I don't own Monster Rancher.

That takes care of that. Now, on with the explanations!

Okay, before I get started, I should say that this takes place after the 'Melcarba' incident. Mainly because that's the last new episode I ever got to see... when will we get the new episodes here anyway?! Sigh... So this assumes that you've seen most, if not all, of the episodes up to that point.

Anyway... since we may never find out what Hare's true past is (at least not until we get NEW EPISODES HINT HINT AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS), this is a rather unusual story I've made up concerning him. It explains, among other things, why he wears that cute little kerchief around his neck. So, please read and review this, as I'd like to know what people think of this strange little take on the Monster Rancher world.

And yes, this is only Part One; I'll get Part Two up and posted if people seem to like this.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Rain, rain, go away-chi, come again another day," Mocchi sang forlornly.

Suezo glanced outside the cave, where the rain was still coming down in torrents. "Didn't work kiddo."

"Suezo," Holly sighed, "please don't start." Like all of the others, she was feeling more than a little upset by the fact that they'd had to delay their search for the Phoenix once more because of rain.

"Is it just me," Hare asked, "or do we spend most of our time waiting for storms to blow over?"

"It's just you," Tiger of the Wind answered. Hare glared at the monster, and Holly sighed again. The last thing they needed right now was those two going at it again.

"Come on, cheer up!" Genki urged, seeing how depressed his friends were. "At least we're out of the rain! We've got a roof over our heads-"

"I don't count a smelly, dingy cave as being a decent roof, kiddo," Suezo mumbled, keeping the comment carefully under his breath so the others wouldn't glare at him.

"-And we've got each other! So cheer up!" Genki finished.

"Cheer up-chi!" Mocchi echoed, caught up by Genki's spirit.

Holly smiled, more to satisfy the younger boy than because of any sort of happiness she felt. After all, he tried so hard to keep everyone motivated. She wanted him to feel like he was helping the group's morale with his words.

And it was a little difficult to stay depressed with the living ball of energy bouncing around calling for his friends to cheer up. After a few moments, she felt her soft smile relax into one a bit more genuine. Genki, seeing her smiling gently, grinned even wider.

"See, nothing to worry about!" he insisted.

"Whatever you say, kid," Suezo mumbled. Genki frowned, and flopped down on a rock to think. How could he get the others to stop thinking about the rain?

Once before, he recalled, he had asked the others to tell stories about their pasts. Holly had ended up telling the group a sad story about how she had lost her village and friends in an attack by Moo, and how she and Suezo had been the only survivors, entrusted with the Magic Stone and the awesome responsibility to find and unlock the Phoenix. She had been really upset after she finished her story, but Genki had managed to cheer her up with a little help from the others. Afterwards, she had even said that the rain would make her happy instead of sad from that moment on. Maybe he could pull that off again?...

The biggest problem was that he had no idea who he could ask to tell their story. Golem, he knew, had spent most of his life watching over a field of lost discs: not the type of job that created a lot of interesting stories, or any experiences one liked to talk about. Suezo was Holly's monster, and his story had more or less been told when Holly related her tale. Tiger of the Wind had been a bandit, and had already told the story of his scar and losing his little brother Grey Wolf once before, to Genki alone after he had been brought back from certain death by the group. There was no way he could get the dog-like monster to relate that painful little memory again. And there was no point in asking Mocchi...

Wait. There was somebody who had never quite explained why they were coming along. Genki turned to look at him, grinning, excited. Now was as good a time as any to ask.

"So, Hare, what's your story?"

Hare seemed to tense, and he stared at Genki with wide eyes. Clearly the question had taken him off guard. "W-what?"

"I said, what's your story? Why are you coming along with us?" Genki pulled himself into a sitting position, facing the rabbit. His curiosity had been triggered by Hare's unexpected reaction. The others, overhearing his question, turned their attention to the conversation. Tiger, in particular, seemed interested in what was being said.

"My... story." Hare said slowly, almost reluctantly. "I... don't really have one..."

"Aw, come on," Genki urged, wondering what had gotten into the rabbit.

"Yeah, come on, Hare," Tiger added slowly, eyes watching the other monster's reaction. Hare seemed to squirm under everyone's gaze, and Tiger noticed that one paw reached up almost reflexively to grip his kerchief. Golden eyes narrowed as he thought he spotted something glittering under the red fabric.

"Really, you guys..." Hare tried to smile reassuringly, but failed. He fidgeted with his kerchief without meaning to, trying to figure out how to divert the others' attention. "I don't have any sort of story that you'd be interested in..."

"We won't know unless you tell us, will we?" Genki retorted, still grinning.

"What is it, Hare?" Holly asked, more gently.

"Well... I..."

"Forget it, you guys," Tiger snarled. "He probably just came along because he thought he could make a few golds from this whole trip."

"Don't start," Genki warned, thinking that Hare would take the bait. But to everyone's astonishment, Hare just smiled at Tiger's words.

"Yeah, that's right," he agreed. "Just came along for a few golds, you know me." As everyone stared at him, the rabbit stretched and added with a yawn, "Well, I'm beat. Think I'll try to get some rest while we're stuck here. Night guys."

He turned his back on them and went a little further into the cave, leaving Tiger of the Wind with his mouth hanging open, still waiting for the angry retort that had never come.

* * *

"I don't trust him," Tiger told the others.

Holly sighed. She had been expecting this. "Tiger, please..."

"Why did he get so upset when Genki asked about his story?" Tiger persisted. "And why did he agree to what I said so easily?"

"Maybe because what you said was true," Suezo quipped.

"Look, we shouldn't get hung up on this," Holly said. "If he doesn't want to talk about it, then we shouldn't get on his case. Maybe something bad happened to him, and he doesn't want to remember," she added quietly, gripping the Magic Stone as she spoke.

"Holly is right," Golem finally spoke up.

"But what if Hare's hiding something from the rest of us?" Tiger insisted. "What if he's really working for..."

"You'd better not say it, Tiger," Genki warned, a sudden anger coming into his voice. In his lap, Mocchi stirred in his sleep.

"Moo!" Tiger finished defiantly. The name seemed to echo in the cavern, and Holly glanced carefully over to where Hare was curled up with his back to the group, sleeping. Thankful that he hadn't overheard, she glared at Tiger.

"Tiger, we won't get anywhere by accusing each other of such things," she scolded. Beside her, Golem nodded in silent approval of her words.

Genki glared at Tiger. "I can't believe that you'd even think such a thing!" he said.

"Just because you don't like him, it doesn't mean..." Suezo started to add.

"LISTEN TO ME!" Tiger growled, and the eyeball monster winced and cowered behind Golem. In Genki's lap, Mocchi woke with a start and looked over at Tiger.

"Tiger-chi?" he asked, half-asleep.

"Listen," Tiger repeated, more softly. "I know you think I'm biased in this, but just listen to me. That rabbit is hiding something from us, and I think that it might be where his true loyalties are."

"Tiger..." Genki warned.

"Haven't you ever noticed that his plans always backfire? Every time he makes some sort of plan for us, there's always one thing he didn't consider, and we end up in even worse trouble than before!"

"Tiger..."

"Of course, if he's as smart as he claims he is, he'd be able to think of plans that work! How can we be certain that his ideas haven't been working out the way he wants them too? He could be trying to kill us!"

"TIGER!"

"That's crazy," Suezo said, but something in his tone belied his uncertainty. Tiger jumped on this, and whirled on the monster.

"You think so, Suezo? What about that time on the raft? We would have died if you hadn't used your Teleport! And Hare had no way of knowing at that time that you could use it. It was the one thing he hadn't planned on..."

"Tiger, you're being silly. He would have died, too," Genki pointed out.

"We don't know that, do we?" Tiger's eyes were narrowed, and he was pacing around the cave now as he spoke. "Someone like Hare, he could have had a back-up plan to escape. He would have thought that part out already. Or maybe he's one of those suicidal Moo worshippers who would gladly give up their own life to further Moo's ambition."

Suezo actually laughed, in spite of the tension. "I doubt it," he scoffed. "Hare's hardly the type to lay down his life like that."

"How do we know that?" Tiger growled. "What do we really know about him, anyway? All we know about him is that he's a lying, conniving thief that tried to trick us out of our money, then just decided he was going to come along after we caught him!"

His words hung over the group as they sat in the dark cave. Outside, the rain poured down, and lightning lanced down to the accompaniment of booming thunder.

"I trust Hare," Genki said quietly, his face half-hidden by his bangs. "I don't think he's with Moo. I'd never believe such a crazy thing."

"Chi." Mocchi huddled up in Genki's lap, gazing forlornly up at his trainer and friend.

"Genki..." Holly watched the boy for a moment, feeling something inside her twist at the boy's sudden change. The youth sitting there bore little resemblance to the one who had been bouncing around trying to cheer up his friends not long before. "Let's get some sleep," she finally told the others, not looking directly at Tiger or Hare. "We need our energy for when the rain stops."

Growling gently to himself, Tiger of the Wind flopped onto the ground and tried to relax. Mocchi yawned and curled up again in Genki's lap. Suezo leaned up against Holly's back, his one eyelid slowly drooping shut. Golem bent his head, cradling the girl and eyeball monster in his massive arms. Soon the group had drifted off to sleep.

They had no way of knowing that Hare had been awake, and had heard everything they had said. As the thunder rolled outside, the rabbit stared into the darkness, back still toward the others, thinking.

* * *

"Gone! He's gone!"

Genki and the others bolted awake at Tiger's howl. The boy stared uncomprehendingly at the blue-furred monster for a moment, and asked, "Nani? What is it, Tiger?"

"Hare's gone!" Tiger bounded around the cave, growling. "The little furball left while we were asleep! I knew he couldn't be trusted!"

"WHAT?" Genki whirled to look where Hare had been sleeping. Sure enough, the rabbit was gone.

"Oh no," Holly moaned. "What if he heard us last night?"

"What does it matter? This just proves I'm right!" Tiger howled.

"WOULD YOU PUT A SOCK IN IT, TIGER?" Suezo screamed, startling everyone in the cave. Even Tiger looked a little surprised that the eyeball monster had enough guts to yell at him like that.

"Tiger, I think everyone's had it with your conspiracy theories," Holly added quietly. Somehow her words stung Tiger more than Suezo's outburst had.

Genki had scrambled to his feet and yanked on his skates. "I'm going to go find him," he announced, racing to the cave's entrance.

"Why bother?" Tiger growled. Genki whirled around, and for one moment Holly got the sudden and distinct feeling that the boy was about to smack the dog-like monster. Before she could say anything, however, a scream shattered the morning air.

Genki and the others froze, recognizing the voice. Hare!

Forgetting his quarrel with Tiger, Genki turned and sped into the forest, legs pumping furiously as he plunged into the forest. Branches whipped past him. Behind him, he could hear the pounding of Golem's heavy feet, a reassurance that the others were behind him. Moments later he burst into a small glade. What he saw made his heart take a sudden leap into his throat.

Hare was trying to fend off the attack of a huge baddie.

Genki wasn't certain what kind of monster this was. It looked like a Golem type, but was at least a head taller than his gentle friend was. Its stone skin was a deep purple, like a Naga's scales, and its eyes gleamed a terrible yellow as it leered at the cornered rabbit.

"I have been searching far too long for you, little rabbit," it rasped. "Your master, Naga, wishes to see you." The thing lashed out with one giant arm, and the terrified Hare shrank back against a tree, narrowly dodging the blow.

Genki shouted Hare's name as he charged into the clearing. The rabbit stiffened, and he swung to stare at the boy, his expression unreadable save for his obvious terror. Genki heard Golem crash through the trees behind him, heard Holly's scream and Tiger's battle howl, but his attention was completely focused on the baddie who threatened his friend. Springing into the air, he aimed a kick at the Golem-type's forehead.

The baddie laughed, mocking the boy's attempt, and swung one massive hand at the boy. One huge finger clipped against Genki's side, sending him sprawling.

"Genki!" Hare screamed, taking one step toward the boy. But the baddie turned its full attention back to him, and took another swipe. Seizing the rabbit with one massive hand, he yanked him from the ground and held him like a child's plaything.

"Naga was most displeased when you escaped, little rabbit," it hissed.

"Hare!" Holly screamed helplessly, bent down next to Genki, frantically trying to help the boy to his feet.

"Cherry Blossom Blizzard-chi!" Mocchi called, summoning his attack. The petal blossoms slammed into the Golem-type's side with no noticeable effect.

"Tiger, help us!" Genki called, seeing the dog-type monster standing some distance away, watching the melee. Tiger of the Wind made no answer, instead continuing to stare at Hare as he squirmed in the baddie's grasp. Genki grimaced, struggling to stand.

Even as the others watched, the baddie struck Hare again. With two massive fingers, it ripped the rabbit's kerchief from his throat. The rabbit screamed as the fabric ripped. At his neck, something flashed blood red.

Tiger's golden eyes widened at the sight. Was it possible that...?

"I've found it, Naga!" the baddie screamed in triumph. In his hand, Hare continued to shriek as red energy flowed out from something around his neck. Genki and the others watched, paralyzed by the sight.

Suddenly Hare's expression changed from one of pain to one of determination. The light focused into one beam, and it struck the Golem-type right in the face. Shrieking, the baddie released its grip on the rabbit, and Hare tumbled to the ground.

"Hare!" Genki cried again, pulling himself to his feet. Despite Holly's frantic protests, the boy launched himself at the baddie again. The Golem-type swirled and brought his hand up, ready to smash the boy into the ground.

"Genki!" Holly shrieked.

"Genki-chi!" Mocchi cried, tears springing to his eyes as the massive fist swung down.

"Genki..." Hare whispered, and the fiery red light flared up again, engulfing his entire body. A streak of crimson light lanced out and struck the huge baddie, freezing him in his tracks. The Golem-type bellowed in pain as its entire form seemed to be consumed by the light, and it turned dull yellow eyes to the rabbit.

"You... you can... use..." it murmured, its voice softer than any other time that Genki had heard a Golem speak. It screeched one last time, and then its form collapsed and smoldered under the fire. Within moments, there was nothing that even remotely resembled a monster in the blaze. The magical fire died away, leaving a scorched lost disc in its wake.

Hare gasped, falling to his knees as the glow dimmed. His fur still seemed to crackle from the energy. Genki rushed to the rabbit's side.

"Hare, are you all right?" He reached down to help the rabbit to his feet, but yanked his hand away as it brushed against the white-hot fur.

"Don't touch me!" Hare screamed, flinching away from his hand. He scrambled to get away, snatching his kerchief from where it had landed on the ground.

Genki stared at him in shock. Hare's entire body seemed to be smoldering from the energy blast he had released. In dull amazement, he noticed that he could almost see right through the rabbit's body. Golem, Suezo, Mocchi, Holly and Tiger approached silently, standing behind Genki.

Hare hastily retied his kerchief around his throat; carefully arranging its folds to hide what hung around his neck although he knew it was too late. The others had already seen what it was. Underneath the fabric, the light flared, then dimmed to the slight glow it had always had before. The rabbit's form grew substantial once more, no longer transparent.

Slowly he looked up at the others, who were still staring at him in open-mouthed amazement. The rabbit's face was pale, his eyes filled with an anguish that Genki had never seen before.

"I'm sorry, Genki," he whispered. Suddenly he sprang to his feet and dashed away into the forest, his sobs echoing behind him. Genki stared blankly after him, wondering just what exactly to do now.

To be continued...