Disclaimer: I don't own Monster Rancher apart from the characters I create and I don't own the songs When a Child is Born or Friends Never Say Goodbye

Author's Note: the opening scenes is Coal dreaming (and therefore re-living) a childhood memory

* * * * *

A ray of hope flickers in the sky

A tiny star lights up way up high

All across the land dawns a brand new morn

This comes to pass, when a child is born

It's all a dream and illusion now

It must come true sometime soon somehow

All across the land dawns a brand new morn

This comes to pass, when a child is born

* * * * *

Who's to say who's right or wrong

Whose course is braver run

Still we are, have always been

Will ever be as one

What is done has been done for the best

Though the mist in my eyes might suggest

Just a little confusion about what I'd lose

But if I started over I know I would choose

The same joy, the same sadness, each step of the way

That fought me and taught me that friends never say

Never say goodbye

Never say goodbye

* * * * *

"I've almost got it" Coal stood on the old fallen tree perching over the river and made a grab for Bobbi's handkerchief.

"Oh, please get it back for me" Bobbi smiled, her fists together, a pleading look in her eyes.

There was a sudden cracking noise as the branch came away in his hand, the last thing the young male Evil Hare saw before disappearing over the edge of the ravine was Bobbi's startled face.

He hit the rapids below with a quiet splash and as his head broke the surface, he saw the branch he had used as a support one minute ago being swept past him, on an impulse, he grabbed it. Coal was carried along by the current, the gray tuft of fur of top of his head clinging to his forehead, he coughed and his scarlet eyes widened in terror as he struggled to keep his head above water.

"Here, take my hand" a female Unico suddenly swooped down from nowhere and flew over the river, extending her hands to Coal.

He let go of the branch and grabbed her hands, then she lifted him clear of the water and flew to a rock sticking out of the middle of the river to get Coal in a better position for carrying, one hand under his legs and the other resting against his back.

He threw his arms around her neck, then buried his face against her chest and the Unico felt him shaking, but whether it was from fear or the cold, she wasn't sure. She spread her wings and flew back up to the cliff-top, once there she turned to Bobbi, Coal still cradled in her arms.

"What happened" she asked the two youngsters.

Coal kept his head buried against her chest and Bobbi lowered her eyes.

"If no-one tells me, you'll both have to be punished"

"It was me, I was making him retrieve my handkerchief"

"You were influencing him again, weren't you, you know Coal's been trained to never say no to a female, you nearly cost Fatale her student"

"I'm sorry, Mistress Rayne" Bobbi looked down.

"Come on" Rayne led the young monsters back to a white and silver tower.

Outside, a female Naga pulled on a rope, making a human-like dummy fly out of nowhere at her and slashed at it with her claws.

Then she looked over at the trio and her eyes widened at who the Unico was carrying.

"Coal" she quickly came over and took the shivering young black-furred hare from the Unico.

"What happened?" the female Naga asked.

"Why don't you ask Bobbi?" Rayne said, glaring at her student.

Later a fire was burning in the heath and Coal sat on a stool in front of it, a woollen tartan blanket wrapped round his body, then he took a sip from the bowl of warm soup cupped in his hands.

"Your little trick nearly cost Coal his life, Bobbi, hmm, now, a punishment" Rayne rested one hand on her chin thoughtfully.

"Go easy on her, Bobbi's only a child" Fatale spoke up, placing one hand on Coal's shoulder.

Rayne glanced over at the female Naga, a stern look on her face, then she turned to Bobbi "One day's labor"

Bobbi bowed her head "Yes, Mistress Rayne"

"Now come, it's time for us to retire"

Placing one hand on her student's back and gently pushing the young Lepus in front of her, Rayne left the room.

"Can I go to bed now too, Mistress Fatale?" Coal asked.

"Hmm?" she gently started patting him down, feeling for any dampness "I suppose, your fur's dry"

Once upstairs, she picked up a hairbrush from a small circular table and then started brushing his now dry fur back in place, then started his gray tuft neatly back down, when she had finished.

"Right, now you're ready for bed.

Coal smiled and walked over, then crawled into an alcove which was made up like a bed and Fatale came over.

"Goodnight, my little soldier" she whispered, gently stroking his gray tuft.

"Goodnight, Mistress Fatale" he whispered back.

Genki crouched by Coal's side, watching him sleep, for one instant a slight smile crossed the Evil Hare's face, then faded.

"Genki, what are you doing?" Holly whispered, quietly walking over.

"I was thinking...what if the Shadow- Walker senses he's back with us, I, I don't want to lose him again, we, we only just got him back"

"Hey, we won't let that happen, now, please get some sleep" she said.

"Ok" the brown-haired youth replied.

As both young humans fell asleep, a dark figure, half-concealed by the shadows and knelt down next to the sleeping Evil Hare,

"So you are restored, you will be mine again, but this time you will come willingly" he hissed under his breath, he stroked the side of the black rabbit's face with the back of one hand and stiffened as Coal tensed at the gesture, then relaxed again.

"And I know just how to make you" the figure whispered, glancing at the sleeping Nancy.

Myst blinked, she was alone, apart from one other, Coal, he smiled sadly at her, then turned and disappeared into the shadows as the sound of a crying baby cut through the darkness.

* * * * *

The following morning, at breakfast.

"You know, Nancy, you're getting fat" Genki pointed out.

"Yeah, it's almost like I'm eating for two" Nancy laughed, nervously.

"You should eat less" the brown-haired youth extended one finger to poke her stomach.

"NO" she slapped Genki's hand away, then stopped.

Everyone was staring at her like she had sprouted horns and wings.

"I, I'll go get some firewood"

"I'll go and help her" Holly said, getting up and putting her bowl to one side.

The girl walked into the forest after the female hare, then she heard somebody muttering, parting some branches, she saw Nancy sitting on a log, gently stroking her stomach and...talking to it.

"You survived the virus, didn't you, little one and when you arrive in this world..."


The female hare spun round "Holly"

"Are you..."

"Yes" she looked shamefaced.

Have you told Hare?"


"Why not?" the girl asked.

"I, I want it to be a surprise"

"If you want, shall we go back"

They both walked back to camp

"Hey, hurry up, we're ready to go"

Holly sighed, even though he was now sixteen, Genki was still really energetic.

Nancy was pale "I need to sit down"

You got a tummy-ache or something" Genki asked.

"Holly, it's coming"

The girl sighed "The baby, Nancy's pregnant"


As Holly knelt in front of the female hare to help with the birth, Nancy suddenly threw back her head and screamed, then the thin wail of a baby cut through the air.

"It's a girl" Holly said.

There was a thud behind her, Hare had just fainted.

"What's her name?" Holly said.

"I've always liked the name Willow" Nancy replied.

* * * * *

"Hare, hey, Hare, wake up"

The male rabbit slowly opened his eyes as Genki literally bounced on his chest.

"Huh, wha?" Hare said, getting to his feet.

"Someone wants to say hello" Nancy gently slipped the little white bundle into his arms.

Hare nervously stared down at the wide brown eyes that stared back at him, then gingerly extended a finger down towards the bundle. A little furry hand stretched out and grabbed the end of his finger. Hare felt a rush of, what, parental pride, sudden protectiveness or maybe both, he wasn't sure as the tiny hand that had hold of his finger wriggled it up and down slightly in curious innocence.

"Hello, ummm" he looked up at Nancy, who mouthed the name 'Willow' at him.

"Hello, Willow, I'm your father" Hare whispered.

Willow blinked once, then her eyes slowly closed as sleep overtook her.

* * * * *

That night, as Holly watched the stew she was cooking, something made her look up, Tiger was pacing to the edge of the forest and back again

She got to her feet and walked over to him.

"Is anything wrong?"

The blue wolf looked up, startled "I, I was just thinking about the cubs, how are they growing up, do they know about me"

"You can go back to them anytime you want" Holly said, gently.

"Maybe" he snorted.

"It's really up to you" Holly got up and rejoined the others, leaving Tiger alone with his thoughts.

* * * * *

In the morning

"Tiger" Genki yelled.

"You won't find him" Holly sighed.

"What?" the youth spun round.

"He's gone back to his family"

"But he didn't say goodbye" Genki whispered.

Not too far away, a blue wolf turned and smiled to himself before racing on.

* * * * *

Nancy looked up from giving Willow her first morning bottle and gently placed the baby hare on the log so she could get some sleep, then stood up to get some breakfast, unaware of the shadowy hand that reached out and drew Willow into the darkness. Nancy walked back to where she had left her baby and she stopped as the bowl of stew fell from her hands.

"What's wrong?" Holly asked.

"Willow's...gone" Nancy cried, spinning round, this terrified expression on her face.

"Calm down, we'll find her" Holly stood up.

"Looking for something?" a familiar voice rang out from behind them.

Everyone froze and slowly turned round, the Shadow-Walker was right behind them, holding a white bundle gently in his arms, Genki scowled, then moved protectively in front of Coal.

"A fine healthy speciman, I wonder what sort of guardian I'd make for her" the shadowy figure said.

"THAT'S MY DAUGHTER" Hare yelled and launched himself at the dark figure feet-first, his foot on fire.

The dark figure turned his head and raised his hand, then a black fireball shot from it, sending Hare flying. The male rabbit smashed against a rock, his eyes closing and his breathing became ragged. Myst looked from Hare's motionless form to the shadowy figure.

The shadows, the baby crying, Coal, it was all clear to her now.

She spread her wings and took to the air, pointing a finger at the dark figure, then cried "Lightni..."

But the word died on her lips when the Shadow-Walker twirled his finger as the electric-based attack turned and headed back toward Myst, it struck the Mint in the chest, she fell and hit the ground with a light thud, Holly rushed over to her motionless form.

"Is she?" Genki asked.

"She's alive" Holly replied, cradling Myst's head in her lap.

Suddenly the Shadow-Walker's eyes flashed black and everyone was frozen in place, then forced to their knees by a black aura.

"Please, give me back my baby" Nancy pleaded from where she knelt beside Hare.

The Shadow-Walker just turned and opened a portal, then faced the group again, holding up Willow "Say goodbye to your parents"

"No" Nancy was crying freely now.

"Wait, I, I will go with you if you give back the child"

The Shadow-Walker looked at Coal and a triumphant smile spread across his face.

"Agreed, you for the baby"

Getting to his feet and slowly walking over, Coal gently took Willow from the Shadow-Walker, then removing his medallion, put it around the little hare's neck, then carried her over to her mother.


"Coal, I, I, thank you" Nancy whispered.

"Come" the Shadow-Walker ordered.

"What are you doing?" Genki was able to move one arm to grab Coal's ankle as he walked past the youth.

The Evil Hare turned to look at Genki, then knelt down in front of him.

"Look after this for me" he placed the sword in front of Genki.

"I said come"

"Goodbye" Coal stood up and headed over to the shadowy figure.

The Shadow-Walker spread one arm out, wrapping the black cloak-like material around Coal, hiding him from everyone's sight and led the Evil Hare towards the portal, then the shadowy figure turned back to look at the group of friends one last time.

"Poor fools, I've won" he smiled before disappearing through the portal, then it closed behind them.

"COAL!" Genki shrieked.

* * * * *

Later, Genki sat alone on a rock, holding Coal's sword as a single tear slid down his cheek.

"Genki?" Holly climbed up the rock and sat next to the youth.

"Why'd he do it?"

"That's why" Holly gently said, pointing downwards.

Hare and Nancy were sitting together against the rock, the male rabbit had one arm round Nancy who was rocking back and forth, holding Willow against her chest, Genki smiled, almost sadly.

"Do you think we'll ever see him again?" he asked.

"I, I don't know" Holly replied.

Genki gripped the sword and slowly closed his eyes, seeing a familiar black figure leaning against the rock in his mind's eye.