"They are magnificent, aren't they?" Emily murmured, having paused in her work of serving drinks and things to gaze at the young man whom she loved so much.
Kat nodded; she had forgotten how many times she'd seen the two of them sparring since Jason had returned. Every time it fired her hormones up a little bit more. I don't know what I'd do if all of the guys were out there at the same time! Kat's heart belonged only to Tommy, but there was no rule that said she couldn't appreciate fine male flesh when she saw it, and Angel Grove had no shortage whatsoever of that sort of thing.
"I have seen this happen over and over again, for quite a while." Billy told them from his seat not far from the two girls. He had returned only a couple of days earlier, for reasons he hadn't clarified, only that things with Cestria hadn't 'worked out'. None of them had complained; they were willing to let him go, but even gladder to see him come back. "Jason and Tommy have always loved to spar together."
Emily nodded. "I can see why." She was new to the martial arts; inducted into them by Jason himself only a few months earlier, but she understood just the certain kind of fascination that there could be had in working with someone who was your equal.
On the mat, the two young men were slowly easing off; Jason had regained his strength almost completely in the month since returning the Gold Ranger powers to Trey, but they weren't going to overdo things. He hadn't as yet broken a sweat, but the phrase 'better safe than sorry' was what they were living by in relation to how much exertion went through.
"This is incredible," Tommy smiled as they grabbed towels and headed off the mat. "Things haven't ever been this good." How could they be better? He had a beautiful girl who he loved, who loved him, his friends were there and healthy, and the Rangers were ready to defend the planet at any point they had to. Everything, everything was just going on and on without so much as a hitch to trip them up.
He should've known it was too good to last.
"Tommy." The voice felt familiar, but he couldn't place it. It didn't sound male or female, being somewhat neuter, but it still felt as if he'd heard it somewhere before, heard it often, in many situations.
Slowly he turned around, with Jason doing the same thing next to him, and stared. Standing where they had been was a figure in unrelieved black, wrapped head to foot in the traditional ninja garb. He, she, or it was perfectly still, the only thing visible about them being a pair of dark eyes. Where have I seen those eyes before? Tommy wondered. He stepped forward. "Who are you?"
Jason came up a little. "What do you want?"
"To spar. With each of you." The eyes flicked from him, to Tommy, to Rocky, to Billy, to Adam, to Trey. "One at a time or together. Or both."
Trey lifted his head as the stranger's eyes locked with his in the end. "To what purpose?"
"For the purpose of learning who is the better fighter." The ninja responded. "Do you accept?"
The small group of warriors exchanged wary glances. This could be a trick of their enemies, but then again, it could just be someone trying to prove how much better they were than the resident martial arts experts in town. Sure, they were dressed like a ninja, but anyone could put on some clothes. That didn't mean they had the skills.
"All right." Tommy agreed. "We'll spar. Who goes first?"
Rocky was on his feet almost before the words were fully out of Tommy's mouth. "Me!" He raised his hand as if he were in class. "I'll go first!"
Jason and Tommy both stepped off the mat and let their friend on. The Blue Ranger stripped his shirt and shoes off, and did a quick warm up, his movements drawing appreciative looks from the crowd. He waved a little to his current girlfriend Josie, who smiled and blushed a little bit at him, then turned his full attention onto the ninja, who hadn't moved from where they were in the beginning, simply watching.
"Let's do it."
As he spoke, the ninja leaped forward in a smooth kick to Rocky's stomach, the foot landing firmly in the middle of the rippled muscles. Rocky dropped back, whirling around and regaining his footing quickly, then jumping to the attack. Round and around they went, each move blocked, taken, or missed. At least in Rocky's case missed; the ninja's strikes always hit, and always in areas that could've caused pain if the full force of their strength was behind it.
Rocky was feeling extremely inadequate as he took blow after blow. The ninja didn't even appear to be sweating! It was as if this person knew his every move before he was going to make them! The Blue Ranger was so wrapped up in trying to figure out what was going on, he almost didn't notice when he was swept, and the ninja laid a hand on his chest.
"I believe that constitutes a win." The voice was low and just like Tommy, Rocky was certain he'd heard it somewhere before. "Do you yield? Or do we go through this again?"
Rocky sighed. He couldn't remember the last time a non-Ranger had laid him out so easily. "All right. You won."
As he left the mat, the ninja glanced at the other members of the group. "Who is next?" The question was just as calm and unruffled as everything else they had said.
"Me." Jason stepped up. He would never fight in anger, except against the forces of evil, but there was something about this ninja that was almost...irritating! Not as if they were arrogant or cocky, but as if he should have recognized them, and just wasn't!
The ninja waited for him to step out, and as they bowed to one another, the fight began. Once again smooth moves countered masterful blocking on both sides, with the two of them twirling and whirling about one another in a way that is far better imagined than described, as no mortal pen or tongue could give an accurate accounting of the marvelous skill displayed by the two fighters.
But as skilled as Jason was, the ninja was the more skilled yet, and down upon the mat he went, with a finger upon his chest in the same fashion that it had been lain upon Rocky's. "Do you yield?" The same question, given in the same passionless fashion. And once again, the same answer.
The people of Angel Grove saw something that had never happened before that day. The finest martial artists in their city, always a haven for those who had studied the arts of defense and attack, were one by one defeated and brought down by the strange ninja. Not one false move did they use, not a single trick that was not honorable and true. Immense skill and patience were their hallmarks, and as each of the Rangers were defeated, their respect for the stranger grew and grew.
Trey, Tommy, Adam, and Billy all went down one by one to the stranger's skill. As Billy, the last of them, admitted defeat, the ninja stepped back off the mat. "Do you admit that I am a better fighter than you are?" The question was directed at the entire group.
Tommy glanced at the others. There was no real arguing about it. "Yes, you're better than we are. Now who are you??"
"Someone you should know." The ninja turned slightly away them, reaching up to pull the hood and mask away from their face. Long braids of hair spilled out, and the Rangers one and all gasped as the ninja turned back around to reveal...
"Aisha!" Rocky and Adam both chorused the name, and the second Yellow Ranger smiled as she ran over to hug her old friends.
For several moments, there was nothing but rejoicing as the young woman was reunited with the people she cared so much about. "It's been too long!" she smiled as they all settled in and Rocky introduced her to Trey and Emily, who had never met her.
"So why did you do the ninja thing?" Kat wondered. She had missed her best friend incredibly since Aisha's decision to stay in Africa, and had cried herself to sleep many nights since then. It had seemed that she could only really talk to the girl who had welcomed her so warmly onto the team; even Tanya hadn't been quite as close to her as Aisha had been.
Aisha shrugged. "I wanted to be sure I was still in shape, and it was fun." She smiled. "Besides, you guys needed to remember something: I am a ninja. You kept forgetting after we..." Her eyes flicked to the communicators, and she was rather satisfied to see Rocky and Adam both blushing deeply. Emily smiled a little; the Rangers had told her their secret after Jason had lost his powers, once swearing her to secrecy.
"The only question I've got is just how you got here." Rocky said. "I mean, I kind of thought you were in the past of Africa."
His old best friend stared at him, then rolled her eyes. "Rocky, remember I sent Tanya the Key to Auric? The last time I checked, the post office doesn't do time travel!"
Author's Note: I wrote this to remind people of two items that bug me a lot: first, Aisha is, was, and always will be a ninja. A warrior. She knows how to fight, and is very good at it, and I do think she could mop the floor with the male Rangers. Second, she was not in the past of Africa, since she sent Tanya that letter, and Tanya's own parents were discovered in the regular timeline. So if you read this...don't make the mistakes I've seen, and have Aisha in animal skins and being a weakling, okay?