The Return Trip

A/N: I apologize profusely about the wait. Thank you to lyokodreamer for your review.

Where We Left Off:Ulrich had defeated the Kurgan on Earth, albeit temporarily, and then gone to Lyoko with both MacLeods following him and Yumi. While on Lyoko, Ulrich discovers his Immortality had also become part of his Lyoko form. Duncan volunteers to bring Ulrich back, using a simultaneous beheading. We leave off just as the plan is executed (No pun intended). Connor and Yumi travel to the Scanner room to await the arrival of the two.

Now Picking Up:Connor and Yumi nervously awaited the arrival of Duncan and Ulrich. When the scanner doors opened, they watched as a hand appeared from each scanner, then an arm, followed by both bodies. Connor moved to support Duncan's weight, while Yumi rushed to help Ulrich. The four of them made their way to the elevator, then up to the Computer.

"So, should we do a return?"

"No. The Kurgan didn't have the chance to do anything, so there's no real point launching one. Besides, we'd have to wait for these two to show up again."

"Um, you might want to re-think that."

"Why? What is it, Jeremie?"

"Take a look at this news broadcast."

"Police are currently on the lookout for a student from Kadic Academy. The student, identified as Ulrich Stern, is wanted for murder after police received a video recording from an anonymous source. The video apparently shows Stern ruthlessly murdering an unarmed man, brutally impaling the man on a sword. No word on Stern's current location, but local police officials are confident that Stern has not left the immediate vicinity."

"What? How is this possible? Who could be the one who did this?"

"There's a link for the video included in the article." Jeremy clicks on the link, and a video screen pops up. The video clearly shows Ulrich killing the Kurgan; only the Kurgan has no weapon and also has his hands raised in surrender. The video ends after Ulrich withdraws the sword from the Kurgan's body.

"XANA. It has to be. XANA set me up."

"It looks that way, Ulrich."

"So now what do we do?"

"Well, I'm not sure a Return would work, because theoretically, the Kurgan died during the attack. If we launched a Return, there's a possibility that the tape would still exist and get sent to the police anyway. For you, returning to Kadic is not an option, either."

"So it looks like I am a fugitive?"

"For now. Until we clear your name, anyway."

"Great."

"Hey, it could be worse."

"How, exactly?"

"Well, he could have chopped your head off and taken Yumi."

"Okay, Odd shut up now."

"Or better yet, he could have killed both of you, then gone on another killing rampage."

"Seriously, Odd, shut up."

"Or he could have..."

"ODD! If you don't shut up, you'll be the one who meets my sword, not the Kurgan!"

"Hey man, you're the one who asked."

"I was being sarcastic!"

"Well, you could have said that."

"The tone was supposed to let you know, Odd."

"Oh. Oops."

"Okay, guys, let's focus here. We have a friend in need of help here. What's the next step?"

"Good question. How do we clear Ulrich's name?"

"I'll go to the police I'll give a statement about what really happened."

"If you're going, then I'll go as well."

"What? No!"

"Yumi, I have a feeling that no matter how long I run, the cops will catch up with me. If I turn myself in, then there's a chance they'll let me go with both our statements."

"Ulrich's got a point."

"Connor, you support this?"

"Not much choice. Hell, I've had run-ins with officers before."

"In New York, right?"

"That's right. Ulrich, if you do this, just keep protesting your innocence."

"As opposed to what?"

"Just don't lose your cool, whatever you do."

"Do I ever?" The next morning, Ulrich, who stayed in the factory that night, met Yumi on the way to the station. Immediately, he could tell she had a rough night.

"What happened?"

"My parents. They wouldn't stop giving me flack about being friends with a 'murderer', and nothing I could say would change their minds."

"I'm sorry."

"It's alright."

"No it's not. I'm the cause of this, and you got caught in the middle of it."

"Ulrich, do not ever say that again. You are not the cause of this. XANA is. XANA put you in this spot. Don't ever think otherwise."

"Yes, ma'am." Yumi smirks.

"I don't think I've ever known you to give in so easily."

"First time for everything. Besides, no use arguing with you. Still stubborn as a mule."

"You know it." The conversation lapses into a comfortable silence, until they arrive at the station.

"Well, here we are. I'll go in first and turn myself in. Okay?"

"Yep." Ulrich walks into the police station and stops at the front desk.

"Excuse me."

"Yes? Can I help you?"

"Yes. I'd like to turn myself in."

"Turn yourself in? For what?"

"There was a news broadcast saying that I was wanted for murder, and I'd like to tell my side of the story."

"I see. Your name is?"

"Ulrich Stern."

"Okay, Mr. Stern. Please follow me to the interview room. We'll get a detective in there soon, and we'll get your statement." Ulrich followed the officer to an interview room, and then sat down in a chair. As this occurred, Yumi walked into the station.

"Excuse me. Did a young man with brown hair just turn himself in?"

"Possibly. What's the name?"

"Ulrich Stern."

"Uh, let's see. I'm not usually the one who works the desk. The guy who does is off somewhere. I just filled in for him."

"Hey Francois, what do you have?"

"This young lady wants to know if someone named Ulrich Stern turned himself in."

"Yeah, I escorted him to an interview room myself. What's your business with him?"

"I feel he is innocent. The video that was sent is wrong."

"You know this how?"

"I was there. The man who was killed also had a weapon. Ulrich killed him to protect both of us."

"What do you mean?"

"The man that was killed threatened me before he attacked. Ulrich just did what he had to stay alive."

"I see. Would you please follow me to an interview room? We need to get your statement."

"Okay, sure." Yumi is escorted to a second interview room, where she sits down. A homicide detective, meanwhile, sits down in front of Ulrich.

"So, kid, why did you murder this guy in cold blood?"

"I didn't."

"You honestly expect me to believe that? We have you on video."

"The video lied. I killed the guy, yes, but it was in self-defense. He had a bigger sword than I did."

"Really?"

"Yeah. In fact, I'd be surprised if one of your colleagues isn't asking a friend of mine some questions about what happened, since she was there."

"You mean to tell me there's an eyewitness to this?"

"Yep."

"How loyal is she to you?"

"Loyal enough to be there for me when things are bad, and loyal enough to not lie for me."

"I see. So you're saying that despite the video evidence we have, you did not murder the deceased."

"Yes. That's exactly what I'm saying to you, detective."

"And furthermore, there is a witness who will corroborate this."

"Yes."

"Sit tight. I'm going to check this story of yours out."

"Not like I plan to go anywhere."

Meanwhile, at the factory, Connor and Duncan are having a conversation.

"So, have you noticed anything about that girl with Ulrich?"

"Yeah. He seems to like her, and the feeling seems to be mutual. But that's not what you mean, is it Connor?"

"No. When we were waiting for you two, my suspicion about her strengthened. I'm sure you noticed it. I just wonder if Ulrich has, and if not, why he hasn't."

"Maybe she hasn't died yet. I'd think she'd have known Ulrich was one of us if she had."

"And him her."

"Exactly."

"So, how do we go from here?"

"Honestly, I don't know. I think they both have the right to know."

"Yes. They both do. The question is, when do we tell them?"

"That is the question. Now, though, I think they're too busy fighting this XANA to be worried about chopping each other's heads off."

"Yeah. I say we just wait for the right moment."

"Right moment for what?"

"How long have you been standing there, Jeremie?"

"About five seconds."

"Well, Connor, what do you say? Shall we share the news?"

"What news?"

"Well, you see, Duncan and I have been discussing how we have reason to believe that there is more than one of us in your group."

"Us as in Immortals?"

"Exactly. We don't think Ulrich is the only one, just the only one who has died before."

"What? Who else is there?"

"Yumi. Connor and I both noticed a buzz emanating from her."

"Hold on a second. You think that Yumi's Immortal?"

"We do."

"Does Ulrich know?"

"Not sure yet. I'll have to ask him when he returns."

"What if he's arrested?"

"He won't be kept long. They really only have a single videotape. No other witnesses, no body, no corroborating evidence, I could go on."

"Connor, I didn't realize you were a legal expert."

"I'm not. But how do you think I got out so easily?"

"Still, if Ulrich didn't know about Yumi being Immortal, then how did he miss the signs?"

"You know, I heard about this group of people who actually attempted to figure out the physics and science behind Quickenings, the Buzz, and everything else about Immortals. Apparently, there's even a report containing their findings making the rounds among Immortals."

"What else was in the report?"

"Oh, an attempt to figure out how the cells of an Immortal healed injuries, including otherwise fatal injuries, how only certain Immortals can detect the Buzz of pre-Immortals, and the fact that Immortals cannot discern between two Buzzes except by strength."*

"Any chance of someone who isn't Immortal finding the report?"

"Sent only to Immortals."

"Whew. Good. The last thing we need is panic over the majority of the world's population finding out about Immortals and deciding that we must be exterminated from the Earth."

*(A/N: if you're wondering what Connor and Duncan are talking about here, check out The Physics of Quickenings by Parda. It is a highly enjoyable and entertaining piece.)

"Has that ever happened?"

"Not as long as I've been around, Duncan. But who knows what could happen these days."

"Agreed."

Cutting back to the Police Headquarters

Ulrich was getting bored now. Incredibly bored. 'How long does it take to check out a person's address?' Before he could devise an answer to the one-sided conversation taking up the most concentration at that moment, a different detective walked back in.

"Sorry about the wait, Mr. Stern."

"Please, Ulrich. Mr. Stern reminds me of my father. Not a good thing."

"Resentful of him, are you?"

"Not so much resentful. It's more of a wish that he would just relax and understand that I try as hard as I can in school. Of course, he does the opposite. Every time he visits, I nearly get my head chewed off and handed back to me on a plate over my grades."

"Ouch. My old man was like that too. Hard to read, harder to please."

"Exactly. Did you ask my friend any questions?"

"Didn't need to. Another officer was already there and had taken her statement. She's been informed of her right to leave, however she said she preferred to wait for you. As far as I'm concerned, you're free to go. Just don't leave the province without contacting us."

"Sure. Thanks for listening." Ulrich got up and exited the station. He slowly looked around and found nothing. Then a pair of hands covered his eyes.

"Hey Yumi."

"How'd you know?"

"Your hands are smaller than anyone else I know, plus the soap you use. Very distinctive."

"So you can tell me from other people by my soap?"

"Yeah. I linked it to you after walking you home so many times. I like it. It suits you."

"Ulrich, I think you're starting to ramble."

"Well, can you blame me? I was looking at the possibility of imprisonment."

"Uh huh. Connor seemed confident though, and you seemed confident in him."

"I... have no answer for that. Maybe I was zoned out after finding out I was wanted for murder."

"I highly doubt that. You were focused."

"Okay. Fine. Can we go now? I'd like to get to the factory before they change their mind."

"Yes, we can go."

"You find this amusing." Ulrich shakes his head in amazement. "I don't see the humor."

"It's the way you're acting. That the funny part." The two friends lapse into a silence, not unlike the one they shared that morning. The silence is only broken when the pair reaches the factory.

"Well, here we are."

"What a cliché."

"Yeah. Isn't that the truth." Then they hear the repeated clang of metal striking metal. Ulrich steps in front of Yumi and draws his sword, then steps forward to investigate. Yumi grabs a nearby pipe, in case of attack. Ulrich stalks to the edge of the outcropping, then looks down. He sees Connor and Duncan trading blows, back and forth, neither side gaining an advantage. He continues to watch as the deadly, graceful dance winds its way across the factory floor. Holding up a hand to let Yumi know to follow him, Ulrich stealthily made his way to the ground level. He watches as Connor knocks Duncan's feet out from under him. Ulrich draws his sword in case Connor is possessed. He sheaths the weapon when Connor pulls Duncan back onto his feet.

"Ulrich, how long were you planning to stand there?"

"As long as needed."

"I see. Until when?"

"Until I knew whether I had to fight a possessed Immortal or not."

"Ah. You want to have a go?"

"Sure. Not like I have anything else to do." Ulrich re-draws his sword and waits for Connor to make the first move. Yumi watches, fascinated, as they clash again and again. Duncan stands beside her and watches silently. Finally, he speaks.

"How long have you known him?"

"Ulrich? A few years."

"He never told you."

"Never had a reason to tell any of us."

"How much of being an Immortal did he tell you?"

"The fact that he can't die, the whole thing about the Game, which still doesn't make much sense to me, and about Connor instructing him."

"Hmm. So, not a lot, all in all."

"Nope."

"Well, while those two are busy, let me take this opportunity to tell you more about it."

"Why? I'm confused. Is it so I can understand him more, or you for that matter?"

"Yes and no. See, Connor, Ulrich, and me, we're not the only Immortals here. There's a fourth."

"What? Who?" Then she notices Duncan's stare.

"Me? Really? How can I be Immortal? I haven't died yet!"

"Precisely. You're what we like to call pre-Immortal. Those who are Immortal, yet have not experienced their first death."

"Does he know?"

"Connor does. Ulrich, however... I don't know if he does or not. It seems unlikely to me that he would notice and not say anything to you about being Immortal. So I personally lean towards he doesn't know. Maybe Connor is telling him now."

"Oh."

"Let me ask you something else."

"Sure."

"How long have you loved him?"

"I'm not sure I know what you mean."

"Oh, yes you do." The pair continues the discussion as Connor and Ulrich take a break in the sparring match.

"What do you think they're talking about?"

"No clue."

"You're no help."

"Not in reading lips, no. Now in matters of a sword, ..."

"Yeah, yeah, I know. Still, it would be nice to know."

"You always did like eavesdropping."

"Hey! I told you, I was bringing a report back and wasn't about to interrupt you and that other guy!"

"True."

"Besides, the other guy didn't care for me much. Hell, he tried to give me up to the enemy."

"I remember."

"I think I still owe you for that one."

"Really? I haven't been keeping count." The banter is interrupted by Ulrich's phone ringing.

"Yeah."

"Ulrich, where are you man? There's another attack."

"All right, I'm at the factory. Connor, Duncan, and Yumi are here too. Any idea on the attack?"

"Not yet. Probably has something to do with the big guy."

"Well, we'll keep an eye out." Ulrich keeps his sword at the ready.

"XANA's attacking again." Duncan draws his sword, and the three armed Immortals make a defensive formation, each watching out for the other two. It doesn't take long for three figures to make their way down to the floor. Odd, Jeremie, and Aelita all run past, with Odd pausing long enough to inform the others that "big, bad, and ugly in black leather" was on his way. Ulrich immediately goes to head the Kurgan off, only he doesn't notice Yumi follow. Getting to the bridge, he finds the Kurgan on the other side. A waiting challenge if ever he saw one.

"I don't suppose that you'd tell me just what the plan is?" The Kurgan chuckles.

"Why? So you can try to stop it? Futile."

"Maybe. Maybe not. We've fought off worse."

"You only think that." The Kurgan decides to end the conversation and charges. Ulrich is forced to go on the defensive, blocking attack after attack, getting no window to attack the Kurgan. Finally, The Kurgan gets lucky and sends Ulrich's sword out of his hands. Sensing victory, the Kurgan prepares to strike, then his face takes on an expression of shock. He looks down at the blade imbedded in his chest. Ulrich looks around to see who saved his skin and sees Yumi.

"Wasn't about to let him win."

"I... thanks. I owe you one."

"You mean two."

"Two?" Yumi nods.

"Unless, of course, you've forgotten the first fight you two had."

"Oh. Yeah. Two it is." Ulrich withdraws the sword from his foe's body, then once again gets into a battle stance.

"Yumi, did Connor or Duncan go down to the Scanners?" She looks.

"I guess they both did. They're not on the floor."

"Okay. This fight is going to end today."

"Ulrich, wait. I want to talk to you about something." Yumi runs up to him as the Kurgan rises.

"Not now. He's kind of taking up more of my focus."

"Okay." Yumi does something that Ulrich never expected. She attacks the Kurgan, landing several head blows as he attempted to recover. The attack works, and the Kurgan falls to the ground once more, unconscious.

"Oh boy."

"What?"

"He's going to be even angrier than before."

"Well, it solves our problem for the short-term."

"How, Yumi?"

"Well, he'll be down for longer than if you had killed him."

"Hmm. You might be right on that count. What did you want to talk about?" Then, Yumi's cell phone interrupts.

"Jeremie, what is it? Really? Okay, we'll be there."

"What's up?"

"We're needed on Lyoko. I'll tell you later."

"I'll hold you to that. So, what's the situation on Lyoko?"

"Connor and Duncan are holding their own, but Odd's been taken out. The only reason either Connor or Duncan is left is because they got lucky several times."

"Uh huh. How many enemies are we looking at?"

"Honestly, I don't know. Jeremie didn't say."

"That bad, huh?"

"Must be."

"Should be fun."

"Fun? Fun? I don't exactly call putting my life on the line fun."

"Neither do I. I guess you missed it."

"Missed what?"

"The sarcasm."

"Oh. I guess I did." The pair summon the elevator, then descend to the scanners. Soon, they join the fray on Lyoko, where they find that XANA stepped up his game, big time. There's barely any clear ground on the sector. It seems that for every one monster destroyed, another five take its place.

"We're really in trouble now."

"Why, what's going on Jeremie?"

"Your 'friend' just showed up."

"Great. Just when you thought it couldn't get worse. What do we do now? If we send someone back, we become weaker as a force."

"I'll go. If any of you go, you won't be in any kind of shape to fight him when you get out of the scanner. He'll take your head in a heartbeat."

"Yumi, no."

"Ulrich, don't start. I know the risks. I know what I'm doing. Besides, you three are more than capable of getting Aelita to the tower."

"But that won't mean anything if you die in the process. I've seen enough death as it is. I don't know if I can afford to lose you." Yumi knew that Ulrich would probably never be more honest and open.

"You won't lose me. Now give me your sword or I'll do it myself." Ulrich apprehensively attacks Yumi, and sends her back to Earth. She comes out of the scanner, and looks around. The Kurgan, if he was in the room, was hiding extremely well. She cautiously made her up from the scanner room. Nothing. Not even Jeremie.

"Jeremie, can you hear me? Are you in here?"

"Oh, so sorry. Your friend is somewhat incapacitated." She whirls and finds herself on the business end of a broadsword. The Kurgan smiles, an awful, humorless, gloating smile.

"And now, my dear, you shall be left here for the others to find. That was the plan. As soon as you die, the tower will be taken care of."

"I guess I should make sure my friends have the chance to stop you."

"You do not stand a chance."

"We'll see about that." Inwardly, Yumi was praying that the tower would be deactivated soon, otherwise... she didn't like the thought. Meanwhile, the trio fought harder than they thought was possible to get Aelita to the tower. The resistance had not lessened in effort, but the Immortals could tell the tide was shifting. Although things were going their way on Lyoko, Ulrich was concerned.

"Jeremie, are there any more waves coming at us?" No answer. He tries again. Nothing.

"Something's not right. Jeremie isn't responding."

"We know this."

"Connor, take my head. I'm going back. We've nearly gotten Aelita to the tower." Connor nods, then puts his sword on Ulrich's neck. He swings, and Ulrich finds himself on Earth. It's deathly quiet in the factory. He searches one room after the next, finding nothing. Then he notices blood on the floor. His heart quickens. Ulrich follows the trail, then hears the clang of metal striking metal. He draws his sword, and rushes forward to find Yumi holding off the Kurgan. Yumi hears footsteps, and sees Ulrich running toward her. She attacks, managing another strike to the head.

"What are you doing here?"

"Aelita's almost to the tower, Jeremie wasn't responding, so I left. Where is he, anyway?"

"Ask him."

"Gotcha. Now what?"

"I'll fight him off until a Return can be done. Who knows what kind of shape Jeremy's in."

"Okay. Then what?"

"Well, I don't really know."

"You were the one who said we needed to talk."

"Okay, then we'll talk. Happy now?"

"Ecstatic." The Kurgan shakes off his stupor, and takes the opportunity to strike, knowing time is short. Whether he had been holding back, or Yumi had just gotten exhausted, or (more probably) both, he had quickly disarmed her. Ulrich immediately went for his sword, and tossed it at Yumi. Unfortunately, she never had the chance to wield it. The Kurgan noticed the act, and swiftly stabbed forward, his blade meeting flesh. Yumi stared in shock at the wound, then felt herself losing consciousness and falling. Ulrich ran over to Yumi and took in her condition, knowing that there was nothing he could do for her. There was hope as long as the tower was de-activated in time. He glared at the Kurgan, saying, "If she lives, I'll kill you. If she dies, I'll take your head." The Kurgan said nothing, choosing to retreat. Ulrich turned his attention to Yumi, who was growing more pale than usual. He took off his jacket and applied pressure to the wound.

"Just hang on, Yumes. They have got to be at the tower by now."

"Ulrich, there's... something... I... need... to tell you."

"Yumi, it can wait. Just wait for the Return."

"I'm not... going to... make it that long."

"Yes you are. Just hang on a little longer."

"Ulrich, I... can't."

"Hey now, you can't be thinking of giving up. You're the most stubborn person I know."

"Ulrich..."

"Okay, all right, you win. What is it?" Ulrich is surprised as she grips his arm and pulls him down closer to her face.

"I need... you to... know something. I... I love you."

"Yumi-" He's cut off as her eyes slowly descend. She goes limp, and Ulrich frantically searches for a pulse.

"Yumi!" The white bubble covers the two, yet Ulrich knows in his soul it was not in time. The one he secretly loved was gone. The fact that he knew how she felt was but a small consolation, if any at all. He leaned once more, giving Yumi a small kiss, then straightened.

"I'm sorry, Yumes. This shouldn't have happened, not to you." He bowed his head, wondering how many more times this could happen to him.

"Ulrich! There you are! Where's Yumi?"

"Connor, I'm going to kill him."

"He didn't. Damn it. For what it's worth, I'm sorry."

"What do we tell her parents? We'd have to make something up. I mean, we can't just leave her body lying on the ground here."

"Did she say anything before she died?"

"She loved me."

"Is that it?"

"Yes! She loved me, and the Kurgan took that away! What else should there be?"

"Calm down Ulrich."

"Don't you tell me to calm down. You've never had someone you loved murdered in front of your eyes."

"She didn't tell you everything. When we were sparring, you and I, I had Duncan talk to her about something that he and I felt she should know."

"Which was?" Connor is about to respond when they both hear a groan from beside them.

"Where am I?"

"Yumi! You.. You lived through it!" 'Could I have misjudged her wound? Been overly melodramatic about the entire deal? Could I have been wrong?'

"Um, well, not quite." Ulrich is struck by the implication of Connors words.

"How long have you known?"

"Not really until now. I've had suspicions since Duncan's first trip."

"Oh. That's what you had Duncan tell her."

"Aye."

"You do realize that she is right here." Connor turned, a slight grin on his face.

"Oh, we know. Believe me, we know."

"Well, I would appreciate it if you stopped talking about me as if I wasn't here." Connor smirks, then chuckles as Ulrich walks over to Yumi and offers a hand, then uses a little too much strength and nearly sends both of them to the ground. He holds for a moment, to steady her, then keeps holding her.

"Yumi, we need to come up with a plan. What do we tell your parents? I mean, you're technically dead." Her face loses all expression. He leans in close to whisper.

"And I want to talk to you about what you said earlier. I just want to talk in private." He is rewarded with a small smile.

"Connor, you don't think you could..."

"I'll be sure to let the others know not to come down here."

"Thanks." Connor turns to leave, then stops.

"Take care of her. I'd hate to have to take your head."

"You wouldn't be the only one." Connor leaves, giving the two precious time alone.

"So..."

"Why did you want to talk in private?"

"Because what you said to me was private, between the two of us, and I feel that what I say to you should hold the same distinction."

"Okay. Let's go to the forest."

"Fair enough." They turn and walk over to the elevator, then take it to the main floor and leave the factory altogether. Duncan raises an eyebrow at Connor as the two are sen on the cameras set up around the factory.

"Now where do you suppose those two are going?"

"I honestly don't know. I do know we need to talk in private."

"What about?" Connor just walked away, Duncan following him.

"I wasn't about to discuss it as close to them as we were. Yumi was killed. The Kurgan must have run her through, then left, the coward."

"At least we were right." Connor is about to reply when he sees Odd about to leave.

"Now where do you think you're going?"

"I'm gonna follow them."

"No. I gave Ulrich my word that they would be left in private." Connor turns his attention back to Duncan.

"I wonder how Yumi will handle the fact that she's Immortal now that she has died."

"Well, she certainly won't have to worry about finding a tutor. Now that he knows her true nature, he won't leave her side until he's confident she knows enough about what it takes to survive for centuries."

"Or longer."

"Or longer," Connor agreed. The subject was left at that. Meanwhile, the pair being spoken of were currently meandering through the forest, taking in the night surrounding them. Ulrich decided that he needed to break the silence, and spoke first.

"I have to admit something. When you declared that we should be just friends, I was secretly relieved."

"Relieved?"

"Yeah. Because I thought you were a 'normal' human."

"You mean not Immortal."

"Exactly. The thought of you and I in a relationship scared me. It wouldn't be fair to you. I'd stay like this while you aged and eventually died. I don't know if I could have handled that."

"But we don't have to worry about that now."

"No. No, we don't. Now, we have forever, if you want."

"Forever sounds great to me." Ulrich pulled her closer and kissed her.

"We do have a problem though. What do we tell your parents? They've likely been trying to get in touch with you for hours. And when they see the blood, they will want to know what happened."

"Lets's worry about that later. I have an idea. We stopped to help at the scene of an accident, the blood is from one of the accident victims, and I got the blood on you."

"That could work except for one thing. The blood is radiating out from the spot where the Kurgan stabbed you."

"Hmm. Give me your jacket. It has blood on it, and it would cover the hole." Ulrich considers the idea, then nods and hands over his jacket. The new couple walks to Yumi's house, where her parents are waiting on the verge of hysteria.

"YUMI ISHIYAMA! WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN!"

"Mom, I can explain everything."

"You'd better start young lady." Then her father notices the blood.

"Yumi, are you hurt in any way?"

"No, Dad."

"Then where this blood come from?"

"A car accident. Ulrich and I stopped to help, and then the police needed to take our statements. We just got released from the scene."

"I see. Well, go upstairs and get cleaned up then go to bed. Young man, thank you for escorting our daughter home."

"It was the least I could do. Good night." Ulrich turns and leaves while Yumi goes upstairs to take a long bath, then prepares for bed. Thoughts race through her head as she ponders what being Immortal will mean for her future. She finally falls asleep as questions continue to form themselves in her mind, and Yumi wakes earlier than usual next morning. She tosses and turns before deciding to get up and get ready for school.