a rational man

Ran Ryuuren cannot understand why other people don't see the world with the same clarity that he does. He'd like to rate it as stupidity, but -- well, jibes to his stupid older brothers (all of them) aside, he doesn't really think of everyone around him as being hopeless. Just a little slow. Even his bosom friends aren't always as quick to see the obvious as he is.

Sometimes it makes for boredom.

So when he was strolling along the road and playing his flute that day in spring, and he saw a little girl sitting in the pear tree, he was neither surprised nor shocked. After all, it was possible for girls to sit in pear trees. It was merely unusual. And he wasn't stupid enough to doubt the evidence of his own eyes. What he saw, he knew existed.

A dog came running up to him, flinching every few steps. "Can you help me get my mistress down from the pear tree?" the dog asked, in recognisably human speech.

Again, this could not be impossible, because it had just happened. A dog had spoken to him. His perceptions were accurate. Therefore, at least one dog in the world could speak. He would have to try speaking to more dogs in the future.

"Of course," Ran Ryuuren agreed cheerfully. He put away his flute and walked up to the tree. "Little girl," he called, "your dog wants you to come down."

The girl scrambled down from the tree, and stood there with her hands waving vaguely in the air, looking up at him. Her face was sprinkled with freckles, her skin pale, her hair untidy, and her eyes mismatched.

"I can see the wind better from up there," she informed him.

"Naturally you can," he agreed. "You are higher up, after all."

She regarded him with more interest. "I like your turban," she said. "But it's too brightly coloured. You'll frighten people away unless you camouflage it."

Her argument had merit. He plucked down a few twigs and attached them to his turban. "There. Is that better?"

She smiled at him. "I like you. Would you like to go on a wonderful adventure with me?"

The dog sniffed. "Mistress, without wishing to be in any way inconvenient, you were supposed to meet your older brother at -- oh, here he is now."

There was, abruptly, a man standing beneath the cherry tree, next to the little girl. He was tall and dark-haired and dressed in the height of elegance, in clothing of a sombre shade that hovered somewhere between dark red and black.

The little girl clapped her hands together. "Now all of us can go on a wonderful adventure!"

"I think not," the newcomer said. He turned to Ran Ryuuren. "Sir, you must be wondering by what means we come and go . . ."

"Not at all," Ran Ryuuren said. "You clearly just appeared out of thin air. Why should I need to wonder about that?"

The man peered at him. "How curious," he said after a moment. "There is quite simply nothing of my nature within you."

"That's because he's mine," the little girl said.

"Really? He seems quite stable --"

"No, you don't get it." She stamped her little foot. "He's mine because wherever he goes, I'm there."

"Ah. How elegant." The man gave a thin smile to Ran Ryuuren, with the air of one who has merely brought it out for the occasion and has not meant such a thing for a long while, then took the little girl's hand. "If you would be so kind as to excuse us?"

"There is one thing," Ran Ryuuren said.

"And what is that?" the man asked.

Ran Ryuuren turned to the dog. "Since dogs are colour-blind," he asked, "why is it that you were flinching when you approached me, if it wasn't my turban?"

"It was your flute-playing," the dog answered. "Please don't ask me to go into any more details."

"Of course not," Ran Ryuuren said. He waved goodbye to the three of them, and went on down the road; but in deference to the dog's opinion, he refrained from playing the flute again until he felt that he was out of earshot.

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