A Ranma ½ fan fiction story
by Ukyou Kuonji
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.
Chapter Four: In Pursuit of the Panda
"DEAREST!" Nodoka shouted as she charged out of the tent. Ukyou dropped her dagger and quickly stood up. A quick glance at the tent flap, and another at Ranma… and she went down on one knee in front of him.
"You stay here, Ran-chan. Maybe I can still plead your case with your mom." Her gaze ran down to the source of Ranma's earlier embarrassment. And maybe someday I can attend to you, too. Once again, she darted out after Nodoka. "Mrs. Saotome! Wait up! Let me help you find him!"
She didn't have to run far. Nodoka was standing in the middle of the otherwise empty courtyard with a confused look on her face. And Genma was nowhere to be seen. How did he get away? And so fast, too! Even Ukyou shook her head in wonderment. The old guy still could put on the speed when he had to.
Still, there were witnesses. Nabiki was sitting on the porch, still trying unsuccessfully to console her father. On the other hand, Soun didn't seem to be paying much attention to anything but his crying.
"Nabiki! Where did he go?"
Nabiki looked up from her father's shoulder. It was clear she was thoroughly uncomfortable trying to comfort him — this would normally be Kasumi's job, after all. But Kasumi was in the kitchen (where else would she be, after all?), so that meant she was stuck with Daddy. "Where did who go?"
"Mr. Saotome! Didn't you see him run out of the tent?" When dealing with Nabiki, even in her present agitated state, it would be unwise to betray impatience in one's tone of voice. Ukyou had forgotten that rule. And Nabiki heard it.
A smug smile spread across Nabiki's face.
"Fifteen thousand yen." It would seem that Ranma's apparent reprieve brought her back to her old self. Ukyou, however, was not pleased with her restoration.
"Why? What did he pay you to hide him?"
Nabiki gulped. An angle she'd forgotten to take advantage of! And Ukyou thought of it first! Oh, damn. I'll be glad when we can get this whole thing behind us; this whole situation is throwing me off my game. "All right, you called my bluff. He headed out the front door. After that, I didn't see which way."
Ukyou snorted. Some help. "Humph. Never mind, then." She charged into the kitchen.
"I'm afraid Mr. Saotome's run off…"
Oh, I knew she shouldn't have interfered! I knew she'd cause trouble! went through Kasumi's head. All that came out of her mouth, however, was the obligatory "Oh my!"
"Yes. Well… Could you help us look for him? I don't have to tell you, but Mrs. Saotome wants him back."
"Why, certainly. I'm finished preparing lunch, so I think I'm free. Where would you like me to start?"
"How about Doctor Tofu's?"
Nabiki, listening just outside the kitchen door, facefaulted. What the…?
"All right. Just let me put my apron away…"
"Great! Oh, and if he is there…."
"Don't let him leave. Nodoka and I will be by shortly for him."
"Of course not."
"Thanks, Kasumi!" Ukyou bounded out of the kitchen. Nabiki grabbed her as soon as she was out, and all but slammed her into the wall. She thrust her face into Ukyou's.
"Have you gone NUTS?!" she hissed. Ukyou seemed genuinely nonplused.
"What are you talking about?"
Nabiki relaxed her hold on Ukyou's yukata. Maybe she just doesn't know about the two of them…
"Look, lemme give you some free advice. And when I give something out free, you better know it's important. What are you thinking, sending Kasumi to look for Ranma's dad at Doctor Tofu's? Tofu's gonna be absolutely useless if she shows up there!"
Ukyou waved her off "Don't worry. I know all about Tofu and Kasumi. That's why I'm sending her there."
Again Nabiki facefaulted. "This oughta be good…"
"Y'see, you're right. Tofu's gonna be an absolute wreck in that fogged-up condition. So if Genma's there… and Kasumi bars the door… just imagine the havoc our good doctor is going to wreak on Mr. Saotome."
Nabiki's eyes popped. My gosh, am I in the presence of greatness?
Ukyou smiled malevolently, and continued, "In fact, I'll be fairly disappointed if he's not there. Locking him up with a love-crazed Tofu should be plenty revenge for my purposes. Maybe even a fate worse than death, eh, Mrs. Saotome?" Nabiki spun around to face Nodoka, who had wandered inside to find out what was going on. The older woman smiled.
"Well, that may even be a bit excessive. And these things really should be done properly, in the time-honored traditional manner. But that should certainly hold him. Assuming he is at the clinic, after all."
"Right. So we gotta head somewhere else to find him. Any thoughts?"
"Well, you know him and his stomach…"
"Good thinking, Nabiki. So, we're off to the Nekohanten. Come on, Mrs. Saotome."
"Um, Ukyou? Do you need my help?" Ukyou stopped in mid-step, and practically fell down. "Will you stop acting so surprised?"
"Well, ah… I really don't think we could afford your help, actually. I don't have anything with me — why carry cash when you're going to die, after all?"
"This is a freebie. After that plan of yours with Kasumi and Tofu, you have my respect."
"Stop it, you're making me blush… No."
"Nabiki, why don't you go keep an eye on your dad? I think he still needs someone here for him." She turned to Nodoka. "Auntie Saotome, could you head over to the Nekohanten? I'll catch you up in a moment."
Once Nodoka had left, Ukyou turned back to Nabiki. "Look, if you really want to help, maybe you can give Konatsu a call at the restaurant. Tell him that I'm all right; I'm still among the living. And there's a good chance that Ran-chan and I may well stay that way, IF we can find Mr. Saotome. Just tell him that if Mr. Saotome (or that big dumb panda that he goes around as) shows up at the shop, he should detain him until we can get there."
"Right." She headed back to the courtyard.
"Anytime." Ack! I can't believe I said that. I hope she doesn't take me at my word… Ukyou grinned, as if reading Nabiki's thoughts.
"Don't worry, Nabiki. Your secret's safe with me." And Ukyou darted out the door.
"Welcome to Nekohan — Mother-in-law!" Once again, Nodoka winced. Another unwelcome title. "What you doing here?"
"Erm, anoo… I'm looking for my husband, actually."
Cologne hopped over to Mrs. Saotome. "Wasn't this the day he and Ranma were supposed to…?" She was interrupted by Ukyou bursting through the doors, panting for breath.
"Huh-huh. Go-huh-men na-huh-sai. I got here as fast as I could." Shampoo took one took at Ukyou and dropped the bowl of ramen she was carrying. Her customer didn't notice; he was staring at Ukyou, too. So was everyone else in the restaurant. Ukyou scanned the crowd, and blushed deeply. "Uh… heh-heh. Sorry about that." She wrapped her yukata around herself tightly and retied the belt. The peepshow over, Shampoo came back to her senses. And she was upset, having dropped a bowl of ramen on the floor. She bent over to pick up the pieces.
"What not-nice spatula girl want?"
"Will you stop calling me that? Look, I'm with her, okay?"
"Enough of that, girls. Now, Cologne: yes, today was the day the two of them were supposed to fulfill their vow to me. But dearest appears to have run away again, and we were wondering if you'd seen him."
"I don't think we have…"
While Cologne and Nodoka were conversing, Shampoo sidled over to Ukyou.
"Why spatula-girl dress like that in public? Even Shampoo know better than that." Ukyou turned crimson once again, but resumed a blank face as quickly as possible. This may be a life-or-death situation for Ran-chan, but that's no reason for Shampoo to get the upper hand.
"Long story. Didn't expect to be out in public like this, actually. Your great-grandmother doesn't seem to know where Saotome-san is… you wouldn't happen to have seen him recently?"
"Panda-man not been near restaurant all day. What about…" Shampoo fought the urge to say 'husband', as she knew Ukyou would refuse to acknowledge the question if she did. "…what about Ranma?"
"No, no, no. We're only looking for Genma. She's already got Ranma…"
"Already… got? You mean… airen dead?! Aiyah!" Shampoo fainted.
Ukyou blinked. She'd never known the Amazon to faint before. She must have misunderstood the reply. Oh, well. It appeared that Nodoka was not having any luck asking Cologne either, but at least Cologne would know that Ranma was still alive, and should be able to explain it to Shampoo when she came to. I don't think I ought to be here when that happens, though… She eased her way over to Nodoka, who was wrapping up.
"…Well, if you do happen to see him, you will let me know, won't you?"
"Of course, Saotome-san. Good luck with your search." Cologne bowed her head as the pair hurried out of the restaurant. She meant what she'd said: of all people to understand the necessity of honor, and of promises kept, it was the Amazon matriarch. She would willingly turn Genma over to Nodoka, should she happen to cross paths with him. After all, he meant nothing to her. Ranma, however, was another matter entirely; certain matters of honor take precedence over other such matters.
Her musings were rudely interrupted by Mousse's pleadings: "Shampoo! Please wake up!" Cologne spun around to confront the boy; first, for having left the kitchen unattended — besides, he was not supposed to mix with the customers in any way, shape or form — and second, for touching Shampoo. He was holding the unconscious girl's hand, begging her to awaken.
Hold it… unconscious? The old crone was horrified at the thought. If Mousse had done this to her… he would have rightful claim to her affections after all! All thoughts of chastising him were washed away. As much as she hated to hear what the answer might be, she had to ask him: "Mousse… what happened?"
"Uh… well… I think she thought Ukyou was saying that Ranma was dead. Then she just… fainted." Evidently Mousse was too surprised by the truth to lie and claim Shampoo's condition was his own doing.
"Really?" Her relief at the fact that Mousse had not felled her was mixed with irritation at the fact that Amazons are not supposed to faint. Shampoo had defeated herself. "Well, then, never mind. Get back to work, you!"
"B-but… what about Shampoo?"
The boy never gave up on her, did he? He's a fool, thought Cologne, but he does care. Well, we're going to need her waitressing. The cafe's backlogged enough as it is.
"All right. You do what you have to in order to revive her. Just don't use cold water!"
Not that Mousse ever would. He was too aware of his own curse to let that happen. But as the old ghoul hopped back toward the kitchen, he pondered: how to wake her up? Well, how do you usually wake up a sleeping princess?
He leaned over her, and kissed her full on the lips.
It had the desired effect of waking Shampoo up, and he was pleased to note the fluttering of her eyelids as she began to regain consciousness. His kiss also had the UNdesirable effect of angering Cologne, and the last sensation he would experience for some time was the knob of her club on the back of his head.
"NOT like that," muttered Cologne, although she chided herself for not having been more careful with her words. Mousse's body slumped on top of Shampoo, which finished waking her up.
"Mousse! Aiyah! What you do to Shampoo?" As she still felt partially responsible for Mousse's actions, Cologne decided to downplay matters.
"It was nothing, Shampoo. He was trying to wake you up." Shampoo, however, could figure out what happened.
"Mousse kiss Shampoo?!" She leaped to her feet, and charged into the women's restroom. The door shut behind her with a cry of "Blech!" from the Amazon girl. A few of the customers looked at each other and shrugged. At the Nekohanten, you got bread and circuses, and if the service suffered, at least it was always entertaining.
Panting before the mirror, Shampoo opened the medicine cabinet. She grabbed the mouthwash, and proceeded to thoroughly rinse out her mouth. The customers could hear her gargling all the way across the restaurant. As painful as it may have been to get there, it was agreed Mousse was better off in his unconscious state than being able to hear this insult. Meanwhile, in a continued effort to freshen up, Shampoo decided to splash water on her face.
Ukyou and Nodoka continued to argue as they proceeded to the Kuno residence.
"…Don't you get it, Mrs. Saotome? He's still in there, awaiting his punishment. His teacher is the one that's run off. You said it yourself: 'If the master fears, the student cannot help but be afraid.' How could he possibly become a man's man when he's learning courage from your mouse of a husband? But he's more of a man than Genma is! He's surpassed his sensei. You've got to give him that much."
"Perhaps you do have a point. I blame myself for letting his father…" Ukyou noted she hadn't referred to him as 'dearest' for once "…presume to be able to train him to be a man's man when he was not one himself. Still, how would I have known of Genma's shortcomings? I assumed that as a devoted martial artist — and he is one, is he not?" she looked at Ukyou, who made no attempt to affirm or refute the statement "—he had to be a man among men by definition. Perhaps you can't know what kind of man he is until his life is on the line."
"Which is why Ranma qualifies as a man's man! Please, Mrs. Saotome, I'm begging you…"
Nodoka deflected the request. "Let's find my husband first…
For they were at the Kuno mansion.
By Tokyo standards, the Tendo dojo itself is quite an expansive residence. Needless to say, it had been handed down through many generations of the Anything-Goes school of martial arts, as Mr. Tendo would never have been able to acquire such a place, especially with the sporadic clientele he currently served. The Kuno family compound dwarfed the dojo completely. It surrounded an entire city block with its walls. Beyond the walls, one could see the mansion, a vast three-story affair, as well as a greenhouse surrounded by black rosebushes, and a multi-car garage.
There was garish statuary littering the yard. Not just the odd Greek sculpture or dragon carvings here and there, but dozens of such items, along with a few pink flamingos and a curious-looking lawn jockey dressed as a ninja. The ninja-jockey was so realistically colored, it almost looked alive.
Then it moved.
Nodoka gasped. Ukyou blinked.
Oh, that's right. Sasuke.
The little ninja squirreled up to the gate and demanded to know who wished to speak to the family Kuno. Ukyou introduced Saotome Nodoka to him and briefly described their search.
"I shall summon the master for you at once. Approach the door, but do not enter until bidden." And he disappeared.
"Aloha!" came the voice from within. Dammit! The Principal! Ukyou started to run from the door, but Nodoka held tightly onto her yukata belt. As a result, in short order Ukyou found herself sitting down in a rather undignified manner: legs splayed out, yukata open to the waist, and facing away from the house, so that any passers-by would have been treated to the full measure of her charms. Fortunately, there were none, leaving Ukyou grateful for small mercies. Quickly, she got up, readjusted her yukata, and stood facing the door; but not without casting a glance at Nodoka that was an odd mix of a scowl and panic.
Sure enough, Principal Kuno opened the door: "Can I help you ladies?" Nodoka understood that Ukyou might have reason to fear Mr. Kuno: teenagers universally tend to have problems with certain authority figures. But as she took her first look at the Furinkan High School principal, she realized that this man was fearsome for rather different reasons. This man looked like he could be borderline psychotic. Granted, he greeted them with what might be considered a big, warm smile; somehow, however, it seemed just a little too big, and not a little bit demented, either. From another perspective, he might just be baring his teeth at them. He wore a Hawaiian shirt loud enough to drown out Narita International. On top of that, if you'll excuse the expression, he had…
"Ano… D-do you know there's a palm tree growing out of your head?"
"No, but if you hum a few bars…" and he strummed his ukulele for emphasis. Now it was Nodoka's turn to look poleaxed. This is their principal?
That's it. I'm gone, and Ukyou slipped past the principal and the dazed Ms. Saotome, seeking out one or the other of the Kuno siblings.
The women's restroom at the Nekohanten had been occupied for some time, and several of the female customers were beginning to complain. Indeed, some customers were starting to walk out; fortunately, Cologne saw to it that no one skipped out without settling their tab. Eventually, as the lunch hour came to an end, the restaurant was completely emptied.
Confound that girl! What is she doing in there? Cologne hopped over to the restroom door, where she could hear scratching and mewing. Her eyes rolled to the ceiling, and she lowered her eyelids on them and sighed heavily.
"Mousse! Bring us some hot water now, would you?"
Somewhere in the labyrinth of the Kuno mansion, Ukyou had met Tatewaki. In body only. The meeting of the minds seemed a little harder to come by.
"Look, Kuno… All I'm asking is a little help to find Mr. Saotome before Nodoka here takes it out on Ranma alone. We might still be able to save him. I know you don't like the guy, but I can assure you that you'll rue the day he dies."
"Humph. The Blue Thunder would never regret the destruction of such evil as embodied in the person of Saotome Ranma."
Oh yeah? "Well, let me explain something to you. You know that pigtailed girl you always swoon over?"
"Could the moon forget the sun whose light it reflects? Of course I do."
"Whatever. You know she and Ranma are united body and soul…" Ukyou figured she might as well use the same vague wording everyone always ended up using with Kuno regarding the identity of his precious 'Osage-no-Onna' and his archenemy Ranma and their relationship. Why hit him over the head with it? On the other hand, even if he was hit over the head with it, what difference would it make, anyway? In either case, Kuno trembled with barely-controlled fury. Fortunately, it was not directed at her.
"I have indeed been told of her enslavement to that foul fiend. When he has been destroyed, she shall then be released from his spell and clutches!" He started to laugh, almost maniacally. Ukyou clapped a hand over his mouth.
"Quit it, Kuno. You're starting to sound like your sister." Properly chastened, he immediately calmed down. Ukyou removed her hand. "And you're partially right. She will indeed be released from him. But NOT the way you think." She paused for effect.
"Well?" Patience was not a Kuno family virtue.
"Um… y'know, maybe you'd better sit down for this…"
"Fine. I shall." And did. "Well…?" For a second time.
"Look, this isn't easy to tell you. Now, I don't know if you can call what she has for him 'love.' I know, I know… you'd refer to it as sorcery. Whatever. If he dies, though, she will die too. That's the release I'm talking about."
Kuno was thunderstruck. "She will… die?"
"Uh-huh. Call it what you will, she can't live without him, Kuno. So she's pledged that if Ranma has to die, she will die at his side, having tried her utmost to spare him his fate. Kinda noble, don'tcha think?" So I'm mixing in part of my own experience, she thought. It's not as if he'd be able to tell the difference. Kuno actually nodded slightly at her comment.
"Misplaced nobility, in my humblest opinion. But I concur. It is most honorable to die in tribute to a loved one. However, that misguided devotion requires correction, and to effect that correction, she must live. I shall indeed come with you, and make what effort I can to spare the life of this heathen — if only for the sake of my pigtailed darling."
"Terrific. And I'm sure your sister would be more than willing to help as well."
"Quite true. I am certain that the death of that foul cur would drive her mad, were it not for the fact that she already is. The power that man has over women…" Once again, Kuno shuddered angrily. Ukyou set her hand on his shoulder to steady him.
"Well, would you be a dear and tell her?" She could feel Kuno begin to shiver again at her request. "Hey, look, I've gotta rescue Mrs. Saotome from your father…"
"Fair enough, then. Done. And we shall search for Mr. Saotome, then."
"Or that panda the Tendos keep." Ukyou didn't remember whether Kuno knew about Genma's curse any more than Ranma's.
"Their pet panda? Whatever for?" Evidently not.
"Ah… Let's just say he's gone missing, too. If ya happen t'see him…"
"Well, certainly. He belongs to my Artemis, the divine Tendo Akane, after all, does he not?"
"To an extent, I suppose… but more to the pigtailed girl, actually."
"What?! Then double blessings are mine for his recovery! I must be off, Kuonji Ukyou. Thank you for the information. Here, five thousand yen for your time." He counted out five thousand-yen bills and offered them to Ukyou.
"Huh?" There was a brief temptation to take the proffered bills, but Ukyou decided against it. This was more important that money. "I never asked for anything like this. Keep the money, Kuno."
"Ah. My apologies. Force of habit."
A few strategically placed whacks with her cane on the restroom knob, and Cologne had freed neko-Shampoo. After applying a dose of hot water to the kitten, Cologne explained everything Nodoka had told her to Shampoo.
"So, you see, granddaughter, your husband lives. But we do need to find him before that mother of his finds her husband, or they will both die."
"Shampoo no care what happen to panda-man."
"Quite so, but Ranma's safety is of utmost concern." Shampoo nodded vigorously. "We must get to the Tendo dojo immediately." And the two of them stormed out of the Nekohanten.
"What we do when we find husband, great-grandmother?"
"He is no longer safe here in Japan, as long as his mother seeks his life. He should be more than grateful to go with us now. We will spirit him back to Joketsuzoku. There you two will be married in the ancient tradition of the Amazons, and you will have restored your honor and position within the line of the matriarchy."
"Aiyah! Shampoo so proud to return to royal line of Joketsuzoku!"
Cologne managed a thin smile as the two of them continued to bound toward the Tendo dojo. "Do not count chickens, as the wise men say. We still need to find him…"
There was a twinkle in the old crone's eye. Shampoo had her eye on the Amazon throne, did she? "…and you still need to outlive me."
Ukyou had guessed correctly. Genma had indeed gone off to his onetime workplace. And Kasumi was working her usual unfortunate magic on Dr. Tofu, with dire results to the hapless panda. Indeed, it wasn't long that the beast looked like an articulated doll after a run-in with its owner's sadistic older brother. The panda's limbs and neck had been twisted in peculiar directions, thanks to the inept hands of the lovesick doctor. Signs were littered about the room: [That hurt, you know], [You had better not expect payment for this, you butcher], and several simply marked [Ouch!]. Even Kasumi realized what was happening, and sent Dr. Tofu into the kitchen to get him away from his mangled patient. And after four or five tries, the doctor actually made it into the kitchen.
With Dr. Tofu safely removed from the scene (well, not all that safely — it wasn't too long before there was a great clatter of pots and pans, followed by a cry of "I'm all right! Hee-hee!"), Kasumi went to work on Genma's spindled joints. She had studied the books she had borrowed from Dr. Tofu well; it wasn't but a few minutes before the panda was his old shape again.
[Thank you, Kasumi dear.] He spun the sign around. [And now, I'm afraid I must be leaving.]
"I'm sorry, Mr. Saotome, but I was sent here to look for you, you know. I can't let you leave. Auntie will be here shortly to pick you up. Until then, I've been told to keep you here." The panda's eyes goggled.
[Kasumi! How could you!] Flip [This is my LIFE that's at stake!] Kasumi's eyes flashed briefly, just like when she first discovered about his half-informed trip to Jusenkyo with his son. She had given him a severe tongue-lashing for having gone too far with his training then. It was obvious she wasn't about to sympathize with him now, either.
"Mr. Saotome, we've been over this before. Now, you know I am truly sorry this has to happen, but you are a martial artist. At least, you're supposed to be. If you're going to make such a ridiculous promise as that, you'd better expect that you're going to be held to your word. You really shouldn't have made such a thoughtless vow, but… what's done is done. You know that Ranma's still back there, waiting…"
[Not only is he not a man, then…] Flip [He's a fool!]
"Yes, Akane's called him that a number of times."
The panda rolled his eyes. [Let me out, Kasumi!] She walked over and stood between him and the door.
"I can't do that, Mr. Saotome. You're to wait here until your wife comes to take you back to the dojo. Shall I ask Dr. Tofu to come back in here to help me keep you here?" Genma looked nervously at the kitchen door, weighing his options. He moved toward her, and attempted to push her aside. She pushed back, and Genma was surprised at how well she stood her ground.
"I spend my time in the kitchen these days, but I'm a Tendo, too, Mr. Saotome. Father trained me when I was young." She was actually starting to push him back, now. "Do I have to — ungh! — push you into the kitchen? I'm not letting you out of here!"
The panda relented slightly, and Kasumi redoubled her efforts to push him into the kitchen now that he wasn't challenging the force of her movements to such an extent. Still resisting her with his left arm, he pulled out another sign with his right. [Then I'm sorry to do this, Kasumi] He took several steps backward, causing Kasumi to pitch forward, and nearly lose her balance. The panda spun the sign around.
[But you leave me no other choice.] His other hand clutched the sign like a baseball bat, and time slowed to a crawl as he begun his swing at Kasumi. Kasumi's eyes nearly popped out of their sockets as she realized with some disbelief was Genma was about to do, and that maintaining her balance had been the wrong move entirely. She screamed.
"DOCTOR TO—!!" and was cut off as the sign connected, and sent her into the wall on the opposite side of the clinic. Her body fell to the floor, limp as a rag doll. The panda dropped the sign and ran out the door.
Shampoo started to outpace her great-grandmother. Cologne was not too concerned; after all, Nodoka would probably continue her search for some time. The fact that she had left Ranma behind and trusted him not to run away indicated that Mrs. Saotome might actually, albeit subconsciously, believe the boy was man enough to own up to his responsibilities. Which was much more than could be said about the man who she was now seeking, the man who supposedly taught him.
"Hurry up, great-grandmother!"
"No need. He should be there. I will follow at my own pace, Shampoo." Shampoo could be forgiven her eagerness; after all, this was to be her husband. She remembered her own eagerness on her wedding day, and smiled wistfully as she continued toward the dojo. And such a fine, strong man she has found, too. Yes, these two will produce children worthy of the Amazon line.
Cologne had seen the man she referred to as 'husband-kun' (much to his annoyance, but he'd adjust to it sooner or later, she thought) in action many times, never backing down from a challenge, even occasionally facing death for the sake of his own pride, and sometimes for the sake of Akane (much to Cologne's irritation). The idea that Nodoka thought Ranma an unmanly coward was inconceivable.
The Tendo dojo was in sight. Cologne applied all her force, and the old crone and her staff bounded over the dojo walls. She landed in the courtyard, mere inches from the koi pond. She could see the white tent that had been set up for the seppuku ceremony.
Suddenly, a great wail burst from the tent. Cologne came running at her great-granddaughter's cry.
"Great-grandmother… Airen gone!"
To be continued.
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