Storm and to Keiko. "Are you ready to head home?"

Keiko frowned and looked toward Xavier. "Well, I was actually going to stay here and help teach the others, and maybe study some under the professor. If you'd like to go home, I'm sure that we could arrange a flight."

"Although, I'd like to add that I welcome you here whole-heartedly. Your invitation will not expire either," added the telepath, smiling.

The students decided to add in their encouragement for him to stay, and he began to see them more as friends than strangers. They actually liked him, somehow. Maybe liked was a strong word, but they definitely respected him. After that bout, how could anyone not?

"On one condition," Stone-Heart said, smirking a little, "you have to arrange for all of my belongings to be sent, especially my books and my favorite jacket."

Xavier smiled. "Of course. I'll call in the morning. Welcome to the Institute, our newest student and our newest teacher."

Everyone cheered, but Masato's stomach growled from missing dinner. "Any chance there's some food around here?"

Alex grinned and put his hand about the white-haired boy's shoulders as they headed back up to the upper levels. "I think we're going to get along just fine."

How was it? Please review. I would really like to know what you think! Oh, and did you like the irony about the Hand leader...losing...his hand? It makes me giggle, to be quite honest.

The Hand ninjas are not the main enemy of this fic, just a one-time appearance (but they might show up again much , much later in Redux). I did not name any of them on purpose.

I have everything from the recruitment chapters to the final battle planned out, and I'm thinking that it might be roughly eight or ten chapters long, twelve at the most. I've already got a few chapters written, so it should only be a matter of time before I get back to Redux. Sorry about the wait, but I think you will really like this fic overall.