Fox Tales Chap 6 Revised

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Chapter 6    Loss and Found

For several minutes after the room had emptied of most of the adult men the only sound to be heard was the hesitant pacing of the old Kitsune mage, Akinori, who walked around the room partially transforming, fox ears shifting to human ears, paws to hands as he walked about, unseeing, staring at things the rest of the group couldn’t see.  

Eventually the old man stopped in front of the youth, who sat seiza, bent over, his head almost touching the mat.  He had not moved since he broke into the room and blurted out what he had seen in the woods.  His father’s anger was legendary, but the youth had been petrified at the sight and smell and noise his father and other male relatives had made.  The youth was surrounded on the right by a group of women, cousins, his younger sister, and an aunt, some who were weeping, all who seemed shocked by the turn of events.  Next to him, sat his mother, looking up expectantly at the old man.  The young man could hear Yayoi muttering prayers in a dialect so old that almost no one understood it any more.  

“Sachio.  So, when Inari saw you, she named you trouble,” the old man said.  “Tonight, young lordling, the trouble has found you and your family out.”

Yayoi, ashen-faced against her brightly colored robes and dark hair, stood up, walked to the Buddha niche, and lit incense.   She began to chant:

“Kwannon, who is always ready to answer calls from all quarters,
Kwannon, whose vows are as deep as the ocean,
Kwannon who has made great vows,
When the people hear your name and see your body and think of you,
You remove all forms of evil in all the worlds.

“If a person is pushed into a fiery pit,
if his thought dwells on you,
the pit will be transformed into a pond.

“If a person is lost in the ocean, about to be swallowed by monsters,
if his thought dwells on you,
the waves will not drown him.

“If surrounded by an army of enemies threatening to kill him,
let his thoughts dwell on you,
and his enemies will have a compassionate heart.

“If persecuted by a man about to end his life at the place of execution,
let his thoughts be on you,
and the executioner’s sword will be broken to bits.

“If – “

“Be silent, Yayoi-hime.  The Kami nor the Buddha nor Kwannon of the Thousand Hands will not save tonight,” Akinori said.  

Yayoi looked up, tears streaking her face.

“Look deeply into Shinkiro, woman,” the old one said.  He took a deep breath, and his features froze where they were, part fox and part human.  Taking another deep breath, he regained his full human more.  “Tonight, both dark destiny and bright destiny are being spun.  They wrap around this troublesome son, and surround your daughter and both the men who claim her.”  He looked thoughtful.  “Still...”

She whirled around and came and knelt at his feet.  “Please, Sensei-sama.  What can we do?”

“I can braid the threads some.  There will be loss, but she will not die.  Maybe neither of the young men.  But it will be hard.  There will be a cost.”

“Do it!” she said, turning up her tear-stained face.  “Do it!”

“Give me your son,” the old man said.

“My son?” she asked.  Sachio looked up.  The old man tapped him on the head.

“Yes.  He will be my student.  Decide now.  We don’t have much time.  They are nearly there.”

She looked at the boy and took a deep, deep breath. “Yes.”

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


Lillian’s apartment was small, but airy and pleasant.  She had decorated the place in a way that was calming and comfortable, neither too spare nor cluttered.  The front room was done in all light blues, with a sofa and a chair and a small corner of plants. Instead of a television, she had a small curio shelf on one side.  Opposite it, a painting of foxes watching distant hunters hung on one wall.

Nyoko walked up to the painting, her long skirts trailing behind her on the rich blue carpeting, red and rose against the  blue. “She seems to have an attraction to foxes. Are you sure she doesn’t know?” Nyoko asked.

“I’m positive.”  Daikokuten tugged on his beard as he looked around the room, and saw a small row of ceramic foxes on a shelf.  “Perhaps it’s the surname that was given to her.  It does mean fox, after all.”

They moved quietly through the house, gliding in the way that only those who access the ways of the Kami can, above the mundane and far above the threads of Shinkiro, past the neat, bright  kitchen and the dining area, into a small hallway. On one side was a small workroom, filled with craft supplies and books and papers.  On the other side, was Lillian’s bedroom. The door was closed.

“Ready?” Daikokuten asked, ready to put his hand on the nob.

“She won’t wake up until after we’re through?” Nyoko asked.  She was twisting a corner of her obi’s tail, her face tense.

The Kami rubbed his hat against his scalp, and gave a little reassuring smile.  “Of course not.  Reach out and feel the charm.  See for yourself.  I know you can do that.  I didn’t try to hide it.”

Nyoko closed her eyes, breathed deeply, then relaxing, nodded.

He crossed his arms. “I know you’re uncomfortable.  But this is what you chose to do for her, remember that.  She was not meant to be hidden forever.”  The Kami looked at his companion, not unkindly, but with a certain determination.

“Yes, I remember. I was so afraid of what he was going to do to her if he found out she existed.  He was already trying to kill me. But that was so long ago.   Planning is one thing.  The someday is over.  Now the reality is here.”  She took a deep breath, running long, graceful fingers along the door frame.“And I know there is so much that could go wrong.”

“It won’t, though.   You are in the company of the Kami of good fortune.  Where I walk and choose, there are no bad surprises, only lucky ones.  But we need you to do your part,” he said, touching the door nob with a finger.  It clicked on its own, and opened widely.  “You began this.  You set the binding magic.  It is you who must begin the conclusion.”

She nodded, straightened up into her full height, and walked into the room.

The room radiated peace. It struck the Kitsune like a wave as she walked through the door and entered.  There was nothing special looking about the room. That was not the source of the peace.  The room was simply furnished with a dresser and a bed, but in one corner, there was a small table with dolls and plushies. Near the table, a nightlight burned softly, casting a faint yellow glow behind the dolls.  The peace didn’t come from them, either,  Nyoko realized as she looked at them. A stray thought touched her, though,  thinking of the dolls the woman should have had, and the wistful longing that things would have worked out differently swept over her.  Her heart longed for the peace the room inspired.  She needed to find its source. Squaring her shoulders, she turned around, to look at the sleeping woman laying in the bed, resting quietly beneath a light blue coverlet.  The peace that radiated off of her was clear, and she longed for that feeling to permeate her.  Perhaps, once this was all over, it would come to her again.

She stared at the woman for several minutes, looking at the play of energy that wrapped around her, the fine cut of her cheeks, the way her hair tumbled out over the pillow. “She...she’s beautiful,” Nyoko whispered.  “She has such an unscarred soul, even after all this time.”

“Reminds me of you once upon a time,” said Daikokuten.

“Was I ever that innocent?” she asked.  “Was I ever that unscarred?”

“Oh yes,” said the Kami. “And perhaps, where it matters most, you still are.”

She shook her head.  “I am wrapped in so much darkness.  I never could see what it is you see, why you and Benzaiten chose to rescue me.”

He smiled.  “There is a difference between how a Kami and how a Kitsune sees things, you know.  At least for some of us.  Although not all of us play by the same rules.”  He lay his hand on the young woman’s arm.  The imprint glowed after he lifted his hand, the light slowly moving from her head to engulf the entire bed where she lay lying. Something about her was changed as the light faded, something untamed and wild surfaced, yet still the warmth of the soul within was not disturbed.

“I have removed the barrier we cloak her in for the moment, Nyoko. It is your turn.”

The Kitsune woman pulled on her power, not the easy power of Shinkiro, the mirage that made seeming hide reality, but the light, which fed reality to make it more real.  Doing this  released her human form for a moment, and she shimmered, became pure energy, shedding her flesh, ghostlike, a less corporeal shape took her place.  Reaching out a tendril of bright power, the tendril rested on the young woman’s forehead. Suddenly a shape, like a willow leaf took shape, at first looking like a tattoo, etched on her skin, then growing more solid,  turning fresh and green like it was newly plucked.

Nyoko’s voice breathed like the wind, free from any fleshly throat, sighing each word.“I bound you once to hide you, Yurime, bound you to  forgetfulness of who you were and what you could be.  I bound you from the touch of magic or the use of darkness so none would follow you to do you harm. The long years hidden, now become minutes as the binding ends its course. The cord wrapped around your life begins to weaken and fray.  This I say to you, and this is how it will come to pass. As the moon wanes, the binding threads will loosen. When the moon is half between full and new, the binding threads will break, the hiding will end and you will know.  All shadows and hidden things will come to an end.  Your true self will stand free.”

Suddenly, Nyoko’s glory faded as she let go of the white light of power.  Lessened and diminished, she stood there, looking pale and frail, somehow smaller than when she entered the room.  The leaf shape on Lillian’s head again glowed, and faded back under her skin.

“You have done well,” Daikokuten said, resting his hand on the sleeping woman, as he restored her to her previous condition.  “Now, in a week, we will have an ending.  And a new beginning.”

“For some, perhaps,” Nyoko said.  She turned and left the room.  She felt very old.

I sit here, almost naked beneath the just past full moon, and consider the strange twists and turns of my life.

This place is almost like a garden.  I remember my mother’s garden.  Sometimes, when I was a kit, I would shift form and chase the small life that ran through it: birds and mice and sometimes a frog or two.

Once I bit a frog.  I still remember the bitter taste, nasty and stinging in my mouth.

Somehow, sitting here in the Idaho woods, waiting and watching the moon overhead, I feel like I have the frog in my mouth.  I breathe deeply, following the flow of my breath in and out, expanding my consciousness, looking for the threads of light, trying to sort out which of the many roads I should take.

Someone, someone of strength and power is manipulating them.  One by one, the threads glow, coalesce, braid into a chain of light.  There are still a few ways to escape, but those escape paths turn from brilliant light into mist, and beyond that darkness.   All the choices, all the chances for light lead to the city beyond this mountain.  From there, I sense a great tangle, some paths grow black, some disappear, but some move on, bright, clean light until I can see them no more.

I hope can find my way through the knot. I will not walk the dark way on purpose.  I am the Guardian.  For her, the girl with the bright, o so sorrowful eyes, the woman who never loved me, I will continue.

She pulls at my consciousness, asking to talk.  I take her pouch out, roll the tama out into my hand, looking at it, glowing red and black and bright.  Tama.  Jewel.  Bead.  Soul.

The soft rustle of fabric touches my ear as she comes forth to sit beside me.

“You’re thinking of her again, aren’t you?”  Tama says.

“Perhaps,” I whisper.

“You only met her twice.  How does she rule you so well?”  Her hand grazes my shoulder.  I feel the nails of her fingers push gently into my skin.

“You would have had to been there to know,” I answer.

Her laugh is crystalline, edged with bitterness.  Brittle.  “But I was there, you know.  Just not yet in this form.  I still lived in – “

“We are near the end game, I think,” I say.  “Does this make you happy?”

“How can I answer that?” she asks.  “Part of me was jealous, angry.  Part of me has lived with you so long, it’s hard to imagine life before.  Will you disappear?  Will I see you again?”

“I don’t know,” I say honestly.  I cannot even begin to imagine life where I am not her guardian.

“Or will you seek her out?”  Tama’s voice is tinged with jealousy.  In my mind’s eye, the only place I can see her, her black eyes flash.  “All of this is her fault.  If she hadn’t – “

“No.”  I shift from seiza into crossed-legged position.  I am tired, tonight.  I have a long walk tomorrow.

“No what?”

“It is not her fault.  You cannot pick one link in the chain of events and say that was the start.” I sigh.  “ I doubt if I could  seek her out, even if I wished it.  We all have moved on and been warped from what we once were. She walks a different path.”

Tama grows quiet.  I can sense her envy fade, replaced by something else, more like regret.  “Forgive me,” she says after several minutes.  “I am afraid.”

“I know, Tama.  I know.”

“Don’t forget me,” she pleads.  In my mind, I see her, tiny and longing and frightened.

“Never,” I say.

Soft lips that I shall never see brush across my cheeks.  With a sigh, she returns to the gem, and I am once more alone.
Revised chapter 6.
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