Prologue

"Ladybug, ladybug, how are you doing, huh?"

A tall Siamese cat boy stands over a crib, laughing. His mother laughs with him, tiredly.

"I bet you're glad to see me… Am I right?"

The tiny Siamese kitten lying in the crib laughs and squeezes his paw in hers. Her bright green eyes sparkle merrily in the sunlight that will never fade.

"Chuu," she coos, looking up at her big brother in admiration. The light plays on her cream-and-brown fur, making it look golden. A tuft of it falls in her eyes. The boy brushes it away, but it stubbornly falls back as soon as he lets it go.

"Silly ladybug." He leans forward so his face is level with his sister's and says, with a very serious expression, "Mei, your fur is silly."

Mei bursts into a fit of giggles.

Now the boy is a lanky teenager. He must be about eighteen. He is holding his ten-year-old sister in the air, standing in the frond yard. He sets her down and wipes some imaginary sweat off his face.

"You're getting so big, ladybug! I can't do that very well anymore."

Mei looks annoyed. "I told you not to call me ladybug!"

He grins. "What shall I call you then-Your Highness?"

Mei grins back. "Yes, actually. You can be my knight, and you have to go find the magical treasure in the volcano. She picks up a stick. "I knight you Sir Cherun—hey! You're supposed to kneel!"

But Cherun is not listening. He has left the game, and is talking seriously with a majestic wolf-lung that has landed in the yard. Mei watches him sadly from afar.

"I knew he wouldn't be home for long…" she whispers.