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Yuria and the Three and a Half Hokuto Masters

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Once upon a time, there were two martial arts schools on opposite sides at the base of a large mountain. The mountain was covered with a thick forest and most days were foggy so it was difficult to see one school from the other. Despite this lack of immediacy, the two schools were aware of the other's existence and, as a result of their different styles, the two master agreed to keep their pupils separate.

And so the students of the Hokuto school did not know the Nanto school existed and the students of the Nanto school did not know the Hokuto school existed. This tradition of secrecy continued for many years until knowledge of the second school was lost entirely.

This is the story of how the schools rediscovered one another... specifically how their heirs fell in love and united the two arts.

-

Yuria was bored and lonely. This was part and parcel of being the Nanto General; she was forced to wait outside the temple while the other Nanto students trained. Normally she would wheedle for Jyuza to skip some of his practice to play with her, but the master had caught onto them and Jyuza was forced to do solitary training for a week. She didn't really understand the master's complicated explanation, except to say that they both had separate responsibilities, none of which included catching fireflies.

And so Yuria was bored. Lonely and bored, kicking up her feet while sitting on the temple steps. There was no entertainment in sight and she had already colored up all of her coloring books (and some of the scrolls) for the month! So she crossed her arms and hmm'ed and hummed and then clasped her hands and prayed to the North Star.

"Oh North Star," Yuria said, "Please give me something to do. Someone to play with or talk to or something!" In truth, even picking flowers and catching fireflies had lost their charm as she had been doing both for as long as she could remember. Like usual unfortunately, the North Star was frustratingly unresponsive and she was left as lonely and bored as before.

The Forest of Monsters lay in the immediate vicinity of the Nanto Temple, beckoning for her. Yuria wasn't an idiot; she knew the boys who dared each other to go in often returned with bite marks on their arms and legs. And then, from shrubbery, a dog poked its head out. Yuria gave a gasp of surprise and the dog looked right at her, barking.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, scrambling down from the steps, "Hello there! What's your name?"

The dog barked again.

She hurried over to it, but it turned around and dove back into the bushes.

"Don't be scared!" Yuria protested, "I only want to play!"

Unfortunately, cute animals were her greatest weakness and she followed the dog into the forest without a second thought. Just as the master said, the forest was a scary place: damp and humid with a near-perpetual fog. Yuria could hear the crowing of birds and the snap-crackle of branches, but she couldn't actually see anything. Were it not for the dog, who ran a couple meters out in front of her and often turned back to make sure she was still following, she surely would have gotten lost. As it was, it turned out the dog hadn't sought her out to play, but rather...

"Oh my...!" Yuria exclaimed after the dog stopped before a tree and started barking up it. The first dog's barks were returned for there, haphazardly clinging to the lower branches of the tree, was a second dog.

"Did you bring me here to help your friend?" Yuria asked. The dog barked, sitting on its haunches and madly wagging its tail.

She wasn't particularly proficient at climbing trees but after seeing the dog's pitiful expression, found the sudden rush of courage necessary to try. So she stuck out both hands and then a foot, carefully grappling against the tree trunk. As if understanding the difficulty of the task, both dogs stopped barking once she had both feet toed against the tree bark.

Rung by rung by rung.

In truth, the dog was not very high up the tree, maybe three heads higher than herself, but it was still tricky maintaining her hold and grabbing onto the dog. Once the dog in the tree was haphazardly squashed under one arm, the dog on the ground resumed its excited barking. Yuria slid down the last couple rungs, scraping her palms in the process, but watching the dogs reunite made it all worthwhile. They excited sniffed one another, nipping and circling and wagging their tails as if (she laughed) to clear the fog away. Then the two dogs went up to her and each took a mouthful of her dress, dragging her along in the forest. She gave another surprised gasp but as they didn't seem to mean any harm and as she didn't have anything better to do, allowed herself to be led.

With not one but two companions at her side, Yuria didn't feel scared in her second romp through the woods. Although she still couldn't see far, the whole place seemed... more familiar. Well, welcoming at least. Every once in a while, one of the dogs would take a break, though whether it was for their own benefit or the girl's was anyone's guess.

By the time Yuria reached the other side of the mountain, the sun was on the cusp of setting and she was quite tired, albeit still enthused. It wasn't everyday one could traipse through the Forest of Monsters with two faithful companions after all!

Once the three of them reached the clearing, the two dogs let go of her skirt and bounded over towards another temple. Yuria could immediately tell that it was not the Nanto temple by the statues up front and was somewhat perplexed. But then the dogs didn't run into the temple but rather, made a sharp left, rounding the corner, and she followed them to discover a humble little house, like the one she and Ryuuga used to live in, tucked away in the shadows of the other temple. The little house had a large doghouse which the dogs dashed in, and Yuria saw there was a light on and that the front door was slightly ajar.

Were she any less tired, she probably would have concluded the owners were away, as the would have greeted their dogs. But as she was tired, she meekly pushed the door open.

"Hello...?" she asked, looking about the sparsely-furnished room. Although there seemed to be no one around, someone was sure to return. There were four seats at the table and a simmering pot of stew on the stove, as well as a nearly-filled laundry hamper and the beginnings of a clothing repair job in the corner. The bedroom housed four beds of varying size -- one of the beds seemed large enough for a bear!

"Is anyone home?" Yuria tried, this time at a slightly louder volume.

She received no response.

With the nonchalance of a well-meaning but fully spoiled child, Yuria helped herself to the stew. Well, she dipped the ladle in and took a sip, but decided it wasn't nearly as flavorful as it could be. So she rooted around the pantry until she found some recognizable spices and poured that in the pot.

"Mmm," she remarked to herself after having ladled the remade stew into the smallest bowl, "That was delicious! I hope I left enough so the owners could have some..."

And then she wandered into the living room where there was the filled hamper of laundry and the clothes which needed darning. On second inspection, the clothes were clean -- freshly dried, in fact! -- and just needed to be folded. It seemed the four occupants of the house had three shirts and three pants each, as the garments were all in different sizes. Here again, Yuria helped herself to the smallest size of garments and while they were much too big for her, they were still cleaner than her own now-ragged dress. She also took the liberty of darning the clothes which needed darning and smoothing out the bedsheets.

At the end of it, there were four neatly-made beds, ready to be slept in. The fourth and smallest bed was absolutely enticing at this point and Yuria once again succumbed to temptation, crawling underneath the sheets and curling up. She fell asleep in seconds, pleased with herself at her series of good deeds.

-

Yuria was a pretty heavy sleeper as she didn't wake when the four Hokuto brothers stomped back into their house.

"We went looking across the damn mountain," Jagi growled, "And where were they? Right at home!"

"That's dogs for you," Toki laughed, "They know how to find their way back home."

They took off their shoes and made their way to the dinner table, where the three younger brothers sat themselves down while Raoh prepared to serve their evening meal. While he was ladling out the stew, Raoh paused and frowned.

"Something's wrong with this," he said, sniffing at the stew.

"What do you mean?" Jagi asked, walking over and sticking a finger into the pot. He pulled it out and licked it clean then raised his eyebrows. "Well I'll be!" he exclaimed, "This actually tastes good for once!"

Raoh scowled. "I made the usual recipe," he insisted.

"Hey!" Kenshiro exclaimed at the same time, "Someone's been using my bowl and spoon!" His older brothers went to look and Kenshiro was right: his bowl and spoon had both clearly been used.

"Now that you mention it..." Toki started, getting up and gliding over to the laundry, "Everything does look a little cleaner." He raised an eyebrow at the folded laundry, "I definitely didn't fold it when we went out."

"And these socks definitely had holes," Jagi added.

"Hey!" Kenshiro exclaimed again, "Someone stole my favorite shirt!"

"And one of your pants," Toki added.

"So there's been a midget thief," Raoh concluded, "Nothing serious."

"But it's my shirt and bowl they used!" Kenshiro whined.

"Oh shut it," Jagi shot back, ambling over to the bedroom and whistling in appreciation. "Look at those sheets, I could just sleep there for a week!" He threw himself onto his bed and Toki and Raoh exchanged older brotherly glances before shrugging and doing the same.

Kenshiro was tempted to pout a bit more, but his own bed looked very inviting and they had spent all afternoon scouring the mountain in search of Toby and Koko. So he heaved a sigh and flounced onto his bed too, only for his bed to shriek. He gave an indignant squawk of his own, toppling onto the floor, and his older brothers sat up.

"Now what?" Raoh grumbled.

"M-m-my bed...!" Kenshiro squeaked. "There's someone in it!"

The reaction was instantaneous; all three of them were up and raring for a fight.

"One against three?" Jagi scoffed, "This is a joke."

"Hey!" Kenshiro protested, "I can fight too!"

"Kenshiro, stay back," Toki commanded.

"Or what?" Raoh drawled, "The midget'll bite him?"

"On three," Toki whispered.

"One..."

"Two..."

"I'm sorry!" Yuria exclaimed when the sheets were pulled off, "I brought the dogs... I mean, they led me back here and I tried some of your soup and borrowed your clothes and slept here because I was really tired, I'm so sorry!"

As Jagi, Toki, and Raoh were still on the offensive, it took a while for their minds to process the thief was a girl no older than their youngest brother. Kenshiro, thankfully, knew what to say. He strode up to the invader and while blushing heavily, said: "It's okay, those were all my things."

"Are those your dogs too?" Yuria asked, instantly relieved at the sight of a child her age.

"Um, one of them is. Koko is Toki's."

"Oh! Which one is Koko?"

"The brown one."

"And the one with a spot on his eye?"

"That's Toby," Kenshiro mumbled, suddenly aware of the fact they were wearing matching outfits, "He's mine."

-

Needless to say, the situation was soon cleared up and the four brothers safely transported Yuria back to the Nanto Temple. However, a playdate between the two youngest was introduced (with passive-aggressive plotting between the squadron of elder brothers) and the members of the Nanto and Hokuto schools began to visit one another. Soon after, they were learning each other's techniques and sure enough, a combined practice was eventually established.

And that, my dear, is how the two schools were eventually reunited.

-

Coda:

"Still," Jagi groused at their wedding, "I can't believe Kenshiro is getting married before me."