| || || |
Inoko swung on the swing, happily warbling a tuneless song.
"Hey! Kid!" called a voice. Inoko looked over at its source.
"I'm not a kid," she informed the boy stiffly. "I'm a pirate!" She grinned with gleaming teeth. "Hey, whatcha carrying?"
"It's my Kougan Anki," said the boy. "My name's Koganei Kaoru."
"I'm Inoko," the little girl said.
"Yeah, I know. I'm supposed to talk to you."
"You're talking to me now." Inoko continued to swing contentedly. "And you interrupted my song. Give me a push."
Koganei stepped behind her and gave her a push. "I was told to ask for your help."
"My help?" Inoko twisted around to try and look at him, nearly falling from the swing. She tightened her grip on the chains. "I can make paper cutouts pretty good," she suggested.
"I don't need paper cutouts," said Koganei, giving her a good push.
"Not so hard!" whined Inoko.
"All right," agreed the boy, modifying the amount of force for the next one. "That's better?"
"Yeah, that's better," agreed Inoko, complacently. She resumed her singing again. "I'm Inoko, I'm a pirate, I'm Inoko, I'm a pirate, I'm Inoko, I've got a treasure, a buried treasure, 'cause I'm a pirate..."
"I need your help in a Tournament," said Koganei. "There's going to be a lot of people there."
"Will they be fighting?" inquired Inoko.
"Yeah, there will be fighting," agreed Koganei. "Lots of it."
"Pirates fight," said Inoko. "I can fight. I'm a pirate."
"Yeah, I heard about your eye... I'm sorry. And the accident that you and your parents were in... sorry about that, too. I haven't got any parents, either."
"But you're not a pirate."
"Naw.... I'm an assassin."
"An assassin?" Inoko's ears perked up in interest.
"Well, not really, 'cause I don't like killing things... but I can hurt things with my weapon. My Kougan Anki."
"Pirates kill things," said Inoko. "I squashed an ant the other day."
"Did you now?" Koganei inwardly lamented about the direction this conversation was taking. He wasn't here to discuss squashed ants... "I've got a question for you. If we find you a good home somewhere, with a bunch of nice ladies, would you be interested in being our referee for a tournament? For some weird reason, I've been told that you need to be a referee for us."
"I don't want to be a referee," said Inoko, pouting. "I'm a pirate. Those are two different things."
"Ahhh... well, then, if we give you a good home somewhere, with a bunch of nice ladies, would you be a pirate for us?"
"Yeah!" said Inoko, her eyes sparkling with interest. "Yeah, I'll be your pirate for you!"
"You promise?" demanded Koganei.
"Yeah, I promise. Will I get a parrot?"
"I think Mori Kouran has a parrot in his house somewhere," admitted the boy.
"Pirates need parrots, parrots need crackers, pirates buy crackers for their parrots. I buy crackers for my parrot, 'cause I'm a pirate," sang Inoko. "Gimme an underdoggy," she demanded suddenly.
Koganei sighed inwardly. "Hold on tightly," he said reluctantly. Then he grabbed the two chains on either side of her, pulled the swing back as far as he could, and then charged forward, letting the swing fly over his head on the way back.
"Hey, you're cool!" exclaimed Inoko, her voice bubbling in admiration.
Koganei grinned and struck a pose. "That's the first thing you've said today that makes sense," he smiled at her.