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Offshore Job

By Tomoe Harada

Romance / Adventure

Chapter 1.o

Saying Goodbye (Day 25)

Jango could see how she was a mother of all things; her huge black shadow filled the room all around him while gauzy wings blackened out the moonlight... or was it just the mosquito net swaying in the breeze? Nevertheless he was certain to have the full attention of this... entity... as he spoke, all reasonable and business-like.

'So here's the deal, Moro: I don't care what you are. I'll raise you as my child, protect you and teach you the Mando way of life. But if you hurt Tomoe or your unborn sibling, I'm going to send you to haran.'

"I would expect nothing less of you, dad." her voice carried the power of the surge of an eternal ocean as well as the bark of the hunting pack.

'Then I know your name as my child, Moro.' He could rest his case now, and sleep with his most precious in his arms. 'Ni kyr'tayl gai sa'ad, Moro.'


"Mom? Mom... don't you think you've forgotten something?"

Tomoe sighed at the nagging inner voice and snuggled into Jango's embrace. 'What is it, Moro?'

"You need to go, mom, find 'noko, protect our doctor, quickly."

Her brain slowly took on speed again. Moro was right, this was a serious problem. 'Oh no... but Jango...'

"No but, dad's sleeping".

'What have you done?'

"I...?" Moro snickered "Good one, mom... we should do that again, you know? It feels like riding the waves in the warm sunshine, playing in the surge, cooled by salty spray."

'Glad you liked it.' Tomoe avoided shaking her head as she inched out of Jango's hold. He usually had the light sleep of a napping predator, but right now he seemed to be out cold. She pulled the blanket up to his chin carefully, knowing about his even breath and slow pulse from their previous closeness... It was just the helmet staring at her from the top of the armor pile as she lifted the hem of the mosquito net to slip out. What if he had programmed something or was monitoring everything? She better got back home soon and explained her move. 'Where to?' she inquired and Moro guided the way. 'Could you call 'noko and tell him to back off?'

"Hey, I'm your little one." Moro reprimanded her mother, "You are supposed to take care of me from now on." Of course she could have called out to her son, but they needed to accustom to her new live form and she wanted the pack to run together one last time. It was Tomoe's right to do so before she got sucked into the world of men. And the clan had a right to take in the latest news with all their senses.

"Go go go, mommy, let's go for a swim together!" Tomoe's short sprint through the resort's garden ended in the lake that swallowed her with a splash, rings of silver spreading over the water surface under the summer moon. She didn't come up again. Diving with Moro had its advantages. There was no cold, no lack of air.


Jango woke at the single beep of the motion alarum of the helmet systems and listened. His arms were empty under the blanket. Somebody had entered the second room. Reaching for his blaster he found Tomoe's knife was still resting next to it. He had felt it between his ribs, burning like fire when she ripped it out, but tonight its presence meant an entirely new thing: safety and a promise. Tomoe would never leave the blade behind in case of danger. No, she felt safe and planned to return to him the very soon.

The movement outside ended in the small bathroom of the cottage. Water rushed. He stood and moved over cautiously. How she had managed to get that far - without him waking - was still an open point.

"You have a bad influence on me," Jango grinned once he had confirmed it was Tomoe inside. He rested blaster and helmet on the shelf and stepped into shower stall. The water was cool. He wrapped his arms around her in the cramped surroundings, eager to feel her against him once more, to make sure this was real. "I usually have a light sleep."

"Everybody's safe again." Tomoe informed him in calm, low voice. His skin felt so burning hot against hers; he must have noticed something despite her attempt to get back to human spec before meeting him underneath the blankets. Would he get angry again? She rested her hands on his hips, half soothing, half preserving some distance. She looked up with blank face and gave him something else to think about "'Noko and Mird don't like each other's scent, but they agreed to disagree. Walon and the other one, doctor... what was his name?" –

'Oh fierfeck... Tomoe had been sneaking around outside - unguarded! ...how did she know about Mij's profession?' Jango swallowed the lump in his throat, "Gilamar... Mij Gilamar," he inched forwards.

"They don't need to know how close it was... Let's get back into bed." She said flatly, ducked underneath his arm and left the shower to him. She wrapped a towel around her wet hair and slipped a cotton robe over her shoulders.

Jango leaned back and let the luke warm water wash over his face. She was just a little distant, but not pissed or frightened that his comrades had popped up from nowhere in their usual business suits: armored and armed to the teeth. She had accustomed to his profession quickly, and somehow she had known and taken care of things. Of course - Moro...

"Yes, dad?"

He snorted water from his nose. Now it even spoke to him in his waking moments! 'Thanks,' anyway...

"No problem. That was so much fun... Next time I'm reborn, I'll arrange my spirit into a couple."

'Please no triplets!' Jango fought down his anguish, wiped his face and switched off the shower. 'I'd wait with that decision until you have witnessed a marital argument', he answered dryly, still glad that he had just managed to get around one.

"No need for prompt demonstrations, dad, I've got plenty of time... and by the way, mom got cold feet." the little voice nudged.

'Mando children are supposed to stay out of reproductive activities until their fifteenth birthday." Jango reprimanded the snotty little voice.

"I'm far older than you, raised more offspring than you, I've even been fifteen a couple of times before..."

'Your overall age doesn't count for me. You still have months ahead to become something like a baby and years to puberty, so enjoy your reprieve and stop behaving out of character.'

"You don't want to talk to me?" for once, upbeat littleMoro managed to sound hurt.

'I don't mind as long as you grant mom and me a little privacy. Now. It's polite, you know?'

"And fun." her voice faded into a happy whistle.

"Uh oh..." Jango preferred to return his attention to Tomoe. He could see now how this 'goddess' always managed to have the last word.

A knowing smile was stuck on Tomoe's oval face as she lifted the blanket for him. "I didn't remember the name, but I think I have seen him before... golden armor, like Kal, but not quite."

"You did. He's the one who let you go and then patched me up." Jango cupped her cheek while his arm sneaked around her slim waist, "I'm a very lucky man," he pulled her close, "gotta take better care of you." He preferred her sleeping unclothed, but his hands found entrance in the folds of the cotton robe while he nibbled down her neck and shoulder. She had taken a path he could not follow, but she had returned. Her skin had been death cold, but now she warmed quickly to his touch. He was glad that she had closed the matter already in her own delicate way; there were so many exciting things to explore. But he was in no hurry.

"I see... that might take some explanations, that new thing of ours," she leaned into him. Whatever it was, she wondered, but couldn't really grasp a serious thought. He didn't shower in full armor anymore, but a Jango with the helmet on only had been quite a sight. Oh... she couldn't crack up right now, could she? 'Breath, steady...' she commanded herself, fighting down a hysteric giggle that could be misinterpreted as a mocking laugh.

"Yes," Jango nodded in agreement, his breath tickling her skin. Since she had used no soap, she still smelled deliciously of green water and dark humus mixed with predator. "Rest now, cyar'ika." This time, he would make sure that she stayed safely in his arms.

His warmth seeped into her and drained the last energies from her. He was so serious and emotional, but what did he plan? He had defined some outlines, but what it meant was a miracle to her. He would give her one of his crocked smiles and she would have to find out. She could only hope that there was enough space for a life of her own within the cutting edges of his deadly strategy. Right now, she was too tired to even worry about that.

Jango listened to her slow, steady breath for a long while before he reached over and checked the recording of his helmet cam. He watched how she first pulled the blanket over his sleeping form carefully, and then left as naked as she was born.

It took a while until her return.

The mere idea of the display enjoyed by any other man tied his gut in knots with jealousy... Jango tried to push the thought away, but it returned and worse, with the possibility of a fellow Mando'ad who he couldn't finish off in a blast to ease his mind. He decided to focus on something productive. How to put his tomboy into Mandalorian iron skin, into proper beskar'gam? Which color would she choose? ...Green for duty? Red for her parents? Blue and silver matching his own gear?


In the turquoise blue of the morning, before the first sunrays poked over the mountain ridge, Tomoe woke as she felt her bed mate stir and gently unwrap his arm from around her. He smoothed a strand of hair from her face, his warm breath stroking her earlobe like the wings of a butterfly.

Second thing that came to her mind was that she had revealed her secret, the one nobody could know. He now held the key to her soul, to her loneliness. It scared her a little. How did the guy get there at all? How could Jango still stand her after the horrible news she had given him last night? She was an abnormity!

But strangely, it didn't matter any longer. The steely grip of quiet terror that had held her heart in a vice like grip during the past weeks had cracked like ice at the end of winter. There was no cold, no pain, no remorse, even her fears were gone like shadows, brushed aside by a lover's touch.

They would make it.

"It's still early," Jango whispered. He felt so good that he wasn't sure if this dream could stand bright daylight. His mate had come to him. Twice. He had breathed-in the scent of her hair for a long time, relished in the suppleness of her sleeping form, afraid to wake her when she rested undisturbed and unspoilt in his arms like a flower bud in spring. Her small hand clenched the fingers of his left, her toes nestled between his calves, long warmed. Trouble would catch up with them soon enough. It always did. But right now, she felt real enough to indulge. He was wide awake, full of purpose that readied him with throbbing awareness. He needed to feel more of her, or the burled, tie-dyed cotton robe enfolding her velvety skin would drive him crazy.

As she moved to turn around, the evidence of his arousal pressed between her buttocks. 'Again? Now?' Tomoe stiffened and swallowed as her heart pounded up into her throat. 'Now.' She stilled as his unabashed desire for her sent a wave of need through her entire body, washing away the cobwebs of her mind. "Early enough..."

His palm tingled with the need to caress her. His curious fingers invaded the opening underneath her tousled sleeve, strong arms crushing her against his chest once more. 'Don't hide it', she had requested, "Yes..." But then he became aware that he experienced a moment of peace he hadn't known before. He wanted it to last. He slowed his pace, his hands moving over her smooth curves as he continued his acquisition of her body. Yes, this present he could unpack. He pulled her narrow belt loose and she twisted her arm out of one winged sleeve silently. He eased the fabric down, baring her long neck and finely muscled shoulder to his breath.

A white band highlighted the chinch of her waist as she lifted her hips so he could pull the end of the collar loose. The play of firm and supple muscles against his groin made him twitch with expectation. But then he suddenly hesitated to close the gap between their upper bodies against the morning cold. Tomoe raised her head.

His warm callous hand smoothed up her ribs and a gentle fingertip traced the mark on her mid back. In the gloom ghosting through the upper windows, the kyr'bes was a dirty grey streak on her ivory skin. "It's not permanent," he promised, "I'll wipe it away once we return."

"I mind it no longer..." she reassured him, "it protected me from harm more than once." Tomoe didn't want to remember how or when it had been applied. 'Focus on the future, not the past.' She snuggled against him, urging Jango to return his loving attention to her front side. "Things I told you, how could you bear them?"

"Least thing to do... I wasn't worth your time otherwise." He brushed her concerns away and catered to her urgency. He pulled her back into the heat of his body and cupped her breasts, catching her stiffening nipples between his fingers. He wasn't about to change his mind now ...or ever. "We won't get outta here if you keep moving your hips like that," he told her with a low groan.

"You planned to?" Moving once again, she wiggled out of his hold, stretched away from him and reached for the pillow box with a mocking little smile over her shoulder. She could feel his hungry gaze wander down her spine, sparking desire deep inside her belly.

Jango considered. If he put that tease of a belt-strap clinging to her mid to good use, it would take seconds only to tie and ravish her. But when she twisted back on him, his tender kisses seeking entrance to her lips pinned her down more efficiently than iron manacles. He wasn't being merciful, no, he was just a practical man... who would lay hand on her soon enough.

"Sure, lil' early bird." a faint twinkle was in his eyes as she laid back to catch her breath. He snatched another sound kiss from her as he took the protection, doing his own subtle teasing of her. There was no way she could even make a dent in him, couldn't she see that? With swift fingers, he opened the little package and quickly sheathed himself. "But it's too late now," he purred.

With effortless ease he subdued her sensuous struggles, the great strength of his warrior's body tempered in loving care of her more delicate, feminine form as he held her quivering body. With her guidance, he entered her smoothly to find blessed relief for his throbbing erection. He barely moved his hips, trusting very slowly. Laying on her side, she basked in his embrace, her hand on her belly feeling the deep pulse within, warm and alive.

Jango pressed against her back, gently, lazily as he kissed the top of her head, breathing in the scent of her hair. He was in no hurry to finish. He needed to feel her, to see that it was good for her, that she wanted him as much as he wanted her. Only that would set him free to fulfill his needs. This new sensual awareness was overwhelming. Cin'ciri trusted him, slept with him, and kept them safe. It evoked feelings that had once been a joyous part of his life, but that had lain dormant, repressed and unacknowledged if not forgotten for a long time.

Tomoe let her eyes drift close, to better enjoy the tenderness in his touch. Whatever the consequences of his ardent use of her body yesterday had been, he avoided upsetting them when he entered her from behind. There was nothing to fear. She left her body to the gentle rhythm of Jango's movement, yearning to become one with him, to be filled, to feel complete.

He felt her stroke him in tune with his rhythm, wrap all around him and worship his maleness. Her flexibility was in stark contrast to his solid bulk. Her exotic slim curves, barely enough to fill his hands with delightful softness, held an unexpected strength that matched and welcomed his trusts. He would never tire to explore their differences, to part that patch of downy hair and rub her into frenzy, to feel her squirm haplessly between his teasing trigger finger and impaling manhood.

Tomoe felt rolled back and forth with the surf of their lovemaking. And then came a wave of heat, rising from her belly into her chest. She was burning. She turned her face to his and opened her mouth to moan out her pleasure but he silenced her with his lips and held her tight as she was washed away with pleasure.

When their lips parted, he buried his face in her tangled hair, his quickened breaths falling hotly upon her neck. He could feel renewed heaviness invade her body. Nevertheless she was voluptuous perfection in his arms. It was his doing only that she was too spent to run, yet the firm muscles that padded her hips confirmed her power to wear his people's full body armor. It spoke to his instincts, telling him that he had chosen a worthy partner. Her clenching tightness around him brought him so close to the edge that he felt the feathery sensation along his spine. But he denied giving in just now. He had to take a hold on that tangible proof of her aptitude with both of his hands and demonstrate his appreciation.

His chest slanted over her back, firmly enough to push them over. He felt her stiffen underneath him in an anticipation of pain, trying to recollect her defenses. "Tomoe..." Jango called out to her, his fingers nudged between hers, resting on her belly gently, supporting her as his thigh brushed over her hamstrings and took his weight. His other hand fisted over her left, anchoring her shoulder. Instead of grinding her into the mattress and loose his comfortable angle, he proceeded to wrap himself around her and gather up her quivering form against his thighs and chest.

To his delight, the slightest withdrawal made her moan and follow his lead to rise on her knees. She granted him deeper access and he wasted no time to put to it to good use. Shaking the robe off her other shoulder, she pushed her bottom out to him and he grabbed her hips. He had to hand it to her as he pounded into her with lustful abandon. She was the one. While he made her his, while he gave himself to her utterly, a sunray danced through the headlights and painted his mark over her arching spine. It was a splatter of light red on white when he lost himself into her core.

Coming down slowly, he leaned over her back and kissed her shoulder, breathlessly. He felt her tremble and clench around him while gravity took them back onto the cooled sheets. When he finally stirred and carefully separated their bodies, she efficiently cleaned them up with sheets of rough paper and then moved to lie beside him. He drew the blanket up to their waists and she turned instinctively into his arms, seeking his body heat. She sighed in contentment as she felt his arms close around her. Her head settled into the hollow of his shoulder, and her arm rested on his chest. He spread the curtain of her hair with gentle fingers, to have a look at the fatigue in her lust glazed eyes while his fingertips explored the soft lines of her face.


When Tomoe opened her eyes again, early sunlight poured through the shutters and streamed across the bedding. She regarded him with growing confidence. He made her see more in him than a killer, that creature of the night enchased in icy metal burning her flesh. His skin shone in the morning sun, taut and golden over solid muscle. There was a dark sheen clinging to his cheek and jaw that felt rougher than it looked. She didn't mind. This sense of belonging was still new to her, but she discovered that she enjoyed the feeling.

She hadn't noticed when the sun had risen. But now it was almost time to get up and start working. There was a bemused smile on Jango's face that said 'c'mon, sleepyhead, ask me another stupid question', while his dark eyes glittered with lust for her. It riled her enough to put her mind on the next steps instead as somebody came down the stairs soundly. Next instant Boba squished through the slide door cautiously and lifted the mosquito net.

'Oh boy...'

This was a new one. It looked like mom and dad had hugged things better without him... and now he wanted his share! Marching through the room head-on, Boba plopped down on the white sheet overlapping the padded blanket. "Good morning," he shouldered his way into the middle of the comfortable nest and slunk his feet under the blanket as well.

"Morning," dad ruffled his hairs. Boba made a face and sorted his hems while his mom pulled her own robe over her shoulders. He recognized that expression - it meant 'tact!' Well, he had made enough noise on the stair to prevent his entry from startling a horde of deaf banthas. Otherwise he couldn't care less about tact. Dad was back – and he managed very well without tact, obviously.

Boba leaned back, pulled the blanket a little higher against the chilly air and luxuriated in a stretch. "So what's the plan today?" he inquired. Honestly, it had sounded more like another brawl last night. Usually, mom wasn't too fond of those nightly wrestling matches. How could both sides come out of a fight unbruised and happy anyway?! It was a miracle.

There was another exchange of looks over his head, then Tomoe started "Some cleansing... and paperwork... then I have to pack... I guess." She looked around in the room. They would travel light, no doubt. 'Say goodbye to all that.'

"All you need is some practical clothing, shoes and your favorite kit. Interplanetary accepted currency if you have. Maybe some local meds you are used to." No problem, Jango thought. The rooms were as good as empty, her stuff already stored in a family deposit. "In the meantime, I'll settle the paperwork with Okasan and ready our transport. We can leave after dinner."

"There are some more papers to retrieve, from..." She swallowed. Should she tell him? Could she? His dark eyes suddenly bore into her and she felt cornered once more.

"Vau can get them in the meantime." He said lightly, but made a mental note that her trust was still limited. Well, if Walon didn't like to stand in as errant boy, he shouldn't have come running unasked. The sooner they were done here, the earlier they could return to their duties.

"It's a very personal, religious, thing I have to do myself. It must not be forgotten."

"I see." The sort she could not share before they shared everything. They would get there. "We'll take care of it once you are free to leave the resort."

"That will do." Tomoe slunk out from underneath the blanket, pulled the summer robe around her on the way to the bathroom and shut the door behind her.

"...and what's my job?" Boba complained.

He was rewarded a task promptly by his father, "Prepare breakfast." Jango leaned back and rested his ribcage with a self-confident grin. He had left an impression. Cin'ciri was walking funny as well.

The boy decided that basking in the warmth of the blanket was an acceptable option until mom cleared the tiny bathroom, a bucket with steaming water on her hip. In his record, cleaning the verandas and outer chambers would take Tomoe half an hour. Plenty of time for him to get dressed and breakfast going.

Today, it took her ten minutes longer.


Everything looked normal on the outside as she wiped the veranda and the main room of the Susuki-Cottage then her own veranda, the only sounds her own breath and the birds' morning songs. It was like nothing had changed in a century. But once she came back inside to return the bucket, her son rummaged in the kitchen and the doors to the adjoining rooms were half open... a helmet stared at her from the chaos in the living room and there was a Mando'ad with a blank blade in her bathroom.

'I'll never get used to this,' she swallowed. Through the crack of the door she saw Jango run his knife over the sharp angles of his face, his intense gaze catching her in the mirror, watching him. For a moment, a slight smile of amusement softened the lines of his angular face; however he said nothing until he was finished.

"Cyar'ika," he spoke once he cleaned the knife, finally facing her. Frozen in place, she nearly dropped the bucket. But she didn't find herself pinned against a tiled wall the next moment. "I'll be out shortly," he assured her, turned and began casually disrobing out of his cotton robe. She ducked out of his way quickly to put the bucket away, but he was just matter of fact about it.

His lean muscular frame, the smooth curve of his lower spine and upper thighs was equally well muscled like the rest of him. He bore some scars on his thighs as well, but before she could stare at him some more, he had disappeared into the shower stall. Flushed red she bolted, hiding her face as she wiped the woodwork and fix the gaps in Boba's breakfast preparations.

They had their breakfast in companionable silence, but inside of her, a giant void cracked open as she worked out how to handle her belongings and close any claims. She would have to part of the clothing that had defined her existence in the past years of her apprenticeship, every set full of meaning, and other items that connected her to her upbringing. It was like she was forced to strip again, and not just of a single set of clothing, but of all of them. She was afraid that she couldn't do it.

Approaching the locker cautiously, she just took out some working and winter clothing and bundled everything up. She took the naginata from the rafter, the long sword, the slug thrower, tied them into a long bundle and gathered her collection of blasters into a box, Ariga's 'presents', her flute and some jewelry into another. Norio wouldn't be happy to find those illicit weapons when the cottage was returned in Okasan's care. Or maybe he would be – whatever Jango agreed with Okasan in the meantime. She expected to be called over to the main house any moment. The built-in closets were still filled to the ceiling.


Three hours later, Jango returned with Okasan and the security chief in tow. Instead of piling up luggage, Tomoe was sitting at the low writing table, a roll of paper in front of her. Underneath the stoic mask of the Mandalorian helmet, Jango was pleased to see a manageable amount of baggage. Okay, Tomoe wasn't the queen of Naboo, but aruetyc women were infamous for their impossible travelling habits. No need to admit it, but once or twice he had entertained the idea of hijacking her a second time to avoid lift-off problems with the TIV.

Norio knelt at the door silently. He had hoped that the sins of the past had been pushed into extinction altogether with the old ways, but here was an Okasan who sold off one of the girls to this... offworld-barbarian, using her dept and perverting her sense of responsibility. On the other hand, Tomoe-chan didn't look scared?! Maybe she had found her way indeed. She was a proud one and it showed in her pose.

"Writing your testament, are you?" Okasan knelt beside her in a show of fully developed womanly charm and motherly care, her grief applied as thickly to her face as her make-up as if she was sending her only daughter off into the unknown regions. This Tomoe had attracted a wealthy man to the point of a full grown possession, at least enough to pay for her considerable obligations no questions asked. But she didn't even behave like a remotely desirable female... So what the hell was her trick?

Tomoe sat cross-legged in a navy cloud of the wide pants of the warrior class. A black chest-plate was strapped over a grain-stitched cotton robe. Her hair was up in a bouncing ponytail, two strands of hair escaping the neatly knotted strap of white silk that held her hair out of her face and neck. A man's jacket from tightly woven silk was thrown over the pile of her meager bundles, the round sigils a stark contrast on black.

"I did that before I entered your service. This is just a list of items Ukon-san will need when she supervises this end of the long-time storage procedure."

Okasan cocked her head in surprise. She had told Kabuto-sama that the marriage rituals would take a couple of months at least, since no respectable woman would agree to travel to her intended until a lucky day in the horoscope approached, the celebration was prepared, proper clothing sewn, the agreed presents exchanged... but what she saw here proved her wrong again. Oh, how she hated not to have the last word in her own small kingdom. "Any storage-fees will be charged on your home-account... and don't you forget the Nanakusa-section of the storehouse that has to be cleared out, too."

"...by the end of the month." Tomoe agreed and continued writing. She had split her belongings into a list for storage, for selling and as presents or donations. She had given both her older sister and her lawyer a letter of attorney. The old lady would oversee the packing of the most valuable items and have them stored in the family deposit box.

Ukon would give presents to the last of the staff. She would contact vendors and transfer the revenue to the lawyer to pay for the later rates of rebuilding the store house within the Harada-homestead. The villagers would repair and modify the foundation for a standard-size container. Once it arrived, they would equip it with a traditional roof. Additionally, a state-of-the-art air conditioning would be powered by a tiny hydro-power station behind the ruins of the forge that would also supply the village with energy for limited domestic use and modern communications.

The container would house the rest of her belongings that couldn't be stored economically at the bank and it would demonstrate the unbroken interest of her clan. Tomoe was about to sign and seal the letter for the nearby village's major including the advanced payment made up from her last hard currency. The major would oversee the construction works and have a watchful eye on the installation afterwards. Tomoe folded up her paper work and placed the documents in a lacquered stationary box.

She put on the lid reverently and smiled tightly at her boss. "Do you need my signature for something, Okasan?" Tomoe expected that the news of her absence would be spread once she turned her back on her boss, and if it was just to protect the resort from vengeful visitors. The tale of the scary off-world warrior popping up from nowhere would keep her belongings safe if nothing else.

"Just one more time, Tomoe-chan." Okasan drew a document from her collar. She would get a rid of her most unruly servant once and for all. "We issued an agreement that Kabuto-sama," she bowed into Jango's direction, "buys your complete obligations and it's out of the resort's responsibility whenever or how he commercialises them."

"I see." Tomoe studied the bi-lingual contract calmly and checked with her own papers. "This, this and this belongs into the preparation of my debut which I won't take. Therefore the costs are not to be included."

"That's the advanced payment for the autumn dance promotion at the academy..."

"You will be granted refund by the end of the month since I was excluded by the head of the academy on a mutual basis and somebody else will take my place. It's in the contract with the academy. And those other items, they were not fabricated or delivered yet. Only the advance for the material is lost, not the full amount, and you used outdated values in the balancing factors of commodity prices. The gold prices are sagging due to interplanetary mining possibilities. Speaking of charts, which repurchase value would you suggest for my still frozen sen-ike-shares?"

While Kabuto-sama watched the women juggling numbers impartially or even bored, inside the helmet Jango listened intently to Boba's translation on the voice channel and remembered Oniro's remarks. His boy was dangling feet on the first floor. While he preferred his own contracts plain and simple, Jango had to admit that he had met Toydarians with less patience for financial finesse. Roz would have been proud of his choice of girl.

Tomoe ticked off a couple of other points, but Okasan's face didn't sag for real until she deducted the amount remaining on her home-account. Her gain of the contract value was cut in halves by Oniro's considerable refund. Until then, Okasan had admitted most minor points in the hope to gain control of her well filled account by the argument of monthly storage rates during her absence, now her servant emptied it to a black zero from one moment to the other.

"You might need a little pocket money wherever you go, my dear."

"That would be republic credits, not local currency. I would like to avoid the costs of another exchange." Another thought came to her mind. She had nearly missed it in the ruckus. "What about the costs of Oniro-sama and Kabuto-sama's stay?"

"They are charged on Oniro-sama's account as usual."

She had little difficulties to imagine Jango's croaked grin, but it would be bad style and not a good start for their relationship to charge the go-between on top of his discomfort and valiant efforts. "Cover that from my home-account instead. The rest shall be used to reduce my dept. Please ask your secretary for an advanced bill while I rewrite this."

Norio arched a brow. A moment ago, in Okasan's office, Kabuto-sama had offered about any sum, demonstrated potent wealth as well as poor style. Nevertheless, Tomoe was digging down to the last position for discounts. He had hoped that after some haggling she would somehow pull the remaining amount from her sleeve, throw it at Okasan and tell Kabuto-sama to leave her alone, but now she charged her own account ...when she didn't have to?

Tomoe rewrote the second sheets of the agreement with the clear letters of a seasoned accountant. After all the corrections, there were still nearly three thousand credits open which she didn't have. Not with the construction activities at the Harada-homestead.

"I agree that you transfer those obligations to Kabuto-sama," she affirmed in writing and passed the paperwork back to Okasan who in turn approached the armored 'guest' standing in polite distance of the desk. A credit chip and some paper changed hands. Then with a deep bow, Okasan moved past the armored bounty hunter and left. Norio was slow enough to follow his boss to witness the deeds of the mercenary following his purchase...

Jango handed the folded sheets back over the writing desk without a second look into them. A 'mother' selling her parentage for a handful of credits - he clearly preferred to be called a barbarian over being such a pervert. "I'd burn that right here, cyar'ika, but I don't trust your dar'buir. Please keep them save for us for as long as it is needed."

"Thanks." Tomoe placed the rinsed brush on a holder. She didn't notice that she had been clenching it before she took the documents.

"Are you packed already?" Jango inquired evenly.

"Just one more thing before I go to see Ukon-san." Tomoe put the folded sheets in the box with her jewelry and stood to her feet, moving over to a small stand in the alcove. She sorted out some decorative items, locked and lifted it off the shelf as if it rested more heavy on her hands than its size would suggest. "Don't worry. This will stay at the temple," she explained. If she died so far away from home, nobody would know what to do with the shrine. She couldn't face that option. "I have to leave now, but I'll ask a good person to take care of them in my absence."

He had expected that she would get emotional at one point. 'Here we go.' In the 360°-display, Jango made sure that Norio had closed the door from the outside before he took off the helmet. "Not a big issue, Tomoe, pack it in," he tried to ease her mind. Religion again. He simply had no clue of that.

"The family shrine needs to stay where their spirits feel at home... I... it would be my duty, but I have to follow my own path... maybe they will understand... I believe some of them will." She bit back her tears defiantly. "No need to pray in front of a shrine while I carry a goddess under my heart."

'Damn right.' – 'No cursing, Moro.' Jango reprimanded the little voice mechanically and pulled Tomoe into his embrace, their chest plates clanking. "You'll be alright, cyar'ika... what else did you pack... how about the robe you've worn at our first dinner?" he proposed.

"Won't need that where I go," came her quick answer.

'She's such a bad liar,' Jango recognized. "Who says that you can't wear it from time to time? I liked it a lot... and I haven't even seen you dance yet." He nudged his nose against hers, tipping her face up to kiss her gently. "Who's going to believe me if you don't bring proof?"

"Believe you... what?" He whispered it into her ear and Tomoe suppressed her laugh, slapping his chest plate with a low chuckle.

"Please add one set of formal clothing for you and summer robes for the three of us, ma'am," Jango pulled a straight face and replaced the helmet to inform Vau and Gilamar. He would give Tomoe a little privacy to say goodbye to Ukon and then they would be on their way.


Boba pushed the fairytale book from the alcove and his notepad into his little treasure of local clothing before they went to see aunt Ukon. Thankfully, his mom cried no more. She just outlined her intentions and went over her list of open points in unemotional voice then passed Ukon the stationary box and bowed.

Boba had taken it casually - of course mom was coming home with them - until he saw Ukon lose all color underneath her makeup. With a little shriek, the old lady quickly raised her sleeve in front of her face. Hey, dad didn't bomb the resort flat - they were just doing the decent thing?! He listened transfixed to his mother's low words, insuring Ukon it would be alright.

"You can do it, Onesan. For me, you can. It doesn't matter to me any longer. I don't matter any longer, only the next generation does. I want to safe-keep what they need - even if that means I have to part from some fading stuff."

Boba padded over and plopped down beside his aunt's knee. He didn't know what she was grieving for, but he would hug her better. Always worked.

"Change of rules?" Ukon finally shook her head and stroked Boba's cheek. "Again?" That wasn't fair. They had worked so hard for younger sister's debut. Tomoe was a beautiful, talented young artist who should be cherished, stay at home and never even think of bloodshed. And her little one, he deserved to grow up safely into a gentle giant. But Ukon knew from painful experience that the resort couldn't grant them safety anymore.

"Some rules change, others – never. The one that held us together, my honored older sister, it now drives us apart." Needless to say that it was unlikely to see Ukon-san again in this lifetime. The old lady had made her a new being and she had kept her alive in return. Now their association was suddenly over and Tomoe didn't know what to say. She bowed and inched backwards to the door on her knees.

It was a weak consolation, but Ukon didn't want to let her leave without the words, "Farewell, Tomoe-san, Boba-chan." The boy clung to her neck briefly, and then rushed out to follow his mother. Ukon locked her eyes on the box with the Harada family crest sitting on her desk. Later, after she had delivered all those letters, she would voice the grief that Tomoe had to bury deep inside. Because that was her destiny. The small one's happiness at his father's arrival gave her hope and helped her to heal her heart.

"Farewell, Onesan." Tomoe slid the door close in front of her before she rose and walked the garden path back to the Nanakusa-Cottage. Ten minutes later, the chauffer arrived with a helper to pick up their luggage and take them out to the landing area.

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