Chapter 3 – The path ahead (published:05.20.2012 Beta: A Very Odd Fellow)
Ron Stoppable was the textbook definition of a quitter. The kind of guy that would drop something as soon as it became even slightly difficult. He knew it and he didn't care.
He used not to care.
Life is a wondrous thing, you know? It teaches you a great deal of stuff, usually too late to do anything positive with it. How funny is that?
Not much if you asked Ron.
But it wasn't like he could complain. Not too much anyway. He was fully aware that he was solely responsible for the recent turns of his life. Not trying, Sensei would tell him, is much worse than trying and failing.
It was with that knowledge in mind that he made his way up to the mountain peak where the school stood, carrying both his and Yori's luggage.
What? Would you let a lady carry her bags by herself? What kind of guy are you? Nevermind that said lady could whoop his ass blindfolded and with both hands tied behind her back. It was a matter of principle.
Of course, all the good principles in the world didn't make things any easier for the blond haired teenager, but then again, all trainings have to begin somewhere. Might as well suck it up and get on with it.
Finally, the seemingly eternal climb - you don't call that a walk - reached its destination.
"Here we are Ron-kun. Welcome back to Yamanouchi."
"Thanks *whee* it's good *anf* to be back," wheezed the wimpy teenager as he dropped the luggage and himself on the ground, failing miserably at maintaining any form of dignity or composure.
Yori on her part wasn't even sweating from the walk – she didn't call that a climb – and looked worried at her friend's behavior.
"Are you all right? You look a little… how do you say it … under the weather?"
"Just *anf* fine. No *anf* worries."
"If you say so, Ron-kun. Come, let's go inside. Sensei was eager to meet you. We should not make him wait."
"Of *anf* course. That would be *anf* impolite."
"Exactly. When Sensei summons you, it's your honor to answer."
Pulling himself up he walked past the gates, right behind the Asian beauty. Boy, her firmly shaped bottom was a good incentive for Ron to keep up the pace despite the adverse path.
What? Did you think that Ron was above such thoughts? Think again. Just like any other hormone-driven teenager, he was quite appreciative of any attractive girl's assets. No good looking girl is safe from a randy boy's overactive imagination.
Tara? Of course. Crystal? You can bet on it. Kim? Well, duh. Bonnie? Oh he entertained himself plenty by thinking about ways he'd get back at her for all the crap she gave him if he could. It always involved little clothing and lots of begging, and not on his part for a change. And let us not even mention Shego. The green skilled villainess played a great part in his dreams, with her snug jumpsuit of her and whatnot. Truly, evil has never been so HOT without involving bursts of plasma.
He shook his head free of those thought as his eyes registered the presence of the elderly teacher just in front of them. The aged martial artist and Principal of the ninja school was waiting for them at the gates.
"We are back, honorable Sensei," Yori greeted with a polite bow.
"That you are. Welcome home, child, and welcome back, Stoppable-san."
"It's good to be back," Ron agreed bowing like Yori. "Thank you for having me, Sensei."
"Not at all, Stoppable-san. Thank you, for accepting our offer. Truth to be told, I did not expect you to do so."
"Ah, Yori said the same thing to me earlier. Is it really so strange?"
"Do not take offense, Stoppable-san, but the last time I saw you, you weren't too inclined to continue your education with us. I believe that our lifestyle did not quite match yours."
"Eh, you got that right," he admitted sheepishly.
"Then please, Stoppable-san, tell us what changed. What made you reconsider your initial choice."
Ron demeanor shifted. He stood a little straighter and his usually vacant stare became a little more focused.
"Things changed back home," he confessed. "Nothing earth shattering, mind you, but it got me thinking."
"Oh?" The elder inquired with a lifted eyebrow.
"It made me realize, no, forced me to admit that I need to change. Far too long I've been sitting back and watching the world spin around me without doing anything. I know that there's no guarantee that it's going to make a difference, but I can't just sit back and watch anymore while something precious slips through my fingers. There are things I want to protect and things that I can't give up without a fight."
"That is indeed an admirable intention, but was there really need for you to cross the ocean and leave behind your life as you knew it? You could have stayed and made things different back in Middleton."
"No. I'm too weak for that. I don't have the discipline to do it on my own. I need guidance, Sensei, and no one back home could understand that. It would be far too easy to fall back into old habits. I needed a clean cut with the past."
"To be able of admitting such a thing is already a solid first step, Stoppable-san, but I still have to question how strong your resolve actually is. As you know, life at Yamanouchi is far from easy. It could be even called extreme by your standards. If you have anything less than absolute certainty about this course of action, please do not step past this gate."
"Are you trying to make me quit before even getting started, Sensei?"
"Not at all. I merely want you to be fully aware that once you are past these walls there will be no turning back. I will not allow you to quit Stoppable-san."
"Harsh," Ron commented without humor in his voice.
"Such is the way of the Shinobi. Go back now, and nothing will change for you. Remain, and be ready to be crushed into dust. What will it be, Stoppable-san?"
They stared at each other for a moment that seemed to stretch for an eternity. To his credit Ron didn't give any outward sign of his inner turmoil. Every fiber in his body screamed for him to turn back and get out of there while he could. His instincts, honed through years of escaping from all adversities, were blazing at full power for him to run.
Any normal person would have stepped back and left at that point.
Ronald Stoppable was anything but.
Without another word he walked past his teacher and pushed the sturdy gates open. He didn't turn back as he stepped beyond the walls or he would have seen Yori's beaming smile and Sensei's satisfied one.
The old teacher watched his new student with pride. There was much work to be done to bring that hidden diamond to the light, and even more so to polish it from its rough state. It had been a long time since he felt such a sense of anticipation in regard of one of his students' training and he intended to savor it to its fullest.
And the best part was the he wouldn't have to lift a finger for it. Tortur… –training young, promising students really was his life's calling.
Somewhere across the ocean another teacher felt like grinning broadly without any particular reason. He had the distinct feeling that somebody was about to give Ron Stoppable the treatment he deserved.
Ron Stoppable felt a shiver run down his spine. He could have sworn that somebody was having thoughts about him that would have sent him running if he ever got to know them.
Perhaps it was a monkey.
Yeah, monkeys would do that.
Evil things they were.
"Are you feeling all right, sir?" The ever faithful butler, Bates, asked his master.
"I might be coming down with a cold," Montgomery Fiske aka Monkey Fist admitted, "but for some reason I cannot explain I think it's all Ron Stoppable's fault."
"Of course, sir," the butler agreed. It was always Stoppable's fault for everything that was wrong in his master's life. At least according to the monkey-limbed lord. Who was he to disagree with his employer?
"What's wrong Kimmie-cub? You look a little pale."
"I'm okay dad," the ever spunky teen hero replied, "just for a moment I had the feeling that Ron was in trouble."
"Ron must have barely arrived at that school of his," Dr. James Timothy Possible said from behind his copy of the Middleton Inquirer.. Even he can't get in trouble that fast."
"You're right. Besides, Ron can take care of himself. It's not like this is the first time he's gone to Japan on his own. Also, I don't think anything can possiblely top Camp Wannaweep. If he lived through that, he's going to be just fine. No such a thing as lake mutants over there."
"Eh. There wasn't anything like lake mutants when I was in school. Nor any other kind of mutants for that matter," he said before taking another sip of coffee from his mug.
It was just another day in the Possible's household.
Kim finally relaxed. She was just being too apprehensive. Ron would be just fine.
ONE MONTH LATER
Ron Stoppable wasn't fine by any stretch of the imagination. He was so far from it that he would have needed one of MrDrP's space rockets to get anywhere near being fine.
His body ached in places he didn't know he had and his stomach felt like a black hole.
Well, his stomach always felt like a black hole, only this time there was no Bueno Nacho to make up for it. Yamanouchi cuisine, for all the quality it had, just didn't make up for quantity. He was having serious withdrawal issues. What would he have given for a Grande sized Naco with extra cheese right there and then.
But there was no such a thing in a ten miles radius, and even if there was he didn't have the strength to lift a finger, much less to crawl over there.
Sensei certainly lived up to his word. The first week at Yamanouchi was the closest thing to Hell he ever experienced in his life up to that point. Even Camp Wannaweep wasn't as bad. Sure, the camping site was scary but Yamanouchi was painful for a whole different set of reasons. The food being the last of them.
For one thing, there was the ungodly hour he was forced to wake up. Four in the morning was too early by anyone's standard. Then there was the morning jog, as the students called it. How they managed to consider a nearly vertical climb at such a high altitude a mild run he couldn't begin to fathom.
He had a break after that, only to spend the morning studying normal school material. Though, from what he could gather, the Japanese school system and course load was a lot worse than his own. It managed to make him miss the boring ranting of Mr. B back home, and that was saying something.
After that he had to fight for his lunch. Literally.
He had to steal food from the lunch lady using their chopsticks while the other students tried to stop him.
Of course that was something they did for everyone, but he was the only one to fail. It was only thanks to Yori's kindness that he actually had anything to eat the first two days. Needless to say he learned to handle those cursed sticks very quickly and finally managed to get his own food by the end of the fifth day.
Only to discover that they were going easy on him all that time and he was back to square one.
Empty stomached he had to face the afternoon classed, which consisted of basic martial arts and other ninja stuff. Of course that meant, considering his complete lack of talent and previous training, that his lessons were customized for him.
To his surprise, he learned faster than he imagined. The miracle of having a dedicated teacher and a personalized course.
The day continued in such a manner till late into the evening, when the students were ushered to their rooms after a much needed bath and a light dinner.
The first week was pure hell, and he collapsed in his futon before had even completely laid down.
In all honesty he didn't believe he could survive six months like that. Of course the thought of giving up crossed his mind frequently, (five times per second) but he didn't want to turn back on his word. He knew that if he ran away from a trial he had chosen for himself, he would never accomplish anything in life.
He had to endure even if it sucked big time.
"Ron-kun? Are you still awake?"
Yori's voice called him from right behind the door of his room. After he arrived at Yamanouchi, he hadn't a chance to speak with her, considering how knackered he was at the end of the day and with her having different classes.
"Yeah. Come in, Yori."
She slid the door open and walked inside. She was wearing the white yukata commonly used when classes were not in session. Ron had a difficult time not to let his eyes wander.
She sat seiza on the ground, while he sat cross-legged. He still couldn't manage to sit Japanese-style and really couldn't figure out why they had to come up with such a difficult way of sitting. Couldn't they just use chairs like everybody else?
"Ron-kun, are you listening to me?"
"Eh. Sorry Yori, I spaced out for I moment."
"I noticed that," she chuckled. "If you are tired I will come back another time."
"Nah. I've got to get used to this. It's been a month already. At least I don't pass out as soon as I get in my room anymore."
"True. I remember coming to see you before, only to find you unconscious somewhere on the floor."
"Gha! So it really happened. I had convinced myself that I was so tired that I didn't remember getting to bed . Was it you who put me under the covers? How embarrassing."
"Not at all. It was my honor to assist you."
"Meh. I'm glad you're helping me out. I don't think I could make it on my own."
"You underestimate yourself too much, Ron-kun. You have been doing greatly."
Ron looked at her like she had grown a second head.
"Yori, I suck at this," he said widening his arms as to encompass the entirety of the school.
"That is true," Yori admitted mercilessly. "But I wasn't talking about your training. I was referring to your behavior."
"What about it? I didn't call someone else by first name, did I? I didn't know it was considered impolite until you told me. Honestly."
"Oh, Ron-kun, you are too funny. It was not that much of a bother."
"Yeah? I still felt like the biggest idiot on Earth when you told me that only family and close friends call each other by first name without suffix."
"Do you not consider me a friend?"
"Of course I do, Yori. You don't even have to ask."
"Then you have no reason to be embarrassed. You have always been a friend through action more than words. If anyone has gained the right to call me by my first name that would be you."
"Eh eh," he chuckled scratching his head in embarrassment. "You flatter me too much, Yori. So what is that you wanted to tell me?"
"Nothing much. I just wanted to congratulate with you?"
"Eh? What for? Seriously, Yori. I haven't done anything worthy of praise."
"I believe you are wrong this time, Ron-kun. It is not much about what you have done but about what you have not done? Everyone noticed and talk about it."
"What? What is it?"
"Ron-kun, in the past four weeks you have not uttered a single word of complaint despite the monstrous training you have been put through."
"Well duh, Yori," Ron said immediately. "How is that any impressive. No one around here ever even bother to complain about anything."
"You do not understand," Yori shook her head. "Not one of us was trained so harshly. We all came here at a much younger age and fine tuned our bodies and skills slowly through the years. Even then many of us found it difficult to withstand. Kami-sama knows I did."
"You? Come on Yori," he laughed, "you don't have to say that just to encourage me. I just can't imagine you going through the training with anything but grace and perfection. Who do you think you're fooling?"
Yori fought, hard and valiantly, but ultimately failed at keeping back her blush. It wasn't so much the compliments; she was used to them from the male half of the student body. Rather, it was the simple sincerity he said them with. He was so obviously wording his honest opinion that his own brain failed to realize the situation. If he did know just what he was saying he would have been so tongue-tied that Houdini himself wouldn't have been able to untie him.
Yes, he was an idiot like that.
"I am absolutely serious," she protested, "I found it difficult and struggled through it, just like everyone else did. We are all amazed that you are able of keeping up with such treatment in silence."
"Oh. Eh-eh. I don't know what to say. I guess I was just too tired to even think about whining. Seriously, it's no big."
"Be it as it may, the effort you are putting into it is worthy of praise. Do not look down on yourself so much, Ron-kun. You are way better than what give yourself credit for."
"I don't know about that Yori, but thank you for telling me."
"If you really want to thank me, then please trust my words and believe in yourself as much as I do."
"That is all I can ask. Goodnight Ron-kun."
The raven haired girl stood and left the room, leaving behind a befuddled young man.
Ron Stoppable didn't know exactly what to think. He was puzzled by this strange new feeling coursing through his body. Suddenly he didn't feel tired anymore and the thought of waking up the next morning wasn't as dreadful is it had been for the past month.
Not knowing what it was, but not disliking it either, he turned in for the night. Only months afterward would he think about that particular moment and realize that it was the first night since his arrival he hadn't dreamt of Kimberly.