A/N: Thanks to whoever decided to comment and reach out to me last chapter! I'm sure your examples and reviews were awesome! Thank you! So it's canon that Cole and Jay are "best friends"… Okay! I'm down! Though they seem more like soul mates to me… Everybody go and read Mad Betrayal's story, Unexpected! It's flippin' awesome! Even if you're not a yaoi fan, it's worth the read, because of how well constructed it is! Okay, enough gushing about another author, time to get on with it!
Okay, names aside, just who are these guys…and girl? And why did they take me from the Marty Op to…wherever this place is? It was injured, obviously. So why not just take me to the hospital? Or better yet, take me to my peers and teachers? My heart almost stops at that thought. Jazz! Instructor Li! My eyes zero-in on the bouquet of flowers the white one—Zane has in his hands. Instructor Li was the only person I had left it with. So then, why does he have it? And I had ordered Jazz to go help that trapped man. Was she okay? And why do they know my name? My hand tightens on the staff in my lap, while the other reaches up to fiddle with my sister's pearl. They had better answer my questions.
"Sasha…" I watch Zane carefully as he approaches me. Despite my wariness, I can't help but notice how ethereal he looks, such snowy white skin… He's like a mixture of both beauty and handsomeness. He gently smiles down at me. "These flowers are yours, I presume? A rather flamboyantly-dressed man by the name of Li Xun handed them to me." My eyebrows lift. "And I gather from your expression that you have some sort of relation with him, do you not?"
My mind was going a mile a minute. "Ah yeah, he's my teacher… But why would he…?"
"Maybe because we're sorta cut from the same cloth," Kai chimes in. I have to wonder if his mouth is permanently fixed in that smirk of his. "Your teacher is a ninja, like us."
Huh? I'm sure my dumbfounded expression probably speaks for itself, but could any of them really blame me? After all, weren't ninja supposed to be low-profile and ultimately devious and crafty assassins? Well, I'm sure even Jazz would agree with me that he fits the "devious" and "crafty" bills. But the "low-profile" kink, he definitely does not. I mean the guy practically demands attention wherever he goes!
Jay laughs. "Believe you me, Sasha, that it was even harder for us to swallow, especially given how pink and purple the guy was." He shrugs good-naturedly. "But hey, maybe that's just his shtick. Maybe that's how he keeps under the radar, while being over the radar—like Batman."
I can't help but chuckle at the prospect. Now there's a mental image… I get back on track. "So then…he's okay…?"
Zane dips his head in an elegant nod. "Yes, as are everyone else associated with the attack on your school. I believe the correct phrasing he used was: "right as rain"."
Half of the tension that had build up instantly leaves my body at the news, and my hand falls from my pearl. "Good… Thank god. Good."
Zane holds out the bouquet for me to take, but I stay his gesture with a raised hand. "If you don't mind, could you hold onto them for a bit longer?" I smile at him when he nods and steps away. He seems very gentlemanly. I regard the others. "And my name? Did Instructor Li mention it?" It was the most logical assumption.
There's a happy twinkle in Jay's deep blue eyes. But when he opens his mouth to assumedly answer my question, he's interrupted by another. "Yeah…" I turn to the voice—to the one in black, Cole. And again as I look at him…I can feel a stirring in my soul—an inkling of vague familiarity. He looks at me with a tumultuous expression, his emerald eyes hesitant and torn. "…your instructor told us your name…that's all…"
A deep and heavy silence follows, making me, at once, question the authenticity of his words. But as the seconds tick pass, no one speaks up to refute his claim. I stare at Cole, trying to read him. But his poker-face is hella better than mine and unyielding. But the feeling just wasn't going away. He's hiding something… I know he is… But what…? And why…?
I frown as my hand reaches up to touch Sophia's Pearl once again. I decide to let it go, though—for the time being—and return my attention to the eldest in the room. "So…why am I here…? I mean, I've heard about ninja and such. But blurring visuals on a TV doesn't really account for much. Media isn't always 100% reliable either… Thus, I always assumed it was just folklore. That is, asides from the ancient cultures learned in our humanities and history books."
It's still taking me time to digest the possibility of my own teacher being one.
"Well seeing is believing, right?" Nya asks, spreading her arms wide.
"I guess so…" I wince slightly at a spasm of pain from my back. "But that still doesn't answer my first question."
As expected, Sensei Wu answers me. "Sasha, my students brought you here in hopes you would consider joining our clan, thus becoming the next Elemental Master and kunoichi."
"What?" These cats may be nice to look at, but they must be high as hell! "Elemental Mas—look I'm sorry, but I don't have any mysterious powers. If anything, I only served as a conduit for this stick. It has the power, not me," I object, lifting up the magical weapon.
"On the contrary," Sensei Wu rebukes, a patient smile lighting his face, "not just anyone can use the Bo Staff of Waves. And although you were just awakening and did not notice, the staff responded to you and went to you on its own volition."
"You mean…" I swallow, "…like it did before…?"
"Before?" A hint of intrigue passes over Kai's face. "When did it happen last? While you were battling the tank?"
I nod my head distractedly, trying to recall and process the strange occurrence that had happened during the attack at the auditorium. "There was a voice in my head and it…" I sigh exasperatedly, upset at my lack of articulation. "…It sounded like it was looking for me, and came to me when I yelled at it. But from there it was just…" I had wanted to protect Nya—it was all I could think about. And I innately knew I was capable when I had this staff. It had given no direction on how to use it. It was just… "…instinct…"
Sensei Wu nods in a satisfied and pleased way. "It was all you, Sasha," Nya says. I look at her, then to each of them one by one. My hand twitches. And before I know it, I'm grasping my pearl desperately.
"This is insane. Yes, I know a little bit about fighting, but I'm no ninja or Elemental Master or whatever! I'm a performer! That is my dream! That is the reason why I left Poseidonia! Why I left my family! I can't just—!"
I stop mid-rant as a new bout of pain grips me from head to toe. Oh shit… Deliberate throbbing radiates from my temples, and I grip the side of my head tightly. This was a stress headache. I've had my fair share of them over the years, what with my training with Instructor Li. This was just getting to be too much. I'm roused from my inner agony, however, by a light tap on my shoulder. And when I look up, there's Cole.
"Here," he says softly, his eyes flickering with concern as he hands me two small pills and a glass of water. "They should help take the edge off the pain and…there's something else that your instructor told us, Sasha…" My eyes shift from the small blue tablets up to Cole's viridian green depths at his words. "…He also said to take your time. And like I told your friend, Jasmine or uh…"Jazz", you're not a captive here. You can do whatever you want, leave whenever you want. There's absolutely no pressure, okay?"
Jazz? Jazz spoke with him? I feel reassured by this revelation, and I smile in gratitude towards Cole's kind and considerate words…and actions. "Thanks, Cole."
He nods then turns to his master. "Sensei, we should let the matter drop for now. She's injured and no doubt tired from her ordeal. She could use some more rest… So why don't we just continue this discussion in the morning?"
Kai rolls his shoulders with a tired sigh. "She's not the only one who needs rest."
"Yeah, I'm beat," Jay concurs, following it up with a loud yawn.
"Yes, I agree it has been a trying day for you all," Sensei Wu says, standing up from his seat beside my cot. "Sasha, would you like to sleep in Nya's room tonight?" He asks, turning to me.
"Uh…yeah— sure," I reply. But then I turn to my would-be roommate. "But are you okay with that, Nya? I don't want to impose."
"Are you kidding? Of course it's okay!" She exclaims excitedly.
"Oh but—uh…can I use your phone first?" I really need to talk to Jazz.
Sensei Wu nods. "Yes, of course. I'm sure Nya wouldn't mind showing you the way."
"No problem," Nya agrees easily.
"Very well then. Cole will move the spare bed to Nya's room," he states, walking to the door. "Goodnight, everyone."
"Goodnight, Sensei." They all dip their bodies into a respectful bow at the elder's retreating back. The display really reminds me of Japanese etiquette. I guess it makes sense, all things considered. I even found myself doing the same to Instructor Li…and seriously too.
"Sasha?" I focus on Zane. "If you want, I could put your flowers in a proper vase and set them in Nya's room for you?"
I smile. They all seem so nice. A lot nicer than some of the guys at the Marty Op. My ex-boyfriend's boyishly handsome face pops into my mind, but I immediately eliminate the image. "Thanks, Zane. I'd appreciate it if you could."
"Very well. Pleasant dreams to you, Sasha." He moves to leave and Kai joins him, swinging his arm around the white ninja's shoulders.
"Well, it'll be my turn to make breakfast tomorrow. And with today's shitshow, it has to be something good enough to replace dinner tonight as well as pick up our spirits…"
The others glance at him worriedly…
"I got it! Nothin' beats steak and eggs, am I right guys?"
"Umm, perhaps I should assist you with breakfast tomorrow, Kai," Zane interjects with slight worry. "Don't forget the last time you attempted to cook red meat."
Kai gives a half-shrug. "Hey now, that was an honest mistake. The same thing could've easily happened to you too, master chef."
"Yeah, and b'sides, I don't think nearly setting the entire ship on fire can count as an honest mistake." Cole's snide remark is met with a heated glare from Kai.
"Or what I like to call it: Kai's Great Grease Fire Fiasco!" Jay puts in, grinning impishly.
Kai huffs. "C'mon guys, there's no need to bring up ancient history," he growls, opening the door.
"Ancient history? Kai, this incident occurred just last month," Zane says, walking pass the grumbling brunet and out the door.
"Ugh, Zane… One of these days, you and I are gonna hafta have a little chat about saving face…" Kai shakes his head and follows his opposite out the door.
Unwittingly, I give a light laugh at the boys' camaraderie. They all seem to be very close—like brothers. Cole turns to me with a happy grin. "Heh, you'll get use to it. Ah, that is…if you decide to stick around long enough to get to know them and…" He suddenly stops, and grimaces as if tasting something bitter. His long, black bangs shadow his face and conceal his eyes. And for some reason, I feel an inexplicable urge to swipe them away. "Uh…forget I said anything." He shows his back to me and heads for the door. "I have a bed to move."
My eyes follow his forlorn form as he trudges out of the room. Huh…I wonder what his beef is… And then there's that lingering sense of familiarity. I furrow my brow in thought and fiddle with Sophia's Pearl. Just what is this…?
"Ah, I better go see what's up with tall, dark, and freaky." Jay's light-hearted tone rouses me from my reverie, and I turn my attention to him—or rather them. Like a pillar of strength clad in sapphire, Jay was beside Nya, lending his support. "Will you be okay, Nya? Do you need anything else?" He asks sweetly.
Nya smiles and reaches up to smooth out an unruly strand of his chestnut hair. "Nah, I'm fine now. Your touch was all I needed." She rises to her tip-toes to land a chaste kiss to his lips and they embrace. Jay's cerulean eyes close contently as he cants his face into her hair.
"Mmm… That's a relief…"
I turn away, feeling a bit intrusive on their tender moment. Instead, I distract myself by staring at the Bo Staff of Waves. Must be nice to be so blissfully in love… I click the back of my tongue. …Now, Sasha, don't turn bitter just because things didn't work out for you in the love department… I try to dim my passive-aggressive aura and focus on the staff. It was made out of solid platinum through and through, and it's apparent someone had a lot of time on their hands, what with all the intricate dragon designs etched all over it.
Huh… I peer closely at the carefully etched depictions and instantly realize that the images I'm seeing are, indeed, genuine representations of the water dragon god, Leviathan, and his family! Yes…he has two daughters. One with short, curly horns—Esmeralda, and the other with long, straight horns—Cassiopeia. My fingers continue to map out the line of dragons. One son, the eldest. His horns are like the antlers of a dear. Yes, here's Amon. And my lord's mate and mother of all three, Andromeda, the hornless water dragon. The people of my city have worshipped Leviathan for many millennia, praying to him for bountiful fishing and calm waters.
I, myself, still pray in good faith to him to watch over my family and the people of Poseidonia. And just like tonight…he has always answered my prayers. I groan internally once I reflect upon my current dilemma. What is it, my lord…? You really can't expect to just stop, can you…? Oh…what do I do…?
"Good night, Nya. You too, Sasha."
I look up just in time to see Jay exit with a smile on his face and a small wave in my direction. "Follow me, Sasha," Nya says, walking up to me. "First stop, the bridge, so you can use the phone. And then, my room to catch some shut-eye. Cole should be finished by the time we get there, I hope. Let's go."
I nod and stand up, using the staff for mild support. Thankfully, my headache's been reduced to a dull throb and my back isn't too worst for wear either. No doubt thanks to the pills Cole gave me, though I still feel a little woozy.
"Are you alright? You know you can always use the phone tomorrow…" Nya says, her concern apparent.
"Nah, I'm good." I take a deep breath and motion to her with a wave of my hand. "Lead on."
We exit the sick bay and head up a flight of stairs. Nya opens a door and we enter a long hallway, on my left I see a nice-sized den area and we head through it and out the opposite side through a door. "Okay! Welcome to the bridge aboard the Destiny's Bounty."
My eyes drink in the sight with wonder and awe. You know those airship command centers you see in action or adventure movies? Yeah, pretty much what I was looking at now. The rain had stopped and the clouds had dispersed as I peer out one of the large windows stationed all-around. A beautiful view of the clear, starry night sky greets my sight, as well as computer consoles and kiosks, a table with black-cushioned benches placed at every length, and to top it all off, a beautifully-crafted wooden helm.
I stare at the helm. "Huh… I'm on a ship… I'm on a goddamn-flying ship… Wow…" At that moment, I can only think about how ecstatic my daddy would've been if his Hispaniola had had the capability to fly. God…he would've loved it…
"Yeah, pretty cool, huh?" Nya says, walking over to one of the kiosks. "One minute we can be sailing through the clouds. And the next, we can be sailing through the ocean."
I stagger at this. "What? You mean, th-this is a functional boat too?" I ask, my eyes wide.
She giggles at my expression. "Well yeah. In fact, tomorrow we're due to land on the waters of Mikatagahara. It's a prime fishing place for all types of sea bass and swordfish, I think." My mouth waters. "Oh I hope we have fish tomorrow! Zane is like the best cook ever, Sasha. He made these delicious, swordfish skewers one time that just exploded with flavor in my mouth! And Jay can really grill a flounder when he puts his mind to it. But I think Kai is a bit better at it, surprisingly, given his shotty record with anything that has to do with the kitchen. And Cole's improving too."
My belly gives a very loud grumble then, making me blush. Sure, I'm hungry and all. But food isn't the only thing I'm craving. How long has it been since I've been on a proper fishing trip? Four years, I think. The day before I enrolled at the Marty Op, Sophia, Momma, and I tagged along with the fishermen in Poseidonia and spent the entire day out at sea. It was hella fun, and brought back a lot of fond memories about Daddy.
Considering my position, I'm reluctant to ask. But the urge is just too strong. I clear my throat and grasp the Bo Staff of Waves with both hands. "Hey um…do you think it'll be alright if I join you guys tomorrow?" Her eyebrows lift, making me quickly reiterate myself. "Not that! Just…the fishing part." I click the back of my tongue. Damn… Way to sound like a pusher, Sasha…
But to my surprise, Nya just smiles and nods. "Of course, Sasha. You're supposed to be taking your time, remember? I'm sure nobody would mind…especially not Cole and Zane… Hehehehe…"
Huh? What did Zane and Cole have to do with anything? I open my mouth to question her, but she suddenly picks up a very old-fashioned-looking phone. I mean, I'm sure my grandma has one in her house. She takes it over to the table and places it down, the long cord trailing after it. She must've noticed my perplexity, because she winks and says, "It's an antique, but it can get the job done just fine. Do you need some privacy?"
I shake my head. "Nah, you can hang out if you want."
She and I sit down at the table, and I take the phone from its cradle. Knowing my best friend's phone number by heart, I enter it in and place the receiver next to my ear. It only takes a few rings before she picks up?
(Who the hell is this calling me from an unknown number?!)
I instantly yank the phone away from my ear at her incredulous shout. Nya tries to stifle her laughter by covering her mouth. I roll my eyes with a smile and replace the receiver back to my throbbing earlobe. "Damn, girl! I remember you being a whole lot nicer…"
(Sasha?! Oh my god, Sasha! Are you okay? Are you okay? And most importantly, are you okay?)
My smile gets a hundred miles wider. See? There are reasons why I love Jazz. "I'm fine, Jazz. Thanks."
(Thank the Celestial… Instructor B told me not to worry, but I just couldn't help it, ya'know? Those people that took you just looked way too intense! What are they called—ninjas? But hot damn did that one guy look fine as hell! Did you see him? Do you know what they all look like? What do they look like? Fuck! I shouldn't have told Whitey to shut up! His voice was sexy now that I think about it… And Captain Blue Eyes sure sounded cute. Wasn't really focused on the red one, though…)
I sigh and tap my fingernail against the tabletop. Leave it to Jazz… But "Whitey"? My mind immediately goes to Zane just because of his pure white attire. But none of that is important right now. The only thing I care about right now is Instructor Li's involvement in all this. "Yeah, Jazz, they're all hot, but I need for you to forget about your hormones for a sec and focus. What's going on with Instructor Li?" I glance up at Nya to find her looking just as curious. "How is he involved? Did he tell you anything?"
(Uh…yeah. It was really strange too! He just kinda took charge of the whole situation when help finally arrived. He just told me to return to the dorms and "exhibit beauty by being patient" whatever that meant… But regardless, he seemed to trust those…ninjas you were with. Or rather, still are with. Instructor B told me you're on a ship called the Destiny's Bounty? What is that? A cruise line? How come you get to go on a cruise, while I'm stuck here in these damn dorms?!)
"Girl, I ain't on no cruise!" I hear Nya giggle and I shake my head. "Just listen. Is that all he said? What's happening at the Marty Op right now?"
Loud crunching could suddenly be heard from the line. (About what you'd expect after something like that, Sassy.*crunch crunch* The school's might as well have been on fire. Although the west side sustained the most damaged, I caught wind of one of the firemen saying something about broken pipes and carbon monoxide. *crunch crunch* Everyone was evacuated as a safety precaution, of course. *crunch* But it looks like the school's gonna be closing down for awhile. Everything's being put on hold until "further notice"… I'm eating your pickled cucumbers by the way.)
"Yeah, I figured. And will you please just call them pickles? But…" I rub my temples. "…The school's really closing down?"
(Yep. *crunch* Which leads me to the other thing Instructor B told me and the rest of the class: call home. My folks are gonna be here the day after tomorrow, and I'll be returning to Twilight City with them… You should call your mom too, Sasha! Let her know what's going on. And uh…are you coming back? What are you planning to do? ... Sasha?)
So the Marty Op was actually…closing? What am I supposed to do now? Quite frankly, the worst possible thing I thought that could happen after that tank-thing attacked the theater were that the shows would be postponed for a few days, and then we'd resume normally at another campus. But for the entire school to be closed down… For everything to be put…on hold… It was way too damn convenient considering my position at the moment. Almost as if… A faint glint catches my peripheral, and my eyes immediately stray to the platinum staff lying across the table.
Almost as if…
Those beautifully etched designs of the water dragon lineage beckon me with a glimmer of aqua…
(He has a plan… Our Lord always has a plan…)
My eyes widen. That voice! I can feel Nya staring at me.
(Good grief, are you spacing out again? Sasha, wake up! Can you hear me?!)
I jerk to attention at Jazz's mind-numbing shout. "Ah! Yeah—uh… Jazz, I…" My gaze lands on Nya's. I blink. This is funny. I just met this chick and somehow I…I'm starting to feel something… "I…I haven't decided yet, Jazz." Despite my tumultuous thoughts, my voice comes out steady. "I'm gonna think it over some more. But in the meantime, you think you could send my things to me?"
(You got it, Sassy! Leave it to me! But first, I gotta ask… What exactly did those people want with you? They didn't ask you to join their cult, did they? But then again, that probably wouldn't be too bad considering they all look like Greek gods, am I right? Any of them float your boat? What about the guy who was holding you? Seemed pretty reluctant to let go, even if I was threatening him with a taser.)
"What?!" I gawk over at Nya to see her grinning up a storm.
(Oh yeah! I'm telling ya! All I saw were these very intense green eyes at first. But as soon as Captain Blue Eyes pulled back his hood, I knew right then and there that the Celestial loved me. Gawd, he was so fuckin' hot! AAAAAHHHH! Tall, dark, and sexy as hell! Let me tell ya, sista, he—)
I drone out the rest of my best friend's lust-filled gabble and instead try to think back. Green eyes? But the only one with green eyes out of the ninja was Cole. So then…was she saying that at one point…Cole was carrying me in his arms…? My cheeks suddenly catch fire, which in turn causes Nya to smirk deviously. I roll my eyes and shake my head. Okay fine, I admit that Cole is a pretty good-looking guy. But honestly, I think all of them are handsome in their own right…especially Zane.
But whatever! Who cares right now!
That annoying ache returns to my body full force and centers around my back and head. "Jazz, Jazz! Just listen! I'll tell you everything later, okay? Right now, I just gotta hit the hay…not feeling too good. Just do you and help me get my stuff here, okay?"
(Okay, got it. Just keep me in the loop, ya hear? And don't forget to call your mom! I'll talk to you later. Night, night, Sassy! And take care of yourself! You know I got your back if anything happens! I'll demand Instructor B to take to the Destiny's Booty or whatever it's called to rescue you, Queen!)
Despite my mounting achiness, I manage to smile softly into the receiver. "I will. Night, Jazz. And thanks." I hang up the phone and place my forehead onto my folded arms with a groan. So now what? With the school closing, there's no urgent need to return to the Marty Op for the time being. So then…do I just join them, just to see where this new path leads? Seems very irresponsible. Maybe I should just return to Poseidonia then? Return home to my family?
But…the staff… I peek out from the warm skin of my arms and eye the platinum staff once more. The pull is still there. As well as…this feeling of something with Nya… I close my eyes again with a sigh. Lord, help me…
A hand lands on my shoulder and gives it a soft squeeze. "Hey, let's head to bed, okay? I think all you need is a good night's sleep."
"Yeah… Yeah…" I drag myself into a standing position and pull the staff back into my possession. Nya takes my other arm and wraps it around her shoulders. I look down at her in shock, but she just grins.
"What? I'm sturdier than I look, y'know."
Not what I was going to question, but I let it drop regardless. Too tired and achy. Thus, together we retrace our steps back from whence we came and continue the trek towards her room.
Funny…I'm not even hungry anymore…
A/N: With scenes being redone, edited, and even added, it looks like this story will be longer than it was previously. But hey, can't be helped. I'm enjoying the creative process! Leave your thoughts if you'd like!