Imagine falling into a Jusenkyo spring, and never finding out how to release the curse…

River Wind

By Dan Stickney

Based on concepts and characters created by Rumiko Takahashi


Epilogue: California

Miss Johnson was making her way through the paddock area, smiling and exchanging greetings with the pony club members who'd come to the chapter meeting, when she spotted a girl she didn't recognize leading a gray mare towards the grooming stalls. Always happy to welcome a new member, she changed course and drifted after them, somewhat delayed by her need to pause frequently to chat with passersby. By the time she'd caught up with the pair the new girl, who appeared to be about 12 or 13, had cross-tied her horse and was grooming it quickly and efficiently.

"...well, I really live in Japan" she was saying as Miss Johnson took up an unobtrusive position within earshot. Her English was accented, but fluent.

"So why are you here?" Brandy Neidermeir was asking. Trust her to be the first to check out any potential competition.

"My Mom moved her breeding operation here two years ago. We always come over to see Kawa-chan during school holidays." The new girl answered. "Isn't that right, Kawa-chan." The gray mare nodded vigorously, drawing giggles from the assembled children.

Miss Johnson looked the mare over carefully and mentally revised her estimated age upwards by at least ten years. She wasn't particularly big, but she was put together nicely, and her color was very striking, a dark fleabitten gray. She was a bit sway-backed with age and swag-bellied from breeding, but underneath it all was obviously a quality animal, albeit one that was past her prime.

"Kawa-chan? Is that her name?" One of the other kids was asking.

"Oh no, that is just a...How do you say it? ...a nickname." The new girl responded, putting down her brush. "Her real name is Kawakaze." She spoke a soft phrase in Japanese, and lightly touched the mare's hip with a fingertip. The horse took two precise steps sideways, pivoting around her front feet, then went back to her drowsing

Miss Johnson nodded approvingly. Obviously, this girl's parents knew enough to get a well trained, well broke, experienced horse for her to start with. "Young rider, old horse" was still the best rule of thumb to follow as far as Miss Johnson was concerned.

Brandy giggled. "Kamikaze? Does that mean riding her is like a suicide mission?" The other kids laughed.

The Japanese girl looked puzzled. "Not KaMIkaze," she replied, pronouncing it carefully. "KaWAkaze".

"What's the difference?" Dr. Martin's son Peter (one of the few boys present) asked, honestly curious.

"KaMIkaze means 'Holy Wind'." The Japanese girl explained earnestly, crossing back in front to get to her grooming tote. "KaWAkaze means 'River Wind'. Kawa is River. Kaze is Wind." She looked back at the horse. "Isn't that right, Kawa-chan?" The mare nodded again. Miss Johnson looked on curiously. Why did that remind her of something?

Brandy looked superior. "That's not exactly original. I bet half the horses in Japan are named Kawakaze." Miss Johnson had to agree. It had become a popular name even here in the States. Back ten, fifteen years ago when she was a pony clubber herself every chapter seemed to have at least one horse named after the famous Kawakaze. Even today they still cropped up occasionally.

The new girl was applying liniment to the gray mare's legs, working as quickly and thoroughly as an experienced race track groom. "You're right. However, I know for a fact that this horse wasn't named after that Kawakaze." She looked up at the mare, which shook her head vigorously. "See? Kawa-chan herself says so."

"Are you cueing her to do that?" Peter asked.

The new girl grinned. "Of course I am." Above her, the horse shook its head in contradiction, causing another round of laughter. "After all, Kawa-chan's a Japanese horse. She doesn't speak much English." Above her, the horse snorted derisively.

"So how do you know for sure your horse wasn't named after the great Kawakaze?" Brandy pressed her.

The Japanese girl rolled her eyes. "Because my mom got her years before anyone had ever heard of 'the great Kawakaze'." The horse lowered her head and snorted at her in seeming response to her sarcasm. The girl smiled and gently pushed the gray nose away. "Oh, don't sulk, Kawa-chan." She finished with the right front and switched over to the left.

One of the other kids looked down, puzzled. "Why are you doing that?"

"I have to be very careful with Kawa-chan," came the response. "She is 27 years old." Miss Johnson gave a silent whistle. The horse was much older than she had guessed, and must be extremely well cared for. "Anyway, Mom showed her a lot when she was younger."

Brandy was looking at the mare dubiously. "Did she win anything?"

The Japanese girl smiled an enigmatic smile. "Actually, my Mom's best showing was a third place. But that was against really tough competition."

Brandy saw her opening and pounced. "Couldn't your mom afford a better horse for you?"

The new girl stopped working and looked up at her briefly before her smile twisted. "Actually, no, she couldn't." Above her, the horse nodded again, as if in agreement.

Miss Johnson shook her head at that, puzzled. That couldn't be true, could it? Given how much it cost to ship a horse across the Pacific? Her odd sense of deja-vu seemed to be returning, too.

Brandy nodded smugly, and Miss Johnson could see that she'd decided that this new kid wouldn't be much of a threat. "Well, I've got to take care of my thoroughbred. See you around." The other kids trooped after her.

After the kids had gone, Miss Johnson walked up to the new girl and held out her hand. "Welcome to the Sonoma Chapter of the U.S Pony Club. I'm Miss Johnson, the District Commissioner. I see we won't have to teach you much about grooming, will we?"

The girl took her hand, but bowed over it Japanese style. "Kimiko Sakai." Then the girl gestured to someone standing across the aisle. "My Mom taught me everything I know."

Miss Johnson turned to see who the young girl was pointing at, and her breath caught. The woman standing there was tiny, no taller than her daughter, but she still looked much the same as she had thirteen years ago on the Olympic medal stand. Miss Johnson turned back slowly, then reached out and gently caressed the horse's nose, seeing her own reflection in the mare's kind brown eyes. It wasn't every day that you were privileged to see a legend literally spring from the grass. She looked distant for a moment, remembering the poster that had hung on her bedroom wall throughout much of her childhood before she smiled down at the girl. "I'm very pleased to meet you, Kimiko. When you get the chance, I'd very much like to meet your mother."

The two exchanged a few more pleasantries, before Miss Johnson tore herself away to tend to her other duties. After she'd left, the girl turned to her horse, and squealed in Japanese. "Oh, this is going to be so much fun, Kawa-chan!" The horse nodded in seeming agreement.


Sonoma, California: Noted Japanese equestrian Keiko Sakai (nee Nishimura) announced the passing of her famed event horse Kawakaze at the venerable age of 36. Dubbed the "horse of the century" by many experts, the 15 hand Chinese bred was as famous for her off-course antics as she was for her on-course heroics, and the two had a very eventful career culminating in Japan's first ever Olympic medal (a bronze) in equestrian competition. Reportedly Ms. Sakai once turned down more than a million dollars for the horse her father got in trade for a used Toyota, explaining that "you don't sell the horse of a lifetime." After a very brief career in film and television (playing herself in two movies and a documentary) Kawakaze spend the last twenty years of her life as a successful broodmare, much of it at Ms. Sakai's California breeding operation. As a broodmare, Kawakaze achieved a final unique distinction as the only Olympic medal winning horse to ever bear another: Samidare, who won stadium jumping gold last year. In announcing Kawakaze's passing, Ms. Sakai stated: "I've lost more than a horse; I've lost a friend."


Author's Notes:

Uh, this started out as a Ranma Fic, really, really. The original goal was to create a character who exemplifies Ranma's worst nightmare and then confront him with it. However, my muse sorta ran off in her own direction, leaving me little choice but to follow. (Hopefully she wasn't carrying scissors.)