War Cry: Chapter 1: War Memorial

The sound of a gently blowing breeze, and children playing in the distance softly mumbled in the background.  There was also the myriad of chatter in the treetops of the various birds.  The sun was so very warm, making it the perfect sort of day to rest.  A gentle shaking started to be felt, causing the tranquility to stir a bit, as the scene started to reveal itself when Pudgy opened his eyes.  A well-manicured park was seen, with cobblestones paw carved out of thick pieces of slate.  White and blue flowers grew in neat rows, while a family of red-tailed squirrels milled about a stone fountain.  The water was spraying out of the top of the fountain, and cascading down into the larger deeper basin that surrounded it. 

A small light brown field mouse dressed in a school uniform of black trousers and a white shirt was staring at him.  “My mister hedgehog, you fell asleep!”  Pudgy nodded, and smiled at the young child.  “Oh my, I certainly did, didn’t I?  What time is it?”  The mouse turned to look past the fountain, and towards a rectangular piece of stone with a clock built into it.  “It is 10 am … oh shoot …I am late for school!  Bye, bye, Mr. Hedgehog!”  The hedgehog waved as the field mouse ran quickly off through the park, and disappeared out of view behind a large set of bushes. 

The hedgehog sighed and eased himself from the bench and reached for his wooden cane.  As his joints popped, the critter leaned on the cane and started to walk slowly along the pale gray shale cobblestones.  Towards the fountain he headed, though it took him a bit of time since he did not move as well as he once did.  Upon reaching the fountain, he looked down to see an elderly hedgehog looking back with gray fur.  “When did Pudgy get so old?  Pudgy forgot … 10 o clock?  I best be going myself.”  Walking slowly, the rhythmic tap of his cane on the stones marked time as the hedgehog walked through the park and past the stone clock.  The monument was a silent testimony to the town’s past, etched with the names of friends long gone.  The elderly critter stopped for a moment to read the names carved in the stone.  Pausing at the name of Cobalt, he pressed a paw on the stone and sniffed his nose.  The family of squirrels took notice, and shooed their energetic children away to give the critter a moment to himself.

After a few minutes passed, and a long bout of sighing, Pudgy started to walk again.  He headed past the spice bushes growing tall out of the soil. And made a left towards a long cobblestone street, that led into the town proper.  Over the years, Friendship town had grown into quite the place to be.  They now had cobblestone lined streets, with lamps to chase away the darkness at night.  All manner of stone cottages were built from locally quarried pale stone, with roofs made of cedar shingles.  The town stage was still there, but much greater than when it was initially built.  There were now concentric circles around the stage, where many more animals could sit on crushed stone.      

Raising his left paw, Pudgy waited patiently until a young red fox ran up pulling a wagon behind him.  The fox grinned and waved, “where will it be Mister Hedgehog?”  Pudgy walked slowly up, and climbed into the black wooden wagon emblazoned with TAXI on the side.  As he sat down, there was a wooden box in front of him with a slot on the top.  Reaching into his vest pocket, Pudgy withdrew a silver metallic coin and plopped it into the box.  The coin clinked loudly inside, and the fox nodded while wiggling his tail.  “Please take me to the grand transport,” Pudgy said while watching the fox start to move forward.  Currency was still a new concept for the town, but the last couple years found more of an adoption of the method of payment for goods and services.  Thankfully for the fox, his passenger was not heavy at all, so after a few steps, the wagon was speeding along. 

Through the town they headed, passing row after row of homes.  Many animals had moved into town from places far away, and over the years, the town had grown in an organic way around the original structures.  Several child rabbits waved as the taxi passed by, with Pudgy returning their greeting with a smile as well.  It was not long until the taxi had reached a bend in the row, which led to a stone bridge that spanned the river.  The original wooden bridge had rotted away, so the town had decided to rebuild with stone so that it would last much longer.  There was no sway anymore, a nice solid surface that could accommodate two fox pulled taxis going in either direction.  His snow fox friend Mary and her husband had many sons, and they put them all to work with the family business.  The fox taxi service had commandeered the market in the surrounding area, though rumors of a competitor fluttered in the wind like wind carried seeds.        

After crossing the bridge, they turned right and started to follow the road marked with a white sign that read Dragon Road.  The younger animals never knew why it was called Dragon Road, nor why the cove was called Dragon cove.  Dragons do not exist, and it was just silly words on street signs.  The hedgehog smirked as he pondered what the children said, and could just barely see his underground home in the distance.  Soon the underground home with its round windows and doors was gone when they entered the industrial port.  The once quiet cove had bulked up considerably with additional buildings and storage sheds.  The port was now home to three steam ships of varying capacity, with the largest being able to ferry groundhogs.  Speaking of which, as the smell of wood smoke hung thick in the air, the hedgehog watched dirty groundhogs shoveling coal from the barges docked along the pier.  The foul-mouthed diggers had found a source of coal, and had been mining it for a couple years now from the tall hills nearby to Beaver Town. 

The road eased left and right, as the fox slowed their progression as the taxi passed through the shopping district.  It had made sense to locate it near the port, and all manner of stores had been created to sell a variety of wares.  Foods from all over were sold, as well as the latest fashions at reasonable prices.  There were so many new animals in town, that Pudgy could not remember all their names.  Still many waved, while others were too absorbed in their transactions.  The smell of cinnamon was in the air, which meant the squirrels had fired up their oven.  Pudgy always liked to get a paw full after lunch, when his old bones would allow for the walk up to Zippy and Zany Squirrel’s Hot Nuts.  There was always a snicker, a wink, and a nod with each order.  Pudgy still didn’t get the joke, but he did like the caramelized sugar taste that coated the acorns.   

Once the taxi had exited the shopping district, the road ascended up the hill towards the original location of the ley line grove of oak trees.  The ancient oaks had started to sprout, and some had even managed to spread their boughs into the air.  The fox wiggled his tail, and his ears bounced as they continued to follow the road.  It wound to the right and then back to the left between tall oak trees full of yellow leaves.  Despite the warmth of the son, there was a bit of a chill on the air, signaling the arrival of fall.  They approached a wide circular path of polished white limestone, and soon slowed as he pulled the wagon up to the unloading spot.  Wiggling his ears, “we are here Mr. Hedgehog. Thank you for choosing Fox Taxi service for your trip.”  Pudgy wiggled his nose, “thank you Mr. Fox,” he said as he exited the wagon.  The hedgehog had sat too long, so his muscles had locked up a bit.  However, the fox was patient and rested while the hedgehog exited the vehicle.  This was also an opportunity to pick up a return fare, before heading home to his mother.    

The hedgehog took up his wooden cane once more, and once his paws were on the stone pavers, walked away from the wagon and headed towards the gate.  This place had almost remained the same, as any development could be affected by the ley line.  With the assistance of Angeliki raven, and a Japanese counterpart: the ley line was able to be reopened for a permanent connection between their town and the Kiyomizu-Dera gate in Japan.  The second main route was the connection to Mt. Apo in the lands once known as the Philippines.  While not often, Mr. Dave would occasionally visit with a load of plantains from the jungle.  That was a rare treat, as bananas did not grow anywhere close to their village due to the climate.  Recently, there had also had a temporary connection established to Scotland.  The connection was spotty, so it was not available for active usage yet.  The demigoddess had personal reasons for wanting to open the connection, and had never been very clear why.  No one pushed her on it, because she was trusted by all animal friends on town.    

The rings of stones that once lay on the dirt ground, had been replaced with permanent rings of white polished limestone.  To mark each destination location, decorations had been crafted from local stone. An elegant crane statue signified the direction of Japan, and Mt. Apo was represented by a stone statue of a sea eagle that looked very much like Mr. Dave.  The sea eagle protested mightily on each visit that they really should pick a different marker to represent his home.  Clocks were also built into the granite stone bases, and attuned to the rime that each location represented.  The hour hand and minute hands of the clock silently ticked away as they kept proper time.  There was also a small pavilion nearby, where the former human would wait for the various travelers who wished to use the ley line.  Pudgy did not need to maintain a constant presence here anymore, so it facilitated travel for all parties. 

As Pudgy walked, the rhythmic tap of the tip of his cane on the pave stones, resulted in a look from his raven friend.  Chirping happily, Angeliki strode over towards him and waved her wing tips at him.  The hedgehog smiled in return, while he pondered about the cost to use the ley line.  The critter quickly remembered that there was no fee to use the ley line, but you did have to talk to the raven in order to gain access.  It was mainly a security issue, more than a financial one.  Donations for gate maintenance were appreciated though, at least that was what the Greek bird would say when pressed on the matter.  “Pudgy … it is good to see you!  And where are you off to today … an unauthorized adventure?  The town council will be most displeased if that is the case.  And you know how Argente gets … for that matter?”  The little hedgehog nodded, “Pudgy knows.  Pudgy need to head to Kiyomizu-Dera, for official town business.  They are dedicating the war memorial there.”  The raven nodded, and looked sad for a moment.  “It has been ten years … huh?  I can feel it in my feathers, and my back for that matter.  Ok, please have a good trip, and come home soon.”

The raven motioned with her wing, and watched as her elderly friend walked out and to the center of the ley line.  It was hard to see the once bouncing energetic hedgehog grow old, and move so slowly.  Pudgy had lived for a time longer than most hedgehogs, and it was wonderful to savor each day he was still with them.  In a quick flash of blue light as he reached the center of the ley line paver stones, the critter watched the forest town disappear and suddenly be replaced by the ancient stone fountain of the holy temple.  It took a moment for his eyes to adjust, but soon the hedgehog could see that the skies were dark.  The smell of candles burning, from above drew his attention.  He could see that the area was lit with red lanterns made of paper.  The black kanji written on the sides indicated that this was the Akio ley station.  Water lilies were growing in the fountain pools, with ancient Japanese inscriptions carved into the stone.  It was a mixture of Shinto and Buddhist sayings, proverbs, etc. 

Taking a moment to acclimate, the hedgehog looked around and noticed the shinobi rabbits were stationed about various places around the fountain.  Turning to his left, the hedgehog walked slowly towards a sleeping orange fox dressed in a white Shinto priest robe.  After a few minutes of slow walking, the elderly hedgehog reached the priest, and gently placed his paw on the sleeping fox’s nose.  Gently the critter shook him, and soon the fox slowly opened his brown eyes and looked at Pudgy.  Pudgy spoke first with a smile, “Have you been waiting for Pudgy a long time Kiyoshi?  Pudgy sorry, Pudgy fell asleep in the park at Friendship Town.”  The Shinto priest wiggled his ears as he looked at the hedgehog, “no … I got here maybe a few minutes ago.  The Kaito has me working extra for the ceremony tomorrow morning.  Please get on my back, I will take you to the reception.  I believe that may have started now.” 

The hedgehog nodded, and slowly climbed up onto the fox’s back.  It was so much harder now that he was older, but the fox waited patiently to ensure the critter was safe before standing up.  They walked past the shinobi rabbit guards, dressed in their black outfits who snapped to attention when Pudgy passed by.  The reaction of the guards drew a smile and a wave from the hedgehog,  It was a marked difference from their initial reaction when he had first come to Japan many years ago.  The ancient stone steps had been cut back and adjusted to accommodate animal standards.  So, while it took a bit longer to maneuver, it was much easier as they ascended the stairs and towards the main temple buildings. 

The two soon passed underneath a series of red Torri gates, that had been restored to their original state of repair.  The base of the posts was black, and the rest painted with a red crimson.  After the first set of stairs, there was a small stone platform, which overlooked the surrounding ocean waters.  It was too dark to see the ocean, but the moonlight did faintly illuminate the waves as they crashed against the distant shores.  The sound of the ocean was enough to remind all its presence.  The waters had come far inland, though the temple and surrounding grounds were well fortified against attack or natural disasters.  Soon the priest made another left to head up another long stretch of stairs.  By the time the fox reached the top, he was huffing a bit while he spoke. “It’s been years … and those stairs never get any better.”  Pudgy chuckled while he wiggled his nose, “did the Kannushi let you put in the slide as Pudgy suggested?”  The Shinto priest nodded, “oh yes, and we all love to use it.  Even the old fart likes to slide down it while praying.”  The critter laughed, “prayers to the gods?”  Kiyoshi laughed and shook his head, “no …prayers to stop.” 

The ancient temple had been rebuilt, and restored to its former magnificence during the time of humans.  Towering spires of red painted wood stretched high into the sky.  The unique curvature of the black Japanese roof construction adorned the buildings, while more tube-like red paper lanterns illuminated the structure.  The surrounding buildings had also been rebuilt, and adapted for animal usage.  Fushimi village, Fushimi Inari Taisha, and the Imperial palace had been relocated to the mountain temple.  The high altitude allowed to safely form the home of the Japanese animals.  Like Friendship Town, their temple had grown in density and built quickly back into a small city.  Electrical power had been restored, and even modern conveniences like internet had been restored.  Pudgy heard rumors that when they had turned on the computers, that there were crazy internet women called Vtubers that had been stuck on a server this entire time playing something called Ever quest 1.0.           

Thoughts about the electrical women soon disappeared from the hedgehog’s thoughts, as he could see ahead of them the courtyard between the temple buildings.  A gathering of various animals was present, milling about and talking happily amongst themselves.  The Shinto foxes were standing proudly in the white robes, while the Kaito could be seen busy attending to the Crane Empress.  As Kiyoshi reached the edge of the gathering, he eased down to let Pudgy climb from his back.  “Here we are Pudgy … I will let the Kaito know you are here.”  Pudgy stood up, leaning on his cane, and watched the orange fox pad quickly off and through the crowd.  Once again, the hedgehog paused to get his muscles working again, and waved as many animals recognized and waved at him.  Once more, the Shinobi Rabbit guards went to attention, and relaxed once the hedgehog had passed. 

With the rhythmic tap of his cane, the elderly hedgehog walked slowly until he reached a group of field mice dressed in vibrant pink kimonos.  Stopping a moment to rest, he wiggled his nose as he caught the scent of Japanese tea being served somewhere.  The female field mice giggled and twitched their noses as they spoke to one another.  A small brown field mouse walked up to Pudgy and smiled as he twitched his nose.  He too was wearing clothing like a kimono, which the hedgehog thought might be called a yukata, but it was of a dark gray color.  “Konnichiwa Pudgy,” the field mouse said as he bowed.  Pudgy returned the bow, and spoke wile he rose, “Konnichiwa Daiki-san.  It is good to see you.  How was the harvest?”  The field mouse beamed with pride, “the fields are better than ever.  We increased our crop yield three-fold, and even the second rice field is starting to produce!” 

Pudgy nodded, “thank goodness.  Pudgy was starting to worry, based on our discussion the last time Pudgy visited.”  Daiki nodded, “yes.  I would introduce you to my daughters, but it would seem they are having too much fun with their friends.  Care for some tea?”  The hedgehog nodded, and walked slowly with his friend.  “A proper Japanese tea does sound good at the moment …” The critter said, as they slowly maneuvered between the various rabbits, mice, chipmunks, foxes, wood peckers, owls, and other animals in attendance.  The crane empress was also in attendance, though she was busy handling affairs of state … now … though that could change.  The two friends reached a food cart that had been set up, attended to by a familiar gray rabbit.  The rabbit waved his paw, “konnichiwa Pudgy!”  The hedgehog grinned as he bowed slightly, “konnichiwa Minato.  It is good to see you.  Can Pudgy and Daiki have some tea please.” 

The gray rabbit nodded, and carefully poured two brown clay tall cups full of the steaming brown liquid. Once poured, the rabbit gently slid the cups on the wooden work surface of the cart towards the hedgehog and fieldmouse.  Pudgy wiggled his nose, “Pudgy received word that your Grandfather Goro passed last year.  Pudgy sorry for your loss.”  Minato nodded, “arigoto Pudgy.  I still miss him, but each day gets better.  Oh Sichio Touma …do you want some tea as well?”  The hedgehog turned to see the leader of the shinobi rabbits standing behind him, smiling as he twitched his nose and making his whiskers dance.  “Hai … Minato.  Pudgy Hedgehog, glad you could make it to our reception.”  The black rabbit placed a paw on the hedgehog’s shoulder and patted it before reaching over for his cup of tea.  Daiki and Pudgy reached for theirs, and the trio sipped slowly.      

The tea tased delicious as always, with a rich deep flavor that Friendship Town was never able to duplicate.  Despite his efforts to find out their methods of production, the Japanese kept their secrets close to their chest.  Sighing contentedly, Pudgy smiled as he looked at the rabbit.  “Pudgy has been looking forward to this for awhile now, since the empress offered her invitation.  Speaking of which, Pudgy should head over to her.”  Sichio nodded, “finish your tea first.  I know an old timer like you can use it.”  The hedgehog laughed, “Pudgy has cane. Pudgy can still get a hit in or two before Shinobi rush in.”  Daiki laughed, “yes, and then you would fall down, and need help from a nearby young child to get back up.”  The black rabbit laughed, “getting older stinks.”  The trio laughed heartily for a long time while they finished their beverages.  Each animal returned the cups back to a wooden table next to the food cart, which was designated for the unclean drinking vessels. 

Pudgy walked slowly beside Sichio, and through the crowd. There were many well wishes and greetings to the hedgehog as he headed towards the wooden platform where the crane empress stood.  After a few minutes passed, and some assistance by a young black shinobi rabbit, Pudgy made it up to where she stood.  Bowing deeply Pudgy showed his respect, while leaning harder on his cane during the process.  The white crane giggled, “Pudgy, it is so good to see you.  You do not need to bow that low, it is ok to rise.”  The hedgehog laughed, “Pudgy glad to see you too, thank you for invite Pudgy to gathering.  Pudgy back locked up … Pudgy need minute.”  With some slow maneuvers, his back moved once more, and the critter was able to look upwards at the white crane.  The former human female laughed, which was a series of short chirps coming from her long pale gray beak.    

The empress has ascended to the throne, and had been ruling the unified country of Japan for the last seven years.  Her father had passed away after the terrible war had ended, and during the time of reconstruction.  The former princess had quickly adapted to her new role, and the surrounding lands were flourishing under her leadership.  The Diet had been reformed, made up of representatives from the various groups that made their land function.  Each animal had a voice, and while the Empress would have the final say, she welcomed all opinions and information equally.  The white crane turned towards the crowd, which caught their attention, and soon a hush had fallen over the crowd.  “Welcome every animal … one and all … to Kiyomizu-Dera.  I am pleased that you could attend this gathering.  Please follow me,” the crane empress said as she turned and walked.  The shinobi rabbit guard fell into a phalanx around her, to guard from any potential threat.    The various animals all fell into a silent procession behind the tall white bird.   

They walked a gently sloping path of crushed white stone, which wound around the various hills of the tall mountain.  No animal walked in front of the Empress, though the impatient Shinto foxes really wanted to get ahead of her.  It was not long until all animals could see why.  Almost a hundred little white paper lanterns were attached to tiny wooden boats.  The empress stopped, and turned around to face the approaching crowd.  The foxes taking their cue, rushed around her, and started hurriedly lighting the candles within each lantern boat.  After a few moments had passed, and the moon was shining directly overhead, the crane empress spoke once again.  “A traditional that dates back to the times of our ancestors, we shall send well wishes to those who died in the war of the ocean.”  The white crane turned around, and walked slowly to where a paper lantern boat was waiting for her.  The Kaito had lit the candle himself, and positioned it so that she could easily push it out onto the water.  “I miss you father, please rest well, I am following your advice and leading our country in a way I feel honors your wishes.”

Pudgy watched as the boat floated out, and the faint light of the candle revealed that this was a large pond of fresh water and lilies.  It served as the temple’s main water source, and was a tranquil reflecting pool.  The empress motioned with her wings, and soon each animal approached and took a lantern.  They offered silent prayers to their deceased loved ones, and pushed the boat out into the water.  It was an orderly, silent process, with tears emerging from even the sternest of eyes.  Pudgy waited patiently, until it was his turn, and picked up the little boat.  Walking carefully, he placed the boat into the water, “I miss you … all of my friends who passed …  Please be well, wherever you went.”  The little hedgehog started crying, as the boat floated out into the water, and joined the others as they bobbed about.  As he wiped the tears from his eyes with the back of his paw, the hedgehog moved aside so others could launch their boats. 

As Sichio Touma launched the last boat, he snapped to attention, and the shinobi guards did as well.  The rabbits all began to sing, words of Japanese that the hedgehog did not understand. Kannushi Kaito, the elderly head Shinto fox priest turned to face the temple and lifted a lantern boat into the air with his front paws.  Ceremoniously he turned and placed the boat into the water, launching it.  In the distant spires, on a floor high from the ground, ancient bells started to ring.  Their deep sound echoed in the air, as the rabbits grew silent, and all watched in reverence at the tranquil scene of glowing boats in the darkness.  An unknown amount of time passed, and the crescent moon travelled its path in a star filled sky above.  Eventually the empress spoke, “take as much time as you need to reflect.  Tomorrow at sunrise, we will dedicate our memorial to the dead, and offer further prayers to the heavens above for peace in our remaining time.  I will take my leave now, oyasumi.” 

The Crane Empress carefully maneuvered around the crowd, to slowly walk back up the path towards where she resided within the temple grounds.  The shinobi rabbits fell into formation around her, and quickly disappeared into the night dressed in their dark attire.  The various animals started to depart as well, with soon only Pudgy and Kannushi Kaito remaining at the edge of the water.  The little boats continued to float on the water’s surface, and the candle light flickered within the translucent white paper boxes on each deck.  The head priest spoke first, “I knew this was going to be hard on you, Pudgy.”  The little hedgehog was still crying, “Pudgy miss Cobalt so much.  Pudgy miss all friends who went away so much.  Why is Pudgy still here?”  The orange fox looked sad, and gently patted his head with his front left paw.  “The gods have their reasons Pudgy.  I stopped questioning their wishes a long time ago.  Let us head back to the temple, you may rest there until tomorrow’s dedication.”

The hedgehog nodded, and slowly turned away from the water.  The elderly hedgehog moved slowly, while drying his eyes.  Kaito was also moving slowly, as he too was far older than any fox had ever lived up to this point.  It took about an hour, of maneuvering the white stone paths, to circle up the hill, and around to the left behind the main temple building.  By the time both animals had arrived, they were exhausted and sat down as soon as they found an empty cushion within the long rectangular room.  In times long past, this area was used for storage of supplies for the temple.  Now, it had been repurposed to quarters for the Shinto priests.  Pudgy immediately fell asleep, with Kaito grinning a bit before laying his weary body down as well.  “Oyasumi ..” he muttered as sleep soon overtook him as well.  The exhausted priests had been hard at work all day, and all slept silently within the nondescript room.

Almost too quickly, the blissful oblivion of sleep was dispelled by a gentle shake from a cold fox nose.  Pudgy opened his eyes and waved at the Shinto priest fox.  “Pudgy is up, is it time?”  The young fox nodded, and motioned with his head for the hedgehog to climb up on his back.  It took a couple attempts to roll up to his paws, and then slowly walk over to climb up onto his back.  “Pudgy doesn’t move like Pudgy used to,” the hedgehog said with a sigh.  After a few attempts, he was able to mount the fox’s back and held gently to silver fur sticking out from various places of the white robe.  The nondescript brown wooden doors were open, and a cool breeze was blowing in from outside.  The pink twilight dawn had just started to emerge, with a noticeable hint of moisture on the breeze. 

The fox nodded as he moved at a brisk pace, “looks like rain is coming.  I hope we can finish the ceremony before it arrives.”  Pudgy nodded, “Pudgy hope so too.”  The critter noticed they were following the same path back to the pool where the lantern boats were launched not too long before.  As the sunlight increased, Pudgy could see statues coming into focus.  The pool of water was enclosed in a rectangular stone, and the familiar Torri gates marked the entrance and exits to the reflecting water.  Orange bonsai trees were expertly pruned, as well as their larger cousins around the area.  The animals from the night before were arriving, and starting to be directed by the shinobi towards a large statue of a white crane.  Pudgy smiled weakly, “the Crane Emperor’s statue turned out nice.”  The fox beamed with pride, “we have been hard at work on that for years.  There was a committee, and I was responsible for carving his legs.” 

Cranes had delicately long legs, so the fact that such a crucial component was trusted to the young fox, was a high honor for him.  If he had messed up, the statue would fall over and break.  As they approached the rear of the crowd ,the young priest stopped and eased down to let his hedgehog rider disembark.  Pudgy slid off from the fox’s back, and patted him gently on the side of his head. “Thank you, Mr. Fox,” Pudgy said as he started to slowly walk forward while leaning on the cane.  The various animals had dressed in somber colored kimono and yukatas of grays and browns.  Gone were the vibrant colors from the night before, and a mournful silence hung on the air.  The smaller animals had gathered towards the left, while the larger ones arranged themselves to not be too much in the way of one’s view.  The crowd all started to bow, as the crane Empress appeared as she walked through the gate that approached the gathering.

Pudgy bowed too, though the large crack that could be heard from his spine made several field mice wince.  The hedgehog stole a glance at the procession of the Shinto foxes, and watched as Kannushi Kaito bowed deeply before the empress.  She looked somber, and nodded in return, motioning with her right wing to proceed.  The head priest bowed again, and turned slowly to face the crowd.  The priest spoke calmly, with a well-rehearsed speech in Japanese.  Many animals in the crowd started to cry, including the empress.  The words were concluded, and then the fox spoke in animal speak.  Kaito nodded, “for those of you whom do not know the words of our ancestors.  I shall translate thusly.

Our dear friends’ lives have ended, with the passing of our dear friends, the memories of times, have come to an end, their threads wove the fabric of an earlier day. Our dear friends’ lives have ended, with the passing of our friends, sunrises and sunsets, bright days and dark nights circled again and again, and gave context to their lives, moment after moment, their lives were lived each day.

Our dear friend’s lives have ended, with the passing of our friends, lives have been touched by the dear one’s journey, laughter, tears, hopes, fears, their lives have come to an end, memory hold their spirit alive, in our own lives. Their lives have ended, with the passing of our friends, the loss of future moments, that will not be, grateful for moments shared, that nourished me, moments lived, in casual belief, they would never end.

A part of me has ended, with the passing of our friends, be they gone from the earthly plane, their spirits soar, to renew again, in summer land, heaven or another life, I know not where, but their love remains with me, for in this life, we friends, did share. I miss our friends, but they will always be near, inside of me, inside you, and all who took time to hear, the music of this life so dear, a life now silent, living only in the memory, of those who survive.”

The words of the priest echoed in the air, and the ancient bells started to ring out with a somber tone.  As the first vision of the rising sun could be seen, the tranquil garden came into full view.  Statues of animals had been carved by the priests.  The statues stood heroically as they looked towards the center reflecting pool.  The little lantern boats had all been cleaned up, so the water was free of debris.  The remaining candles had been repurposed towards little shrines that had been set up at each statue.  The empress bowed before the statue of her father, and placed a wing on the side of the statue.  She spoke words, which none could hear, and then turned around once more to face the crowd. 

“This garden shall provide a place of peace and respite, while we remember the terrible effects of the war with the ocean.  The lives we lost, the friends missing, and families separated … shall burn in our hearts brightly.  None will forget the cruelty of the ocean, and now we came together to defeat the truest and darkest of evil.  I hereby dedicate this garden to my father the emperor, and all those who served him, as well as those assisted him in the defense of our nation.  I declare this memorial available for all animals’ general use.  You may rise, and explore the area.  Our priests have done an excellent job with the carvings.”

Pudgy started to slowly stand upright, and could see the Shinto foxes were bouncing slightly from the compliment.  The animals started to separate, and fan out throughout the gardens.  Once it was safe to walk, the elderly hedgehog walked slowly while leaning on his cane.  Cobblestones of hardened granite had been laid by humans hands hundreds of years ago.  Despite war, weather, and the various disruption of this world: they never shifted nor a weed grew between them.  The oak trees were full of leaves, and their branches swayed in the wind above him.  The birds were chirping as they spoke in their high-pitched voices.  There was still a large crowd around the emperor’s statue, so Pudgy decided to head towards one of the perimeter statues. 

After a short trip, and several stops to give his hips a rest, the hedgehog stood before several bears carved in granite.  “Mr. Bear … Grandpa Bear …. Snortapoopus … Ivan …. Bo …. Bill.” Pudgy whimpered, as he placed a paw on the placard at the statue’s base.  The statues were not bear sized, but were scaled in such a way to be of size for frame of reference.  Looking up at the bears through tear filled eyes, Pudgy remembered a time before war.  When his bear friends were still alive, and they were happy. 

By Cobalt

Cobalt is a normal guy that goes to work. Pudgy is his hedgehog friend who lives in a hobbit style home nearby, and goes on epic adventures. All Pudgy stories are copyrighted to Cobalt. Doomcock, Harvey Cthulhu, and Xanadoom is copyrighted to Overlord DVD.

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