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Buyo stretched his body, a low purr echoing in the air. He made a fine figure, his white fur with its orange and black coloration helping him stand in adoration above all common toms in the area.  He took meticulous care of his fur and figure, proud of his white chest and face, an homage to a purity he had long since given to another.  He let out a meow to hear the sound of his own voice, its rich tenor echoing against the walls, drawing the attention of feline and human alike.  His voice had an almost musical quality to it, if he said so himself (which he often did), that was pleasing to the ear. 

That voice had become his source of income, joining with local troubadours and lutists as they sang for their (and his) supper.  If his voice kept him in fish, he had no trouble with lending it out for others, as long as he received his share at the end.

That was how he had met his current traveling partner, Miroku the troubadour and former clergyman, playing his lute in a square.  There had been a haunting quality to the man’s playing that had drawn Buyo’s attention, the music moving him beyond any other.  The man himself was a handsome figure, tall and thin, his black hair tied behind his head by a strip of leather, purple eyes that twinkled as he played, a single golden hoop giving him a dashing air.  Buyo had found himself helpless against joining the song, letting his voice soar alongside the notes of the lute, drawing a crowd.  Buyo sang of love and longing, his ode to fish, smirking a little as he knew none would know of what he sang.

Except one did.

“I have never heard someone wax so poetic about fish dear cat,” the troubadour had told him one night as he presented Buyo with a fine fillet, its bones carefully cleaned for ease of eating.

Buyo’s eyes had shone with wonder as he looked at the man, the one human who seemed to understand him.

In that night, the partnership had been born, and oh a fruitful one it had turned out to be.  Within months their fortune had changed, and with it his figure.  Where once he had the leanness of the street cat where he began, he now had the desirable rotundness that showed… 

This was a cat of means.

Master Miroku knew who had changed his luck and had made sure to reward his partner accordingly.  Buyo would admire his new brown boots that came above his knees, protecting his fur from mud and dirt.  He had long since learned to walk upright, mimicking Miroku, to show the boots in their best light as he sang for their supper.

No matter what town they played in, the humans flocked to see the spectacle, the traveling pair of the handsome troubadour and the cat, singing with his brown hat in hand, its long yellow feather curling around his body, his monocle miraculously perched among his face.

Miroku and his Puss in Boots.

They had made their way through France, improving their travel comfort with each stop, and improving Buyo’s waistline, the envy of all toms and the desire of all queens.

His evening activities had seen a vast improvement as they traveled, eclipsed only by those of his companion.    Half their fortune in truth came from those activities, a lady of the Court gifting Miroku with diamonds for a moment of his time, young ladies and matrons scrambling to provide free board and food when their husbands were away.  Miroku had caught the fancy of the lord’s daughter, who swore to take him to wed, despite her father’s objections.  That did not stop her from taking him to her…

Well, not all their adventures ended pleasantly, Buyo supposed.  But one could not complain, as they had been left with a fat purse for their silence and discretion, and for leaving as quietly and quickly as they could.

The pair found themselves in Marseille, a town they had both heard spoke of, but neither had visited.  Oh, what a wonderful town it was, Buyo was pleased (not awed, mind you, it took a lot to awe him, cat of the world that he was), to see the numerous vendors and fish merchants that lined the streets.

More merchants and shoppers meant more money (and fish, of course).  

They spent a day observing the traffic of the town, watching the competition and areas that were advantageous and those that were overlooked.  As they sat at the inn over a dinner of roasted pigeon, they made their plans, and chose their spot. 

The morning found them near a fountain, not in the middle of the square mind you, close enough to be heard, but far enough away to tease the senses and draw their listener to them.  Their chosen stage sat in view of a tall home; its windows closely shuttered.  They paid it no mind as they began to play, drawing their crowd to them.

Until the unthinkable happened, and Miroku’s lute faltered.  Buyo’s eyes snapped to him then followed his gaze to the topmost window of the house.  The shutter had opened, and Buyo could see the profile of a young woman, sitting, half glancing out the window.  A moment later an old woman, her hair gray and face full of wrinkles, pulled the woman away to glare down at the square below, firmly closing the shutters to the world again.

Buyo saw they were losing the crowd and pulled out his most daring trick, holding his hat in his hands, his eyes to the ground as he sang a solo, his tribute to the glory of the port, lifting his gaze for the audience to see the shimmering tears filling his eyes.  The squeals that went through the women assured him of his meal, even if his partner had failed him.  As the crowd dispersed, the money carefully collected, Buyo caught sight of a queen unlike any other watching him from the door to the house, her tan body contrasted by black ears, a diamond patch of fur decorating her forehead between her enchanting orange eyes, and… did his eyes deceive him? Did she have two tails?  Oh, such a queen among queens.

With a soft look of amused disdain, the twin tailed cat turned and disappeared through the door, the red wood closing behind her with a thud.

Buyo turned his attention to Miroku, finding the man sitting against the fountain, his attention trained on the window above him, desperately seeking a glimpse of the woman again.

“In all my days Buyo, I have never encountered one such as her.” Miroku sighed, “a princess locked away in a tower.”

To hear the man speak, one would think he had never laid eyes on a woman before, but Buyo was well aware of how… acquainted his master was with the fairer sex. Buyo paid him no mind, surely this was a passing fancy, as his master had so often had before.  

Buyo began to question his belief, however, as Miroku refused to move from their first spot (which, as Buyo would tell you, was never a good thought, as you want to draw new faces, not bore the same day in and day out), looking every day upward as the clock struck 4 in the afternoon for the glimpse of the lady’s profile.

It was quickly falling on Buyo to find ways to feed and house the pair, as the funds dwindled, and replacements dried into a trickle.   The first to go had been the diamond, he knew he had been swindled, but alas, only Miroku could understand the poor beleaguered cat, and Miroku refused to think of any but his princess in the tower.

The Sunday after their arrival found them at (yet again) their spot by the fountain, underneath the manor.  Buyo sang his heart out, but alas…

The novelty of a man and his singing cat had worn off.  

Yet Buyo continued, he was a cat of honor after all, then Miroku’s lute went dead quiet, and Buyo raised his eyes to see what new fancy had caught his eye.  To Buyo’s surprise the red door had opened, revealing the figure of a woman covered head to two in rich cloth, the brocade of her dress a dark pink pattern against a light pink, trimmed in green, a black veil covering her face. Her dark brown hair was the only part of her not hidden away, cascading down her back from its binding atop her head, her bangs falling over the veil to further obscure her face.

“It is she…” Miroku breathed.

Behind her came a petite wizened woman, her grayed hair tied with a strip of cloth behind her back, with two swoops of her hair by her temple, twisted and swirled to form two loops reaching above her ears. Her sage green and marine blue dress held accents and trim to match her hair.  Her skin had the wrinkles that were a testament to her age, and she was proud (as she should be) of each and every one.  She carried with her a brown jar, held tightly in a hand, and as Miroku and Buyo watched she reached into the jar to throw a small bit of its contents at any male who got too close to her charge. A discrete sniff as she approached their fountain had Buyo’s eyes watering… the scent of salt overpowered his poor delicate nose.  

Buyo felt Miroku’s movement before the man could make it, and threw himself on Miroku’s foot, using the full of his weight to stop the motion.  A hiss left his throat, a sound Miroku knew to heed (after all, Buyo had trained him well), and the man stilled again, watching the women as they passed.

The petite woman led the tall younger lady around the square, never more than two steps away, throwing her salts at any male that came too near.  Miroku tracked her every movement, trying (but failing) to hide his attention. Yet, at the moment he seemed to give up hope, a miracle occurred, a slight breeze catching the edge of the lady’s veil, revealing her well formed face, her brown eyes framed with a shocking hint of pink liner deep with sorrow and misery.  The moment lasted mere seconds, but Buyo heard Miroku’s soft gasp and felt the quiver in his legs.  A sharp dig of claws into his leg brought the man out of his daze as the women once again opened the red door to enter the manor.  

“I must find a way to meet her.” Miroku whispered, “have you ever seen such a woman Buyo?  My heart has been stolen, I will never see another woman without comparing them to her.”

Buyo took it upon himself to remind the man they had to move on, they had lingered there a week, longer than any of their usual playing, but Miroku would have none of it, he refused to leave his unknown lady.  

As the weeks went on Buyo grumbled as their accommodations fell, moving into lower and lower inns. Buyo had worked hard to escape that life, and would do it again, yet he was unable to leave the hapless man, falling victim to the illness of love.

“Alas,” Miroku cried one night as he drowned his sorrows (and a precious bit of their remaining wealth) with a bottle, “I love her and she knows not that I exist.   How cruel a world to show me a happiness and perfection I can never touch.”

As Miroku’s hopes fell, so too did his playing, descending into forlorn tunes that tore the heart and left the audience in tears, too emotional to leave a tribute to the artists who made them feel so much.  Buyo had to separate himself for a time from his companion, lost in thought and calculating how to change their fortunes back in their favor.

A soft mew caught his attention, and he turned his head to see her, the twin tailed queen of queens, sitting beside a door in an alley. 

Through the very enjoyable evening he had with his new queen, whose name he now knew as Kirara, Buyo came to learn the sad plight of the woman his companion so desired, the poor Lady Sango.  She had lived with her father and brother in another town, tenant farmers of the Lord Mukotsu, desperate under his tyranny and taxing for any source of food, as they were not allowed to keep any of the crops or herds they tended.  One day, her brother was caught stealing a piece of bread from the Lord’s cart when he had come to visit the farm, as he did once a month to each of his possessions.  The price the family had to pay for the son’s actions was the life of their eldest daughter, forced to marry the Lord as none would have him on their own.  

When Buyo saw the Lord, he knew immediately why none would have him.  The man was ancient, for lack of a better term, the privilege of being old that was only given to the very rich or very wicked, and from what Buyo had heard, this Lord was both.  He covered his balding head with a white cloth, his eyes bulging out of his head, with the most liberal use of red rouge Buyo had seen (really, it was one thing for the dandies to utilize it, but to use it to create circles to emphasize the protruding eyes and two streaks going down his chin was beyond any sense of taste).  The man dressed himself all in ivory, seeing himself as an angel sent to benefit his tenants and servants, when in truth he was an abusive and deceitful lord, intent more on keeping those who were unfortunate enough to be under him in their place, furthering his riches, while they fell further and further in debt.

Kirara had relayed the sad tale of the last six months of her mistress’ life, ever to be the virgin bride (she had been spared that horror by the Lord’s inability to perform certain… functions), yet the Lord was possessive of her, refusing to allow any near her, especially any males.  Outside the servants, who were under strict orders to keep away from his new prize, her only companions were her ever present watchdog, a retired exorcist who Kirara had long since determined held no real powers, and Kirara herself, brought with her from the Lady’s village as the one and only concession the man had made to his new wife.

Buyo made sure Kirara knew of his companion’s appreciation and adoration for her Lady, Kirara herself had noted how fine a figure of a man he appeared to be, and soon a plot was born.  If Buyo could get a letter from Miroku, telling Lady Sango of his affections and adoration, she would ensure that her lady looked out the window to see the troubadour, and know that there was at least one person who desired her company and saw her for her, and not a possession.

Alas, Buyo was not prepared for Miroku to spend the next two days (refusing to leave even to play for their supper, leaving Buyo to fend for them both… and sorry meals they had of bread crusts and leftover stew when it could be found), drafting the perfect letter to his lady.  The man had slunk away with a precious amount of their remaining savings to purchase the costly paper and ink, only to have it littering the floor of their latest room… though to be fair, calling it a room was being kind.  At last, at long last, the letter was perfect (long, but perfect) and Buyo promptly delivered it to his favorite queen Kirara.  Her twin tails twined around his feet as she promised to bring it to her Lady, her lilting purr heaven to his ears.  He desperately wished to accept her unspoken invitation, but he knew without his assistance, poor Miroku would not be able to put himself together, and the misery would continue as the man wallowed in his pity.

And he was, of course, correct.  When he returned to the room Miroku had flung all his clothing about and was sitting in the middle of the bed, his head in his hands, muttering to himself.  Buyo eased the man down onto the bed, covering him with the thin sheet, and got to work, organizing the clothing, and laying out the outfit that would present the man in his most attractive light.  At the break of dawn Buyo helped Miroku to rise, preparing him to face the day and the momentous occasion that it held.  Buyo apprised the man critically, the black fitted breeches, his white shirt, purple vest with its coordinating purple jacket, trimmed in dark blue and golden buttons. 

Yes, the man would do, if he could keep his head on straight.  And Buyo was there to ensure he did.

Oh, Buyo was proud to know he should not have worried.  Even the faintest hope that he would be able to meet the eyes of Lady Sango put new fire into Miroku, the man playing as if his very life depended on it.  As the hour drew close to 4:00, his songs began to enchant the square, drawing listeners through the street to gather at the square.  Oh, such a day it was for Buyo, singing as he walked among the audience, drawing ohhs and ahhs for the walking, meowing puss in boots.  The tribute they received, yes, it would do well to ease their suffering.

At long, long last, the shutter above opened inward, the form of Lady Sango appearing for her brief moments of sun.  She acted as though she were drawn to the music below, ignoring the fact that she had heard it for a period of time, pretending as though she did not know that the troubadour would be actively looking for her, looking at  her, desperate for one moment when their eyes would meet.

Oh, what a magical moment it was, even the jaded hearts of the calico and twin-tailed cats were moved.  At the instant purple met troubled chocolate, the air seemed to shimmer, the colors of the square becoming a little brighter, a little more vibrant.  It was a moment to end all moments…

Only to be gone a second later when the retired exorcist pulled Lady Sango away from the window, tossing salt down to the crowd below and slamming the shutter closed.

Buyo led his besotted companion through the square, while the cat would prefer to improve their accommodations, he knew that a good, hot meal was the priority, as they would soon likely be under way, moving to the next town.

“How can I leave her?” Miroku asked, barely touching the mutton Buyo had acquired. “Now that I know such perfection exists, how can my heart be whole without her?”

Buyo of course had no answer, he is a cat, and while he may fancy the twin tailed Kirara, he knew not of the affairs of the human heart, this fleeting notion of love, other than to know it meant one thing.

They were not leaving.

At least, not yet.

Buyo considered the man, considered his past, and began to think (a dangerous thing for a cat, as anyone would tell you).  After all, this was not the first time Miroku had pined for a woman (though he had to admit it was clearly the longest), each of those times had been cured by a session or two with the lady in question as Buyo himself acted as guard and alarm.  Surely, Buyo mused, it would be the same with Lady Sango.  But how, now therein lay the true quandary.  How to get the duo alone, when there was a guard kept by her day and night when the Lord was out of the house.

Once again, the solution came from the brilliant mind of Kirara, and her knowledge of the household, gleaned over her six months in Marseille.  The retired exorcist had a weakness it appeared, a terrible, terrible fear of rats.  

A smile formed on Buyo’s face as he removed his monocle to rub it against his fur.  If there was one thing that Marseille, or any port town to be frank, had in abundance it was rats.  It would take nearly a week to fulfill their plan, to acquire all that was needed, a week of pining and longing, to convince Miroku to go along (not that he would take much convincing, considering what he would be waiting for).  

The two cats conspired and tracked the Lord’s movements, noting every weekend the Lord left the town to visit his tenants, he would return Sunday evening if he followed his typical pattern, lay beside is weeping wife for a moment to watch what was his before retiring to his own room, to wake at dawn and leave during the week to give his voice to any in government who would listen (despite the fact that fewer and fewer did).  

They waited for the following Saturday, Lady Sango asking the retired exorcist to send the servants away, claiming she felt they were watching her, then keeping the woman with her by asking inane and pointless questions while the cat’s set the stage.  And set it they did, filling the kitchen and hall with the results of Kirara’s efforts, dead and dying rats (a few live ones thrown in for good measure, trembling in fear before the imposing warriors).  

Buyo gave Kirara one last look, a wink from behind his monocle as he scurried out to meet Miroku, now cleverly disguised as a rat catcher.  Oh, it pained Buyo to leave his boots, his hat and his monocle in the inn, but he knew, for this to work, he had to blend in (as much as a handsome cat like himself could, that is).  They made their way to the square to offer their services of another kind.

Well, the downside of living in a town with an abundant rat population was the equally abundant need for a rat catcher.  Buyo had not anticipated that need, and they were ill prepared for the number of requests they had to turn away, careful not to arouse suspicion, before they heard the most beautiful sound in the world.

A shrill scream as the red wooden door burst open, the retired exorcist tripping over her skirts as she fled the house, throwing salt behind her as she screamed.  Her wide eyes cast around the square, taking in the startled glances as her chest heaved with fear and effort before landing on the conveniently placed pair.

“YOU!” She cried as she approached, leaving a trail of salt in her haste, “I demand your services.”

Miroku turned to her with a soft smile.  “At your service, my lady.  How can I, a humble rat catcher, be of service to you?”

Her eyes narrowed in irritation, “what do you think I would hire a rat catcher for?  Now tell me, are you available or shall I find another catcher?”

“I am available to help, my lady, my cat is one of the best mousers in France.”

Oh, if only Miroku had not said that, for now the woman’s attention was drawn to Buyo, her eyes narrowing in consideration.

“I feel as if I know this cat…” she murmured.

“I can assure you, not this cat, we just arrived this morning,” Miroku smoothed over as he stepped in beside the woman, “he is an average tom, like any other.”

An average tom… him, Buyo, an average tom?  Buyo held back a hiss of indignation, determined to play his part in this.  As long as the woman did not look at him too long, things would be fi….

Ah, the perfect timing of a fully live rat running out the door, straight towards the retired exorcist, who screeched in fear and ran away, calling over her shoulder “whatever the charge will be, GET RID OF THE RATS!!!”

As Buyo and Miroku entered the door, they saw the Lady Sango standing above them from the stairs, her eyes wide and shining as she looked at the dashing young man below her.  Miroku slowly ascended the stairs, eyes locked on the Lady, his hands trembling against the bannister.  Finally, oh finally, he stood before her, his hand reaching reverently towards her cheek.  Buyo and Kirara heard a soft sigh escape the Lady’s lips as she pressed her cheek into his hand.  Hesitantly, Miroku drew closer, an arm circling behind the lady’s back, waiting for any sign of apprehension.  He lowered his head, softly claiming the lips that longed for love, both releasing a soft sigh of happiness.  The kiss quickly turned more heated, and the Lady Sango, her cheeks beginning to flush, began to walk backwards, pulling Miroku along with her until the door to her room closed with a loud click.

Buyo tilted his head upwards at the door, wishing the pair Godspeed and mutual enjoyment.  He turned to Kirara, a twinkle in his eye as he crouched, wiggling his hindquarters, before launching forward after the still moving rats.  With a soft yowl, Kirara joined the hunt, and the rest of their afternoon was spent moving together as a single lethal unit, their yowls and hisses though doing little to hide the cries and wails from above them.    A particularly loud sound had both cats pausing, looking upward with feline satisfaction of a job well done.

That was, of course, until they heard movement outside the damn red door.  Buyo quickly grabbed a moving rat and streaked up the stairs, throwing his shoulder against the door to alert the couple that they were at risk of being found if they did not move quickly.  The cat breathed a sigh of relief as the door to the room opened just as the front door creaked, and Lady Sango’s guard sneaked back into the house, her eyes scurrying around.  Her footsteps were heard on the stairs, and Buyo quickly hid under the bed, the still struggling rat within his grasp.

“MY LADY!” the exorcist gasped as she took in the state of her room, her eyes turning to glare at Miroku.  “Your room, Milady!  It has... What has happened to your be… YOU!  WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE, IN HER ROOM, UNSUPERVISED?”

On cue Buyo released the rat, waiting for it to run out from the bed before he ran after it, making a show of catching it only to toss it onto the bed, jumping up to follow it.  Oh, the yowls he let out as he purposefully tore apart the sheets, flipping covers, tossing pillows, making a production of catching and killing the rat as violently as he could, making sure its blood hid the stain the pair had left behind.

With a sly smile Buyo turned his gaze to the exorcist, who had plastered herself against the wall.

“The rat infestation was worse than you had thought, my lady,” Miroku was smooth, very smooth, Buyo had always admired that about the man, “however my partner and I have managed to catch or remove them all.”  He turned to Lady Sango, his eyes twinkling, “Thank you, good mistress, for alerting me to the noises you heard, allowing me to find the nest.”

“I thank you, deeply, for your service.” The twitch of a lip was the only sign from the lady of the service she spoke of.  

‘Oh Miroku,’ Buyo thought, watching from his seat on the bed, ‘you have met your match.’

If the plan was for Miroku to get Lady Sango out of his thoughts, that plan was a spectacular and colossal failure.  Now that he knew what it was to be with her, she was his only thought, his only muse.

“She is the only one for me Buyo, I shall never be with another if I cannot be with her.”

Even reminders that she was married did not sway him, and he vowed to steal her away from her miserable existence. 

But how, precisely, would one live if on the run?  The troubadour life had sustained the two bachelors, it is true, but to add a lady to the mix?  And if the Lady were to come, so too would her queen.

“We shall live on love, Buyo, love and kisses and the enjoyment of each other.”

Well, Buyo would hear none of that.  Four mouths to feed now, when he was the one singing for their supper?  Did he not have a say?

“I am tired of your foul-mouthed barbs and objections Buyo.” Miroku had finally snapped.  

Buyo lay curled in the corner that evening, not deigning to give Miroku his attention, the cat’s mind engaged in the rapt contemplation of the puzzle before them.  Miroku would not move on without his Lady, and while Buyo could join another companion, it would not be the same, for he had (begrudgingly) grown fond of the hapless man.

Despite his misgivings and objections, there was one Buyo was loath to leave as well, the queen Kirara, his partner, his dame.  In truth, she was the reason he would not walk away, she had wound her tails around his heart, holding her too him in a way he had never dreamed to find.  When Buyo heard Miroku’s ragged breathing even out, he snuck out of the room, winding his way towards his queen.

He purred at the feeling of Kirara curled around him, the fur of her tails stroking against his as they sat and discussed the plight of the humans, they both were fond of.  Kirara told him of Lord Mukotsu’s holdings, the times she snuck down to watch him in his den counting his money that he kept locked away, the key always kept on a keychain around his waist.  The man was richer than most of the princes yet hoarded it away for a purpose only he knew.  He had no heirs, nor the opportunity to produce any (and any that were born well… they would be claimed to save face but be no blood of his), nor did he have any living relatives, truly the last of his line.  Any inheritance would go to his wife, or if she were unable to claim it before the crown, the crown and church.  

White eyes met orange as the two realized, a new plan, one that would suit both their purposes and those of their companions.  It would only take a few days for it all to come together, aided by Kirara’s knowledge of the Lord’s schedule and his nightly activities.  It took little convincing for the man and the Lady to be on board, yet their parts were the ones most involved.  The discreet purchase of a potent alcohol, the use of a few hard-earned coins to purchase a black gown and hat, the supplies that seemed innocuous yet held a great purpose.  

The day of, it all came down to timing.

Kirara distracted the retired exorcist before the Lord came home by stealing her jar of salts (it took all her control not to sneeze into them) and running through the house with them, leaving Lady Sango to her task.  A simple switch of a nightly glass from a light imbibement to one that caused deeper intoxication.  The next morning the Lord stumbled into Lady Sango’s room, his red rouge from the night before smeared across his face, his hand held to his head as he groaned and walked into walls.  

“Air” the lord growled, crossing to the window his steps clumsy and uncoordinated as he shuffled through the room.  He leaned forward to grab the shutter, pulling it open, staggering backward at the movement.  He lurched forward to the window, leaning out to take a deep breath of fresh air.

Well, he would have if his foot had not at the very moment he leaned forward happened to have landed on a very innocent and unsuspecting twin tailed cat, who howled in pain.  The poor Lord, startled by the loud sound now splitting his head, missed the ledge as he leaned forward, and, as is want to happen, his momentum combined with his heft led him right out the window to crash to the ground below.  Now, if you were to say you saw one of the twin tails of the cat he had stepped on curling around the Lord’s ankle and pulling it backwards, further unbalancing the man, well, she could not in truth call you a liar.  

“MY LORD!” the exorcist cried out as she raced to the window, looking down at the broken man below her.

Lady Sango and the Exorcist ran down the stairs as quickly (yet carefully) as they could, running to kneel on the street beside the still man.  Lady Sango buried her face in her hands, her shoulders shaking as she sobbed beside the form of her husband (however, if one were to move close enough to listen carefully, they were not in truth cries of sorrow but tears of true joy), while the exorcist wailed, worried not so much about the man, but about her source of income.  Her eyes cast about, looking for anyone who could confirm whether he was alive or dead, her eyes lighting on the form of a doctor clad in his long black robes and hat, his assistant carrying the man’s bag wore a dashing pair of boots and hat with a long yellow feather.

“Good doctor, good doctor,” the exorcist cried out, “please, we have an emergency, this man fell.”

Miroku and Buyo changed direction, hurrying towards the trio on the street, Buyo carefully staying behind his companion less he draw the woman’s attention and suspicion.  He need not have worried, as her attention and ire were drawn to the passersby and looker-on's who gathered around the fallen man.  Miroku lowered his head to the man’s chest, listening for any sound of a heartbeat or breath.  He produced a mirror out of a pocket, holding it to the man’s mouth to show the lack of any breath.

Oh, the wailing that did occur from the exorcist as she threw her form over his body, making a big to do about his passing, her hand sly creeping towards his keychain.  Lady Sango, proving she was as observant as she was beautiful, stopped the motion with a single slap, having been watching through her fingers to see how her former guard would react.  

A motion caught Buyo’s attention as a man from the back of the crowd came forward, spitting on the head of the fallen Mukotsu.  Several others gasped and stammered, a few of the braver souls pushing forward to follow suit.  A glare from the Lady Sango had them all scattering.

“Let us take him somewhere kinder,” the fair lady said, her voice convincingly full of sorrow.  It took all three of them to move the older man to his bedroom to lay him on the bed.  

“You do not need the services of a doctor, Madame, you will require the services of the undertaker.” Miroku said mournfully, “there is nothing I can do for him.”

Sango turned to the retired exorcist, “Moira,” she said, addressing the woman directly by her first name for the first time, “please go and fetch the undertaker. And please, hurry back, when you return, we will be reading my lord husband’s will, I know he wanted to make sure you were remembered for the honored service you gave him.”

Moira the exorcist had never run so fast in her life, not even when she thought that ghosts and goblins were chasing her.  Sango quickly grabbed the keychain and coin purse from her late husband’s waist and turned her eyes to Miroku.

Buyo and Kirara saw the gleam in their companions eyes as they moved, and discretely chose to go about the task of opening the house to fresh air and sunshine, opening all the shutters as they moved through the house.  There was a slight change in Kirara, one Buyo almost missed, until she padded ahead of him and he caught the slight portliness to her gait, and she shot him a sly glance over her shoulder.  

‘It was not just Miroku who met his match’ Buyo thought, a lazy smile breaking across his face.  He had never imagined himself to be a domestic cat, yet the thought, he could not deny, was verily appealing with Kirara by his side.

The cries of their companions were reaching its peak when the exorcist came running back, bursting through the door.  Her mouth gaped open as she listened to the sounds coming from the lord’s room.

With a loud gasp she ran to the room, throwing open the door to see the fully bare Lady Sango sitting astride the equally bare young doctor, in flagrante delicto.  “THIEVES, YOU MURDERERS” the exorcist choked out in outrage.  

The Lady Sango looked at the woman, and, ignoring her state of undress, took the coin purse of her late husband and tossed it to the woman.

“That is for your discretion.” The lady said calmly from her seat, her brown eyes sparking.  “I release you from my employ, and you will be provided with a handsome settlement for your departure as thanks from myself and soon to be husband, the new Lord of the house.”

One had to respect a woman who could hold court in the clothing she was born with as well as the most decorated queen.

When the exorcist heard that she had been left a wooden cup the former lord had used when brushing his teeth in his will, she quickly (and quietly) took the settlement offered her by the newly married couple (as soon as a respectable mourning period was completed, they weren’t completely without class after all), and departed, never to be heard from again.

Buyo sat in a window, Kirara curled lovingly against him as their three calico twin tailed kittens tried to catch their parent’s tails.  How life had changed for them in the past year, granting riches beyond their wildest dreams and thoughts over and above the fortune their companions had come into with the Lord’s death.  Soon, they would be welcoming a new companion, a little one for them to watch over, the product of the love between Lady Sango and her new Lord Miroku.

Buyo could not help but smile as he thought about what had led them there, a saying echoing through his mind (adapted, of course, to paint him in the best light):

“So may all your wives, if you need them, be rich and pretty;
and all your husbands, if you want them, be young and virile;
and all your cats as wily, perspicacious and resourceful as:


The fabulous work of I-dream-of-soup


Artwork commission by I-dream-of-soup