“I didn’t plan on Izumi shooting her!” Inazuma snapped, “Why did you bring her there anyway? She could’ve been hurt! And how did she get a gun!?”
“Oh calm down. I never planned on her being harmed. As for the gun, I’m not entirely sure.”
“And she won’t tell me anything” Inazuma added, “I think the whole situation shook her. This is not what I agreed too!”
“No, it wasn’t. It was foolish to think you could take her on. No matter. We finally know where Nanba Ichi, thanks to Shifter. We can regroup. With his help, Kamara will be powerless to stop us!”
“Well, there’s an account of assault and kidnapping to add the boy’s record.”
“There’s only one thing we can do,” Cole announced, “We have to sniff the Kurai Kodomo out, and put them behind bars!”
It was the next evening. No one had seen Kamara the whole day. Nya reported that she had been to see Kamara, and even though she as fully capable of walking around, she wouldn’t come out. They were once again disappointed to see that they failed to butter up Kamara enough to join them for dinner. Eventually, Cole was so fed up, he decided they needed to come up with a plan of attack, and call Jade. She was put on speakerphone and the phone was placed in the middle of the dining room table.
“We sent agents up to the Yamiyo Caverns. It seems they’ve abandoned ship since the last time we were there” Jade proclaimed.
“Oh great. Now we don’t even know where they are!” Jay cried.
“We are already handling both the serpentine and the Kurai Kodomo. There’s a high chance we’ll slip, and our enemies will have the upper hand” Zane analyzed.
“Or form an alliance” Nya added.
“This isn’t simple like the Serpentine” said Kai, “It’s a personal attack. Every time. On one of our own.”
He turned to the phone. “Jade, is there anything you know that could give us an idea of where to look?”
“I’ve been scanning the criminal database for our cult friends,” Jade disclosed, “Inazuma is the only one with a solid written background. The other is Shifter. Well known as a fierce bounty hunter in the convict underground. That’s all we have on him.”
“Nothing on Safrina?”
“Maybe she’s using an alternate identity” Nya recommended.
“Possibly. I can check the Ninjago Citizenship Genealogy. She has to be documented somewhere.”
There was a sound of the sliding door creak. Everyone looked up. There was a brown eye peering into the room. It was Kamara. They were surprised.
“Kamara, is something wrong?” Sensei Wu inquired, not turning around.
The door opened wider. Sure enough, it was Kamara. She had changed into more comfortable casual wear. Kamara seemed to have fear strike her when she noticed everyone was staring at her.
“I…Uh…Thought I might join you” she stammered, “Is there no room?”
“No! Not at all!” Cole exclaimed, “Please! Come sit!”
Kamara slowly entered the room and closed the door behind her. She silently made her way across the room and took her seat next to Kai.
“You doing alright?” he whispered.
Kamara nodded. “Yeah, thanks…”
Everyone’s spirits lifted in the room a bit, as they had never seen Kamara take a seat at the table, unless it was her turn to make the meal. The conference continued:
“Jade, did the Kurai Kodomo leave anything behind in the Yamiyo Caverns?” Zane inquired.
“As a matter of fact, they did leave a few things: tables, chairs, all the rest of the furniture. Even some of the weapons were left behind.”
“There’s got to be something there!” Kai insisted.
“The entrance is guarded by our agents though. I’ve already pulled a lot of strings to help you. I don’t think I can persuade the boss to let you in.”
Kai scoffed. “No problem. We’re ninjas! We can just sneak in!”
“It’s settled then” Cole announced, “First thing in the morning, we’re going to head to the Yamiyo Caverns. It’s the best place to start.
They ended the conference and continued dinner. Dinner was quiet. Mostly because Kamara was there, and no one was sure of what to do. When it was over, everyone got ready for bed. Kamara had finished in the restroom, Cole was walking by and stopped her.
“Oh good, I’m glad I caught you now,” he said, “Kamara, I need to talk to you.”
Kamara slowly closed the restroom door behind her and replied, “Okay, what’s up?”
“Kam, I don’t think you should go with us tomorrow.”
Kamara’s eyes widened.
“What?” she gasped.
“Sensei agrees that your shoulder is going to be really sore the next few days. You really shouldn’t be doing any kind of fighting right now” Cole elaborated.
“Cole, don’t you understand that it’s my fault we’re in the first place? I have to go with you!” Kamara persisted.
“Kam, we’ll be okay without you. You don’t need to worry about it.”
“So you’re saying you don’t want me around because I’ll cause trouble?”
“What? No, that’s not what I meant at all!”
Kamara was going to open her mouth and spit some more angry accusations, but stopped dead in her tracks. She bit her lip.
“Okay” she replied, bitterly, “Fine.”
And with that, Kamara moved around him, and promptly sprinted to her room and shut the door. Cole sighed, exasperated, running his hands through his hair.
“Oh Kamara, when are you going to learn that the world isn’t against you?”
The Destiny’s Bounty was lowered and landed on the ground. The ramp jettisoned from the ship. The ninja had transformed their vehicles and were preparing to leave. What they didn’t know, was that Kamara was awake, and quickly changed into her newly-mended uniform. She ran up the stairs and onto the upper deck. She burst the doors open. The ninja jumped in surprised.
“Hey guys!” she exclaimed, a bit breathlessly, “I…I wanted to see you off.”
She ran up to them.
“You got everything?” she asked.
The boys were still stunned. What was this sudden change in attitude?
“Yeah, we’re good” Cole responded.
Kamara nodded. “Good…Good. Oh, and Cole?”
Cole looked up, adjusting his mask.
“I wanted to apologize…For the way I acted last night. You were right. It’s not wise for me to fight right now.”
Cole observed her. It appears she had a difference of heart. Her face was glowing with redemptive energy, no hint of martyrdom or anger in the least. Then, he smiled.
“I forgive you” he replied, “Thanks for seeing us off.”
Kamara grinned. They had never seen her grin before. Kamara took a step back and addressed all of them.
“Be careful, all of you” she warned, “Come back safely.”
“We will” said Zane.
Kai walked up next to Kamara and said, “Stay out of trouble” he stated.
Kamara scoffed, and playfully punched his shoulder, “Look who’s talking!”
Kai chuckled. There was a moment of awkward silence before Kamara announced:
“Well, what are you waiting for? Away with you!” The ninja looked at each other and giggled.
“Alright, see ya later Kam!” They loaded themselves on the vehicle, then took off as the sun rose.
When the team got to the mountain, they disabled their vehicles and climbed on foot.
“Just like we did before guys” Cole assured.
“Yeah, except not getting ambushed this time” Kai added.
Sure enough, when they approached the entrance to the Yamiyo Caverns, there were two black cars with four agents, traffic cones, and yellow tape. They climbed the walls of the mountain so that, when they got to the front door, they would be above it, and slip right in. They waited until the guards had their backs turned and one by one, the ninja slipped inside the darkness of the caverns, unnoticed.
It was easier to navigate the caverns this time, since they knew where to go. They soon found themselves in the Kurai Kodomo’s living room. Sure enough, it was abandoned. Buckets and chairs were turned over, as well as the eating table burnt to a crisp, and lying on its side.
“Okay boys, start looking for clues!” Cole ordered.
“Wonder if they have secret panels…” Jay wondered out loud.
“Look for that too!”
The boys looked everywhere: under rugs, tapped on the walls, searched for compartments inside the furniture. Cole activated his communicator.
“Nya, you there?”
“I’m here Cole, what’s the situation?” Nya replied over the comm link.
“Is…Kamara there too?” He added.
There was a couple seconds of silence before another voice responded, “I’m here.”
Now Cole knew how to refer their findings.
“We haven’t found anything, other than the damage we caused last time we were here. But we’re going to keep looking.”
The ringing of a phone suddenly emanating around them. Jade’s picture ID suddenly appeared on the screen.
“Wonder what’s she’s calling for? Maybe she found something!” Kamara thought.
“Team, Jade is calling, patching through now.”
Nya’s fingers raced across the keyboard until she answered Jade’s call, and all of the ninja’s pictures appeared.
“Jade, what’s up?” Kamara said.
“Ninja, you will not believe what I found!” Jade exclaimed, a bit more energetic than they were used to.
“We’re all ears” Cole replied.
“So, with the threat of the Kurai Kodomo becoming more prominent, my boss suddenly approached me with some useful information.”
“What?” Jay asked eagerly.
“Apparently, there’s a secret prison west of Ninjago City. The worst of baddies go there. In fact, some of your skeleton buddies were sent there a month after you defeated Lord Garmadon.”
“Huh. The more you know” said Kai.
“Anyway, my boss has just given me a file about a man they’ve had in that prison for decades. His name is ‘Ichi Harden’. He was a madman who called himself the son of the Overlord, and sought to find warriors to take Ninjago for his father. He displays similar traits with the rest of the Kurai Kodomo.”
“Ichi…” Kamara mumbled, “Nanbā Ichi…”
“ ‘Ichi’ is ‘one’, is it not?” Zane asked.
Nya looked at Kamara, who seemed to be deep in thought.
“Kamara?” she asked. Kamara looked up.
“Safrina mentioned someone she referred to as ‘Nanbā Ichi’. He seemed like a big deal” she deduced.
“That seems like way too much of a coincidence” Cole added.
“If he’s the big boss of the Kurai Kodomo, then he’s the biggest threat we have!” Nya exclaimed.
“He’s in cryo-stasis. I guess he was too dangerous to be let loose in a tiny cell” Jade explained, “My boss has arranged a time slot for you to see him for yourself.”
“Can you…un cryo-stasis him so we can interrogate him?” Kai asked, “Our lead kinda went cold.”
“Sorry Kai, no can do.”
“Well, it still seems important. We should go check it out” Jay recommended.
“I’ll meet up with you” Kamara recommended.
“No! No way!” Kai suddenly snapped.
“It’s too dangerous, Kam! We don’t know what this guy is capable of” Cole exclaimed, “For all we know, he could read minds or something!”
“They’re right Kamara,” said Jade, “They believe you are one of them! If he’s as dangerous as he appears, it’s extremely unwise for you to come here!”
Kamara sighed, disappointed. She touched her bandages. She hated being useless. Nya looked at her sword-sister and frowned.
“Kam?” she asked.
Kamara took a deep breath and said, “Okay.”
“Thanks Kamara” said Cole.
“Just…be careful, alright?” Kamara added.
“Will do. Okay Jade, give us your coordinates and we’ll be on our way.”