Title: "Kyuuketsuki to Shikeishikkonin"
Parts: 1/1
Author: 'A Gentleman Of Leisure'.
E-mail:
Type: Azumanga Daioh / Buffyverse Crossover.

Summary: Mihama Chiyo encounters Buffy and the Chosen, still on their way to leave the USA, bound for England and Whitby. This is the sequel to my stories "A Prospect Of Whitby" and "Conversations In A Desert", and also to the entire Azumanga Daioh anime series.

WARNING: This story was written in a Whovian environment, and so may also contain traces of Gallifreyans.

Rating overall: K+ (?)
Spoilers: Takes place after the end of both series. Chiyo has been studying in the USA for approximately eight months, and Sunnydale was destroyed nearly two weeks before the story starts.
Distribution/Archiving: Ask first please.
Disclaimer: No one here belongs to me, and I have no control whatsoever over what they get up to. As usual, all Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights are acknowledged. Thank you.

NB: A vocabulary of Japanese words used is at the end of the story. In the text they are usually shown in italics, just to give the flavour.

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"Kyuuketsuki to Shikeishikkonin"

by

'A Gentleman Of Leisure'.

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1.

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Extract of a letter from Mihama Chiyo to Sakaki-san.

The George W. Bush College For Gifted Students,
(City name withheld)
Douglas County,
Washington State,
(Zip Code withheld)
United States of Amerika.

21 May 2003 - Year of the Sheep.

Dearest Sakaki-san,

Here I am, writing to you by hand again, instead of just dashing something off on the computer and posting it to you by e-mail. I find forming the kanji very soothing - it helps me to think differently from when I'm typing at a computer keyboard where the words pour out so easily. I just find that my mind works in another way. Strange isn't it?

How are you? How are your studies going at Veterinary College? I suppose you have now just started your second year there. I still haven't got used to the Amerikan system here yet - I find it very confusing, with the new school year starting in 'the fall', as they call it, after a long summer vacation, and having only two semesters instead of three. Anyway, I had a lot of fun working in my father's Company Headquarters as a very junior 'office lady' last year during the five months between the end of High School and when it was time for me to start my studies over here. I think I learned a lot about life outside school during that time. But I'm sure I told you all about that already so I must try not to repeat myself.

How are the others? I haven't heard from Osaka-san in a long time. I have tried to imagine her studying philosophy, and just I couldn't help laughing at the thought of the effect she must be having on her tutors! The soul of Jean Paul Sartre must be 'spinning in his grave', as I think they say over here.

And what about Tomo-san? Have you heard anything from her recently? Did she get through the final part of her course at Police College? Do you suppose it will change her? I wonder what chaos she will create when she goes out on patrol? Will they have to call for assistance from the Riot Squad to control her?

I did hear from Kagura-san. I was most surprised at that, I can tell you. I got a lovely long e-mail, mostly telling me all about her training of course, and how it's going. She really hopes to get into the National Olympic Swimming Squad next year. That would be so wonderful, wouldn't it? I would love to watch her winning the gold medal and be able to say to people, "I was at High School with her!"

I can't remember - did I ever tell you about how she and I met late one evening in cherry blossom time when I was going to the convenience store, and I was very nervous because of being out in the dark on my own? I think it must have been a couple of years ago. She was out training, jogingu because she couldn't sleep, and very kindly accompanied me, all the way there and all the way home again, just so I would feel safe from the ghosts and demons that I was sure came out at night (naturally, I don't believe in such things now). We sat in the park under the trees, with the petals just beginning to fall on us, and had a profound talk about growing up, and marriage, and stuff - you know, all the deep and meaningful things one does occasionally. Even though I was a lot younger than her - I still am of course - she talked with me as if I was an equal, just like you do. It was so kind of her - it meant a lot to me, and I have never forgotten it.

And what about Yomi-san? I know she's studying law, and is also now in her second year. Do you suppose she might have to go to court one day to defend Tomo-san for something wild and mad she's done! That would be so funny! She's just the sort of person to help a friend who has always annoyed her so much. They are such a strange pair, aren't they, almost the exact opposite of each other in some ways, and yet alike in others. For some strange reason they remind me of our teachers, Nyamo-sensei and Yukari-sensei - I don't quite know why. I often think about them all.

Dear Sakaki-san, I have to admit I am missing all of you a lot - everyone at home. I miss my parents, and I miss Japan, too. I miss your cat, Mayaa. I think I even miss Yukari-sensei and Nyamo-sensei too (but not Kimura-sensei, of course!) But, dearest Sakaki-san, most of all I am missing you. As you may deduce, I am not happy here. I suppose I am homushikku ni naru - homesick.

But although I am kanashii, I cannot think of disappointing my father by failing to 'stick it out' as the Amerikans say. He would lose much face and also be very disappointed in me if I could not return home as a successful University graduate.

Sometimes I feel as if I have been here in Amerika for ages. As I told you last time I wrote (I know it was some weeks ago, and I am sorry not to have replied to your return e-mail before now,) it has not got better for me, although I am studying very hard and getting good marks for my essays, and tutorials. I have been here for eight months now but no matter how hard I try I still do not feel I fit in. I have a few acquaintances, mainly people on the same courses I'm doing, but no actual, real friends like I had with you all at High School, despite my lack of years then. The Amerikan boys, and the girls too, are vulgar like pigs, and cruel - not just to me but to each other as well. I really do not understand them. There seems to be no feeling of 'Uchi' here, no real sense of belonging - it is all 'Soto'. Everyone is an outsider to each other or as the Amerika-jin themselves would say, 'It's everyone for themselves'.

It does not help that for my age I am very much smaller than the Amerikan girls, most of whom are fat, and so much heavier, taller and stronger than me. Many of them seem jealous of my progress, despite some of them being at least as bright as I am. I don't think I am really the cleverest student here, but once again I am the youngest and smallest. Unfortunately, being a cute little foreigner doesn't have any value here, it seems. In fact, it can make life very difficult sometimes. However, at least until now I had the advantage of not living on-campus with the rest of them.

Yes! I said 'had', and 'until now'. You remember I told you about staying with friends of my parents here in Washington State? This meant I was able to have Mr Tadakichi with me, and did not have to leave him at home in Tokyo with my parents, who are so busy most of the time. Unfortunately my kind hosts are away on a business trip for a while, and because they felt it was not safe for me to live at their house on my own, with just their maid and their driver, I am now staying at the college, on-campus for a while.

I have a room to myself, which I share only with Tadakichi-san, but even so it is really not an enjoyable experience here. I cannot get away from the other students for very long. When I first came, some of them pretended to want to make friends, and perhaps some of them really did, but they have a nasty way of playing tricks on each other and on me, which I am not enjoying. They say they are 'just goofing around', but I cannot get used to it, despite some of the things that used to happen to me when we were still at High School (thank you, dear Tomo-chan - I know you were just being your own crazy self, and really meant no harm!) At least there I could go home at the end of the day. And of course I had special friends there, like you and Osaka. Now I even have to stop wearing my hair up in bunches some days, the way I still like to, because some of the other students keep pulling on them so hard it hurts. So very childish!

I hope you don't think I am becoming all 'whiny and complainy', like western girls, but you are the only person I can talk to about any of this. Naturally I cannot protest about it - I would lose face, and I don't like to think how the other students would treat me afterwards.

Sometimes it's like being in a lunatic asylum here, especially in the evenings, and I am one of the people locked inside. Everyone else rushes around, they have parties with very loud music, and drink alcohol, which they smuggle in so the staff don't find out. I suspect they take other things as well. It all seems so stupid. I have no real wish to take part in these sorts of student activities. I would rather stay sober, and have a clear head, and go to bed early, well at least earlier than they all seem to want to! I would also rather not think about whatever else they might get up to! (Perhaps Nyamo-sensei was rather too explicit for my liking, that time at my family's summer home! I know how she embarrassed you too.)

At least I am allowed to have Mr Tadakichi here, and can take him out for walks. We get plenty of exercise after lectures. The countryside around us is wild and hilly, with many trees. Spring was later here than in Tokyo, but the leaves have turned a vivid green everywhere, and many wild flowers are now out (you would be able to tell me what they were). We are so far north that at times it really is like being in some parts of Japan, and this makes me feel better on bad days. It is still cool in the early mornings so I wrap up warmly, and Mr Tadakichi and I go for long walks before breakfast time. Then we do the same again in the evenings, getting back into the college just before it gets completely dark. For some reason, that's the only thing I do in which no one else shows any interest at all - exercise! We are a long way from the nearest town or village, several miles, and I feel perfectly safe going out on my own here. I don't think I'm likely to get kidnapped like Tomo fantasized! Anyway, others among the students would be a far better proposition for extorting ransom, I think.

Another thing I miss is the food of home - my hosts are quite westernised and eat Amerikan style a lot of the time. I have even tried to persuade my fellow students here to try Nigirizushi, and Osaka's favourite - Takoyaki, and even Toro no chikuzen-ni, which I have made myself with ingredients I brought into college when I was still living off-campus, but all most of them can think about is 'Big Macs' and 'Chicken-In-A-Bucket', Krispy Kreme Donuts, and huge steaks weighing about half a kilo each! And everything is 'With fries!' Disgusting! I'm sure a few of them may have actually quite liked what I made, but I think their friends peer-pressured them into saying not. It was most disappointing. The kitchen staff thought I was crazy, but I did enjoy doing the cooking. At least the Western food at the College is very good, in fact far too good for these Amerikans!

There has been one other thing that reminded me of home recently - an earthquake! Yes, a big one! Really big! It was on the television news about ten days ago, with video shot during the event. A whole town, down the coast in southern California somewhere, was shaken to pieces and flattened, collapsing into a deep crater nearly eight kilometres across. Luckily only a very few people were killed, but they showed the most dramatic sequence of a girl running across rooftops, with buildings behind her collapsing. It was quite astonishing! She was leaping from one to the next as the structures disintegrated one after another. It was almost as if an invisible monster was chasing her. My hair stood on end, but then she jumped down to safety on the roof of the bus from which they say the pictures were shot. It was just like an Amerikan hittosaku movie! I almost expected to see Tom Cruise or Bruce Lee (Osaka-san's Blue Three) there as well! I am just trying to remember the name of the town. Yes! I have it! Sunnydale!

It's late now. If you don't mind I will try to finish this letter tomorrow.

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2.

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22 May 2003.

"Dawn, take the next off ramp!"

"What? But Vi, we're on the main highway straight through to Seattle!"

"Do it! Please!"

"Well, OK, but why? Is Giles OK with this?"

"It doesn't matter. He's asleep anyway."

Dawn looked over her shoulder briefly. Giles was indeed away in the Land of Nod, and looking extremely peaceful. It would be a real shame to wake him. She shrugged, and gently changed lanes.

"Hey! Where are we going?" It was Buffy. She too had been happily snoozing farther back in the bus.

"Don't ask me, big sister. I just drive where I'm asked to. Ask Miss Wide-awake here."

"Vi? What's going on?"

"You know that feeling you always used to talk about before... You know... The Tingle!"

"The knowing something was up? What Xander calls the Spider Sense? Right. Of course I do. Oh! Ah! Yes, I get you... I can feel it too. Dawnie, when we get off the highway, take a right, OK?"

"You got it." Dawn swung the wheel a little further over and they began to ascend the off-ramp, leaving Interstate 90 behind and starting a long slow climb up into the hills to the North.

An hour or so later there was a snuffling sound, like a sleeping animal rousing itself, and a male voice, vaguely indignant, asking where the blazes they were, and why hadn't anyone asked him.

"Oh, but you looked so cute sleeping there, Giles. It would have been a shame to disturb you."

"So, I've been hijacked. Again! What's the excuse this time?"

"Vi just got her first tingle."

Giles sat up and looked at the girl, who blushed as if someone had said something slightly indecent.

"Off to the North, Mr Giles. Somewhere up in the foothills. Over there." She waved a vague hand.

Giles sighed. Shepherding his flock to Seattle Airport was taking longer than he'd expected, but at least the process had thrown the news media, and others, completely off their trail.

"How far, Vi? Any idea?"

She looked apologetic and shook her head, but Buffy replied for her.

"I can feel it too. A couple, three more hours drive, I guess."

"OK, then. Dawn, better stop at the next gas station next chance we get and fill up. We don't want to get stuck again, like the other day."

"Okeydokey! One gas station coming right up. Who's got the magic credit card?"

"Me." Willow got it out and breathed gently on it. "It's ready when you are."

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3.

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Extract of a Letter from Mihama Chiyo to Sakaki-san

(continued next day - 22 May 2003)

Oh, Sakaki-san. It's so awful! Something horrible has happened here. One of the boys from my year has been found dead in the College grounds. They say he went out late last night to win a bet, and he was found at breakfast time with his throat torn out by some sort of wild animal, perhaps a wolf or mountain lion. The local police have been here all day, searching the woods for it with rifles, and have only just left.

The principal has said no one may go outside after dark until the creature has been found and shot, so I suppose that means I must exercise Tadakichi-san early, before supper time. I'm afraid he won't understand, but I must do as we have been told. I know he would do his best to protect me, but I wouldn't want him to risk being hurt to save me.

I'm sorry, I can't write any more now - I am too upset. I will try to finish this later.

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4.

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"Whoa! That tingle's real strong now, Mr Giles!"

"All right, Vi. And please stop calling me 'Mr.', all right? You really don't have to."

"Sorry, Mr... er... sorry, Giles, I forgot. It's just that I feel like we're pretty close to whatever it is."

"Me too, Giles," Kennedy said, and a couple of the other young Slayers nodded too.

"Open yourselves up and feel around for it," he said to the rest of the girls. "It should be there, like a beacon."

Buffy nodded. "A creepy, tingly, nasty beacon. I can feel it without even trying."

"So can I," said Bibi the Buffybot, to everyone's surprise.

"You too? How come - your upgrade?" Xander asked, smiling.

She nodded. "Don't mock, pirate-man. Just because you knew me back when, doesn't mean you can 'extract the Michael'."

"Sorry, Bibi," he said humbly.

Giles watched them silently. The Buffybot had already revealed a number of surprising new facets to her personality in the last ten days or so, one of them being an ability to stand up for herself and argue with the others, not taking 'No' for an answer. He expected to be surprised again in the future.

His thoughts were interrupted by Dawn, who was taking another turn at the wheel of the one-time Sunnydale school bus that was the only other thing which had escaped from the town with them.

"Cops!"

"OK, Operation Breakdown is now in operation!" said Bibi, and Dawn leaned across to fiddle with the setting of the choke lever, so that the engine began to cough intermittently, and the bus slowed down.

Two police patrol cars and an ambulance were coming along the narrow road towards them. On either side were trees, and more trees, and then just to be absolutely certain about it, even more trees. The ambulance and one police vehicle sped past, but the second black-and-white slowed down and stopped, and turned on the flashing lights on its roof. The driver got out and held up his hand, a big man in a heavy jacket and wide-brimmed hat, with a large automatic pistol in a holster on his hip. Dawn obediently drew the bus to a coughing halt and switched off the engine, while Giles and a couple of the others opened the door and got down into the road.

"Better get the paperwork out, I guess," Willow said, and rummaged in the glove compartment for the documents that the Buffybot had lovingly created in meticulous detail for them over the past few days for just such situations as these. Willow herself could have used her abilities to produce them magically, but everyone had agreed that as little use of her powers as possible was the right way to go just now. Dawn got her purse, which she kept stashed under her seat, produced her 'driver's licence' from it, and got down to join the others.

"We're doing a little educational tour of the West Coast," Giles was saying as he took back his passport and returned it to his inside jacket pocket.

The deputy eyed the bus, which was now a plain featureless yellow. "Yuh ain't local, are yuh? Where're y'all from, then?" he asked.

"Oh, a little place called er... Santa Barbara. It's down in Southern California, not far from Los Angeles." Giles used the made-up name of an imaginary small town they'd invented, because for obvious reasons he didn't want to mention Sunnydale.

"Never heard of it. I've bin to LA though. Big, damned big! Didn't like it. Give me Seattle any day."

"Neither do I. All cars and madness, and money. Not my scene at all."

"Hey - shops!" Buffy said, laughing.

"Fashion!" Vi said. "And shoes!"

"Movie stars!" said Dawn.

"Rich movie stars!" said Bibi, and Vi nodded eagerly, smiling for the deputy.

"Um, is there a phone anywhere around here?" Dawn asked after a moment, after they'd all had a good laugh at the Buffybot's contribution. "We're having some trouble with the bus, and there's no signal for any of our cell phones - we're obviously out of range, up in these hills. We need to find a vehicle repair shop, or maybe even a tow truck if our problems get much worse. We seem to be quite a way from anywhere, and the guys are no use with engines. Strangely!"

"Hey, no stereo vision here!" Xander protested.

"And he's not at all mechanical in any way, shape or form," she went on, pointing a thumb casually at Giles. "Or him." The thumb pointed dismissively at Andrew next. "Even Bibi's more mechanically minded than any of our guys!"

"Hey, don't look at me! Nail polish and engine parts go together like...um..." Bibi hesitated like the ditzy girl she was pretending to be.

"Like oil and water?" suggested Giles drily, really getting into the swing of the thing, and playing his part like a seasoned trouper. He rolled his eyes to heaven so that the deputy could see, and the two of them bonded wordlessly, males outnumbered in a sea of femininity.

"Well, you certainly don't want to be stuck out here on the road right now. I don't want to make you folks nervous, but we had a boy killed by a wild animal out this way last night. He was just found this morning. Pupil at that school for geniuses 'bout a mile on."

Everyone looked at each other. This was it!

"Hey, now. Don't you go worryin'. We'll find it in the morning, and when we do it's POW! Bye bye, wolfie!" He grinned, and for a moment almost seemed to be about to lick his lips. "But they've got a phone. They'll maybe put you up for the night too, if necessary. Just say I sent you along. Name's Ed Korczinski, OK?"

"Thank you, officer, we'll do that thing," Dawn said, receiving the bus registration documents and drivers licence back and slipping them into her purse. "What's the place called?"

"The 'George W. Bush College For Gifted Students', ma'am. You can't miss the place - it stands on its own in twenty acres of grounds, looking like a Victorian gin palace!" He laughed. "Gifted students! Little geniuses, they call 'em - spoiled little so-and-so's I say. They ain't nothing but trouble. Drunk driving mainly - rich young kids racing their flash sports cars around on these narrow country roads when they should be studying. You'd best take care on the bends, y'hear?"

He was looking at Dawn, so she nodded dutifully.

"The place is this far out of town to keep 'em away from distractions, and out of temptation, supposedly, but you know how kids are these days." He looked at Giles as he said this, and Giles smiled a little ruefully. He did indeed!

"The College will let you use the phone, but I wouldn't bet on getting anyone out this afternoon. It's getting a mite late, and I happen to know the only tow truck in our little town, that's Cedar Falls, crashed two days ago and is still awaiting parts itself to get it back on the road." He suggested the name of another town further away, and Giles nodded.

"Thank you very much for your assistance, officer. It's refreshing to find the police in Washington State are so helpful, especially to strangers like ourselves. We are much obliged to you."

"Oh, we're very strong for education around here, sir. We approve of it. Makes for better citizens!" He tipped his hat and started back to his patrol car, paused and looked back.

"And don't you mind none about that wild animal. Just make sure your party stay in the grounds of the school tonight, and don't go out walking after dark. OK?"

"Thank you, sir. We got it," Dawn called back, giving him a devastating smile, which he was to remember for days afterwards, though he would never see her again!

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5.

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Letter from Mihama Chiyo to Sakaki-san, continued.

This is turning into a very strange day indeed, Sakaki-san, so I must write quickly. The policemen had hardly been gone quarter of an hour, than an old school bus turned up carrying a dozen young women. Some of them seemed to be about fifteen or so, less than a year older than me, but the two oldest I think were about twenty two. There were two young men with them as well, also in their twenties, one of them wearing an eye-patch like a pirate from that film that came out recently! There was also a middle-aged man who seemed to be in charge.

They are said to be a group of girls from an exclusive school down in Southern California, rather like ours, on a cultural tour of the West Coast! Their bus has broken down and they are going to stop here for the night.

They ate with us at supper, and the Principal announced that their guide, who is called Mr Giles, will give us a talk on the study of ancient languages. Apparently he is an expert on the subject, and comes from England. One of the subjects I am studying is precisely that, so I absolutely have to go hear him!

Then after that the girls will give us a demonstration of Martial Arts and self-defense techniques in our gymnasium.

What a peculiar school they must be at! I will have to go to see that as well - it could be useful. Poor Tadakichi-san will think I have forgotten him. I can see I will be very late to bed tonight!

I must stop now and go to the lecture. I'm afraid this letter is turning into a journal - I hope you don't mind. I expect to finish it tomorrow with a description of tonight's events and finally be able to get it into the mail.

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6.

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"Hey, this food's really good. Better than those pizzas we had last night at that crumby motel."

"Yeah, Roach Central. Pity it was the only place we could find."

"I'd been in better garbage cans than that place," someone down the table said quietly, "when I was on the run from the Bringers. Sometimes even pizza was a luxury."

"The Principal told me just before we sat down that they have a genuine French chef running the kitchen here," Giles said. "There must be plenty of money in specialist private education."

"Maybe you missed your vocation, Giles," said Bibi with a wicked little grin.

"Well, it would certainly have been nice to have combined the Watcher's post with this sort of environment, I must admit."

"But then you would never have met us, Giles," Willow pointed out.

"True. And unfortunately we already know what Sunnydale would have been like in that case, don't we?" AN2

Willow nodded and took another forkful of melt-in-the mouth French cooking.

"Hey, Buffy. Take a quick look over at that table in the corner - the little redheaded Japanese girl eating on her own. She's staring at us."

"Well, Dawnie, we are a pretty remarkable bunch," Buffy laughed. "She's probably not the only one doing that, don't you think?"

"She looks so very young, though - about eleven or twelve I'd guess, maybe not even that. If she's a student here she must be something pretty special, brainwise, don't you think?"

'Brainwise?' thought Giles, but refrained from comment. It wasn't his job to correct his charges' grammar, though sometimes it was a severe strain not to say something in protest at least. He had to turn and look over his shoulder to see who Dawn was talking about, and almost immediately the little girl blushed and almost buried her face in her place-setting, she seemed so embarrassed to be at having been caught staring.

"I wonder who she is. She looks lonely there by herself. And I thought all Japanese people had black hair," Vi said.

"Hair dye," someone else on the opposite side of their table suggested dismissively.

Bibi glanced up for less than half a second, then looked away again.

"Not dyed," she said tersely. "That's natural. I can check on the natural hair colour of the Japanese people later if you wish."

"It's OK, Bibi. I just wondered, that's all," said Vi.

"Actually, I'm intrigued myself, now. I think I'd like to find out anyway."

"Well, I can't tell from here. You must have the most amazing eyesight, Bibi... Oh! Oh of course you have! Sorry, I was forgetting."

"Good!" said Bibi the Buffybot, smiling.

"Don't you think she looks a bit like a Japanese version of Penny Gadget, with her hair in bunches like that?" Andrew commented.

"What, the live action movie or the cartoon version?" asked Xander.

"No, the cartoon series, of course. In the movie she's played by that irritating child actress who's name I can never remember - you know, Dawn's 'lookee-likee'."

"Nah, I don't think she does, not really. And anyway, no one could look quite like our Dawnie."

At this point the College principal rose to his feet, and the school secretary tapped on the top table for silence. This took a moment or two to achieve, with members of the staff having to shush the students at their tables until quiet had fallen.

"Everyone, I'd like you all to welcome this evening's guests. Their bus has broken down, so we are giving them shelter for tonight, and longer if it takes a few days to get their vehicle going again. They are a group of students from Southern California on an educational tour of the west coast states, conducted by Mr Rupert Giles, who is from the United Kingdom. He is an expert on ancient languages, and tells me that at one time he worked for the British Museum in London, England. He has offered to give us an extempore lecture on his subject for anyone who wishes to attend. I hope you will all consider coming, as it is a rare opportunity for us to have such an illustrious educationalist in our midst, and it really behoves us to take advantage of his kind offer."

He paused.

"And afterwards, his ladies will give a demonstration of self-defense techniques in the gymnasium. Under the present sad circumstances I think this would be something that everyone here at George W Bush College might find useful to be aware of. It's a big bad world outside these walls, ladies and gentlemen, as regrettably we have had impressed upon us only just today, and I would like you all to know how to be careful out there. Thank you everyone," he finished and sat down again.

"Hey, Giles. When were you going to tell us about this?" one of the younger Slayers asked, a trifle indignantly.

Giles calmly took another forkful.

"Always expect the unexpected," he said with a smile.

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7.

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Letter from Mihama Chiyo to Sakaki-san, continued.

Miss Sakaki, this evening has been incredible. Let me tell you.

First, like I said earlier that I would, I went to hear the Ingurando-jin, Mr Giles, talk about the study of ancient languages. It was a little strange - he sounds very different from the rest of the people here, and sometimes it was a little difficult to follow him, but he made some sort of joke about that, which unfortunately I could not quite comprehend - something about the difference between 'Amerikan English' and what he called 'The Real Thing' - the English actually spoken in England. Yukari-sensei never told us about this! He was absolutely fascinating, though, and did not speak too fast, so I could understand most of what he said. It was almost as if he was making allowances for me, not just for the Amerikan students.

He explained about the earliest known writings all being pictograms, like Egyptian hieroglyphics, (they're the most famous ones, that everybody knows about), and how in the west these evolved quite rapidly, whereas in China and some other Asian countries it was different, so that if we study the shapes of our kanji closely it is still possible to make out the shapes of some of the objects they represent - a house, a cow, a plow, a field of wheat and so on. He didn't have any notes so he had to draw things on the whiteboard for us as he talked. He was able to show us several early languages compared side-by-side, and how they evolved away from each other, all from memory - truly amazing!

He then told us a little about his time working in the Near Eastern Department at the British Museum after he graduated from University, studying and translating the cuneiform tablets and inscriptions on stone carvings dug up by archaeologists in Mesopotamia in the 1920's. Apparently they still have cases and cases of them stored away in the Museum basements, still unopened and unexamined. I would really love to see some of those!

One strange thing happened - while he was drawing some of the characters for us to see, one of his girls called out that he'd drawn a few of them incorrectly. I was very surprised - she is only a couple of years older than I am, and yet she was telling him he was wrong! This would never happen in Japan, I 'm sure, and yet he stopped, checked what he had written, apologised to her and then erased and re-drew several. They then had a heated 'discussion' over another few, and decided that as there had been variations in writing in different parts of that country, then both or either could be right. It was fascinating to watch - just like being in a really intense tutorial. The girl, whose name is Dawn, which means Yoake in our language, then apologised to us and said she was partly self-taught, and still sometimes got mixed up between the different dialects of cuneiform writing. Different dialects! Incredible! She reminded me of you a little, Sakaki-san - she is tall, and wears her hair very long, though she's not as 'Amerikan' as you in 'that' way - at the front I mean! Actually, all these girls are slim, but very fit and athletic, like both you and Kagura-san.

Another odd thing - one of the older women, who seem to be the teachers of the younger ones, is this Dawn's sister, and for some strange reason she seemed familiar, as if I had seen her somewhere before, which is impossible of course. Her name is Buffy Summers. She also has a cousin with the group, called Bibi. Except that Bibi-san's hair is brown, the two are so alike they could almost be twins! These Amerika-jin have such peculiar names - I don't think they have meanings in the same way that ours do, they are just noise labels. Sometimes it is difficult not to laugh at them.

Afterwards I was able to speak to Giles-sensei for a little while. Hardly anyone else seemed to want to, so I was able to ask him a number of questions about my studies. He says that if I'm interested in specialising, the best source material available in Amerika is at the Smithsonian Museum, but if I really want to do it properly I should go to England, as both the British Museum and the 'Oxbridge' Universities have the really important and most comprehensive collections of material.

Oh, how I wish I could do that! Just imagine me in England, to study the Ancient Languages. That would be most wonderful. Don't you think it would be a good idea? Maybe I will! Perhaps I could talk to my father about it. Would it not sound good for him to be able to say, "My daughter is now studying at University in Ingurando! She visits the British Museum and translates ancient writings with their academics!" Oh, Sakaki-san, dearest Sakaki-san! It would be so exciting! I really think this is what I want to do! I will, I will! I will ask him if I may do this!

My hands are shaking just at the thought of it, and I can hardly write. Possibly you cannot even read what I have just written! I think perhaps I should pause here and allow myself to calm down. A few minutes meditation and then I will continue.

Ochitsuku, Chiyo.

There, that's better - heisei. I am myself again.

After this talk there was the demonstration of self-defense techniques and Martial Arts in the gymnasium, given by the visiting girls. That was a lot of 'very' fun. Did I ever tell you that before I left home my father insisted I do some basic judo training for just this reason? Even so, I learned a lot from the girls, who are all very nice, but so, so very strong! And I did have such fun!

You know, I feel perhaps I am just starting to change from the rather nervous, anxious, giggly little Japanese girl I used to be, the one you all knew, into something of an Amerikanized 'tough cookie'. Maybe I am beginning to 'grow up' at last.

Maybe when you next see me I will be a 'big' girl!

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8.

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"Hey! Did you see the Japanese kid?"

"Certainly did. She really took to it like a duck to water, didn't she?"

"I'd say she had definitely had some training already, before she left Japan. The way she chucked that fat guy across the floor - he must have been nearly twice her weight! Mind you, I think she looked nearly as surprised as he did! Did you see the grin on her face afterwards?"

"The Cheshire Cat had nothing on her!" Dawn said.

"That's the thing about judo, using your opponent's weight to your advantage. Mind you, I don't think that kicking back to knock his feet away from under him, because he was so much taller, was quite standard judo. A neat little trick, though."

"You got that right. As soon as I saw her roll her sleeves up I could tell she had something. She looked so determined, and she knew how to prepare," said Buffy.

"Well, she was mighty quick at picking up tips from us all," someone else said.

"I think she'll be all right on her own, out on a dark night," said Dawn.

"I sincerely hope so," said Giles. "We haven't a clue yet as to what you ladies were sensing earlier today, have we? Demons, vamps, werewolves, other creatures - anybody got any ideas yet?"

"Nada, not a sausage, niet, nie," the various answers came back, all meaning the same thing. Giles shook his head and looked worried. His merry band couldn't afford to take too long about finding the 'lurking evil' they had sensed - there was a plane to catch in just two days, and a one hundred and fifty mile drive through the mountains to make to Seattle International Airport, so there was not much time to spare.

"We'll patrol inside the building, and go out hunting first thing, before the cops arrive with their guns. We don't want to end up on the wrong end of 'friendly fire', do we?" said Buffy. "Least ways, I certainly don't," she added, remembering the time she'd been shot by Warren Mears. The other Chosen girls nodded, and hastily proceeded to divvy up their patrol areas and times.

"And remember, quietly does it," said Giles. "We don't want the College people to know anything about what we're doing."

"Well, at least I can put my head down by one A.M., and get a solid six hours in," said Vi optimistically.

"You think? Shouldn't we be up by sunrise? We don't have any time to waste," Buffy said, and there was a general groan.

"She's right," said Giles. "You know what they say: 'Evil, like rust, never sleeps'!"

"Not even an occasional lie-in?" Kennedy asked hopefully.

"That's why it's so evil!" Xander told her, and there was another groan.

"Time for bed," said... somebody.

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9.

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23 May 2003

In the middle of the night, she really wasn't sure of the time, just that it was still pitch dark outside, Vi woke up to discover Bibi sitting looking out of the window. She'd become quite accustomed to sharing a bedroom with the Bot on their slow wandering up the West Coast, avoiding the news media, on their way to catch the plane to England. The Buffybot was still dressed.

"Don't you ever need to sleep?" she whispered.

"Not necessarily."

"What are you doing?"

"I'm on-line, learning a little Japanese. The College has a nice Wi-fi set-up covering the whole campus."

"Huh? Japanese? Why?"

"Did you see the expression on the little Japanese girl's face after she threw the fat guy? She stalked away looking - oh, I don't know - fierce, elated? That's one interesting young lady, I'm thinking."

"A future one of us, d'you think?

"Who knows? Maybe. Anyway, I want to be able to have a talk with her in her own language. I think she may have potential of some sort that could be useful to us one day."

"How can you tell? She doesn't look more than about twelve years old yet, if that."

Bibi shrugged invisibly in the dark, and after a few minutes with nothing further said, Vi turned over and went back to sleep.

When she opened her eyes again it was getting light, and she realised she's been woken by a door slamming down below.

"Guess who's taking her dog for a walk."

"Jeez, it's cold," Vi grumbled as she reluctantly slid out of bed and staggered to the window. "Where is the brat?"

"Over by where we parked the bus."

"Something about it's caught her attention. Why's she feeling the side?"

"I think she's tracing out the letters underneath the paintwork. We didn't do such a very good job blotting them out, did we?" said Bibi. "Look, S-U-N... yup, I think she's just working it out. Damn! Bright kid indeed. I can almost see those cute little bunches of hers standing up on end as she puts two and two together..."

"...And is about to make a five mile hole in the ground?"

"Indubitably. She's certainly intelligent enough," said the Buffybot. The two of them watched as, down below in front of the College, young Mihama Chiyo stood quite still for several minutes, apparently considering the possible meaning of what she had just discovered. At length the big white French Pyrenean Mountain dog she called Mr Tadakichi, began to nudge her, breaking into her concentration. She looked down and patted him on the head. She knew what he wanted - a good run around, a long walk, or to play games with her.

For a little while the two young women looked out from their third floor window, watching unnoticed as the two outside ran about playfully, obediently staying within the College boundary as instructed by the Principal the previous evening, innocently enjoying the fresh May early morning light. All round them the trees rose up the steep hillsides in green ranks, sheltering them from the direct rays of the rising sun, casting deep blue shadows across the road and the driveway, the walls and roofs, and the immaculate lawns. Except for the girl's voice coming up faintly through the fresh morning air, everything was utterly quiet and peaceful.

"Like a picture book, isn't it?" said Vi wistfully. Bibi nodded. Nothing more really needed saying.

The words had hardly been spoken when the scene was abruptly disturbed as the big dog stopped its running around with his mistress and suddenly stood stock still facing the woods across the road from the College entrance, growling.

"What is it, Tadakichi-san?" they both heard her say. Though she spoke in Japanese it was easy to guess her meaning just from her tone of voice. The dog began to bark. Chiyo tugged at his collar, and then came round in front of him and tried to shush him, but he merely shouldered her aside and took several paces closer to the road and the woods opposite. The barking became louder and more aggressive, and then, just as Bibi turned to speak to Vi, Mr Tadakichi suddenly pulled free and went galloping across the lawn, out of the gate, and disappeared into the trees, baying angrily like the Hound of the Baskervilles. Calling his name, the little Japanese girl went running after him, and almost immediately she too was lost from sight in the wood.

"Oh dear. I guess us redheads had better look out for each other," grumbled Vi, hastily reaching for her clothes.

"There's something out there," Bibi said abruptly. "Can't you feel it?"

Vi paused, and concentrated. Yes, there it was, that nasty, uncomfortable, tingling feeling that had attracted her attention the day before from nearly a hundred miles away, on the Seattle freeway.

"I'll get the others!" she gasped and raced for the door as Bibi flung open the window and started to clamber out.

-----------------------------------------

10.

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Buffy had only put her head down to catch some ZZZZZ's a couple of hours before, just as the sky had begun to pale in the east. She too came awake abruptly, a distasteful feeling making her shiver. She reached across and punched her still-sleeping sister on the arm. Dawn groaned and pulled the bedclothes higher over her head.

Buffy bounced to her feet and with one sweep tore everything off Dawn's bed and flung it across the room. Dawn came awake with a wail.

"Buffy! Waddidiyoudothatfor?"

"Monster alert. Get moving - now!"

"Huh?" Dawn sat up like a Jack-in-a-box, hair every which way, looking as if she'd just been dragged through a hedge backwards. "Where? How many?"

"In the woods opposite, and I don't know. Where are the weapons?"

Dawn groaned, rubbing her eyes and putting her feet on the floor.

"Locked in the bus so's no inquisitive busybody would find them."

By this time Buffy already had her boots on.

"Keys?"

Dawn grabbed them off the nightstand and tossed them over. Buffy caught them as she was already on her way out of the door.

"Be as quick as you can!" her voice came back down the corridor and then there was a thundering down the magnificent wooden staircase as the rest of the younger Slayers came charging out of their rooms and followed her.

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11.

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Willow woke to find an empty hollow in the bed beside her and an echo of feet in the distance. She too sat up reluctantly, wrapped the duvet round her and stumbled over to the window, to see the crowd of Slayers come charging into view from somewhere below. A movement across the road, just vanishing into the trees, was barely recognisable as the Buffybot going full-pelt.

"Yoicks, Tally Ho, what?" she murmured to herself. "I suppose I'd better get down there," and dropping the bedclothes on the floor at her feet, she raised both arms.

"I guess this is a proper reason to use a little magic," she said to herself, and declaimed half a dozen words. There was a whirling in the room for a few seconds, and then there she was, standing fully dressed. She waited for a couple of breaths, said something more, and vanished.

-----------------------------------------

12.

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"OK, what's the what, Buffy?"

"Willow! You got down here mighty quick! Well done."

"Seemed important, and anyway I don't want to miss the fun. Oh, hi Kennedy!"

"What the... how did you beat me down here? No, let me guess..."

"Weapons!" said Buffy briskly, dragging the door of the bus open and charging up the steps.

"Where's Bibi?"

"Jumped straight out of our third floor window and took off like a racehorse," Vi said.

"I just caught a glimpse of her charging into the trees directly opposite the gates, going full-tilt," said Willow. She pointed dramatically. "There. She went thataway!"

Buffy threw a couple of weapons bags out on the ground and everyone grabbed something either pointy or sharp, or preferably both. They didn't need to be told what to do except for Buffy's warning to stay in pairs until they knew exactly what they were hunting, and where it was.

And of course where the Japanese kid and her dog were.

Deep within the trees they could hear the hound baying even more frantically than before, if that was at all possible.

Ahead of them, already well out of sight, Bibi went charging up the steep slope, not really trying to avoid the thinner trees but simply running through them at top speed. Branches snapped off like so many sticks of celery as she passed. After about half a minute she came to an abrupt dead halt to listen, standing utterly motionless, turning up the gain on her hearing, and scanning round her with just her eyes for any traces of movement. She could still hear the dog barking frantically, but the densely packed thousands of trees all around her were causing the sounds to echo and re-echo, messing up her sense of the direction it was coming from.

Then she heard the one sound she dreaded the most - a heart-rending scream!

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13.

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"Ah! Choshoku! Time for breakfast!"

Chiyo stopped just exactly where she was, and slowly turned towards the voice. Mr Tadakichi, crouching protectively in front of her, growled deep in his throat, as a gigantic, ugly figure, three meters tall, clad in Japanese-style armour, stepped out from behind a tree just up the slope from her, forcing her to look up as it towered above her. It was carrying a huge, oversized katana in one hand, and a heavy wooden club in another. Its third and fourth hands held nothing, but its face was one from her childhood nightmares - dark blue shiny skin, great glaring eyes, and great curved yellow fangs like the tusks of a fully-grown wild boar.

She had seen a picture of something like it once before, when she was quite a little girl - a drawing in brush and ink in an ancient scroll at the National Museum in Tokyo, a scroll that depicted some of the many demons of ancient Japanese mythology. She had never forgotten what it looked like - in fact she'd had bad dreams about it on and off for months afterwards. Suddenly she went ice cold, and started to shudder violently.

"Kyuuketsuki!" she whispered, her voice trembling.

"Ah. You know me," it responded in the same language. "Excellent!" and its mouth gaped in a grotesque parody of a smile, showing more great pointed teeth, with its two huge curved ones in the top jaw and two more in the lower, where humans would have canines. Its voice sounded like rocks grinding together, and there seemed to be fragments of food between its teeth, making its breath smell like rotting flesh. Chiyo had never encountered anything like it before, and the stench made her feel sick, but she knew without having to be told, that was what it was.

Petrified, and unable to move, she also knew she was about to die.

"Tadakichi-san, run away. Quickly! It doesn't want you when it can have me," she managed to whisper, but her faithful dog remained crouched snarling in front of her, daring the unearthly creature to advance and be savagely bitten.

"Onegai! Hashire!" she repeated hoarsely. "Run, go, please, please," but the dog merely crouched lower to the ground and began to creep forward on its belly, snarling furiously, teeth bared like his adversary, determined to protect his mistress, the person he had regarded as his mother ever since he had come into the Mihama household as a puppy.

Suddenly the creature stepped forward and without warning struck savagely downwards at the dog with its club. Somehow Mr Tadakichi managed to twist sideways to avoid the blow, and charged up hill at the figure in front of him. Chiyo wanted to scream, but her voice was stuck in her throat, frozen, and all that emerged was a faint whimper. She staggered, and then, somehow, managed to take a pace forwards. As she did so, with a terrible howling laugh, the monster kicked Mr Tadakichi savagely in the ribs, so hard that he was hurled down the slope, away past Chiyo, and hit a tree where he lay stunned. Then the demon reached down with one of its free hands and picked her up.

Just for a brief moment it held her up in front of its face, grinning in anticipation, great forked tongue flicking in and out as if tasting her breath like a snake does, and then slowly, unhurriedly, opened its huge jaws and put her into its mouth.

It was at this point that she screamed, just as the demon, in leisurely fashion, bit into her neck and shoulder. Blood spurted. She felt her bones starting to crack.

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14

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Bibi's head whipped round, and for just a fraction of a second she stood as still as a stone, listening to the echoes, making absolutely sure of the direction of that scream.

Then she was off, crashing on uphill through the undergrowth and saplings like a tank at full speed, not caring what she hit or ran through, just that she reach the little girl before it was too late, and yelling at the top of her voice, both to distract and perhaps deter whatever creature was attacking the child, and to tell the other Slayers where she was and where to head for.

One killing machine heading, full tilt, towards another.

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15

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The pain was excruciating, but as the world spun dizzily away from her, Chiyo Mihama vaguely heard a wild yelling like the charge of a warrior approaching, with faintly in the distance, a response.

The demon paused, and strangely, instead of biting down further, it lifted its head from its little-girl breakfast snack and looked around, puzzled, to ascertain what all the fuss was about.

A second later something came tearing out of the woods, moving so fast that the creature had no time to react. All it had time to be aware of was being hurled back against the tree by the impact of something with the force of a railway train. The child was knocked away, vanishing from its grasp, and then that something began to strike and rend at it furiously, ripping whole chunks of its flesh from its body, something so powerful and ferocious that by the time help arrived - not for the demon of course, but for its attacker - despite fighting back savagely, it was just a bleeding, battered wreck trying to maintain its footing, minus two of its four arms, minus its weapons and most of its armour, minus one eye and most of its teeth - in fact, to quote a far better writer, almost 'sans everything'.

But it was still alive, if that is the right word for it.

"Jeez! What the hell is THAT?" Buffy asked as she came skidding to a halt, Scythe at the ready, the younger Slayers in a gaggle close behind her.

"Major Japanese demon of some sort," Bibi said shortly, breathing heavily. "I can't seem to kill it." She sounded annoyed.

"Looks like you've had a bloody good try!" someone said in awe. "I've never seen anything like it, even in the cheapest low-budget Japanese samurai movies!"

"Where's the kid? How is she? Is she alright?"

"She's over here, under this tree. The thing's bitten right through her shoulder, but I think she's still alive."

"How bad is it?"

Vi dropped to her knees beside the girl, hastily ripping a sleeve from her sweater and rolling it up as a pad to hold firmly against the deep puncture wounds and stem the bleeding.

"Dunno. Can't tell, but it looks pretty bad. Blood isn't spurting, so I guess it just missed the arteries, but she's not in good shape. Left shoulder looks crushed, I think, and she's probably lost quite a lot of blood already. We should get her to hospital as quickly as possible."

"Get going, then. Look after her. I've got some tidying up to do here, first," and Bibi turned away, confident that Chiyo would be in good hands while she took care of the demon, which was trying to lumber to its feet again.

At her feet was its club, so she picked that up, on the principle that a demon's own weapon is probably the best thing to use against it. So she struck upwards, straight off the ground, causing its helmet to fly off through the trees somewhere into the middle distance.

"Now we can see what we're doing, can't we?" she said grimly to her opponent, and brought the club down again on its bare skull. The result of that single blow was most satisfactory - the creature gave a despairing howl, clutched its crushed head, and pitched forwards motionless on its face.

"D'you think that's it?" Kennedy asked.

"Naah! It's a vampire. You have to take its head right off, or stake it. It's in the instruction manual," said Buffy.

"You sure? It's not an American vampire, after all," Willow said doubtfully. She'd 'ported herself up to the scene as soon as the shouting had stopped and she could be sure her target point was safe.

"Let's find out," said the Buffybot, and smashed it on the head a few more times, splashing more blood everywhere, both her own and the demon's. Then everyone stepped back and stood looking at it in the satisfaction of a job well done. Except that after a couple of minutes it became apparent that it was no different to American vampires - you had to do things by the book. No short cuts.

"Is this its sword?" Buffy asked, coming back down the hill carrying the giant katana, which she had just retrieved. "Lovely piece of work." A trifle reluctantly she reversed the hilt and offered it to Bibi, who bowed slightly and received it. Then, with four swift blows, the Bot slashed off the demon's four remaining limbs.

"That should keep it in one place for a few minutes. Now should we cut its head off, or stake it through the heart?"

"'Belt and braces', as Giles would say. Do both," Willow advised. "And if that still doesn't work we can always set fire to it."

"Not here in the woods. If we start a forest fire we wouldn't be popular," Bibi pointed out. "We might even have trouble leaving the country if they work out 'it wos us wot dun it'. I don't think the excuse that we just wanted to brew up a cuppa tea would work somehow."

"Point taken. So what do we do, drag it down onto the road then?"

"You make sure whether the usual methods work, first," Giles' voice said from below them as he came puffing up the hill, assisted by two of the younger Slayers who had gone back to help him.

"Hi Giles. I'm afraid you missed all the fun - it's all over bar the shouting!" someone said cheerfully.

"My, my. He's a big boy, isn't he? How many of you did it take to bring him down?"

There was no need to say anything - everyone just pointed at the Buffybot.

"Mm. Not bad. A bit cross were you?"

"A bit," said the Buffybot quietly. "It had started to feed on the kid."

"How is she?"

The Buffybot nodded at where Vi was tending to the little Japanese girl. Giles knelt down beside them both. Blood soaked the whole of the left side of the young girl's jacket, and oozed from deep wounds in her neck and shoulder. Her eyes were only half open, her face was pale, her skin grey and sweaty, and her breathing was shallow. Her lips moved, but she made no sound.

"Willow, don't just stand there," Giles said a little sharply.

"What? Oh, oh, God, no. Of course. Now what spell do I use?" She hesitated, dithering.

"Don't take too long making up your mind, Willow," Giles said a little tartly, but the voice that responded wasn't Willow's, it was Bibi's.

"Wait!" she said firmly. Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked up.

"What? Why?" said Willow.

Bibi handed the katana back to Buffy to mind, and slowly rolled her shredded right sleeve up. Everyone exclaimed at the horrendous injuries that were revealed - her skin and flesh were in shreds, torn right down to the bone in some places by deep gashes where the demon had tried to fight back. The wounds were oozing a thin pink fluid. Even Giles, who the girls might have supposed to have seen it all before, had to admit to himself he was a little shaken.

"My God, Bibi. You're hurt as badly as the child. Can we fix you?"

Bibi ignored him, grim-faced now with the pain of her own injuries. She stepped over to where the Japanese girl lay back limply in Vi's arms, and leaned over her.

"Lift the pad from her neck please. Gently."

Vi looked at her expression for only an instant, and obeyed without even glancing over at Giles for advice. Carefully she peeled back the wadded-up sleeve, and everyone could see the deep wounds made by the demon's huge teeth stabbing right through the young girl's neck and shoulder, leaving a full set of puncture marks. Everyone winced at the damage just one single bite had done, even Buffy and Giles.

"What are you going to do, Buffybot?" Willow asked, confused and anxious, but the Bot just held her arm straight out and let her own pale 'blood' drip into the wounds.

As it did, she spoke slowly and clearly in a language none of them recognised, as if intoning a spell.

"Hey, you're doing my job!" Willow protested, only half in jest. "Are you a witch now, too, or what?"

"I'm not. Well, not really. This is... Well, you could say I'm just using something I picked up in my travels."

"Along with one of your upgrades, Bibi? I didn't think Bots could do magic?"

"Well normally, of course..." The Bot looked up and somehow managed a smile. "You know Clark's Law, don't you Giles?" she said.

Giles frowned. "Which? There are several. You don't mean the one about the elderly scientist, do you?"

"No. The one that says if a technology is sufficiently advanced it is indistinguishable from magic."

"Oh? Oh, that one!" He nodded. "Ah, yes. I see what you mean."

The Buffybot nodded. "Well, this is one of those. If it works, she'll heal much faster than normal, and no need for magic. Sorry to steal your thunder, Willow," she added apologetically, looking over at the witch.

"No, no. The less disturbance of the aether the better, but are you sure it will work?"

"Holy cow! Look at her! I think it's starting to have an effect already!" Buffy said. Surprise was obvious in her tone of voice.

It had only been a minute or so, but already Chiyo's face was beginning to look a little better. Her skin seemed slightly less grey, and her cheeks had already started to lose their hollow, sunken, sweaty look. Her muscles relaxed and everyone thought they could see a slight improvement. She opened her eyes wide, made a little sound, gazed up at Bibi for a moment and smiled. Then she closed her eyes and sighed.

"Oh, God! Is she...?"

Bibi touched her wrist, feeling for her pulse. "No, Willow, it's OK. She's just asleep. She'll probably be out for quite a time while the process works."

"Well, Bibi. I have to take my hat off to you! I had no idea."

"Actually, Giles, to be entirely honest, neither had I. Thought I'd try, though. If it hadn't worked, we still had Willow."

"A robot that can do magic. 'Who'd 'a' thort it? Cor strewth, guv!'"

"Yes, well, as I said - only 'sort of'."

"One of those little things you picked up while you were away on your travels... with your friend 'The Doctor'?"

Bibi smiled. "Well, we did get around quite a bit. Met some very interesting... er... people."

"Hey, what about her dog?" one of the younger Chosen asked. "It's down here. It's hurt too. I think it may have been hit by that club, or kicked, maybe."

"I'll do this one," said Willow firmly, at which everyone smiled, "and then," she put her hand gently on Bibi's shoulder, "I'll have to help fix you. Again. Been a long time, hasn't it?"

Bibi smiled and glanced at her arms. To be truthfull, she was surprised to see how much damage they'd suffered. Also how much they were beginning to hurt.

But first there was the finishing up to do.

Carefully she rolled her sleeve down again, and retrieved the oversized katana. Then she moved round the demon's torso into a suitable position and hoisted the sword high in the air. Buffy moved to stand opposite her, safely back out of its reach, and from the waistband of her pants she produced the beautifully carved stake that Giles had given her that Christmas, she couldn't remember how many years back. AN3

"Ready when you are, cousin Buffy."

"Oh, after you, cousin Bibi." Neither one of them was smiling.

The katana slashed down and the Kyuuketsuki's head leaped into the air and rolled away down the hill. Buffy immediately stepped forwards and plunged the stake clean through the remains of its armour and deep into its heart. There was an instant's pause, then suddenly, with a demonic howl from all around them, it exploded into dust, just as per the instructions in the 'Watcher's Handbook'.

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16

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23 May 2003 (very late)

"Aah!"

Chiyo came awake suddenly from a very strange dream. Her Sakaki-san was wielding an extraordinarily long katana with the usual exceptional grace and skill she did most things, defending her, Chiyo, from some sort of huge evil creature, but she couldn't make out what it was. Sakaki's beautiful, long dark hair was tied back like a traditional Samurai warrior, and she was wearing a boy's high-school jacket.

Then it was all gone.

She opened her eyes, and had no idea at all where she was - she didn't recognise the room, which was in semi-darkness. She seemed to be in bed. She tried to lift her head to look round the room, but suddenly there was terrible pain in her shoulder and neck, and she cried out again in surprise.

A young woman sitting resting her head on her forearms on the bed beside her straightened up suddenly, and for a moment the long hair made Chiyo think the dream was real.

"Sakaki-san! What are you doing here? What has happened?"

"Hi, Chiyo! You're awake! How are you feeling?" the woman said in English.

Chiyo looked at the young woman in great confusion. It wasn't her Sakaki-san at all - even in the gloom she could see that this person's hair was brown, not blue-black, and she was younger too.

"Sakaki-san? Where is Sakaki-san?" she asked, still in her own language.

"Hey! Chiyo, it's me, Dawn. Do you remember me?"

"Dawn? Yoake? Not Miss Sakaki? Oh, Miss Dawn! The lecture," Chiyo said slowly, switching to English with difficulty. "Where am I? What has happened to me?"

"Yes, that's me. Don't worry - you're going to be fine. You've been hurt, but you are going to be OK. You're in hospital, but everything's going to be fine. You're safe now. We're all here, taking turns to be with you. Now close your eyes and try to go back to sleep, OK?"

Chiyo looked at her, too weak to ask any more questions, sighed, and obediently closed her eyes.

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17

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24 May 2003

When she opened them again the sun was shining - obviously a lot of time had passed. She supposed she must have slept again for a long, long while. The girl, Dawn, was over by the window, looking out and waving to someone.

"Aah!" Chiyo said quietly, and Dawn came over to look at her.

"Hi, again. How are you feeling?"

"Thirsty. Please may I have a drink?"

Dawn turned away for a moment and called to someone else outside. Almost immediately a whole bunch of other girls appeared in the doorway, smiling and waving to her. Chiyo tried to turn her head to look at them, but it hurt too much, and she had to clench her teeth to remain silent.

Someone came in and leaned over her, offering her a tumbler of water with a straw to drink through, and Chiyo thought she seemed vaguely familiar. For a moment she struggled for a name, but nothing came.

"Hi. I'm Bibi. How are you feeling?"

"It hurts. What has happened to me?" Chiyo said slowly. She realised she could feel bandages and medical dressings on her neck and left shoulder, and her left arm was in a sling. "Was I in an accident?"

"Don't worry about it. You're going to be fine, I promise," Bibi reassured her, and Chiyo closed her eyes very briefly. When she opened them again a doctor and nurse were in the room, just about to give her an injection.

"It's to take away the pain," Bibi told her. "You had one before, but it's time for another. Then you can sleep again."

Chiyo blinked, and the doctor and nurse were gone, but Bibi was still there, taking a turn sitting beside her bed, gently holding her right hand. Chiyo looked at her and realised that both Bibi's arms were also swathed in bandages. She frowned, puzzled, and then an image of Bibi and a strange creature like the one in her dream came into her mind, and she realised that perhaps the dream had been about something real, something that had actually happened. A memory of a real event.

"You!" she said, puzzled. "Fighting? I remember fighting?"

"Shh! Sleep, little Chiyo. Sleep." The sound of her own language was soothing, and she was asleep before she had time to be at all surprised at hearing someone speaking it.

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18

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25 May 2003 (very early)

"Aah!"

Once again Chiyo opened her eyes.

She was lying in a bed in a darkened room. It was not her own bed, or her own room. It smelled like a hospital. She wondered why she was there - had something happened to her?

She turned her head to look round the room and suddenly there was terrible pain in her neck and left shoulder and she couldn't help crying out, and shut her eyes again. Almost immediately someone came in to look at her. She heard the beeping of a medical monitor and someone touched her, checking the leads connecting her to it. Then the person was gone, and the room seemed lighter.

Chiyo lay and thought about this, and after a while supposed that she'd fallen asleep again and time had passed. She closed her eyes, and the next time she opened them it was fully daylight, and she could see where she was.

It looked like any hospital room in any medical soap opera on television, only not as neat and tidy. There were flowers, lots of them, in vases round the room, and somewhere outside people were talking in subdued voices. She turned her head towards the door to call out, and again there was the same sharp pain, and she thought she remembered waking in the night. It was confusing - the memory was vague and she couldn't be sure it was real and that she hadn't just dreamed it. She put her right hand up to feel, and found a heavy dressing on the left side of her neck, her shoulder bandaged, and her left arm immobilised. She tried to turn her head, but the movement was so stiff and uncomfortable that she desisted almost immediately. Something had definitely happened to her, but she no matter how much she tried, her memory was still indistinct - she simply couldn't remember.

Idly she listened to the voices - some young women talking outside in the corridor. It seemed a very strange conversation - she couldn't understand what they were discussing, though the voices themselves sounded vaguely familiar. She wondered if she should call out, but it seemed too much effort, so she just lay there and it all drift over her.

"I wish I'd got up the hill in time to see it for myself," one voice said. "I just can't run as fast as you guys." That brought with it an impression of a tall young girl with brown hair and a cheerful smile, arguing with an older man over some point in translating something. That rang a bell with Chiyo, as it was her subject, and an image popped into her mind of a lecture on ancient languages. It also brought back a faint memory of the same girl beside her bed in the night-time, and, strangely, with it an echo of an association with Sakaki-san.

"Maybe you need more exercise," someone else was saying. "We can't always stop and wait for you to catch up whenever something happens." That sounded like a familiar situation, and Chiyo was suddenly reminded of her problems on the sports field at High School as the smallest and youngest pupil by far, more than once holding back her class in the Athletics Festival. She smiled, and wondered who she shared that problem with.

"Hey! No fair! I have no special powers!" It was the voice of her first night time companion. So! She smiled to herself.

"It was a big baka," (at least to Chiyo it sounded very like baka, and she wondered who it was that seemed to be dropping Japanese words into their conversation so casually) "nine feet tall if it was an inch. I've never seen one like it before. Those teeth could have ripped the kid in half!"

"Have you ever encountered a foreign demon before, Giles? Are they all like that?"

"You never know what you'll get," a male voice said next. "Technically, you could say they're all foreign, in that they don't really belong here at all, now. There are no rules with demons - they might look pretty human-like, or be all teeth and tentacles, or like a giant snake but with head and possibly hands..."

"Ooh, don't remind me!" another female voice interjected.

"...Or be like a ton of blubber, or like a none-too-jolly blue giant, or..."

"...Like a stone statue, or... Oh anything really. You just never know. They just turn up and we take 'em down."

"But when Buffy took us all to Willy's Bar that time, she said not every demon was evil, or even particularly bad."

"No, you're right. Mostly they just want to survive, just like most living beings. It was a struggle for some of them just to get by from one day to the next, even in Sunnydale," another male voice replied.

Chiyo heard a girl's voice giggling - the same one she'd heard first off.

"What's tickling you, then, Dawn?

"I was just thinking again about the expressions on the faces of everyone hanging out of the windows day before yesterday, as we all came charging back across the College lawns carrying Chiyo and her dog, with swords and spears over our shoulders, and a giant samurai helmet and sword as souvenirs. It was just priceless. I wish I'd had a camera!"

"It was a great pity the cops had to turn up just then!"

"Well, yeah. Good thing Willow was able to do her stuff and wiggle her fingers to foozle them into thinking they'd killed a grizzly - they certainly looked pretty pleased when they all went off to celebrate."

"It would be interesting to know how they rationalised to themselves not bringing back a load of bear meat," the older male voice said thoughtfully.

"Details, Giles. Mere details."

"Thank you, Willow. I know the human mind can reason that black is white if given enough encouragement, but still..."

At this point something someone had said a moment before registered with Chiyo, and she cried out.

"Tadakichi-san! Where is Tadakichi-san? Is he all right?"

There was an immediate quiet rush of people into the room - and Chiyo realised they were all the people who had arrived in the yellow bus the day before, or was it the day before that? She couldn't be sure what day it was; she'd apparently lost track of time. How long had she been here in this hospital room?

"Hey, honey! You're awake! How are you feeling?"

Chiyo looked up at all the earnest faces gazing down at her, but had only one thing on her mind.

"Where is my dog, please? Mr Tadakichi? Has anything happened to him? Is he here?"

"Don't worry about him. He's fine."

"Where is he? Something happened to him didn't it? He's dead, isn't he?" Tears began to well up.

"No, Miss Mihama," the Englishman said, patting her hand reassuringly, and she suddenly recognised him as the visiting lecturer from what she still supposed was the night before. "The girls have been taking care of him - feeding him, exercising him as much as he seems able to manage just at the moment..."

"Mr T is fine," one of the others said. "In fact he's in a lot better shape than you are!"

"Kennedy!" the woman called Willow said.

"What? He is."

"What happened, please?" Chiyo asked. "I can't seem to remember. It's all confused. Did I fall? Was I in an accident?"

"Give her some room, guys. Get some chairs, or something and sit down. You're looming!" another male voice said, and Chiyo turned her head cautiously to see that it was the man with the eye patch. "She's only little. She'll think you're going to eat her."

"Xander!!!!" everyone exclaimed loudly.

Chiyo gasped as his words seemed to suddenly open a door into her memory, letting her see clearly into what had been like a closed room.

The woman called Bibi leaned forwards. "Don't be frightened, Chiyo. You're in hospital, but you're going to be fine. Your dog is doing fine too. He's in better condition than you are, and you're doing surprisingly well."

"You are Bibi-san, aren't you?" said Chiyo, and reached out to grasp her hand. Cautiously she pulled herself up into a sitting position. It hurt quite a lot, but not as much as she had expected.

"Yes! I remember. Now I remember - I couldn't move. I saw you... in the wood when something... a creature. It bit me... and then you were there and took me away from it. That was you, wasn't it? You came to save me!"

"Everybody came. I just got there first," Bibi said modestly.

"But you attacked it with your bare hands. I saw you. I remember!"

Bibi shrugged. "Kid, sometimes a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do."

Chiyo considered this for a moment, nodding thoughtfully. "But it was trying to eat me! I thought I was going to die. You saved my life," she said. She was silent for a moment, then continued, "It was some sort of toushin or akuma, wasn't it? A demon?"

"So, you know what it was then, huh?" Bibi asked. To Chiyo's surprise, she then looked round at the others before she continuing. Several of the older ones nodded after a moment's hesitation.

"You can remember it attacking you?"

Chiyo nodded without thinking, then wished she hadn't. It had still hurt, badly.

"I do, now. It was a Vambie, I mean a Zompire. No! Damn! Baka! Where is my English? I mean it was a... a vampire, wasn't it, Miss Bibi? A Kyuuketsuki."

Again Bibi glanced round at the others first before nodding.

"You seem know something about these things, then," said Mr Giles. "We think it may have been something of the sort. Mind you, it wasn't quite like any we've met before."

"It bit me," Chiyo said quietly. "Will I turn into one? Isn't that what happens if you are bitten by a vampire?"

"No, Miss Mihama. We have stories about them here in the West, but mostly they're just made up. Invented. Fiction. You needn't worry about becoming one yourself - it doesn't work like that. It can't happen just from a bite. It's a little more complex than that, luckily for you."

"How did you know? How do you know what it was?" Buffy asked.

"I have read about them in stories," Chiyo told her, "but I did not believe they actually existed, at least not since I was quite young. We have many legends about them in Japan. I remember seeing pictures of demons on scrolls in the National Museum in Tokyo. And statues, too. It looked like one of them. I used to have nightmares about them when I was little." She seemed to everyone to be incredibly calm about it now.

"But how did you know that we knew about these things?" Buffy asked again.

"I could hear you talking outside a few minutes ago, Miss Buffy. It didn't seem to make any sense then, but now it does. I remember everything." She shuddered, and then sort of smiled. "I think you have all seen these things before, haven't you?"

"Well yes, Miss Mihama," said Giles cautiously. "We do have a certain amount of experience of them."

"Ingurando no sore wa hikaemesugiru yo, Giles-sensei?" said Chiyo with a faint smile, and lay back with a sigh.

"Er... what did she say, Bibi?"

"I think she just asked if that was the famous 'English understatement, Giles-sensei'," the Buffybot told him.

"Hmf! I think this young lady really is beginning to feel better already."

"You," Chiyo reached out and gripped Bibi's hand fiercely, "saved my life from the Kyuuketsuki. I could have felt much worse than this, couldn't I? I might be dead, now."

"You most certainly could," said the girl she now recognised as Dawn. "But our Bu... ," she hastily corrected herself, "Bibi is someone pretty special at what we do."

Chiyo smiled slowly.

"I can tell. So..." She paused, and they waited for her to continue. "Was it often like this in Sunnydale?"

Jaws dropped.

"What... ?

"Why do you... ?"

"Where did...?

"How do you...?"

"Damn!" said Giles. "You're smart! No wonder you're studying here!"

Chiyo grinned cheekily, and looked round at them all, gathered round her bed.

"How did I work it out?"

"Yes! Well?"

"I could hear you talking earlier, though at first it made no real sense to me. But I can remember everything, now. I remember I saw the news film the day after the earthquake in Sunnydale. Miss Buffy, that was you running across the rooftops, wasn't it?"

Buffy nodded.

"And so, when you all arrived at the College in your schoolbus, somehow something about you seemed familiar. I didn't put it all together though, until I examined your bus for myself and spotted the lettering you'd painted over."

"What prompted you to go over and have a look at it in the first place?"

Chiyo shrugged, and winced again at the pain.

"Oh, I don't know," she managed to say eventually after another little pause. "Perhaps because your bus is such a curious yellow?"

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19

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"Hey, sir! You can't bring that dog in here!"

A wonderfully familiar male voice replied curtly in Japanese, and Chiyo blushed, grateful that none of her saviours, except perhaps Bibi-sama, could understand what was said.

"Otosan!" she called out excitedly, and first a large white French Pyrenean mountain dog came charging in, scrambled up onto the bed and laid its head in her lap, followed immediately by a small, neatly, and very expensively suited Japanese business man.

"Tadakichi-san! Father!" she exclaimed, and burst into tears of relief and happiness. Someone in the room hastily dropped a box of tissues on the bed beside her and then with a rush the room was empty except for her father and her beloved dog.

"How did you manage to find him, Giles?" Buffy said as all the Slayers and Companions swept off down the corridor to leave the patient and her father in privacy.

"Oh, I had a bit of help from one or two people I still know. And Bibi here was able to scan the Internet to help me track down where he'd got to."

"And... ?" Willow said.

"On some sort of business trip deep in the middle of Western China. The Chinese military (how I loathe that adjective being used as a noun), well they got him into a helicopter and flew him to a local airbase, thence to an airfield near Beijing where he was picked up by a Canadian Airforce jet and flown straight here to Seattle."

"He's a real VIP then?" Andrew said.

"Indeed. With knobs on, by the look of it. I suspect that little Miss Muffet's daddy is someone more important than it would be wise to wonder too loudly about."

"Mm. Well that's a very nice Rolls out there in the car park, Giles. Is it his?"

"He could probably afford several, just out of petty cash, but no. I believe that one belongs to the British Consul here. Have to show the flag a bit, don't we?"

"And what about us Americans?" Vi enquired. "How did we contribute to this exploit?"

"What, besides being the heroes of the hour? Oh, petrol (sorry gasoline,) police escort, military airspace, hospital emergency facilities and so on," said Giles. "I don't think you need worry that you've all done your bit, Vi. Particularly the first aid rendered at the site of the incident."

"Aw shucks, Boss! Just doin' m'job!"

"And 'Slayage', of course," another voice put in.

"Of course, Buffy. That almost goes without saying, doesn't it?"

"Frequently," came the reply.

Chiyo and her father looked up at the peals of laughter coming back faintly to them along the corridor.

"I think you have new friends, daughter. And of course a debt we can never fully repay."

"I will pay it myself, otosan. I think I know a way to do that."

Mihama-san sat in the uncomfortable visitor's chair, looking at his beautiful daughter as she lay there in her hospital bed, and wondered how she could be so cheerful and positive after everything that had happened.

"Your injuries seem not as bad as I feared, musume. They say you are healing very fast. I thought they feared you would die."

Chiyo stroked Tadakichi-san, whose heavy head rested in her lap.

"They refused to let me die, otosan. Especially Bibi-sama. She fought the creature barehanded, and saved me. It was incredible - I don't know how she did it, but she did. One day I will find out how."

Mihama-san looked at his daughter and felt sure she would - she had that determined look on her face that he knew so well - the one that had taken her successfully through High School with girls five or six years older than herself, and made them accept her for herself, not as a multi-millionaire's only child.

"You will tell me all that happened, musume?"

"One day, otosan. When I know everything. I promise."

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20

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"So, this is what being aboard an executive jet is like. I could easily get used to this!"

"Me too. Look, more champagne!"

"Dawn, you're not old enough to drink! Giles, tell her!"

"Tell her yourself, she's your sister! Nothing to do with me. After all, we are now in international airspace."

"I'm sure there must be a flaw in your fiendish British logic, Giles. Bibi, you're the smartest of us here - you're on my side, right?"

"Pass the magnum, cousin. Not my problem."

"Xander? A little help here?"

"After you with that, Bibi."

"Willow?"

"Sh!" said Kennedy. "We're asleep!"

"But... but... no fair!"

"It's a brand new world we're in now, Buffy," said Giles, "and from here on, fighting your sister is going to be tougher than slaying any vampire you're likely to meet! Let's just all be grateful for Mr Mihama's generosity in having us flown to Britain in such luxury after missing our scheduled flight from Seattle to London. I'd say it was a pretty good way to say 'Thank You' for what you all did, especially you, Bibi."

"Thank you, Giles. Just doing my job. Ah! Your glass is only half full - fancy a top-up?"

"Thank you kindly, my dear." He leaned back in his seat, stretching his legs out in front of him, and looked out at the sun reflecting on the Arctic Ocean, far below.

"This," he said, "is definitely the life! Definitely." He nodded to himself. "Whitby, here we come!"

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THE END?

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NOTES.

AN1: (For 'Azumanga Daioh' readers only) In the Buffyverse, Sunnydale is situated in the same location that Santa Barbara occupies in the Realverse.

AN2: See BTVS episodes "The Wish" and "Dopplegangland".

AN3:See my story "Slay Ride".

AN4:Naturally Chiyo is writing to Sakaki in Japanese, so I have included a few Japanese words in my English text,written in italics in Romaji (Japanese spelled out in western script), to give the appropriate flavour.

Where most people are speaking in English, Chiyo's Japanese is in italics, but written in English.

AN5: Japanese vocabulary used (not in any order):

Kyuuketsuki Vampire

to and

Shikeishikkonin Slayer (Executioner)

jogingu jogging

homushikku ni naru homesick

kanashii sad

'Uchi' Belonging to, or being part of, the group.

'Soto' Being outside, or not belonging to, the group.

hittosaku blockbuster

Ingurando-jin Englishman

kanji Japanese written characters, derived from Chinese.

Choshoku Breakfast

Hashire! Run!

gaijin foreigners

Nihongo Japanese language

baka fool, idiot, moron, stupid

toushin demon

katana japanese samurai sword

Ochitsuku Calm down!

heisei calm (adj.)

Onegai Please

sensei teacher (a polite mode of address)

akuma demon

Nigirizushi Tokyo sushi rice

Takoyaki fried octopus balls

Toro no chikuzen-ni boiled chicken with mushrooms and bamboo shoots

Otosan Father

musume daughter

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BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Collins English-Japanese Dictionary 2006

Berlitz Japanese Compact Dictionary

(Japanese-English, English-Japanese) 2006

DK 'Eyewitness' Japanese Phrase Book 2003

Rough Guide Japanese Dictionary Phrase Book 2001

'70 Japanese Gestures (No Language Communication)'
by Hamiru-aqui (translated by Aileen Chang)
Stone Bridge Press 2004

'The Japanese Mind'
Ed: Roger J Davies & Osamu Ikeno
Tuttle Publishing 2002

'Japanese Business Etiquette'
by Diana Rowland
Warner Books 1985

'Japanese Cooking'
by Sadako Kohno
Shufunotomo Co., Ltd., Tokyo 1968
&
Almark Publishing Co., Ltd., London

Cadogan Guides: 'Japan'
by Richard Lloyd Parry
Cadogan Books 1995

'Sushi & Sashimi, Fresh Food, Simple Flavours'
by Yasuko Fukuoka
Lorenz Books 2002

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