Age of the Empire
The Second Tale of Shukumei: Little Child Found
Four years later...
He'd been gone for nearly a month, leaving him all alone in a large, uncaring world. It was still mystery how he died and nothing Goku did brought the memory to light. He must have been there -- the boy didn't leave his grandfather's property often --, but Goku could not remember a thing.
The boy ran to Heiwa that morning, Gohan's body in his arms. He'd always been strong and his grandfather's training had only made him even more so. Doctor Taniguchi took one look at the limp man in his arms and rushed him inside to the examination room.
"Is he... Will he be okay?" Goku asked anxiously as the doctor checked his grandfather over.
Taniguchi sighed and pulled out his notepad. Time of death: 6:25 a.m. He didn't want to break the twelve-year-old's heart, but there was no other choice. Son Gohan was gone.
"He had several broken bones, many of them major. A rib punctured his lung about three hours before you found him." The doctor placed a gentle hand on his shoulder. "There was nothing you could have done."
His lips trembled as he spoke words that would make everything real. "Jiisan's dead."
"I'm afraid so."
"Iie!" Goku shook Gohan's cold body frantically. "Wake up! Onegai, wake up!"
Taniguchi pulled him away gently. He'd seen many a family member fall apart at the death of a loved one and it never became any easier to witness. "Shh, Goku. It'll be okay. Do you have anyone to stay with?"
"S-seion-sama," he murmured softly. "Jiisan wrote it in his will. It's like he knew that he was going to..." His throat constricted and he was unable to continue. Goku exhaled deeply. "Why didn't he warn me about this if he knew that it was gonna happen?"
"I don't think he did, son. It was probably just a standard precaution. Seion-sama will take good care of you."
A standard precaution. Right. There was something off about the entire thing. No, he didn't think that someone murdered his grandfather, but it wasn't a mere accident. Goku thought about this for a full week, going over it again and again inside of his head. He had no explanation for Gohan's death and felt that he never would.
Then, on the one-month anniversary of his grandfather's death, he found himself staring outside at the night sky. It was unusually bright and the forest below could clearly be seen from his upstairs bedroom window. The Seion family had graciously given him his own room and all the love he could ever want. Even Midori had warmed up to him after a while. He was eternally grateful to them.
"That must be the moon," Goku said in awe as he stared at the glowing orb. "I've never seen it outside of a book before." Usually he was asleep long before it made its appearance in the sky.
Suddenly his heartbeat felt thunderously loud in his ears and he could not turn his gaze away from the moon outside. He struggled with himself, trying to regain control. "W-what's happening to me?"
He vaguely remembered looking at the moon that night thirty days before. Everything was fuzzy beyond that point, but now he could feel the changes happen within his body. His tail stood straight out behind him like a bottlebrush and his pupils dilated as his body shifted and grew. Sensing that something monumental was happening, he jumped from the balcony and onto the ground below.
With a mighty roar, Goku turned his head to the sky. There was an almost uncontrollable urge to go on a rampage of death and destruction, but a growing sense of horror swallowed it whole. He could remember it all, every single thing that happened that day. The memories both sickened and shamed him. How could he enjoy killing innocent people? What had he become?
"GOKU!" Gohan shouted as he ran outside into the yard. "Come back!!"
It was happening again. His grandson had transformed at the sight of the full moon and was currently uprooting every tree he came across. Gohan had always known that something was very different -- or very special -- about the boy. First he had survived years in a forest and, if that wasn't enough proof, Goku had a furry monkey-like tail.
Before, it had been late enough in the night that the sun had begun to rise soon after the transformation. His little weremonkey had shrunk back down into his normal ten-year-old form and everything had been okay.
But now, there was no chance of that happening; it was only eleven p.m. after all. A lot of damage could be done in nearly eight hours' time.
"What in the world can I do? Destroying the moon seems like the best solution, but it's too far away..." He was so deep in thought that he didn't notice that Goku was gone until he was almost out of sight. "For such a large creature, he sure moves quietly."
He chased after his grandson for hours in an attempt to bring him back to himself, but nothing he did or said halted him. Desperate, Gohan ran up to the weremonkey and stood just a few inches from one furry paw.
"Stop this right now!" he demanded as he rapped on the monkey's body with his knuckles. "I've raised you better than this, Goku!"
He looked down at the tiny figure curiously for a moment before raising one gigantic foot. Gohan's eyes widened in disbelief and he just barely rolled out of the way before it came down with a sharp movement that caused the earth to tremble. Sensing that nothing he could say or do would stop his grandson, he spun around and ran in the opposite direction. Oozaru Goku, upset that his plaything was escaping, took off after him.
What came next made his heart fill with sorrow. "I killed him!" Goku screamed at the sky. He collapsed to his knees and pounded the ground with his fists. "I killed my jiisan," he whispered. "It's all my fault."
Lights snapped on in several rooms. One window was pushed upward and Asako leaned out, her eyes curiously taking in the giant ape-like creature in her backyard. "Um, what are you?" she asked, not really afraid.
"Asako, don't you know me?" Goku raised tear-filled eyes to her face.
Her eyes widened in shock and she leaned over the sill so far that she nearly lost her balance. "Is that you, Goku?! Wow! What happened?"
Slowly moved so that he was kneeling and peered closely at the glowing sphere in the sky. "I think it's the moon. This happened to me before." His throat constricted at the thought. "That night...."
At first she was confused, but then it dawned on her. "This is the anniversary of Gohan-san's death, isn't it?"
Goku nodded and said sadly, "Hai."
As she trailed off into silence, the patio doors swung open and an angry Midori marched out. "Uh, oh," Goku muttered beneath his breath. She heard him perfectly.
"You change back to normal right now!" The woman demanded. "What would the neighbors think?" Gasping, she asked, "What would the president of the historical society think?" That was a club she'd been trying to join for quite some time. However, the women who belonged to it were even snobbier than she was.
"If I could, Midori-san, I would!" Goku's voice rose with frustration, the sound sending previously sleeping birds from the trees and small animals scurrying for safety. "I think I always change back when the sun rises." 'But why do I have control over myself *now*?' And why couldn't he have gained control *before*, when his jiisan had still been alive? The two previous times he remembered vaguely that it was like he'd been trapped inside his own head. When he shifted back to his normal form, he'd forgotten everything. Maybe his mind had been protecting him.
Sighing, he turned his back to her and looked up at the sky. "Gomen nasai, Jiisan. I never wanted to hurt you."
Isei patted one large leg in a comforting manner. "I'm sure he knows that you had no control over your actions. Bad things happen sometimes, but you mustn't let it defeat you. Good night, Goku. See you in the morning at breakfast." The angry woman only glared at him and went back into the house.
"G'night." Despite his foster father's words, he continued to brood.
Asako didn't want to leave the boy alone, especially not when he was feeling depressed. "Papa, can I-?"
"Hai, Asako-chan. Just be sure that you're in the house before your mother wakes." He smiled when she disappeared from the window and had a feeling that her presence would make a world of difference.
The ten-year-old girl quietly shut the sliding glass door and settled down next to her brother. "I don't think we have a blanket big enough. Will you be okay?"
He nodded with a something that resembled a smile. "Oh, sure. Fur's pretty warm. My tail never gets cold in the winter. Gomen for staying with me."
"No problem. You're my big brother, you know? I have to make sure that you're okay." Asako settled back against his chest and yawned. "Best pillow I've ever had," she said before closing her eyes.
Goku watched her sleep for a few moments before turning his face, once again, to the heavens.
There was a knock on his bedroom door just before lunch. He'd been normal when he woke that morning and was covered with Asako's bunny-printed blanket. Underneath he was completely naked. The thought of his little sister seeing him that way made him blush slightly, but he imagined that it must have been hundreds of times worse for Asako. He wasn't ashamed of his body, but he doubted that she'd ever seen a boy nude before that moment.
After a breakfast he didn't each very much of (which prompted the cook to place her hand onto his forehead to check his temperature), he went directly to his room. He desperately wanted to correct his mistake, but had no idea if it was even possible.
He laid down for twenty minutes before rising and going over the bookcase to remove his favorite keepsake from the middle shelf. It was his Jiisan's favorite knickknack, a shiny orange sphere that bore four red stars upon its surface. "Come in," he called as he gazed down at it.
"Otousan sent me to tell you that lunch was ready. Asako's helping Okaasan in the kitchen." It was Kenji, the last person he expected to be at the door. The young man looked curiously at the item in his brother's hand, his jaw dropping when he recognized it. "Where did you get that dragonball?!"
Goku looked up blankly. "Dragon *what*?"
Kenji moved closer, eager to get a better look at an artifact he'd only considered legend. "Dragonball. It's a magical item. Ah, you have the four-star ball."
"Hai. It was Jiisan's. He said he found it years ago."
"You have one! Do you know what this means?" It was pretty obvious that the boy didn't, so he went on to explain. "There are seven of them total and it's said that, once you collect them all, you can have one wish."
Considering the possibilities, his dark eyes lit up for the first time since before that fateful night one month ago. "Can it be for anything I want?"
"Nearly anything. As long as it's within Shenron's power."
"Then I want to wish that Jiisan is brought back to life." By reviving the elder man, he felt that he was setting things right. "How do I find the other six dragonballs?"
Kenji sighed. "Goku, I don't think that you can. They're spread throughout the world and it would take the rest of your entire life to search every single place. I was a little too excited before, it's my fault for getting your hopes up."
With absolute determination, he said, "I'm going to find the other six and bring Jiisan back. I don't care how long it takes." Goku went over to his closet and rummaged around for a knapsack. "Can you do me a favor and pack some food?"
"You're just a little boy!" he protested. "It's not safe for you to be running around looking for star-covered spheres that are nearly impossible to find!"
Goku stopped packing and stared at him. "Do you know how it feels to kill someone that you love? Well, I do. It's the worst thing in the entire world. I need to bring him back, Kenji, no matter how hard it's gonna be."
For a long moment the two of them silently regarded each other until Kenji headed for the door. "I'll prepare your food."
"Domo arigatou, Kenji. This means a lot to me."
He smiled weakly. "Just come back in one piece, alright? That's all I ask."
The boy nodded and returned to packing all his important things.
"By now Asako should have found the note," he said to himself. "Will she be mad at me? I hope Kenji can explain better than I could." Goku stuffed the last bit of his rice cracker into his mouth. He sat upon the stump of a large tree, legs swinging back and forth idly as he finished his dinner. Four hours he'd walked through the forest on the opposite side of Heiwa, not quite sure of where to go. The dragonball came without a map or instructions of any kind, it was if Shenron didn't want to be summoned. "Nothing will stand in my way," he vowed as he stuffed his things back into the knapsack.
Humming to himself, he started off down the small, worn road with a bounce in his step. He would get to see his jiisan again! Not today, or even tomorrow, but someday.
Just as the sun was starting to set, he heard a rumbling in the distance. It didn't sound like thunder, but he had no idea what else it could be. Dropping to his stomach, he pressed an ear to the ground. "Hmm..." The noise became louder and louder until it was very close. Then, just as quickly as it was behind, it was ahead. Goku stared at the motorbike and then quickly gathered enough wits to flag it down.
"Hey!" he shouted as he ran after the vehicle and its rider. "I need to ask you a question!"
Not hearing a word he said, the driver continued on down the road. Goku sped up and kept pace. "Excuse me!"
The person looked over and made a sound of surprise. They abruptly braked to a stop. "What are you doing?" the rider asked as the helmet was removed. She shook out her turquoise colored hair and raised an eyebrow. "How in the world did you keep up with me?"
"I'm fast," he said proudly. "Can you tell me how far the nearest town is?"
"If you're walking it will probably take more than a day. C'mon, kid, I'll give you a ride."
He grinned. "Honto? Arigatou! My name's Goku, what's yours?"
"It's Buruma, Buruma Briefs. Maybe you've heard of my otousan, Dr. Briefs. He's famous. Hang on tight, I go pretty fast."
"Nope, I haven't ever heard of him. Gomen." He grabbed her around the waist in a grip that nearly cut off her circulation.
"Um, Goku? Could you ease up just a tiny little bit?"
He quickly loosed his arms. "Oops, sorry about that." Buruma revved the engine and they were off.
The teen braked to a stop beside a store. "Do you have someplace to stay? A kid shouldn't be out and about alone. Especially at night."
"Hey, I'm twelve!" he said defensively. "You don't look that much older than I am."
She smirked at him. "Well, I'm sixteen and that's practically an adult!" Buruma dropped the kickstand placed her hand onto his shoulder. "Look, Goku, you can stay with me for a while. I'm on a quest so we're probably gonna travel to places you've never even heard of before."
He nodded seriously, feeling a kinship with the girl. "I'm on one, too."
The main street of the town was little more than a few wooden huts with a narrow dirt road running between them. Very few people were around which was unusual since it was still pretty early in the evening. The tiny hairs on the back of Goku's neck lifted every time one of the villagers peeked out at him from a window or examined him as they passed by in the street.
"I don't like this place very much," the boy whispered to Buruma. "Something's not right."
"Come on, kid! I don't see anything wrong with- AH!" The girl jumped and shrieked in surprise. In front of her was a pale, terrified face of a young woman pressed against the window of a neighboring shop. Backing away quickly, she opened the door to the grocery store and quickly went inside. Goku wasn't very far behind.
She glared at his grinning face. "If you say 'I told you so' I'm going to hit you."
"Good evening, young ones," the elderly owner of the shop greeted. "You appear to be visitors to our humble town. Might I suggest that you leave as fast as you can before the sun sets?"
Goku stared curiously at him. "What happens after the sun sets?"
"Awful things. Frightening things." He stared past them and out of the window behind. "Evil things."
The sun sank fully below the horizon and darkness washed across the village. For a moment not a sound was heard from anyone inside or out, but then a low moaning swept across the area. It was similar to that of the wind, but soon took on several different mournful tones. Shivers ran up and down Buruma's spine and she found herself taking steps away from the door.
"What on Chikyuu is that?" she asked in a slightly trembling voice.
The shopkeeper flipped over the sign to closed and locked the door. "Why you should have never come. Follow me and I will explain."
Behind the counter was a doorway that lead to the living area above the shop. The entire upstairs only consisted of a bedroom, a sitting room, and a tiny bath. He turned on the light in the sitting room and gestured for them to have a seat. "I am Shinpi, the proprietor of this grocery. Things have not been right in the village for nearly a week. No one knows the reason behind the sudden appearance of these restless spirits, but every night they surround us with their wailing. The people cannot sleep and spend the daylight hours in fear of the approaching night."
"Has anyone tried to stop the ghosts?" Buruma asked. If she had to spend every single night listening to them, it would probably drive her insane.
"No one dares venture outside. The chief's oniisan went to question them on the second day they appeared. He has yet to return." Shinpi clasped his hands behind his back and gazed out of the window. Five misty, semi-transparent beings floated above the ground of the village square down the street. Three were adults, two females and one male, and two were young boys. They moved slowly in a tight circle around a stone well that sat in the center.
Goku moved to stand beside him. "I want to talk to them." Both Buruma and Shinpi stared at him in surprise. "Maybe I can get them to go away."
"Are you nuts?!" Buruma asked. "Iie, wait a minute. Of course you are." She drew him off to the side. "Goku, haven't you been listening to Shinpi? The last person who tried to talk to them went missing. Do you want to end up like that... or worse?"
He remained resolute. "Ghosts don't hang around for no reason and they sound pretty sad."
"Alright, Goku." Shinpi said reluctantly after a moment of thought. He didn't want anything to happen to the young boy, but he felt as if he would be driven to kill himself if he had to listen to the awful wailing of the ghosts for much longer. "If you insist. Your friend and I will wait for you downstairs. If you need any help, scream as loud as you can. We'll come running."
They saw Goku off and he went down the street, marveling at how the village seemed completely deserted. Doors were shut and locked tight and the only sound he could hear was the wailing of the ghosts. Then, the curtains rustled slightly in a few windows and curious faces peeked around them. He waved to several people and received hesitant greetings in return.
The ghosts turned to regard him as he approached. "Hi," he said with a smile. "What's wrong?" Nothing was said, but two of the figures, one man and one woman, parted and created a gap in the circle. The boy stepped forward and looked around. "Is something here?" Then he leaned over the lip of the well and peered down into the darkness. Unable to see more than a foot inside, he leaned a little further and lost his balance. Goku could have sworn that someone pushed him over the edge but figured that it was only his imagination by the time he landed on the dry bottom.
He ran his hand through the sand. "This well's been dry for a while."
Not liking the fact that he was nearly blind, Goku felt around gingerly. The stone walls were cool to the touch and contained no cracks within his reach large enough for him to wedge his fingers into. "Oh, great. Buruma's never gonna let me live this down."
Goku looked up and saw the faces of the five ghosts looking down at him. The older woman pointed with her finger to a spot beside him. The other four were quick to do the same thing. Sensing that there was more going on than a simple haunting, the boy started to dig in the spot with his fingers...
...and got the shock of his life when he brushed the grains away from what felt like a bone. A rather large bone. A rather large *human* bone. A longer period of digging uncovered a complete human skeleton.
After his heart beat returned to normal, he looked up into the faces of the ghosts. "Was this someone you knew?" The wailing grew louder in response. "It was. How did they get a body down here to bury it?"
"Goku!" he heard Buruma call. "Are you okay?" She had braved her way past the ghosts and peeked over the edge of the well at him. "I can't even see you!"
"Can you get a rope and toss it down? I'm stuck down here!"
The girl disappeared for a moment and then returned with a long rope. She tied it around her waist in a knot to keep it from slipping and then grabbed it between her hands. "Grab on and climb up." She figured that he couldn't weigh very much.
When Goku began his ascent, she found herself being pulled very slowly back towards the well. Buruma dug the heels of her tennis shoes deeply into the dry soil and tried to remain in one spot. When it didn't work, she called for the shopkeeper.
The older man hurried over to help her and, together, they kept the rope still enough for Goku to make it out of the well. "What did you find?" he asked the boy.
Goku looked sadly at the strangely quiet ghosts huddled in a group on the opposite side of the well. "The reason why they haunt your village. What can you tell me about them?"
"Their appearance coincides with the Fire Tragedy. I suspect that these are the ghosts of the family that died within the house." Shinpi led them across the square and down a short road to the charred remains of a once elegant two-story house. "Early last Thursday Katsu-san spotted it as she opened her window to water her flowers. She has daisies in a planter just outside. A little odd watering plants at four in the morning, but eccentric is her middle name." He smiled slightly at Buruma's impatient look. "Anyway, by that time the entire house had been ablaze in brilliant orange flames. She ran to the chief's house to awaken him and soon the emergency bell was ringing. It took them hours to fully put the fire out, thank goodness it wasn't surrounded by other homes."
"No one survived?" Goku asked.
"Iie, no one."
He paced a few steps, turned around and paced several more. "That doesn't make any sense. If everyone died in the fire then whose body is in the well?"
Shinpi blinked. "Come again?"
"The ghosts told me to dig so I did. There are bones buried down there."
"That is why they circle the well," the man said with realization. "Well, that solves *one* mystery. Who kidnapped and murdered Seisha? She disappeared last month," he explained when he saw their confused expressions. "Her father, Shijo, vowed not to rest until the kidnapper was brought to justice. He told me one morning, five days ago, that he was very close to solving the mystery. The next day the house burns to the ground." He once again stared at the naked foundation. "This was no coincidence."
Goku nodded with understanding. "Tomorrow I'm going to look for the one who did this. They have to know."
"I will help all that I can."
The following day came sooner than Buruma expected. She winced as the bright, cheery light of the sun hit her eyes and threw an arm over them for protection. Slowly her ears started to pick up the slight sound of china clinking together and low murmuring.
"What time is it?" she muttered to herself as she opened her eyes. The watch read 8:15 a.m. "Too early for me."
A question captured her attention just as she was, once again, on the verge of slumber. "Who do I start with?"
"The chief, for sure. He has extensive knowledge of this village and all of its citizens. His house is at the end of the street, you can't miss it."
While the chief was usually knowledgeable about his village, in this case he was not. The small, wrinkled man never turned away from the small plot of soil he was digging in, but Goku could imagine the blank stare on his face. "I know nothing that could be of use to you. Personally, I am happy that he is gone. My itouto could be very irritating at times."
"But he just disappeared one day!" the boy protested. "Weren't you worried at all?"
"We didn't get along," was all he would say.
Questioning the man was a complete dead end. The next person, however, said something that made Goku think.
Katsu-san, a woman who was just approaching her senior years, was just heading off to visit a sick friend. She wore a floral print dress and a wide-brimmed straw hat that was tied beneath her chin with a pale pink ribbon. "Oh, konnichi-wa," she greeted with a smile. "How are you this fine day?"
Goku smiled and greeted her in return. "Can I ask you something?"
Pausing, she cocked her head to one side. "Hai?"
"Did you see anything weird the night of the fire? Shinpi said that you told everyone about it."
"I was so afraid that morning," she said. "You see, Rina and I were quite good friends. We both belonged to the ladies' club in the village. If only I had known that no one had gotten out of the house...." Katsu-san pressed her lips together firmly and regained her composure. "They have yet to catch the person who did something so horrible."
"Katsu-san, I think that person's the same as the kidnapper. Do you remember anything else?"
"This may not be important, but I thought I saw a little boy playing in the forest near the house from the corner of my eye. When I turned to warn him about the fire, no one was there."
He thanked her for the information and went back to the grocery. His head was filled with questions. Had the woman really seen a child? If so, who was he? Had he seen the arsonist do his tragic work?
Buruma was wide awake and chatting with Shinpi as he did stock. "I met him on the road. It's pretty strange to see a kid wandering around alone. I wonder why he was out there."
"I'm on a mission," he told them both as he shut the door behind him. "My jiisan died last month and--" He looked down at the wooden floor in shame. "--I was the one who killed him."
"What happened?" the shopkeeper asked gently.
Goku's tail began to lash the air in agitation. "Something happens to me when I see the full moon. I change into this huge monkey and I kill." Falling silent for a moment, he remembered the emotions that coursed through his body the last time he'd transformed. First and foremost there was a restless urge to feel the blood of a living thing on his hands and to taste it within his mouth. As if that wasn't bad enough, memories of the animals and people he'd ruthlessly slaughtered in that form ran through his mind. Tears stung his eyes, threatening to fall. "Jiisan tried to make me come back to myself and it didn't work. Then I.... hurt him. He had this round thing that my niichan Kenji said was the 'four-star dragonball'. I want to wish jiisan back to life, but first I have to find the other six."
"You may have done this terrible deed," Shinpi began, "but I truly believe that you are attempting to atone. I wish you luck on your quest, Goku."
Buruma vanished upstairs for a moment and returned with a small pink backpack. "You can have this," she said as she pulled out the two-star dragonball. "I wanted to wish for the perfect boyfriend but, well, your wish is better."
His face lit up with delight. "Are you serious?! Domo arigatou!" Then proceeded to hug her in joy. The teen gasped and struggled in his strong grip.
"Goku... Can't breathe...."
Shinpi took the dragonball from the teen's hand. "Exquisite," he murmured. "You know, I do believe I've seen something like this before." Two pairs of eyes, one set blue and the other black, locked onto his face with obvious interest. "I'm nearly sure that the chief displays one with two stars on his mantle."
"Maybe he'll give it to us if we ask really nice," Goku said.
Suddenly, Buruma became greatly interested in the village mystery. Surely they would be rewarded somehow after solving it. The moaning, miserable ghosts would be gone, after all. "C'mon, kid. We have a case to solve!"
Goku told her about the boy on the way to the forest. "I think Katsu-san really did see him and he'll know who hurt that family."
Surprisingly enough, there was a small boy was playing in the dark earth with plastic toy dinosaurs. He looked up as they approached for one moment, but was soon returned to his game.
"Hi," Buruma said quietly as she kneeled close to him. "How are you doing today?" When he didn't respond, she tried a different tactic. "What are you playing?"
"It's no use," a voice said softly from behind them. A thin woman with pale blonde hair and green eyes (who was wearing jeans and a tank top) approached and placed her hand on top of the boy's fair head. "He hasn't said a word since last Thursday."
The day made both Goku and Buruma's eyes widened. They whispered in unison, "It's him!"
The young woman gazed at them with a curious expression on her face. "What's wrong? Why are you staring at my son like that?"
Goku smiled gently at the little boy. "Can you tell me who did that to the house over there? You were there, weren't you." Pale green eyes filled with sudden tears and the boy looked up at his face. He looked over at the remains of the house and then back into the older boy's darker eyes.
His small mouth opened and a single word formed without sound. Then he spoke again. "Ryushi," he whispered.
"Ryushi did it," he said louder. "He killed my friends."
The woman answered their unasked question. "Ryushi is Uchida-sama's oniisan. He was lost on the first night the ghosts appeared." She looked down at the boy. "Mokugeki, are you positive that he was the one to commit such a horrible sin? It's possible that you may have been seeing things."
He shook his head violently and tears made watery tracks down his cheeks. "He killed them, Mama! Why?"
"I don't know," she told him as she offered comfort, "but he will be punished for his crime soon, sweetheart. Very soon."
Buruma started to care more about justice than about rewards. It just wasn't right that someone as evil as Ryushi was still walking around as a free man. Something had to be done and it was up to them to do it.
"How?" she asked as they crossed the square mid-afternoon. "How will we do it?"
"I have no idea," the boy sighed. "He's around here somewhere, but where?"
Shinpi, being the wellspring of knowledge that he was, knew of a place where the man sometimes went. If he had, indeed, faked his disappearance then there was a chance he was hiding out there.
It was a small hut by the coast, an out-of-the way place that was nearly hidden by palm trees and large ferns. The two of them crouched in the thick plants after discovering that the place was empty (albeit appearing more than a little lived in) for nearly an hour before he returned with a medium-sized fish.
"He's really here. How do we drag him back to the village?"
"Do you have something better than the motorbike?"
"Then I'll take care of knocking him out and tying him up."
"You?! C'mon, Goku. Stop joking around."
"I'm not joking! I told you before that I'm not normal; why won't you believe me?"
"Okay, okay. Just don't get hurt or anything."
The boy nodded and dropped down to his belly, pulling himself across the warm sand with his elbows. After carefully checking to see if Ryushi was still oblivious, he waited until the man's back was turned and pulled himself into the hut through the open window. He made nary a sound as he landed on the worn wooden planks that made up the floor. Ryushi failed to notice Goku until it was too late.
Then he was down and quickly rendered unconscious. Eyes quickly scanning the room, Goku spotted a coil of thick rope piled beneath a table in the corner and used it to tie up his wrists and ankles tightly until there was no leeway between them. "Too easy."
"I've got to say that you did a professional job," Buruma praised as she admired his handiwork. "Houdini himself wouldn't be able to escape from that."
The ghosts were in the square by the time they arrived back at the village. The citizens were absolutely fed-up (and driven just about to the brink of insanity). A good number of them stood just outside the square and angrily demanded that the ghosts leave them alone in peace. Buruma stopped the aircar beside the mob and hopped out.
"We know why they come here every night!" she shouted. "They only want closure!"
One woman rolled her eyes. "For what? They're dead, remember? Ghosts are beyond the needs of mortal folk."
"Most of the time ghosts haunt a place because it holds some sort of significance for them," the Buruma explained. "In this case, it's the well."
"Why not the empty lot where the house used to be? That's were they died."
Goku decided to take over the explanation for her. "There are bones down there, probably Seisha's. Someone buried her there. Then they burned down their house, maybe because her father knew who did it. We found the man for you." He opened the back door and pulled Ryushi's squirming form from it, dropping him unceremoniously onto his backside in the dirt. He'd regained consciousness about halfway to Kaijiken and hadn't shut up since.
"You can't prove a damn thing!"
The group collectively gasped and the ghosts all turned toward Ryushi with anger clearly written all over their faces.
"We were all under the impression that you had been taken, itouto." Uchida-sama asked with an expressionless face.
The younger man glared at the silently grieving boy who stood just to the right of his body. "This gaki dragged me back here against my will. I hate this village!"
Moving forward until he was mere inches away from his body, Uchida-sama kneeled down until he was staring into the other man's dark eyes. He held his gaze for a moment and then abruptly stood, turned away in his disgust. "Take him," he said to the silently waiting guards. "His trial will be tomorrow at noon."
His face slackened with shock. "NANI?! You believe the word of some kid over my own? I am your flesh and blood!"
The chief paused. "I will not associate myself with the likes of you. From this moment on we are not family any longer." Then he was walking down the road back to his home as the guards dragged Ryushi off to a holding cell. Goku's eyes followed the group saddened that things had to end this way. He knew that Seisha had probably been through a nightmare before she'd finally found peace, but he felt that no one deserved death. Not even Ryushi.
Goku turned to the five ghosts, happy that they would, at last, be at peace. "We have a witness, he won't get away this time."
The man approached him and laid a semi-transparent misty hand on the top of the boy's head and smiled. "Arigatou," he whispered softly.
A young woman materialized before the family, her semi-transparent body shimmering and her face happy. She extended her hands toward the middle-aged man and woman and the two took her hands in their own. Then, they pulled her to them as the other three family members gathered around and the entire group vanished completely from sight.