Bored, the sole nurse sat behind the admissions counter inspecting her work area. As per usual there were no patients currently waiting to see the doctor of their small clinic, and she was just considering the merits of refilling the tongue depressor jars again when a voice spoke up behind her.

"Excuse me, I could use some help here."

The young woman came about with a cheerful smile. "Certainly, how can I…?"

She then leapt upright and let loose a blood-curdling scream.

As a member of the medical profession, the nurse had seen her fair share of horrors. Amputated limbs, gaping abscesses, even third-degree burns. And she considered herself inured to it for the most part.

Until now.

Standing at the entrance to the clinic were two teenage girls in school uniforms. The first was small, you might even say puny, with hair pulled into two long horsetails by a pair of round ties on either side of her head. She wore a pinched expression and seemed to be clutching a cell phone securely.

The other was much taller and sported short pigtails that brushed against her shoulders. It was for her sake that the nurse had screamed. It wasn't the severity of the wounds; more like the amount of them. Never in all her years of service had she seen anyone so exhaustively injured. The girl was wrapped in blood-encrusted bandages and pads practically from head to toe. A gauze patch covered her left eye, one arm was in a sling, and nearly half her fingers were splinted. Like something from an episode of 'Neon Genesis'. It looked as though she had been hit by a truck and then dragged behind it for a few blocks. Her good arm was draped securely around the tiny girl's shoulders, who in turn was clutching her friend's waist.

Medical training took over. In moments the nurse had whipped open a wheelchair and rushed forward. At her approach the battered young woman stated in a calm voice, "My friend might have sprained her ankle, we were wondering if..."

Her next words were cut off as she found herself sitting in the wheelchair.

"Don't worry, everything'll be all right! We're going to take care of you!" the nurse insisted while fighting to remain calm.

"But I'm not..."

Before she could complete that sentence an oxygen mask was looped around her head, cutting off further speech.

"Try to breathe evenly," the nurse implored her. She then turned and grabbed the smaller girl by the shoulders. "You're such a good person, bringing her here all by yourself! I know it can't have been easy. Please take a seat, don't worry, we're going to do everything we can for your friend!"

The girl did not respond to any of this. Probably too exhausted from supporting her injured schoolmate all the way from the accident site. Fired with energy, the nurse swiftly guided her over to a chair in the waiting room. It did not escape her attention how that itty-bitty thing seemed to be favoring one leg, but there was no time to attend to minor injuries. She was practically in tears as she sat the kid down, who began furiously texting on her phone.

"Yes, you call her family and tell them what happened! The doctor will take care of everything, so just stay right here and... and pray!"

/I'm the one who's injured! T_T Quit sneaking the patients' meds already, dumbass!/

Of course so intent was the nurse on getting back to the major trauma case that she failed to notice this message displayed on the screen. Instead a second later saw her rolling the protesting patient into the care center.

The doors swung shut behind them, leaving a silent cell phone screaming in the reception area.

/ I'm telling Center-Part where you live, bitch! :-( /


"I'm in despair! People who don't review a writer's hard work have left me in despair!"

Sitting in his office, Dr. Mikoto Itoshiki winced and considered hanging up the phone. His younger brother's theatrics were nothing new to him. However, ever since landing a teaching job at Coca-Cola Bottling Manufacturers Co. High School, it seemed as though Nozomu's despondent tendencies had been ratcheted up to previously unseen heights (or depths, depending on your perspective). The slightest thing would set him off on a suicidal rant.

"They're only interested in boy-boy pairings! Or girl-girl in some cases. And not even the ones that might make sense according to canon! I've compiled a list of the worst offenders: in the 'Naruto' section we have AnkoXKonan, or Konanko as it's called..."

Mikoto was ashamed to admit he was secretly hoping a gunshot victim with hemophilia would come staggering through his door, or a head-on car-crash survivor who hadn't been wearing his seatbelt. Anyone needing immediate and desperate medical attention so that there would be an excuse to hang up on his despondent sibling. He had even half-convinced himself he heard someone scream a while back. The guilt these fantasies imbued in him grew less relevant with every inane pronouncement coming out of Nozomu's mouth.

At that very moment his office door opened and in rushed the clinic nurse. "Sensei, you have to...!"

"I'm on my way!"

Mikoto practically flew from his chair. "Sorry, Nozomu, can't talk anymore, life and death, Hippocratic Oath, all that stuff. I'll see you on the weekend!" With that he slammed the phone back into its cradle.

Heaving a profound sigh, the grateful physician looked over at his assistant. "Thank you," he whispered wholeheartedly. Straightening up, he then adjusted his spectacles and brushed back his hair. "So what's going on?"

"No time, she needs your help immediately! I've got her in Exam Room 1."

The nurse turned and sped back down the hall. Wasting not a second, Mikoto followed in hot pursuit. This sounded serious. Clearly someone was in desperate need of his skills, which was not something that happened every day. Thirteen years of medical school was finally going to pay off in a big way for some poor soul. He could feel his heart pound at the prospect. This is why I became a doctor. This is what it's all about!

Coming at last to the right exam room, he paused to address his coworker before opening the door. "Is she conscious? Do we know what happened?"

The nurse shook her head. "All she keeps saying is that she's fine and it's just a sprained ankle. I think she's in shock! There might even be some head trauma involved!"

He tapped his chin in pensive deliberation. A person feeling no pain was a bad sign in truly horrific accidents. Nerve damage couldn't be ruled out. But debating hypotheses was no substitute for actual evaluation. Besides, he was far more suited to determine the extent of the damage than any nurse, no matter how good her intentions. "Contact the nearest hospital and let them know what's happening. When I have a diagnosis I'll tell you if we need them to send an ambulance. In the meantime make all necessary preparations."

"I'll go prep the crash cart!" With that she ran off in performance of her duties.

Mikoto took a moment to steel his nerves for whatever lay in store for him. A doctor must never let their patient know how desperate the situation actually might be. You always had to give them hope, no matter what. They must not doubt your ability to save them for a second lest they lose their will to live.

With utmost confidence he turned the handle and stepped inside.

"Pardon me, I'm Dr. Ito-"

The teenager swinging her legs idly on the examining table looked up at his entrance.

Mikoto stopped. At first glance he thought that his nurse might have even downplayed the extent of what they were up against, so completely bedecked in bandages was this girl. And clearly they weren't just for show, considering how dried blood still seeped through in some places.

The thing about it was, by the way she sat there composed, calm, and apparently tapping out a message on her cell phone, it became quite obvious that this girl not only didn't look to be in any pain, but she wasn't about to die anytime soon. All her most prominent injuries were well on their way to healing and had already been taken care of some time ago.

They stared at one another for a while.

"Ahhhh," Mikoto finally managed, fumbling for the words. "Are... you the patient I was told about?"

She said nothing, only continued to regard him in a thoughtful manner. The mummy-girl cocked her head slightly and frowned like she was trying to picture him in a different setting.

This was starting to get uncomfortable. To top it off a horrible thought just occurred to him. "Did you come in about a sprained ankle?"

Her single visible eye moved slowly across his face, lingering on his eyes and hair. After that she gave a slow nod. "Yes."

The doctor swore beneath his breath. While not what he might call 'in perfect health', this girl was nowhere near the life-threatening condition he had been led to believe required his attention. He could have killed his nurse right now. She must have jumped to conclusions about the seriousness of this situation.

For several heartbeats Mikoto was so angry he couldn't speak. Then like water through a sieve it all drained out of him. Oh, well. Can't blame her for wanting to be of real good to somebody. It wasn't like they got many cases, whether major or otherwise. And hadn't he been tempting the gods with those shameful thoughts earlier about seriously ill patients coming along? This could be considered divine punishment.

Heaving a heavy sigh the young physician proceeded to figuratively roll up his sleeves. "Well, then, I'm sorry for any confusion that might have resulted here. Let's take a look." So saying he knelt down at her feet. "Which one is it?"

"Ah, actually, Sensei..."

"Yes?"

He looked up. Once again she was gazing at him in a very intense manner. There was a peculiar gleam in her eye that left him feeling a tad leery about this whole business. Before it could solidify into something more definite, though, the girl slowly raised her right leg before him.

"It's this one."

The job then took precedence over any vague misgivings. So resolved, the dedicated healer grasped her slender ankle. His patient tensed slightly, the muscles and tendons going stiff beneath his touch.

"Gently," she breathed.

Mikoto obeyed her edict, proceeding with utmost care. When he went about removing the shoe a slight gasp came from her lips. It must be paining her more than his first estimate. He then adopted a delicate, careful examination of the joint. There didn't appear to be any swelling, that was his first diagnosis. No discoloration to indicate a serious break either. Damage to the tendons didn't show up by any indication as he turned her foot carefully from one side to another. "How does that feel?"

Her bandaged fingers were gripping the side of the table tightly. "It doesn't feel bad."

"No pain?"

Head down, a shiver went up her frame. "Not really."

His examination concluded, he let go of her foot. "Well, the good news is nothing seems to be broken. Probably an inversion sprain in the end, which means some slightly torn ligaments but not a serious case."

"That's what I thought too," she murmured.

"I'll tape it up and that should see you to getting home. Afterwards it's only a matter of taking the time to heal. No strenuous activities for a while, all right?"

The girl gave a nod. "What do I owe you?"

Mikoto uttered a rueful laugh. "Nothing. I was glad to be of help to a lady in her time of need."

About to stand, the doctor was surprised when she reached down and placed a hand on his shoulder.

"Um, do you think you could check my knee too?" She was flushed slightly as she indicated the already bandaged area. "It's just, I had hurt that before, and I want to make sure it didn't get any worse as a result of this."

It was tempting to ask just what precisely she had been engaged in that would lead to this much damage to begin with. She had a good physique which could indicate athletic club activities, but even rugby players didn't suffer to this extent. Add on her reserved demeanor and any competent physician might suspect abuse at home. That would have to wait, however. He could always find her family doctor if it was troubling him and get a more detailed medical history later. In a non-lethal case like this the patient's wishes superseded all concerns.

Mikoto set about unwinding her knee. He finished with the wrapping and proceeded to check it over. There was indeed a dark purple bruise there and she flinched when he touched it. The kneecap felt secure though and she seemed to be on her way to a full recovery in that respect.

"I don't see anything to get worked up about," he stated while redoing the bandages. "We'll have you out of here in a few minutes."

Her only response was to make a slight affirmative exclamation, almost like a moan. But Mikoto was too engrossed in his craft to notice. With clean precise movements he finished the knee and then taped up her ankle as promised. After this he rose to regard his first and probably last patient of the day. "Was there anything else?"

The girl didn't look at him. Of a sudden she drew in a very deep breath and threw her head back, eye closed, neck arching gracefully. The doctor watched this performance with a measure of concern. Was it some kind of ritual she engaged in? A second later the teen slumped forward with a sigh. When she peeked up at him then her face was sparkling.

"No. I think that's enough."

Ooookay.

"Good. I'm glad this didn't turn out to be serious after all. You should keep ice on that ankle to reduce swelling and stay off it as much as possible. Remember to keep the foot elevated to improve circulation, that will speed recovery. And make sure you see your doctor if it becomes worse."

And that was it. Not a real opportunity to test his abilities, but a successful outcome nonetheless. This affair seemed to be resolved to everyone's satisfaction. As he watched she proceeded to don her footwear once more. The girl stood up slowly and took a step while Mikoto remained alert to any signs of distress.

When her bandaged foot touched the floor, she lurched forward.

Immediately he rushed to catch her from falling. His hands took a firm hold of her shoulders at the same time he felt her press against his chest, free arm encircling his waist.

"Are you all right, miss?"

She didn't respond right away. Instead they just remained in that position, resting securely against one another. Her hand beneath his lab coat moved slightly against his back. It almost felt as though she was hugging him. Finding this a bit discomforting, Dr. Itoshiki stepped back a pace. He studied her carefully. The girl had regained her balance and now stood upright with a slight smile. Once again, it disturbed him a little.

He was just about to voice his suspicions when she spoke up. "Would it be all right if I borrowed some extra athletic tape?"

"Hm?" Mikoto blinked. "Well, certainly, I don't see why not."

He handed her a roll, and she tucked it into her sling. "Thank you, sensei. I had a very nice time."

That was an odd way of putting it. The girl stepped past him without bothering to explain. He followed her out into the hall and back to the waiting area. It didn't look to him as though she was having any trouble standing or walking. Now that it was over, Mikoto had to wonder again just what had happened here. Could it be she wasn't even hurt at all?

As he mulled over that possibility the bandage-teen approached another young lady in the same school uniform sitting by herself in the waiting area. To his surprise she knelt down and removed the smaller girl's right shoe and sock. Silently she then proceeded to tape up her companion's ankle with a level of speed and assurance normally only found in members of his profession. Even with one arm in a sling the process took less than twenty seconds. Her patient shut her eyes and whimpered at one point, and the girl patted her knee comfortingly.

"Shh, it's alright, you're going to be fine now."

Rather than talking back the tiny teenager held a cell phone in front of her attendant's face, who shrugged at what she saw written on it. "There wasn't much of a chance to explain. I decided to just take care of it myself. I do have experience with these things."

Shorty sniffed and tapped out something else. While she was doing this, Bandages swiveled while still in a crouched position and extended her hand behind her back. "Come on, I'll carry you the rest of the way home." There was no argument as the doll-sized kid leaned forward and hugged the taller girl's neck, who reached back to hook her unbroken arm beneath her passenger's thighs for support. Afterwards she stood up to seemingly bear that additional load without any sign of discomfort.

Observing all this, the suspicious medic couldn't hold himself back any longer. He stalked up to them and declared, "Wait just a minute, young lady. I don't believe you were injured at all! I can't tell what your game is, but if you...!"

His voice cut off abruptly as he found a cell phone thrust in his face.

/ F* you, glasshole! Wish yr mom had aborted yr ugly ass, Zetsumei-sensei! )X- o/

This silent invective left Mikoto too stunned to do anything. He could only gape as that odd pair proceeded to make their exit. At the door, however, Bandages stopped and looked back at him.

"Thanks for everything. Bye."

And then they were gone.

Mikoto continued to struggle with what he had experienced. Just as he felt like he might be achieving a form of mental victory, something occurred to him.

The writing of his name's kanji on that phone... she called him Dr. DEATH!

That old nickname was burned into his eyes. The next thing Mikoto knew his frantic nurse was attempting to pull him away from pounding a hole in the wall with his head. "Dr. Itoshiki, please stop! You're going to kill yourself!"

"YOU!" he tore himself free and staggered back a few paces. The pain of his self-inflicted torment was now replaced by outrage. "This is all your fault! You misdiagnosed the patient! Do you know what I just suffered through because of your incompetence?"

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean...!"

Suddenly she stopped and looked down. Frowning, the woman gave him a puzzled glance. "Doctor, what on earth is that behind you?"

"Eh?" Mikoto peered over his shoulder. "I don't see... wait, what the...?"

Lifting his lab coat to one side, he was astonished to discover what appeared to be a tail hanging from the back of his trousers. It was long, sleek, black, and had absolutely no business being there.

Taken aback, the doctor spluttered in dismay. "Sunnuva! When did that...?"

"She got you too, huh, aniki?"

This profoundly miserable voice droned from a window into his clinic. Looking up Mikoto found his little brother Nozomu Itoshiki slumped wretchedly over the sill. He was dressed in the antiquated Japanese clothing that had been his preferred wardrobe since kindergarten, and as his elder spotted him he gave a dismal shake of his head. "I'm sorry that we both fell victim to that girl's mania."

"Who was she?" Mikoto demanded, nonplussed.

"One of my students," Nozomu sighed. "She has a fetish for animal tails, especially when they're still attached to animals. It's no surprise the two of you should have met like this, considering how pulling on them puts her in the emergency room so often." He indicated towards the furry appendage now dangling from the doctor's backside. "So she made you a black panther, hm? That's still better than the one she stuck on me."

He then took a few steps away and turned about to give them a good look at the seat of his trousers. Mikoto and his nurse gaped. There was indeed a short striped tail hanging there, apparently belonging to a raccoon.

But that wasn't nearly as odd as the fact that when Nozomu turned there was revealed a girl standing behind him.

This figure moved in counterpoint to him so that when he swiveled around she was again at his back. As he twisted his neck she slid gracefully to one side and out of his field of vision. The girl wore an Edo-era kimono that complimented his own. This fact seemed no more apparent to the public schoolteacher than her presence was to begin with.

"Apparently each tail is tailored to the wearer," he continued, pausing briefly to grin at his pun before slipping back into a state of dejection. "According to her, I'm like a magical mischievous tanuki, whatever that's supposed to mean." Nozomu sighed as the three people continued to stare at him. "Don't ask how to get rid of it, every time I pull it off I find it hanging there again whenever I look!"

"Nozomu!" Mikoto gaped and pointed at the person trailing along behind him. "You... you've got a tail!"

The unnamed girl glanced over at them and smiled at this statement, but Nozomu only clutched his head, wailing miserably, "I know! I'm a target of ridicule wherever I go because of this silly thing! It's putting me in despair!"

"No, dammit, not that! I mean you're actually being tailed by someone!"

"AAAHHH!" Zetsubou-sensei cried out. Reaching behind him he ripped the raccoon tail off and flung it in the dirt before racing down the street shouting, "I AM IN DESPAIR! THIS SOCIETY WHERE HUMANS CAN TAIL ONE ANOTHER HAS LEFT ME IN DESPAIR!"

As they watched, the kimono girl bent to retrieve the discarded appendage before sprinting in pursuit. Upon catching up to him she hooked the tail into his baggy hakama once more and held onto it like a leash. Nozomu then disappeared loudly into the distance with his shadow in tow.

A barefoot brown-skinned girl took that exact moment to pop up from the bushes around the Itoshiki clinic and proclaimed, "Now this place is the Zetsumei Kurohyou-sensei clinic!"


"You're sure it's only a minor injury this time?" Mikoto asked as he walked along beside his nurse.

"Don't worry, sir," she declared with confidence, "I didn't let myself be fooled by their appearances. No way am I making that mistake again." She then passed him a chart and walked away. His eyes glanced quickly over the form as he opened the door. Symptoms similar to a heart attack, vomiting blood, pierced lung; altogether that did sound like an awful lot to believe.

Entering the exam room, Mikoto's feet promptly skidded in a puddle. He saved himself from falling only by snatching at the doorknob in panic, leaving him hanging off it in an only mildly humiliating version of the splits.

The two people sitting side-by-side on the small cot in the center of the room offered him curious stares.

"Hello," the embarrassed physician greeted, eyes darting from one prospective patient to the other as he awkwardly attempted to leverage himself upright. They were a rather odd pair, in his opinion: a young man who couldn't be older than fifteen, rather short, barely taller than his female companion, with the most outlandish coloring the doctor had seen in quite a while. His waist-length hair was a brilliant red, while his eyes appeared to be... purple. Strange. Perhaps he was wearing colored contacts? The outfit he wore was just as peculiar. His clothing, which consisted of a gi and hakama, looked old and worn; there was a large patch on one knee, and the sleeves were somewhat threadbare. Not to mention that the magenta cloth of his shirt clashed horribly with his hair and lent him a decidedly feminine air. A rather nasty-looking scar in the shape of a cross bisected his left cheek, and a sword hung on his left hip.

The woman next to him was just as outlandish and a lot more intimidating. She wore the exact same traditional garb as her partner, all in black to match her ebony hair. Said hair was pulled high atop her head, with a thick tail of the stuff dropping to just below her posterior. A curtain of spiky bangs fell to about mid-nose, hiding her thin face from view. This frowning female also sported a katana, which rested diagonally across her back.

Now, the black clothing, sword, and immense 'don't-talk-to-me-or-I'll-gut-you-with-a-tongue-depressor' vibe that radiated from her would have already been enough to make the doctor put a little more space between them. But to top it all off, the woman's clothing was drenched in blood. It dripped down her chin, neck and sleeves to pool beneath her and across his clinic's floor. It was this which he had stepped in and his slippers were now greedily absorbing like macabre sponges.

Fortunately his previous experience had taught him not to judge a book by its cover. Medical training did the rest. There was simply no way a human could lose that much blood and survive. Doubtless this was just part of a costume. He wondered vaguely if they might be a pair of cosplayers for some manga or other. By then Mikoto had finally found his feet.

"Hello," he repeated, approaching the couple and extending his hand. "I'm Dr. Itoshiki."

The redheaded teen stood from the cot and took the offered hand, grasping it firmly and allowing the doctor to feel thick calluses upon his skin.

"Itoshiki-sensei, this one's friend is in need of your help. We would normally ask our good friend Takani-sensei for assistance in such a matter, but Megumi-dono is currently in Aizu. The local temple miko offered to send us to a physician with the skills to help. However her portal will not remain open long and time is of the essence. We apologize for any inconvenience."

Portal? Miko? Nozomu would fit right in with these two. Weird people. Outwardly Mikoto simply shook his head. "Not at all! Helping others is why I am here!"

Extracting his hand and stepping around the other man, the medic smiled kindly at the woman who was his actual patient. She did not return his smile. Nor did she move, speak, or give any sign of acknowledgment towards him whatsoever. Slightly perplexed, Mikoto drew closer. "Well then, miss, can you tell me what it is that is troubling you?"

The woman raised her head, giving him a clear view of her face for the first time since he had entered the room. The scathing look she wore clearly stated he was the weird one here. Dr. Itoshiki found himself slightly unnerved at the intensity of her eyes; he had never seen irises that particular shade of green. Well, at least not on a person; they rather reminded him of those belonging to a large and dangerous cat.

"I require medical attention," she intoned as if this should be obvious. Mikoto valiantly repressed the urge to flinch at her voice, which seemed to lash out at him even though she was speaking in barely above a whisper. "An encounter with an old acquaintance got out of hand."

"I'm sure we can get you patched up in no time. Can you please show me where you've been hurt?"

A disbelieving and rather contemptuous expression settled on her face. Then the woman slowly came to her feet, shooting a heart-attack-inducing glare at her companion before returning her attention to Mikoto. He immediately began to sweat copiously, feeling as though this lady was frying him with her eyes.

"I will have to remove and rearrange certain aspects of my apparel," she informed him coldly, sweeping a hand out to indicate the door. "Please wait outside with my... friend until I am presentable."

Mikoto understood immediately that though the word 'please' had been present in that last sentence, it had most definitely not been part of a request. Smiling nervously and nodding his acceptance, he quickly followed the redhead out of the room. The door was shut and locked from the inside as soon as they were across the threshold.

The two men stood in awkward silence for a few moments before Mikoto cleared his throat. "Is the lady always so... intense?"

Carrot-top smiled slightly. "She is merely distrustful of strangers. This one apologizes if her behavior is making you uncomfortable. This one assures you that she is not doing so on purpose."

Mikoto really wanted to contest that; it had seemed to him that his patient's dark attitude was entirely intended to put other people on their guard around her. Before he could voice this opinion, however, the door swung open again and the kid swept past him back inside. He followed, only to stop dead barely a foot into the room.

The woman had removed the black gi she had been wearing. It was folded neatly on the hospital cot, the sword previously slung across her back now lying on top of the cloth. A heap of bloody bandages lay on the floor near her feet. She stood upright, her back turned to Mikoto, bare but for bandages that wrapped around her chest, and the doctor gaped at the sight before him as he tried to wrap his head around what he was seeing. Beneath the blood, this lady's back was so corded with scar tissue that there was no unblemished skin left. He had never seen such a level of damage outside of burn victims. It looked like someone had attempted to flay her alive!

If Mikoto still hadn't revised his opinion of whether or not this poor soul needed medical attention, the next thing he saw would have confirmed it. Across her back, carved into her flesh in Japanese, were the words: "Zetsumei Kurohyou, property of Makoto Shishio. If found, please return to Mount Hiei." A large portion of flesh had then been cut to resemble a crudely drawn mummy. The drawing and the words were both bleeding sluggishly.

The small part of Mikoto's brain that was not shut down due to shock and horror registered the woman's words as she spoke. "I require aid to stop the bleeding. Physical pain is not an issue, so you need not worry about hurting me."

Her casual voice galvanized him into action. He leapt forward, gently taking the woman's arm and pushing her to sit once again on the cot. At some point she had somehow gotten that big katana out of its scabbard, but her friend was now restraining that arm, and anyway Mikoto hadn't noticed, too intent was he on saving lives to think his own might be in danger.

"We have to treat that RIGHT AWAY or it might get infected! You should have gone to a hospital! Don't move, I'm going to get more supplies and… call an ambulance… and the police… and… I'LL BE RIGHT BACK!" So saying, the dedicated healer tore out of the room, screaming for his nurse to bring him a phone and lots and lots of bandages.

Left to themselves, Zetsumei Kurohyou relaxed from her previous homicidal fury at being touched. She turned to her companion Himura Battousai and said, "Do you still want me to show this doctor the love-note Shishio carved into my lower leg? I am unsure whether or not he possesses a strong enough constitution."

"That he does."


While following the trail of blood that would lead to his little Death Panther, Makoto Shishio passed a fluffy house cat being pursued by a girl sporting a similar amount of wrappings as he had on. The odd sight actually made him pause to look back at her. She proceeded to do the same, and they regarded one another in a thoughtful silence.

Eventually the Meiji-era warlord raised his chin slightly and said, "Burned alive. You?"

She reached up to touch her covered eye. "Squirrels. And a Komodo dragon."

He grunted and lifted a hand in parting before turning away.

"Stay strong, girl."

"You too."

They both went back to stalking a Panther and a Persian long-haired respectively.

FI-

Tomas the Betrayer ran onto the screen. "Wait, hold on, is it too late for a self-insertion? It's an accepted gag in this category! Y'know, just like Kometa does all the time in the actual manga! Okay, I've got a wicked outfit planned for myself and...!"

Fortunately fellow writer and possessor of good common sense Texgal took this moment to self-insert and brain her egomaniacal co-author with a shovel, pausing only to put up the FIN sign before dragging the unconscious body offscreen.