The morning light came around the corner of the cottage and shone through the paper screens as Boba woke. He felt well rested. Sleeping in a real bed between, well …not so real walls felt homely. One routine that didn’t change was Tomoe rising earlier than him and prepare breakfast in silence. She was dressed in a blue robe with a small scale pattern. Tomoe briefed him while they ate and then they rode into town on a shared transport.
Boba got another set of clothing and basic necessities while Tomoe ordered the beddings she had to replace. By the time her boy was provided with everything he could possibly need, Boba had learned how special Ukon’s heartfelt friendly attitude was. None of the shopkeepers was openly rude but they were... weary.
They visited a market and some grocery shops where she placed more orders and picked up some fresh fruits and small cakes right away. His mom always seemed to know exactly what she wanted. They completed the shopping round and entered the academy through a door plastered with colorful posters, schedules and acknowledgements. Slipping out of their sandals at the entrance, they sat on a wooden bench further down the corridor, placed their packages under the furniture and had to wait again for an appointment. It seemed such a waste of time after all the hurry.
Finally, a girl with a folded umbrella came out and motioned Tomoe to go in. “It will just take a moment, Boba.” She vanished behind the slide door.
The head master of the academy was a tiny, ancient lady with thinning short cropped white hair. She was seated at the far end of the room Tomoe passed with measured steps. Bright eyes defied her sagged features and it didn’t look like her straight back needed any support from the wooden arm rest that stood beside her. She propped her wrinkled palm on the closed folding fan, the hilt digging into the firm cushion underneath her knees. Tomoe sat down quietly and she got right to the point. As a living legend she wasted no time to listen to lengthy excuses of pupils.
“Where have you been, Tomoe-Chan?”
“I resolved a family affair in my absence. My distraught relative’s son continues to stay with me. I intend to adopt him as soon as the formalities allow.”
The master had been notified of the strange kid waiting outside with her pupil. She knew Tomoe’s excuse was truthful enough, but it didn’t bode well for their relationship altogether. “Will you ever finish what you started?”
“Yes, sensei. It took a lot out of me to return to your tutelage...” Tomoe added the formal request for training and bowed.
“You killed for it. I can see it. It’s in your eyes and...” she pointed with the hilt of her closed fan. “...in your shoulders.”
“I did.” Tomoe sat straight and nodded gently, “If you allow, I’ll ask ko-sensei for extra hours to make up for the lessons I missed and to speed my progress to the trials.”
“That won’t help you when your heart and mind is not open. A part of you is back on the day you came to me. You are ready to fight, but not ready for my training, let alone the trials.”
“My body is rushing my steps, sensei. I’m with child.”
“I need ko-sensei’s opinion. She will tell you what to do. Until then, you go back to your basic forms and have patience. There is always time for the trials after you gave birth.”
“Thank you, sensei.” Tomoe knew she would get no more, bowed and went to fetch Boba to head back to the resort.
The schoolmaster lowered her head. ‘Youths!’ This wasn’t the cute elegant lady anymore she had refined in so many hours. The lethal predator on the prowl was back, ready to wield steel with deadly precision but far from enchanting an audience with a mere dip of an umbrella. Her girl couldn’t probably want to play men’s roles all her life? When would her lessons finally stick with this one?
Yes, the girl had the devotion and the talent, which made it a delight to train her. But once she released Tomoe-chan from her tutelage this year or the next, she would be too young for most of the male leads of the academy’s repertoire! Other dancers with decades of experience would not accept to be pushed from centre stage... The kid deserved some peace and a life her body was designed for. But a... no, two kids of her own right now? Rotten timing! The schoolmaster would have a word with her teachers later and figure a solution. Somehow, she would live up to Tomoe-chan trust.
The ancient lady smiled. That’s what kept her going. Trust and challenges. She flapped her fan on the mat in front of her and the next pupil entered.
When Tomoe returned from the meeting, she found Boba guarding their groceries against a circle of girls about twice his age. Not that he was enjoying the attention he was getting. They simply didn’t understand each other. They were speaking no basic and he had still much to learn himself. Tomoe dipped her head and towered over the circle. “Mind your manners.” The first years bowed, chattered an excuse and continued their way to their classes.
“Duh... What did they want?” Once saved, Boba swallowed a more universal retort and smoothed the unruly strands back that kept falling in his face. He wasn’t used strangers plucking on his hair, even when they were just kids like him. No vod had ever been interested in his looks.
“They have never seen curly hair. Curiosity... or even jealousy of the poor.”
Boba considered. “They are stupid,” then he remembered he had tested Tomoe’s makeup in a similar way at first sight. “...but okay.”
A woman in full regalia exited another training room, picked up her trails gracefully and floated down the corridor; her steps were clearly directed on his mom. Boba wrinkled his forehead and tried a bow. Something was strange about this lady. It wasn’t just the height – this was the first woman who had an inch on his mom since they came here, the elaborate hairdo and tons of hairpins added to that. If Tomoe had baffled him in her formal garb, this one was tenth times worse.
Boba realized he was staring and averted his eyes, but the voice over his head was quite deep for a woman, so he dared to sneak another peak. He got caught by a pair of smiling charcoal black eyes. “Would you please introduce me to your young fellow, Tomoe-chan?”
“Taichi-san, this is my son, Boba.”
“Have you kept your sweetest secret from me, Onesan?” The silver streamers adorning the sides of the high updo tinkled in the silence that broke out in the corridor once a dozen of girls listened up.
“None as inexplicable as two years of non-response in writing.” Tomoe flashed her grown-up colleague a smile and continued to walk away from the bench. Their move turned about any neck in the corridor.
“Would you continue to discourage my lunch invitations?”
“I’d discourage you... to make undressing a lengthy ceremony right now.”
“I see our ice princess’s still leaves skid marks wherever she goes.”
“That’s so cute coming from one who lives on the fast track.”
“Me?” A pair of immaculately brushed and charcoal painted crescents rose in a study of innocence.
“If you can change in the time it takes to make your favorite snack - and tell me how you managed to slip my attention - I’ll reveal a secret or two.”
“Deal.” The overdressed epiphany turned to leave, then stopped and to give her a look over the shoulder “I hope you still remember what my favorite lunch is.”
Tomoe giggled. “Of course.” She took her son’s hand and went to find a table at the small restaurant in the vicinity of the academy, ordering three meals and beverages for them. “I hope he hurries up... he’s terribly concerned with his appearance.”
“He?... ah!” it explained a lot. Not that Boba had much experience on the topic, but he could have sworn his mom had been flirting.
The young man who entered the restaurant didn’t look concerned with his appearance at all. Messy black short crop, skin still gleaming from removed make-up, a green robe that hung slightly open at the chest, belted with a yellow and grey woven sash. A jacket in a matching darker green was slung over his shoulder. He knelt at the low table opposite to Tomoe and gave Boba a hand. “Hello, Boba-chan.”
“Hello.” Boba grabbed the man’s forearm in return and remembered Tomoe had spoken Basic a moment ago “You are... that lady from the academy... Taichi-san?”
The man had a deep, rich chuckle. “Yes. I am an actor specialized on woman’s roles.” He cast Tomoe a glimpse. “Otherwise I’m quite normal.”
“Now… that depends of the point of view.” Tomoe giggled “But we used to help each other out a lot. Before you moved on, that is.”
“I hope you don’t hold my career against me, my dear.”
“There wasn’t much left for you to learn anyway... How have you been doing?”
“Don’t you read the newspaper?” Taichi raked his unruly hair with a half smile.
“Not the past two weeks...and I rarely have celebrities among my guests, therefore I skip the gossip pages.”
“It’s called culture.” He reprimanded her.
“It’s called a shortcut. Do tell first hand.”
“Well, I joined my father’s troupe and the two of us made quite a pair. We do traditional plays as well as modern stuff and we travelled a lot, covering all the big stages. We are working on a new play, but that’s a secret.” Taichi leaned his elbow on the table, picked through his lunch and took a sip from his glass “Your turn,” he added.
Tomoe winked to Boba “His bulge... under the carpet is about as big as mine.” she teased, “We ran into some family trouble, travelled a lot and Boba decided to stay with me on the way back. Now we are trying to settle in and pick up training after two weeks of completely unplanned absence.”
“Ah, that explains why I couldn’t reach you for two weeks. Didn’t you bring your comlink?”
“You could have written me all you ever wanted in a nice long letter.”
“I’m not in my most poetic mood right now...” Taichi’s cheerfulness was suddenly wiped. “...and I’m not in town only for the sake of old times.”
Tomoe listened up and stopped flirting “What’s wrong?”
“Dad sent me to talk to the head master’s son. We need to find and train a dancer for a... temporary employment.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” Tomoe nodded silently. “I truly hope it will be only temporarily. Please give your father my best wishes.”
Taichi shook his head “We don’t know what it is. Three weeks ago dad broke down after a dinner with delegates. He took a day off to recover, but it wasn’t the workload. The doctors can’t pin it, but it is paralyzing his nervous system.”
“I see...” Tomoe remembered the kind man in his prime who turned into a fierce hero on stage. Now that splendor should be gone so suddenly?
“You aren’t a doctor... I’m sorry... I’m just so scared.”
“It’s alright, Taichi-chan, thanks for telling me. Did you get what you where looking for?”
He shook his head. “No way on such short order. Everybody is bound to their troupe in long terms and none of the final year pupils can fill a sizable stage yet. We did a rehearsal this morning, Shoichi-sensei denied to release any of them to even give it a try. But everything’s prepared and paid for... I don’t know what to do. It’s all growing over my head... I’d have been replaceable, but not dad...”
“Take a deep breath... and then tell me what exactly you where looking for.”
“...and when I asked Shoichi-Sensei himself, he said he was a teacher and his place was with his pupils.” finally Taichi had to take a deep gulp of air. “We are done for!”
Tomoe continued to unpick the problem at the start. “Which play?”
“The storm god and the eight headed serpent. I do the princess and the serpent.”
“That’s a big part; nevertheless you said you were replaceable. Did you ever consider taking up the role of the Storm God?”
“I’m not ready to take up the male lead.” Taichi shrugged the idea off like an annoying fly.
“But I know you started training on male roles as well when you left. You were your father’s mirror frequently, weren’t you?”
“Yes, I know all the gestures, but there’s a lot of rapid action to master. Dad can’t train me on that... he can’t even stand on his feet anymore...!”
“I could show you how to do it.”
“In two weeks?! I know - you could probably do it yourself - for real, not for show... Do you remember how long it took me to stop hitting myself and bumping into things when you gave me private lessons to get the most basic moves down so I could pass my finals?”
“Stop downplaying! You were merely looking for ways to excel in your trials. You made your parents very proud, remember?”
“I can carry a pole arm over the stage like a noble lady of old. Great! But we are talking of a lot more action here. I could trust my dad with my life. I would trust you, too, Tomoe-chan, but what if I hurt my partner?”
“Do you see an alternative?”
“Hmm... it makes no difference anyway. I can’t fight my own shadow after all. No decent actor is going to play at my side while I embarrass myself.”
“When you commit yourself to play the Storm God, I will stand at your side.” She raised her chin stubbornly then lowered her voice again. “When you teach me, that is. I doubt I can embarrass myself any more than I already did.”
“…and your cottage?”
“Thanks for asking, but Okasan kindly cancelled most of my appointments for the next two months.” Tomoe swallowed the last sip of tea. “That should give you time to figure further options. May I borrow your comlink, Taichi-san, we have to catch our ride back to the resort. Where are you staying?” Taichi gave her the address of a cheap hotel in town “I’ll call you later.” She promised and left with her son.
Taichi ordered a drink to calm his racing mind. The cheerful girl he had known in his rebellious youth had turned into damn hard woman. But somehow it felt reassuring. Maybe with their skills combined, they could do it.
Boba could tell Tomoe was aggravated. It was a minor change, but her gait didn’t bode well for the two guys loafing and yelling at them from a corner to the main road. It was barely noon and they were already drunk.
“Kintaro!” One called and threw a cup at them as they passed, “Yama-Uba... come here, giant witch!” The other guy picked up the tune and followed them with mocking gestures. “I can help you to a real kid, giant witch!” They came closer and closer... Boba squeezed his mom’s hand briefly then let go of her palm and the bag to turn and defend them. Tomoe somehow managed to be quicker, kicking her feet. Something zipped past him.
Sound cracks and screams spoke their own language.
Tomoe placed a hand on Boba’s shoulder to keep him safely behind her while she smoothed the overlap of her robe and took demure little steps down the road. She picked up her high wooden sandals with pigeon toed feet where they had bounced back from the thugs.
“I really think your nose didn’t look that bad a moment ago, neighbor.” She regarded the guy rolling on the floor with contempt while the other complained about her violent reaction. “Would you like me help you to get up and straighten out your little problem? I think you would look a lot better without that ugly face on your head’s front side.”
She didn’t have to get any louder to stop the other guy from nursing his black eye. The thug jerked his whining pal up by the collar and dragged him away from the fearsome woman. Tomoe took a deep breath and hurried her little steps to catch the shared transport that would take them back into the resort. Boba realized she hadn’t even let go of their shopping bags for a moment.
“That wasn’t a bright idea... I’m sorry.” Tomoe excused herself in retrospective while she stored their bags in the hold.
Boba grinned “Why? I think that was cool. They certainly deserved it.”
“Yes, but word will get around. I should have controlled my anger and changed the side of the road. We have enough trouble without that sort of promotion.”
Boba got a seat and leaned into her. “Live, remember?”
“Yes.” She kissed his forehead and hugged her boy close “Thank you.” She relaxed slowly… “I think you’ll like our guests today.” She whispered “They are regulars, meeting here twice a year for family reunions and for any other special occasions. The grandpa reserves a whole cottage for his seven... no, eight grandchildren’s enjoyment while the parents take some time off. They pilgrimage to the shrines and cultural sites in the hills to stretch their legs and then sleep over at Ukon-san’s cottage.”
Boba nodded and concentrated on the briefing “What do they expect?”
“Easy going mostly... the kids will run all over the place and pop up for cooled drinks and snacks from time to time. The grandpa likes playing nanny a lot but he’s will tire in the evening. We take over smoothly whenever he needs help and put the small ones to bed and entertain the older ones quietly so he can enjoy a peaceful bath. Afterwards he prefers conservative home cooking and a stiff drink before going to sleep.
“When do they arrive?”
“In about an hour. The kids have chosen the ferry over the train... so you already have a topic in common.”
Boba smiled and followed Tomoe back into their home, helping her to open the slide doors and adjust the shades so the place was well aired and cool in the afternoon heat that settled over the compound. As the intercom buzzed, she rolled up the last shade and pushed it over a hook, hiding the iron under a splendid silken tassel. “Just in time.”
“Wait a moment... doesn’t Okasan want me to stay out of the guests’ sight?” he winked back to Ukon who did the same preparations over in her cottage but stepped from one foot on the other nervously. It was such a nice day... was he supposed to sit inside while the other kids had all the fun?
“You happen to live here with me, Boba.” Tomoe reminded him. “That makes them your guests as well. Okasan would be well advised to stay out of our business. Just hold yourself back a little and let the kids come to you. They won’t speak basic, so be patient and attentive. The grandpa is well educated and will understand you. Go unwrap your school materials. I’m back in a few.”Chapter 11.1 – First Guests (Day 16)
Tomoe returned some fifteen minutes later, carrying the small suitcase of a man who had aged well and carried a toddler on his arm. A horde of kids jumped around them, eager to check out their holiday surroundings. Boba quickly gathered his writing materials from the mats, stood and bowed.
The elder tilted his head and shifted the toddler on his hip comfortably “So you are Tomoe-chan’s small one. You can call me Ojii” – “Welcome, Ojiisan. I’m Boba.” - He grunted approvingly “Don’t let me keep you from doing your homework, son. Education is as important as playing.” He turned and picked a glass from the tray Tomoe handed around then plopped down on a cushion in the shadow of the veranda and sighed.
“Sit with me, please. How old are you, Boba-chan?”
“I’m five years old, s... Ojiisan.” Boba swallowed the ‘sir’ in the last moment. He felt interrogated, but dangled his feet over the veranda anyway to appear relaxed.
“Only five...? You are tall for your age, I expected you to go to school already.” He nodded at Boba’s collection of brushes and noted a couple of white tips. “But it’s never too early to start practicing a good handwriting.”
“I’m not used writing with brushes so far.” Boba answered reluctantly.
“A pen-lover?” The boy wrinkled his forehead. When he gave away his communications details, it would lead to questions he didn’t want to answer. Ojiisan shook his head “You can never get the cadence quite right with a pen… Tomoe-chan?” he called and placed the napping toddler in the woman’s arms, then reached over for Boba’s writing box. “Let’s get you started...” Tomoe returned with portable lacquer desk and settled it in the elder’s reach, then filled a water dispenser and prepared the ink.
“Every sign is constructed of elements like this... Boba sat on his heels and watched Ojii writing down a couple of hooks, dots and lines down the sheet before he turned it over “Your turn.” He watched Boba expectantly, and then slid around the desk to help. He showed him how to fill the brush properly and guided the boy’s first moves over the sheet. The large dry hand had an incredible secure yet relaxed grasp that reminded Boba of his dad showing him to hold a blaster. “The movement doesn’t come so much out of your hand but out of your shoulder. Once you took that in, writing will become recreation.”
Ojii lifted the brush at the end of the line then let go to pick up a small girl who was clutching his pants to peek at the brushes “You want to paint something, too, Yoko-chan?” he propped the kid up against his chest and retrieved another sheet of paper “That’s my girl...” he washed a brush for her and filled it with thinned ink before dipping the tip into rich black. The girl bounced on his lap and reached for the brush eagerly, but shied away from the pristine white paper. He took her hand and pushed some long shaded lines over the sheet “Look... fishes!” he added eyes and fins on the first line in deep black ink.
“What else do fishes need?” Ojii asked into the round. – “Water!” – “Rocks!” – “Reed!” the words bounced around in two languages...
While the brush play fascinated the younger kids, the teens were bound to go for a swim in one of the bigger lakes bordering to the resort, so Tomoe tied the toddler on her back to settle it down and got her hat that would shade them both “Boba-chan?”... but the boy was fascinated by the realms that Ojii could create with a few dips of the brush. “Can I stay?” – “Please, Tom-san?” small Yoko supported him.
Tomoe considered. It could provoke an attack of opportunity to leave him alone... but taking him with her wouldn’t make it any less dangerous for her surroundings. She had made the decision to live with it, but others had not. On the other hand, Kal had not fired Slave I’s lasers into the masses when he had the chance. And there had been no attack or even traces of preparation in the last days. “You can, Boba.” She stated and took up a bundle of towels wrapped into a mat. “Let’s go, kids...” she dearly hoped her boy would still be there when she returned. But she could not lock him up... now was not the time to start paranoia.
When she returned two hours later to prepare dinner, she found Ojii and Boba in the middle of a discussion about datapads and holo-peripheries that should be far beyond his age. Ojii didn’t care as he drew up new possibilities for three dimensional interfaces and forgot all about his bath. As a grandpa of eight, he would be considered as too old to understand such stuff by most. Tomoe settled down silently to bottle-feed the toddler and listened.
“Mom? Did you know Ojiisan builds a third of all the datapads from local production?”
“So many, and without looking stressed!” Tomoe smiled “How do you manage that, Ojiisan?”
“My sons do the work. I just try to stay up-to-date and drop in ideas from time to time.” Ojii leaned back “I was one of the first commoners who were allowed to travel offworld as a translator. I had a good look around and when I came back, I started a small business of my own.”
Tomoe reached out quickly and kept back Yoko who wondered if Ojii and Boba were trying to catch glow-worms at daylight and then decided wander off with her cousin to find a new excitement. “How am I supposed to prepare dinner and fish you out of the pond at the same time, Yoko-chan...?”
The cousin looked around with a half smile tugging on his lips “Last time she slipped... but it was bath time anyway”
“U pushed.” Yoko accused her grinning cousin, ready to get into it again right away.
Boba stood quickly “That won’t happen again, Yoko-chan... if you excuse me, Ojiisan?” he held out a hand at the smaller girl “Do you want to go and see the big colored fishies?” Yoko didn’t understand the words but the gestures, and hopped down the canopied walkway beside her new found friend.
Tomoe chuckled, started a fire in the then excused herself briefly to pick up her grocery delivery from the main cooling chamber. She was about to return when the barkeeper called for her. She knew the town’s inspector from sight, but never had contact with him otherwise. “Good evening, Sir. I’m Tomoe Harada.” She left her box on the counter and led the inspector up stairs to a small first floor guest room. “What brings you here, Sir?”
“Two issues at once, Harada-san... curiously, I have a complaint of assault and battery on my desk that you might want to answer.”
“Do I need to call my lawyer?”
“I’d like to hear your opinion before the paperwork piles up any higher.”
“Just tell me what the matter is?”
“Tell me where you have been around lunch time.”
“I did some shopping in town, visited the academy, had lunch with a friend at the restaurant across the street and then took the shortest way to the resort’s shared transport. I can list a consistent string of witnesses if I’m a suspect.”
“Two guys showed up at my office, both drunk, sporting a broken nose and a black eye. They say you hit them.” The inspector kept his face and voice neutral.
“Aside of my son, Boba, I did not touch anybody until I picked up the youngest kid of my guest in the afternoon. You might want to look for better evidence than the word of a drunk.”
“I did. A shattered cup, fresh rotation- and skid marks and blood on the street.”
“What is your conclusion, inspector?”
“You have witnesses for being at the academy, so the direction and the succession of traces speaks for itself... otherwise, their claim doesn’t match the signs. So in case it had been you as they claimed, I might have found somebody to file charges against two notorious suspects.”
“If it had been me, I’d still have to mind the reputation of the resort and take any decision to Okasan. So for the time being, I cannot help you, inspector.”
“I already thought you would say so,” the Inspector sighed. “The second matter I’m here for is your adoption-request made through your lawyer in Eastport. I want to talk to the boy before the Eastport department files a missing person report to search for his biological parents.”
“Boba is with my guests in the moment and I have to return to work as soon as possible. Can we both visit you tomorrow morning in your office?”
“I’ll wait, Harada-san.”
“Of course, sir.” Tomoe bowed and went downstairs to pick up her box. She asked the barkeeper to send up some refreshments and told Boba to take Yoko and her cousin back in half an hour. She returned to the cottage just in time to save the fire from going out.
She slipped into the kitchen to prepare dinner for nine, so at least Boba wouldn’t go hungry. She arranged little bowls with pickled, fresh and blanched vegetables once she had started a homemade stew and white rice. Sticks with salted fish and marinated duck were over the embers of the fire place when the family sat down for dinner. Tomoe helped the smaller kids to fish out what they wanted from the large pot over the fire place and kept the cups and rice-bowls full.
While a sated silence settled over the room, she served the dessert and then excused Boba and herself for a moment. Ojii arched a brow. “I’m sorry, but it’s an official summon which I cannot postpone. Please don’t hesitate to call Ukon-san if you need something. I’ll be back before an hour.” If Jango had asked that question now about being overworked, she would have agreed. And it was just the first day!
As the two of them arrived on the main-house’s first floor, Okasan was already with the inspector, fussing over him. Tomoe smiled inwardly. She knew from experience it would help with many, but not with his sort. She introduced Boba and asked if they could continue the interview in Basic for the boy.
“You’ll translate for me, Okasan.” The inspector sat a little straighter. He hated to depend on somebody else when doing investigations, especially if the case came from the big town colleagues from Eastport. The offworld-business of Okasan resulted in a whole new quality of difficulties in his nice and clean sector. But it was a necessary evil since new technologies wiped whole branches of employment that had to be made up for the greater good. Working people with no time to hang around drunk were peaceful and orderly.
“I assume that Harada-san filled you in already, but I have to ask you a few questions nevertheless: Who are your parents, Boba-chan?”
“I just have a father, his name is Jango Fett.”
“Do you know where he is?”
“No. But he will come for me.”
The inspector looked at Tomoe who started to explain. “My request of does not exclude the rights of the father. It’s about taking custody in his absence which I believe to be permanent.”
“I’m not a doctor, inspector, and I don’t file death certificates, but it did not look like he could possibly survive when I last saw him four days ago: obvious blood loss, unconscious, no pulse. If he was still around, he would know where to find us. Nevertheless the missing-person-report has to be filed to complete the documentation for the adoption process.”
“Where was that?”
“Offworld, but I cannot provide location or coordinates, sorry.”
“My father is NOT dead.” Boba repeated stubbornly.
The inspector considered. This was quickly spiraling out of his reach. Legally, the boy shouldn’t even be on the planet, since he had not immigrated. Without knowing where he came from, it was impossible to send him back. He felt a heavy responsibility weighting down on him to put things right for the boy. “What about your mother?”
“That is Tomoe. I have no mother otherwise.”
“I mean your biological mother.”
“My real mother is sitting beside me.” – What was so difficult about that?!
“Do you have any other blood relatives?”
“No.” What did this aruetii know anyway? Mando’ade didn’t care about bloodlines. His mom had adopted him and he had accepted. End of discussion. He was a person true to his word.
“Did you forget all about the woman who has born you?” the inspector tried again.
“I don’t remember to be born.”
“Maybe we can find her for you, but we need a name... did your father ever mention a name?” The inspector had no clue how to start looking for a missing person that wasn’t even on the planet, but he would try to contact somebody who could. The orbital control? The embassies? The holonews stations? But whose budget would finance that?
“No.” Boba clenched his jaw while he stared at the aruetii who doubted his family ties. He would say no more.
The kid shouldn’t be here, but here he was, stubborn and without papers beside what Harada-san had bestowed on him. While she had no travel permit, no transport and no visible wealth herself, Harada had taken on any responsibility that could possibly stem from the boy’s appearance. Incomprehensibly.
The inspector came to the conclusion that society should be glad to be spared of any further costs because of such generosity. The orphanages were full and the process would take long enough for any interested father to show up. Otherwise, the boy would be better off in the custody of a woman who cared. The kid was well provided for, obviously. While those off-world people, who could travel between planets, didn’t care neither about the kid nor the law.
While the inspector was at a loss, the Okasan was all fuelled up... “I don’t want a case in the resort, Harada-san. Move out until this topic is cleared and clean.”
“I didn’t start it but I cleared it, Okasan. Boba and I are in agreement which was laid down formally already. I won’t take my word back. I paid for the Nanakusa-cottage which makes it my home. I suggest you stick to our contract. As it is customary, neither adoption nor child birth is excluded in the operating lease commitment.”
“Housing a gaijin brat is definitely not customary. Do I have to send Norio to clear you out of my domain?”
“I have been housing offworlders regularly which has been part of your promotion activities. I’d prefer not to put a charge of breach of domestic peace on our inspector’s desk, but if you make me defend my home against Norio-san or anybody else, I’ll make sure the incitement of the crime is traced back to you.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t promote you any longer.” Okasan scathed. “Let’s see how long you can pay your rates with guests who won’t avoid moving in with a gaijin brat.”
Tomoe decided to offer her compromise to the one person who cared, “Since Okasan mentioned it, I propose to fill this gap by referring the paperwork and contacts to my family homestead. Of course I’ll be available for you here, but my lawyer files the procedure under my first address.” She turned to note it down for the police-files.
“I already have that one.” The inspector considered, “Boba-chan, do you agree that your father knows where to find you?”
“Of course.” The boy snapped, but wisely swallowed the ‘He’s been here already’.
“Would you agree to use Harada-homestead-address for the missing person report?”
Boba considered briefly “Do that.” He dismissed the investigation that wouldn’t bring his father back anyway. He had not asked for their help, and the Cuy’val Dar didn’t depend on addresses anyway. He certainly didn’t care if it made a Null browse ten seconds longer. He didn’t want to go back to Jaing’s special treatment anyway when he could hang around with nice kids like Yoko-chan.
“The report will bear the address of the Harada homestead. I expect Okasan to maintain the peace and security in her domain and abstain from further threats.” The inspector closed the topic, stood and left with brisk steps, glad to get a rid of those two vixens. Part of him wished back the era when the pleasure quarters were locked territory, off-limits for the police.Chapter 11.2 – The Feather Mantle (Day 16)
Tomoe simply took Boba’s hand and went back to her guests. Ojii had retrieved a box with games from the drawer under the scroll that decorated the guest room and set up a board game between his oldest grandson and himself, moving black and white stones over the markings. Boba sat down at the free side, wondering what they were doing. “Ah, there you are again,” the grandpa smiled, looked up to Tomoe and soothed, “Didn’t take long at all.” He knew how much she hated to leave her guests alone, even though she was hiding any negativeness.
Tomoe checked for the toddler that was fast asleep from all the fresh air and excitement. It would probably wake her later. Two of the older girls sat on the veranda chatting and the boys had set up their own game. “Thank you... I see everybody made themselves at home... and my Yoko-chan has found her favorite book...”
She knelt down beside the small girl who held a collection of fairytale-illustrations on her lap “Would you pick tonight’s story for us?” – “This one” Yoko beamed and held out the book to Tomoe to have a look at the full size print. “Alright... shhh...” Tomoe hushed the girl, “Make that a surprise for everybody else...”Ukon came over with the kids’ parents who had been hiking all day, then enjoyed an undisturbed bath and dressed themselves into the fresh blue and white cotton robes of the resort. “How’s my little one tonight?” a woman in her thirties picked up Yoko. “I see you’ve found a new friend?”
“Boba’s knows all the fishies!” Yoko announced “Satoshi pushes me again, Boba can make him swim like fishi.” A slightly older woman chatting with Ojii listened up “How do you herd those cats?” Ojii chuckled “Let them busy themselves.” He rose to visit the bathhouse himself before the evening entertainment. Tomoe let the kids tell their parents their day’s story and went to set up the sleeping mats and mosquito nets in the neighboring room.
On the long late spring evening, everybody gathered in the larger room, longed around on the mats and chatted comfortably. Ukon assembled her instrument and Tomoe poured Ojii his favorite Corellian brandy before she started telling a story supported by the pling-plong the strings made under Ukon’s experienced hands as the two women improvised...
The sea was calm and swift with ships, the loud voices of the steersmen carrying over to the barren pine-wastes on the coast when Hakuryo, a fisherman was on his way to work. In the heights of heaven had gathered an inexplicable cloud. Swept by the rain, the moon had just come out to light his house in the distance.
It was a pleasant time, the land breathed over by the lush greens of spring, the wheat had grown high and the waves rose in a line below the early mist. No, the fisherman was in no hurry to get to the harbor. The moon was delaying him and though he had no skill to grasp it, his mind was elated by the beauty around him.
All the other fishermen were putting out with even the smallest boats, but Hakuryo stayed disembarked to see the secrets that were whispered about this shore. Tales of empty skies filled with music, a rain of flowers, and strange fragrance on every side... all these were no common things, but all he could hear was the breeze that was the only voice of the old pine trees.
In springtime, the wind was ready for stillness for once. The air was soundless or would be, were it not for the waves. His ears didn’t pick up any inexplicable sound, let alone music, but then he spotted a cloak that hung in the branches of a pine-tree...
He approached to inhale its fragrant colour, aware of the mystery. This feather cloak was surely no common dress, but there was nobody in sight so he quickly snatched it from the branches. He held it tightly against his chest to take it home with him and make it a treasure in his house, to show the elders.
Suddenly, a sweet voice called from the reed on the shore, “Wait...” it called to stay the fisherman. “That cloak belongs to somebody on this side... what are you going to do with it?”
“This? Just a cloak I picked up.” The fisherman called back, a study in innocence. “I am taking it home, I tell you”
“That is a feather-mantle not fit for a mortal to bear,
Not easily wrested from the sky-traversing spirit,
Not easily taken or given.
I ask you to leave it where you found it.”
Ukon took over the narration and Hakuryo’s part fluently as the argument continued
But the poetry of the divine spirit met deaf ears “How! Is the owner of this cloak a Tennin? So be it. In this downcast age I should keep such a rare thing, and make it a treasure in the country. Since it’s a respected thing, I should not return it.” The fisherman slung it over his shoulder and went to leave the heavenly maiden in the reed without her cloak.
“Pitiful, there is no flying without the cloak of feathers, no return through the ether. I pray you return me the mantle,” the Tennin scolded the bold thief.
“Just from hearing these high words, I, Hakuryo, have gathered more and yet more force. You think, because I was too stupid to recognize it, that I shall be unable to take and keep hidden the feather-robe, that I shall give it back for merely being told to stand and withdraw? “
“A Tennin without her robe, A bird without wings, How shall she climb the air?” the Tennin lamented.
Hakuryo turned to the wall of reed with a different proposal “And this world would be a sorry place for you to dwell in? “
Now the maiden was devastated “I am caught, I struggle, how shall I . . .? “
“No, Hakuryo is not one to give back the robe.” The fisherman boomed and propped his fists into his sides. - “Power does not attain...” – “...to get back the robe.” Hakuryo boldly finished the maiden’s sentence.
Over the tops of the reed her crown of feather appeared, jewelled with the dew of tears. Even the flowers that decorated her hair were drooping and fading. Her raven tresses withered and her skin became stained and sweaty as he spoke, her eyes grew unfocused as she felt her connection to the heavenly meadows fade to nothingness.
As he saw the whole chain of weaknesses of the dying Tennin right in front of his eyes, even the hard hearted Hakuryo felt her sorrow as the beautiful girl continued to lament “I look into the heaven, peering; the cloud-road is all hidden and uncertain; we are lost in the rising mist; I have lost the knowledge of the road!”
The enviable colour of breath withered, the wonder of clouds faded along the sky that was the heavenly maidens accustomed dwelling; listening to the voices of the sky-birds, and hearing the accustomed voices grow more distant, the wild geese fewer and fewer, along the highways of air, how deep was her longing to return! Plover and seagull were on the waves in the offing. Did they go or do they return? She reached out for the very blowing of the spring wind against heaven.
Hakuryo finally understood he could not hold the Tennin without destroying her. “What do you say? Now that I can see you in your sorrow, gracious of heaven, I bend and would return you your mantle. “
“It grows clearer...” a slender arm appeared from the read “No, give it this side.”
“First tell me your nature, who are you, Tennin? Give payment with the dance of the Tennin, and I will return you your mantle.”
“Readily and gladly, and then I return into heaven.” the Tennin promised “You shall have what pleasure you will, and I will leave a dance here, a joy to be new among men and to be memorized. Learn then this dance that can turn the palace of the moon. No, come here to learn it. For the sorrows of the world I will leave this new dancing with you for sorrowful people. But give me my mantle, I cannot do the dance rightly without it.”
Hakuryo continued to be suspicious “Not yet, for if you should get it, how do I know you'll not be off to your palace without even beginning your dance, not even a measure?
“Doubt is fitting for mortals; with us there is no deceit.” the Tennin answered patiently.
“I am again ashamed. I give you your mantle.” Hakuryo bit his cheek.
Once the young sprite assumed the curious mantle she stepped out of the reed so the fisherman could watch how she moved in the dance of the rainbow-feathered garment. The heavenly feather-robe moved in accord with the wind and the sleeves of flowers were wet with the rain. As the night became day, the palace of the moon-god was renewed as it is always recurring. There were heavenly nymphs, one for each night of the month, stepping out of their hiding places...
Tomoe stood and opened her fan to re-enact the dance while Ukon continued to sing the narration.
“I also am a heaven-born maid,” the Tennin said “Of them there are many. This is my share, the fruit of the moon's tree. Take it as part of our dance that I leave to you here in your world.” She presented him the fragrant fruit.
The spring mist was widespread abroad; so perhaps the wild olive's flower would blossom in the infinitely unreachable moon. Her flowery head-ornament was putting on colour as a true is sign of the spring. There was no sky but beauty, breathing the heavenly, wonderful wind. The fisherman prayed that the accustomed path of the clouds would close and the Tennin would grant him the favour of delay in the form of a maid.
The pine-waste put on the colour of spring and the bay laid clear before the snow upon the great white mountain peak. There were but few ripples beneath the piny wind. Then it was quiet along the shore. There was nothing but a fence of jewels between the earth and the sky, and the gods within and without, beyond and beneath the stars, and the moon unclouded by her lord, and us who are born of the sun. This alone intervenes here where the moon is unshadowed, here in the sun's homestead
“The plumage of heaven drops neither feather nor flame to its own diminution.” The Tennin reminded the fisherman as it went to leave... “Nor is this rock of earth worn by the brushing of that feather-mantle, the feathery skirt of the stars: rarely, how rarely does it touch the ground.”
There was a magic song from the east, the voices of many to flute and harp, filling the space beyond the cloud's edge. The red sun blotted on the sky the line of the colour-drenched mountains. The flowers rained in a gust; there was no racking storm that came over the green moor, which was afloat, as it would seem, in the waves. Wonderful was the sleeve of the white cloud, whirling the snow off the high mountain slopes.
“Plain of life, field of the sun, true foundation, great power!” The Tennin intonated as she danced over the country under the sun. Hence and forever her dance has been called "a revel in the East." Her robes took on the sky's colour itself, and the hems where shaded green where they touched the ground. And then her robes became a mist, a colour-smell as this wonderful maiden's skirt – “left, right, left!” they jumped in the rustling of flowers, picking up the feathery sleeves as they bend in air with the dancing.
Once her vow was fulfilled, the seven jewels of rain and all the treasure given to the heavenly maidens were ready to leave. The feather mantle spread upon the wind as it carried the Tennin over the mountains, though the clouds that hung under the heaven like a plain awash with sea. The great mountain was gone; its snow covered peak blotted out little by little as it melted into the upper mist.
And on the way the Tennin was lost to sight.
And Yoko-chan was sound asleep, a happy smile on her face as Tomoe picked her up and put her to bed while the parents chased their other offsprings to brush their teeth and then hit the hey as well. Once everybody was tucked in and the parents had left to enjoy the night over at Ukon’s cottage, the older kids where still far from sleeping. Boba was no exception, peeking out from their sleeping arrangements under the roof as Tomoe pulled something from a drawer below the scroll decorating the guest room. Under the chirping sounds of the insects in the grass outside, her feet brushed over the mats lightly and the wood gnawed as she sat on the veranda.
The sound of her flute was carried by the moon that shone on the earth exhaling the heat of the day and the turquoise dusk fading into midnight blue.
Once everybody was asleep, the toddler started whining again, so Tomoe jumped to change nappies and help it to another snack from the bottle, then settle the small one down with her steady gait while she patrolled the area. In the distance, the party went on in the main house, the soft glow of lanterns and lit paper screens shining in the dark.
Once she was sure she wouldn’t disturb anybody she flipped open Taichi’s comlink. His hotel’s reception patched her through to his room. They agreed to meet in town the next morning to figure out the details of their training.
“I could pay you a late night visit, Tomoe-chan.” Once he had overcome the fear that was paralysing him, he had difficulties to sit and wait while the girl was working.
“Stay where you are Taichi-san. It doesn’t help you to spend the night out. Get some rest. I need to sleep as well.”
“Sleep wasn’t what I was thinking off...”
“It’s late.” Tomoe flipped the comlink close and sighed. What she needed was rest, no more confusion. Back in the cottage she climbed the stair and rested the toddler on her sleeping mat beside Boba. Her robes were draped over a tall lantern in the corner as she slipped between the cool sheets, her scent and warmth calming the baby.Chapter 11.3 – So this is Hell ...for Kal (Day 16)
In the evening, Ordo paid Sergeant Skirata a late night visit. The boy had a datapad under his arm and dark circles rimmed his eyes.
“I’ve finally picked something up, Kal’buir.” Ordo announced and settled the datapad down. “Ms. Harada’s family name is quite common and there are at least six different ways to write it plus combinations. It would take years to check them one-by-one. With the limited connection and without her ID it wasn’t possible to make her out in the data-stream until she became so bold to make a public announcement though her lawyer that she is going to adopt Boba Fett.”
“Indeed! Here’s the lawyers’ address and this is Ms. Harada’s...” Ordo tapped on the screen “Region, town and street... everything is there down to the house-number. There are no high-res charts of the area, but here are the coordinates of that small village in the White Mountain Range.”
“We can map that from anything below high orbit.” Kal smirked “Digging in, are you, Tomoe?”
“Since we’ve got her ID-number now, I traced some old enlistings and one fresh financial transaction... here.”
“Yes, that’s where I dropped her off. Details?”
“She called upon her account. I can’t get a look into that because the banking servers communicate with each other in a stand-alone system. I would need an interface to that to start slicing. But their customer data base was more talkative. Harada was tagged for consultation because she withdrew funds that made her bank suspect a problem with customer relations.”
“Enough to leave planet?”
“I don’t know.” Ordo hated to let Kal’buir down “The consultation is on the hold because no com-connection could be made. But since they want to prevent further withdraw, there must be more in their hold.”
“Hmm...” Kal zoomed out to overlook the dots that littered the chart. Quite a region to cover. “Long way to go between the bank, the house and the lawyer. “Any address that closes in to one of those points?”
“I suppose the bank has her address... it’s probably stored on stand-alone security level.” Ordo nodded “Mereel and I are learning the language, script and about local customs while we wait for data packages to download. I should be ready for insertion to do some serious slicing by the end of next week.”
“We won’t do an insertion without consulting Fett beforehand. Do you need more computer power for your recce?”
“No. The bottle neck is up-link of the local network. The cluster of Tipoca-mainframe we have in use is already equal to half their planet’s computing-power. They are still carting a lot of flimsy around which is sadly out of my reach. If their connections are suddenly filled up with my requests or their fragile server network is forced down they would start search for the leak while the remaining clients go back into Stone Age instead of delivering their goodies to us.”
“I see… keep up the good work, Ordi’ka.” Skirata ruffled the boy’s hair and watched him go, then helped himself to a glass of Rav’s tihaar and settled in his easy chair.
His target was bold and unafraid, challenging him openly. But his ankle hurt worse than usual at the thought of going there to put a blaster round through her head and put the sad remains into stasis for the aiwha-baits to tamper with. Not for publically declaring her parental devotion to the poor son of the unhinged chakaar that hurt her one time too often.
Kal shook his head.
Tomoe even let Boba keep his name additionally to her own. What else would she give him? Freedom. A sibling. A home to return to and a mother waiting for him... a mixture of laugh and sob stuck in Kal’s throat... a young mother who would teach him a dozen ways to slot his enemies, all the while that small smile on that oval face.
A moment ago he had been on top of things. But his excitement had been short lived. Now he just felt old, unable to compete.
“Republic cannon fodder, my ass.”