Regret? We don’t have time to feel regret. We don’t have time to worry about things like what might have been, or what might someday be. We chimeras, we live in the now, we live in the moment. Taking happiness wherever we can find it, while planting the seeds of the future in our wake.

What other choice do we have? Compared to humans, our lives are but brief flickers of a candle’s flame. No, it is not us, but you humans who are the ones who are strange. Always wanting more time, you struggle endlessly to resist that which would be inevitable, all the while forgetting what it means to truly live. How I pity you, you who would be gods, who would cast aside all that you have, simply for the promise of more . . .

Chapter Forty Four : Awakening light.

To wake feeling Kato’s entire body pressed against hers. To wake being able to hold him in her arms, and run her fingers through his fur. Exploring her mate’s body, Lady stopped as she caught sight of something on his back. Brushing aside his hair she said with a faint hint of wonder. “Kato, you have a tattoo.”

Hmm?” Said Kato as he stirred from his slumber. “Oh, yeah that.” Turning over onto his stomach so that she could see it better, Kato pulled aside his braid.

Done up in entirely in black lines was an image of a sword piercing a crown surrounded by six flared angel’s wings. Starting between Kato’s shoulders the stylized design ran down his back, only to stop once it had finally reached the base of his tail.

Once you’ve gotten used to shaving off your own fur.” Said Kato. “They’re really not all that hard to do. You just have to keep on saturating the skin with a special ink so that when the fur does start to grow back, it comes in as a completely different color. They’re just as easy to remove too. Why, you don’t like it?”

Hmm, a tiger who took the time to alter his own stripes.” Tracing the various lines with her fingers, Lady said. “I like it. I think it makes you look . . . exotic.”

Kato started to purr as with just a single word Lady’s touch somehow became that much more intimate. “Better then a cheetah who changed his spots.” He said.

Stifling the urge to laugh, Lady thought to herself. He really is a big kitten. Out loud she said. “Kato, can I ask you something.”

Of course.” Rolling over, he wrapped his arms around her and resting his head between her breasts said. “You just keep petting me and I’ll answer any question you want.”

Kato!” Lady tweaked his ears. “I’m trying to be serious.”

So am I.” Repositioning himself so that he was lying next to her, Kato said. “Its just that I enjoy talking to you more when you’re touching me. I guess I’ve just gotten used to it.”

I enjoy touching you too. But . . .” Leaning her head against his chest, Lady asked him the question that she had wanted to ask ever since she had parted ways with him. “Would you . . . would you ever consider having children? You don’t have to answer right away its just . . . I’d really like to know if, if it was something that you might want.”

Me? A father?” Kato thought for a moment. “If it were with you, and you told me it was what you wanted, then I wouldn’t hesitate for even a single second to give you one.” Kato stopped purring as quickly as he had started. “But I don’t think I could bear the burden of bringing a child into this world. Not . . . not with the way it is now.”

Lady just looked at him, at the longing she saw in his eyes, and asked him. “What do you mean?”

To be with the one you love. To have a child with the one you love.” Closing his eyes as he listened to the beating of their hearts, Kato said. “I don’t think there’s anything better in this world.”

Lady nodded in agreement. “Being with you like this, its the closest that I’ve ever come to knowing heaven; or paradise.”

Kato continued by saying. “But to know that that child will grow up to face unbearable hardships, that I as a parent had the power to prevent. I . . . I don’t think that someone like me has any right to be a father. Not yet, not until I can say with absolute certainty that the world they will be born into, will be a better one for having them in it.”

Suddenly wanting more then anything to hold a child, his child in her arms, Lady thought to herself. He didn’t say no . . . Holding him in her arms, there was so much she wanted to ask him, so much she wanted to share with him. If only we had the time, what kind of a life could we build together? Letting the thought comfort her, Lady wished she could make the moment would last forever. Why does he have to be the one who is being hunted?

Lady,” Forgetting himself, forgetting about everything else, Kato looked into the eyes of the woman he was willing to risk everything for. “Can you ever forgive me?”

Forgive you?” She said. “Forgive you for what?”

For not being able to protect you.”

Lady blinked. Kato had said it with such profound sorrow in his voice, that she knew that like a wound festering deep within his heart, until he finally decided to forgive himself, the memory of that moment would leave a scar that would never heal.

Silly boy. Is that what’s bothering you?” Seeing the way it had hurt him just to admit to his own weakness, Lady knew just what to say. “You didn’t fail Kato, you tried, and that is more then anyone else has ever done.” Sharing the dream that she’d been keeping locked away inside her heart since she had first met him, Lady said. “One day, when SynCity is a place where humans and chimeras can live in harmony, then we can have a child together. A daughter. And we can watch her grow, and fall in love, and have a family all her own.”

A daughter?” Said Kato. The thought certainly isn’t without its appeal. Because where one Lady is good, two would be infinitely better. But what would I teach a daughter? Or for that matter, what would I teach to a son?

Of course a daughter. Oh I suppose we can have plenty of sons too, but only so long as the women of our family outnumber the men.” Tapping Kato on the nose Lady’s tone was especially playful when she said. “After all, I’ve seen what it is you do in your spare time. There needs to be more of us around, if we ever hope to keep the lot of you in line.”

You?” Said Kato incredulously. “Keep us in line?” He laughed. “I don’t think so. We’re tigers, wild, feral, rebellious and free. Just you watch. We’ll be bad boys until the end! No matter how many of you there are you’ll never be able to keep us down!”

Kato,” Said Lady as the thought of having an entire clan of tiger cubs following in their father’s footsteps excited her. “That’s exactly my point. They’ll be little heart breakers. All the girls will want to have one as their mate.”

Lady . . .” Wanting more then anything to turn her dream into a reality, he said. “Do you really think that someone like me, would be a good father?”

Of course I do. But you know Kato, its a world that will never exist unless we’re willing to fight for it.”

Then that’s just what I’ll have to do.” Said Kato. “For you, I’ll build the world you dream of. A world where the two of us can be together like this . . . forever.” And like the missing piece of a puzzle that had finally fallen into place, Kato knew what he had to do.

Rolling off the bed he went to the window. Looking through it, he could see the entirety of SynCity, the good, and the bad.

When he looked up at the skyscrapers that dominated the horizon, he saw a world where humans lived in ivory towers that reached beyond heaven itself, and where, as if trying to steal even the stars themselves from the sky, they lived out their ideal lives, free from the misery and pain they would so casually inflict upon others.

When he looked to the chimeras walking the streets below, he didn’t see possessions, he saw people. People whose lives had been shaped by the will of others. People who didn’t even have the right to call themselves free.

What could they become if they were given a choice? Thought Kato. What would I?

More than anything, suddenly, he wanted to be the one to give them that choice.

Morishita Sensei. I think that I’ve finally begun to understand. That if this world built by humans and chimeras is ever going to change, then I cannot simply run away. I must stay and create the world that I desire. At last, I understand how someone like me can change the world. Staring through the open door, Kato knew that he had a choice to make. I am sorry Lady, I wish that I could bring you with me. But from here on out, the path that lays ahead of me, is one I must walk on my own.

Kato felt an arm wrap around him. Leaning her head on his shoulder, Lady slowly began tracing her finger through the stripes on his chest. As if able to sense his thoughts she said to him. “You’re going to leave now, aren’t you?”

I have to.” Part of him wanted to stay, to be with her always. “But I have this,” He held up his hand, the red thread she had given him was tied around his wrist. “So a part of us will always be connected. In our hearts if not our lives.” He stepped away, loathe to have to let her go after finally having been able to find her again. “Goodbye Lady.”

Lady forced herself to hold back, knowing that unless she did so, he might never again find the resolve to do what needed to be done. “Kato, wait.”

Yes?”

Trying desperately not to reach out to him, knowing that to do so might cause his heart to waiver, she said. “Never say goodbye. Because.” She had to say it. “Goodbye’s aren’t meant to be forever.”

Kissing her one last time, before gently wiping her tears away, Kato said. “Then; until we’re able to meet again. Farewell, Lady. And thank you, for loving someone like me.”

Leaving a cred card on the counter beside the bed before he left, Kato offered up a silent prayer to whatever gods chimeras believed in. As a parting gift, there was enough money on it for Lady to buy her way out of SynCity if she needed too. A change of identity, her freedom if she wanted it, he knew that it wouldn’t change the past, but maybe, just maybe, it would help her begin to forget.