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Fox Tales Chap 5 Revised

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Chapter 5 Hunted and Hunters



In the distance, she could hear the musicians play.  The words drifted out of doors, auspicious music for a wedding feast.  Her wedding.  The thought brought bile to her throat, constricting it as she made her way through the courtyard and into the garden beyond.  She wondered idly how long it would be before they noticed she was gone, that she had shed the many layers of silk they had weighed upon her unwilling shoulders, put away the ornaments, and had fled the house.  The fact that it was so easy for her to slip away told her everything she needed to know about the importance she played in her father’s machinations..  


"White fans opened wide,
Sign of two pledged together
Until time's ending.
The vow of two, like silver,
Binding them as one.”


‘Two pledged, ‘ she thought, hurrying through the shadows to her special place, in the woods beyond the garden.  ‘My father and Yoshikata.  Not me.’  The last she saw of her forced partner, he was sitting with her father, drinking sake.  He didn’t even turn and look when she left the room.

"In the shade, the pines
Sigh in the breeze, deeply green.
But the garden pond,
Crystal clear like a mirror
unruffled by wind.

The path wandered deeply into a grove of old trees.  She would always come here when life grew dark and she needed to be alone.  The isolation away from her father’s home would always comfort her.   Tonight, after feeling  more alone than she remembered being, even in a room of feasting and merry-making, she found that being in the woods was more like being surrounded by beings that cared.  She could almost make out the voices of the little beings who hid here, their soft murmurs.  Sometime she could feel the aura of the Kami who lived here, but tonight, there was no holy presence to comfort her.  Just the wind and the little beings.  The Shintaro cloud surrouning her was black in contrast to her pale blue, shot with red.  “Let the worst happen.  I know longer care,” she said to the wind.

"Fortunate the signs,
for two joined as one this day,
Destiny smiling
What an enviable state,
And now comes the night."

“And now comes the night,” she murmured.  She rested her lamp on a stone and peered into the darkness.

A single figure stepped out of the shadows.  She ran into his arms.  “You made it, “ she said, I didn’t know if you would get past my father’s guards.”

He ran his fingers down her back and into her long hair.  “I would do anything for you.”


She untied the obi at her waist, allowing her robe to fall open.  He swallowed.  “Nyoko,” he whispered.

“If you would do anything for me, then take me now.  Be the first man to touch me.  I don’t want to give that to him.  Make me yours, even if it’s only for a short time.”

She let her robe fall to the ground, then wrapped her arms arond his neck.  Their lips fell together in a hungry and impassioned kiss.

In the shadows, a child watched.  As his sister helped her lover to disrobe, he turned and ran back to the house.

Excerpt from Tale of the Last Feast by Sachio Hayashi writing as Michael Mitsuo



============================================================

I have tracked his progress for years. My partner and I know this killer as an old...not friend.  Acquantance.  Prey.

We have contacts in the most scattered of places. Some of them are supernatural beings like we are, some of them just human, but know we can solve thing that have stymied them a long time. Sukeo, my partner, recieved the call the day after the initial investigation.  It would be nice if sometimes they would call us before the forensics people got there, but that’ll never happen.  We’re not even supposed to exist, so I won’t hold my breath for first dibs.

Leaving Sukeo to keep an eye on our primary assignment, I walked into the morgue in the dark hours of a Sunday morning, when I was less likely to cause questions, and our friend led me to her body.  I looked at her and sighed.

It’s been a long pursuit.  Everybody in my clan knows the story.  At first, none of us realized he had survived.  No one had ever heard of anyone lasting so long being cursed that way and having that part of their soul yanked.  Perhaps it was the unfairness of what was done to him that led the Kami to show him the way, but in the trail of death that followed in his wake, I wonder who it was who took an interest - Enma-o, perhaps? It had to be something from hell.  But after Nyoko ran, and everything collapsed, we had too much to do. After all the tears had been shed, and the fighting was over, and the rebuilding started, we forgot about him.  But as time passed, and the world changed, and we moved more and more into walking amid the humans, I heard the whispers.  As I walked through the seedier streets of Edo, of Nagasaki, of Osaka, and later, the whispers started in the tea houses and other places where women went with men for profit.  Later, walking down the streets  of Seattle and San Francisco, I noticed the blurring undertones of horror going beyond the walls of the Asian community. A Bakemono, the whispers said, a bakemono haunted the best and the worst of tea houses, a ghost, a goblin, a vampire, a devourer of women who vanished to be found dried, empty husks later.

It’s a side effect of the curse, my sensei told me.

No human knew how they died.  They didn’t understand how the monster ate up its victim’s life force in one huge gulp.  The humans saw that the victims’ bodies were unused, and mostly unmarked.  They still had their blood. They were women of low account and nobody cared that much anyway. The official investigations went no where, and most never wanted to admit the deaths were linked, since the human eye couldn’t prove the connection. No one but someone who understands Shinkiri and the ways of dark power could have even gathered a glimpse of a connection. Only those poor souls who had to walk the streets at night or entertain the stranger.  
They knew.


There were few clues.  One fact seldom recorded by the medical examiner, but a fact I found to always be true after I had begun to track the deaths was that every one of the women was found with a fresh, soft willow leaf on their person.  Each one found with their faces frozen in an O, as if their death was an amazing surprise.  Each one had two slight claw punctures on the jaw.

It was a while before we realized who was doing it.  Word swept through the underworld of a soul eater, an avenging ghost or new type of youkai, one who drank the souls of beautiful, troubled women.  Even the floating world had its share of human sensitives.  Some just peak through Shinkiro.  Willow leaves were a giveaway, though, because they were the favorite way Kitsune made money out of nothing.  And after I started on the chase, and found the bodies where they lay tossed on the grounds like some forgotten rag, I was shocked how they looked like her.  All could have been her sister.  I did not know her well, but she was my cousin.  I had seen her before the dark day when everything fell apart.  Each woman had a tragedy that marked them out and led them to their lives, secret griefs that were revealed in their passing, so much like hers.

Damn her father and his curses.  He got off too easy when the cat army came crashing into his fortress for revenge.

This case today, I suspect, is no different. I reach in my pocket and take out the small ivory case and look at the portrait.  I look at the woman on the slap in front of me.  And even though she is not Asian, even though she has no trace of magic, it is clear she could have been sisters to the woman whose image I hold.

“What did you see, Onna? “ I ask.  Having been left alone,  I release a smidgeon of Shinkiro, wrap it around her body.  Suddenly, like a pale holograph I see what she saw last.  Standing before me, coming towards me as if I were the woman,    I see his image as she saw it last.  Yashuo, hungry as ever, stands before me, intense, looking at her with eyes of desire and want and isolation.  I hear him sing to her soul, words of want and love, and suddenly, the image evaporates, the vision turn to blackness, then blow away.

How many women has it been now?  What will he do, being so close to Saicho?

===============================================================


They stood at the doorway of the apartment, invisible to the non-sensitive eye, a man and a woman dressed in the traditional clothing of an era long since gone from a part of the world long distant.

The man, who was not really a man after all, but a Kami, rubbed his floppy cap over his head.  He touched the door knob, and the door’s locks slid back and it swung open.  The woman peeked over his shoulder.

“Wait,” he said, then waved his hand.  There was a brief pulse of pure white light.  Something in the dark of the room shuddered, cried out, and disintegrated in a puff of blue smoke.

“Pesky Kara Kasa,” the Kami muttered.  “Why umbrellas keep turning into youkai, I have no idea.  I bet she hadn’t even noticed.”  He straightened his hat back on his head, and kneeled down, gently tapping the floor with his hammer.  “A blessing on this place,” he said, “And may all sleep soundly, with dreams of peace and plenty until the morning.”

She could see the waves of power, soft, yet bright and shining, transform the Shinkiro in the room, lightening it, surpressing the dark waves of potential.  It looked like oil poured on water.
The Kami  straightened back up, readjusted his clothes, a bright red shirt and yellow vest, and ran a hand over his beard.  “Well, that should do it,” he said, turning to his companion.  “She should be perfectly safe while we are here, and into the morning, when there will be other protectors who will be here to watch.”

Nyoko, dressed also in red, looked up at him, more than nervous.  “You sure she won’t wake up?”

“I am positive.” said Daikokuten.  “There are no dark threads near her right now, and all influence of Shinkiro are in abeyance.  She is just as protected as you are at Benzaiten’s side.”

“You sure we can’t take her back to my Lady?” she asked.

The Kami of good fortune sighed.  “No, I’m afraid not.  Both Benzaiten and Inari have wrapped too many threads of light around her.  She has a destiny.  You started that destiny the night you ran away from your wedding.  But Benzaiten has guarded her very well until now, and I’m sure she will continue to bless her.  And she is not the only one who will watch over her.  She will be safe until it’s all over.”

“Safe,” whispered Nyoko.  “What is safe?”

“She has three Kami as godparents.  How much safer do you need her to be?  Now come on.  We need to do this thing.”

Daikokuten took her by the hand and pulled her into the apartment.

=====================================================================

Sachio, even though he was dressed in a dark blue cotton kimono, the clothes he used for sleeping, sat instead at his desk, with notebook and purple pen.   Once long ago, when someone explained what purple prose meant, he grew rather amused at the idea, and decided from that time on to write all of his first drafts in purple.  Therefore, all of his prose could honestly be called purple.  It was an old joke.  Now he mostly did it as a matter of habit.

His study was spare, with a desk, a bookcase, and a comfortable chair. The room, this night,  was unlit except for the lamp lighting his work.  He felt uneasy, though, having woken up from a strange dream, and kept looking up from his work and peering into the shadows.  Unable to get back to sleep, sure there was something happening just out of his sight, he decided to stay up and watch, choosing to work on his next chapter rather than watch television or read.

The pen scratched across the paper. Once long ago,  he wrote,  there was a village where the sons of three families had gotten out of control.  In the hot days after rice planting when the rain came down day after day, the young men  had begun to drink heavily and treatt the women at the local inn and at the only teahouse in the village in such a way that they refused to wait on them any more.  In fact, they threatened to all run off to Edo, where they could get better wages for the work they did.  This the inn owner and the teashop proprietor could not have.  They sat a servant at their doors, and when the rowdy young men were seen walking in the  direction of either establishment, the owners had taken to barring the door and having a guard with a club by the door so they wouldn’t have to serve them.

This didn’t suit the young men well at all.  After two days of refused service,  one of them remembered  an abandoned shack used by the local hunters in the winter.  Stopping only long enough to get a barrel of sake, they headed out for the shack.  They got to the shack shortly before sundown.  It was dark, ramshackle, but all four walls seemed to be holding up and the roof didn’t seem to need patching.  As the walked through the door, even before they could pull off their sandals, they discovered there was a fox in the room.  One of the young men got a wicked smile on his face, and he threw his straw rain cloak over the fox, and he and his fellows cornered it, torturing it with their long knives.

“Oi, Fox.  Transform for us and serve us!” the cloak owner demanded.  “If you don’t, we’ll cut your throat and eat your flesh now.”

His friends laughed.  None of them expected they had a magic fox, but a magic fox they had found.  Suddenly, the fox transformed into a beautiful maiden with brilliant black hair and shining eyes.  She pulled the cloak close around her, trying to hide the nakedness of her beautiful slim body.

“Ah, my friends, we have a real treasure here.  A foxy tennyo, just for our pleasure tonight.  Pour us sake, Onna,” he said, holding his throat to her neck. “And after that, we will have some real fun.”

He put down his pen for a moment, and looked thoughtful.  “Oh the things you went through after you left us to die, Nyoko.  But this – I will never understand how you got caught that way, sister,” he said to the darkness.  “How someone as powerful as you could have been overcome so easily.   Were you looking for death?”

Suddenly, there was a blast of spiritual energy that made the very fabric of Shinkiro ring.  He froze.  It pulsed one more time, softer, gentler.  It was a type of energy he hadn’t felt in a long, long, time.“That feels like Daikokuten.  A Japanese Kami?  Here in Boise?” he said.  Shaking his head, he looked at the notebook.

“Ah Nyoko.  I remember breaking into that hut just before they hurt you.  And you took one glance at me, gave me a quick hug, transformed into a fox and fled.  I always wondered why you were there, why you wouldn’t stay.  But I got those bastards for you.  Set fire to all three of their houses.  Nothing they didn’t deserve.  I heard the village elders kicked them out of the community after that one.”

He sighed, put down his pen, and turned off the light.  “It’ll wait until morning,” he said as he left the room.
Revised chapter 5. Lots of revising.
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