Karai hummed as she balanced the tray in her hands, breathing in the sweet smell of the ramen made for her and her sister for breakfast. The carpet tickled her bare feet and her warm black pajama pants hugged her hips snugly. Her stomach and lower back felt a little cold, but may that's because her short-sleeved black shirt with the white skull design stopped a few inches below her breasts. She blew her bangs from her eyes and knocked on her sister's door with her foot.
"Come in." a voice commanded softly.
Karai lifted her leg higher and clenched her toes around the doorknob, twisting it and gently pushing it open. She stepped inside, closed the door behind her, and walked over to see her older sister sitting cross-legged on her bed and sketching away in an old sketchbook.
"Hey there." Karai greeted. "May I join you?"
"Sure." Miwa nodded, gesturing to the spot in front of her.
Karai hopped on the bed and set the tray between them. "I got your favorite for breakfast."
"Miso ramen with edamame?" Miwa asked excitedly, setting her sketchbook and pencil beside the tray.
"Yep." Karai nodded, smiling at seeing her sister so happy. The two of them folded their hands and simultaneously said "Itadakimasu!" before lifting their chopsticks and began eating. Karai noticed the sketchbook. "Those look cool." She picked up the book and stared at the picture of her, standing in a strong battle stance and wielding one of her small swords. "Wow. I forgot what a great artist you are." She flipped through the pages, staring at the pictures of her, her sister, Shredder, the Foot Clan ninjas, Dogpound, Fishface, even Baxter Stockman. "How long were you awake and drawing?"
"A couple hours." Miwa shrugged. "I couldn't sleep. Every time I close my eyes, I see the Turtles and Splinter."
Karai raised an eyebrow. "Really? Interesting."
"What's interesting is the fact that it's the same thing that happened when I stayed with Splinter and I had dreams about Shredder; they were memories, not visions or anything like that. Which is also strange because I have so few memories of my time with them."
Karai nodded, slurping her noodles. "Weird. But they're only dreams, right? They can't hurt you."
"No, but the fact that I lived them once makes it easier to remember anything I felt at the time." Miwa shrugged.
"True." Karai nodded. She lifted her bowl and sipped some of the noodle broth. "So what's on your agenda today?"
Miwa put her chopsticks to her lips in thought. "Well, Chris wants to spar with me during training today. Something about 'no good opponents lately'. Although, considering he's a giant mutant dog, I can see how he wouldn't have very many good opponents."
"A very excellent point." Karai nodded with a smile. "Wish I could join you, but Father has special training for me and then later he wants my help with interrogating a Kraang alien he caught."
"Have fun with that." Miwa smirked. "But keep in mind that they don't speak English—or any language besides their own—unless they're in their robot bodies."
"Got that covered." Karai finished the last of her broth and noodles. "Well, I'm off to change and begin training. Stop by any time if you want to join us."
"Thanks." Miwa nodded.
Karai cocked her head. "You okay, sis?"
"I'm fine." Miwa sighed. "I just….."
"Come on, Kuro, you can tell me anything." Karai assured.
There she goes with that name again. Miwa sighed again. "Well, I've decided…..it's about time I went back to Splinter and the Turtles."
"Why?" Karai asked. "More spying?"
"No, because I've been gone for three days and I bet they're worried sick about me." Miwa replied somewhat harshly.
"But we need you here." Karai said. "Father wants to see how your skills at the gauntlet have been coming along."
"He's been watching me train and even sparring with me for the past two days." Miwa protested. "Besides, he trained me to fight just like him; shouldn't he already know how I fight?"
Karai shrugged. "Just telling you what I heard from him."
Miwa sighed. "Karai, I can't stay here long. In fact, I'm leaving tomorrow morning. Shredder already gave me permission." Because he still believes I'm working as a spy.
Karai sighed, taking up the tray. "Well, keep in touch, okay? We gotta get together sometime again."
Miwa smiled. "Absolutely, imōto-chan."
Karai chuckled. "Hey, I'm not that much younger than you."
"You're five months younger than me." Miwa laughed. "It counts."
Karai laughed, picked up the tray with the bowls and chopsticks, and walked off, whistling happily. Miwa closed her sketchbook and set it on the nightstand beside her bed as she readjusted her comforter, making her bed neat and tidy once more. She stretched her stiff muscles, brushing off her pants. She looked around the room she stayed in, sighing sadly. She turned to a vanity and looked in the mirror, brushing out her hair with a beautiful ivory comb on the desk. She looked at all her old things Shredder kept for some reason after she left. This only increased her confusion. She didn't want to believe that Shredder cared so much that he wanted her back; even now, after she tried to kill him and then saved his life. At the same time, Miwa didn't know why she stayed for so long. She only needed a full night's sleep to cure her blunt force trauma from the Kraang ship hitting her. So why stay so long?
Miwa closed her eyes and sighed in content, setting the comb on the table. But when she opened her eyes to look at her reflection in the mirror, she jumped when she saw her Kuro form staring back. She stumbled backwards, panting a little. When she inched forward again, she saw her own reflection again.
"What the…?" Miwa breathed.
Leo tried to focus on his Space Heroes episode, but the colors on the TV screen blurred and splotched. How long did he sleep last night? Did he sleep at all? Now that he thought about it, most likely not. Donnie stayed up late anyway, working in his lab. Raph kept his door locked, so Leo didn't know if he was awake. Mikey…Splinter had to constantly comfort the smallest turtle because of nightmares. Splinter developed a small case of insomnia, staring continuously at the shrine he made to his family.
How could any of them sleep, when they knew their sister might be dead?
Training remained quiet the past few days. April came down to practice, but Splinter's mind seemed to wander as he instructed her through her katas. She couldn't blame him; she too lost someone close to her. Since the attack on the docks, Karai stopped coming to school. April thought this day would never come, but she was sad when she realized the implication.
"Leo." Mikey muttered from his spot in the bean bag chair. "You really think Miwa's gone?"
"If she was still alive, she'd be here." Raph snapped from the couch, feeding Spike a lettuce leaf.
"Miwa's smarter than we give her credit for." Leo assured. "Maybe she found something we didn't and went to investigate."
"You know what I think?" Raph demanded. "I think Shredder captured her and now she's his prisoner! Or he might've killed her! We gotta go after her!"
"We don't know if he has her!" Leo snapped. "We can't risk it!"
"Not for our own sister?! She needs us!"
"She should've gotten out of the way when the ship came towards her!"
"So now it's her fault she got hit?"
"I never said that!"
"Yes you did!"
Raph and Leo jumped when a flash of green shot between them and Splinter's jade staff impaled the stone couch. They turned as the tall rat slowly stepped between the boys to retrieve the length of jade. He turned to his two eldest sons, glaring at them with a dagger-like gaze that forced the turtles to avert their eyes.
"I know this can be hard." Splinter said, his voice dangerously low and even a little sad. "I understand what it means to lose someone close to you. But I swear to every god and spirit I know—" He leaned down to be more eye level with his sons. "—I will not allow the family I have left to be torn apart like this. Get your acts together or I'll be forced to take drastic measures." He stood up straight and walked off, his staff tapping rhythmically on the concrete floor. Mikey looked back and forth between his brothers and his father before following the latter into the empty dojo.
"Sensei Splinter." Mikey piped up. "Don't you miss Miwa?"
Splinter stopped right outside the doors to his room. He wouldn't face Mikey, but the small turtle could see the droop in his rat father's ears. "Michelangelo…..I feel many things right now. I am sad because my daughter was taken from me again. I am angry because I trusted my sons with her life and they seemed to have failed me." Mikey cringed at that comment, but relaxed with a quizzical look as Splinter continued. "I am disappointed in myself, because I shouldn't be angry with my sons for what happened; it wasn't your fault after all. And I feel guilty…guilty because I promised I would protect my daughter from harm, and I failed her again." Splinter sighed. "You don't know what it's like to have someone you love and lose them twice. This pain I have felt…" Splinter felt a lump form in his throat, and he struggled to swallow it.
Mikey sighed. "Dad….."
Splinter blinked in surprise, for he could not remember the last time his sons called him "Dad".
"Don't be sad." Mikey pleaded, moving to be in Splinter's range of sight. "I miss her too." He looked down at the tatami mats. "I….I love her….."
Splinter looked down at his youngest son and pulled the young turtle into a hug.
Leo decided they would leave early for patrol that night. He didn't explain why, but nobody asked, especially when he told them they would stop at Shredder's headquarters first. Splinter didn't bother stopping them; words escaped him. His feelings for his sons' safety clashed with the hope he had about Miwa being alive. He only watched as his terrapin sons ran from the lair, hoping and praying they returned with his daughter in tow. But he felt like the proverbial Atlas, bearing an immense weight that would never lessen. He made his way to the dojo, but his sight became clouded with visions of his daughter and deceased wife. He heard voices, discouraging voices that sounded like the voices of his children, echoing in his skull.
Why didn't you help her?
You could've saved her, but you weren't there for her.
Please, when was he ever there for her?
Daddy, please, why didn't you save me?
Why, Daddy? Why didn't you save her?
You always said you keep your promises.
What kind of father are you?
What kind of father allows his children to get killed?
Splinter let out a ferocious shout and threw his staff towards a wall. April yelped when the small point of the jade impaled the wall inches from her skull. Splinter blinked in surprise and cleared his throat, standing straight and tall. "April. I, uh, apologize. I was….training."
April wasn't as perceptive as the boys or Splinter; nor was she as spiritual. But she could clearly see the pain in Splinter's eyes. She intended to come into the dojo to offer him some tea or something to calm his nerves. But losing Miwa, who was more of a sister than a friend, coupled with losing her father, April felt everything collapse and she rushed forward to wrap her arms around Splinter's stomach, burying her face in his chest. Splinter gently wrapped his arms around her, softly petting her head to soothe her.
"April O'Neil." Splinter sighed. "What is wrong?"
April sighed, keeping her face in Splinter's fur. "I miss her too."
The Kraang alien squealed and squeaked angrily, struggling as Shredder held him up by the top of his…..er, head.
"Why were you hunting the Turtles?" Shredder demanded of the alien. The Kraang only squeaked and growled, speaking in a language only he could understand.
Karai watched, amused, as her father tried to interrogate the slimy pink alien. "They don't talk much outside their little houses." She noted with a smirk, knocking on the remains of the Kraang droid she dragged in a few weeks back. She leaned back a little as Shredder jammed the alien into the droid, allowing the squid-like creature to compose itself and activate the robot. The droid's arms (or what was left of them) and its head jerked, as though the Kraang intended to push himself to his feet. The Kraang alien squeaked angrily, trying again and again to make the robot work. He let out more squeaks, which Karai guessed were something along the lines of, "What the heck did you do to this thing?" followed by some foul language, but she only smirked. She and Shredder waited patiently as the robot twitched some more before falling limp.
The Kraang droid's head finally raised, its glowing purple-pink eyes locking onto Shredder. The voice inside stuttered a little, but righted as the Kraang's words became translated. "Kraang is lacking the knowledge to answer the questions that the one known as Shredder is asking of Kraang."
"Do they all speak like this?" Shredder asked quizzically.
If only you knew. Karai rolled her eyes.
"Even if Kraang is possessing the knowledge," the alien continued. "The one known as Shredder will never be getting that knowledge from Kraang."
"You didn't have any other plans for today, did you?" Karai asked Shredder.
Shredder cast his daughter a look. "Let's try again." He unsheathed the thicker center blade from his gauntlet, pressing the spade-shaped end between Kraang's eyes. He leaned in close. "Why were you hunting the Turtles?"
Kraang's response came out strained (and fearful) but couldn't have come quicker. "The ones known as the Turtles are protecting the life form needed by Kraang. The one known as April O'Neil."
"Who is this April O'Neil?" Shredder demanded.
"She is the one known as the one." Kraang explained. "She is the link which is missing in the plan which is the plan of Kraang."
"So this April O'Neil is at the center of everything." Karai guessed, her smirk finally disappearing.
"Then perhaps we can use her to draw the Turtles out of hiding." Shredder said.
"I think I remember that name, April O'Neil." Karai said. "She's a student at Roosevelt High School. It's the same school Kuro and I went to for a while."
"Do you think you could find this girl again?" Shredder asked.
"I don't think so." Karai admitted. "I've stopped going there. And she knows about my connection to the Foot Clan. She never trusted me."
"Then you'll have to…persuade her." Shredder suggested. Karai smirked at her father's hint.
"The one known as Shredder will not succeed in the securing of the life form known as April O'Neil." Kraang warned. "The ones known as the Turtles—"
"Silence!" Shredder snapped slamming the flat of his blade over the alien's mouth. He turned to his daughter with a softer yet equally as deadly tone. "Karai, find this girl and bring her to me." Karai only nodded and turned to exit the room, a plan forming in her head of how she would find this girl.
Miwa looked around her room, but found nothing she could take back with her without the guys or April questioning her. Besides, she knew what she would tell them when she returned. She didn't need anything else. She looked down at her ninja attire, making sure her gauntlets and kunai remained in place. She had no shuriken or green mask; both disappeared when she woke up a few days ago. But she could get more shuriken. As for the mask….
Miwa pushed her way through the door and shut it behind her. She moved through the building and out to the fire escape, leaping across the alley and landing on the building on the other side. She started walking across the rooftops, opting for the somewhat long way home. Besides, it was almost five in the morning; by the time she reached the lair, it might almost be time for training and then breakfast. She leaped across another alley to yet another apartment building….
Miwa jumped and spun around, seeing Shredder run up behind her. He leaped across the alley, somersaulted in the air, and landed in the spot right beside the young konoichi. He stood up straight, staring down at his daughter.
"You gave me permission to leave." Miwa reminded him.
"I know." Shredder nodded. "Here." He held out a hand, revealing Miwa's green mask and Lotus Clan shuriken. "I suppose Splinter and the Turtles will not question you if you return home with these."
Miwa quickly took the shuriken and stuffed them in her pockets. She tied her mask around her eyes. "Um…..thanks."
"I have one more thing for you." Shredder announced. Miwa noticed an uncharacteristic air of…..discomfort…in Shredder's voice. As though he didn't know how to phrase what he would say next. "Think of it as a sort of…early birthday present."
"What?" Miwa asked warily.
Shredder produced a small, beautifully wrapped box from his pocket, glittering silver with a large golden bow. Miwa blinked in surprise, but accepted the gift and nodded in thanks. Shredder turned and walked off, but not before turning to look at Miwa one last time and say, "Return home soon, my daughter. You are welcome here, always."
Miwa watched Shredder until he disappeared into his headquarters. She looked down at the present and pulled off the bow and wrapping paper. She opened the small box and blinked in surprise. She stared at the small object in the box, a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.
It was a locket. A small, golden, heart-shaped locket on an elegant gold chain. She opened the locket and found two pictures: one of her mother and the other of her and Oroku Saki when she was only five. Tang Shen was dressed in a beautiful red and white kimono; Shredder and five-year-old Kuro each wore a training gi. Miwa looked up to where Shredder disappeared, conflicted emotions swirling around her heart and stomach like a hurricane.
Why? Miwa wondered. Why do you have so much hope for my return to the Foot?
April lunged with another punch, and another, and another, followed by a strong roundhouse kick. However, Splinter only stepped back to allow his konoichi student to advance, blocking her attacks with ease. Donnie and Leo, on the other side of the dojo, sparred with each other; Raph and Mikey did the same. Donnie spun his staff and swung it towards Leo, but the blue-clad terrapin ducked, grabbed Donnie's staff, and landed a firm palm strike to his taller brother's chest. Splinter continued to move aside as tiny wafts of air whooshed past his face, April's punches never coming close. He stepped aside, blocking an attack and tapping April's head before turning it towards Raph and Mikey's sparring.
"Whatcha gonna do?" Raph taunted Mikey as he bounced on the balls of his feet. "Whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do?"
Mikey stared a little worriedly as Raph held his sais ready. He kept his hands close to his nunchakus, but when Raph lunged he smirked. He grabbed Raph's wrists, fell to his back, and kicked Raph to the ground. "Booyakasha!" Mikey cheered. "You got faced! Thought you had me, but I played you like a trombone!" He made a trombone sound, tauntingly, not realizing Raph stood up behind him.
"Playtime's over, tough guy!" Raph smirked as he wrapped his arms around Mikey's chest and lifted his smaller brother into the air.
"Put me down!" Mikey whined, wishing his other brothers, Splinter, or April would come help; but apparently they were too busy being entertained by the sight. "Enough! Uncle!"
"I don't see ya tapping out!" Raph snapped.
"I can't move my arms." Mikey groaned, his fingers tingling from going numb.
Raph squeezed tighter. "Then tap your horrible disgusting middle toe!" Mikey lifted his foot and wiggled his middle toe. Satisfied, Raph allowed Mikey to fall to the floor.
"Don't worry, Stubby." Mikey soothed his toe. "You're not as horrible as he says."
Splinter approached his youngest son, asking, "Michelangelo, why did you give up so easily?"
"There was nothing I could do." Mikey shrugged.
"There is always something you can do." Splinter insisted. "Observe. Raphael, kanukichime."
Raph's smirk disappeared as Splinter walked up and put his back to the turtle. Raphael knew this wouldn't end well. One, because Splinter was…..well, Splinter; and two, because Splinter was much taller (and therefore somewhat heavier) than Raph, making whatever he would do even worse. Nonetheless, Raph wrapped his arms around Splinter's middle and struggled to lift the tall rat off the ground.
"The key is to unbalance your opponent." Splinter instructed as his students watched curiously.
"But how?" Mikey asked.
"However you can." Splinter said. "For example….." Then, much to Raph's shock and slight disgust, Splinter ran his tongue along the side of his face. Raph shoved his father aside and wiped the saliva off his temple and cheek. Splinter adopted a strong stance before swinging his tail around and smacking Raph to the floor.
"Whoa….." Mikey said, awestruck. His father's strength never ceased to amaze him.
"You see?" Splinter asked. "There is always a way." He wrinkled his nose and wiped his tongue with his hand, trying to rid it of the terrible taste. "I do need to take a bath." I suppose I have forgotten that we live in a sewer.
Raph groaned, both from Splinter's unorthodox methods and his fierce tail strike. "That was uncalled for."
"That was pretty impressive." April laughed.
"Come on." Raph scoffed, sitting cross-legged with April and Mikey. "Name one person who would do something so…weird….just to win a fight."
"Miwa." Mikey said without hesitation but not without a frown.
Everyone fell silent. Splinter paused right before he entered his room. His ears drooped and his eyes lowered to the floor. Haiiro the smoky grey kitten mewed softly and rubbed the rat's leg with her head comfortingly.
"Guys, I thought the point of this extensive training exercise was to distract us from those thoughts." Leo said, glaring sternly at nothing in particular.
"We can't just forget about our own sister." Donnie noted bitterly.
Leo's fists clenched. "Well you know what? I think—"
"Hello? Guys? You down here?"
Everyone froze, eyes wide, and suddenly bolted out the doors and into the main room of the lair. Their faces broke into grins when they saw a familiar face standing by the pit.
"Miwa!" Everyone cheered.
"Whoa!" Miwa yelped when her four brothers and best friend tackled her in a group hug. The air became squeezed from her lungs, and the five of them spewed questions at a mile a minute. Miwa, overwhelmed and slowly getting irritated, held up her gauntlets and unsheathed her claws, making everyone jump back.
"Everyone take at least five steps back or I'll skewer you!" Miwa snapped. Everyone simultaneously obeyed, each taking exactly five steps away. Miwa sheathed her claws. "Thank you."
"Miwa!" Splinter suddenly pulled his daughter into a hug and then held her out at arm's length, brushing her bangs from her face and looking her over. "Are you hurt? Did anyone hurt you? You feel warm are you sick? Are—"
"Dad, if I assure you I'm all right, will you stop squishing my face?" Miwa asked.
Splinter sighed and stepped back, folding his hands masterfully behind his back. "I apologize." Haiiro rubbed against Miwa's legs, purring happily. The girl scooped up the cat and stroked her fur.
"Miwa, what happened?" Mikey asked.
"Yeah, where were you?" April added.
"When the Kraang ship hit me, it pinned me to the bottom of the river." Miwa explained. "Luckily, I had the rebreather Donnie made me. I was able to breathe underwater until I could dig myself out. I would have come right home, except….." She looked down. "I saw Shredder and Karai on the docks. Shredder had a Kraang alien. I wanted to know what he had planned, so I followed Shredder back to his headquarters. But I couldn't find anything out. And I almost got captured. So I tried finding the Kraang; failed there as well. Got a little sick and bruised up, but I thought coming home would be the best choice."
"I think we can all agree." Raph ruffled his sister's hair lovingly. "Welcome home, sis."
Miwa smiled. "I'm just sorry I couldn't get us any further on the Kraang or the Foot."
"Don't worry about it." Donnie assured. "April and I are working on something for the Kraang case. You just take a breather."
"Looks like you got a scratch." Mikey noted, pointing to a tear in Miwa's sleeve. Miwa looked down at her forearm and noticed Mikey's words true.
"I can help with that." Splinter offered, putting an arm around Miwa's shoulders and leading her off. "You boys go about your business; we're done with training for today." The boys cheered and ran off to busy themselves with the TV and some pizza. Miwa allowed her father to steer her to the dojo and she sat on the floor, right below the tree and leaning against the trunk. Splinter disappeared into his room, Haiiro chasing his tail all the way. Miwa sighed, fingering with something under her collar. She straightened up a little when her father returned with a first-aid kit in hand. He knelt in front of his daughter, who allowed him to take her arm and pull her sleeve up. He cleaned the wounds with a disinfectant, causing Miwa to hiss in pain. But she relaxed when Splinter wrapped some gauze around the scratch.
"How did you get this?" Splinter asked.
"Small scuffle with some ninjas." Miwa shrugged; when, in reality, Dogpound accidentally scratched her during a sparring session. Though he apologized profusely, Miwa assured him she was all right.
Splinter sighed. "Miwa—"
"Dad, I'm fine." Miwa assured. "I'm your daughter; ninjutsu is in my blood, so my skills in survival are top notch."
"You realize I still worry for you?" Splinter chuckled as he repacked the first-aid kit. "I am your father; it is my job."
Miwa covered her mouth to hide her giggles. "Otōsan, daijōbu desu."
Splinter's usually bright red-brown eyes looked dull, like rust. He stared at the ground, but Miwa took his four-fingered paw in her five-fingered hand and gave it a comforting squeeze. Splinter pulled Miwa into his lap and held her close, unconsciously humming the lullaby he always sang to her to help the child sleep. Miwa kept as close to her father as possible, resting her head on his chest and listening to his heartbeat. Splinter rubbed Miwa's shoulder with his thumb, struggling to keep calm.
"Dad." Miwa said softly.
"Hmm?" Splinter asked.
"I'm sorry I worry you so much. I know it must drive you crazy."
"I live with four teenage boys, who are ninjas that go out every night to fight some of the greatest enemies in history."
"It's a wonder you don't freak out every time they leave the lair."
"I do. I am just good at hiding it."
Miwa snuggled closer to her father. "Daddy…"
Splinter held her tighter. "I am sorry if my constant worrying is a bother. You must understand; I love you so much, and I don't want to lose you a second time. You're the only family I have left; you, the boys, and April are all I have to live for now. So when you come home with even a small scratch, or when you do not come back at all, my worst fears come back to haunt me."
Miwa sighed. "I understand, Father. I love you so much, and I don't want to lose you either."
Splinter smiled and gave his daughter one last squeeze. "All right; why don't you go spend some time with your brothers? They missed you; Michelangelo especially."
Miwa smiled and nodded. She hugged her father tightly around his neck and jogged off to join her brothers. As she walked through the hallway to the main room, she reached under her collar and pulled out two things to make sure they remained around her neck.
First, her turtle charm with her name carved in the silver plastron.
Second, the locket with the pictures of her, Saki, and Tang Shen.
Miwa laid on her stomach on the beanbag chair, staring at the screen as she, Leo, and Mikey watched one of Leo's Space Heroes episodes.
"The landing party is under attack by the Digesters! We have to save them!" The cadet cried. SMACK!
"If we keep bailing them out, they'll never learn to take care of themselves." Captain Ryan said.
"But, this is their first mission." The cadet protested. "And they don't even have weapons!"
"Then they better learn fast." Captain Ryan said. A few terrified screams and a loud burp informed everyone that the mission didn't go well. "Say, Dr. Mindstrong, weren't you in love with that one?"
"I…..was, Captain." Dr. Mindstrong said sadly.
"Well, it looks like you both learned a lesson today." Captain Ryan huffed.
"That seems a little harsh." Miwa said. "I still like the one where they killed off Mindstrong better."
"Yeah." Leo shrugged. "But then he comes back a few episodes later because of the—"
"Don't care." Miwa announced.
"Hey guys!" Donnie called cheerfully as he poked his head through the door to his lab. "Guess what April and I have been up to?" Everyone stared at him, giving neither answer nor guess. "That's right! Analyzing sewage."
"I don't say this very often." Miwa admitted as she sat up. "But, ew."
"Who says you don't know how to show a girl a good time?" Raph said sarcastically.
"What'd you find?" Leo asked. Surely his brother would not make such an announcement unless he found something worthwhile.
"Come and see!" April called from in the lab. Donnie smiled giddily and disappeared. Miwa, Mikey, Raph, and Leo exchanged looks before standing and following their tallest brother into his laboratory. Donnie brought over a large beaker filled almost all the way with a strange green liquid.
"April and I were going through some files on the Kraang storage device." Donnie explained, setting the beaker on a few pizza boxes. "We found out that they're using a special process to change Earth's water into Kraang water."
"They've already started the process." April added. "We found a low concentration of the Kraang chemicals in the sewage."
"And I take it that's a bad thing." Raph guessed.
"Yeah." Miwa agreed. "What's the difference between Kraang water and our water?"
"Watch what happens when I dip this slice of Mikey's shrimp and sardine pizza into pure Kraang water." Donnie said, lifting the pizza slice and dipping it into the water. The millisecond it touched the water, the pizza disintegrated and dissolved, much to Mikey's horror.
"How do you sleep at night?!" Mikey whined.
"Okay, so Kraang water is bad and Kraang air is bad." Miwa noted. "Something tells me I don't want to visit Dimension X anytime soon."
"Presently, there's only a tiny bit in the water supply." Donnie continued. "But the concentration is increasing. Which means—"
"Every slice of pizza in New York will be destroyed?!" Mikey gasped.
April raised an eyebrow. "Along with anyone who uses water."
"Which is everyone." Miwa added. "Especially you guys, who live in the sewers and, ergo, live near water."
"I don't wanna live in a world without pizza!" Mikey declared, grabbing a pizza box and jerking it to safety. Unfortunately, that same pizza box held the beaker of Kraang water, which flew right towards April!
"Look out!" Donnie cried.
Too late! The chemical splashed all over April's arm and hand!
"April!" Miwa cried. The others gasped as well, horrified as….
April squeezed her eyes shut to prepare for the pain, but nothing came. She stared at her hand as the liquid dripped off her skin.
"Nothing happened to you." Donnie breathed in amazement and relief.
April stared at the green liquid still clinging to her armbands.
"Maybe it's cause she's not made out of pizza." Mikey suggested.
"Or maybe the Kraang water isn't as harmful to humans." Miwa shrugged. She took a towel and helped wipe some of the Kraang water off April's hand, but yelped at a sudden burning sensation. She sucked on the sore spot of her hand, thankful for the unbroken skin. "Scratch that."
Everyone turned as Donnie's computer began beeping and they gathered around it. "The scanner's located the Kraang facility transforming the water supply, which is right here." Donnie pointed to a pink dot on the digital map. "We gotta stop it!"
"Looks like we got a mission." Leo said. "You coming, April?"
"Sounds like a blast." April said. "But unfortunately it's on the bottom of the East River. And equally unfortunately I have an essay due. Plus, I wouldn't mind a little human food."
"Pizza's human food." Mikey noted as April walked off.
"Not the way you eat it." April laughed.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa. You're going topside?" Donnie looked worried. He climbed over his desk but hit the floor hard. "You got your T-phone, right?" He asked nervously.
"Donnie, don't worry." April assured. "I'll be fine." She turned and walked off, but Miwa noticed how she rubbed her arm where the Kraang water hit her.
"She'll be okay." Miwa agreed. "This is April we're talking about."
"She is pretty tough." Leo nodded. "So, Donnie, how are we gonna get out there?"
"Don't worry guys." Donnie assured. "I've been working on something that is pretty awesome!"
"Sweet!" Miwa said cheerfully. "I say let's go! The sooner we take down the Kraang the better!" Her brothers agreed and followed Donnie to a chamber just beyond his lab. A sort of submarine rested in the water. It didn't look like any kind of submarine Miwa had ever seen, but she was excited nonetheless.
"Booyakasha!" Mikey cheered as the five ninjas leaped towards the submarine and through the door to the inside. Miwa jumped up to dive inside, but something suddenly grabbed her shirt and abruptly halted her descent. She turned her head just enough to see her father's stern face.
"Dad!" Miwa whined a little, wiggling in the rat's grip. "Let go! We have to stop the Kraang from poisoning Earth's water!"
"Your brothers are going to do that." Splinter corrected, pulling Miwa back to solid ground. "You are staying here."
"What?" Miwa asked, shocked. The Turtles poked their heads out of the submarine curiously.
"You're still wounded and need rest." Splinter said.
"It's just a scratch." Miwa protested. "I have to get out there!"
"What you need is a break." Splinter corrected. "I fear all that is happening is overtiring your mind and spirit."
"Dad, if this is a safety issue—"
"It is nothing of the kind. It is only me wanting you to take a break. Even the greatest of warriors need time to find their inner peace."
Miwa opened her mouth to protest, but the look in her father's eyes stopped her. She sighed and looked down. "Hai…Sensei."
Splinter sighed solemnly, patting his daughter on the shoulder and walking from the room. Miwa watched sadly as her brothers disappeared into the submarine and sunk below the water. She turned and walked off, plopping herself down in front of the TV and turning on some cartoons. A few minutes later, Haiiro rubbed up against her, wanting to be pet. Splinter followed soon after, sitting down behind Miwa and placing a comforting paw on her shoulder.
"Did you keep me behind because you were worried about me?"
Splinter smiled and pulled his daughter into a hug. "What do you think?"
April took a breath of the fresh air, sighing in content. She couldn't help but feel at ease, being out in the city again. She loved the guys and Splinter and Miwa. She loved her ninjutsu training. She loved everything about her life (minus the obvious things like her dad being missing). But she apparently had to remind herself that, even if she hung out with mutants, she was still human. A human with a life to lead. Still, she couldn't help but rub her wrist a little bit; based and her and Donnie's experiments, Kraang water was supposed to be highly acidic. So why didn't it affect her?
"Let's see." April mused, walking through the Asian district. "I think lunch at Murakami's would do nicely." She rounded the corner to see the familiar noodle shop ahead and briskly walked towards it. She noticed a sort of vending machine right outside and knelt down to check it out. She noticed labels on the buttons that looked like the meals Murakami served, from his soups to his gyoza to the drinks he offered. The labels were written in English and Japanese. "Hm. This is new. What is this thing?"
"Oh, that's how you order."
April looked up at a teenage girl who appeared beside her. The girl wore ratty jeans and combat boots, with a jacket that looked two sizes too big, had spikes on the shoulders, with a few buttons pinned around the zipper. She also wore fingerless gloves and sunglasses. Her dark brown hair cascaded around her shoulders and her nails were painted black. April watched as the girl put a few coins in the machine and pressed a button. A wooden token came out of the bottom, and the girl showed it to April.
"They have these in Tokyo." The girl explained. "You give this to the chef."
"Oh, thanks." April looked back at the machine and put in her money. She found her favorite dish and pressed the button. A token and her change came out.
"Mind if I join you?" the girl asked a little shyly.
"Sure." April shrugged. "Why not?" She did help me with the vending machine. Besides, she seems pretty nice. The two girls walked into the restaurant and found Murakami mixing things in his giant stew pot. "Hi, Murakami-san!"
"April-chan!" the blind chef greeted. "How are you?" He felt the table and found her food token, thankful she learned to use the new ordering system. He felt the engraving and lit up. "Ah, pizza gyoza!"
"Hai." April nodded. "Choushe."
"You speak Japanese?" the dark-haired girl asked, surprised.
"I picked up a few words from….." April paused. "My brothers."
"Brothers?" the brunette girl asked curiously. "Tell me about them."
"Oh, you know." April laughed. "Just crazy—"
"Animals?" the girl asked.
April blinked. That's a little too close. Then again, she's right. "Pretty much."
"Although, I've never heard of pizza gyoza back in Tokyo." The girl noted.
"That's because Murakami invented it." April explained. "You should try one."
Well, this one's good at making friends. The girl smiled. "That sounds great. You should try some of mine."
April smiled with a soft chuckle. "Done."
The girl pushed her token towards Murakami. He lifted it up and scratched it. When he realized the dish, his blind eyes widened. "Hai…" He hated making this dish, knowing his new friends. But he didn't want to refuse the customer. Must remember to take that off the menu.
"What's your name?" the girl asked April.
"I'm April." April introduced.
"My name's Harmony." The girl introduced.
"Nice to meet you." April nodded in greeting. "Just a quick question: don't you want to take your sunglasses off?"
"I kind of just got back from eye surgery." Harmony explained. "My eyes are really sensitive to light."
"Wow." April laughed. "Just got out of eye surgery and she's back on the streets. Way to be tough."
"You have no idea." Harmony laughed.
Miwa sat upside down on the benches, her head hanging off the edge and staring at the TV. Though her favorite cartoons played, she found no interest in them. She hated being stuck inside while her brothers and even April frolicked out in the fresh air. Okay, so the guys went to fight the Kraang in an underwater base, but at least they were outside. She hated that Splinter forced her to stay inside. Still, she knew his nerves were still riled from her disappearing for so long. Miwa would be surprised if he ever let her out of the lair again.
Miwa pulled herself to a sitting position as her father approached her. "Yes?"
"I was just thinking…" Splinter looked like he continued to think about what he would say. "If you truly wanted to go to the surface…"
Miwa sat up expectantly. "Yes…"
Splinter sighed. "If you want, you may at least go shopping or something." Splinter hardly finished his sentence when Miwa whooped and took off for her room, emerging a minutes later wearing camouflage capris, a black T-shirt, black sneakers, and a green bandana. Splinter stopped her before she could run out. "But you keep your phone on hand at all times, understand?"
"Hai, Sensei!" Miwa bowed. Then she hugged Splinter tightly. "Thank you for trusting me."
Splinter returned the hug. "Of course. Now run along." Miwa happily obliged, making sure she had her phone in one pocket and her money in her other pocket.
Harmony pulled her chopsticks apart and rubbed them together, getting rid of the splinters. April watched and mimicked her. "So, what brings you to New York?"
"I'm with my dad." Harmony explained. "He's here trying to close an old deal."
"Oh." April nodded. "What does he do?"
"He's in kitchen utensils." Harmony said. "Knives, mostly."
Wonder how many times he cuts himself in one work day. April laughed silently. Murakami appeared, bringing the girls their food. April watched, somewhat fascinated, as Harmony folded her hands and said, "Itadakimasu."
April folded her hands. "I-idatakimasu."
Not bad. Harmony thought. Could use a little work though. She took up her chopsticks. "All right. Let's see what these pizza pot stickers are all about." April pushed her plate over and Harmony took one of the gyoza. She popped it in her mouth, chewing thoroughly. She smiled as she swallowed. "Best dumpling ever!" I gotta come here more often.
"I know, right?" April smiled.
"Now you try mine." Harmony insisted, pushing her bowl in front of April.
April took up the spoon and scooped up some broth, green onions, and white cubes of what she assumed was tofu. Wow. Harmony's so nice. And she's from Japan! I wonder if she knows ninjutsu or karate. Or if she goes to my school. I think she and I are going to get along just fine. "What is it?" April asked, blowing on the contents of her spoon to cool it off.
"Suppon nave." Harmony replied simply. April lifted the spoon to her mouth when Harmony suddenly said, "Turtle soup."
April gasped, feeling an icy coldness constrict her heart. No… "Karai."
Karai shed her sunglasses to show off her red makeup over her golden brown orbs; she took of her wig to reveal her black and blonde hair. She folded both items and neatly placed them on the counter as she smirked at April. "In person."
April dropped the spoon in the bowl and stepped backwards towards the door. Karai stood from her seat and smiled evilly at the redhead. Suddenly, April noticed just how much taller Karai was compared to her. She came in disguise so I wouldn't recognize her. But why? She wouldn't do that unless…. "Uh, I gotta go!"
Karai suddenly grabbed April's bag strap and pulled her backwards. "I was thinking you'd come with me, April O'Neil. My father would love to meet you."
"Let go of me!" April demanded, her bag strap constricting her chest. Suddenly, Murakami yelped and Karai shouted as he pushed a bowl of soup over her head. April hit the floor, but scrambled to her feet two seconds later and bolted out the door. "Get to the lair. Get to the lair!" She pulled out her T-phone and pressed her speed dial for Donnie. She pressed the phone to her ear, desperately pleading for the turtle to pick up soon.
"April! Hi!" Donnie's voice came out panicked and rushed. In the background came the sound of the Kraang's blasters, and April knew she must've blown the Turtles' cover. Oops. "It's not a great time!"
"Donnie!" April said hurriedly. "Karai is after me!"
"What?!" April had to hold the phone from her ear at the loud outburst. She listened as Donnie's voice became more distant, talking to one of his brothers. "Karai is after April! We gotta help her!"
"And who's gonna help us?" It sounded like Leo's voice.
"April, I'm sorry but we can't get there." Donnie's voice returned to normal. "Don't you worry. Just stay calm…AND RUN! RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!"
April hung up hurriedly and continued to run, looking back to see how far…..or how close, rather, Karai was from her. Come on, Leo! She growled. You couldn't send someone to get me? She blinked. Wait, maybe Splinter can get me! April typed in Miwa's number, hoping she knew the best way to reach Splinter. Oh please, please, please pick up, Miwa.
"Hey April." Miwa said casually. "You called just in time! I'm out shopping in the mall on Bakers Street."
"You are?" April asked happily. She's closer to me than Splinter! Perfect!
"Yeah, and I found the cutest skirt for you!" Miwa said. "You should come down it's green with purple rhinetsones and—"
"Miwa, listen to me!" April panted, quickly tiring. "You have to help me! Karai is after me!" There was a pause. "Hello? Miwa? You still there?"
"I think I'd like it better in blue." The girl said.
The clerk nodded. "Well, I think we—" He and the girl yelped as a flash of blue and black shot between them.
"Sumimasen!" Miwa shouted as she sprinted out the doors of the mall, her phone still pressed to her ear. "April, where are you?"
"Riding down 42nd! On a pizza delivery bike!" April said hurriedly.
"Keep riding!" Miwa ordered. "I'll see you in two seconds just hang on!" She stuffed her phone into her pocket and leaped up a fire escape, climbing to the roof and resuming her sprint across the rooftops
April suddenly skidded to a halt at a stop light, looking all around for Karai. She didn't see her at first, but the sound of a motor reached her ears, and she turned to see Karai riding up on a red and black motorcycle. Oh you have got to be kidding me. April groaned as she revved her bike and sped off. She and Karai weaved through cars in traffic, April desperately trying to dodge Karai's wild grabs towards her. Karai eventually pushed April onto the sidewalk, forcing the redhead to skid to a halt. But she sped off soon after, down an alleyway to another street. Karai followed close behind. April looked ahead and gasped at the sight of a large truck about to be in her way. She gathered her courage and released the brakes, allowing her speed to rise just enough so she whizzed right past the truck, Karai, however, slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting the truck.
She's good. Karai mused. But I'm better.
Miwa leaped across alleyways and flipped over skylights. "Find April. Find April. Find April." She paused briefly to look down at the scene of a small car crash. "Found a trail." She leaped to the ground and approached a bystander. "Excuse me. What happened here?"
"Some maniacs on bikes causing trouble." The man shrugged. "Nothing big."
"Which way did they go?" Miwa asked hurriedly.
"That way." The man pointed down the street. "Turned the corner about a block down." Miwa thanked the man and hurried off. She looked down every road to see where the trail picked up and skidded to a halt when she saw an overturned hot dog stand. She hurried over and helped the owner pick it up.
"What happened?" Miwa asked.
"Some kid being chased came barreling down here." The man said. "Turned the corner right there.
"Thanks!" Miwa bolted to the alley, reaching it just in time to see the rider of the black and red motorcycle disappear around the corner. She scurried up a fire escape and ran the direction the motorbike went, glaring in determination.
You've crossed the line, Karai. Miwa growled a little. Now you deal with me.
Karai approached the crashed bike with slight caution, wondering where April could've disappeared to. But she smirked when she heard footsteps, and she spun around to dodge April attacking her with her helmet. April threw the helmet at Karai, but she easily moved her head and the blunt object flew past her.
"You've got guts." Karai mused. "Let's see if I can pound that out of you." But Karai paused when April pulled out a piece of metal and opened it, revealing a black metal fan with the Lotus Clan symbol on it. "A tessen. Beautiful, unassuming, but very powerful." She smirked. "In the right hands."
April glared and lunged, swiping her bladed fan. Karai easily dodged her attacks and suddenly flipped April to the ground, taking her tessen and tossing it aside. Still, April jumped to her feet and took a strong fighting stance, ready to face Karai hand-to-hand. She lunged with a punch, then another, and another and another, and finally a spinning crescent kick. The last one caught Karai off-guard, and she grunted as she stepped back, rubbing her jaw.
Okay, girlie. Karai thought. Now you've done it. "Good one."
"Glad you enjoyed it." April growled.
Karai narrowed her eyes. "Now it's my turn." She took a strong stance, just as her father taught her. When April charged again, Karai planted a strong spinning back kick to the teen's stomach, sending her flying and crashing into the cement wall. Karai continued her onslaught, punching and kicking April who kept hitting the wall in the process. The pain from each strike was more than April could manage, especially with those combat boots and spike gloves Karai wore. With one final punch, April slumped to the ground in pain. She struggled to stand; everything on her hurt like hell. Karai prepared to strike again—
Karai yelped when someone jumped on her back and covered her eyes. She stumbled back, trying to shake whoever jumped her. She grabbed the person's arm and flipped them off her back, jumping in the air and kicking her attacker squarely in the chest. But her eyes widened when she saw her sister hit the ground hard, moaning in pain and clutching her chest.
"Kuro!" Karai cried, rushing towards her fallen sister. "I'm sorry! I didn't—" She felt April's weak punch to her shoulder, and she spun around to flip the redhead over her shoulder. April's limbs shook as she struggled to rise. The second she was on her feet, Karai kicked her so hard she flew to the entrance of the alley.
"What makes you so special?" Karai demanded, shoving April down when she attempted to rise. The teenager laid there, in pain and her muscles refusing to work for her. Karai stepped around her, continuing to speak. "You're the center of an alien conspiracy, protected by mutants, and trained by a great ninja master. Why?"
"I don't know!" April shouted, grabbing Karai's hair in both fists. Karai turned and grabbed April's hair in her fists. The two of them spun and yelped, fighting for control. April, out of frustration and despite the pain, started shouting as they fought. "I'm flunking trig! My friends are mutants! Aliens got my dad!" April tried to spin Karai to the ground, but Karai suddenly spun April around and slammed her face down to the concrete, locking her arm in a tight grip.
April, fighting tears and a lump forming in her throat, suddenly shouted, "AND I LOST MY MOTHER!"
Karai blinked, caught completely off-guard. Her grip slacked on April's wrist and she stared. "What? You lost your mother?"
April remembered Splinter's words from earlier: the key is to unbalance your opponent. Without hesitating, April grabbed Karai by the collar of her jacket and pulled her forward, planting her foot into the Japanese girl's stomach and flipping her down the steps to the subway station. She listened as Karai grunted in pain and crashed into who-knows-what.
April shakily stood, holding her arm. But she smirked triumphantly as she walked off. "Not bad for a nobody."
April groaned in pain as Miwa suddenly tackled her in a hug. Miwa held her friend out at arm's length and looked her over. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine." April assured. "But I'd like to get out of here before Karai comes back."
Miwa nodded. "Go. Get to the lair."
"What about you?" April asked as Miwa pushed her towards the bike.
"I'll catch up later." Miwa said. "Hurry!" April hopped on the bike and sped off. Miwa darted to the subway stairs as Karai came up them. She tackled Karai and sent the two of them tumbling.
Karai jumped out of the way and stood in a defensive stance, hurriedly blocking her sister's attacks. "Kuro! What are you doing?"
"Let's get something straight here, Karai!" Miwa snapped, continuing her relentless attacks. "You can attack my brothers. You can even threaten my father. I can handle that because I know they can handle themselves. But never, under any circumstances, do you attack April! She has nothing to do with Shredder's rivalry with Splinter and the Turtles! I told you to stay away from the Kraang and now look where it's—"
"Kuro, stop!" Karai grabbed Miwa's wrists to stop her and stared into her eyes. "How did April lose her mother?"
Miwa paused, raising an eyebrow. "Why do you care?"
"Just tell me!" Karai urged.
"I don't know." Miwa shrugged. "A…..a fire I think. Why?" She noticed the look in Karai's eyes, and her eyes and voice softened. "Karai? What's wrong?"
"Nothing." Karai lied, releasing Miwa's wrists. "I have to go. I'll see you around."
Miwa could only watch as Karai ran past her and disappeared around the corner. She stared, concerned, after her sister before journeying off to the sewers. As she did, she pulled out her cell phone and dialed Leo's number.
"Hello?" Leo answered on the second ring. "Miwa? Where are you?"
"Oh, nowhere." Miwa said casually. "Just...saving April's life!"
"Leo, did April call you at any time while she was being chased by Karai?"
"Well, yeah, but..."
"And you didn't help her at all?"
Leo's voice came sharp. "If we didn't stop the Kraang then, April would've been in danger just like every other human in New York! I made the right decision."
"You would've made the right decision if you sent at least one member of your team out to help!" Miwa corrected. "Instead, April had to call me and I barely made it in time to help! Do you really hate her that much?"
"None of us were available!" Leo snapped.
"You could've sent Mikey, seeing how you seem to like him the least."
"That's not true!"
"I've seen the way you treat him."
"I'm not going to stand here and be lectured by the likes of you!"
Miwa paused. "The likes of me, huh?"
Leo paused as well. "Miwa..."
"No. Not a word. I'll see you back at the lair." Miwa hung up angrily, stuffing her phone in her pocket.
"And when her guard was down, I flipped her down the subway steps and I bolted." April finished proudly.
"That is awesome!" Donnie smiled.
"You rocked!" Mikey chimed in.
"Kicked butt." Raph agreed.
"Way to go, April." Miwa nodded.
"Impressive, April." Splinter voiced from across the room. "You used your training well. And you fulfilled the most important goal of the ninja: to come home alive."
"Thank you, Sensei." April bowed respectfully. "Looks like I can take care of myself after all!"
"yes." Splinter nodded. "And…no." Everyone stared at him, confused. All but Leo, who stood even farther away from the group with an undescribable look on his face. Splinter continued. "Karai may have failed this time, but if Shredder wants you he will stop at nothing to find you. And with the Kraang after you as well, the wisest decision is for you to remain here, in the sewer, with us."
"What?!" April and Miwa asked simultaneously.
"Oh that's great!" Donnie cheered. But when he noticed April and Miwa's glare. "I mean, oh that's horrible! That…..you know, April's life as she knows it is….is over…and um…..I'll shut up now."
"I can't stay down here!" April protested. "I mean, what about school? My friends? Everything?"
"What if I stayed with her?" Miwa said. "I'll be by her side at all times; at school and in the lair. She won't be harmed as long as I'm with her."
"You cannot do that because you will not be going to school either." Splinter said.
"What?" Miwa snapped.
"Miwa, if Karai and the Foot are pursuing April, there is a very great chance they will go after you as well." Splinter explained. "If you truly want to protect April, you will stay down here to do so."
Miwa glared at the ground, but sighed. "Hai, Otōsan." But April slid to the floor, leaning against a bench, and put her forehead to her knees.
"April, Master Splinter's right." Leo's voice made April look up. "Until we stop Shredder and the Kraang, this is the only place you're safe."
April wanted to argue, to say anything that would prevent such action, but she could only sigh. "So, once we stop them, I can have my life back?"
"Yes." Leo nodded.
"Promise." Miwa added.
April looked down, but glared in determination. "Let's get started."
Otōsan, daijōbu desu – Father, it's okay.
Sumimasen - Excuse me