Gender: Male Age: Secret Location: Illinois
|Introduction: This is NOT my story. I really liked the CAMP: Ron's Journey, and felt that the next instalment, CAMP: Sibling Rivalry, should be avalible on this site as well. By Eric Storm (Net Wolf). This is the second of his CAMP series books, and is still in progress. I will update whenever it is made avalible.|
Part 2: Travels
Chapter 5: Nathan 1
"I got you what supplies I could. I didn't know what all you would need..."
"That's okay, Teresa. I don't want to get you into trouble with anyone."
"Do you have to go? I mean, sure, I'm a bit older than you, but..."
Nathan smiled at her. She was clearly a lonely woman, his mind control notwithstanding.
"Sorry, I can't. I have to find my father."
"Oh? Who is that?"
"The Ron Chaffey?"
"I knew that was your last name... I thought your mother said he was her brother."
"He is," Nathan said, deadpan.
"Oh," Teresa said, and then did one of those looking toward the ceiling gestures with her eyes and head.
"Yeah, well... I need to find him."
"Where do you start looking? I've only heard legends about him."
"Really? What have you heard? Anything that said where he went?"
Teresa thought for a few minutes, then shook her head. "No, only that he went out of the country. The story goes that after the war, he traveled to other nations, to see how bad the devastation was. Depending on who you talk to, he was either there to help, or to take what little resources they had left."
"Which do you think it was?" Nathan asked, to gauge her personality.
"I don't know, dearheart. All I know is that life was a lot easier when I was a little girl."
"Now, I can't take you myself... I have no means... but I have a friend who shares one of the few working cars with about two dozen other people. They're willing to take you as far as Nashville... what's left of it... if you have the money."
"What are they using for money?"
"Mostly PPA chits. Knoxville money isn't good for much outside the city limits, and these people try not to come into town too often."
"Then there's no problem. I've got all of those I need."
"Oh. Okay. They'll be here in about an hour. Do we have time for..."
"Sorry we can't take you any further, man, but the fuel for this thing is expensive as all hell!"
Nathan reached into his pocket and took out a handful of favor chits. He offered them to the driver.
"Holy shit, dude! Where the hell'd you get all those? No, never mind. I'll take 'em, if you're sure you can spare 'em."
"I have more," he said. "Thank you very much for the ride. Say," he said, finally getting up the courage - now that the ride was over - to ask about his father, "do you have any idea where I could find Ron Chaffey?"
The driver scrunched up one eye and said, "No, not really. Last I heard he was supposedly overseas somewhere."
"Oh. Any idea how I would get... 'overseas'?"
"Well, if you're going to Asia, I heard that there's some boats goin' back and forth between China and Seattle. If you want to go to Europe... then hey, we started off in the wrong direction!"
The driver laughed, and then he waved and drove off. Nathan sighed, and began to walk down the road into the village - it could no longer be called a city - of Nashville.
Nathan was not accosted on his trip into town, which he found somewhat strange. He had expected harassment at every turn on his trip. He didn't really know where he was going, and he knew that asking after his father wouldn’t always be safe. He would just have to play it by ear and see what he could dig up.
The first place that Nathan went was a small restaurant. He was hungry, and his favor chits bought him a decent lunch, and some not-unpleasant conversation with the waitress, who unfortunately had no idea where Ron Chaffey was, either.
As Nathan walked down the streets of Nashville, he was astounded by the strange mode of transportation used in the city. Everyone was either walking, or riding in a pedaled contraption that looked for all the world like a bicycle with four wheels. He shrugged, and made his way down what appeared to be a main street. He walked past what seemed to be a car lot, only with the strange bicycle-things instead of cars.
Must sell pretty well.
Nathan saw some kind of police official standing at the corner, and decided to approach him. The officer saw him coming, but didn't pay him much mind until he got closer. When it was clear the boy was intending to talk to him, the officer looked down at him expectantly.
"Excuse me, sir. I don't mean to bother you..."
"What's on your mind, kid?" the cop asked. His tone wasn't hostile, but it was businesslike.
"I am looking for Ron Chaffey. Do you have any idea where he might be?"
"Ha!" the officer laughed. "Not here. Good thing for all of us, too. Why would a kid like you need to find that asshole?"
Nathan understood that revealing the truth would be "bad". "I am merely a messenger, sir. I was given a message, and paid, and in order to complete my assignment, I have to find him."
The cop looked at Nathan more closely. "Eh? You're some kind of courier?"
"Something like that, sir. I'm afraid I'm not supposed to talk about it. The message is apparently quite personal."
"I see," said the cop, though he didn't. "Well, I've got no idea where the hell the sonofabitch is. If you're looking for information, though, you might try Maggie's."
"Where might I find this Maggie?"
"Maggie's Books and News. Go that way two blocks, turn left, and walk until you see it. It'll be on the right-hand side."
"I see. Thank you very much, officer."
"No problem, kid. I'd wish you good luck... but something tells me you're screwed either way."
Nathan didn't bother to answer that. Instead, he merely followed the policeman's directions. It didn't take him too long to find the shop in question. It was a mix of a bookstore, a newspaper office, and a community bulletin board. One entire wall of the shop was covered with a cork board for posting messages. Nathan noted the musty smell in the store, but ignored it.
The lady behind the counter took note of him right away. She nodded to him and smiled, but allowed him to browse at his leisure. Finally, not knowing what else to do, Nathan walked up to the counter.
"Yes, may I help you?"
"Well, honestly I doubt it, but it never hurts to ask, right?" Nathan said. He was beginning to get discouraged; he'd expected it to be easier to figure out where his father was.
"Asking is the only way to get an answer," Maggie told him.
"I'm looking for Ron Chaffey. Do you have any idea where he is?"
"Now why on Earth would you be looking for him?"
"I have to deliver a message. I've been paid to do so."
"I see. But the person who paid you, didn't know where to find him?"
"No, ma'am. That's... uh, why they hired me, I guess. They couldn't go wandering all over the place looking, and they figured I could."
"Well. Let's see, the last I heard, The PPA had broken apart. It was said that Chaffey and his family headed overseas. Some say they were going to help out the other nations. Others say they were going to find a country to rule."
"What do you think?" Nathan asked.
"Damned if I know. I'm a reporter and bookstore owner, not a psychic." Maggie paused for a moment, then brightened. "Speaking of, I think I have a couple of books about Ron Chaffey."
Maggie moved into the aisles of her small store, and in a couple minutes, she came back with two small volumes. "Yep, here they are. Now, I don't know how much truth is in these. They're more like... a collection of legends. But it's a start, I suppose."
"Anything is better than what I have so far. How much are they?"
"Depends. Are you paying with Nashville currency, or something useful?"
"I have PPA chits."
"Really? Well, you must have been paid well. Two chits for each book."
Nathan pulled five chits out of his pocket, and handed them over. Maggie held up the extra one and looked at him curiously.
"For being nice," Nathan half-explained. She'd not run down his father at the first opportunity. He was beginning to realize that this would be a rare experience.
Maggie smiled. "Hardly something worthy of a favor chit." She did not give it back, however. "You have a good day. Come back sometime. And be careful out there. It's fairly pleasant here in Nashville, but outside the city's not so much fun."
"Thank you, ma'am."
Nathan left the shop, and looked for someplace where he could sit and skim through the books. There was a small grassy field with a tree in it only a block from the shop. He sat down under the tree and opened the first book. In only a few minutes, he'd skimmed through that book and had begun the second, which was slightly thicker, but not by much. That book took him only a few minutes, as well.
Japan? How the hell am I supposed to get to Japan? While he didn't think either book really told the truth, both of them had said that Ron Chaffey had gone to Japan. If nothing else, it was a place to start, and that was what he needed. But how would he get to Japan?
Nathan returned to Maggie's shop.
"Back so soon?" she said with surprise. "What can I do for you this time?"
"Do you have any idea how I would go about getting to Japan?" He had this information - supposedly - from the people who'd driven him to Nashville, but Maggie seemed a more reliable source.
"Long journey," she said. "Are you sure you're up to that?"
"I have a job to do," he replied matter-of-factly.
Maggie nodded, impressed by his attention to duty. "Well, I heard tell that there were a few boats, trading back and forth between America and Asia. But they leave out of Seattle, or thereabouts. A very long way from here... and then a long sea voyage after that. Are you certain you need to complete this task? Perhaps you could go back to your employer and decline?"
"That would be... very difficult to do," he said, making the implication that his "employer" was no longer reachable. "How would I get to Seattle?"
"Well, I imagine that the roads are still mostly intact. Even the war couldn't have done too much to them... At least, they didn't to the roads around here."
"Do you sell maps of the roads?"
"Certainly! I sell everything I can get my hands on." She reached under the counter and came up with a dusty, but still serviceable, road atlas. She handed it over.
"How much?" he asked her.
Maggie considered for a moment. "These are much harder to come by. I'm afraid I'll have to charge you a full five chits for this."
Nathan nodded without much consideration. He gave her the required number without qualm.
Maggie said, "You're not planning to walk to Seattle, are you?"
"If I have to," Nathan said. "Maybe I can find people along the way who will give me rides."
Maggie shook her head. "Anyone you meet along the way is likely to want to take your possessions, and possibly your life. You need to get your own transportation. Maybe a horse. Better yet, a Goby."
"What's a Goby?" Nathan asked.
"It's a type of bicycle... but with four wheels."
"Oh, you mean those weird things I saw when I first got here."
"Yes. If you can afford one, they are the best way to travel. They're very reliable, require no fuel - other than leg power - and a heck of a lot faster than traveling by foot."
"Do you know how much one would cost me?"
"For a trip like that, you'd want the off-road model, and probably want a cargo case on the back... I don't know exactly what you would be able to talk him down to, but I think the starting price would be three or four hundred favor chits. Do you have anything like that many?"
Nathan looked back and forth conspiratorially. There was no one else in the shop at all. "Honestly, I don't know. I've never counted them."
"Really," she said. "Your employer must be very generous."
"He expected I would have expenses, I guess."
"There is that. Well, I wish you luck, young man. And be careful."
"I will. Thank you for all your help." Nathan took his atlas, tucked it into his bag, and left the store.
Haggling with the Goby dealer, Nathan knew, was likely to be a pain. He stopped off in a secluded spot and counted his favor chits. He had only four hundred twelve of them left. He knew that his transport was going to take up almost all of them. Regardless, he knew that the added speed would be important on his trip.
"Well, good afternoon, young fella, what can I do for you?"
"I'm interested in one of your vehicles," Nathan told him.
"You want yourself a Goby? Well, it's a good choice, young man! One of the finest human-powered vehicles ever manufactured!" The man went on to ramble about the quality of construction and the time taken.
"Why 'Goby'?" Nathan asked when the man paused to take a breath.
The man looked back and forth, as if about to reveal a great secret. Then he said, "There used to be a company near here that manufactured a similar product - but inferior, of course! I just kinda borrowed their name... and changed it a little, and got Goby."
"I see," Nathan said, though the answer was completely non-informative. "How well will they handle a long trip?"
"Well, they're built to last for years. How far are you taking it?"
"Criminy! That's one heck of a trip! You don't look like the kind of athlete that would try to pull that off, if you don't mind my saying so."
"Well, I don't have to get there all that quickly, but I do need to get there. Could this make the trip?"
"This thing'll make the trip a lot easier than you will! You'll want an air pump, a tool kit, and spare inner tubes... maybe a spare chain, too. You know anything about fixing bicycles?"
"Never owned a bicycle."
"C'mon in the shop, and I'll teach you what you need to know."
Nathan had been right; haggling with the guy had been a pain. Especially because Nathan felt guilty about taking up his entire afternoon in 'training'. Now he had a whopping thirty-seven favor chits left. He knew that he would have to spend them very wisely. What he needed now were supplies for his journey. He rode his Goby down to the General Store (it was even called that), and made sure to carefully lock his machine up to a sturdy pole before going inside.
The place was crammed with supplies, and an older gentleman was behind the counter, fiddling with some piece of hardware. He set it down when Nathan walked in.
"Good afternoon, son. What can I do for you?"
"I am going on a long trip, and I need some supplies."
"If you're headin' to Memphis, I hear that the local government isn't accepting any more people," the man said, trying to be helpful.
"I'm going to Seattle."
"Lord have mercy!" the man's wife exclaimed from the doorway to the back. "That's a very long trip for someone your age. How old are you, eleven?"
"I'm actually fifteen, ma'am. I was sick when I was younger."
"Oh," she said.
"Still kinda young to be traveling alone," the man opined.
"I don't have any choice in the matter," Nathan said simply. "Can I get supplies here?"
"Surely. What will you be needing?"
Nathan considered, and then told the man. In the middle of telling him, a young girl, perhaps ten or eleven, entered the store. Nathan paused to look at her. She was cute, but she looked frightened. She had clearly been running away from something.
That something entered the store a few seconds later. Two older teens burst in the door, and grinned.
"Told ya we'd find ya!" one said.
"You just gotta learn, little girl. What we say, goes!" The one in back pulled out a knife. The front one had a small club.
"You boys get on outta here!" the man shouted.
"Shut the fuck up, old man, or we trash this place but good!"
"And you with it!" the other promised.
"Good one," the first congratulated his buddy.
The girl was cowering against one of the racks of coats in the store. Nathan made a snap decision. He knew it would probably cause him more trouble, but he wasn't going to stand idly by and watch this happen.
Nathan moved in front of the girl, between her and the boys. He turned to face them with a determined frown on his face. The girl, scared but wanting to see what would happen, peered over his shoulder.
"What the - Get the fuck out of my way, kid!" The guy in front grabbed Nathan and tried to yank him out from in front of the girl. Nathan did not move an inch.
"What the fuck?" the guy exclaimed.
"Leave here now, while you can still walk," Nathan said darkly.
"Oh, you shouldn'a said that, kid. You're dead meat."
The punk tried to swing his club, but found that his hand froze in mid-air, about a foot away from Nathan. Nathan reached out and took the club from the bully's hand. Then he swung it, as hard as he could, into the tough's midsection. The boy crumpled to the ground, groaning in pain. The hit had been telekinetically augmented.
"You are so fuckin' dead, kid!" the one with the knife screamed. He raised the knife and moved quickly toward Nathan. The girl behind him screamed and collapsed to the ground, away from the danger.
Nathan held his ground. <Stab yourself.>
The kid suddenly swung the knife and plunged it into his own gut. He screeched in pain as blood poured over his hand. Nathan continued to stand, immobile. <Leave here now. Do not ever return to this place for any reason.>
The two teens, one bleeding, the other crawling in pain, made their way out of the store. Nathan stayed still, waiting to make sure they were truly gone.
The woman was not so patient. "Kendra!" she cried, running to her daughter. She picked up the child and hugged her.
"I'm okay, Mom," the child assured her.
"Thanks to you!" the woman then said to Nathan, and hugged him as well.
My uncle - dad - whatever - was right. You've got to be able to use the skills quickly.
Nathan waited until the woman was done fawning over him. Once she had returned to fussing over her daughter, he returned to the man. He tried to shake off the effects of the short but intense fight, and returned to the subject at hand.
"Truth is, my funds are now limited. I'm going to have to take only the bare essentials. What would you recommend?"
"Son, you can have anything you damned well please. Those two were going to do things I don't even want to think about."
"You're one of them, aren't you?" the mother asked, back behind the counter now. She had sent her daughter into the back of the store.
"Yes, ma'am, I guess I am."
"Why help us? Why not just wait until they were done and take what you wanted?"
"Because not all psionics are assholes," Nathan said simply.
The man raised an eyebrow. "That's a thought I'd never quite considered."
"I don't want to take all your stuff, either. What do you think I'll really need on my trip?"
"How are you traveling?" the man asked.
"Good choice," he said approvingly. "Let's pack her up."
Nathan was riding down the highway, just about to enter Rapid City, South Dakota. He had been on the road for two and a half weeks. He'd found that he did not have the physical endurance to pedal for very much of the day. However, he had found another way of powering his Goby. Right now, he didn't even have his feet on the pedals. Instead, he was resting them on the frame, while his telekinesis did the pushing. His psionic strength had grown over the last two weeks from being used so much, and he felt a lot more confident about it.
He applied the brakes and stopped, because he saw that the road ahead was blocked with a barrier, and two rather large men were leaning on sign posts, one on each side of the road.
Nathan shook his head sadly, and then pedaled his way up to the barrier. He didn't want to advertise his Ability, which was why he'd reverted to pedaling. The man nearest him, on his left, pushed himself off the sign post and stepped toward him.
"What's your business here, kid?" he asked gruffly.
"I'm just passing through. Is this city no longer passable, or is this a toll road?" Nathan had encountered several cities in which he'd had to give up a favor chit or two, just to make it through the town. He had also taken a day in St. Louis to replenish his supply of favor chits by doing small jobs for people. Mostly, he used his Ability discreetly to perform the tasks. He knew he'd need the money, and he was right.
The two men laughed at each other. "Listen to him! Some kind of businessman!" the one still leaning said to his buddy.
The man nearest him said, "We take what we want, kid. And I think I want that bike!"
Nathan frowned. "You may not have my Goby. I still have a long trip ahead of me."
The man stepped closer, and then pulled out his knife. "I don't remember asking if I could have it. I said, we take what we want!"
The thug approached menacingly, and Nathan pushed outward with his extension. The man flew backward, slamming into the signpost he'd been leaning on, and nearly pulling it out of the ground.
"You fucking little shit! You're one of them! You're dead meat!" The other thug pulled out a gun. Nathan immediately rolled off his Goby and hid behind the cargo box. Since it was full of supplies, he hoped it would stop a bullet.
"Knock it off!" a voice yelled from down the street. Nathan turned his head without rising, to see a man, wearing a trench coat and boots, and carrying a shotgun. The gun was resting on the man's shoulder, pointed upward. Nathan took the chance to look over at the thug with the gun. He was surprised to see that he had it down at his side, and was looking toward the approaching man with something like fear in his gaze.
He's afraid of that guy, but not me? Strange... A quick scan, something he'd not had to do before, but his uncle had told him how, showed that the approaching man was not a psionic.
The guy with the shotgun stopped at the barrier.
"Sorry, boss, but that brat's one o' them, and you see what he did to Fergus..."
"You can stand up now," the guy said to Nathan. Nathan slowly rose from his crouch, and got back onto his Goby. "My name is Stanton. I'm the marshal of Rapid City. What's your name?"
"Well, Nathan, assault's a crime in Rapid City."
"Then I'd suggest you arrest him, since he's the one who came at me with a knife."
Stanton looked over at the pistol guy. "That true?"
The guy looked down and scuffed at the ground. "Well, yeah..."
"Kid wouldn't give him the bike."
"Don't much blame him. I can only imagine what that thing costs." Stanton turned back to Nathan. "You a psionic?"
"Obviously," Nathan said. There was no point in hiding it, with what he'd already done to the Fergus.
"We ran your kind out of town already. This is a place safe for normal people. You're not welcome here."
"As I told these two, I am only passing through. Your town just happens to be on the road I'm traveling down."
"Where you headed?"
Stanton whistled. "Long way from here."
"I've already come a long way. If people would stop interrupting my trip, it would go a lot faster."
"I'd watch the tone, son," Stanton warned. "As I said, we already ran your kind out of this town once."
In response, Nathan forcibly grabbed all three weapons in sight, and pulled them over to himself. The men looked on in consternation mixed with a great big dollop of fear.
Nathan dropped the weapons beside him on the road. He looked at Stanton and said, "I don't know what kind of psionics you had in this town, but if you were able to run them off, they weren't much. I don't want to cause you trouble. I don't even plan to stop to eat here. But if you want me to get nasty, trust me, I can get nasty." Nathan had put up with a lot of shit from normals over the last couple weeks, and he was growing weary of it. He understood how some psionics would start to simply do whatever they wanted without concern for the people around them. If you're going to be treated like a villain, might as well act like one...
Stanton scratched his head, then looked back and forth at his friends. "Truth is, there never were any psionics here in town. We just like to tell people that. Scares most of the psionics who come here, away."
"You have no idea if you have psionics in town or not. It's not like we have a scarlet P on our foreheads."
"Well, ain't nobody running the town with an iron fist..."
"Except you and your goons."
"Hey! They weren't told to hassle people. I sure as hell never told them to rob anyone. We're just trying to keep the peace here. And I was elected marshal."
"Whatever. I'm just saying, just because no one's giving you grief, doesn't mean there aren't any psionics. We don't all want to rule the world, you know. Personally, I just want to get to Seattle. Now, can I pass, or not?"
"Tait, help me move this thing." The two men pulled aside one of the barriers blocking the road. "There's another pair of men at the other side of the city, but since you're leaving, not coming in, they're not likely to mess with you."
"Uh-huh. I'll believe that when I see it, Marshal Stanton."
"Sorry for the trouble. Have a safe trip." Stanton turned to Fergus, who was still unconscious, and as Nathan rode off, he heard the man say, "C'mon, Tait, let's get his sorry ass up."
What a pain in the ass. At least I've only run into that one psionic... and he was too weak to really threaten me. The psionic in question had barely been able to do much more than blow leaves around. It was enough to scare the local populace, but when Nathan pushed the man twenty feet backward without moving, he knew he was outclassed, and let Nathan by.
Nathan wondered where all the psionics were. They had to be out here. He knew they hadn't all been killed off by the war, but he'd only encountered that one. And he had been in an area of St. Louis.
Maybe they all gravitate to the areas that are rebuilding? St. Louis had been as devastated as any city during the war, but because of its position on the river, it was quickly being rebuilt to help support trade. It was nothing like the size it had once been, but it was the largest city for several hundred miles in any direction.
Nathan was grateful for the lack of serious opposition to his journey, confused as it made him. He had no desire to get into a fight with anyone; he just wanted to find his father.
I hope he really is in Japan. Otherwise, I have no idea where else to look.
It was another two and a half weeks before Nathan finally rode into Seattle. He was tired, sore, and hungry, and he only hoped he'd find a way to Japan quickly.
Nathan rode through the town - what there was of it - and locked his Goby up near the waterfront. He walked up and down the piers, frowning the whole way. He didn't see a single ship there that he would dare go to sea aboard.
Sighing, Nathan looked for a restaurant. He found one, serving fish, of course. He ordered the cheapest thing on the menu, and stared out the window as he waited for his food.
When the waitress returned with his lunch, he said, "I was under the impression that there were some sea-going ships here in Seattle."
"There are a couple that set sail from here," the waitress said. "None of them is in port at the moment. You needing to go somewhere?"
"Trying to get to Japan."
One of the patrons at the next booth turned around. "What in the world you tryin' to go there for?"
"I'm looking for Ron Chaffey."
The man's look darkened. "What do you need with that scum-sucker?"
Nathan fell back on his concocted story. "I was paid to deliver a message."
The man's look lightened somewhat, but Nathan could tell that he didn't like psionics. "Anyone who gets messed up with people like that Chaffey bastard... Best bet is to stay as far away from him as you can, buddy."
"I have an obligation to deliver the message," Nathan replied simply.
The man shrugged. "It's your neck." Then he turned around to continue eating his lunch.
The waitress, who had stuck around to watch the conversation, told Nathan, "You can check with the harbor master, but I don't think any of the ships make regular stops in Japan. They usually go past it to China, or even further, to Korea."
"Why do they avoid Japan?"
"Psionics," the man at the next booth spat without turning around. The waitress nodded, and then walked away.
Well, this is going to be a fun town...
A brief talk with the harbor master made it clear who Nathan needed to speak with. Luckily, the man lived close by.
Nathan knocked on the door twice before the man finally answered it.
With an axe in his hands.
Nathan quickly stepped back and raised his hands in supplication. The man looked around before his eyes registered that Nathan was there. Seeing him, the man stepped back in surprise.
"Who in the hell are you?" he asked, a mix of curiosity and waning anger.
"Sorry to disturb you, Captain. I was wondering if I could speak to you for a moment about your next voyage."
The captain sized him up, and nodded. "Come on in out of the rain, son." The man set the axe down and led the teen into the kitchen.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize that I was interrupting your meal. I can come back later..."
"Nonsense," the captain's wife said. "Take a seat, and join us, if you please."
"Thank you, ma'am, I've already eaten lunch." He did sit down, though.
"What's on your mind?" the captain asked. "I won't be sailing again until the Osprey returns from her trip to Russia. Probably be a few days. There will be other ships getting in first."
"I was told that..." Nathan's voice tapered off as an obviously sick little boy entered the kitchen.
"Mom, I threw up again..."
"Oh, dear." The woman excused herself from the table, and led the boy back toward his bedroom.
"Sorry. The boy is sick. We're not sure with what, so we do try to keep him away from people. You were saying that someone told you something."
Nathan was watching the mother lead the boy away. Nathan got the impression it was not just a cold. "How long has he been ill?"
"Six or seven months now," the captain said. He didn't wish to discuss his son; he knew what lay at the end of that road. "You were saying, about the trip..."
Nathan shook himself loose of his thoughts, and turned back to the captain. "I was told you were the only person likely to take me where I wanted to go."
"Oh, you're wanting to go to Japan, are you."
"I'm looking for someone. It has been suggested he might be there."
"Might? Awfully long way to go for a maybe."
Nathan shrugged. "I don't have any better information to go on."
"Who are you looking for?"
Nathan hesitated, but then he said, "Ron Chaffey."
The captain gave him a look, and nodded. "There have been stories about him being in Japan. Don't know as any of them are true, though."
"How come you're willing to go to Japan? Aren't you afraid of the psionics?"
The man waved his hand. "Bunch of hogwash if you ask me. They're just people. Some're good, some're bad... some're downright crazy. I imagine, if I'd had any dealings with one of the bad sort, I might have a different opinion."
The captain now eyed the boy carefully. "How come you're not afraid of them?"
"Who said I wasn't?" Nathan countered.
"If you were afraid of psionics, you wouldn't be goin' to Japan. Everyone knows there's something weird about Japan and its psionics. They were attacked very late in the war, it's said. Lots of damage done, anyway, but those Russians didn't want anything to do with them. And Russia is no friend of Japan, let me tell you!
"So, I have to ask again, why aren't you afraid of the psionics?"
Nathan hemmed and hawed, and then said, "For the reason you suspect, I suppose. How much will it cost to get to Japan?"
"Normal price is five hundred chits."
"That's pretty expensive."
"That it is. Might I assume you haven't got five hundred chits?"
"Not at the moment, no. But I have a Goby I can sell, and I've already got about a hundred chits or so."
"What in the devil's a Goby?" Nathan explained, and the man said, "Probably not gonna make up the difference."
"Perhaps there is something I could trade for passage," Nathan said warily as the wife came back into the kitchen.
"He's asleep again," she told her husband.
The captain nodded, but spoke to Nathan. "And what might you have to trade that would be worth it?"
Nathan paused for a long moment, looking at the two people, trying to judge their reaction before he spoke. Finally, he said, "I can try to help your son."
Both people sat back as if slapped. "What nonsense is he talking, Will?" the wife asked.
"I think our young friend here is a psionic," Will explained. Looking at Nathan, he said, "What kind of help might you be to him? Putting him out of his misery is not what I had in mind for the boy."
Nathan sighed. "I'm not sure that I can help him. But I have healed people before."
"Why should we trust you with our son?" the wife asked.
Nathan shrugged. "Either you trust me, or you don't. I don't need to be alone with him, one of you can watch me at all times."
"What will you do to him?" Will asked.
"On the outside, all I will do is rest my hand on him. Everything I would have to do is on the inside. If I can do anything, that is."
She looked closely at Nathan. "Why would you do this?"
Nathan said, "Because I need to get to Japan. You have something I want, and I - hopefully - have something you want. It's just a trade."
Margie looked at Will. "We've got no choice, Will. Scotty's got no hope."
Will nodded at her. Turning to Nathan, he said, "All right. But if you hurt him, so help me..."
The threat didn't need to be finished.
"Enjoy the trip?" the captain asked. They had just pulled in to Toba, Japan, after a twenty day journey. "I'm sorry we can't put you off at a bigger city, but my passengers are nervous enough as it is. Fools."
"It's all right. I don't even know where to start looking here, either. Japan's not exactly small."
"True enough. How will you survive?"
"I'll figure something out. Thank you, Captain, for all your help."
"Son, we're not even close to even for what you did for my son."
"I just hope he doesn't get sick again." Nathan offered his hand, and the captain took it.
Nathan turned to go, then turned back. "By the way, I've been meaning to ask... how did you ever get enough fuel to power this ship?"
"We make our own. It's algal bio-diesel. We grow it right in Seattle."
Nathan nodded, impressed. Then he waved to the captain, and made his way off the ship.
After an hour of walking around Toba, Nathan had grown thoroughly tired of asking people if they spoke English, without getting a response. He assumed that meant they didn't understand him, but he was aware it could simply mean they didn't wish to answer him.
Finally, Nathan broke down and started probing people. He really felt this was an invasion of their privacy, but he didn't see any other usable options. He comforted himself with the knowledge that he was only trying to find out if they spoke English, and wasn't digging for information.
He was growing frustrated with this method, too, until he finally encountered one girl, perhaps his age or slightly older, who did seem to speak English. He was about to approach her, so he could ask her out loud, but she turned and started walking in a different direction.
Nathan didn't want to lose his one chance at communication, so he followed the girl when she turned down a side street. He was focused on keeping an eye on her without seeming to be chasing her. He didn't notice anything amiss as he passed an open door on his right...
When Nathan awoke, his head was throbbing. He could feel the bump on the back of his head even before he reached for it. Touching it was painful.
Nathan struggled to a sitting position before he tried to take stock of his surroundings. He was sitting on the floor of a room with no windows, and only one door. There was no furniture, only a rolled up mat against the wall. He tried to struggle to his feet, and managed, but not without a distinctly woozy sensation.
It immediately became apparent that he was somehow being watched, as he heard a key in a lock only minutes after he awoke. Nathan stepped away from the door, but facing it, so that he would be ready for whoever entered.
Into the room stepped the girl he had followed. She stepped aside, and was followed by a man dressed in traditional Japanese garb. Three other men entered with him. They were wearing nondescript coveralls, and sunglasses.
The man spoke to the girl, who then turned to Nathan.
"Who are you?" she asked.
"My name is Nathan." The girl translated this to her elder, who then said something else to her.
"Why were you following this girl?"
Nathan tried not to smirk, since it was the girl talking to him. He wasn't entirely sure how to answer the question, because to explain how he knew she spoke English meant revealing his Ability.
"I was hoping that she could help me. I don't speak Japanese, and I'd asked just about everyone else on the street if they spoke English. She's about my age, and I thought I might have better luck asking her."
"What do you seek in Toba?"
"Well... not so much Toba, as Japan. This is just where I was dropped off."
"What do you seek?"
"I'm looking for someone."
"Ron Chaffey. Have you heard of him?"
There was a brief pause, and then the girl spoke with the man for a few moments before she turned back to Nathan.
"Are you referring to the American psionic who led their forces against the Russian invasion?"
"Yes! You do know him!"
Nathan's enthusiasm was short-lived. "I know the name. I do not know the man. Why do you believe you will find him in Japan?"
Nathan slumped. "I'm not sure he is. It's just the best information I had to go on. I need to find him."
After the girl translated this, the man thought for a while. Then he told the girl something.
"You will wait here," she said to Nathan. The men all left the room, and the door was closed behind them. The girl remained. She went to a corner and knelt, facing the center of the room.
"Are you being punished for something?" Nathan asked.
"No. I am your translator. It is more convenient if I am here no matter when they need to talk to you, rather than having to try to find me."
"Not for you, it's not," Nathan said with a grin. The girl did not respond.
"Who are you?"
"I am Mitsu."
"Uh... hi. I'm Nathan... but that's not exactly what I meant. Who are you?"
"I have told you all that I am allowed to."
"Wonderful," Nathan said. He sat down against the wall, facing the door.
Nathan's head jerked up off his knees when he heard the door open. He looked over at Mitsu, who quickly rose to her feet as a new person entered the room. This man was older than the first, but was still accompanied by the three guards, or whatever they were.
The man spoke to Mitsu.
"You will remain here. We have purchased a ticket for you on the next ship departing Toba. That boat leaves in four days. We will escort you to the boat, and watch you get on it. Please do not return to Japan."
"Nice hospitality," Nathan said sarcastically. The man gave a lengthy reply.
"We know what you are. We choose not to have you in our midst. We do not wish to harm you, but if you cause us trouble, we will be forced to do so. Mitsu will remain with you, in case you need anything."
Nathan sighed audibly. Finally, he said, "Can you at least tell me if you know where Ron Chaffey is?"
There was a brief pause while the man conferred with Mitsu.
"Ron Chaffey has never visited Japan. If he had, we would know. I do not know where he is." After that, the man left the room. Mitsu returned to her kneeling posture in the corner, and Nathan leaned his head back against the wall, wincing in pain.
"I am sorry about the injury," Mitsu said quietly.
Nathan shook his head. "My own damned fault. I should have been paying more attention to my surroundings, instead of focusing on the pretty girl."
"You think I am pretty?" Mitsu asked, apparently genuinely surprised.
Nathan looked at her. She was typically Japanese in appearance: almond-shaped eyes, straight black hair, facial features just so. He didn't so much care for her hair style, but he had to admit that she was definitely attractive.
"Yeah, I do."
"Thank you," she replied. "Are you well? You look very ill."
"I'm fine, now. I was recently quite sick."
"I see." After long moments, she asked, "Did you heal yourself?"
"Yeah," he replied. Obviously, they knew he was a psionic. Clearly they didn't like psionics much, though he wondered why they would leave the girl alone with him. She was either tougher than she looked, or there was something he didn't know.
Like that's news, he told himself.
Nathan felt a soft hand on his shoulder, and flinched, waking up and looking around the room quickly. He only saw Mitsu in front of him.
"You should lie down and get some rest," she said quietly.
"I don't think the floor is any softer than this wall," he replied.
Mitsu moved over and unrolled the tatami mat which was against the wall. Nathan watched her move. Her movements were graceful and efficient. When she was finished, she turned back to him.
"You were having a nightmare," she said.
"Still am," he mumbled to himself. To her, he said, "Just a dream. Thank you for the bed." He crawled onto the mat and lay down. He noted that Mitsu went back to kneel in the corner.
"Are you going to stay like that all night?"
"Or until someone replaces me."
"Does anyone else here speak English?" he asked. She did not answer him.
"Good night, Nathan," she finally said. He barely heard her, and was asleep seconds after she spoke.
Mitsu rose to her feet as the door opened. Nathan didn't bother. Over the last few days, he had grown thoroughly sick of being stuck in a little room with no window. They had fed him, and allowed him to use the restroom, but he had been under guard the entire time. Mitsu had at least become mildly more talkative, though not about anything related to where Nathan was being held.
The man before him was the younger man who had first questioned him.
"You have two hours to get to the dock. It should take much less time than that. You will be accompanied by Mitsu and one other. Do not cause trouble, or you will be harmed. Do not attempt to flee, or you will be killed. Do you understand?"
Nathan had managed to learn one Japanese word in the last four days. "Hai."
One of the ever-present guards pulled out a piece of black cloth. Mitsu explained.
"You must wear the hood until you are away from this place. You will not have to wear it all the way back to the dock."
Nathan submitted to having the hood put on his head without struggling. He knew he didn't have a lot of options in this situation. He had tried his psionic powers on one of the guards, to no effect whatsoever. He assumed that these people had some method for defending against psionic powers, though he had never heard of such a thing.
"Walk carefully," Mitsu said to him. She gently took his arm and led him out of the room. She guided him deftly down the hallway and out of the building. Nathan heard nothing but the sounds of birds and the wind; there were no people sounds. He was walking on a hard surface, and as soon as they turned a corner, city sounds came back to him.
In another five minutes, they stopped, and the man with them removed Nathan's hood. Nathan looked around, mainly in curiosity.
"You will never figure your way back to where you were," Mitsu told him.
"Why the hell would I want to go back there? You people don't want me around, and my father isn't here, so why should I stay?"
"Your father?" Mitsu asked.
Oh, shit. Nathan had not meant to say that, but he was angry, and wasn't thinking entirely clearly. The toothpaste was out of the tube at this point, however.
"Yes. Ron Chaffey is my father. That's why I'm looking for him."
"I see." Mitsu started them walking again. "He did not train you in the use of your skills?"
"Never met him before. My mother and he parted ways a long time ago."
"I never knew my father, either. He was killed before I was even born."
"I'm sorry. At least I will one day get to meet my dad. I hope."
"You seem quite determined. I am sure you will succeed."
The trio walked on for quite some time without saying anything. They were in the heart of the city proper at this point. Nathan was continuing to look around, just sight-seeing, really. The others kept their eyes forward, on the street they were traveling down.
Out of the corner of his eye, Nathan caught some movement. He turned his head to see what had grabbed his attention. What he saw made him go pale. A man, dressed in black, had his hands positioned in such a way that he could only be doing one thing. Before Nathan could react, he sensed the attack leave the man's hands. It appeared to be heading for Mitsu.
"LOOK OUT!" Nathan screamed. He had just enough time to jump in between Mitsu and the onrushing ball of energy, his defensive shield raised to the maximum power he was capable of at the time. He was thanking his father for teaching him this technique right up to the point that the energy ball impacted his shields.
Nathan was thrown ten feet by the impact, and the energy ball eventually penetrated the shield, washing over Nathan's body. Before the effect faded, Nathan was once again unconscious.
Nathan once again awoke to a throbbing pain in his skull. He began to open his eyes, but the light that struck them was too bright, and he only managed to open them a sliver before squeezing them tightly shut again.
Taking deep breaths, Nathan tried to take stock of his situation. The first thing he noticed was that he was lying on a soft surface. It felt like a bed, and there was definitely a pillow under his head.
As his mind explored his body, he could see all of the places that needed repairing. Since he couldn't even open his eyes, let alone move around, he figured he might as well set to work on the task.
In a couple hours, he had managed to set his body back on the path to good health. He was, however, quite tired again, and he faded off into sleep once more.
When Nathan next awoke, he felt a cool, wet cloth running over his chest. He moaned quietly; it felt rather nice. He allowed himself to simply enjoy the sensation for a little while, but then felt he needed to see what was going on around him.
Very slowly, Nathan cracked open his eyes. The light still seemed harsh to him, but not as bad as the first time. He could make out a figure above him, but it was blurry at first. Slowly, the world came into focus. The person tending to him was Mitsu. She immediately saw that he was awake.
As Nathan stirred, Mitsu placed her hand on his chest, to hold him down. Nathan noted that was also soft, and rather cool.
"Please, do not move," she said quietly. "You are not well."
"Yeah, I kinda figured that," he said with a groan. "I do know how to bathe myself, though..."
Mitsu blushed slightly. "I have been tending to you. I have done this each day, so that you would be clean when you awoke."
Nathan panicked a little, mentally. "What do you mean, 'each day'? How long have I been out?"
"Holy shit," he replied, not managing enough energy to put any real emotion into the curse. He relaxed into the bed. "Where are we?"
"You are back where you were. It is just a different room."
"Ah. Yeah, somewhat more comfortable."
Mitsu moved closer to him, to look down into his eyes. "I must thank you for saving my life. But why did you do it? We held you captive, we ordered you to leave... you had no reason to come to our aid."
"Well, you didn't mistreat me while you were holding me captive, either. Most people keeping a psionic in a cage would have done things I don't really want to think about. Besides... well, I kinda like you."
Mitsu blushed again. She leaned down and gently hugged Nathan. "Thank you very much. I must go and let them know you are awake now."
Nathan relaxed back into the bed as Mitsu left the room. While she was gone, he spent time exploring his body. His wounds were nearly healed, which made him wonder at just what point he'd woken up to heal himself. He was weak, but he figured that might be due to lack of food and water more than anything.
By the time the others came back in, Nathan had mustered the energy to sit up on the bed and swing his feet over the side. He wasn't ready to attempt to stand. Mitsu came back to his side as the older man that he had met before came in. Nathan did not miss the fact that there were no guards with them this time.
"It is good to see you sitting up," the man said, through Mitsu. "But I do wonder how it is possible."
Nathan looked at him quizzically. "I don't understand."
"The blast that hit you, should have killed you. It most certainly would have done so to Mitsu. You are a more powerful man than we have given you credit for. You hide your strength very well."
"I'm afraid I don't hide it, so much as not know how to use it."
There was a bit of a stir between the two as a brief conversation went back and forth between them. Finally, the man said, "You have not been trained to use your strength?"
"I haven't had a chance. I assumed that my father would teach me, when I found him."
There was a long silence, during which Mitsu smiled at him, and the old man looked to be deep in thought. Finally, he spoke.
"The world is a dangerous place to wander unskilled. You have shown great honor in your deeds toward us, despite our actions toward you. Why did you help young Mitsu?"
Nathan shrugged. "I didn't want her to get hurt."
"I see. But surely you knew that you would get hurt in her place."
Nathan shrugged again. "I didn't really think about it at the time. I knew I had a chance at surviving, and she didn't. No normal person is going to survive a psionic blast like that."
Nathan didn't understand the old man's laughter until he finally spoke. "Mitsu is no normal person. Have you not guessed that the people surrounding you are also psionics?"
Nathan paled, and smacked himself mentally. He should have guessed that right off the bat when he couldn't use his powers on them. He said, "I knew you had a way to stop me from using my ability. I didn't put two and two together. I'm... a little off balance here."
That last statement took some tricky linguistics on Mitsu's part, apparently, as it took her a while to translate. The old man nodded.
"We will talk later." The man said something to Mitsu, and then left.
After a moment of surprise, Mitsu turned to Nathan. "He wants me to show you the grounds and tell you about us. Do you think you're up to walking?"
"I don't really know. I feel a little weak. Perhaps I could eat something, first?"
"Yes, that would be good. Let me get you something."
Before he could say any more, she had left the room.
When Nathan exited the building, he found himself on the grounds of a martial arts school. The uniforms...
"You guys are ninjas?" he asked rather incredulously.
"Most of the students you see here are shinobi no mono. They are what you call ninjas. They are not what we call Ninja."
"It is somewhat confusing because of the language. The people that have traditionally - in The West - been called 'ninjas', really aren't. They are students of an art called ninjutsu, but are not Ninja. These students are normal people. All Ninja are psionics."
"I'm still confused."
"In the second century, the first psionics started to emerge. At least, the first that we know of. They first appeared deep inside China, near what is now Tibet. For reasons we don't understand, they began to be drawn together. From widely spread villages and towns, they eventually, over many years, came together, to form a psionic guild. The point of the guild was to hone their skills, develop new abilities, and to challenge each other in friendly competition. It allowed them to keep their skills sharp, in case they should ever need them.
"This guild was called YingLong. In Japanese, KageRyuu. In English, the ShadowDragon. For several centuries, the guild worked quietly, building its numbers and training. However, a rift was growing among its members. Over time, there came to be two groups within the guild. There were those who wished to use their powers over others, to control and guide the world. Then there were those who simply wished to live quietly and be left alone. They practiced their skills in hope that they would not be needed, knowing, even so, that they would.
"For several more centuries, there was a stable balance between the two halves of the guild, but in the eighth century, a charismatic leader arose to lead the aggressive sect, and he insisted that the guild should begin to assert its authority. The leaders of the guild were from the defensive sect, however, and refused to even acknowledge his wishes. Eventually, a guild war erupted. After several days, and many deaths, the leaders of the two groups sat down, and decided that the guild must split. In order that a war between them would not continue, they agreed to leave China. The aggressive sect moved west. The defensive sect moved east, into Japan. In order that they were not discovered by the aggressive sect, whom they did not trust, they changed their name to Ninja. In English... a sneaky person, or something like that. The name does not translate well.
"It was immediately clear, however, that such a large group would be noticed if they did not disperse. The guild divided into clans, and each clan chose an area of their own to live in. Still, they wanted even further protection from discovery. They decided to take the physical skills they had learned over time, and teach them to normal people. Those normal people are known, here in Japan, as shinobo no mono, or just shinobi. In order to even further disguise ourselves, we allowed the word "ninja" to become associated with the shinobi. Thus, when we talk of Ninja, we mean those of us with psionic abilities, but an outsider would not understand the difference.
"Each of the Ninja also learn ninjutsu. The skills are almost an integral part of our psionic combat. The legends of ninja turning themselves invisible, or disappearing in a cloud of dust... they are entirely true. Such things were done by true Ninja. The shinobi do enjoy the reputation, if not the actual skill.
"Do you have any questions?"
During her talk, Mitsu had led Nathan around the grounds, and he had watched the students train. He couldn't believe people could move as these people were moving.
"How long have you been training?"
"Since I was thirteen, and my powers appeared. That was three years ago."
"How much longer will your training take?"
"The rest of my life."
Nathan smiled. "I deserved that."
Mitsu smiled at him. "Because I have chosen to live among the guild, my training will never stop. Some of our members do decide to leave and live among the people."
"Why do you close yourself off like this?"
"Because it is too easy for us to manipulate our surroundings to our whims. It is unfair for a small group to benefit at the expense of a much larger group. That is the reason The Ninja trained the shinobi against the samurai. We don't like bullies. But Ninja, by their very nature, are able to push people around without any effort. So most of us prefer to live in secret, among our own kind, where the playing field, as you would say, is more level."
"Your English is very good," Nathan said.
"You aren't the only person I've talked with. We communicate with other groups around the world. English is the chosen language we speak in."
"Oh. So... why are you guys kicking me out? All I wanted was to find my father."
"We are still wary of the aggressive sect. We know they were involved in the war. Supposedly, they fought alongside your father against the Russians. However, we know they have taken over part of America. As such, we are suspicious of anyone coming here from America."
"Do you know where my father is?"
"No. We have no information on him. We have never had need to ask about his whereabouts before."
"Damn. Oh, sorry."
"I swear, too, Nathan, when I have a reason. Although I do so in Japanese only." She smiled at him.
"I am Ninja..."
The two continued to walk the grounds without saying a lot to each other. Finally, Mitsu picked up the conversation again.
"I'm not sure I'm happy with your explanation of why you saved me," she said.
"You had no reason to risk yourself, even if you did like me."
"Well... keep in mind, I thought you were a normal person. I didn't know you could defend yourself."
"Against that blast, I could not. Certainly not without more warning. But you're avoiding the question."
"Not really. I don't really have an answer for you. It never occurred to me to not step in. I just did what came naturally."
"You are either very brave, or very foolish. And I don't think you're foolish. I owe you my life. Thank you." She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.
Nathan blushed, and grew quiet.
Finally, Mitsu said, "They want to see you now."
Mitsu led Nathan into what turned out to be a small meeting hall. Several dozen Ninja were seated along the side walls, and three were seated at the far end of the room. Nathan recognized the one in the middle as the older man he had spoken with.
Mitsu remained by Nathan's side, telling him that she would be his translator for this meeting, as well.
Nathan walked with a bit of trepidation up to the three men waiting for him. He bowed his head slightly, but didn't know what else he was supposed to do.
The man in the middle said, "So, now you know our true identity." Nathan nodded. "We would ask that you keep this information to yourself."
"Of course," Nathan replied.
"It is unusual for anyone to put someone else's life ahead of their own. It is even more unusual for a psionic to do so. Your actions speak well of you."
"Thank you," Nathan said, confused as to where this was going.
"You will continue to seek out your father when you leave here?"
"We cannot let you do so untrained. You have immense raw talent, but without knowing how to use it, you will not survive long enough to complete your journey. We will train you."
Nathan was stunned. "I don't know what to say. I'm honored. And I thank you, but I cannot accept. I can't afford to take several years to train myself. Every day I delay means the trail of my father grows even colder."
The old man smiled. "Truly, to learn all of the shinobi skills would, indeed, take you years to learn. But Ninja skills we can teach in a few weeks. Surely you can part with a few weeks to be assured of completing your task?"
Nathan asked Mitsu if he'd understood correctly, and she said, "He's telling you the truth. The basic Ninja skills can be taught quickly. They will take you a lot of time to master, but you don't need to be here to practice. You might also ask the master if he can teach you what he can of the shinobi skills while you are here. It will be difficult to learn much, but every bit of skill can help."
"True. Tell him that I gratefully accept."
The old man nodded, and bowed slightly. Nathan knew enough to make sure his own bow was much deeper. Mitsu smiled at him.
The man gave Mitsu some instructions, and she said to Nathan, "Come on, I'll show you to your new room."
"I want you to concentrate, Nathan. It is not as difficult as you are trying to make it. Draw on an old memory, some time when you were afraid. Then, take that fear, and project it outward."
"But what about the selective part?" he asked.
"One thing at a time," she encouraged.
Nathan dug down, and went back to when he'd first found out about his cancer. It was the most scared he had ever been in his life. With that thought in his head, he projected that fear outward, letting it radiate from him. There was no actual thought behind his field; it was pure, blind, mind-numbing fear.
Nathan's training to this point allowed him to ignore the shouts and cries he heard around him as he concentrated on his task. That is, until Mitsu cried out to him.
"Nathan, please stop!"
Nathan opened his eyes, and he saw Mitsu, ten feet from him, shaking like a leaf. He dissolved his fear field instantly, and rushed over to her.
"Are you okay? Did I do it wrong? I did it wrong, didn't I? I'm sorry, I..."
Mitsu held up her hand for him to stop talking. She took his offered hand, and he helped her up. She took a minute or so to calm down, and to let the panic subside from her body.
"You did not do it wrong. You did it very right. I was not expecting you to be able to project such a powerful field."
At that point, several of the Ninja approached. They spoke to Mitsu somewhat crossly. As she replied to them, their looks changed from anger to surprise. They looked over at Nathan, and then nodded. Without a word to him, they turned and left.
"What was that about?" He asked.
"They thought that I was pushing you to make such a large field. Your energy was felt a great distance from here. They probably felt it on the other side of Toba. You will need to learn to control your strength. We will work on that... when I have had a chance to calm down."
"I'm sorry, Mitsu," Nathan said. He didn't like seeing her in distress.
"It is not your fault. No one can know how strong the field will be the first time. Usually, it is not nearly so heavy as yours. Usually, we would have to teach someone to increase their strength. In your case, just the opposite. I think we should have lunch before we continue."
Nathan followed Mitsu to the meal hall, but his mind was troubled about what had happened. This isn't the first skill that I've done something different from what they expected. I never seem to get anything quite right. What's the matter with me?
"How come we're not wearing our normal training uniform?" Nathan asked Mitsu as they entered a small room, which looked similar to the room he had once been held captive in, but with a more comfortable mat on the floor.
"Today, we are learning a very special Ninja technique for distracting your enemy during battle," she replied. "And I didn't want to ruin your uniform." The pair of them were dressed in fairly flimsy pajama-like outfits. Nathan raised an eyebrow at Mitsu's answer.
"Just what is this new technique?"
"Using as little energy as possible, since otherwise, you're just wasting time, you try to remove your enemy's clothes. That way, they're stuck fighting nude... or at least close to it. But remember; you can't use any really powerful attacks. I mean, obviously, you could just blast their clothes into dust, but then you've spent up a lot of energy on it. This is supposed to be a quick little thing you can do to give you an edge later."
Nathan was startled that she was telling him to take her clothes off, but he would do as he was instructed.
"Okay... how do we begin?"
"When I say go, use whatever method you can to strip me. I will be attempting to do the same to you, so you will also need to avoid my attacks. Whoever removes all the other person's clothes first, wins."
"Okay." Nathan bowed to his tutor - she had told him not to call her sensei - and prepared for her assault.
Mitsu bowed to her opponent, and grinned mischievously. Quietly, she said, "Go." Just as she did, she flipped a slim bolt of energy at him.
Nathan just barely heard her say go, but he was infinitely more aware of the energy that left her hand. He tried to dodge, but wasn't quite fast enough in the small space. The bolt sliced through his shirt, but wasn't powerful enough to do anything to him through his basic psionic shields.
Mitsu flared another psionic burst at him, but this one he was able to dodge. He fired a dozen little darts of energy at her, which she flicked aside, except for two, which ripped large holes in her shirt as they passed through. Immediately after, Nathan lobbed a small ball of mental energy. Mitsu easily avoided it, but was caught unaware by Nathan's more directed energy, which ripped off one entire half of her shirt, leaving the rest hanging by one sleeve. Nathan tried not to be distracted by her bra, but it wasn't easy, and he lost one pant leg below the knee for his trouble.
The two exchanged several attacks which achieved nothing at all, until Mitsu managed to lance out an energy beam that sliced off the bottom of Nathan's shirt. He responded with three rapid-fire balls of energy, two of them landing on her pants and ripping them to shreds. As they fell free of her form, Nathan resolutely refused to look at her body... and was so resolute that he didn't notice her launching an energy ball of her own. It caught him in the shoulder, shredding the rest of his shirt off.
Nathan was unprepared when Mitsu launched herself at him physically, her arms outstretched. He could see the energy crackling in her hands. Knowing it was now or never, he lashed out with his extension, slipping it beneath the band of her bra, and then down beneath the leg of her panties. He yanked with his extension, and the garments tore free, slipping down off Mitsu's body just as she connected with him. He felt her power wash over him, but he didn't have time to consider it just now.
Nathan grabbed hold of Mitsu's arm and spun, keeping her from hitting him full force. The two were off balance, however, and were quickly falling to the floor. Nathan landed on top of Mitsu, and he quickly used his extension to grab each of her wrists and pull them up over her head, forcing her to end the fight.
Mitsu looked up at him with a coy smile. Nathan asked, "This isn't really a Ninja fighting technique, is it?"
Mitsu's grin grew even wider. "Nope. But it should be!"
"You lost, though," Nathan said. "You've got no clothes on, but I do."
"Are you sure of that?" Mitsu asked him.
Nathan quickly looked down his body to see that his clothes had evaporated. He assumed the energy that had washed over him had vaporized them. His look also forced him to gaze upon her naked breasts, with her erect nipples poking out from dark, tight areolas. His dick hardened just looking at them.
Nathan looked back up at Mitsu, who still had that coy smile playing over her face. He had a feeling this was purely staged, but he wasn't going to disappoint her. He shifted his hips, and the head of his dick slipped between her legs.
As he began to press in, he leaned in a little closer and asked, "Is this what you wanted?"
Mitsu did not have time to answer before Nathan's dick penetrated her pussy. She groaned deeply in contentment as she felt him sliding into her.
"Oh, yes, Nathan! That's what I've wanted!" She bucked her hips up at him, urging him to go faster. Nathan began to rut into her, slamming his hips hard against her pelvis, shoving his cock as deeply into her as he could go.
Beneath him, Mitsu was panting and moaning in her pleasure. She rocked her hips in time with his movements, trying to drive herself to orgasm. She was sure he would get there first, however.
Nathan's thrusts grew even more frenzied as he approached his climax. He grunted with each push, knowing that he had already passed the point of no return. He finally slammed into her, burying himself as deep as he could into her cunt, and blasted his load inside her. He clenched his eyes tightly shut and felt his whole body tense. It felt as if his entire being was exiting out his dick.
After several long moments, Nathan came down from his orgasm, and collapsed sideways, taking care not to land on Mitsu. His extension evaporated, and she rolled over to look down at him.
He smiled up at her, but she shook her head. As she began to slide down his body, she told him, "We're not done here yet."
Nathan didn't have a chance to respond before her hand encircled his dick, causing sparks of pleasure to shoot up his spine. She continued to stroke his dick as she slid down his body, until her mouth was even with his prick.
Mitsu didn't waste a second, but immediately took him into her mouth, sucking on him for all she was worth. She bobbed on his semi-hard shaft, and it didn't take very long before Nathan was fully erect once again.
Mitsu only sucked him for a little while longer, before letting him loose from her warm lips. She sat up, and then turned around. Looking over her shoulder, she gave him another coy little smile.
"I want you to... what was the phrase... buttfuck me!"
Nathan's eyebrows shot up in surprise, but Mitsu didn't bother to pay attention to that. She lowered herself onto her hands and knees, and wiggled her ass at him, spreading her knees to give him just as much room as she comfortably could.
Nathan sat up, and looked at Mitsu, her pussy easily visible, and her ass cheeks parting so that he could see her rosebud, waiting for his attention. He got to his knees and moved in behind her. He slid his cock deep into her pussy, stroking slowly. He knew that he would need to be well-lubed.
After a few moments of that, Mitsu began to moan at him. He took the hint, and pulled out of her pussy. He slid his dick up slightly, and pressed the head of his cock firmly against her asshole. He slowly pressed in, using just enough pressure to make slow progress. Mitsu was moaning constantly, wiggling her ass and trying to adjust to the feel of him inside her. As she managed to relax, Nathan slipped in more easily, and it wasn't long before he was fully buried inside her.
Nathan paused a moment to take a breather. She was incredibly tight, and he relished the feel of her around his prick. He stroked her back and her ass cheeks while he rested, and Mitsu sighed softly at his touch.
Finally, Nathan felt he was ready, and he began to stroke into her. He started slow, making small motions and not going too fast, but as soon as he was sure she was okay with it, his thrusts grew more powerful, and more rapid. He was soon thrusting into her with all he had.
Mitsu was crying out beneath him, lost to the pleasure of the moment. She squealed when Nathan reached forward and tweaked one of her nipples, and shoved back harder against him, pushing him as far as she could into her ass.
Nathan continued to slam into her, but he also formed his extension. He slipped this down along her hip, and then pressed it into her pussy.
Mitsu screamed out her orgasm as his extension penetrated her, but Nathan didn't even slow down. He moved his cock and his extension in rhythm, making sure that one of her holes was always being filled. The sensation was intense for him, and he knew he didn't have very long to go, but he wanted to give as good as he was getting.
Mitsu's orgasm refused to end; she continued to be wracked with spasm after spasm. Her body was quickly reaching overload, and she was unable to even utter any intelligible words.
Nathan finally had all he could withstand, and he let loose his cum deep into Mitsu's ass. He shoved both his cock and his extension as deep into her as he could, and he froze.
Beneath him, Mitsu felt his cum filling her ass, and she also felt her holes being completely stuffed. She gave one last, long scream, and then passed out, collapsing beneath her lover.
Nathan was not far behind, but he was aware enough to check to make sure she was all right before he passed out beside her.
"Have you been practicing your connection to the Spirit Realm?" Mitsu asked for her sensei.
"Yes. I can make the connection, but have not proceeded any further, since you told me not to."
"Very good. Today, we are going to make use of the connection. We do not believe in entering the Spirit Realm; that is not a place for humans. We can, however, use it as a..." here, Mitsu fumbled with the translation, and then finally said, "think of it as a crossroads. You have to go to the one spot, but from there, you can go many places."
"Okay, I get the idea. All roads lead to Rome."
Mitsu didn't know the reference, but nodded. "Now, what you are to do, is to pick a point... about ten feet would be a good starting point, but as far away as you think you can manage... then we want you to connect with the Spirit Realm, and then, through that connection, we want you to make a physical connection to the other point you're looking at. At that point, you should be able to simply... step across, and move from one place to the other, without walking the distance in-between."
"How do I make a physical connection? My connection with the Spirit Realm has always been mental..."
"Where the mind goes, the body will soon follow. You simply refuse to sever the connection between your mind and your body as you push your mind forward. Your body will have no choice but to... 'come along for the ride.'"
"Okay..." Nathan said dubiously. He picked a spot across the yard, and focused on it. Then he closed his eyes, so that he could make the connection with the Spirit Realm, as they had told him to do. When he was sure the connection was secure, he always saw a seashore, but never anyone on it. He wondered if he should ask someone about that or not.
Once he was comfortable with his connection in the Spirit Realm, he turned his attention back to the Earthly plain. He looked at the spot he was trying to go. It was then that he realized he was seeing the scene in the waters on the shore. He concentrated, and pushed himself forward, toward the image...
When Nathan's body vanished from next to Mitsu, she did not panic. She was concerned, however, that he did not reappear close by. She looked around wildly for a second before spotting him, some thirty feet from her past another tree. She looked in astonishment at her sensei.
"Impressive," was his only reaction.
Mitsu ran over to Nathan, to make sure he'd had no adverse effects from the trip.
"How do you feel?"
"Fine. How'd I do?"
"Better than anyone I've ever met on their first try."
"Really? I think I could have gone farther, but I didn't want to push my luck..."
"It is best that you don't. Though it might seem easy, such a trip really takes a lot of energy."
Nathan nodded, suddenly starting to feel the effects of his trip. "Yeah, I see what you mean. Takes a second to kick in, but I am definitely feeling worn out now."
The instructor told Nathan to return to his room and recuperate for the rest of the day. Mitsu took his arm and said, "Come on, I'll give you a back rub."
Once the sensei was clearly out of earshot, he asked, "Is that all you're going to rub?"
Mitsu gave him an evil grin and said, "You know better than that."
Over the next several weeks, Nathan learned as much as he could. He spent every waking moment thinking about what he had been taught, and how he could best apply it in his own life.
Well, not every waking moment... he thought to himself as he rolled over and hugged Mitsu to him. They had been inseparable since their first time together, and they had shared his bed many nights.
That tonight was their last night together for several days upset Nathan. He had been informed only the day before that the final stage of his training involved a long journey during which he would be repeatedly tested. There would be no one to communicate with, and so Mitsu would not accompany him. He would be totally alone, with little more than a map and whatever he could carry with him.
Let that wait until morning. I have her with me tonight...
He made good use of the time.
Nathan sensed, but did not see, the shinobi tracking him. He slipped tightly up against a tree, and concentrated. Soon, he was invisible, even to himself. It was disconcerting to him not to be able to see his own body, but it was certain to fool any nomal.
In a few seconds, he saw the shinobi... and his three partners. One would walk right past Nathan. He slowed his heart rate and brought his breathing almost to a stop as the man walked within three feet of his spot...
...and about a foot farther, before Nathan's hand came out over the man's mouth, and then he pulled the man down onto the ground. The shinobi was wide-eyed in surprise, and a little fear, but he nodded in surrender, accepting the defeat.
The other shinobi had not noticed the loss of the one man. Nathan focused on the farthest warrior, and then closed his eyes. In only a few seconds, he transported himself fifty feet, right in front of the other man, who did not have time to so much as scream before Nathan had him on the ground, a hand clamped over his mouth to keep him silent. This warrior, too, surrendered.
The two remaining fighters seemed more alert now, and so Nathan knew he had to be careful. There eyesight would not be good in the dim light, but they had other ways of finding him. Nathan slipped up a tree, and moved silently through the branches. He saw that the remaining pair of men were moving on a curving path. He decided to cut the corner, and he was waiting for them when they turned.
A psionically-augmented yell as he leapt from the tree startled both men, causing them to look up in shock. It was their last mistake of the night. Soon, both were on the ground, as helpless as the first two had been. Nathan knew that this would probably be the last of the shinobi tests; after this, they would make him face Ninja.
Nathan crouched beside a boulder. He knew that there were two Ninja hunting him in this immediate area. He was fully aware that he was not yet up to defeating two at once. This meant that his best strategy was to hide from them until they passed by him, and then move out of their range.
Over the preceding weeks, Nathan had been taught many methods for hiding, and especially how to hide himself from another psionic. Right now, he was not invisible, but was instead merely hiding in a strong shadow, his Ability masked while he kept his shields at the ready. He could not allow his shields to leave his body, or that energy alone would be detectable. He was, however, able to have them ready to be deployed in a split second, all the energy within himself and hidden. Normally, a psionic would be able to detect such a build-up.
But not from a Ninja.
Nathan finally saw one of his pursuers. They walked through the trees, about forty feet from him. The man turned his head left and right, and it was obvious that he wasn't looking just with his eyes.
Nathan hoped and prayed that his defenses worked; it was unlikely that he would make it through the attack of two trained Ninja.
Suddenly, Nathan felt a presence behind himself. He didn't even bother to turn to look; he merely raised his shields to maximum level, and dove away from the rock.
When he turned, he saw that he had been fooled into reacting. There was no one behind him, but the Ninja had projected a presence to force Nathan into moving. Now that his shields had acted as a beacon to his presence, he ran like hell.
Several energy balls bounced off Nathan's shields before he was far enough away from his pursuers to slow down and think. He knew which powers he could use without detection, and which he couldn't. There were also several gray areas; power that might be overlooked in the heat of a battle, if it was partially masked. He chose one of those now.
Nathan used his extension to push himself straight up, and he landed on the highest limb of a tall tree. This was when he appreciated his small stature; if he'd been heavier, the limb would not have supported his weight. Nathan clung to the limb, and once again clamped down on his Ability, not radiating even the tiniest hint of psionic energy.
In only a minute, the two men passed beneath Nathan, and then kept walking. The problem was that they were now walking in the direction he needed to go. He had hoped to slip past them, and then be clear of them, but now they would be constant trouble.
I'll have to try to deal with them one at a time. If I can get them to separate, dammit...
After two hours of tracking the trackers, Nathan finally got his opportunity. They had split up to go on opposite sides of a rocky outcropping. Nathan moved swiftly so that he was within a few feet of the Ninja who had seemed more powerful. First, Nathan let loose with a flurry of glowing cherry blossom petals, falling to the ground. The Ninja was immediately on alert, but Nathan had made himself invisible again, and was cloaking his presence.
Once the psionic had stopped turning his head, and tried to concentrate enough to make the illusion go away, Nathan quickly snapped out his extension and gripped the man's neck. Immediately, the Ninja sensed Nathan's presence, but at that point, it was too late. Nathan quickly tightened his grip and held it, the Ninja fighting to no avail. In only a few seconds, the man passed out.
Nathan let his extension loosen, but he did not drop the man. That would make noise and bring his partner running. Instead, Nathan pulled the man up the rocky outcropping and laid him down on a smooth spot below the top. He then went in search of his other opponent.
Nathan was worried. For the last day of his journey, he had been completely unopposed. He wondered if he had already failed the test, or if they were tracking him in some stealthier fashion, to see if he could catch them.
As he came down out of the hills, he could see the enclave in the distance. It was clear, even from here, that something was very wrong.
Nathan ran as fast as he could.
As Nathan walked onto the campus of his temporary home, the devastation was almost overwhelming. He had known that there were feuds between various clans, but as he had been told to stay out of any fighting that might occur, he'd not taken too big an interest in exactly what the issues were. Now, he knew that had been a mistake.
Nathan wandered through the buildings, finding only hurt people, and those tending to them. He could not help them, because he had no idea what they might need. Without his interpreter, he was lost. It was Mitsu he was looking for.
Finally, Nathan entered a large room, where several bodies were covered respectfully, waiting for their final rites before burial. Nathan saw the elderly man who was the leader of this clan, and walked over to him. He stopped several feet away, and waited to be acknowledged.
The man saw him, but gave a quick order to someone else. That person left the room, and nothing more was said or done until the man returned with another individual. It was not, however, Mitsu.
The leader spoke to the new arrival, who turned to Nathan. "My name is Makoto. My English... not so good as Mitsu, but I will interpret for you. Sensei says he is sorry for cutting your final test short. When the attack happen... he not want you involved, want to keep you safe, so did not tell you."
"I understand," Nathan said, grateful, actually, for the protection. "My main concern is, what happened to Mitsu?"
The elderly man's expression was all the answer that Nathan really needed. The interpreted followed up with, "I am afraid she was killed in battle. She fought bravely, but chance not favor her this time."
Nathan felt his heart sink. "Is she... here?" he asked, motioning to the bodies around them. "Can I see her?"
The elderly man nodded, and the interpreter led Nathan a few rows over and down. He pointed to the proper sheet, and Nathan knelt. He steadied himself a bit before pulling the cover back. Her face and upper body were a mess. He felt his stomach lurch, but he swallowed hard. He looked for one last, long moment, and then gently replaced the sheet.
Standing, Nathan turned to the interpreter and said, "Who is responsible for this?"
The elderly man heard Nathan's comment, and barked an order at the interpreter.
"He wants me to take you to be fed, and then back to your room to rest. Your question, he says, will be answered, but... not now."
"Fair enough," Nathan replied. Someone will pay for this.
Nathan was meditating in his room the next day when there was a knock at the door. Nathan rose as the door opened to reveal the interpreter from the day before.
"Sensei says you should come now," he said, and Nathan nodded, following the man down the hall.
The pair entered the meeting hall of the clan. As before, many of the clan members lined the walls, and the three leaders sat at the far end of the room. To the left of the leaders were four men, kneeling, with hoods on their heads. The interpreter motioned Nathan forward, and then followed a few steps behind him.
Nathan walked forward resolutely, but stopped when he reached the kneeling men. He could tell they had been in battle. He also suspected that they had been tortured after their capture. That did not trouble him greatly.
Finally, Nathan resumed walking, and stopped in front of the leaders, bowing deeply. "I was called for," he said as he rose from his bow, "and so I came." It was a customary way to begin such a meeting.
The interpreter stepped up so that he was between the leaders and Nathan.
"Your training is finished," the interpreter said. "Except one final test. You must deal with those who hurt you."
Nathan cocked his head to indicate that he did not understand. The elderly leader merely pointed to the four men kneeling behind them. Nathan turned and looked back at them.
"Sensei answers your question... now."
Nathan's look grew cold and hard. "These are the ones who killed Mitsu?"
"One of them killed Mitsu. You must find which. All of them part of the attack on us."
Nathan turned to face the men, and felt someone at his side. He turned to see a young boy, who handed him his sword. They had presented Nathan with a training sword the day his lessons had begun. This was not that sword. Nathan looked to the leaders.
The interpreter said, "For what you must do, cannot use a training sword."
"I'm only allowed to harm the one who killed Mitsu?"
"Only must prove you know which."
Nathan stepped up in front of each man, and nodded to have their hoods removed. He looked deep into the eyes of the first... delved into his thoughts easily. The man had killed several, but Mitsu was not one of them. He moved on to the second, and the third, but they, too, did not have any recollection of Mitsu.
The fourth man fought mightily to prevent Nathan into his thoughts, but Nathan used his natural strength, coupled with Ninja tricks, to penetrate the man's thoughts, and he saw in vivid detail how the man had brutally massacred his girlfriend.
Nathan stepped back, and moved so that he was in front of the second man. He pulled his sword and held it down at his side. There was a sudden hush to the room, and Nathan knew what they were thinking; they obviously knew who the real killer was.
In one swift motion, Nathan swung his sword in a wide arc and beheaded the first three men. Their heads flipped through the air before making a dull, hollow thud on the meeting hall floor.
Sheathing his sword, Nathan moved to the remaining man. He fought his way back into the man's mind, and there began his work.
The man suddenly screamed, "No! Please, no! Kill me! I would rather die!"
The interpreter told Nathan what he'd said.
"Which is why you will not die today," Nathan responded. "You will live the rest of your life, remembering her, and knowing that because of what you've done, you will forever be a victim."
As Nathan finished his work, the man did not hear, nor need, the translation. He knew what had been done to him. The man screamed in fear and panic, but Nathan merely turned from him, to face the elders. He bowed to them, and the eldest spoke.
"You have chosen correctly. Please go to your room now."
Nathan walked out of the meeting hall, the wails of the tormented man ringing in his ears.
Nathan was summoned the next day by the same interpreter. They went back to the meeting hall, but this time, they entered a smaller side room, rather than the main gallery.
In the small room were the three elders, plus two other people that Nathan had never seen before. One was clearly African, or at least had that ancestry. The other looked to possibly be Chinese, but certainly Asian of some heritage.
As Nathan was directed to sit down, the interpreter left. This panicked Nathan a bit; he still couldn't speak but the barest rudiments of Japanese.
He needn't have worried. The African girl said to him, "My name is Gabrielle. I'll be the interpreter for this meeting. Your name is Nathan, right?"
"Yeah. Are you from the States?"
Gabrielle giggled. "No, I'm from Kenya. But I've spent a lot of time talking with people from America and other English-speaking places."
The eldest leader then spoke.
"Although your training as a shinobi has only barely begun, your training as a Ninja is complete. We have no more that we can teach you. You must continue to practice, in order to be competent with the skills we have given you, but the knowledge is yours. Use it wisely."
"I will. About my shinobi skills... My father implanted some training materials in my head when I was very little. That's how I learned what little I knew before I'd come to you. Is it possible for you to do the same? Could you... give me the knowledge I need, so that I can continue my training after I leave here?"
The leaders conferred amongst themselves for a few minutes, while Gabrielle introduced her friend as Bruce Lee.
"Uh-huh," Nathan said dubiously.
"My parents had awful sense of humor," Bruce replied. "Our family known for being.... what is word, Gabrielle?"
"Yes, that. So, they want to break... 'curse'. They name child after famous martial artist, man who is very graceful. Hope that I be graceful, too."
"And are you?"
"I trip over own feet," he said with a grimace. Nathan chuckled at him.
Finally, the leaders ended their conference.
"We will attempt to do what you have asked. We make no promises, but we will try to give you the information you need to carry on your training."
"Now, we have brought you here because these couriers are from other places, where your father may have been sighted."
"I thought there were no psionics in China?" he asked, motioning to Bruce.
"I am actually from Vietnam."
"Oh. I'm sorry," Bruce waved it off.
"Who is your father?" Gabrielle asked.
"Ron Chaffey," Nathan replied.
"You mean the Ron Chaffey?" she asked. "The head honcho for the Americans?"
"That's the guy."
"How'd you lose him? Don't tell me he abandoned you..."
"It's a really long story. I've never met him. I need to find him."
Bruce shook his head. "I hear of him, but I don't think he ever been to Vietnam, or other countries nearby. Sorry I cannot help more."
Nathan nodded in acceptance. Gabrielle, however, was more sanguine.
"There've been a lot of stories about him being in Africa. I'm not sure if he was ever in Kenya, but you know, my dad would know a lot better than I would. He's kind of the informal historian for our psionic guild. He keeps track of all of that kind of thing. I could send a message back from home, if you like. It might take a couple months to get here..."
"I don't think I should stay here any longer. With Mitsu gone... it doesn't feel right here anymore."
The elders nodded. "We think you should travel with Gabrielle to her homeland. Since there has been talk of your father there, it is more likely that you will be able to locate him there than here."
Nathan nodded. The youngest of the three leaders then laid a sheathed sword on the table and pushed it across to Nathan. Nathan picked it up and looked at it, then looked to the leaders for an explanation.
"You have earned the right to leave here with a sword from our clan. This one belonged to Mitsu. We believe that she would want you to have it."
Nathan wiped away a tear, and fought the constriction in his throat. He bowed to the leaders as much as he could while sitting down.
"Thank you. I will remember all you have taught me."
"You may go. We will call you when we are ready to perform the... knowledge imparting."
Nathan rose, then bowed to them all again before leaving the room.
On his way back to his room, he heard someone calling his name. He turned to see Gabrielle running to catch up with him.
"Hey! Where you going?"
"Just back to my room."
"You want to do something? I know you're done with your training, so..."
"Like what?" he asked, not rudely, but with some exasperation. "I've been here for weeks, and have yet to find anything to pass the time except training..."
"Gee, they keep you locked up that tight? C'mon, there's plenty to see in the city. I'll show you around. It'll be fun, and take your mind off things."
Nathan sighed. He wanted to be alone, to think about Mitsu, but this girl was too friendly and insistent to brush off easily.
"Okay," he said in surrender.
"Great! We'll have a lot of fun, I promise!"
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