Phoenix Feathers: Curator of the Dragon Gate

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Hard Dog Life

If everything was sunshine and rainbows, then we’d have nothing to work for.

“(And all that happened while I was asleep?),” Andrew neighed, “(That’s so stupid.)”

“(Tell me about it.),” Kiki flopped around at the feet of the Unicorn, laughing I assure you, “(Humans sure say the silliest things.)”

“(So true. Don’t you agree, Inukami?),” Andrew looked at me.

“(I must be going crazy.),” I whined, “(I’m not hearing this…)”

“(What’s wrong with him?)”

“(Don’t know. He’s been acting like that since we found him.),” Kiki shrugged like Leo had done a few times before.

“(Did the kidnapper do something to you, Inukami?)”

“(I don’t know… Ah, why am I talking to you! I can’t understand what you’re saying!),” I shouted covering my head.

“(Maybe he has gone mad…),” Andrew sighed.

Okay, so I lied. I wish I was telling the truth. Ever since that blackout I had, I’ve been having trouble believing what I’ve been feeling and hearing. I know that I wanted to know what they were saying, but this is a little too much. ‘I’m not an Inukami’ was the only thing that I was sure about. But now that certainty now seemed to be slipping away from me.

“Kiki, it’s almost time,” Karen came for Kiki.

“(Can I have my brushings first?),” Kiki said as the door shut itself, only to reopen almost imediately after.

“There you are Leo.”

“(Dad?),” I perked up. My parents were standing at the door. I was so happy to see them I couldn’t help, but practically attack them.

“No! Down! Leo, Down!” Dad spanked me. I whined and dropped back down to all fours.

“Gary. He’s just happy to see us, is all,” Mom confronted Dad.

“We trained him better than to act like that,” Dad scoffed. I had forgotten that Dad trained Leo to be more of a throw rug than an actual pet. “Now Leo, You’ve got a lot of work to do back at Pop’s place.”

“But dear, he needs his rest.”

“Looks to me like he’s had plenty,” Dad looped a rope leash around my neck, “Now come on Leo.”

“(What’s with the leash? *Gag*)”

“Here we are,” Dad said under his breath as he turned onto the rocky driveway. Pine trees lined themselves all the way down my Grandad’s driveway. We passed by his pond that was filled with an assortment of small fish. I saw a catfish breach the waters as we drove along. As strange as it sounds, it did look kind of tasty. I was ready to play.

“Down,” Dad snapped. I didn’t care to listen to him. Hey, he may be my father, but I still have my own free will, more or less. I still had that innate loyalty, but it only works for Jade. I think…

“Hello son,” Grandad waved from his front porch. If wasn't for the wheelchair and missing leg, you'd swear that he was just a typical farmer relaxing on his patio. I didn’t even bother waiting for the car to come to a complete stop. I leaped out of the open window and headed straight for Grandad.

“(Grandad!),” I barked at him, “(Thank God!)”

“Whoa Sit,” Grandad said, for some reason, I followed his direction, “That wasn’t very smart of you Leo. Jumping out of a moving vehicle.”

“(But Grandad, I…)”

“I know that you’re anxious to get to work, but you know how my son feels about you acting so rashly.”

“Dad, are you alright,” my dad ran from his car, “Leo didn’t surprise you or anything did he?”

“My heart’s perfectly fine Gary,” Grandad laughed like the old days, “Going to take a lot more than that to surprise me.”

“That’s good,” Dad sighed, then gave me a look that made that root cellar in the Crazy Plant Mansion look like a spa getaway. I ran for the comfort of Grandad’s lap.

“There now Leo,” Grandad pet me to calm down.

“Get off of him,” Dad was about to spank me again, but Grandad stopped him.

“I swear you’re spoiling that Inukami,” Dad scoffed, “It’s no wonder he’s been acting up.”

“He’s old. Let him act up if he wants to,” Grandad stroked my head a little more, “You and I both know how long Inukami live for.”

“He should be slowing down, not acting up.”

“Call it a mid-life crisis then,” Grandad laughed, “Any luck finding Tyrone?”

“None,” Dad sighed, “And I’ve got the whole fire department and the police looking for him.”

“Even your mother is looking,” Grandad backed up so that he could wheel his way into the house, “Alright then… Come Leo. We’ve got some chores for you to do.”

“(Yes, Grandad.),” I barked and followed him inside.

You’d think that Grandad would be more concerned about the fact that I was missing. I was more concerned about how Grandad would manage without “Leo’s” help. I was also slightly concerned about where the real Leo disappeared to, but there wasn’t much that I could do about it then.

Grandad did something that I never thought that he would do. He moved to a window and watched as his son walked to his car. As soon as he saw Dad drive away, he huffed a sigh and stayed put. He didn’t get straight to work like he always did.

“(Grandad? Aren’t there chores that need to be done?)”

“You can relax now, Leo. He’s gone.”

“(But Grandad…),” I whined.

“I know that we’re behind on our work, but you just got out of the clinic. Relax for a bit or else you’ll be useless with the real work that needs to be done.”

Grandad made us stay put for another hour or so, before he finally decided that I was ready to get to work. I swear, I’ve never been so bored before in my life. Even one of Mrs. Lawrence’s most boring history lectures gave me more satisfaction.

“Let’s start with something easy to see if you’re really up for it,” Grandad scanned the backyard. His eyes landed on one area in particular, “Ah, how about we start with them little buggers.”

Giant rats were nibbling away at the seedlings that Grandma had planted not even a week ago.

“(Hey that’s Grandma’s garden!),” I went after them.

“Alright, scare them away with a good Guardian Roar.”

I can’t do that…

“What wrong?”

“(Can’t be that hard.),” I said to myself before yelling, “(ROOOOAAAARRRR!!!!!)”

The rat screamed and ran away all the way into the brush. It was hillariously tripping over itself all the way.

“(Hey, I did it. That wasn’t so hard. Yeah, you better run!)”

A much bigger rat Yokai, known as a Tesso, jumped back out of the woods, “(Who do you think are, scaring my children like that?)”

“(Doesn’t matter who I am),” I growled at the Tesso, “(Keep your children away from my Grandma’s garden! She worked hard to plant those!)”

“(Gives you no right to scare my children.)”

“(Go away or I’ll roast you alive.),” I bluffed.

“(I like to see you try, Pup.),” it came after me with its huge fangs.

“(I’m warning you.),” I tried to dodge, but I forgot about my tail, “(YEOUCH!!!!)”

“(I knew it! You don’t taste like that other Inukami at all.),” the Tesso took another bloody bite out of my tail, “(There’s no fire in your blood and certainly not your belly.)”

“(Ow! Stop it!),” I yelled, it wouldn’t release my tail.

“(Oh, Bite me.),” it snapped on my tail at least three or four dozen more times.

“(Fine then!),” I bit down as hard as I could. The Tesso screamed in pain and unlike most Tesso it also released my tail. I took this moment to use Leo’s special technique. I pushed as hard as I could with my front paws to lift the thief straight into the air. It was surprisingly light for such a fat rat. I spun as fast as I could. By pure luck, I flung it against an oak that grew near the Grandma’s garden. I dug my front paws in the dirt before I stopped.

“(Where did you learn to do that?),” the Tesso hissed, “(that was stronger than the other Inukami.)”

“(I’m the one who taught that other Inukami.),” I snapped my jaws.

“(You’ll pay for that!),” the Tesso hissed back.

“(I’m just getting warmed up),” I lied. It’s like the Tesso said, I couldn’t feel any Fire in my belly. Not that I knew what that felt like. I was hoping that the Tesso would still fall for my lie. Its expression of fear was quickly turned to an evil glare. I didn’t back down for a second. I wasn’t intimidated. I stood my ground.

“(But who’s to protect your little rats if I should roast you alive.),” I growled, trying to look as menacing as possible.

The Tesso growled at my resolve and ran for the safety of the woods, “(I won't forget this Mutt!)”

“(And don’t you dare come back!)”

“Did you have to be so rough on it, Leo,” Grandad asked as I went back to his side.

“(Yeah Grandad.),” I said as he pet me. It was the best thing that happened since Jade turned me into an Inukami. I actually won a fight and I got to be rewarded for it. I almost wanted a cookie again. No, I should have been demanding one. After all, I won the fight! After a hard battle, I deserved at least one cookie!… but a bit of praise and a scratch behind the ears would do too…

“But why didn’t you use your fire attacks,” he asked, I tensed up. I stupidly smiled at him as I laughed a little bit, “were you trying to show off?”

“(Yeah, that’s it.),” I nodded.

“Well, if you can truly do so well in combat,” Grandad grinned, “then, how about we get some real chores started.”

“(Yeah, we have a lot that we need to get done.),” I wagged my tail, “(Let’s try herding some of the sheep next. They still need to be-)”

“Doesn’t that hurt,” he asked.

“(Does what hurt?),” I took a look behind me. My tail was turning red with blood. I forgot that the Tesso took bites out of it. I was bleeding all over the place. I didn’t even remember how painful it was until he mentioned it.

“There we go,” Tenma Smith said as he finished making an unprofessional cast for his toes. It only consisted of the minim amount of bandages and one of those popsicle sticks. It was a very crude design, but it would have to do.

“I can’t believe that the Radical Reaper is here. It took him long enough,” Tenma grinned, relighting that cigar with his blood on it, “The one who takes bad little Yokai into the Mu Kimon. Ha! If that were true then he should have taken me the day I was born.”

The vibrations in Tenma’s pocket caught him off guard. He nearly fell off the seat and lost his Cigar to the floor. Stomping on it in anger, Tenma had to reach into his pocket. He took out his cellphone and answered it sweetly.

"Hello, Tenma Smith speaking!"

“Hello, Tenma…”

“…Oh, it’s you,” Tenma groaned to himself.

“Is it done,” the voice on the other end of the line asked.

“Yeah,” Tenma smiled again, “I did my part… Boss.

Tenma nearly gagged at the last word that came out of his mouth. He did not like being under somebody else. It was beneath him, yet he had no choice in the matter.

“You don’t sound sure of yourself.”

“Don’t underestimate me,” Tenma growled, “I did enough that Catherine Lawrence will never remember her precious boys again.”

“What of her last name?”

“What of it?”

“It’s still Lawrence.”

“Unlike blood, humans will take on what ever title suits them best,” Tenma laughed, “very much like you do, oh Descendent of the Third Founding Father.”

“Hold your tongue,” the man on the line snapped, “what if someone overhears you.”

“Believe me Third,” Tenma grinned, as his ears twitched, “They wont overhear unless I wish for them to.”

“Well, gather the others. We will be having a meeting tonight.”

"A meeting,” Tenma laughed a little, ”you and I both know that all Eight of you haven’t been in the same place for over-Gah!"

Tenma could feel his heart wrench. As if a thousand spears were shot at it all at once. Tenma’s crude cast shattered itself at Tenma’s sudden shock. Tenma’s phone would have done the same if he hadn’t dropped it. When the pain had stopped, Tenma reached for the phone. He could hear the other end of the line yelling.

“Don’t forget who holds your mortal life in his hands,” the voice said, as Tenma recovered, “now tell the others to gather. I’ll deal with whoever doesn’t come personally.”

"Yes, Sir,” Tenma growled like a wild animal as he snapped the flip shut, ”Damned crazy human."

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