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Birthday

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It was a normal day at the shop. Genzou had gone out to feed his demon beasts and was baby talking to them as usual.

“Who’s a super duper cutie? Yes you are, you are. Oh look at you, your teeth look a lot better since I got you that dental bone. Awe, and you’ve started growing another horn, you’re getting so big.” he giggled, looking at each of them.

Tapping her foot behind him was Shigure. She waited patiently, eventually crossing her arms.

“Genzou.”

“Hmm? Oh, morning Shigure.” he smiled.

“Do you remember what today is?” Shigure asked.

“Tuesday…? Or do you mean specifically today’s date?” he raised an eyebrow.

“That’s right, it’s Tuesday, and why yes the date is important too, being the 3rd. Do you remember what you promised me you’d do today?” she replied with a seemingly happy smile.

“I… promised I’d make absolutely sure to make some sales.” he replied.

That made her smile go from a happy one to an eerily dark smile.

“Genzou. What is the 3rd of November?” she asked him.

“Is that a trick question? It’s our son’s… birth… day…” he spoke, realization slowly coming to him.

“That’s right! Do you remember what I very nicely asked you to do this year? I mean, I even got in the ring with you a few times so you’d say yes and couldn’t possibly forget.” she giggled, a sinister aura rising around her.

Think, Genzou, think! What did Shigure ask you to do?! It had to be important if she wrestled with you so you’d remember! It’s Hiro’s birthday, so it has to have something to do with him! Grr, think harder, remember! OH!!! ” he panicked internally.

“You asked me to take him with me into town to keep him preoccupied while you girls get his birthday party ready.” Genzou smirked, sparkling as he pointed at her.

“Very good! He’s still sleeping, so be a good dad and go wake him up. The sooner we can start preparing the better. I’ll have Hanako give you the signal when we’re ready. Don’t you dare think of coming home a moment sooner.” Shigure beamed, sparkling as she clapped her hands.

“Right.” he smiled, standing up.

Safe! Time for some quality father and son bonding time.

Genzou then entered the house and went to a room upstairs. He quietly entered the room at the far end of the hall. It was a child’s bedroom with toys on a mat in the left corner. Sleeping soundly in a bed by the window on the right side was a small boy with black hair and wolf ears. This is Genzou and Shigure’s little bundle of joy, Hiro. Well, bundle of joy is a stretch as both were hammered at the time they did it, but they’re still happy to have him. He tiptoed over and knelt down to begin gently stroking his ears. He just couldn’t help himself, Hiro’s ears are just as soft and silky as Shigure’s.

“Wakey wakey, birthday boy. You’re officially six now. Daddy’s here to take you into town with him.” Genzou smiled.

Slowly Hiro opened his sapphire eyes… and then immediately rolled over.

“Come on, I know Shigure usually wakes you up but that’s no reason to gimme the cold shoulder!” he sobbed.

Is he still mad about forgetting to get him dessert last night? No that couldn’t be it, he doesn’t hold grudges longer than a couple of hours. Is he a grumpy riser maybe? Either way, Shigure will give me way worse than a cold shoulder if we don’t get underway.

Shigure Notes #1: Hiro likes ear massages and will pretend to go back to sleep to try and convince you to rub them more.

“Come on, sleepyhead, we’ve got a long day ahead of us…” Genzou chuckled nervously, scooping him out from under the covers showing his black pajamas and fluffy tail.

Genzou then bathed him, which he didn’t seem to show any objection to. Hiro’s favorite part of bathtime is always shampooing, because it means his ears and tail get rubbed. Genzou went the extra mile as well, grooming his tail of its loose hairs. When it was all done he was dressed in a blue t-shirt, brown pants, and black shoes. His ears twitched now and again as he inspected his clothes for stains or loose threads.

After that came breakfast. Today’s menu: pancakes with vegetable omelettes. Notably, Hiro had every single blueberry picked out from his pancakes.

“Clean your plate of your omelette, Carmilla.” Shigure growled.

“How come Hiro gets a pass to ignore his blueberries?!” she cried.

“Hiro can’t have blueberries and you know it. I don’t understand why you can’t get it through your head to stop giving them to him.” Shigure snarled.

Shigure’s Notes #2: Hiro is allergic to blueberries. He will experience symptoms not unlike a severe winter cold for a week. Avoid letting him eat them at all costs.

“All done.” Hiro spoke, licking his lips.

“Alright, time to head into town.” Genzou smiled, wiping off his boy’s mouth.

“Be safe.” Hanako waved to them.

Once outside the house, Hiro made an impressive hop from ground level up to Genzou’s shoulders. He is still light enough that Genzou has no problems carrying him there. On the few occasions he’d go out with Genzou, this was his favorite spot to be, even if he knew that someday he’d be too big. Shigure watched as Genzou began jogging off, holding Hiro’s feet so he wouldn’t fall off.

“They’re gone… Let’s get to work, ladies.” Shigure smirked.

Town was lively as usual with people coming and going. The first order of business Genzou had in town was at the guild. Naturally the adventurers were happy to see him.

“Day out with the boy, huh? That’s pretty rare, usually he’s riding on Shigure’s back or playing with Hanako.” one of them smiled.

“I figured that for his sixth birthday some father-son bonding time was overdue. Before that though, gotta drop something off with the guild master.” he laughed.

Genzou’s business with the guild master went smoothly. For once he didn’t accidentally utter the words “Beast Killer”. After the guild came visiting the local seamstress. Genzou had put in to have his ring gear repaired with her.

“Here you go, Mister Genzou. All fixed. We even gave them an enchantment of durability, so it should be a while before you have to mend them again.” she smiled, handing him a bag.

“Really? Awesome! Thank you!” he smiled.

“I’m almost done with that other project you wanted me to finish as well. It should be ready by this evening.” the seamstress told him.

“Sh!” he gasped, pointing up at Hiro.

“Oh, my apologies.” she nodded.

Genzou visited a lot of places around town, each surprised to see it was just him and Hiro. By midday they stopped for lunch. Genzou couldn’t help looking in the direction of home as Hiro chowed down.

I wouldn’t think a surprise party would take so long… What’s taking them…? ” Genzou pondered when he spotted Camilla sneaking about the people near the front desk.

“Hiro, enjoy, daddy’s gotta go check on something.” he smiled.

“Okay.” he nodded.

Shigure’s notes #3: Hiro was raised to trust in his parents without question, so he will trust Genzou and I implicitly.

Genzou weaved through the crowd like a blur. In seconds he caught up to Camilla.

What are you doing here? What about the party? ” he whispered.

We ran out of decorations. We’re trying to get more as quickly as possible without being seen by Hiro. This is the only place in town to get streamers, so I have to come down here. ” Camilla replied.

I’ll buy you time to get out of sight. ” he nodded.

He then returned to the table and whipped out a deck of cards.

“How about some magic tricks, sport? Daddy’s quite good at them, they’ll blow your mind.” Genzou beamed.

“Ooh…” his eyes sparkled.

Shigure’s notes #4: Hiro is very easily amused, which makes keeping him entertained a breeze.

Genzou pulled out every trick he knew to buy Camilla as much time as possible to get out unnoticed by the boy. Hiro couldn’t keep his eyes off of him, clapping for each trick. Once she was out he let out a sigh of relief. Genzou had Hiro wait ten minutes after finishing his food “to digest properly”. That way Camilla could get out of sight from the place.

After they left, Genzou began to sweat just a little. It just hit him that he no longer has any more business in town. If the girls were in town getting more decorations, that meant it’d still be a little while until they’d give him the signal.

“Mister Hero!” a voice cried.

Whirling on his heels, it was Princess Altena - perfect. They’d kill plenty of time being lectured by her.

“Today you are going to accept your duty and go defeat the Demon King!” she roared.

“I was just thinking about that the other day! How about we go to the guild and talk about it in private? Who knows what spies of the Demon King could hear us out here.” Genzou laughed, turning her around with one hand and making her walk along.

“Eh? Eh?”

Sure enough, Altena had a lot to say about the Demon King’s forces. He kept goading her into going on rants and deeper detail on certain demon beasts to keep her talking. Hiro was happily messing with some of the small odds and ends of the room, so he was entertained.

“Genzou, are you listening?” Altena grumbled.

“Of course! I totally agree, we gotta take those drakes seriously. Dragons of any variety aren’t like your garden variety demon beasts, after all, they’re on par with human intelligence. True dragons can even be considered more intelligent than humans.” Genzou laughed.

“Good, you were. So you’ll deal with them?” she smiled, tearing up.

“Tomorrow.” Genzou told her.

“Tomorrow?! They’re invading now!” she cried.

“Today’s Hiro’s birthday. I’m not gonna skip out on that, what kind of father would I be? I’d never be able to show my face in a wrestling ring again from shame. These early years are his most precious memories you know.” he huffed.

“His birthday? Oh my, how sweet. He’s growing up so fast. ...Wait, but we really do need your help!” Altena giggled before gasping.

“Look, the girls are preoccupied. It’d be too dangerous to bring Hiro with me and I can’t just put him with a sitter on his birthday of all days.” Genzou frowned.

“Please! I’ll raise the quest reward to 15,000 gold!” Altena cried.

“F-Fifteen!? That is a lot of gold…” he groaned, conflicted.

“Make it 30,000.” Hiro piped up, pulling himself up on the back of the sofa Genzou was sitting on.

“T-Thirty?! W-Well, I suppose fifteen is a tad low for the danger level… H-How does eighteen sound?!” Altena squeaked.

“Bzzt. Give us 29,000.” Hiro retorted.

“Um… Uh… H-How does twenty sound?!” Altena cried.

“You want the summoned hero’s help, right? We want 27,000.” Hiro stuck his tongue out.

“T-That’s so much though… Surely you’d settle for 23,000?” Altena whimpered.

“Let’s go get some ice cream, dad. Clearly they don’t need you.” Hiro sighed, dropping from the couch to start walking to the door.

“Wait, wait, wait, please, we do need him!” Altena sobbed, reaching toward him.

“Well… 30,000, with ice cream.” he told her over his shoulder, eye twinkling.

After getting ice cream and having the princess deliver a cart with their pay to the house, Genzou carried Hiro toward the forest.

Shigure’s notes #5: I taught him maybe a little too well. His negotiating skills are on par with mine already. He’s going to be quite the smoothtalker when he’s older. Be very firm when giving him dessert servings or he will convince you to give him either more or seconds.

“You sure you’re okay going with me? It won’t exactly be a picnic, these are drakes we’re handling.” Genzou asked.

“Uh-huh. I never get to see you work. It’s always ‘Stay home with Celes where it’s safe’... I’m tired of always being babysat. Getting to see it is exciting.” he smiled.

Well, guess I better pull out all the stops for him. ” Genzou thought to himself with a smile.

It wasn’t long until a roar shook the silence. Continuing deeper, they soon came across a blood red wingless dragon that looked like it’d been beaten up. The beast was as large as a Clydesdale horse, maybe a bit bigger. It had a golden underbelly and two fangs that stuck out of its mouth coming down from the upper jaw. Its body had a sleek yet muscular design. No doubt about it, this was a fire drake. Genzou set Hiro behind a tree and began his approach.

“Damn humaaaaaaaans! Enslaving my kind and using them against us!? How dare yoooouuuuu?!” the drake roared furiously.

“Well aren’t you a handsome drake? Look at those shiny scales… You must take good care of yourself, huh?” Genzou smirked, getting close.

“You! Human! Prepare to burn!” the drake roared, its mouth filling with flame as it spoke.

“Is someone grumpy they’re a little hurt? C’mere…” he giggled.

Genzou flawlessly dodged fire breath and got up under the drake’s frontmost legs, hugging it tightly as he nuzzled against their chest.

“W-What are you?!”

“Ooh, they’re smoother than I expected. Your underbelly has a nice softness compared to the firm muscles of your back. For a fire drake your body is also surprisingly cool to the touch.” Genzou snickered, groping their scales.

“S-Stop that! Infernal human!” the drake cried.

It writhed and rolled around, trying to get Genzou off of it to no avail. He merely kept shifting position to feel them more and more.

“Ooh, do you like it when I scratch under your chin? Maybe the sweet spot behind your jaw? Or do you like the belly better?” Genzou giggled gleefully.

“G-Get off!” they cried, blushing as they flailed and leapt around more.

“Look how strong your claws and feet are, taking us this far off the ground! Drakes really are strengthened to make up for their lack of size and flight!” Genzou laughed, rubbing and scratching more.

On one particular leap, Genzou shifted position and hit the drake with a spinning powerbomb. Its eyes looked ready to pop out of its head on the landing.

1… 2… 3!!! Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding

“Hiro, come feel their scales, especially the underbelly, it’s safe now.” Genzou beckoned to him with a wide grin.

Hiro was over in a second and was feeling them.

“Ooh…”

“I know, right? They’re smoother than a Basilisk’s scales. Look how lustrous they are too, they must be buffed and shined every day.” Genzou sparkled.

“Grr… Brazenly touching a girl’s underbelly without permission… Itching her scales without so much as a word of warning... Y-You won’t… You won’t get away with this! I’ll have my revenge…!” the drake whimpered, suddenly rolling to their feet and sprinting away, knocking over a few trees in the process.

“So it was a girl drake.” Hiro chuckled.

“Ow, I was just about to name her too…” Genzou pouted.

“Did we successfully stop the drakes?” he asked him.

“Well, Altena used a plural, which tells me there’s more than one. Let’s look around some more.” Genzou replied, patting his head.

They investigated and found three more unconscious fire drakes in a clearing. Genzou recognized the bruises and bite marks on them. Hanako did this to them. She probably noticed their presence and tried to convince them to leave. They all noticeably had black magic seals on their chests as well.

“Who did this…?” Hiro asked nervously.

“Infighting if I had to guess. Let’s take ‘em home.” he smiled.

I know she said not to come home till I get the signal, but this is an emergency. We can’t leave drakes where they could hurt people. ” Genzou thought to himself.

Genzou showed his impressive strength, easily lifting all three and began to carry them. It didn’t take long to get back to the house and toss them into the pet yard. Naturally, Hanako sprinted over to him.

“We aren’t done yet! Give us… Five, ten minutes!” Hanako scolded.

“I had to deliver these guys. You can’t just leave drakes in the wild.” Genzou told her.

“I sealed their fire breath and strength, it’s fine.” she retorted.

“I was given a job by the princess, we’re taking them in. You can order them to behave, right?” Genzou affirmed.

“Fine, just buy some time. We’re almost done.” Hanako ordered.

“Say Hiro, wanna go see if we can’t figure out where that other drake went?” Genzou asked his boy.

“Okay.” he smiled.

The two then went back into the forest to look for clues. Following the drake’s tracks when she fled, they soon found what looked like another battle. This one bloodier than the last. That’s when he saw something less than kid friendly. Genzou stopped dead and quickly turned to cover Hiro’s eyes.

“What? What’s wrong?” he questioned.

“Er… You know what? It’s gotten late, why don’t we go look another time?” Genzou laughed nervously.

Not letting him see that. Especially on his birthday of all days. To top it off, Shigure would kill me. I’ll investigate with Hanako later. ” he thought to himself.

“Okay. Usually when mom acts this way it’s cuz she saw something I’m too young to see, so I’ll go.” Hiro giggled.

Genzou then escorted Hiro back, but he made sure to take his time. When the got back Hanako was waving to come in.

“Go on. I need to go get something back in town.” Genzou smiled, patting Hiro’s back.

Once Hiro was inside Genzou made a mad dash for town, full throttle. He wanted to take as little time as possible. Eventually he skidded to a stop at the seamstress’s shop, who had a black bag ready.

“Just in time. It’s finished.” she smiled.

“You’re a lifesaver.” he sighed, paying her.

He then made a mad dash back to the house. Shigure was waiting at the door, tapping her foot.

“What took you so long?” she asked him.

“I had to get his gift, I’m sorry.” he replied.

“It better not be anything weird.” she warned him.

“Why is it my gift you’d suspect is weird?!” he gasped, looking hurt.

“Whatever, just get in here, it’s almost time.” Shigure sighed, shaking her head.

She then hurried him to sit at the table where Hiro was blindfolded, tapping his toes together as he waited. Hanako was helping Carmilla carefully deliver a cake beautifully decorated with white frosting and yellow decorations. “Happy Birthday” was written on top using sprinkles. Six candles were stuck on the top. Carmilla, Hanako, and Shigure then each set a gift on the table prompting Genzou to do the same with his present. Shigure then swiftly moved over to him.

“Okay… Three… two… one…” Shigure spoke as she began undoing the blindfold.

“Happy birthday, Hiro!” they all cheered, making the boy’s eyes light up and sparkle.

“Tradition is tradition, gifts first. Let’s start with Hanako.” Shigure smiled, clapping her hands together.

Hanako’s gift was medium-sized with very nicely done red wrapping. Hiro carefully undid the wrapping to unveil a white box. Opening it, inside was what appeared to be a silver thermos. It had small rubies inlaid into the lid and sapphires into the bottom of the shaft.

“A thermos?” Hiro questioned, opening it to look inside.

“There’s more to it. It’s a bottomless thermos. Any liquid you put in it will be enchanted to never empty. If you want to switch liquids you just need to push each of the rubies inward and wash it out. Put the cap back on and presto, it’s ready to change your drink of choice.” Hanako smiled.

“That’ll be helpful when he goes out to play. He won’t have to worry about staying hydrated.” Shigure giggled.

“Mine’s next then.” Camilla chuckled smugly.

Her gift was surprisingly small, making Shigure skeptical. It was a small box with somewhat sloppy green wrapping. When he opened it, a knife was revealed, prompting Shigure to grab Camilla by the throat and yank her into an abdominal stretch.

“I said no weapons!” she roared.

“Ow, ow, ow, ow, it isn’t a weapon! It’s a utility knife! It’s supposed to be used for cutting rope, fishing line, or cooking! The blade is too short and dull to be a weapon! I asked the shopkeep and he recommended it for boys his age!” Camilla cried.

“None of us fish!” Shigure roared.

“Doesn’t mean that he can’t learn, Shigure, let her off the hook for tonight. It’s his birthday, we shouldn’t fight.” Genzou chuckled, trying to free the vampire.

“Tom next door said he wanted to show me how to fish. This’ll be super handy. Thank you Miss Camilla.” Hiro beamed, his sparkles persuading Shigure to release her.

“Next is Shigure’s gift.” Hanako smiled.

Shigure’s was a medium box like Hanako’s and the best wrapped of the three, using ice blue paper. It even had a red bow on it. Hiro carefully unwrapped it and inside was a compass with a brick of a book. The cover read “The Outside World”.

“What’s this?” Hiro questioned, opening the book.

“The Outside World is a book containing everything you ever need to know about the world. It even has a map of the world. When it comes to other kingdoms I don’t know that much, so I figured this might answer any questions you’ll have. It could come in handy down the line if you decide to travel, too. The compass overall is just good to have.” Shigure explained.

“A very educational gift.” Hanako smiled.

“Last up is me.” Genzou chuckled, undoing the laces on the black bag.

He then pulled out a black wrestling mask. Shigure looked unamused, Carmilla was having trouble not laughing, and Hanako looked curious.

“When I was little, my dad took me to an independent wrestling show. The main event happened to be the retirement match for a pair known as the Twin Ligers, finishing off an angle where they were feuding with one final climactic battle. I didn’t know all the details at the time, so how they talked to each other was lost on me. Later on I learned that Lightning Liger and Thunder Liger were actually feuding over who loves who more. Thunder had been thrashing Lightning for weeks, using her mobile frame to her advantage, but he refused to admit she loved him more. In this final fight, his struggle to prove that he loves Thunder more than she loves him set me on my path to become a pro wrestler. He successfully pinned her in the end and managed to make her admit that he loves her more. The two shared a true love’s kiss before throwing their masks to the audience. I caught Lightning’s mask, and it actually inspired the design that would become my mask. I wanted to show the world how bright my love for animals big and small, scaly and fuzzy, burns within my chest. To be seen the same way that the world saw how much Twin Ligers loved each other. I had this mask made for you to serve as a way to pass my passion on to you. Even if you don’t use it or even become a pro wrestler, I hope that it reminds you just how much you mean to me when you look at it.” Genzou smiled, handing the mask to him.

“You know he’ll outgrow it in a couple of years, right?” Camilla asked.

“They’re having a moment.” Shigure scolded, whacking the back of her head.

“Agh!”

“Read the room.” Hanako scowled, launching a fork like a missile at Camilla.

“Ow, mistress?! How cruel…” she sobbed.

“I’ll cherish it.” Hiro told Genzou, sparkling while seeming to ignore Camilla’s pain.

“So, with gifts done, it’s time to light the candles.” Shigure smiled.

Soon into the night, Hiro let out a great yawn and was put to bed. Shigure then approached Genzou as he fed the animals their dinner.

“Hey. That story you told Hiro…” she spoke up.

“It’s all true. I’ve loved animals since I was little, but it was Twin Ligers who sparked me to become a pro wrestler. I saw how great a stage they displayed their love on and thought, ‘what if I displayed my love for animals on that same stage’. Their struggle to prove their love to each other touched me to my core.” he told her.

“No seriously, they fought each other over who loved the other more? That’s such a dumb thing to fight over.” Shigure scoffed.

“Pro wrestlers do things differently, Shigure. To them, it mattered enough to prove it to one another. Their love for each other and their love for the ring combined for performances that had the crowds coming back for more. Everyone there needed to know how it would end.” he smiled.

“So after all those fights, the two of them remained together?” Shigure asked.

“Of course. The two were married outside of the ring, after all. I’m sure those two devised the entire angle from start to finish by themselves. About a year after their retirement they welcomed a daughter into the world.” he replied.

“I swear, I’ll never understand pro wrestlers…” she sighed, shaking her head.

“You understood me enough to learn to wrestle yourself.” he smiled.

“Did you really not catch on to why I did all that training and had those matches with you after all this time?!” she barked.

“Shigure, we have a son together. I just want you to say it.” he smirked, his eye twinkling.

“Honestly, you… Fine. I learned to wrestle because I love you.” she sighed.

“I love you too, Shigure. You’re why I was able to make the step forward to part with the animals once customers bought them.” he beamed.

“Bullcrap, you didn’t take that step until I got pregnant.” she narrowed her eyes.

“It’s true though! Sure your pregnancy had something to do with it, but you were a major player! I bent over backwards to make sure you two are comfortable!” he squeaked.

“You did. You’ve been trying your best to be a good father too. There’s just one thing you haven’t done yet, which I’m guessing slipped your mind too…” she told him.

“There is…?”

“See something missing from this picture? Here’s a hint… ‘The picture of your child’s mother’...” she asked, showing her fingers.

“Oh… OH .” he replied, eyes wide.

“It baffles me that it took six years and me pointing it out. So, going to get on that before he turns seven…?” she asked, her mouth curved in a somewhat irritated smile.

“I will hit the jeweler first thing in the morning.” he told her.

“Don’t forget to book a romantic dinner. Just because you’re sitting at ‘better late than never’ doesn’t mean I’m letting you out of the formalities.” she snickered.

“I hear ya, I hear ya.” he nodded rapidly, sweating a bit.

“For tonight… Put on the mask.” she smirked, making him look up at her causing him to swallow nervously.