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Birth of an Angel
By Coutuva


Well, here's the next episode!! This is, as with the
previous Series, based heavily on events and situations
from the preceeding stories, which are available on my
Web Site.

As always, C&C is anticipated, accepted, and appreciated.
Once again, my thanks to Kunoichi, whose "Ranma nibun no
ichi" Lemon Series inspired this "Paralell Universe".
And a very special thanks to Magic Knight Kiyone, who
helped give Hitomi a last name.

All original Ranma1/2 Characters and Backstory Copyright
Rumiko Takahashi, and are used without permission.

Please Enjoy.

The Birth of an Angel

Hitomi sighed gently as Kikyo brushed out her long red
tresses, thoroughly enjoying the relaxing experience. Their new
friend, Neko, jumped into her lap and curled up, purring contentedly.
"Ne, Kikyo... looks like someone else wants attention,
too." Hitomi commented, stroking the cat's back gently.
"Hai... she really seems to like you, Hitomi-chan. It's
obvious she has good taste." Kikyo noted, smiling.
"You're too much." the redhead countered, reaching back
and swatting her friend's knee.
Kikyo laughed at the attempt, then lifted Hitomi's hair
aside and blew a cool stream of air across the back of her neck.
"Ohhhh!" Hitomi shivered, crossing her arms over her
chest. "You rat!" she chided, turning to Kikyo and shooting her
a look.
"Heh heh... Never strike out at someone who knows your
'spots'." she grinned, handing Hitomi the brush. "Okay, hold
this a minute while I tie you." she instructed, gathering the
rich red locks in her hands. "So, what would you like to do
tonight? It's your turn to make the plans, you know."
"Hai. I want to take you to see 'The Game'... You've been
home for a couple of weeks, and we haven't gone out to celebrate
yet." Hitomi replied, happily. Lifting the cat from her lap, she
held it up before her face. "What do you think Neko? Should I
treat her to a show tonight?"
The cat looked back at Hitomi and meowed, it's response
sounding very much like a 'Hai'.
Hitomi grinned and turned back to Kikyo. "See? Even Neko
thinks I owe you a night out." she insisted, winking.
"I guess I'm stuck, ne? Okay you two... you win. I'll go
catch a shower, and we can hit the 9:00 show."
"Great! I'll go pick a dress while you do, then I'll jump
in after you."
"Hai... see you in a minute." Kikyo responded, finishing
off Hitomi's braid. "Too bad... I think this was my best pattern
yet." she pouted, sitting back and looking over her handiwork.
"Well... I just might give you a chance to better it...
after the movie." Hitomi replied, winking mischeivously at her
"I like the sound of that." Kikyo smiled, rising from her
seat. "Hold that thought." she added, turning with a little extra
flair as she headed toward the bathroom.
"Mmmm... she's terrific, isn't she Neko? Hitomi sighed,
looking back at the cat curled up in her lap. "Well, I have to find
a dress now... what do you think? Long or short tonight?" she asked,
scratching the cat's head.
The cat lifted it's head and looked back at her, then yowled
"Hai! Long it is. Thanks, Neko-chan!" Hitomi smiled, and
lifted the fluffy feline from her knee. Rising, she wandered smiling
inTo the bedroom.
Neko, meantime, followed her up the hall as far as the
bathroom, peeking at the door itself to see if it was closed. Noting
that it was slightly ajar, the cat pushed it open and wandered in,
turning to nose the door shut behind itself.
Looking around, the feline spotted a gap in the shower
curtains, and through it could see Kikyo showering herself. Walking
toward the gap, the animal stopped, set it's sights and hunkered down
for a pounce.
Soundlessly, it leapt up over the tubside and landed directly
behind Kikyo.
"Eh..? Neko! What are you doing, you silly... Erk!" she
began, but almost swallowed her tongue as Neko suddenly became a
stark-naked Shampoo.
"Nihao, Kikyo-san!" Shampoo waved, flashing her trademark
pixie-like grin. "I'm really happy to see you again!" she added,
hugging the stunned Kikyo.
Kikyo, for her part, almost passed out. First off, she was
confronted by a woman who used to be a cat, and second, that same
woman had a body like a goddess and was standing naked in her
tub... with her. Making matters even worse was the hug she was now
enveloped in, as she could feel Shampoo's nakedness against her own
soap-covered body, and the sensation was maddeningly erotic.
"Ah... Ah... Sha... Sham-poo..." she finally managed to
spit out, once her brain finished rebooting.
"Hai! I came back with Mu Lin. I'm sorry about scaring you,
but I had to wait for the right time. Hitomi-chan doesn't know what
happened, so I had to be discreet." Shampoo explained, stepping back
from Kikyo, who quickly tried to hide her flushed face.
Kikyo looked back at the Amazon, taking in her now wet,
soapy sexiness, and shook her head. "Discreet... right." she
thought to herself, trying to stop staring. Even so, she couldn't
help but notice that Shampoo was a natural purple.
"D-Daijobu. Lin-san... I didn't know you had a curse." Kikyo
finally recovered, forcing her gaze to the Amazon's face.
"Hai... I got it when I was in training to defeat Ailen.
My Great Grandmother took me to Jusenkyo. Anyway, when I change back,
I have no clothes... and all my things are here from before the China
trip." Shampoo explained casually, still making absolutely no effort
to cover herself up.
"Ah... that reminds me... why are you here? I thought you'd
stay in Japan." Kikyo asked, fighting the temptation to ask Shampoo
if she wanted her back scrubbed.
"I can't stay there anymore. I was only staying there in the
first place to try to get Ailen back, and now that he's only a
Kikyo almost lost her footing at Shampoo's words. "He's...
what?" she blurted, grabbing Shampoo's shoulders.
"He's a Spirit now... He's still dead, but has come back as
a Spirit to be with his family. You know that... he went to you
in the hospital." Shampoo explained, regarding Kikyo bemusedly.
"Hai... I know... but I thought he went back... I didn't
know he... Hmmm." Kikyo responded, suddenly looking very thoughtful.
"Okay, it doesn't matter, I guess. Ay! Lin-san! I just remembered
that Hitomi is coming in here after she picks her dress... You better
change back to a cat!" Kikyo erked, flinging aside the shower curtain.
Shampoo nodded and slid past Kikyo into the water stream,
and Kikyo felt her knees go weak as the voluptuous Amazon rubbed
against her on the way by.
"Ohhh... Kikyo-san. This feels so good after being a cat all
this time..." Shampoo commented wistfully as she soaked up the
warmth. Watching the Amazon luxuriating in the water was torture for
Kikyo, but she valiantly distracted herself by urging Shampoo to hurry.
"Ano, Lin-san... hiyaku! There's a cup on the sink!" Kikyo
urged, moving aside so Shampoo could get out.
"I will stay as a cat until we can talk later... just don't
hide my things." Shampoo stated, stepping from the tub and grabbing
the cup. As she filled it up with cold water, she turned to the
still somewhat shocked Kikyo and smiled. "You need a bigger tub,
Kikyo-san." she smirked, then dumped the cold water over herself.
The white cat shook itself, looked up at Kikyo and meowed,
then turned and headed for the door. Using a paw to pull it open,
the cat then left the room.
Kikyo watched it go, then slowly pulled the shower curtain
closed and breathed a huge sigh of relief... not only because
Shampoo was back to a cat, but because she knew if the Amazon had
stuck around any longer, she probably would have had a heart attack.
As she finished up her shower, Kikyo wondered how she was
going to "introduce" Shampoo to Hitomi... If Hitomi remembered
anything about the scene at the Center, then the two would likely
fight... but if she didn't, then Shampoo could be passed off as an
old friend.
Another thing that bothered her was that having the Amazon
living with them would drive her nuts, especially given Shampoo's
apparently 'uninhibited' nature.
Sighing, Kikyo stepped from the shower and rinsed it, setting
everything out for Hitomi's turn. Just as she finished drying the
floor, and was bent over picking up the towel, Hitomi stepped through
the door.
"Arigato, Kiko-chan!" she grinned, walking up and patting
Kikyo's bare butt affectionately. "Just what I needed." she added,
smirking happily.
"Now who's the rotten one?" Kikyo replied, face reddening.
"I know... I can't help it. You bring it out in me."
"Don't blame your active hormones on me, Hitomi-chan... I have
trouble just keeping up to you." Kikyo admonished, playfully.
"All you need is more practice." Hitomi quipped, shedding
her tank-t and panties. "So, any time you want some..." she added,
stepping up to Kikyo and taking her face in her hands. "Just let me
know." she winked, then kissed Kikyo full on the lips.
Kikyo felt her knees starting to buckle again as she returned
the kiss passionately, then finally had to step back from her
girlfriend's embrace.
"If you keep that up..." Kikyo began, breathlessly. "We'll
never make the show." she grinned, turning the now flush-faced redhead
around and removing her hair ribbons.
"And this is a bad thing?" Hitomi replied, setting her hands
on her shapely hips.
"Of course not... I'm just looking forward to going out with
you." Kikyo responded, finally finishing her task. "Okay. Get in
there, so I can go get dressed." she instructed, slapping Hitomi's rear
as the redhead stepped into the bathtub.
"Ow! And you tell *me* I'm rotten!" Hitomi complained, rubbing
her backside.
Kikyo could only laugh in response. Wrapping a towel around
herself, she leaned into the tub and kissed Hitomi's cheek gently.
"There. Feel better?"
"Much. See you in a minute." Hitomi grinned, sliding the
curtain shut.

Kikyo dressed quickly, hoping that while Hitomi was in the
bathroom, she could find Shampoo and get at least one of her
questions answered.
Heading to the kitchen, she poured a glass of water and
quickly nuked it. When it was finally ready, she tucked one of
Shampoo's dresses under her arm and went looking for Neko.
Neko, meanwhile, had curled up on the corner of the couch
and drifted off to sleep. Kikyo quietly walked up to the animal,
and before it knew what hit it, she poured the water all over it.
"Aiyah!! You could have warned me, Kikyo-san!" Shampoo
protested, shaking off the water.
"Gomen ne... there wasn't time." Kikyo explained, handing
Shampoo her dress.
"What do you want? I was having a nice nap..." the Amazon
asked, yawning and stretching herself.
Kikyo's cheeks immediately flushed, which Shampoo noted with
a smirk. Standing up, the Amazon slinked into her dress, deliberately
not buttoning it up afterwards.
Kikyo gave herself a mental shake and closed her eyes for a
second, hoping she could make it through what she wanted to say.
"Lin-san, I want to know what your plans are... especially
since right now there's only one way you can stay here." she finally
stated, regaining her composure.
"I have none... like I told you in there, I have nowhere to
go. After Mu Lin gave the body back to Hitomi and left me with her,
I was going to just wait until things sorted themselves out. But...
I've never been a cat for more than a few days before now, and it's
bothering me to have to stay one. That's why I finally told you."
"Well, that leaves us with a problem... how are we going to
tell Hitomi, then? She doesn't know about any of that, and..."
"Ailen..." Shampoo abruptly breathed, her face simultaneously
dropping and flushing beet red as she stared gape-mouthed past Kikyo.
Kikyo swallowed audibly as she heard the rustle of a towel
behind her, and turned slowly to see a wet otoko-Hitomi standing in
the hall. The towel he had been wearing lay at his feet, and his
arms were fixed in front of him as if he had been holding the towel
up. His face bore a look of shock.
"Anata...?" Kikyo ventured, reaching toward him.
"Kikyo-chan... Who is she? And what did she mean, 'gave
the body back to Hitomi'?" he asked, eyeing her questioningly.
"Hitomi-chan... you had better sit down." Kikyo sighed
resignedly, hanging her head. "We have... a lot to tell you."

"I'm a what?!?" Hitomi blurted, looking back at Kikyo and
Shampoo with wide eyes.
"I don't know what to call it, exactly, but it's true.
You're a combination of the souls of Mu Lin and Ranma Saotome, and
your body is the one that used to be Ranma's female side." Kikyo
reiterated, carefully.
"That is why you have no memories... you only came to be a
little while ago. It's not from amnesia." Shampoo added,
earnestly. "Watch this." she added, picking up a coaster from the
coffee table. Without warning, she threw it at Hitomi, who caught
it in front of her stunned face without even thinking about it.
"Have you ever taken martial arts training?" Shampoo asked
before the redhead could react.
"Ano... Never... that I know of."
"Only a Martial Artist could catch something thrown that
hard and that suddenly. You got that from Ailen." she indicated,
"Hai... and I've seen you do things that only someone like
that could do. And Saotome Ranma is a Master." Kikyo indicated,
Hitomi nodded numbly, still staring wide eyed at Kikyo and
Shampoo, her face a picture of shocked disbelief. Not only had her
entire world had just fallen apart, but she was being told about it
in part by a woman that used to be her pet cat. Even for someone as
strong as her, this was a bit much to take. Slowly, her knees gave
out, and she ended up cow-sitting in the middle of the floor, totally
"Spirits? Martial Artist...?" she repeated, slowly.
Kikyo instantly panicked, thinking they had just made a
grievous mistake.
"Anata...? Are you okay?" she blurted, kneeling beside her
now speechless lover.
Hitomi simply looked back at Kikyo, face expressionless.
Slowly, her eyes closed, then opened again. Wordlessly, she stood up
and started to walk toward the bedroom. A few minutes later, she
came back out wearing her green China-mini and an arm bracelet.
Kikyo watched her worriedly, deeply fearful of what she was
about to do.
"Hitomi...? Anata...?" she ventured, hesitantly.
"I... need to go for a walk..." Hitomi replied absently,
picking up her purse and heading for the door.
"Hitomi..." Kikyo whined pitifully, her heart sinking.
Hearing the plea in Kikyo's voice, Hitomi hesitated for a
second, the impulse to run to her hurting lover with a hug almost
overriding her need to think. She glanced back at Kikyo for a
second, then turned away, eyes closed and head down.
"Gomen." she whispered, and stepped out the door.

Hitomi wandered the dark streets aimlessly for what seemed
like only a few minutes, her mind whirling as she tried to sort out
what she had just been told. Curious, she looked at her watch to
discover that she had been out for five hours... it was almost four
am. Cursing under her breath, she looked about the unfamiliar
street for a phone booth, intent on calling a cab.
Finally, she spotted a phone on the side of a building about
half a block away. Crossing the street, she strode off toward it, the
clack of her heels on the sidewalk echoing from the building walls along
the empty street.
At the booth, she shoved her phone card in the slot, and
flipped through the directory to find a cab. Just as she was about
to dial, her acute senses picked up the presence of five people
approaching, and trying none-too-successfully to be sneaky. A
resigned sigh escaped her lips as she started to punch the numbers,
hoping they'd opt to leave her alone. She wasn't in the mood for
Just then, an arm shot past her head and hit the hang-up
button on the cradle.
"Hey, whatja do that for?" Hitomi snarled, turning to
face a smirking young man, about a head taller than her and
desperately in need of a bath.
"Hey, China-doll... If you need a ride, We'd be happy to
give ya one..." the punk said to a chorus of chuckles from his
Hitomi rolled her eyes and flipped him a "California Howdy",
then turned back toward the phone. "Don't make me laugh." she
sneered, lifting the receiver.
"Hey, broad... Looks like you need a lesson in manners."
the punk snarled, starting to lose his cool.
Hitomi huffed out loud. "Look who's talking." she snapped,
starting to punch the number in again.
"Don't get smart with me, bitch!" the punk growled,
grabbing Hitomi's shoulder and spinning her toward him. She glared
up at him with her patented "You're dead" look.
"Oh, did you pick the *wrong* night to piss me off...!"
she spat, and despite being less than a foot away from him, brought
her left foot up and smashed the right side of his face, laying him
out on the ground. In a blur, she was in the air and kicking out
at the head of the next closest punk. Using his head as a
springboard, she was on top of the third before he knew what hit
him, unloading a rapid combination in his stunned face. Leaping
over his shoulders as he started to fall backwards, she used the
momentum to fling him at the fourth, sending them both sprawling
into the street.
Touching down a few feet away from the last man standing,
she slipped her purse off her shoulder and tossed it at him. As
the shocked punk caught it with both hands, he looked up in time
to see Hitomi in midair, fist headed for his face.
As he crumpled to the pavement, Hitomi retrieved her purse
with a huff and walked back to the phone booth, casually
straightening her dress. Glancing back at the pile of human
wreckage, she shook her head. "Huh... I guess I do know Martial
Arts." she shrugged to herself, picking up the phone book.
As she looked down the huge list of cab companies again,
her mind drifted back once more to the conversation that started
everything. This time, replaying it through her thoughts brought
a tear to her large blue eyes, as the real meaning of it all
sank in.
"Hell, I'm not even a real person... just some collection
of used parts." she thought, disgustedly.
Slapping the phone book shut and grabbing the card out of
the phone, she turned and stepped over the sprawled, moaning body
beside her, then slowly headed back off down the street.

Kikyo paced the floor of the apartment anxiously, as she
had since shortly after Hitomi left, her face a mask of worry.
"Gad, Lin-san... it's four in the morning... where is she?
Why isn't she back yet?" she whined, nervously.
"Like I said... imagine being told all that. She always
thought she was a regular person... just with no memory. Now she
finds out she's a... what's the word? Oh, a zombie." Shampoo
reminded, thoughtfully.
"Ay! She's not a zombie! She's a person! She's just a
'unique' person, that's all." Kikyo shot back, stunned at
Shampoo's comparison. "That poor girl... she must be completely
destroyed. We shouldn't have told her, Lin-san... she may always
have wondered, but at least she'd be home right now." she
continued, regretfully.
"No. It is always better to be honest. She would
probably have found out on her own, then you would be up the
paddle for sure." Shampoo countered, firmly.
"I'm going after her... she's out there alone, and dressed
pretty... sexy. She might get in trouble." Kikyo asserted
abruptly, heading for the hall closet.
"Kuso... anyone who gets her mad will be in trouble.
Including you, Kikyo-san. Let her alone... she needs time to sort
this all out. Just like Ailen." Shampoo noted, pointing at Kikyo.
"He used to go off and think a lot, too." she added, somewhat
"But... I'm worried about her. And... and I'm afraid she
might do something... stupid." Kikyo protested, her own words
frightening her even more.
"Baka ne! Don't get so worked up! She will be fine...
You just have to give her time. If we don't hear from her by
morning, then we will go look." Shampoo chided, losing her
"H... Hai. I guess you're right." Kikyo acquiesced,
wandering over to the couch and landing heavily in it. "I'm still
worried about her, though... and I wish she was here 'sorting it
out', instead of going out on the streets at night." she added,
"It will be fine... Ailen can take care of him... er;
herself. She'll be back tomorrow." Shampoo encouraged, smiling.
"I wish I had your optimism, Lin-san." Kikyo replied,
wiping her cheeks.
"I wish I did, too..." Shampoo thought to herself,

Hitomi sat alone in the otherwise empty donut shop,
staring absently at her reflection in the large glass window.
Before her sat the coffee she had ordered upon entering, now long
gone cold.
Sighing, she pushed the cup away from herself, not even
really interested in it. Resting her chin in her hands, she
closed her eyes for a moment, trying to concentrate on something
besides the creeping depression threatening to take over her
Unfortunately, despite her best efforts, an overwhelming
feeling of sadness gradually washed over her, and she began to
Opening her eyes for a moment and glancing toward her image
in the glass again, she was struck by the irony that before her was
a representation of her life... a thin reflection of reality.
Burying her face in her arms, she finally surrendered to
the onslaught of tears.
Behind the counter, the waitress shook her head in pity,
feeling for the redhead she had been watching for the last couple
of hours. She knew instantly that the girl was troubled, but chose
to let her alone, somehow sensing the girl wanted it that way.
Now, watching the girl crying into her folded arms was just
too much for her to take. Grabbing a pot from the coffee machine
and a rag from the counter, she headed over to Hitomi.
"Can I help you with something? Is there someone I can call
for you?" she asked gently, walking up beside the sobbing Chinese
Hitomi raised her tear-soaked face to see who was speaking,
and immediately added an embarrassed flush to her already reddened
"Do you speak English, dear?" the waitress asked quietly,
setting her rag down and offering Hitomi a tissue.
"H... Hai. I do." she replied sheepishly, accepting the
offering and wiping her face.
"Would you like some more coffee? My treat." the waitress
asked pleasantly, noting Hitomi hadn't touched her last one.
"Thanks... I could use it about now." Hitomi sniffed,
taking her mug and handing it to the woman. As she did, she noted
that the waitress was a nice looking woman, probably close to 30
years old, and she possessed a disarming nature. Physically, she
was slightly larger than Hitomi herself, but then again, most
Caucasians were. Hitomi also noticed her warm, caring smile, a
feature which instantly endeared her to the anguished redhead.
The waitress changed Hitomi's mug for a new one, and
returned it full of fresh, hot coffee. Hitomi flashed her a weak
smile as she took it, and immediately sipped at it.
"Is it okay? It's just black." the woman asked,
"It is. Thank you very much." Hitomi responded, bowing
"My name is Carole, and I thought you could use some
help... is everything okay now?"
"Kobanwa, Carole... I'm Hitomi Seirei. I'm very pleased
to meet you, and things are about as good as they're going to get,
I'm afraid." Hitomi answered, sadly.
"Oh... sorry to hear that. Can I ask what happened?"
"Ano... let's call it 'family troubles'." Hitomi responded,
again smiling weakly.
"Did you have a fight with your husband? He didn't hit you,
I hope..." Carole asked, gasping at her own question.
Hitomi had to grin at that remark. "No, I'm not married."
she indicated, shaking her head.
"Sorry... I never was good at these things. Do you want to
talk about it? I've got some time before shift change."
Hitomi looked up at the woman for a moment, then nodded an
affirmative. "Thank you, Carole... I'd like that. If it's not
going to get you in trouble."
"No problem... I own the place. I don't usually work
nights, but my girl phoned in sick at the last minute." she
smiled in response, sliding into the opposing seat.
Hitomi smiled again, knowing exactly what she meant from
the days when she started at the Daycare.
Before either of them realized it, they had chatted away
the rest of the shift, and the morning staff began to filter in to
start their day. After excusing herself to assist in the setups,
Carole returned with her hair down, uniform draped over her arm,
and purse in hand.
"Well, that's it for me. I have to head home now,
Hitomi... my daughter is going to be up soon, and I'm walking."
she indicated, pleasantly. "It's been wonderful talking to you,
and I hope you're feeling better."
"Hai. I am. Thank you for spending the time with me."
Hitomi replied, rising and then bowing to her new friend. "Chotto
Mattei... did you say you're walking?" she noted, glancing out
the window. "It's still a bit dark."
"No problem... I do it every day, and it's not far."
Carole responded, unconcerned.
"May I walk you home? I wouldn't be able to just let you
walk home alone in the dark... I was accosted earlier, myself."
Hitomi asked, her voice indicating her concern.
"Well, if you want... I just don't want to trouble you."
"I would consider it a great favor."
"Well, in that case, how could I refuse? Let's go out
the front." Carole smiled, realizing she wasn't going to talk
Hitomi out of it.
"Hai. Lead off, Carole-san." Hitomi grinned, waving her
toward the door.
Less than twenty minutes later, they arrived outside a
nicely restored brownstone, and Carole started up the steps. It
took her a few to notice that Hitomi hadn't left the sidewalk.
"Oh... You're not coming in?" Carole blinked, turning
and regarding Hitomi questioningly.
"Not unless you really want me to. I was only concerned
with your getting home safely." Hitomi replied, smiling.
"C'mon... I'll fix you a breakfast, and we'll see about
getting you back home, too." she responded, waving the redhead
up the steps.
"Hai. I'm coming." Hitomi stated, the mention of her
home suddenly reminding her of the reason she was not there. For
a few precious hours, she had actually managed to forget about
her troubles.
Inside the tastefully decorated house, Hitomi sat in the
kitchen sipping a tea as she waited for Carole to get her daughter
up. In her mind, their conversation of earlier played back, in
particular the details of Carole's family.
Hitomi found it sad that Carole had been largely turned
away by her family over having had a child out of wedlock, and then
her having to raise the child alone, with absolutely no support.
The situation reminded her of the fact that she was in a similar
position, but mainly because of her unique 'birth'.
Glancing down, she saw her image in the surface of the tea
in her cup, and sighed heavily.
"Funny... you look normal. I think you act normal... yet
you're not, are you?" she asked the rippling image, half expecting
it to answer. "Hell, you don't even know for sure what you are,
do you?" she added, sadly.
Setting the cup down, Hitomi rubbed her eyes, trying to
keep them from tearing up again. As she did, she could hear a
buzzing whine coming from down the hallway, accompanied by the
animated chatter of mother and daughter.
In spite of her inner sadness, Hitomi still smiled at the
Just then, Carole stepped into the kitchen, followed a few
seconds later by a powered wheelchair, carrying a very frail-looking
young girl. Her wasted arms and legs belied her age, making her
appear much smaller than the average eleven year old would.
Hitomi gasped in spite of herself, not having expected to
see such a thing.
The little girl, on the other hand, smiled brightly when
she caught sight of Hitomi.
"Nihao!" she greeted, enthusiastically.
"Nihao... You must be Joy." Hitomi responded, upon
recovering her composure.
"That's me! Wow! Mom told me you were pretty, but I
didn't know she meant *really* pretty. I like your dress!" Joy
gushed, her deep hazel eyes sparkling with excitement. Wheeling
her chair over to Hitomi, she lurched her arm across her tray to
try to touch Hitomi's sleeve.
Hitomi leaned forward to assist her, and as the child
slid the back of her hand over the fabric, she whistled out loud.
"Neat! Real Chinese silk! Boy, you're lucky! I *wish* I
could have a dress made of that. It's the best silk in the
world!" she commented, dragging her arm back over to the chair
"Joy, don't be a pest." Carole admonished, but Hitomi
would have none of it.
"She's not a pest, Carole-chan... I think she's
adorable." Hitomi smiled, winking at the girl.
"Chan... wait a minute... you're speaking Japanese! I
thought you were Chinese!" Joy abruptly pointed out, shooting
Hitomi a teasing look.
"Caught me! Hai, I am Chinese by birth, but I was
raised in Japan." Hitomi responded, thinking that would cover
it. "How do you know the languages?" she asked in return,
genuinely curious.
"She loves Japan and China... she can speak both languages,
write in both, and is a walking encyclopedia on Japan." Carole
responded, proudly. "It all started from watching something called
an 'Anime' that I rented for her once."
"Don't let her fool you... it comes from having so much time
on my hands." Joy winked, smirking. "Tell me your full name."
she added, expectantly.
"Okay... My full name is Hitomi Seirei. Why?"
"Wow! Neat name! It means Lone Living Spirit... did you
know that?"
"Joy! Of course she'd know that... it's her name, isn't
it?" her mom chided, flashing Hitomi a sheepish shrug.
Hitomi smiled politely, thinking to herself that it was not
only her name, but her description as well. She had to smirk to
herself at the irony, considering she picked both names out of
thin air.
"Gomen nasai, Hitomi-san." Joy piped up meanwhile,
responding to her mother's chastisement.
Hitomi's eyebrows raised at the child's excellent use of
"Daijobu desu, Joy-san. Ano... isn't it great knowing
another language? Then people can't tell what you're saying." she
asked the child, deliberately speaking in Japanese.
"Hai! I know! It kills me to call someone a Baka, and
they haven't got a clue!" the child replied, also in Japanese.
Hitomi started to laugh in response, eliciting a curious look from
Carole, who was busy cooking scrambled eggs.
"I won't ask..." she droned, shaking her head.
"It's okay, Mom... she just asked me if I like having more
than one languages... and I told her it was too cool."
"Okay... move over to the table, it's almost ready."
"Hai, Okaasan!" Joy replied, but instead wheeled over to
the counter, and as deftly as she could given her limited usage of
her arms, pulled out an extension claw, opened the cupboard door,
extracted three plates, placed them in her lap, and then started to
close the cupboard.
Hitomi, watching Joy intently, started to rise from her
"Need a hand, Joy?" she asked as she got to her feet.
Joy simply turned to Hitomi and grinned cheesily.
"No thanks... Got one!" she announced, shaking the claw
in the air.
Hitomi grinned and shook her head, then settled back in
her seat.
After returning the claw to it's holder on the chair, Joy
wheeled to the table and proceeded to distribute the plates.
After the plates were done, she repeated the process for
the silverware, condiments and napkins. Hitomi was duly impressed,
admiring the little girl's independance and spirit.
Once Joy wheeled herself into place at the table, Carole
stepped forward and dished out the eggs, then joined the others.
Noting Hitomi's curiosity, she filled in the blanks for her.
"She has MS." Carole stated, lowering her eyes. It's hit
her hard and surprisingly fast, and her doctors are at a loss."
she continued, looking at her daughter. "I apologize for not
mentioning it, but I don't get many guests."
"Mom, you worry too much. They're always 'at a loss'...
remember how they said I'd never see 6 years old? Well, I showed
them, didn't I?" Joy countered, winking proudly. "I still plan
on riding a bike one day." she grinned, looking at Hitomi.
"You do, do you? Well, they're a little trickier than
driving that thing." Hitomi commented, smiling despite feeling
her heart breaking for the child.
"You bet... and when I can get through the physio, I want
to try skiing, too."
"Joy... you know that your therapist doesn't want you trying
that... the bones in your legs don't have enough support." her
mother cautioned, sternly.
"Hah! You'll see, Mom... I'll do it." she responded,
smirking. "I've proven them wrong before."
"Don't get too cocky, little lady... you do have to take
it easy."
"Mom..." Joy drawled, shooting her mother a look.
"Oh, yes... Sorry, I forgot..." Carole sighed, shaking her
"I'll take it any way I can get it." they said in chorus,
then both started laughing.
Hitomi listened quietly to the conversation, utterly
awestruck by Joy's indomitable personality.
After breakfast, which Hitomi insisted on helping clean up,
Carole scooted Joy into the livingroom, which resembled a well-
furnished hospital room. Oxygen machines and tanks, various
medical supplies, a large metal bed, a non-powered wheelchair and
many other items filled the room, the sight of which struck Hitomi
harder than she would have thought.
As she watched, Carole lifted the child into her bed, and
wheeled a machine over to her. After a few minutes of setup, she
ran the machine, watching carefully as it worked.
In all, she put Joy through several processes, all of
which either looked or sounded gruesome, but none of them even
fazed the child's demeanor, as she laughed and joked and teased
all the way through.
"Sorry about all this..." Carole stated as she cleared
away the hardware. "I have to do this every day, or she could
drown in the fluid that collects in her lungs. And then she has
to have oxygen and a few other things to keep her immunities up."
she added, touching Joy's nose.
"Yeah... we call this the daily 'lube and oil change'.
It's okay after you get used to it." Joy remarked, throwing a
small towel at her smirking Mom.
"Ano... how do you remember all of that? It looked like
the average nurse's full day." Hitomi commented, covering her
gaping mouth.
"Easy! If she forgets, I remember!" Joy answered,
"Okay, Memory Bank... time for your physio, and then you
can rest for a while." Carole reminded, pulling a large machine
out from under the child's bed.
Upon strapping the little girls leg into it, she plugged
it in and started it up, and the device began to flex and extend
Joy's leg for her.
"That has to run for 30 minutes on each leg, so let's
go get a fresh tea while we wait." Carole advised, waving Hitomi
toward the kitchen.
"Neat, eh Hitomi? Bet I'm the only kid you know who can
run a marathon laying on her back!" Joy quipped, winking.
"Hai! But that's cheating." Hitomi replied, grinning.
"Just don't tell anyone!" Joy winked, holding a finger
up in front of her lips.

Out in the kitchen, Carole sat at the table awaiting
Hitomi's arrival, the tea already made and set out. She gestured
for Hitomi to join her, smiling pleasantly.
"I have to apologize again, Hitomi... I didn't mean to
put you in the middle of all this. I realize it must be a bit
intimidating." she began, earnestly.
"Don't worry about it. Joy is incredible... and you too.
I have great respect for you both." Hitomi assured, quickly.
"It's not that bad... In one way or another, we've gone
through this since she was a baby."
"Does your family know?"
"No... and they never will. They chose to turn us away
before she was even born, and that will always be their loss.
She's a beautiful child, Hitomi. Even with suffering the way she
has, her strength and perseverance have kept me going all these
years... I wouldn't own a business today if it wasn't for her
example." Carole explained, her voice growing sad. "She's never
given up, never complained... always had a smile or a joke for me,
even when things had me down... and she's such a loving person.
She cares about everyone and everything." she added, smiling
weakly. "I wish she could have known her relatives, but they
can't be bothered with her. It's always just been the two of us,
and that's how it's going to be until she dies."
Hitomi gasped at that statement. "You make it sound
like..." she began, but Carole interrupted her.
"Yes, she will. Probably within a couple of years."
Carole sighed, her voice cracking with emotion. "You see, her
lungs are failing... it's only a matter of time before they fail
completely, and then not even a respirator can help her." she
added, closing her eyes.
Hitomi had to swallow hard to clear the huge lump from
her throat. The thought of the lovely child in the next room
going through that tore out her heart, leaving her on the verge
of tears.
"Carole... I'm so sorry." she breathed, reaching for and
finally taking Caroles hand in hers, giving it a supportive
squeeze. "I wish there was something..."
"Thank you, Hitomi... but there isn't. It's just part of
the disease..." Carole sniffed, her own eyes starting to shimmer.
"I really didn't mean to tell you all of my troubles... but
something... made it all slip out." she added, sheepishly.
"Huh... I brought you here to try to cheer you up, and now look
what I've done." she grinned, wiping her face.
"No... don't apologize... I'm glad you told me. It looks
like I wasn't the only one in need of a shoulder today." Hitomi
smiled, patting Carole's hand.

Shampoo stood impatiently in the doorway, waiting for
the flustered Kikyo to find her purse.
"Come on, Kikyo-san... we'll never find her if we don't
start looking!" Shampoo chided, shaking her head.
"Hai! Gomen, gomen! I'm just so worried I can't think
straight... Okay. I've got everything. Let's go!" Kikyo gasped,
winded from racing all over the apartment.
Once down on the street, Shampoo and Kikyo stopped for a
moment and looked at each other questioningly.
"Which way do we go first?" Kikyo finally asked, looking
up and down the street.
"I don't know... I've only been here for a short time.
You know the city better than I do." Shampoo replied, shrugging.
"Not that much better... I've only lived here for a bit
less than a year. Kuso, Hitomi... where are you?" Kikyo responded,
looking around. "Well, let's go this way... it's as good a way to
start as any." she concluded, pointing toward the main
intersection just north of them.
"Hai, Kikyo-san. Sounds okay to me." Shampoo nodded, as
the two of them strode off.
"Lin-san... you knew Ranma pretty well, ne? Where would he
go to be alone?" Kikyo asked a few minutes later, hoping for a
"Ailen liked to jump up in trees and on the roof of the
Dojo... sometimes he would go down to the River and sit on the bank,
too..." Shampoo replied, thinking back. "Those were his favorite
ways to think. I always thought it had to do with traveling for so
long with his Dad... When I needed to think, I went to a cafe or
a restaurant." she added, smiling slightly.
"Kuso... there aren't any of those around here. Well,
let's just keep going... maybe we'll find a clue somewhere."
Kikyo insisted, trying to avoid showing that she was almost sick
with worry.
"We should have called Akane... she could find Ailen no
matter where he went. It was like instinct for her." Shampoo
abruptly smirked.
"Who is Akane?" Kikyo asked, interest piqued.
"Ailen's wife. It was funny how no matter what was
happening, if Ailen didn't want her to be there, she'd always show
up... it seemed like she was connected to him, even then." Shampoo
noted, remembering the many times Akane had spoiled her plans
simply by appearing out of nowhere.
"Interesting idea, Lin-san, but not much help. She's
already got him, and we're chasing Hitomi, not 'Ailen'." Kikyo
replied, disappointedly.
"Well... I tried." Shampoo shrugged again, grinning
Several streets later, the girls rounded a corner, only to
spot a gang of about five tough-looking punks coming toward them.
The girls instantly glanced at one another with a wink, and Kikyo
discreetly patted her jacket to ensure her .45 was within reach.
As the two groups approached each other, the gang of punks
stopped in it's tracks, the front few staring fearfully at Shampoo.
Kikyo and Shampoo exchanged questioning glances, and as they
walked closer, one member of the gang whose face was covered with
bruises, pointed at Shampoo and yelled out loud.
"There's another one!" he stated, and the entire gang
turned tail and ran off.
The girls, at first shocked, suddenly faced each other,
clasped hands and smiled knowingly.
"Hitomi!" they chorused happily, knowing they were on the
right track.

After the second course of Joy's physio treatment, the
exhausted Carole had excused herself for a nap at Hitomi's
insistence, and Hitomi now sat on the couch beside the little
girl's bed, watching her favorite TV show with her.
"I watch this talk show every day... unless I'm at the
hospital. These people always have such terrible lives..." the
child stated, concerned. "I wish I could help them get along."
she added, sighing sadly.
"Oh? You sound like you're planning to be a
psychologist." Hitomi quipped, testing for a reaction.
"I'd like that... or a Family Crisis Counselor. They
help people with problems like that." she replied, thoughtfully.
"What do you do, Hitomi?" the child abruptly asked, leaning up
in her bed a bit.
"I manage a Daycare Center. If it wasn't Saturday, I'd
be surrounded by three to five year olds today." Hitomi smiled,
thinking briefly about her kids.
"That sounds like fun... I like little kids, too. They
can be so funny sometimes.... and sometimes they need a big hug.
I like giving hugs." Joy indicated, grinning.
"Sounds like you could do the job all right."
"I wouldn't mind trying... only my chair might scare
them." she noted, biting her lip.
"Kids can be pretty tough... look at you." Hitomi stated,
gesturing toward the girl.
Joy's smile instantly faded away, replaced by a mask of
seriousness and regret.
"I'm not tough... I just don't want my Mom to see how
much it hurts sometimes. She's a great Mom, and she'd do
anything for me... but she's been through enough already. She
doesn't need to know how much those leg things hurt me, and how
I hate being suctioned. She hates doing it to me, and I don't
want to make things like that any harder." she admitted, her
face softening. "I feel so bad sometimes... Mom has no life
because of me, and I can't do anything to make it easier except
go along peacefully." she continued, sadly.
Hitomi, on the verge of tears herself, stood up and
stepped to Joy's bedside, shaking her head.
"Joy-chan... You *are* your Mom's life. She told me how
much she loves you... and how much you've meant to her life."
she began, patting the child's hand. "Your Mom even said she
wouldn't be the person she was today if it hadn't been for you.
Don't ever feel bad for her... she's doing exactly what she wants
to be doing... loving you." she continued, sniffing back her
Joy looked up at her in shock, not quite knowing how to
react. After a moment however, she smiled a small smile and
looked back into Hitomi's moist eyes.
"Hitomi... could you hug me?" she asked quietly, as she
slowly raised her arms.
"I would love to." Hitomi replied, lifting Joy's arms
and wrapping the frail girl in a firm but gentle hug. As she
held the child tightly, she thought she could feel a strong warmth
flash through the girl's chest, but didn't pay much attention to
it, being more concerned about the child herself.
Still carefully holding the girl, Hitomi gently lifted her
from the bed and carried her delicate form over to the couch,
resting the child in her lap as she sat down.
Joy looked back up at her and sniffed quietly, then buried
her face in Hitomi's blouse and began to cry.
Hitomi smiled gently, knowing the poor girl hadn't ever
allowed herself the luxury of such tears... and they were long

"This is getting us nowhere, Lin-san... I think we should
head back home in case she calls." Kikyo finally admitted,
"I think so too. She's a tough one... she'll be okay. She
probably spent the night walking around, and is looking to come
home for a nap. We should be there when she does." Shampoo agreed,
"Look... there's a coffee shop. Let's grab a quick one,
then catch a cab home. Hitomi has her purse, so she has a key to
get in." Kikyo indicated, pointing across the street. "Besides,
my feet are killing me... I should have worn sneakers."
"Westerners..." Shampoo smirked, shaking her head.
"Okay... one coffee, then we go home." she acquiesced, gesturing
for Kikyo to lead off.

Hitomi continued to cuddle the sobbing child, occasionally
brushing aside errant locks of her auburn hair as she gently rocked
her. Inwardly, she felt a powerful glow of satisfaction, knowing
somehow that she had unlocked a side of Joy that the child didn't
want to let her mother ever see... the small, frightened little
girl that she also was.
Despite her concern for Joy's plight, Hitomi's thoughts
eventually came back to her own troubles. It still bothered her
that her whole world was gone, and that she didn't have a past,
but she also found herself thinking that perhaps she was actually
After getting to know Carole and Joy, she realized that by
comparison, she was fortunate. No family problems, no health
problems, no past to regret or to have get in the way of the
future... and she had the love of a very special person, who gave
that love willingly and freely.
Suddenly, she actually began to feel guilty and somewhat
childish for having run off like she did, except for the fact that
it had allowed her to meet these two very special people.
Smiling happily, she gently hugged Joy once again, then
looked down at the little girl tenderly.
"Feel any better?" she asked, wiping the child's cheek.
"Yeah... I do. I guess I needed that." Joy replied,
"I think you did, too... You've never let yourself cry,
have you? No matter how sad or scared you were, ne?" Hitomi
asked, still rocking the girl gently.
"No. I never cry. It would scare Mom to see me crying,
so I never ever do." she replied, firmly.
"Well, you should let yourself cry sometimes... it helps
get all that stress out, and actually makes you feel better. Just
like now." Hitomi advised, smiling. Leaning closer to Joy's
ear, she whispered quietly as if telling her a big secret. "It's
one of the advantages of being a girl." she breathed, winking.
"Gotcha." Joy winked back, giving Hitomi a quick 'thumbs up'.
"What's going on in here, you two?" a bemused voice asked
from the kitchen doorway.
"Hi, Mom! I thought you were taking a nap..." Joy asked,
craning her neck to see her mother.
"Well, I was, but I couldn't sleep... I'm just not a day
sleeper." she shrugged, walking over to Hitomi and her daughter.
"Did you bug Hitomi to take you out of your bed?" she asked, setting
her hands on her hips.
"No, Carole-chan... I did it myself. She just looked like
she needed a hug, so I gave her one. I hope you don't mind." Hitomi
indicated, regarding Carole nervously.
Carole smiled gently, then turned to Joy and winked. "Do I
have any reason to mind?" she asked the child, who immediately shook
her head vigorously.
"No, Mom... She hugs great!" Joy replied, happily. "Since
you found her and brought her home, can we keep her?" the child
added, trying to tighten her grip on Hitomi's neck.
Carole broke out laughing, and Hitomi immediately flushed a
bright red, then began to giggle herself. "Hey, Kiddo... do you
think I'm your pet or something?" Hitomi chided, lifting the child
up to look her in the eyes.
"No... I just... don't want you to leave. I... really like
you, Hitomi-chan." she replied, her eyes starting to shimmer.
"Joy... She has to go eventually... she has a job like me,
and she has other people who care about her, too." Carole pointed
out, kneeling beside her daughter.
"I know, Mom... I'm sorry. She just makes me feel so
good... I can't remember the last time I was this happy."
"Joy-chan... I really like you, too... and you've made me
think twice about a few things just since I've met you. I promise,
I'll visit you often, and even come and sit with you to give your
Mom a chance to get out. Is that okay with you?" Hitomi offered,
"Hai... I would like that, Hitomi-chan." Joy replied
softly, leaning forward to try to hug her. Hitomi pulled her into
another hug, and this time stood up and cradled the child's frail
form against her chest.
Walking the few steps toward the bed, Hitomi was about to
place the child in it when her eye caught sight of her reflection
in a large mirror across from them.
Pausing for a second, she had to smile at the image, for
the first time happy about what it portrayed.
Tucking the child into the bed, she pulled the side up
and latched it into place, then reached over and ran her fingers
through Joy's hair gently.
"I have to go, Joy-chan... but I also have to thank you.
You've made me feel a lot better than when I first came here. I
owe you a great debt of thanks." she stated, stepping back and
bowing respectfully.
"Hitomi... I'm going to miss you... don't wait too long
to come see me again." Joy insisted, wiping her eyes.
"Joy-chan... I couldn't. I'd miss you too much." she
smiled, pulling the girl's blankets up over her shoulders.
Inwardly, she made herself a vow that she would do whatever she
could to make the child's last days, however many there were, as
pleasant as possible.
A few minutes later, after saying a tearful good-bye to
Joy, Hitomi stood in the doorway, about to head back home.
Surprisingly, despite how long she had wandered during the night,
it turned out she was only a few miles from her apartment, and
could walk it easily.
"Thanks for all the kindnesses, Carole-chan... I didn't
expect you to go to all the trouble." Hitomi bowed, smiling.
"You and your daughter have made me realize that I do have a
life to live... and I can't thank you enough."
"And thank you, Hitomi... I've never seen Joy attach
herself to someone so quickly... and she's genuinely happy. Not
trying to just look like she is."
Hitomi had to smile at that observation. "I had a
feeling you might have known. Talk to her about it... she'd
feel better if she knew." she smiled, pleasantly. "Well, I
must go... I've taken too much of your time and generosity already,
and I'm sure Kikyo is worried about me. Say good-bye to Joy again
for me, and tell her I'll be back, if that's okay with you."
Carole's mouth dropped. "Okay...?" she blurted, a bit
surprised. "I can't wait.. and neither can she." she insisted,
taking Hitomi's hand. "Come whenever you like, please." she
reiterated, smiling.
"Thank you." Hitomi bowed again, then stepped back out
the door. "I'll see you soon... and Joy, too!" she repeated,
then turned to walk away, waving happily.

Shampoo sat spinning her empty mug on the table in front
of her, waiting none too patiently for Kikyo to finish hers.
"Kikyo-san... we have to get back to the apartment. If
we're not there, she might go out again... even go looking for
us." Shampoo reminded, impatiently.
"Hai. All done, Lin-san. I just really needed it."
Kikyo stated, apologetically. "Let's go and grab a cab."
"Aiyah... I'm glad this is not an emergency." Shampoo
quipped, sliding from her seat.
Kikyo shot her a smirk, and tossed a loonie on the table
as she also rose from her seat.
Just as they were about to head for the payphone, Shampoo
caught a flash of red out of the corner of her eye.
"Aiyah! Kikyo-san! Look!" she blurted, grabbing Kikyo's
shoulder and turning her toward the window.
"Hitomi!" Kikyo shouted, running for the door.
Bursting out onto the street, Kikyo immediately shouted
the redhead's name again, which thankfully, she heard.
"Kiko-chan!" Hitomi shrieked in response, running back
toward her girlfriend.
As the two met an a classic romance-movie hug, they both
burst into tears.
"Gad, Hitomi-chan... you had me scared half to death!"
Kikyo gushed, wiping her face.
"I know.. I know... Gomen nasai, Kiko-chan... Lin-san.
I was pretty upset, and I acted like a Baka. Can you forgive me?"
Hitomi sniffed, pleadingly.
"Forgive you? Can you forgive me? I should have told
you about this a long time ago, Hitomi-chan... I'm really sorry I
kept it from you." Kikyo stated, sheepishly. "So, where did you
go? We were worried when we didn't hear from you all night."
"I walked around a lot... and ended up meeting a very
special little girl." Hitomi began, her big blue eyes shimmering
at the memory. "First though, I have to do some shopping... if
you two want to come along, I'll tell you all about it." she
mentioned, clasping Kikyo's hands.
"I wouldn't miss it. Do you want to come, Lin-san?"
"Hai! I'm glad to see you too, Hitomi-san. I thought I
had made you mad over how I used my curse." Shampoo stated,
"Daijobu... I have one too, remember? It came with the
body, I assume." she mentioned, thoughtfully. "I'm just glad
it's all out in the open now... At least I *know* my story,
instead of always having to wonder about it." she added, smiling.
"I'm happy for you then... we were afraid you wouldn't be
too happy about it, and that's why you left."
"Don't worry, Lin-san... My head's on straight now." she
assured, grinning. "C'mon. I want to pick something up, then I
need a bath and a good sleep. And I have to tell you about the
people I met last night." Hitomi urged, motioning them down the
"Then what do we wait for? Let's go... I like shopping,
too." Shampoo smiled, nodding her approval.

A week later, Carole went to the door in response to a
strident knock. Opening it, she was greeted by a delivery person,
holding a large, flat box toward her.
Startled, she signed for the package and took it inside,
then noted the card on top of it.
"To the little lady who lived up to her name" it read,
and was signed "Hitomi". Smiling, she picked the box up and
quickly brought it in to her daughter.
"Joy! Look! This just came for you, and it's from
Hitomi!" she announced excitedly, placing the package on her
daughter's bed.
"Wow! Is it ever big!" the child squealed, and waited
anxiously for her Mom to raise the head of the bed for her.
When she finally got the package open, her eyes went
wide as saucers. In the box, carefully wrapped in tissue paper
lay a replica of the silk China Mini that Hitomi had been wearing
the morning they first met.
Smiling so wide she felt her cheeks stretch, Joy begged
her mother to put it on her, and was delighted to discover that it
fit perfectly.
Looking up happily at her Mom, the little girl's face
abruptly became serious.
"Mom... I want you to promise me something." she finally
said, reaching for her Mother's hand.

Hitomi walked up the street happily, finally able to make
good on her promise to visit Joy and her Mom. It had taken far
longer than she wanted, but she was still excited about seeing them
As she walked toward the house, she had a sudden feeling of
foreboding strike her, and began to worry that something had
happened. Quickening her pace, she took the stairs two at a time,
and knocked rapidly at the door.
Within a few seconds, Carole opened it, and Hitomi knew
before she could even say hello that something was terribly wrong.
Carole's face was red, her eyes puffy, and her hand was holding
tightly to a wad of tissues.
"Carole-chan... what happened?" Hitomi asked gently,
reaching for the woman's shoulder.
"Hitomi..." Carole sobbed, wiping her face quickly.
"Joy passed away a few days ago." she blurted, and dove into the
stunned redhead's arms, crying her eyes out.
Once Hitomi had managed to settle Carole in the kitchen,
she made up a quick pot of tea and sat beside her, holding her hand.
"Carole... I'm so sorry. How did it happen?" Hitomi
finally asked, feeling the lump in her throat getting bigger.
"She... was doing fine for the last few weeks... her chest
had somehow cleared, and she was going into a remission." she
began, pausing to sniff and wipe her eyes. "But on the weekend,
she complained of pain in her chest... I called an ambulance... but
her heart gave out before it could get here. They... couldn't save
her." she sniffed, her tears again threatening to get the better
of her. "But... at least... at least it was quick. She didn't
suffer." she added, finally losing control.
Hitomi closed her eyes, feeling the sting of salt building
within them, and her chest tightened as she remembered the sweet
little girl's face, and how it lit up when she smiled.
Pulling Carole toward her, Hitomi hugged her tightly as
the two of them wept openly.
Quite a while later, Carole was finally able to put aside
her tears long enough to speak, and Hitomi fought hers off as well,
knowing she was all Carole had for support.
"I... wanted to call you... tell you thanks for the
beautiful dress. Joy absolutely loved it, and it looks wonderful
on her. She... she even asked to be buried in it, Hitomi." she
stated, her voice still wavering.
"Thank you, Carole... I am honored that she thought so
much of it." Hitomi replied, bowing slightly. It took a tremendous
effort of will for her to retain her composure at that revelation,
and she had to settle for wiping her still-streaming eyes.
"Hitomi... your visit that morning completely changed her...
she became genuinely happy. She started talking to me far more than
she ever had, and we seemed to be getting even closer to each other.
You... you made her last days happy and carefree... and I can't thank
you enough."
"No... Carole, it was Joy that did that... In fact, she
actually made me realize how wonderful life can really be. Even
with what was happening to her, she loved life... loved people...
and loved you." Hitomi insisted, smiling as much as her emotional
state would let her. "When I met her, I was questioning myself...
I had completely lost my focus, and couldn't see any reason for
my existence..." she continued, dabbing her eyes. "Joy proved to
me that life is worth living... and I owe her more than I could
ever repay for that simple lesson." she concluded, nodding.
Carole looked back at the Chinese woman before her, and saw
in her eyes that she meant every word she said. Closing her eyes,
she lowered her head momentarily, then raised her gaze again to
"Hitomi... Would you come to her funeral? It's this
afternoon. I know this is short notice, but..." she began, but
Hitomi jumped in immediately.
"Carole-chan... I would consider it an honor." she replied,
hugging the woman tightly.

After a simple ceremony, attended by only the Priest,
Carole and Hitomi, the two women walked up to the casket and said
their good-byes to the child that had changed both of their lives.
Hitomi was struck by how pretty and peaceful she looked,
and by the fact that she was indeed wearing the Mini. Noticing
that something was missing, she removed a bloom from a nearby
bouquet and set it in place in the child's hair. Nodding her
satisfaction, she then leaned down into the opening and gently
kissed the child's forehead.
"Sayonara, Joy-chan... The Light awaits." she whispered,
touching the child's cheek softly.
On the ride to the interment, Hitomi and Carole held each
other supportively, too overwhelmed to even speak.
When the short graveside ceremony was complete, the two
women stood quietly, each offering a silent prayer for Joy's soul,
and each in turn placed a single rose atop the casket.
Stepping back, Hitomi offered a hand to Carole, who took
it willingly, then leaned her head on the redhead's shoulder.
"Gad, Hitomi... I miss her so much... I don't know what
I'll do with my life now." she sniffed, sadly.
"Carole... you know she would want you to move on... have
a happy, full life. Don't throw it all away now... make her
proud of you." Hitomi advised, dabbing her own eyes yet again.
"But I love her so much... she was everything to me. Why
did she have to die, Hitomi... Why? She was such a beautiful,
selfless person..."
"I know... I only knew her for a short time, but I miss
her too... very, very much." Hitomi noted, sadly.
After a silent moment, she turned to Carole and actually
smiled broadly, confusing the distraught woman somewhat.
"Hitomi? What is it?" Carole finally asked, wondering why
Hitomi could possibly be smiling.
"Carole-chan... something just occurred to me." Hitomi
began, looking back toward the casket. "I don't think we've seen
the death of a child... I think what we've actually seen... is
the birth of an angel."

END - The Birth of an Angel A Ranma1/2 FanFic by Coutuva

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