Spring has come to Kuni no Kori. The last of the winter snow is melting, and the rushing of the streams can be heard again. Songbirds, back from the south, rejoice in the spindly arms of the trees, hiding among the translucent greens of new leaves. The wind blows softly, with a kinder, gentler disposition and brings warmth. The sky, which was washed out by the winter’s cruelty and snow, has regained its vibrancy, and the sun burns through the blue, bringing warmth to the earth below.
The wolf pack is rejoicing the birth of pups. Little rabbits tumble out into the world for the first time. A fawn walks on shaky legs through the meadow; before the grasses come as high as his knees, he will be much more steady on those spindly legs.
Yin Mi is confined to the dark depths of the den with Zorro’s kits. Zuru has taken on some of the responsibility of being her mate and brings her food. Kuai lies in the sun now, on the forest floor. Umisen’yamasen has returned to sleeping atop the den.
Lorne has kept his promises to Zorro. He has sold his guns at the market place, not to other aspiring hunters, but to antique collectors. He offered to take Ruse’s, but the man refused. “If we have a rabid animal,” the lodge-keeper says, “we will be up the creek if we are all without a gun.”
Lorne has taken away the cruel traps in his backyard. He has spoken to Zora only once since the depth of the winter. He has decided that instead of destroying the foxes, he will try to help the sick and injured ones. He asks Zora not to blame him if they slip through his fingers.
He has called a cousin, to whom he is giving the hounds. “They are old,” he tells his cousin, “and not much fit for hunting any more. I think it is time to send them to retirement. You have quite a lot of property; I think they will be most happy there.”
The cousin chuckles. “And you will get new pups in the meantime?” he asks. He does not mind; he lives by himself and does not mind older dogs. They are less rambunctious than puppies and more suited to his relaxed life style.
Lorne laughs. “No,” he says, “I will not get another dog. I’ve decided to give up hunting.”
“What?” his cousin asks and begins to clean out his ears. He’s getting on in years, but he thinks he must have gone mad if his cousin began to spout things like that.
“It’s true,” Lorne says. “I think it’s the end of an era for me.”
Today, Cousin has come to pick up the hounds. Lorne bids them goodbye, although somewhat tearfully. He loves the dogs, he really does. But he has trained them to hunt, and he fears what they will do, even though he does not want them to hunt any longer.
Cousin puts the dogs in the truck by luring them with dog treats. “Come and visit them,” Cousin says to Lorne. “I’m sure they’ll miss you.”
“I will, I will,” Lorne replies and waves as the truck drives off.
The first fabulous day of spring draws to a close. Zuru trots on up to the lodge to have a nose around the garbage pile, if nothing else.
He never makes it to the pile however. He stops as he comes up out of the woods. He sits at the tree line and contemplates what this means.
Sitting on the faded wood of the porch is his hoshi no tama, with a bit of chain looped through it. Zuru sighs and picks it up. It gleams in the fading sunlight. Then Zuru heads back to Kuni no Kori.