It was three days after Mai got out of the hospital:
They met up with Keiichiro, Zakuro, and their twins as soon as they got home.
Sakura started moving out of Ryou and Ichigo's home and in with Ami and Jin.
Things started going downhill between Ryou and Ichigo.
Today is the twins' birthday, so Ryou and Ichigo were trying to get along and not fight for the twins' sake.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
"Coming!" Ryou called from the kitchen.
When Ryou opened the door, his parents, Sakura, and Tomohiro were standing there.
"Come in. Let me take those." Ryou let everyone in before taking some of the gifts from his dad, making a face.
"Some are from Sakura, and some are from Tomohiro. Then your mother and I agreed that we needed to make up for lost time. There's more in the car—and at home for the bigger party later. Is Keiichiro here?" Jin explained, seeing the face before asking.
"No. He and Zakuro had to take the children to France for a little while. Despite not being in her life (by choice), Zakuro's parents are forcing her to allow them to meet their grandchildren. That—or they'll disown her. She said, "Screw it; they didn't want anything to do with me for the last however many years. They're not going to get to meet their grandchildren." So, the left two days ago—after calling several police to let them know what's going on. But he will be at the bigger party with everyone else." Ryou answered, deciding to ignore everything about the presents; he knew they felt guilty—even though they shouldn't.
"Ah." "Where are the twins?" Jin replied before Sakura and Ami asked, looking around.
"Mai's taking a nap and Kai's on timeout." Ryou replied.
"Why? What happened?" Ami asked, concerned.
"Mai was sitting in her chair, watching something on a tablet when Kai came and knocked it out of her hands, onto the floor. He then proceeded to tell her she was the reason Sakura moved out, and that we were never going to see her again. I don't know what's up with him lately; he's been acting out a lot. Still, some days he's incredibly with her. It's like he's bipolar or something. I asked Mai if Kai was possessed—if there was a ghost or something in his body, and she said no." Ryou answered with a frustrated sigh, running his hand through his hair.
"Have or are you planning on getting him tested?" Jin asked, watching Ryou.
"I honestly thought about it, but Ichigo absolutely refuses, saying he's acting out because I don't spend enough time with him. I spend just as much time with him as I do Mai. Or—I try to; he would rather be on his own—or just with Ichigo." Ryou answered, trying not to badmouth Ichigo in front of her mother.
"Does she spend much time with Mai? Where is she anyway?" Sakura asked, watching Ryou.
"Does she try to spend time with Mai?" Tomohiro asked, scoffing a little.
"She spent a few hours with her two days ago, coloring while Kai and I built one of those model rockets. Yesterday, all four of us built a volcano together; we plan to set it off tomorrow when it's not so crappy out. We were going to do it today, but between what he did and the weather, we're going to hopefully do it tomorrow. We all watch movies together. I know Ichigo took Mai out for a little over an hour yesterday, but I don't know where exactly—the park, I think. As for where Ichigo is now: she said she had some last minute birthday shopping to do—along with something else. But like Kai seems to prefer to spend time with Ichigo, Mai prefers to spend time with me." Ryou answered Sakura and Tomohiro.
"Daddy's girl and Mama's boy. It happens a lot with families who have a boy and a girl and both parents. Not all families, but a lot. Of course, you have Dad's champs or whatever and Mom's princess or whatever." Jin stated, watching Ryou.
"I have two wonderful, handsome sons." Ami happily announced, hugging Ryou and then Tomohiro.
"Mom…" Both boys moaned, embarrassed.
"Daddy?" Mai mumbled, waddling out of her room, rubbing her eyes.
"Did you have a nice nap?" Ryou asked, lifting Mai into his arms once she lifted her arms to be picked up.
"Kai; you can come off timeout now! Uncle Tomohiro and your grandparents are here—all of them!" Ryou called into the kitchen.
"Coming!" Kai called, running in.
"When your sister fully wakes up, you need to apologize to her. Grandma did not move out because of her—of either of you. And she's going to see each of you again." Ryou strictly told Kai.
"Yes, Dad." Kai replied, looking Ryou in the eyes.
"Good. Now, go see your grandparents and uncle." Ryou replied, watching Kai.
"Hi, Grandma, Grandpa, Grandma, Uncle Tomohiro." Kai greeted everyone, giving each of them a quick hug—except for Ami, who just wouldn't let him go.
"That's your grandmother for you. Are you ready to be social?" Ryou told Kai before asking Mai when she leaned away from Ryou and looked at him.
"Soso?" Mai asked, confused.
"Your grandparents and Uncle Tomohiro are here; they came to see you and Kai." Ryou explained to Mai.
"But Gramma left 'cos of me." Mai softly replied, looking at Ryou.
"That's not true, now is it, Kai?" Ryou told Mai before strictly asking Kai.
"No, it's not true. I just said that because I was mad. I'm sorry." Kai answered and then sincerely apologized.
"What made you so mad you would tell her that?" Sakura asked, watching Kai.
"She put glitter all over my volcano." Kai answered.
"Ok. Mai, who do you want to go with first?" Ryou asked, turning her so she could see Tomohiro, their parents, and Sakura.
"Umple Tomo." Mai softly answered.
"Me?" Tomohiro asked, stunned.
"That's what she said." Ryou responded, handing Mai over to Tomohiro.
Tomohiro loved Kai and Mai, but he hated holding them; he was always afraid he would drop them. So, he never held them very long before passing them along.
"Ok, Kai, we need to talk. One: that volcano isn't just yours; it's all of ours. I bought it, and we all put it together. Two: Mai asked me and your mother if she could put the glitter on it; we said yes, and your mother and Mai did it together. Three: you can't say hurtful things to Mai—to anyone when you become angry or don't get your way. That is not how things work. Do I make myself clear?" Ryou sternly told Kai.
"Yes. I'm sorry." Kai apologized, looking down.
"Kai, do you feel like you struggle with your emotions or being able to concentrate?" Ryou asked, watching Kai as Tomohiro handed Mai to Sakura.
"Yes." Kai answered, mumbling a little.
"How often? A lot? Sometimes? Barely at all?" Ryou asked, getting Kai's attention.
"More than a lot. Every few hours. Why? What's wrong with me?" Kai answered and then asked, confused.
"Would you be interested in seeing someone to see if they properly diagnose you with something—or to see if you're just moody?" Ryou asked, watching Kai.
"I'd like that; I'd like it a lot." Kai replied with a smile.
"I'm home. Oh, hello." Ichigo announced and then greeted, confused when she walked through the door.
"Over to Ami." Sakura told Mai, handing her to Ami.
"Sorry. I just didn't think you were all going to be here until around three." Ichigo apologized after a few seconds.
"It's 3:30." Ryou stated, watching Ichigo walk past their mothers.
"Is it? Shoot. Sorry; I had to go to three different stores to find what I needed for Kai and Mai. Then I ran into Lettuce and Pudding: we talked for a little bit. They asked what we were doing for the twins' birthday because Keiichiro, Zakuro, and their kids weren't home; so, I told them. And finally, I ran into Kish—and you know how he is; he wouldn't leave me be." Ichigo explained, looking Ryou in the eyes to show him she wasn't lying.
"Ok. Well, we should get ready." Ryou sighed.
"What are we doing?" Ichigo asked, watching Ryou.
"We're going out to dinner before we come home for cake and presents. No, I can't tell you where because it's a surprise for the twins." Ryou answered, looking directly at Ichigo.
"Ok. Do I have time to wrap these before we have to go, or no?" Ichigo asked, holding up a few bags?
"Get what you can wrapped; I'll call you when it's time to go." Ryou told Ichigo with a sigh. Something was going on—and she was hiding it; he just didn't know what.
"Thank you." Ichigo thanked before heading to her and Ryou's room.
"Gampa." Mai softly spoke, leaning to Jin.
"She's too cute." Ami cooed, handing Mai over to Jin.
"Ryou, is something going on between you and Ichigo?" Sakura asked, watching Ryou.
"I really don't know. We've been arguing some these past few days—mainly while the twins are asleep. But once or twice, the twins were awake. It's usually just how we spend too much time with one twin and not enough with the other. Otherwise, it's nothing too serious—except last night. But I won't get into that." Ryou honestly answered while Ami and Sakura picked up the cupcakes.
"Where would you like these?" Ami asked, noticing the dogs sniffing the cupcakes.
"Follow me." Ryou instructed, leading the way to the kitchen.
Once there, he opened a cupboard.
"Can't we just place them on counter in the way back?" Jin asked, watching Ryou put one tray of cupcakes in the cupboard.
"No. These animals are smart." Ryou answered, putting the other tray in before shutting the door.
"Orieo and S'more get up on the counter and knock food down for Graham-cracker, Marshmallow, Leo, and Luna." Kai explained.
"Orieo and More'Mores get to eat as well. A long, long time ago, they all shared the hamburgers. Daddy had to buy pizza dat night." Mai added.
"That wasn't a long, long time ago; that was four months ago—and Mom was pissed." Kai corrected.
"Kai, language; you're not to say words like "pissed." And for your sister, that was a long, long time ago." Ryou strictly scolded Kai.
"Sorry." Kai apologized.
"What did Kai do this time?" Ichigo asked, walking out with two medium-sized wrapped presents and two gift bags.
"He swore—again." Sakura told Ichigo with a frustrated sigh.
"Daddy?" Mai asked, speaking up before anyone could start fighting; she didn't like it when they fought.
"What is it, Baby?" Ryou asked, watching Mai.
"Can we take the Mokona bunnies with us to the dinner club?" Mai softly asked when she saw Soel and Larg floating around.
"Just how did you know we were going to a dinner club?" Ryou asked, looking at Mai.
"Kai read a paper dat said so. He said he find it on a counter." Mai softly answered. She didn't like lying to anyone—especially Ryou. She only lied when she felt she was trying to protect someone.
"Tattletale." Kai mumbled.
"That's enough. Kai, you need to stop snooping around. However, I know you well enough to know you'd go snooping, so I planted a decoy. No, we're not going to a fancy dinner club. No, I will not tell you where we're actually going; it's a surprise—and it's going to stay a surprise. Yes, the Mokona bunnies can come along—as long as you, your brother, and they promise to behave." Ryou told Kai and Mai.
"Yay!" Mai happily exclaimed, wiggling around in Jin's arms.
"Yay! Yay! Yay! We promise to behave!" Soel and Larg happily announced.
"Now, it's time to get you two changed. Aunty Zakuro had special outfits made for you—and Uncle Keiichiro paid for them; they would like you to wear them." Ryou told Kai and Mai, taking Mai from his dad.
"Shouldn't we wait to wear them until they get back from hiding from Aunt Zakuro's parents?" Kai asked, looking at Ryou.
"I asked them: they told me to have you wear them and just take pictures and send them to them. Now, come on." Ryou answered before instructing.
"Can I get dressed by myself?" Kai asked, trudging after Ryou.
"Yes, you can. But I have to get you your outfit." Ryou replied, walking to Kai's room first; he placed a box on his bed before moving to Mai's room.
"How do your owies feel today?" Ryou asked once he removed Mai's clothes after setting her on her bed.
"Mai—does something hurt? You have to tell me these things so I can help you. I promise; you're not going to be in any trouble." Ryou asked and then calmly but firmly insisted after a minute of silence.
"My tummy owie don't hurt no more. But—dis owie still hurts." Mai softly answered, feeling like she was in trouble.
"Baby, you're not in trouble. Does it hurt a lot? What kind of hurt does it feel like?" Ryou told Mai before asking.
"No, not a lot. It feels prickly—and den ishy. I want scrash it, but Mommy yells at me when I do. She say I not loud to scrash it." Mai softly answered.
"Well, Mommy shouldn't be yelling at you for that; you can't help it. Although, she is right: you're not allowed to scratch it. I'll be right back; I have something that'll help you with the itch. You just sit still." Ryou told Mai before heading out; he was back within a minute.
"Ok… Hold still." Ryou instructed, kneeling in front of Mai.
"Wots dat?" Mai asked, looking at a white and blue tube.
"This is anti-itch cream; it'll make it so your owie won't itch anymore." Ryou explained, squirting some anti-itch cream onto a Q-tip.
"Will it hurt?" Mai asked, scared.
"No, it won't hurt; I promise. I may be cold, but it won't hurt." Ryou promised.
"Otay." Mai replied, letting Ryou help her.
Five Minutes Later:
"Are you ready?" Ryou asked, standing at Kai's door.
"I guess." Kai mumbled, walking out of his room.
"Let's see." Ichigo excitedly insisted as soon as she saw Ryou and the twins.
"Well, look at you two." Sakura and Ami happily cooed, taking pictures as soon as Ryou set Mai next to Kai.
They had matching outfits—kind of:
Kai was wearing black shorts with a navy blue shirt that read in large gold print, "I'm 5!" He also wore black socks and his tennis shoes.
Mai was wearing black shorts under a navy blue dress that read in large gold print, "I'm 5!" She also wore white socks and her tennis shoes.
"You two look nice." Jin stated, watching Mai and Kai.
"Tank you." Mai thanked, swaying back and forth.
"I look ridiculous." Kai complained.
"That's not very nice. Aunt Zakuro worked hard on those outfits." Ichigo scolded Kai, shocking Kai and Ryou.
"Besides, you only have to wear it today—and maybe on your other birthday party." Ryou stated, watching Kai.
"Well, are we ready?" Ichigo asked, looking at everyone.
"Yeah; we should be heading out so we can make it on time." Ryou answered, looking at a clock.
"When do we have to be there?" Ami asked, watching Ryou.
"About forty-five minutes—and it takes half an hour to get there." Ryou answered, lifting Mai into his arms.
"Wait! We're not ready yet!" Mokona stopped Ryou from leaving by popping up in front of him.
"What do you mean? We got these outfits and our shoes on—and it's too hot for coats." Kai argued right away.
"Yuko has a present for Mai and Kai." Soel happily announced.
"Actually, she has two presents. One for later and one for now." Larg calmly explained.
Before anyone could say anything, two wrapped presents gently shot out of Soel's mouth and lightly landed on the floor in front of Ryou. Right after that, a hologram of Yuko appeared out of Soel's red gem on its forehead.
Dear Kai & Mai,
I'd send you a card or letter, but you wouldn't be able to read them:
Our language and writing are different than in your world.
Thanks to the Mokona Modoki, you are able to understand me.
I hear it's your GOLDEN birthday.
The wrapped gifts are indeed for you, but it's up to your parents when you receive them.
These gifts, however, you will receive now.
These gifts are not dangerous in any way, shape, or form.
The boxed gifts are from me and everyone else here, at my shop.
The gifts coming now are from me and me alone—and very special.
The Mokona Modoki will explain what the following line means:
The items are real, but at the same time, not.
I do hope you enjoy.
After Yuko disappeared:
Two green scrunchies with a sapphire rose hair clip pendant attached to each appeared in Mai's hair, tying it up into pigtails.
A thick silver fabric headband with three small emerald leaves embedded on the front and sides was placed on Kai's forehead.
"That was nice of Miss Yuko. Such a nice headband and pretty hair ties." Ami happily announced, watching the twins.
"Explain on the way out what Yuko meant; we have to go, or we'll be late." Ryou instructed, leading the way.
"What Yuko meant was that the roses and leaves are real. The roses were picked from Yuko's special garden. They started out white, but Yuko made them shiny blue—like sapphires." Soel happily explained.
"The leaves, Yuko found in her yard. They started out as orange, but Yuko made them green—like emeralds. None of the gems are real; they just look real enough." Larg calmly finished explaining.
"Oh. That's interesting." Sakura spoke up, unsure of what to say.
"Are you and Ichigo having troubles?" Jin asked Ryou.
"Honestly? I'm not sure. Maybe. She's hiding things—which, I'm not too concerned about. What bothers me is her reluctance to spend time with Mai; she does, but it always seemed forced. I don't know." Ryou answered, keeping an eye on the road.
Ryou and Jin sat up front.
Sakura and Ami sat in the middle.
Ichigo, Kai, Mai, Soel, and Larg sat in the back.
Tomohiro was lying in the way back with headphones on—sleeping.
"Not long now. Yep." Sakura and Ami telepathically spoke to each other at the same time.
"Does Jin remember anything?" Sakura telepathically asked Ami.
"No. Soon we won't remember either—and things will change overnight." Ami replied.
"Yes." Sakura replied, sighing a little in frustration.
"Yes, I know. I hate this as well. But for Mai's protection… I hate that she's the chosen one like this. Kai's the other chosen one—but he won't need this protection; he'll have his own. Not that he'll even need the other protection either." Ami explained, looking back to check on the twins.
"You're not saying Kai becomes evil, are you?" Sakura asked, horrified.
"No. Oh, good heaven's no. Neither him nor Ichigo become evil or anything like that. I'm just saying that Kai's strong and will be able to take care of himself physically. Whereas, unfortunately, Mai will not." Ami answered, explaining what she meant.
"But she'll be strong spiritually and magically speaking." Sakura insisted.
"Of course—if she works on any of it. Right now, she's too young; she's confused, afraid, and wants nothing to do with it. And I can tell Ryou and Ichigo don't want it for her either. Quite frankly, neither do I. But I think we both know where it's heading anyway." Ami replied.
"Yeah, I know. No, I don't want any of this for either of them, but they're the ones who were chosen. There's really nothing we can do. When she's older, she'll be able to make these decisions for herself. It's kind of strange they were born twins, don't you think?" Sakura agreed and then asked.
"Yes, I agree. Twins are rare. And not only that, but while twins aren't bad, they are—and are always separated with one parent. Also, to think, there are other dimensions where Kai and Mai are twins. I wonder just how many there are." Ami agreed before going on to explain.
"I know. But Yuko did say there were worlds where they weren't twins—and some where they're not siblings—or even related." Sakura reminded Ami.
"Yes, I know. And for Yuko to show up—it must be important. We know that this timeline/universe is important. And we know that because of a wish granted by Yosei, there is another important timeline/universe out there." Ami responded.
"I can't help but think that there's only one other world out there where Kai and Mai are twins. I don't think any of the other worlds have them as twins. I mean, why else would Yosei and Yuko show up? Not to mention: why would Yosei offer that way out? Why give them a choice to save the twins—both of them?" Sakura gave her opinion.
"I know what you mean." "Wahhh!" Ami started only to be interrupted by Mai screaming, followed immediately by crying.
"Mai, what's wrong?" Everyone asked, concerned as Ryou immediately pulled into a parking lot. All Mai could do was cry.
After Ryou parked the van, he was to Mai as fast as possible.
"What happened?" Ryou asked, watching Ichigo.
"I don't know; she just started screaming." Ichigo answered right away.
After a minute or two, Mai stopped screaming and started hyperventilating a little like most kids when they start calming down. There were tears, deep, quick breathing, sniffling, and soft whimpering.
"Mai, what's wrong? What happened?" Ryou asked, concerned.
"That's different, isn't it?" Sakura telepathically asked Ami.
"What do you mean?" Ami asked, confused.
"In the past, wasn't Kai went with Ryou and Mai went with Ichigo. Why did it suddenly change?" Sakura stated and then asked.
"I'm not a hundred percent sure, but I'm thinking it has to do with the original priestess and witch. The priestess (your family) was a daddy's girl while the witch (my family) was a mama's girl. The witch may have been female, but she was a tomboy and wanted to be a boy; she created a potion that would grant her wish. However, before the potion was complete, the witch died; she was unable to become a boy. Seeing as Mai and Kai are the chosen ones—the direct reincarnations and descendants of the priestess and the witch: I would assume that Mai being a daddy's girl and Kai being a mama's boy, is how it's supposed to be. All the others were mishaps that led to this correct timeline." Ami explained, looking at Sakura.
"So, Ryou's going to get Mai and Ichigo is going to get Kai. Will Ryou see Kai or Ichigo see Mai after everything?" Sakura asked.
"I don't know for how long, but a few times after they breakup, yes. I do, however, know that there's no restrictions for grandparents, so I'll be damned if I don't get to see Kai from time to time." Ami told Sakura.
"I know how you feel. Honestly, at first, when we found out Mai and Kai were Ichigo's as well as Ryou's, I didn't know how I felt about him. I mean, I knew he was a good guy who would always treat Ichigo right, but I didn't know how he'd feel about letting her or us see the twins. But he swore he'd never take them away from any of us—no matter if him and Ichigo stayed together or not. And each new day, I only believe him more and more. I'd hate to not be able to see Mai anymore." Sakura replied.
"Mai, you have to talk to us, so we know how to help you." Ichigo firmly told Mai.
"Mommy's right, Baby; we can't help you if you don't tell us what's wrong." Ryou gently told Mai.
"I-i-it burned." Mai managed to say.
"What burned?" Ryou asked, concerned.
"My owie." Mai answered, placing her hand on her chest.
"Can you let me see?" Ryou asked, watching Mai.
"Otay." Mai softly replied, moving her arms.
"Hmm. That's odd." Ryou spoke as soon as he gently pulled the front of her dress down a little to see Mai's chest.
"What's wrong?" Ami and Sakura asked, concerned while Jin crawled back.
"I don't know yet—but I think it's gone. I'm going to take you out of your seat. When I do, I need you to lift your arms up." Ryou replied, stunned before instructing Mai before removing her and setting her in the center of the van.
Mai raised her arms, and off went her dress, and everyone stared in shock; her stitches on her chest were gone—and there was no scar.
"What wrong?" Mai asked, confused.
"How does your owie feel now?" Ryou sternly asked, looking at a clear chest.
"Better." Mai answered.
"Her appendix scar is gone as well." Sakura noted, looking from Mai's chest to her hip.
"Kai, are you ok? Did you feel any kind of burning?" Ryou asked, slipping Mai's dress back on.
"I'm fine. There was no burning, but I did feel a pinching-like feeling on my right hip." Kai honestly answered before removing himself from his car seat; he then pulled his shirt up and shorts down to show them the scar—or rather lack thereof.
"What's going on?" Ichigo asked, panicking a little.
"Relax. I'm sure everything's fine." Ryou assured Ichigo, making her calm down.
"Are at the food place?" Both Mokona Modoki asked, waking up.
"No, not yet. We just had to stop for an—emergency so to speak." Ryou answered.
"What happened? Is Mai ok?" Soel asked, panicking a little.
"She's fine—I think. She just had some burning sensations in her chest—and her stitches and scars are gone. Kai's stitches are gone and healed as well. I think I may have to reschedule tonight. I want to take them both to the hospital." Ryou explained, hooking Mai into her seat while Ichigo hooked Kai up.
"No need for that; that's normal." Larg explained.
"What do you mean normal?" Ichigo demanded, ready to shake the life out of the black Mokona.
"Ichigo, calm down; let it talk." Ryou scolded Ichigo, causing her to grumble.
"Thank you. The roses and leaves come with a one-time spell that heals any wounds on the person wearing them. Yuko knows where you're taking them tonight; she wanted them—both of them to have fun." Larg continued as everyone got back in their seats and were once again on the move.
"No harm will come to either of them?" Ryou asked, watching the road.
"Correct: no harm will come to Mai or Kai because of the flowers or leave. And although the flowers and leaves can no longer heal the twins, they will never die and will be able to be used as hair clips or headbands." Soel answered and explained.
"Why does it seem to me that you value Mai more than Kai?" Ichigo asked, becoming defensive.
"We don't understand; we don't value Mai more. We're here for both her and Kai. It's just we know Kai is capable of physically taking care of himself while Mai is not." Soel and Larg simultaneously answered.
"But you both spend all your time with Mai. You were given to Kai: why don't you spend time with him?" Ichigo demanded, becoming frustrated.
"I gave Mai my Mokona. Again—no offense; I just have no interest in bunnies. I know Mai loves both of them." Kai calmly answered, huffing a little.
"I give Kai my dinosaur lamp thingy." Mai happily answered.
"Dinosaur lamp thingy?" Jin asked, confused.
"A few months ago we were walking past a park where some dinosaur convention was going on. It was free—and the organizers invited us in. It was just the twins and me because Ichigo and Sakura were having a day just the two of them and Shintaro was—somewhere. There was some kind of raffle for the kids—if the parent/guardian put $5.00 down for saving a dinosaur exhibit at the museum. Kai begged me to. He didn't care about the raffle; he wanted to help save the exhibit. So, naturally, Mai also wanted to help save the exhibit—despite not being a fan of dinosaurs. She just likes to help. I paid $20.00, so they got to put their names in the raffle twice. The more you paid, the more you got to put your child(ren)'s name in. People paid a lot in order for their child to win something. Right now, Kai's big into space and dinosaurs: he won an entire bed set and a fleece blanket. Mai won this lamp that spins, showing different dinosaurs walking all over the walls and ceiling. She also won the big prize of five tickets to the grand opening of this new jungle safari thing in mid-September." Ryou explained, stopping at a stoplight.
"Are you taking the twins?" Jin asked, watching Ryou.
"I'm not sure. There were a lot of upset kids and parents that day—when Mai's name was called for the big prize. At the time, I was thinking, well that's too bad; you spent God only knows how much money so your child to win some prize. I'm sure there were a few, but most didn't care about the exhibit; they just wanted some prize. I had people offering to buy the tickets as soon as they were in my hands. There were people begging for them. At this point, I kind of wish I'd just given them to someone else because Mai doesn't even care; she doesn't like dinosaurs. Maybe I'll let her decide what to do with them." Ryou answered, explaining a little.
"What about Kai?" "I wanna go to the Jurassic Safari thing." Ichigo and Kai complained right away.
"I understand that, but their Mai's tickets, not Kai's; it's her decision what to do with them. And if I find out either of you are pushing her to keep them, I'll burn them. Kai, I understand you're struggling with whatever you're struggling with, but you've been so mean to your sister in the last two or three months. Yes, you've also been very loving and caring, but that doesn't outweigh the other things you've done or said to her." "But I always apologize." Ryou started only to be interrupted by Kai.
"Only after your mother, grandmother, or I make you. I'm not saying my parents because they haven't been around you two long enough yet. I've even heard Tomohiro scold you once. So, like it or not, Mai gets to choose what happens to those tickets. We will get you into see someone, find out what's going on in your head, and get you on some kind of proper medication. After that, hopefully, you'll be able to control your emotions better." Ryou explained.
"Excuse me?! What do you mean you're going to take him to see someone?! For what?" Ichigo snapped.
"Relax. I asked Kai what he wanted." Ryou replied, annoyed.
"He did. And I do. I don't feel right all of the time. I want help. I want to know what's wrong with me." Kai calmly told Ichigo.
"I just don't want you to be forced to take all sorts of medications." Ichigo told Kai.
"Kai isn't on any medications right now. And as much as I'd like to keep off of anything, I know he needs something. We'll figure out what he has, what his options for medications are, and pick what we think is best for him. Depending on what's up with him mentally, he'll only be on one or two medications. Look at Mai—at how many medications she has to take. I don't like that she has to be on all of those, but I know she has to be—unfortunately. She's on two or three I absolutely don't want her on, but I caved because you mentioned how much she needed them to help her. Now, you get to make the same sacrifice for Kai." Ryou firmly told Ichigo.
"Fine. But only because Kai wants to." Ichigo reluctantly agreed.
'Better than nothing.' Ryou thought, sighing; he was starting to figure Ichigo out.
"Here we are." Ryou told everyone, pulling into a parking lot.
"Where is we? I can't see." Mai asked, trying to look out her window.
"What's Bucky Cats?" Kai asked, looking out his window.
"It's a pizza place—and is kind of like Super~Bounce World—just smaller. You'll see when we get in." Ryou explained.
"But I can't go to Super~Bounce World." Mai softly argued.
"This isn't Super~Bounce World; this is a different place. It's a place you're allowed to go and play all you want. And—I suppose if you're stitches are gone, and your owies are healed, you can play on whatever you'd like—so long as you don't get hurt. When we get in there, we'll tell you what you can and cannot do—both of you. Sound fair?" Ryou started off telling just Mai before telling her and Kai.
"Yes, Daddy." Mai agreed right away.
"Yeah, I understand." Kai replied.
"Tomohiro, it's time to go in." Ami told her youngest, getting his attention.
"Ok." Tomohiro replied, climbing out of the van.
"Let's head in." Ryou told everyone, lifting Mai once everyone was outside.
"Daddy, can I walk?" Mai innocently asked as Ichigo lifted Kai.
"No, Baby; it's too dangerous with all the cars." Ryou answered.
"But—what 'bout you and Mommy and Gramma and Gramma and Grampa?" Mai asked as the adults started walking.
"They're adults; they don't need to be carried by anyone. They know where and how to walk so they don't get hit by cars. That, and they're not tiny; the people driving can see them and won't crush them like they would you or me." Kai told Mai in that bratty tone, causing her to bury her face in Ryou's shoulder.
"Kai, behave. Stop scaring your sister." Ichigo scolded right away.
"Sorry." Kai apologized right away.
"Welcome to the one and only Bucky Cats in all of Tokyo. How many?" A hostess in a tiger costume politely asked with a large smile.
"I have a reservation under Shirogane, Ryou for five adults, an eleven-year-old, and five-year-old twins. Today is their Golden Birthday." Ryou told the hostess.
"Hmm. Let me check. Shirogane?" The hostess replied, looking at a planner.
"Shirogane?" A man asked, walking over; he was dressed as a giant gray cat with a white stomach.
"Yeah, that's me." Ryou responded.
"Do you have ID?" The man, Ryou assumed to be the manager or owner, asked, watching Ryou.
"Yeah. Hold on." Ryou replied, digging for his wallet.
"Come here, Pumpkin-Patch." Jin told Mai, taking her from Ryou, making it easier for him to get his wallet.
"Pumpkin-Patch?" Tomohiro asked, confused.
"Well, Ryou calls her "Baby." Sakura calls her "Sweetheart." Your mother calls her "Sweetie." Ichigo calls her "Pumpkin." I didn't know what other nickname to give her; I don't have daughters, so this is relatively new." Jin replied.
"Actually, we call her by all the pet names we can think of:"
· "Sweet Pea"
"We call Kai:"
· "Little Mr."
Ami and Sakura took turns naming off pet names.
"Not "Baby?" She seems to like that." Tomohiro pointed out.
"Only when Ryou calls her that; he's the only one who gets to call her that." Sakura replied.
"And I'm not so sure she likes "Pumpkin-Patch." The look she gave you." Ami added.
"No? Well—how about "Princess," then? Do we like that? You'll be Grandpa's little princess?" Jin asked, looking at Mai.
"Ok." Mai replied with a smile.
"Sorry about that. You wouldn't believe how many people we get, pretending to be someone else to try to get in here. You paid over the phone for three to four hours, correct?" The manager asked, watching Ryou.
"It's fine; I figured as much. Yes, that's correct." Ryou replied, putting his ID away.
"Please follow me." The manager instructed, leading the way.
"Where we goin'?" Mai asked, clinging to Jin.
"A surprise." Ryou calmly told Mai with a gentle smile.
"Here we are. These are what we call the Birthday Suites. Just family today, yes?" The manager asked, watching Ryou.
"Yes, just the family." Ryou replied.
"Ok. So, we have three Birthday Suites: small, medium, and large. Small, which is where you are, allows up to fifteen people. Should you ever decide to come back here, the medium suite can hold up to twenty-five people, and the large suite can hold up to fifty. On the phone, you said you had twins who were turning five today—and that it was their golden birthday. And you have a boy and a girl?" The manager explained and then made sure.
"Yes, Sir." Ryou replied.
"Ok. These are for the children to keep. As for policy, I am unable to place these on the children; that has to be done by a parent/guardian. This one is for the boy and this one is for the girl. We have the birthday cat ears and tails—and because it's their Golden Birthday, the ears and tails are golden with blue or pink glitter sprinkled in. I know a lot of kids find the tails uncomfortable, so they really only have to keep the ears on the entire time (except playing in the play area). If they do that, they'll get a free prize of their choosing from the prize wall. Do you know the rules—or do you need to hear them?" The manager explained, handing Ryou dress-up cat ears and tails.
"Well, I know the rules, but you should explain them to the children and the others." Ryou responded, taking Mai from his dad.
· Children under 12 must be accompanied by a parent/guardian (NO Exceptions)
· Children 12 & over are allowed in the play area alone
· No child should ever be left unattended (NO Exceptions)
· No running
· No pushing/shoving
· No hitting
· No kicking
· Not biting
· No name-calling
· No bullying
· No swearing
· No jumping on others (Period)
· No jumping off equipment (Period)
· No shoes allowed in the play area
· We are NOT liable for lost or stolen items
"That's about it." The manager told everyone after listing off every rule he had.
"Ok. We will follow them." Ryou and Ichigo promised, placing the cat ears and tails on Kai and Mai.
"Your waiter or waitress will be with you shortly; they will also bring menus. I'll see myself out. Have fun but stay safe." The manager let them know before excusing himself.
"Let's head out." Kai instructed, ready to head out.
"Otay." Mai replied, ready to follow Kai—only to fall over.
"Just where do you two think you're going?" Ryou and Ichigo asked as he picked Mai up.
"Kai say to head out." Mai answered as Ryou placed her on a seat.
"To the play area." Kai answered, ready to go.
"Not yet, you're not. Are you going to be able to sit on this?" Ryou told Kai before asking Mai, holding onto her. She had never sat in a chair or anything without a back to it.
"Why not?!" Kai instantly complained.
"Yes." Mai replied with a smile.
As soon as Ryou let go of Mai, her entire body jerked a little, and she immediately grabbed the table. She was holding on so tight, her fingers and knuckles were turning white.
"Because we have to order food and drinks first. Mai, you can let go now; I have you. I promise; I'm not going to let you fall." Ryou answered Kai before telling Mai.
"Would you like a regular chair?" A man asked, walking over in a tiger costume.
"Yes, please." Ryou replied, lifting Mai.
"For both of them?" The man asked again.
"Yes, please." Ryou once again replied.
"I'll get those for you. My name is Ross, and I'll be your waiter this evening. These are the children's menus for nine and under. This is a menu for children ten and up. And these are the adult menus. We have to hand all these out, but you don't have to order from your age group's menu if you don't wish; you may order from any one you wish—to a point. Adults are not allowed to order off of the children's menu for nine and under. But I'll get those chairs for you." The waiter, Ross, informed the group.
"Thank you." "Tank you." Everyone replied before Ross disappeared.
"Why do I have to have a regular chair? I can sit on these seats just fine." Kai complained as soon as it was just them.
"Because it's not fair for your sister to be the only one in a regular chair." 'I'm not going to argue in front of the kids, but it's not fair for Kai to be held back because Mai can't do something. I get why Ryou does it, but still… I wish he'd realize that Mai and Kai don't have the same interests and are never going to be able to the same things.' Ichigo told Kai before thinking to herself.
"It's not really that. The last time you tried sitting on a seat without a back, you nearly fell backward. If I hadn't been standing there, you would've. So, for now, you'll sit in a regular chair." Ryou stated, making sure Kai and Ichigo understood.
"Why didn't you tell me that when it happened?" Ichigo asked, watching Ryou.
"I did—we both did." Ryou replied.
"When?" Ichigo demanded.
"Two weeks before we went to the beach house. Kai ran in and told you, Shintaro, and me." Sakura told Ichigo with a sigh, giving her a look that read, "Not today."
"Ok… We have a pink princess chair for the birthday girl. And we have a blue prince chair for the birthday boy." Ross happily announced, bringing in two fancy-looking children's chairs.
"Tank you!" Mai excitedly thanked Ross as Ryou and Jin set the chairs up.
"Oh, but of course. Do you know what you want—or do you need time?" Ross responded to Mai before asking the adults.
"Can I has a white shake, please?" Mai softly asked.
"As much as I'd love to be able to give you a shake, we don't make those here. The closest thing we have to that are slushies." Ross calmly replied.
"Oh. Otay. What colors?" Mai asked after responding.
"Cherry, black cherry, strawberry, strawberry-kiwi, blueberry, tropical, orange, grape, and raspberry." Ross answered, causing Mai to sit there and think.
"What's black cherry?" Mai asked, confused.
"We'd like some time, please and thank you." Ryou spoke up, answering Ross's earlier question.
"Of course. I'll be back after a few minutes." Ross responded with a smile before heading out.
"Do we get to take the chairs home?" Mai asked as Ryou set her in the princess chair and Ichigo set Kai in the prince chair.
"No, Baby; they belong to Bucky Cats." Ryou answered.
"Can't I buy it? I has some moneys." Mai tried again.
"I don't think you have much money left right now. Also, I don't think these chairs are for sale." Ryou told Mai.
"Otay." Mai gave up.
"Now—let's figure out what you and Kai want to eat." Ryou told Mai, reaching for the menu.
"Taco Pizza with no onions, please. And breadsticks with cheese sauce, please." Mai spoke up just as Ryou got the menu.
"Let's see if they even have that type of pizza." Ryou told Mai, looking through the menu.
"Can I get the meat lover's pizza with olives and extra cheese? And for a side, mozzarella sticks with marinara sauce?" Kai asked, looking through Tomohiro's menu.
"There's a taco pizza on the adult menu." Jin spoke up.
"That's what you both want?" Ryou asked, looking from Mai to Kai.
"Yes, please." Mai and Kai answered.
"Ok." Ryou replied, watching Ichigo; she was focused solely on Kai—but at the same time, she was distracted.
"Daddy, can we get a slushy?" Mai asked, looking at Ryou.
"You can get a slushy, yes. Kai can get one if he wants, but he may want something different." Ryou told Mai.
"Otay. Do the Mokona bunnies get something as well?" Mai innocently asked.
"I'm sure they'll get something from each of us. What type of slushy do you want? Kai, what would you like to drink?" Ryou asked, looking at Kai.
"Can I have a large orange slushy?" Kai asked, looking at Ryou.
"Sure. Mai?" Ryou replied with a smile before asking Mai.
"Can I has a black cherry slushy?" Mai asked, looking at Ryou.
'I don't know if she'll like that.' "Kai do you want a medium and a small slushy?" Ryou thought to himself before asking Kai.
"Sure. Medium orange and small grape?" Kai asked.
"That's fine." Ryou replied.
"Do we know what we all want?" Ross asked, walking in after a few minutes.
· A small black cherry slushy
· A medium cherry slushy
· A small taco pizza without onions
· Five large, extra soft breadsticks with cheese sauce
· A small grape slushy
· A medium orange slushy
· A small meat lover's pizza with olives and extra cheese
· Five large mozzarella sticks with marinara sauce
· A large Pepsi
· A medium meat lover's pizza with olives, mushrooms, and extra cheese
· Cheesy-Garlic Bread with marinara sauce
· A large blueberry slushy
· A large sausage and pepperoni pizza with extra cheese
· Cheesy-Garlic Bread with marinara sauce
· A large root beer
· A medium steak pizza with barbeque sauce, peppers, and onions
· A basket of mozzarella sticks with marinara sauce
Ami and Sakura had their own drinks (fruit punch and lemonade), but shared:
· A large extra five-cheese pizza
· Six breadsticks with cheese sauce
· Six garlic knots with cheese and marinara sauces
· Six mozzarella sticks with marinara sauce
"Now can we go play?" Kai impatiently asked.
"I can take them." Tomohiro offered.
"Are you sure?" Ryou calmly asked while Ami and Jin asked, shocked. This was the kid who was afraid to hold Mai for fear of dropping her.
"Yeah. I'll be fine." Tomohiro replied.
"I'll watch over them." Jin insisted; they could all see that Tomohiro wanted to play as well.
"Ok." Ami breathed, relieved. It's not that she didn't trust Tomohiro; she didn't trust people she didn't know.
"You two listen for Grandpa and Uncle Tomohiro. When it's time to come back, I don't want to hear any arguing—or about any arguing. Both of you be careful, and Mai: don't do anything you can't handle." Ryou told Kai and Mai.
"Yes," "Dad." "Daddy." Kai and Mai responded, going with Jin and Tomohiro to the play area.
With Jin, the Twins, & Tomohiro:
"Hold up; we have rules to go over." Jin stopped Tomohiro and Kai; he was carrying Mai.
"We already know Bucky Cat's and Dad's rules." Kai argued right away.
"These are my rules. And if you wish to argue, we'll go right back to your parents and grandmas, and wait for food." Jin sternly told Kai.
"Sorry." Kai apologized.
"Good. One: stay where I can see you. If you can't see me; I can't see you. Two: DO NOT talk to strangers. Three: if you need to use the bathroom or want to go back to the party room, you need to tell me. Four: if you leave without telling me to go anywhere, there will be consequences of some sort. Five: when I tell you it's time to go, I only want to have to call you one time. Not twice. Not three times. Once. Do you all understand me?" Jin gave his rules, looking at Kai and Tomohiro and then Mai.
"Yes," "Dad." "Grandpa." "Grampa." Tomohiro, Kai, and Mai answered.
"Go on; go play. And where would you like to go?" Jin told the boys and then asked Mai.
"The balls!" Mai happily answered.
With Ryou, Ichigo, Ami, & Sakura:
"Ok—what's going on?" Ryou asked, looking directly at Ichigo as she sat across from him.
"I've been thinking—and I want to break up." Ichigo calmly and honestly told Ryou.
"Ok. How long have you felt this way?" Ryou asked, only slightly shocked; he could kind of see this coming.
"Honestly, awhile, I think; I just didn't understand or realize how I was feeling. While Mai was in the hospital, I realized and understood it. You don't feel a separation between us? I mean: when we have sex, it's for competition, not romance anymore. Lately, we've done nothing but argue—even before vacation and the hospital. I'm not happy anymore—and you can't honestly sit there and tell me you're happy. I tried; I really did. I tried to make it work for Kai and Mai. I just can't anymore. What?" Ichigo answered, explaining before asking, confused when Ryou put his hand up.
"It's fine. If you're not happy and want to break up; that's fine. No, I haven't been happy—not in the last two months or so. I'm not happy with the fact that you're keeping secrets from me. But what has truly been bothering me is the fact that you've started avoiding Mai; it takes your mother or I pushing you to spend time with her. And after two weeks of trying to work it out for your kids, and it not working, you never continue to try because it never works; it only hurts the child(ren). However, we will continue to work it out for today; we don't say anything until tomorrow. I don't want their birthday ruined—or for them to associate their birthday with the day their parents broke up." Ryou calmly replied before becoming firm.
"Agreed." Ichigo replied with a smile.
"Where will you stay?" Sakura asked, watching Ichigo.
"What about the children and custody?" Ami asked, watching Ryou and Ichigo.
"*Sigh…* I suppose Ichigo could stay upstairs until she gets on her own two feet and find a place of her own—if that's what she wants. Currently, I have full custody of the twins—and at the moment we were just trying to get Ichigo on their birth certificate and allowing medical and dental to contact her as well as me. I suppose we could figure out some kind of custody and child support agreement." Ryou spoke up.
"About all that—well, the custody and child support. I'll gladly move upstairs until I can move out on my own, but for custody—I was thinking, instead of splitting time, we could each have a child." Ichigo started replying.
"What are you saying?" Ryou asked, stunned.
"Well—it's just that you and Mai are closer while Kai and I are closer. You said it yourself, I don't spend enough time with Mai. And you don't spend much time with Kai." "I don't want the kids to be separated." Ichigo started explaining her reasoning until Ryou spoke up.
"And they wouldn't be—not completely. We could take turns getting them on weekends. You know: you could get them both one weekend and I'd get them the next weekend—or whatever. I won't ask for child support or anything like that. All I'd ask is that I could change his last name to Momomiya—and that I can make rules for him, and you'll follow them. And of course, I'd follow rules you make for Mai." Ichigo desperately pleaded with Ryou.
"*Sigh…* I think this is something we'll have to talk with the twins about; this is something they should be a part of." Ryou sighed, running his hand through his hair.
"No! Don't go!" Mai cried, running over, tripping once or twice.
"Baby, what's wrong? What do you mean, "don't go?" Where are we going?" Ryou asked, confused, lifting Mai into his lap; all she could do is cry into his chest.
"Is something wrong, Tomohiro?" Ami asked, watching her son as he, Kai, and Jin walked back.
"What's going on?" Ryou asked, rocking Mai.
"I don't know. One minute, Mai is happily playing in the ball pit and on some slides. The next, she's crying for you and waddling away. And as I was saying before, I can't get mad at her because she told me she was going back to the party area. I never once lost sight of her." Jin answered first.
"I was in a tube when I saw a man talking to Mai; she seemed like she knew him because she wasn't scared or freaking out—until he left. I found quickly found Kai and took him to Dad and we came here." Tomohiro answered.
"Did you see what the man looked like?" Ryou asked, looking at Tomohiro as food and drinks arrived.
"No. Sorry." Tomohiro apologized.
"Is everything ok?" Ross asked, concerned, rolling a cart of food to the table.
"Umm… We don't really know. I guess some man talked to our daughter while she was playing in the ball pit. It may or may not have been someone we knew; my brother couldn't tell from wherever he was. And my dad must've looked away to watch and see where my brother and our son was." Ryou calmly answered, rocking Mai.
"Would you like me to talk to security and print you out some pictures?" Ross asked right away.
"Yes, please; that would be fantastic." Ryou and Ichigo replied.
"Kai, did anyone talk to you?" Ichigo asked, looking at Kai.
"No—but I did see Masaya." Kai admitted.
"Masaya? Ichigo, you didn't invite Masaya, did you?" Sakura asked, watching her daughter.
"No. I haven't seen Masaya in a few weeks now." Ichigo replied.
"Don't go. Don't leaf me here by myself." Mai pleaded, clinging to Ryou.
"We're not going to leave you here by yourself. We won't ever leave you anywhere by yourself until you're much, much older and can be on your own. Who told you that?" Ryou promised and then asked, rubbing Mai's back.
"Was it Kish?" Ichigo asked, looking at Mai; she responded by shaking her head.
"Why would Kish be here?" Ryou asked, looking at Ichigo.
"I don't know; he always seems to know where I am whether I tell him or not. I talked to him earlier—and told him we were celebrating their birthday, but not where. That's mainly because I didn't know where—and I know he's not your favorite person." Ichigo replied.
"Ok… Not right now. Food's here; it's time to eat. After food, we can all go play for the rest of the time we're here." Ryou insisted, trying to set Mai in her chair; however, she refused to let go.
"Mai, I'm right here. I'm not going to leave you; I promise. Kai's on the other side of the table with Mommy. Grandma, Grandma, Grandpa, and Uncle Tomohiro are all here as well. None of them are going to leave you behind. I'll sit right next to you and Grandpa can sit on the other side if you want. Grandma will sit with Kai and Mommy. And Grandma and Uncle Kai will sit somewhere between us. We're all right here." Ryou promised Mai.
"I has to potty." Mai whispered to Ryou.
"Ok." Ryou replied, standing up.
"What's going on?" Sakura asked, concerned.
"Mai needs to use the bathroom." Ryou answered.
"I can take her; I have to go anyway." Ami offered.
"Sure. Go with Grandma; she has to go to the bathroom too." Ryou told Mai, sending her to his mother.
Five Minutes Later:
Mai was in her seat, eating breadsticks when Ross came back with a few pictures.
"Sorry to disrupt you, but I got pictures of the guy who was talking to your daughter. He came in with a few others; some of them are still here." Ross told Ryou, setting a few pictures down.
"Well, that's Pudding, Tart, Keki, Kiwi, Lettuce, Pie, Kish, Masaya—and him, I don't know." Ryou stated, looking through pictures before handing them to Ichigo.
"Oh, that's right. I remember Pudding saying something about Pie and Lettuce were bringing her, Tart, Keki here. Of course, because Kiwi is dating Keki, she came along. Kish mentioned something about Pie forcing him to go somewhere with him today. That's why he was talking to me; he was trying to avoid going. I don't know why Masaya would be here, considering, as far as I know, none of them like him. The other guy—I think is a friend of Masaya and Kish; I only met him once or twice. I think his name is Ume or something like that." Ichigo stated, looking at the picture.
"There's no need to panic?" Ross asked, looking at the group.
"No." Ichigo and Ryou answered.
"But I would like to know who this guy is—and why he was talking to my daughter. I'd also like to know what he said to her. I don't know this guy; I've never met him. You need to eat your pizza—not just your breadstick and cheese sauce." Ryou added before telling Mai.
"Yes, Daddy." Mai quickly replied, setting her half-eaten breadstick down, replacing it with a piece of pizza.
"I'll go see if he's still here." Ross insisted before walking away.
"Mai, do you know the person who talked to you? Have you met him before?" Ryou asked, watching Mai eat her pizza.
"Not really. Only once." Mai answered, looking down.
"Do you remember when you met him before? No one here is going to be mad at you." Ryou asked and then stated, watching Mai; she wouldn't look at Ichigo.
"He was by car when Mr. Masa came over that one time. I sawed him out the window; he waved." Mai softly answered.
"That's the only time you saw him?" Ryou asked.
"No." Mai answered between eating her first piece of pizza.
"When did you see him again?" Ryou asked.
"In da balls." Mai softly answered.
"Have you seen him before today?" Ryou asked.
"No." Mai answered.
"Ok… Did he hurt you? Did he put his hands on you in any way? Did he do anything at all?" Ryou firmly asked.
"He put his hand here and said dis was my new home 'cos Mommy and Daddy were going to leaf me here—forever with the scary janitor." Mai answered, placing her right hand on her left shoulder.
"Don't listen to him; we're taking you home—I promise you that." Ryou told Mai, patting her head.
"Who tells a small child something like that?" Ami and Sakura asked, annoyed.
"Who tells anyone something like that, period?" Tomohiro asked, huffing a little.
"Ichigo, do you have something you want to add?" Sakura asked, looking at her daughter.
"No. I know you have no reason to trust me with all my secrets, but I've only met this guy once or twice—and seen him a handful of times. I swear." Ichigo promised.
"Ok…" "Are you breaking up?" Kai asked, looking from Ryou to Ichigo.
"Why would you ask that?" Ichigo and Ryou asked, stunned.
"Because you're not sitting next to each other. You always sit next to each other at places like this. Or at the very least, with us between you. Not to mention: Mai and I can both feel the tension between the two of you. It started about two months ago; it only got worse after Grandma and Grandpa broke up, got divorced, and Mai was in the hospital. Mai's not exactly the brightest person we know, but even she knows something's up." Kai answered, bringing up valid points.
"This is the man you wanted to see?" Ross asked, walking over with the man who talked to Mai.
"Yes. Who are you? Why did you tell Mai what you told her? More importantly, why did you put your hands on her when I don't even know you?" Ryou asked, standing up.
"My name is Umenohikarukohana, but you can call me Ume or Hikaru. Either is fine. I did not hurt the girl; I only placed my hand on her shoulder to keep her still while I talked to her. Why I talked to her is my business, and my business alone. Some of it was true: things are going to change and Ichigo will be moving out—with the boy. Everyone leaving her behind here was not true. I only told her—and all the other little girls in the ball pit that to get her and them out of there. For if any of them had stayed in there, they wouldn't be seeing any of their families anymore because there is a dangerous janitor working here. He is a registered class 2 sex offender and a class 3 pedophile. Not the man who guided you here, but the janitor is also the owner's nephew. He only goes after females ages four through twenty-five. I'm sure if you look, Mr. Cress is no longer anywhere on the premises; he is being pursued by the police as we speak. Well, as fun as it was chatting with you; I must leave. Remember: tomorrow is a new day." Ume answered Ryou, going onto explain things before he was gone without a trace.
"Daddy, can I has my slushy now?" Mai softly asked, tugging at Ryou's shirt.
"Do you want to try the black cherry one first?" Ryou asked with a sigh.
"Yes, please." Mai replied.
"Can we go play now? I'm finished eating." Kai asked and then informed, pushing his plate away.
"Not yet. It doesn't matter how smart you are; you still can't go in the play area without an adult. And the rest of us still need to finish eating. Once any of your grandparents, Uncle, or I get done, you can ask to see if you can play then. Just relax; we still have an hour or two before we have to go home." Ryou firmly told Kai, who huffed in return.
"Here we go. Slowly." Ryou told Mai, holding her cup in front of her. He wasn't sure if she'd like black cherry—and she didn't.
As soon as Mai sucked up some black cherry slushy, she made a face and did her best to hold it in but couldn't seem to swallow. And as soon as some hit her throat, she lost it and spit it out, throwing up just a little.
"I sorry." Mai apologized after she got done with a coughing fit.
"There's no need to be sorry. You wanted to try it, and you did—and you didn't like it. That's why I had this cup ready; you could spit into the cup. Though, I wasn't expecting that kind of reaction. Here. Drink some water and then you can have some of your cherry slushy." Ryou calmly told Mai, wiping her face.
Half An Hour Later:
Ryou and Jin were watching Mai play in the ball pit.
Ichigo and Sakura were watching Kai do the obstacle course.
Tomohiro was all over the place; he met up with Pudding and Tart.
Ami was bouncing between everyone, taking pictures or videos for the family.
The Mokona Modoki sat with Ryou—sleeping off a food coma in Ryou's lap. They drank Mai's black cherry slushy and Kai's grape slushy, plus the rest of what was left of the cherry and orange slushies.
Mai's pizza had been cut into six pieces; she only ate four pieces, so each Mokona got a slice of taco pizza and half of the last breadstick she didn't eat. They also ate what was left of Ryou's, Ami and Sakura's, Jin's, and Tomohiro's pizzas and sides.
"Daddy, can we get a kitty?" Mai asked, pointing to the prize center.
"If you win enough tickets." Ryou replied, watching Mai.
"Tickets?" Mai asked, confused.
"Do you want to find out what I mean?" Ryou asked, lifting Mai out of the ball pit.
"Yeah." Mai excitedly answered with a smile.
An Hour A Half:
"Are we ready to go?" Ichigo asked, holding Kai.
"Almost. We have to find out how many tickets Mai won and get a prize. You can go wait in the van if you'd like." Ryou answered and then informed, holding Mai—who was half asleep.
"That sounds nice." Sakura replied, taking the keys from Ryou.
"We'll be in the car." Ami told Ryou, heading out with Sakura, Ichigo, and Kai while Ryou, Jin, Tomohiro, and Mai head to the prize counter.
"Hello, how may I help you? Oh. How long had she been wearing the gold ears—and tail?" An older lady asked with a smile.
"I think she's been wearing them the entire time." Ryou replied, thinking about it.
"I hope you had a good time. And yes, the little girl wore the Golden Birthday cat ears and tail the entire time; she even managed to keep them on while playing in the ball pit and on the slides. Have a nice night." Ross told the lady before bidding farewell.
"Well, let's get those tickets counted for you." The lady insisted.
"Go 'head, Tomohiro; you go first." Ryou told his brother, holding Mai and half the tickets; she was also holding tickets.
Tomohiro gave the lady his tickets, and she put them through a machine.
"You have three-hundred-sixty-seven tickets; you can have any item in this case or on this corner wall." The lady behind the counter explained.
"Can I think about it?" Tomohiro asked, looking at the wall.
"Of course. Would you like me to count your tickets?" The lady answered Tomohiro before asking Ryou.
"Yes, please. Mai, you have to give this nice lady your tickets so we can figure out how many tickets you have." Ryou told Mai.
"Otay." Mai softly obliged, carefully dropping the tickets on the glass counter.
"Someone's tired. Haha. She's cute." The lady told Ryou with a smile as he placed the rest of the tickets on the floor. Well, what he had: Tomohiro picked a few up off the floor.
"I know Ross said she was wearing ears and tail the entire time. Just how long has that been?" The lady asked.
"We got here at four; she probably got the ears and tail at 4:15. So—three hours." Ryou answered, thinking about it.
"Ok—let's see… You have five-hundred-eighty-three tickets—and with how long she was wearing the Golden Birthday cat ears and tail, she gets an extra one-hundred-fifty bonus tickets. So in total that's seven-hundred-thirty-three tickets." The lady calmly told Ryou.
"Please—I want the black kitty with white paws." Mai mumbled, barely awake now.
"The black kitty with white paws? Hmm… I'm sorry, but you are two-hundred-sixty-seven tickets short. That kitty costs one-thousand tickets." The lady calmly informed Ryou and Mai.
"No, they're not. They can have my tickets." Tomohiro told the lady before Ryou could tell Mai otherwise.
"Are you sure? Mai would understand." Ryou asked, watching Tomohiro.
"I'm sure. It's her Golden Birthday, not mine. It's fine; there's nothing I really want anyway. Go 'head; get her what she wants." Tomohiro sincerely insisted.
"Well, ok." Ryou took Tomohiro's offer.
"One black kitty with white paws coming up." The lady happily told Mai, grabbing the stuffed cat and handing it to her.
"Tank you. Tank you, Uncle Tomo." Mai thanked the lady and Tomohiro, slowly falling deeper and deeper into dreamland.
"Ok. You have one-hundred tickets even. And because of your kind generosity, I can give you an extra fifty." The lady told Tomohiro.
In the end, Tomohiro picked out a slime kit, leaving him ten tickets—which Tomohiro gave to Ryou to do with whatever he wanted. Ryou decided to frame or put them in a memory book…