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For Fuji

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You hear the thundering in the mountains of a thousand feet, hundreds of dogs. They're Riki's dogs, your son Gin among them.

Daisuke hears too.

The winter comes with them, harsh and sudden with blowing snow, and you watch as Daisuke leaves. You do not follow, but as the storm subsides, you feel more than hear the howls rising over the pass. The voices cannot possibly travel that far, but when Daisuke returns, you already know what news he brings.

Akakabuto is dead, and Riki with him—Riki, who in the end remembered you. The pack follows Gin now.

Daisuke tries to look like he's only comforting his dog when he hugs you close and cries into the fur of your neck.

You sometimes hate Gohei for for taking your son down the same path as his father, for even pitting his dogs against Akakabuto. But you do not hate Riki or Gin; they did what they must, what they should. Some dogs are bearhounds, here to die young protecting their people and their families. You knew that of Riki, just like he knew your place was here.

Humans do not only need protecting; they need friendship, just like heroes need mothers and someplace they can return home to. Daisuke stays, telling you about the battle's end and everything he saw, and you lick his face and wag your tail until he laughs and feels better about his friend (and you, your son).

That night, you pad outside and watch the stars, knowing Gin sleeps under the same sky.