Heart of Metal, Beats Like Gold

The Art of Sneaking

Many things can happen in two weeks. Not really so much for the boys. They've been dealing with the usual for the past days: schoolwork, homework, avoiding homework, Grave Puncher. And in addition to that: Kuno. The girl was getting more and more suspicious. Unfortunately for them, she was good at hiding that up. Apparently, her way of "hanging out" was helping the boys with their homework.

"This is so haaaaard," Howard complained one day at Randy's house.

Kuno blinked at him blankly. "I do not see what is so difficult about this problem. If x is equal to 24y + 3z, then surely—"

"You know what?" Randy interrupted. "Just tell us the answer, we'll be fine."

"Hm. If you say so."

Every time she finished something with them, she'd make up an excuse and go home immediately. Never stayed for Grave Puncher or just a break. Their "hanging out" seemed more like a chore. Even though the boys' grades did rise up because of Kuno's work, Randy had to hesitate. She never mentioned anything about her parents, her home, or anything about her own life. She always kept to herself, and mostly did their work in silence.

"Another A!" Howard cheered as they got out of class. "Man, Mr. Bannister had no idea what hit him."

"Are you certain that no one suspects this as cheating?" Kuno asked as they walked down the halls and towards Kuno's locker. "I am concerned of what might happen if anyone found up."

"Yeah, don't worry about it! Hey, how about you help us with our History homework later? Cunningham's place as usual?"

"All right."

"Hey, Kuno," Randy said. "How about we do today's homework at your place? I mean, we've never been to your house before, so—"

"My house?" Kuno echoed. She blinked for a while, and Randy could've sworn he saw her eyes analyzing the situation or something. "No, I must decline. My parents are too busy cleaning the house today. They're always busy as well. It is impossible for one to ever pay a visit to my house."

There she went again. Another "perfect" excuse. So monotone, so practiced.

"Uh, Cunningham?" Howard asked. "You all right?"

"What? Oh, nothing. Well, if you want to do it at my house again, yeah sure. Same old, same old. Nothing boring about that."

"Good. It's time for Gym class, yes?"

Once again, the bell rang just in time.

"How do you always do that?!" Randy shouted.

Kuno merely shrugged. She took her Gym clothes out and nodded at the boys. "I will see you two later." With that, she went to class.

"Something's up with Kuno, Howard," Randy said.

"What do you mean."

"I mean, isn't it weird she always has an excuse for never letting us go to her house? And how we never know what she does after school?"

"Uh, of course we know! She does our homework."

"I meant other than that!" The teen boy tapped his chin. "She's hiding more things from us."

"Why should we care? As long as she's helping us get As, that's all right, right?"

"She's a friend. Now cover me while I have a look at the Nomicon."

Howard groaned as he opened his locker. "Do you always have to turn to that book for everything?"

Randy grinned as he brought the Ninja Nomicon out from his bag and opened it in Howard's locker. His eyes crossed, and his conscious got sucked into the book.

"Augh!"


"Ahhhh!"

Randy screamed as he found himself falling. The fall stopped shortly when the boy landed face-flat in the middle of a dojo. He groaned as he stood up, rubbing his head. The paper dojo ceiling above glowed down on him.

"OK, Nomicon," Randy said. "I have this friend named Kuno, and I think she's hiding some secrets from us. Not that I'm curious, but what if they're, oh I don't know, Ninja business important?" He cleared his throat. "The point is, we need to get some answers from her."

The Nomicon glowed again, as suddenly, four samurai dropped in on the four corners of the dojo. At first, Randy was confused at why they appeared. And then one samurai brought his sword out and tried slashing it at his head. He yelped and quickly dodged it. If the boy hadn't seen it coming, he would've been Cunningkebab.

"Whoa!"

He kicked away the samurai's sword and two others charged forward. Randy jumped up and onto the samurai's head, as he kicked the other one down with it. He gasped when he remembered the fourth one, and saw that it tried to stab him from behind. His eyes widened when he saw its sword poked out right under his arm.

"Nomicon!" Randy shouted, pushing the sword away. "What the juice?!"

All the samurais stood up again and brought their swords. Rnady yelped and braced for another attack. Instead, they used their swords to form a square blade around him, and Randy read the words that formed on them.

"'The Ninja that can't see might end up getting hurt'" Randy scoffed. "Yeah, that's why I need to know what Kuno is hiding just in case she might not hurt us! But that girl's harmless! I think. Look, we just need to know how to get answers from her."

The Nomicon glowed once more, as if groaning, and the samurais stood back and made way for him. A door appeared, and Randy lit up at the words labeled on it.

"The Art of Sneaking! Basic Ninja biz! That's what we're talking about!"

Randy opened the door and a long scroll came up at his face. He rubbed his head and stared at the long list. "Wow. Is there really this much to know about how to sneak up on someone?" Glow. "All right, all right, I'll skim it. Blah blah blah smokebomb, blah blah blah don't let anyone see you blah blah blah—oh, nice! I can blend in with my surroundings. OK, got it!"

The samurai from earlier slashed his sword from behind Randy's back, and there was flash.


The teen boy got up from the Nomicon and quickly closed it. "Oh good, you're back," Howard said. "Perfect timing, we're just about to be late for Gym."

"We're not going to Gym, Howard!"

"Really? That is a relief, I did not want to deal with Coach Green's—wait, if we're not going to Gym, where are we going."

"The Nomicon said the only way to get answers from Kuno is to sneak ourselves into her life."

"Huh?"

"We have to get answers from her secretly. But what is the right way to do that…"

"I don't know. All we know is that she's at Gym now. And we know for a fact we don't know where she lives."

"Howard, that's it!"

"What, go to her house?"

"No, we have to sneak into the Girls' Gym class! Or better yet, sneak into the Girls' locker room!"

"What?! That is the worst idea you ever came up with! There is no way I'm—"


"—letting you talk me into this, how did you do that so fast?!"

Before Howard knew it, he and Randy were standing behind some lockers. Randy peeked out and saw the door to the Girls' locker room, looking around to make sure no one was around.

"OK, everyone's at class. The coast is clear, and we can—"

"Cunningham! This isn't worth it! Are we really risking our reputations for knowing the secrets of some girl?"

Randy chuckled as he patted his best friend's shoulder. "Howard, Howard, Howard. We're not just learning the secrets of one girl. But we'll be learning the secrets of all girls! Who knows what deep and juicy secrets we could find in there?"

"Yeaaah, still not worth it. We're talking about girls here, Cunningham! We're bros that aren't supposed to care about what stupid, females talk about behind us men—"

"We could find out about the secret boyfriends your sister's been hiding behind your family's backs."

"I'm in!"

Randy smirked proudly as he brought his Ninja mask out and quickly put it on. Once the suit started to wrap around, the Ninja struck his pose.

"Smokebomb!"


Once the two were inside, Randy pressed his back against a locker. He quickly looked around in case for any signs of people. "All good," he whispered.

"I don't even know why you need to 'sneak'," Howard muttered. "There's no one here."

"You never know…"

"This is getting ridiculous, Ninja—!"

"Shhh, someone might hear you…" Howard was just about ready to explode.

The Girls' locker room was nothing like the Boys'. It was clean, organized, and well…girly. All the lockers practically looked exactly the same. It was going to take forever to find the ones they were looking for.

"Better get started, huh?" Howard said.

The two spread out, opening each locker up, one by one (why they weren't even locked, no one knows). Using his ninja speed, Randy was able to open an entire row at once. So far, he didn't find anything useful…

"Well, this is hopeless."

"Hey, look!" Howard exclaimed. "Finally found my sister's locker!" He seemed to be giggling to himself as he leafed through some photographs. "You were so right! Secret boyfriends! Who knew she dated Mick?"

Randy turned to his best friend, an eyebrow raised. "Mick? Mick Moe? As in, Bash's Mick? They dated?"

"For like, eighteen hours! Geez, Heidi, what happened to taste? Oh, hey check this out! Debbie Kang's locker! You can totally smell the Mexican Death Bears and journalism. Isn't there anything else she thinks about?"

"Oh? And why do you care, Weinerman?" You could almost see the smirk behind his mask.

Howard tried to avoid eye contact. "Oh, hey, what, I don't care, don't care at all—Look, Theresa Fowler's! Twirling sticks and Randy!"

Randy found himself blushing now. "Dude! Not cool!"

"What?" Howard was smirking now. "Aren't you interested at all?"

"OK, stop. I'm not here to sneak around."

"I thought that's—"

"We're here to look for Kuno's secrets! Now stop snooping and let me—"

"Ninja? Howard?"

The boys froze when they looked up at the Gym door to see Theresa standing there. She was wearing Gym clothes and a very confused expression. "What are you two…"

"Oh, hey!" Randy greeted, rather awkwardly. "Hi, um…Theresa Fowler, was it? Yeah, there's a completely logical explanation for this…"

"And just so you know the Ninja dragged me in on this!" Howard said quickly.

"OK, maybe that's true but like I said, explanation!"

Theresa frowned. "Um…OK?"

"See, the thing is, we were just, uh…checking for monsters! Yeah, there have been a lot of spies around these days, and I asked this…boy to help me out!"

"Spies? In school?"

When the Ninja nudged Howard, he grumbled. "Yeah…spies…in school…what he said."

Theresa stared for a moment, blinking at the two, before she shuddered and bit her lip. "Sounds serious! Is there anything I can do to help?"

Randy silently thanked the gods she believed him and smiled behind his mask. "Well, you can forget all this ever happened and go one pretending you never saw us here."

"That's a weird way to be of assistance, but sure!" Theresa smiled awkwardly. "I guess if you want that to happen, you need to leave?"

The Ninja shook out of his daze, blushing slightly. "Right, right! Come on…boy."

"Really, Ninja? You could at least learn my name," Howard scoffed.

"Smokebomb!"


"Well, that was completely worthless," Randy sighed as they walked down the halls. Gym class finally ended, and they were on their way to their final class.

"Nah, not really," Howard shrugged. "We did get to sneak around the Girls' locker room, I got to know something about my sister, I saw you act all wonk in front of Fowler…the only side-track from this was that you were the Ninja and that we're probably gonna be completely shoobed for skipping Gym."

"And. We didn't even get to find anything about Kuno! And to make things worse, something's up with McFist..."

"Like what?"

"Like why hasn't he been attacking the past two weeks? It's weird..."

"Don't you mean good? I mean, it makes things better for the Ninja."

"It's suspicious! Just like Kuno...Now we'll never know what she's hiding from us…"

"Cunningham, you're delusional. What could the new girl be hiding?"

"Isn't that the point about new kids? When you're new, nobody knows anything about you."

"Yeah, uh-huh, real nice. Face it, Cunningham. Kuno Ichi is just a regular, normal girl just like everyone e—"

"Do you hear something?"

Music. 8-bit music. And it was faint. Almost like it was being downloaded or something. A voice was softly singing to the music.

(A/N: This song's called Electric Angel! English lyrics are by Hiro Muse. Listen to her collaboration of this song with Justice, it's awesome! ^^)

I love to sing, 'specially if it's for you
Yet the reason is not merely 'cause I'm meant to function that way
You always said that you really liked my voice
And it makes me so happy that I can just replay

"It's coming from there," Randy said, pointing. They turned towards the music and saw the door to the janitor's closet. It was slightly open, as if someone just entered it.

In my database, it always was the same
But you taught me new meanings that I easily comprehend
So from that day on, my feelings over flew just for you
Patiently I'm waiting for you to call my name

The boys crept up to it and slowly opened the door. A dim light hit their eyes and they gasped at what they saw.

I don't care where I am just as long as I'm with you
As my digital heart will wonder what to do
Please just sweep me away like a gale force of wind
And my heart will return from its déjà vu

Kuno was sitting on a box in the room. Her eyes were closed, as if she was concentrating on something. The light seemed to be coming from her chest and their eyes widened when they saw it open. A long wire was extended from her metal heart and connected to Kuno's phone. The music continued to play, but it was slowly dying down as the boys continued to stare. The light from her heart also died down as she opened her eyes. And at that moment, Randy finally saw the pixels stay in her pupils a little bit longer than usual. The sight he saw now proved it.

"Download completed," the robot girl said in her usual voice. "Scanning area. Two life forms have been recognized." As she blinked, she turned to the door and stared blankly at the boys. "Identity has been discovered."

The boys could only stare some more with their jaws dropped open. And now, only one thing was on their minds.

What.

The.

Juice.



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