Disclaimer: Standard ones apply.
Author's Note: You don't have to read "Ghosts from the Past" before this fanfic since it has little to do with the other one.
Information Note: Most of my info about wolves came from The Wolf Recovery Foundation (forwolves.org).
Warnings: Angst, death, violence, alternate universe.
Acknowledgements: A big domo arigatou to Madoka for catching all of my goofy mistakes as my beta reader and to everyone who gave me advice. I also want to thank all of the reviewers and the people who took time to read this fic.
Revision Note: I looked over this again from 11-7-04 through 11-14-04.
Summary: One day, a mother wolf stumbled upon a strange creature. It appeared to be human but was not. She took it in, unable to bear leaving the helpless little thing alone, and raised it as her own. Yet he does not fit completely into her world and she would do anything to see him happy -- including giving him over to a human for care.
Age of the Empire
The Second Tale of Shukumei: Little Child Found
The sun rose and bathed the deep green field with a faint yellow glow. White
flowers swayed gently in the light breeze and the grass rustled slightly with the passing of small animals. It
was now the third month of summer and the day's temperature was already rising.
He crouched in the knee-deep grass and extended his senses to the world around him. The boy could hear the soft breathing of his nearby brother as well as various noises from the birds and insects. It was hard for him to remain so quiet and it hurt that it came so easily to everyone else. Why wasn't he as graceful as the others? Why wasn't he so stealthy, so silent, so efficient, so deathly beautiful? He always tried his best, but it seemed that his best just wasn't good enough.
Just a little closer... There! He was rapidly closing the gap between them, nearly beside his brother in the tall grass, and no sound had been made to alert his prey. The boy inched forward and reached out with small hands. Just a little bit further.... Not again!
The wolf cub sprang sideways, tongue lolling from his mouth. The boy allowed himself to collapse face-down onto the grass as his brother ran around him in circles, yipping in triumph. He'd really tried this time but, once again, had not succeeded.
What was wrong with him? He knew that he was different from everyone else, it was all too easy to spot the differences between the wolves and the boy, easy to notice that they were not of the same species. In the beginning, things had been... hard. The other wolves were so wary of his humanoid appearance, naturally equating the word "human" with "danger". But there was nothing they could do about it, not really. It was by the will of the alpha female that he remain among them, and she had taken control of the pack after her mate was killed by hunters the winter before.
He rolled over onto his back and stared up at the blue sky. If he could have any wish in the world it would be for him to fit into his family, for him to be the same as they were. Oh, he supposed that there were good things about his body being the way that it was. Using his forelegs to grasp objects certainly helped when his long furry tail misbehaved and became caught between things. The tail itself was like a fifth appendage and was able to lift weight to a certain extent. No one else's could do that.
The boy was shaken from his thoughts upon hearing the familiar howling of his mother. He answered as best he could and started off toward home. It was unusual for her to call him so early in the day.
As he drew closer to the cave, he saw the gray-colored female wolf waiting for him with his other brothers and sisters. None of the other pups had really taken a liking to him though they willingly shared body heat during the cold winter nights. It could be said that it was more for their benefit than anything else. The pups were so much smaller than the boy that they were entirely surrounded by warmth while he still had quite a few areas exposed to the cold.
The strong, healthy adults of the pack were gathering nearby in preparation for a hunt. Wondering just why he was called back, the boy turned questioning eyes to his mother. She nudged him in the direction of the hunters with a soft whine. He was to join them today.
As he attempted to follow his favorite sibling, the little male wolf cub was grabbed by his mother and brought back to the others. There were still at least three more months before they were able to join the adults.
With a happy smile, the boy joined the hunt.
Not having ever seen the wolves in action before, the boy had no idea what to expect. The group trotted along at five miles an hour through the forest and the boy was easily able to keep up with them. He'd always had a high amount of stamina so the pace his elders set was really no problem at all.
A few hours in, a large group of sike deer were spotted grazing in an open field. They seemed to be easy targets, requiring no extra effort to kill enough of the elder animals to feed the hungry pack. Moving quietly towards them, the five adults carefully took position by the weaker of the lot. They did not kill the healthy animals and, by focusing their sights only on the aged, injured, sick, or young, they kept the herd healthier as a whole.
The lead hunter let out a deep growl that set the deer herd into motion. Attacking only those that lagged behind, the wolf hunters made off with a good amount of meat. The boy, though, was unable to even catch a youngling. So he was forced to share with an adult female who had a surplus and that caused him to feel a great deal of shame.
His mother immediately noticed the downcast look of her cub and figured that his first hunt had not gone well. It was so important for him to be able to hunt on his own when she was no longer around to take care of him. With the realization that he could not survive in the wilderness alone came the bitter knowledge that she must take him to one who could care for him correctly. The alpha female had always known that he was not of her world, but had always hoped that he could adjust.
It was not to be.
The boy felt like allowing the misery to devour him like a great beast. He curled in the corner of their den and let the hot tears drip down his face. When he was, at last, completely cried out, the alpha female nudged him with her cold nose. She looked back towards the entrance of the cavern and the boy's eyes followed. With a quiet bark, she led him towards the mouth of the cave and out into the bright afternoon sunshine.
Two of the weaker elders herded the pups back inside the cave as their mother lead the boy through their land and to the edge of the Unknown. A small house sat in a clearing, small white puffs of smoke emerging from the chimney, and a carefully tended garden in the back. He stood just on the edge, confused, until his mother pushed him gently forward.
Tears once more flowed down the boy's chubby cheeks as he kneeled beside his mother and wrapped his arms around her neck. The alpha female licked his cheek affectionately then, once again, prodded him forward. With one last look, she turned and vanished into the forest.
What was he to do? His mother left him all alone to fend for himself. There was no prey that he could catch and no shelter that he could build. It seemed to him that she considered him too weak for her to bother with, and made a decision to leave him in the forest for nature to deal with. Just as he'd abandoned all hope of survival, the front door of the small house opened and an old man with a long, thick white mustache poked his head outside.
"Well, what do we have here?" he queried with a kind smile. "A little boy!"
As the strange little man came closer, the boy took steps in the opposite direction. He knew that creatures such as this often had nothing but ill intent. His mother had taught all her children at a young age to stay away from humans. Yet -- the boy looked down at himself -- he appeared to be human as well.
So he stopped his backward movement and stared upward in curiosity at the man.
"I'm not going to hurt you, son," he said quietly as he crouched down to the boy's level. "My name's Son Gohan. What's yours?"
Dark eyes blinked once, but that was the only response he received.
Concern darkened Gohan's eyes. "First things first: we see about some clothes for you. Can't have you running around naked all of the time." He led the still-wary boy to the small, round house.
The house was simple in both design and furnishings. It consisted of only three rooms: a bedroom, a bath, and a combination kitchen/living room. Gohan led the boy to the bedroom where he located a small enough shirt to fit his slight frame and then proceeded to fill the drum outside with water drawn from a nearby stream. As he set the small logs underneath the metal container afire, he discovered a small problem. "You're a bit too small to be in there by yourself, aren't you?"
The boy cocked his head to the side and tried his best to understand what the old man was saying. The sounds that came from Gohan's mouth were unintelligible and completely foreign to the young child. He had heard nothing like them in all of his eight years on Planet Earth. His world had been filled with the barks, whines, whimpers, growls, and howls of his wolf family. Those canine utterings were all he had known.
Soon the water was hot and Gohan doused the flames. Stripping bare, he carefully lowered himself over the side and into the relaxing warmth of the bath water. "C'mon over, son. The water's fine." He smiled and beckoned him forward with his hands. "You know, we *are* going to have to eventually come up with another name for you. Do you have one already?"
Again, there was absolutely no response, but the boy did come to the edge of the drum. He allowed Gohan to place him in the water, and made small noises of delight when the old man poured a small capfull of bubble bath inside the drum. Playing happily in the bubbles, he almost didn't notice when Gohan began to wash the accumulated dirt and grime from his body.
"It's as if you've never become acquainted with soap and hot water," the old man commented. His hand brushed against something furry and the bushy eyebrows rose nearly to his hairline. "Now, that can't be right. He's not old enough to grow hair down there..." He trailed off when the boy's furry tail emerged from the bath water.
"Why didn't I notice that before?" he asked in a bewildered tone of voice. "How can I *not* notice a monkey-like tail waving in the breeze?!" Gohan trailed off when the sodden appendage wrapped itself around his wrist. A smile made its way across his face and it was echoed by his young charge.
The bath continued with much laughter and splashing. The little boy, now thoroughly clean, was dried off and dressed in his brand new clothing. He tugged at the unfamiliar covering and his face twisted into one of distaste.
"I know that it's a little confining, but it really isn't proper for you to go around without clothing. You just have to get use to them..." Gohan's face lit up. "I have the perfect name for you, Little One! You shall be called Goku because, I suspect, you would do the name proud."
The remainder of the day was spent getting to know his new grandson. Goku was an unusual child, Gohan had to admit, never saying a word. At first he thought that he was deaf by the odd expressions that crossed the boy's face when his spoke, but then he would react to loud noises by covering his ears. Gohan eventually came to the conclusion that he was unable to speak for some reason or another. So, he settled down to teach him how.
"Ojiisan," he said as he pointed towards his body. "Goku," he said as he pointed towards the boy. Dark eyes watched Gohan's mouth shape the words and his mind filed it away for later use. Someday he would speak... but not today.
After dinner, Gohan tucked Goku into the bed beside his own. He told him that they would be going into town the next day to purchase a few things. "There is so much to see there, Goku. Very different from what you're probably used to."
Goku laid awake and stared upward at the ceiling. He'd seen so many new things that day, more than he ever had before. A sleepy smile played across his face as his eyes slowly closed. There would be even more interesting things tomorrow.
He jerked awake, heart pounding and breath coming in gasps. The boy could not clearly remember his dream, but knew that it had scared him like nothing before. He yearned for the warmth and reassurance of his mother.
Quietly pushing back the blanket, Goku got to his feet and tip-toed across the tatami mats. He called to memory how to unlatch the door and successfully made it outside without waking Gohan. The old man had been an accomplished martial artist in his younger days so it had not been an easy feat.
Low branches whipped past his body and exposed tree roots threatened to trip him as he ran through the forest. The usual grace was abandoned, the want of his mother taking precedence over all else. Goku tripped and a sharp rock sliced his knee open, but he ran on. His lungs burned from lack of oxygen, but still he ran on. Just when he thought he could run no longer, the entrance to his family's valley came into view.
A bright, joyous smile made his eyes lit up. Fifty feet, twenty.... He slowed his pace and his body language spoke of wariness. Something was wrong.
The beta male, who never really liked him in the first place, growled at the boy, teeth bared and tail rigid behind him. Goku knew that the grudging welcome extended by the beta and omega wolves no longer existed. He was now an outsider and no better than the humans who sought to kill them.
Head bowed and tail dragging, Goku turned and went back the way he had come. There was only one place he could call home, one place in all the world where he felt even the tiniest measure of comfort and security. He would just have to make the best of a horrible situation, that's all. No use crying over the loss of family.
Goku covered his ears and clenched his eyes shut. Maybe that would block the haunting sight and sound of the beta's hostility.
Gohan awoke from a fairly pleasant dream with a sense that all was not right within his home. Rubbing his eyes, he rolled over to check on Goku and immediately noticed that he was gone. Hopping quickly to his feet, he grabbed his bo staff and followed the trail left by the boy's recklessness.
There was a small trail of destruction left by Goku's run through the forest that led him over two miles into the darkness of Meimori. When he began to hear a deep growling that seemed to come from everywhere at once, he hastened his pace.
His adopted grandson was curled into a ball on the ground, ears covered and eyes shut. Not hearing the approach of Gohan's soft footfalls, he was startled when the old man placed a hand on his shoulder.
"Goku? Are you alright?"
Tears began to trickle down his cheeks and he buried his head into Gohan's chest. In-between small gasps of breath, he murmured, "Jiisan."
"You spoke..." the old man breathed in wonder. He ruffled the wild hair atop the boy's hair affectionately. "Let's go home."
For the remainder of the night, Goku slept soundly. It seemed that his nightmares were long gone. When morning dawned, he was already up and exploring the small home.
The human artifacts didn't fail to fascinate the boy. There hadn't been anything like them where he'd lived before. People consumed food by first searing the flesh it and then serving the meal on hard, round discs. To eat, you had to use thin sticks of wood.
Washing was also done a very different way. No longer did he splash around in the nearest cold stream; his baths were now heated. A strange liquid was also used to create delicate bubbles that popped when poked by a finger.
Goku examined every nook and cranny of the house at least twice over before coming, once again, to rest on his mattress. Gohan was just starting to wake and he watched him quietly in the early morning light.
So, they were to go someplace today. What did a "town" look like, exactly? What was its purpose? Was it a place for "things", a place where they were stored and looked upon by curious small children? Or did it have a greater meaning?
After breakfast, Gohan dressed his grandson in a clean shirt much to the annoyance of the boy. He promised that, once inside the town, he would purchase him clothing that he approved of.
Wide-brimmed straw hat perched upon his head, and bo staff firmly secured to his person, Gohan and Goku started off down a old path that led away from Meimori. The town was ten miles away and it would approximately take them two-and-a-half hours to walk there.
When Goku began mimicking the humming that he did underneath his breath, Gohan came up with an idea for a game they could play that didn't require speech. He would do something, such as whistle, and the boy would, almost immediately, attempt to copy him. At first, Goku didn't understand what to do when his turn came, until he reached up to scratch his nose and saw Gohan do the same exact thing that is. The hours went by quickly with each trying to do their best to stump the other. Goku won when he succeeded in touching his tongue to his nose.
Heiwa was nothing more than one main street and a few shops. The total citizen population was about eight hundred and most were fourth or fifth generation. A few people were out and about early that morning, most pausing to stare at the strange child who followed behind the familiar form of Son Gohan. Goku was blissfully unaware of this as he took in the new sights, sounds, and smells that the town had to offer.
"This is a clothing store," Gohan said as he pointed to the sign above the entrance. Goku's nose wrinkled at the dreaded "C" word and he slowly began to back away. The mere thought of even more cloth confinement, no matter how colorful or aesthetically pleasing it may be, filled the boy with aversion. He loved the way the elements felt against his naked body and the way the earth felt between his toes. To take all of that away from him... was like taking away a part of himself.
But his grandfather wanted him to wear clothing -- and many people did on a regular basis -- so maybe it wasn't as bad as he thought.
The interior of the shop was cool and filled with gentle music. Only about two people were browsing among the racks and there was a young woman behind a counter in the back. She smiled warmly at Gohan but, when she spotted the boy beside him, it grew even wider.
"Oooh!" she cooed as she rushed over. "You're such a cute little boy! What's your name?"
"It's Goku," his grandfather answered for him. "I found him outside my house yesterday and decided to adopt him."
The girl ran her fingers through his spiked hair. "He's adorable, Son-san. How old is he?"
"I'm guessing around nana or hachi," he said as he examined the overwhelmed boy. "Hai, that's about right."
Goku tugged on Gohan's pants leg with a pleading look. "Jiisan...."
"Okay, Little One." He turned towards the girl. "I need clothes for him, something loose and comfortable."
She led them to a rack of children's clothes and quickly guaged his size. "I think I have the perfect thing for him..." Pushing several items aside, she pulled out a navy blue sailor suit. "Perfect for a little boy."
Goku's eyes grew wide and he turned his head away. Gohan chuckled. "I don't think he likes that very much. How about you pick something for yourself?" He gently pushed him towards the rack.
Majority of the clothing was pushed aside, especially those that involved short pants or bright, eye-searing colors. Then, just as he was about to abandon his search, he saw it. Between a pale yellow shirt and a pair of lime green pants, there was a light blue gi with a white sash. Goku removed it from the rack and examined it carefully. It looked to be something that he could get along with, but looks were deceiving at times.
"Would you like to try it on?" the girl asked. "The dressing rooms are over there, honey."
A few minutes later, a completely different boy emerged. No longer was there a frown on his face, he seemed quite pleased with his choice. He grinned and patted the gi approvingly.
"Great!" Gohan enthused as he led his grandson another part of the store. "Now, we need to find you a pair of shoes."
Shoes. Now that was a word he'd never heard before. Although he had no idea what they looked like (or even what they were for), Goku got the impression that they were similar to clothing... and that he would like them even less.
His hunch was absolutely correct. The first couple pairs of shoes pinched his toes something awful until Gohan found the right size. They were made of a soft fabric and were as dark as the night sky. At first, he was deeply set against wearing them, but then his grandfather whispered that he could go without when at home. So, Goku would only have to endure their torment for only a few hours that day.
Next, they made a trip to the grocer. Gohan grew or caught most of his food right at home, but things like rice, spices, and condiments he had to purchase. With a promise that he wouldn't be long, he allowed Goku to remain outside so that he could look around.
"What's your name?" a small voice asked from his right. Goku looked around and then down at a curious little girl in a red dress.
"Name" was a word that he immediately recognized. "Goku," he said, confident that he was correct. It was what his grandfather called him, after all.
She smiled up at him. "I'm Asako. You're with Son-san? I didn't know he had a grandson."
Her words went in one ear and out the other, but her voice was nice to listen to. Asako chattered on about her mean older brother, her new bicycle, and her kitten, Mittens, before a stern-faced woman marched over and grabbed her by the hand.
"How many times have I told you about talking to strangers?" she asked as she pulled the child away. "It's bad enough that weird little boy is in town. You don't have to talk to him!"
"Okaasan," Asako protested, "he's not a stranger. He's Goku!"
"I don't care what his name is, you don't talk to him. In fact, don't even *look* at him. Do I make myself clear?"
She sighed. "Hai, Okaasan." Her mother nodded in approval and Asako cast a sad look in Goku's direction. The little girl hated to leave him all alone, but her mother demanded that it be done.
Goku sat on the dry, dusty ground and watched Asako be dragged away. He'd really gotten to like her in the short time they spent together and did not understand why she had to leave. He *did* know, however, that her mother made him very uncomfortable.
His grandfather came out of the store several minutes later and found the sad little boy drawing pictures in the dirt with a short stick. Goku looked up as he heard the bell above the grocer's door and Gohan could see the unshed tears glittering in his eyes.
"Little One, what's wrong?" he crouched beside him in concern. "Are you hurt?"
The gentle voice, that was meant to soothe, caused Goku to burst into tears. Gohan wished, not for the first time, that the little boy was able to say more words. Then he could find out exactly what was wrong. He wiped away the wetness on his cheeks with his handkerchief, all the while looking forward to the day when Goku's vocabulary was at the same level as the other school age children.
After making one more stop at the plant shop for a small bag of turnip seeds, Gohan made a stop by the house of an old friend. It sat about half-a-mile away from the center of town, surrounded by ornamental cherry trees. There was even a small pond in the back yard that attracted a large variety of water fowl.
"He's the current shicyou of Heiwa," Gohan explained as he knocked on the front door. "I met him when we were boys."
A servant answered the door with a shy smile. "Ohayo, sir," she bowed. "May I help you?"
"My grandson and I are here to see Seion-sama. Is he available?"
"Who, may I ask, is calling?"
"Just let him know that Gohan's here to see him."
The young woman asked them to wait in the entrance hall as she went to inform the shicyou that he had guests.
A small face peeked from around a doorway and grinned at the surprised boy. "Konnichi-wa, Goku-kun!" Asako stepped out and bowed politely to Gohan. "Konnichi-wa, Son-san."
"You've grown a lot since the last time I saw you, Asako-chan." He opened his arms. "Come give me a hug."
"It's really nice to see you," she told him. "Okaasan scolded me for speaking to Goku-kun before. He looked so sad when she made me leave. She won't do it while you're here."
Gohan sighed. "So that's why he looked so miserable. I wonder why Midori felt the need to separate you two."
"Who knows what goes on in my wife's head sometimes," Isei said as he descended the staircase. "Welcome, my friend. It's been months since I've last seen you."
"I've been infrequent in my shopping trips because old age is playing havoc on my system." He dropped his hand to Goku's head. "I have this little one, now. You should hear from me more often."
The shicyou frowned as he examined the boy. "He looks human. I would even go as far as to say that he was. But then I see the tail and everything changes."
"I think his tail is cute, Papa," Asako said. Then to Goku: "Can I touch it?"
As she reached for his tail, Goku pulled it out of her reach with a panicked expression. It was obviously a very bad idea.
"He's quite protective of it, sweetheart," Gohan explained. "Tails are pretty delicate, I suppose." He pushed himself to his feet and followed Isei to his study. "You two play for a little while until we finish. I won't be long, Goku."
The kids did, indeed, play the entire time. Asako taught Goku how to play hide-and-seek, hopscotch, and jacks. Both were out of breath from a rather involved game of tag when Midori marched toward them.
"Seion Asako!" she shouted as she strode towards them. "What did I tell you before?"
The little girl stared unwaveringly in her mother's eyes. "He's Son-san's grandson and papa gave us permission to play together."
"I'll just have to speak with your father, then," she huffed. "Lunch his ready." Then she turned and walked stiffly away.
Asako helped Goku to his feet. "I'm sorry. She doesn't like you because you're different. C'mon, let's go eat."
Lunch was a very formal affair. Along the large table, that could easily hold twenty, sat only six people. Domestics were at Midori's every beck and call even after they'd served the meal. The woman ate little and talked much.
"Namiyo's husband imported a mink coat for her from Europe," she said with obvious jealousy. "When winter comes, she'll be the best dressed wife in the entire town."
"Midori, darling, the mink is an endangered species on that continent. I dislike the fact that an innocent animals have to die to make you high quality outerwear."
Kenji, the eldest child, nodded in agreement. "He's quite right, Okaasan. Synthetic materials are much better."
She frowned at the teen. "I didn't ask you."
The rest of the meal was finished in silence, with only a few small attempts made by Gohan to strike up conversation. Midori disappeared immediately after emptying her plate, no doubt off to sulk about her lack of expensive furs. Goku and Asako went back outside to play.
A small black car pulled up to the shicyou's house about twenty minutes later. Goku watched a man dressed in black leather get out of the vehicle come over to where the two of them were sitting.
"Excuse me, little girl," he said to Asako. "I seem to be lost. Can you show me the way to city hall?"
Asako eyed him cautiously. He fit the description of "stranger" perfectly. So, as per her mother's instructions, she didn't speak to him.
The man grunted in annoyance. "I do think that you should show me, little girl." She got up to move away from him and he grabbed her arm. "It's for your own good."
Before she could cry out, he covered her mouth with his hand. Goku jumped to his feet and started towards the two of them, but froze when the stranger placed a knife against Asako's neck. "You come towards me and she's history."
Tears glittered in Asako's eyes as the man carried her to his car and tossed her in the backseat. Goku could only watch helplessly as the kidnapper left with his friend. As soon as he was sure that the occupants of the car couldn't spot him, the boy ran down the road after them.
"Is this Seion-sama?" asked a gruff voice.
Isei's bushy eyebrows rose. "Hai. Who, may I ask, is calling?"
"We are the Anei Samurai. Currently we are at your bank, preparing to rob it."
"N-nani?" he asked, completely shocked.
"Your daughter is here as well. She's such a pretty little girl."
The shicyou felt his blood run cold. "You have Asako? What do you want from me? What are your demands?"
"So many questions!" The man laughed chillingly. "The only thing we wish for you to do is allow us to rob your bank and give us safe passage out of town. Failure to do so will result in you having one less child to worry about. Do we have an understanding?"
"Hai, hai we do."
"Good." The man hung up and Isei wrung his hands.
"It's horrible, Gohan." He was nearly overwhelmed with grief. "Some group called the Anei Samurai have my little Asako. I'll gladly do what they ask so that she's safe, but there is no guarantee that they haven't already harmed her."
Gohan pursed his lips as a vague plan formed in his mind. "First, we need to get down to the bank and assess the situation. Then we will save your daughter."
The black car stopped at a large building where another was waiting. Asako was dragged into the marble-faced bank and Goku went around to the side and peeked into one of the large windows.
Two men, one short and one tall, stood guard over a small group of customers who'd been in the bank when the criminals took over. The tellers behind were filling bags with money from the vaults and the manager was attempting to plead with the leader of the gang. The large man casually whipped his gun across his face, knocking the terrified man to the floor. The hostages gasped and some began to whimper.
"Quiet!" he hissed as he paced back-and-forth. The robbery was taking far too long to complete and he was becoming impatient. The leader stopped mid-step and glared in the direction of the tellers. "If you're wasting my time on purpose..."
He received numerous negative responses. Satisfied, the man continued to pace silently.
A police car pulled up outside and many other officers arrived from the station by foot. The majority of them surrounded the main entrance while the rest split up to cover the side and the back.
The chief raised a megaphone to his mouth. "What are you demands?"
For a moment, nothing happened. Then the main doors opened and the leader came out with a squirming Asako in his arms. "You mean he didn't tell you? I have the dear shicyou's daughter. If you do not allow us, the Anei Samurai, to escape town with all of your money, the girl dies."
Twin sets of running footsteps approached the small group of policemen. The Seion pushed his way to the front, but stopped six feet away from the leader when the man placed a knife to his daughter's throat. His body trembled in fear for Asako and he struggled to remain outwardly calm. "Why are you doing this in the first place? What do you need the money for?"
"That," he smiled viciously at him, "is none of your concern. Call off your cops, shicyou, and your daughter will be fine." He retreated inside of the building and shut the door behind him.
Isei began to pace. "What am I going to do, Gohan? I'll go anything to get Asako back safely, but how do I accomplish this? That man doesn't look like a person who'd keep his word."
"Stay here and keep him talking. I'm going to go around to the back and save her."
"Good luck, Gohan," he said quietly as he watched him move away. Then he gathered up the tattered shreds of his composure and issued orders.
Gohan was almost on top of him before he noticed Goku crouching in the shadows between the bank and the next building. Gently, so not to startle the boy, he tapped his shoulder. "Little One, did you follow Asako? It's very dangerous for you to be here."
"Asako," Goku said while motioning towards the building. He took his index finger and pressed it to his jugular vein to show that she was held at knife point.
"Hai, son. The bad man threatened her life. I'm going to rescue her, but first I need you to find Isei and stay with him." He saw the blank look on the boy's face and sighed. He'd forgotten that Goku couldn't understand most of what he said.
Before he could attempt again to communicate his instructions again, they both heard the sound of gunfire and then a high-pitched scream. Goku did not hesitate. Taking a few steps backward, he broke into a brisk run and threw himself at the window.
"Goku! Iie!" Gohan shouted, but he was not heard. Glass shattered in an explosion of sound, the shards flying inward to land at the feet of the stunned hostages. The boy quickly looked around in search of his friend and found her lying motionless on the ground. He recognized all-too-well the immobility of death. It had laid icy fingertips upon a few of the elders of his pack.
He did not remember crossing the room, nor did he remember punching the burly man in the abdomen. It was all a blur up to the point when the leader raised the gun and pulled the trigger. Goku felt the bullet impact with the flesh of his chest and his hands immediately felt for the wound, for the blood. There wasn't anything to be found.
The leader gaped in shock that only lasted an instant. He, again, raised the weapon, but before his finger could move, Goku was on him. Gun knocked away, the boy attacked him with surprising a ferocity and strength that reminded them all of a cornered wild animal. It was only when Asako moaned and moved slightly that he ceased his offensive.
She wasn't dead after all. Goku stared in wonder as she slowly sat up and blinked in confusion. Everything seemed to fall silent and move in slow motion as her eyes caught his. Asako smiled and he returned the gesture.
"Police! Hands in the air!" Moment broken by the commanding shouts of the Heiwan Police Force, Goku looked at the window where he'd left his grandfather a minute before. The old man still stood on the other side of the wall, but there was a stunned expression on his face. The boy felt a sinking sensation in the pit of his stomach. Would Gohan reject him now that he'd hurt another living being?
"You're quite a special little boy," Gohan said with a proud smile as he carefully stepped over the low windowsill. "Imagine saving the day all by yourself!"
Goku smiled as well when he felt the positive feelings coming from his grandfather. It seemed that the man was far from being upset. Well, Asako was safe and the criminals apprehended. That was the point of the mission, wasn't it?
Isei rushed in and ran straight to his daughter. "I'm so glad that you're safe." Eyes wet with unshed tears, he gazed at his friend. "Domo arigatou, Gohan. I can never repay you for what you've done."
"Well, I appreciate your gratitude, but I had almost nothing to do with Asako's rescue."
The shicyou blinked. "Nani?"
"It was little Goku here," Gohan said with pride. "He went in and kept the head bad guy down long enough for the police to arrest him." The followers had stood frozen in fear and awe of the little boy. They offered no resistance as the cops handcuffed them.
It was obvious that Isei was a wee bit skeptical. "It's true, Papa!" Asako said. "After I woke up, I saw Goku show that man who was boss!"
"Alright, then," Isei said as he crouched down in front of the boy. "Heroism should be rewarded. Name anything you want and it shall be yours."
When he failed to speak, Gohan answered for him with a sparkle in his eye. "I know of something that the little one would just love to have..."
"It's as if he has a black hole inside of him!" Isei said in an awed voice. He and Asako watched Goku devour eight full meals and ten dessert dishes before settling back into his chair with a loud burp and a small, contented sigh.
"It *is* something, isn't it?" Gohan wiped his mouth and dropped the napkin onto his plate. "Food is his one true love."
The owner of the restaurant, who'd been hovering around their table ever since the waiters brought the third meal, wrung his hands. "Please don't tell me that the boy is still hungry. We don't have anything left for the other customers!"
Goku's answer was to yawn sleepily and pat his stomach. "I think he's satisfied for now, sir." Gohan told him. "Arigatou anyway."
They sat and chatted for a little while longer -- or rather Gohan and Isei chatted and the kids listened -- until the stars made their twinkling appearance in the night sky.
 nana = 7, hachi = 8.
 it means "mayor" in Japanese.