The Cruelty and Fairness of Fate
~ Epilogue ~
“… And so, on just that one night of the whole year, if the sky is clear, the cowherd and the weaver are able to cross the Milky Way to meet. Two lovers reunited in the stars.”
The little girl sighed at the tragic romanticism of it all, along with most of the other little girls sitting around her, as the woman in the pale yellow yukata finished telling the story of Tanabata. The woman smiled at all the children, then playfully shooed them back off to the game booths and food stands that had been set up for the festival.
Kei stood with the rest of them, her brother, Ti, close beside her. This was one of the things she liked best about humans: They knew how to tell a good story. Even better, they knew how to throw a good party to go along with those stories. Kei looked around happily at all the bright colors that decorated the festival grounds. Not just those of the lights that lit up the night along all the booths, but those of the people as well. A few of them had come in plain old shorts, but most had dressed up in their yukatas the way they were supposed to. Just like she had. While all those pretty colors make Kei happy, she thought her yukata was the best, with its golden dragon pattern flowing over red silk. It was the prettiest of all, and matched perfectly the red bow tied between the little cat ears even Shin thought looked cute on her human form.
Still wrapped up in the human woman’s storytelling, Kei stared up at the stars. “How terribly romantic,” she sighed happily once again.
“How boring, you mean,” complained her little brother as he walked along beside her. He picked at the dark blue of his yukata and complained further, “I wore this stupid costume for you because you said you would take me to play games and get something to eat. But so far, we haven’t done anything but watch people and listen to that stupid story over and over. And you better take me to see the fireworks, or I’m telling Shin you lied.”
Kei practically ignored Ti, waving a hand dismissively at him. Answering in a bored tone, she said, “If you wanted to play games, you should have stayed with Shin and Kai. So don’t whine at me. But I am getting hungry. What do you want to eat? Ti?” Kei stopped walking and turned around when she didn’t get a response. An annoyed look crossed her face when she saw her brother standing several steps behind her and staring off at something. Walking back to him, she said, “Hey, I was talking to you.”
Ti raised his finger and pointed over in the direction of the game booths. “Isn’t that your human?” Then a bright smile broke out on his face. “And look! There’s mine, too!”
Kei quickly grabbed her brother and put a hand over his mouth to keep him from moving or getting any unwanted attention. Then she closed her eyes and concentrated as hard as she could for several seconds before both of them disappeared in a faint flash of light.
When the children reappeared, they were several inches above the branch Kei had been aiming for. Kei was able to land and steady herself without too much trouble. However, the only thing that kept Ti from tumbling through the leaves after their unexpected trip was Kei’s grip on his yukata.
Kei hauled Ti onto the branch and watched the people he had pointed out, while Ti clung desperately to the branch and tried to catch his breath. Her human, Minako, was standing at the basketball game with the Mako-chan human and the tall blonde whose name Kei didn’t know. Ti’s two humans were also with them, and the aqua colored one who had gotten the blonde so angry at Kai the last time they’d met. The two little ones looked excited as Mako-chan and the blonde gave each other challenging glances and then paid the man at the booth. Ti’s Hotaru put her soda cup into a holder on the pushcart thing they had with them and reached quickly into a bag with pastel alphabet blocks on it to pull out a camera. Just as two basketballs were set before the opponents, her Minako reached into the pushcart to get something.
Kei’s eyes widened as Ti leaned over her shoulder and laughed at what he saw. “Aw, how cute! They have a puppy!” exclaimed the little boy.
Again, Kei’s hand quickly covered Ti’s mouth. “Shh!” she hissed at him. “We don’t want them to find us. And besides, that’s not a puppy, stupid. Humans don’t have puppies. They have kittens,” announced Kei definitively right before she turned back to watching them.
Ti sat there looking as if he was trying to decide whether to be angry for being called stupid or dubious over Kei’s proclamation about humans and kittens, and which one he should be first. While his mind deliberated, Minako held the tiny baby in front of her so he could watch the two players. He was cute, Kei thought. His eyes were big and blue as he took in what was happening before him, and the little blue trucks on his jumper made his eyes stand out even more. Kei had always favored blue eyes, just like the ones on her Minako. It was a shame the tuft of hair on the baby’s head was brown, though. If it had been golden, he would have been perfect.
Before she could think on the little human kitten any further, the rest of the human group came walking up. Kei recognized all of them except for the man with Minako’s friend, Usagi. Minako smiled when she saw them, and Kei scowled at the brunette who moved to stand beside her with cotton candy and a caramel apple in hand. Minako handed the baby off to the Ami human, who cuddled and cooed at him, then took the cotton candy from her companion.
Without completely losing her scowl, Kei said to Ti, “Come on. Let’s get out of here before the ugly one senses us. If she does, Shin will make us leave. And don’t say anything about seeing them. We probably won’t be allowed to stay if you do.”
Ti nodded, and this time when Kei transported them, he was ready for it. The landing on the other side of the festival grounds wasn’t much smoother than most of Kei’s landings, but at least she’d finally figured out how to do it without getting a bunch of attention from the people around them. Kei took off running ahead of him, having spotted their older brothers. Ti sighed and hurried after her. He caught up to them and fell in beside Kai. Kei was resting contentedly on Shin’s back, drinking over his shoulder from the straw he held up to her.
When Shin saw Ti, he grinned down at the boy. “Did you two have fun?”
“Yeah,” answered Ti without much enthusiasm. “But I want to play some games. Can we, Shin?”
Shin reached into his pocket and pulled out his stash of play money for the boys. Tossing it to Kai, he said, “Go on, do some damage. But don’t cheat so much that someone notices.”
Kai smirked, then ran on ahead with a much happier Ti.
Shin continued along at a leisurely pace. Still on his back, Kei tapped the top of his head and opened her mouth, effectively requesting more to drink. Shin took a sip, then shook the cup. “It’s empty. I’ll get you some more when we catch up to the boys.”
“Okay,” answered Kei. She rested her chin on Shin’s shoulder, and after a few seconds of being carried in silence, said, “Shin, I’ve been really good lately.”
Shin almost laughed. With one corner of his mouth turned up into a smirk, he replied, “I suppose you have.”
“If I ask for something, will I be allowed to have it?”
“That depends on what it is.”
Kei smiled innocently. “I’d like to have a new pet.”
Shin frowned and noted both the rumble from Kei’s tummy and the fact they were passing the goldfish booth right that moment. “If I win you a goldfish, do you promise to take care of it and not eat it?”
Kei giggled at him. “Oh, don’t be so silly. Besides, I don’t want a goldfish. I want a kitten.”