1 We Meet

Throughout the luminescent field in desperation fled spirits and insects at every angle, the night had been torn into ruin as the village behind became engulfed in unruly flames. One in particular spirit slacked behind the group as they all scattered from the fields, leaving only pair haggard crimson irises to glance behind. They were nearing by the second, allowing the battered fox to truly take in the sight of flames intertwining through the land where he dared once say was their sacred sanctuary.

The foul stench lingered heavily in the air as their guttural taunts called forth, reminding him of his unfortunate imminent. 'Mourning over failure shall have to be issued later.' His thoughts laced nothing but disdain as he followed after the general path took by those more fortunate. His only motivate on mind should have been clear; to restore his fractured Hoshi no Tama, for until then, he could barely harm a small critter without nearly risking his own life-force. All that being said though, only made it harder to carry out his drilled task as his body skidded to the floor without much resistance as foreboding arms grasped his single tail.

Grating winds blew through the field he has recognized the familiar language that echoed through the village not too far off now. 'Dear young fox so far from home, shant we cease the nonsensical chase? I shall end it with the least agony for the entertainment.' There was no space for argument as his body was lifted from the moistened ground, leaving him to peer distastefully at the pair of silver irises. Stood tall and prominent before him was an infamous Yokai. Oni.

The beasts were incredibly horrid with their large tusks for lower teeth and loincloths of tattered and bloody tiger's hide. Their skin, colored in the brightest color of crimson from both deformity and blood of innocent citizens within the village. Its smile offered a false sense of pity as the once prideful clan of Inari's descents was brought down under a single night. All that was left was an unofficial child. Truly pitiful.

Bearing down the kanabō from the last bloodshed it had induced, It spoke once more a few mere words. 'Truly a repulsive sight to look at for too long.' The Oni lost interest as quickly as it was acquired in the fox before pitching it with force against the oak tree ahead, causing the bark the timber forward under pressure at the fox's body. His lungs were on fire from the large breaths he was forced to during running for such a long time, while his muscles began giving out from the large strain he had put upon them.

Their surrounds became suffocating as dirt and dust filled the air from the impact, leaving the once loud atmosphere to become silent. Aside from the fox who could no longer contain the ragged wheezes from the impact damaging his body further. His crimson irises could only offer intense hatred through the dust as he attempted calling forth blue flame only for disappointment. To have been defiled to such a pitiful state as Inari's supposed messenger was upsetting, to say the least. Their bloodline was merely dissipating before his eyes with such imposing failure.

He wanted to do nothing but to brood further on their actions prior before the sensation of ground shaking footsteps brought him back. The Oni had once more hoisted his kanabō to the heavens to deliver their final act on the unjustified rule until wood met nothing but air. This brought forth an unsatisfied grunt as both the Oni and Kitsune looked perplexed by the figure of a young female. Her blonde hair basked in the crescent moonlight as her eyes redirected from the Oni to the Kitsune, freezing him with their soft and unusual gray irises. 'A mortal?'

Her stance shifted as she tossed aside her palm holding the kanabō only inches away, resulting in the owner of it to stagger back in shock of the situation. It wasn't often the Oni was left perplexed and staggering with his own weight until he understood was had appeared in front of him. It was not only human but a prideful Miko from appearance. This left it to furrow it's brow intently as it staggered to a now standstill.

Tension within the surrounding area was nearly smothering the Kitsune as the fires from behind them caught his attention as they roared over in the horizon. His consciousness wanted to fade off in the distance such as the smoke of the village until he noticed the Oni charging forth once more. It bore the kanabō as if ready for another swing against them; that is until the glimmering from not far off pierced directly into the beast's right arm that held the large kanabō. The beast then roared in pain and anger as it dropped its weapon to the ground and looked over to its shoulder.

Embedded deep into the flesh burned was a now blood covered kunai, its master stepping from the field with a smirk gathered their attention. "I'm very proud of you Hiro, but I did tell you to wait in the fields for this one. Although it seems this one might have issues understanding the order of our connected towns, and we do not take kindly to such matters. But we do have manners, so forgive my daughter. She's keen to fight for what's right."

Snarling immediately in a raspy tone, the beast peered a moment longer at it's disintegrating skin before it used it's left hand to forcibly jerk the kunai from its flesh before roaring more as the weapon burnt its palms. It tossed item aside resentfully before directing it's attention back at the pair before speaking. "Miko and Geki, cross the great divide together with your fallen companion then as wished. I shall deliver."

It's declaration brought on an expression of apprehension as the Miko smiled delicately. It left the Kitsune motionless even as she paced over to him and lifted his battered body into her warm embrace. Not once in all his years of roaming the lands of their village had to encounter such seeping comfort. It was as if he was embraced in a world of fantasy until his attention once more was brought back by the pain surging through his limps as the Miko ducked and rolled.

During his immersive thoughts, he hadn't noticed the Oni closing distance before launching another earth-shattering attack. This only left the duo mere inches from the Oni's kanabō as anger replaced the gentle aura surrounding the Miko as she yelled. "I told you I had it under control dad! I'm not bad at using the charms like you! Just trust me next time okay?! I wasn't gonna use this spirit as bait!"

Her supposed father became silent as the scene escalated quicker. His daughter was stubborn as ever as she crouched down promptly between the Oni's legs before slapping her sealing charm. Her actions were thoughtless, however, as she merely avoided the Oni's knee colliding to the earth in obedience to the charms pain. Her father spoke up once more with a dreaded sigh. "Hiro! Have I not taught you to be more cautious during such situations? Retreat back!" His voice offered no room for argument as while the charm restrained the Yokai, Hiro managed to gain some distance between them.

Meanwhile, the once deep purple emitting from the charm became fade as the charm crumbled into mere ashes. The irritated creature staggered back to its feet and stood to its full height, the shadow on the ground increasing in size as the distorted darkness lumbered over the two females. Blood-lust encased the air as the Yokai inspected the trio once more. Both Yokai watched the Miko, one brimming with hatred, while the other was softened with curiosity. The Kitsune stared at the blonde child who she figured was Hiro. 'Hiro? What an odd name for a human child.'

The Kitsune no longer cared much for his surroundings as the comforting scents of medicinal herbs clinging to the Miko's haori found its way to the Kitsune's nose. He even dared to slowly relax in the comforting hold provided by the Miko's hold. Exhaustion seeped into his muscles as the sensation of safety flooded his mind. The world around the fragile looking fox kept moving forward as he drifted in and out of a deep sleep, the Miko noticing the battered and bloody fox eventually sleeping in her arms.

Forceful and harsh breaths from the ungraceful creature momentarily became the only source of noise around the trio as it staggered unnaturally towards them, still bearing its confidence and reassurance of an easy win. After all, most mortals opposed no significant threat towards their rebirth and race, but with its skin burnt and blazed, cockiness was becoming its blindness. A vicious snarl pressed forth through its throat as its feet kicked up soot and dirt with each uncanny step it took, causing the Miko to impulsively cling tighter to the unconscious spirit in a gentle manner to ensure that she wouldn't wake it up once more to such conditions.

Sunlight crept across the old floorboards as daybreak made itself apparent. It's warm embrace shrouded the small figure in which laid sprawled onto a flatten pillow. Small involuntary spasms from the Kitsune's body were brought forth with the beaming lights shining brighter onto him. He was ridden with relentless images of his village being slaughtered mercilessly as they cried for help from the servants of Inari. Their dependence led to their ultimate demise. The faces of his family and those who once visited her shrine flashed for what felt to be an eternity in front of his face.

He wondered if that had been his end as well. His punishment from the god himself for even being within their village, but that still left one question to remain. Had he perished too? There was only one method of receiving an answer in which he almost didn't wish to know and yet, he felt his eyelids flutter once, and then twice. The world around him was painfully bright as he winced under the sunlight beaming across the blurry room.

His stomach churned impatiently as the world stabilized and he was met with a comfortable warmth beneath him. He kneaded beneath his body abstractedly in an attempt to familiarize himself with what he had been laid on. His gaze fell across a window showing the trees sway gently with the wind. It was quiet in the humble abode he resided in, and yet he felt so uncomfortable as the memories pieced together of the prior night. Recollection brought forth the memory of his task to fix his orb and gave an uncomfortable swish of his singular tail. He was rendered down to nothing but a mere infant of a single tail, the remaining 5 other tails hidden from sight.

With his memory and vision back in a tier, he promptly raised to his full height on the pillow. This action brought forth a surge of immeasurable pain on his hindquarters. It was enough to stall his movement entirely as his eyes drifted back with a scowl forming. Blood seeped through the bandaging that was firmly wrapped around his back right leg and coated his fur in crimson stains. His vision blotched in and out as he tensed up in thought only to be snapped out of it by the sound of a chirp. 'Where am I? I don't recall coming here and from the looks of my legs. That was no mere dream. The clan surely cannot be no more. Quite a predicament.'

His teeth barred against his bottom lip as he padded off of the soft pillow he had been laid on and over towards the window where the creature watched him. His eyes glared daggers upward as any fool could sense the ominous presence of another Yokai. He finally decided to speak towards the small bird perched attentively. 'You, Tengu. I see through your disguise. Tease me not, where are we?' The bird outstretched its black wings before taking a few small steps further onto the window sill before a raspy laugh was heard.

'I do not trust your presence around these humans, Kitsune. I have lived on these lands longer than you have, I take no orders from the likes of tricksters like you.' He forced out a menacing snarl from his dry throat he listened impatiently to the crow as it mocked him and belittled his stay. 'But as to where we are, we are at the Rose Shrine. Home to both Kentaro, Hiro and many worshipers. Call it a safe haven if you will Kitsune.'

His face contorted upon learning of his whereabouts as he had heard stories from those within his own village of the Rose shrine but never tended to pay heed to any of the gossipers. He fully intended on scurrying off, as he had mustered up enough strength to push down on his hind legs until his paws pressed against the wall. His tail twitching in focus as he prepared herself to jump up to the window and escape from the new area in a lack of interest.

His chest had tightened at the painful thought of the ravaged village before he mustered up the strength to give a half-leap forward. It had barely managed to get half of his body on the window sill before he paused with his claws digging into the wood to hold him in place. The intention of escaping quickly disappeared when the sound of the door sliding open rung out behind the mid-escaping fox. Startled, he lost his claw-hold on the window's edge and came crashing to the floor as long claw marks were left in the wood. The kitsune's fall had startled the crow into flight while it scrambled away from the window sill. The white-furred creature found his feet and looked up to meet the same innocent gray eyes from the Miko who had shown up on the battlefield the night before.

The duo wordlessly had maintained intent eye contact with each other before the Miko cautiously adjusted her grip on the silver tray in her hands, clueless of how to proceed with the moment. The awkwardness was apparent in the room as the Kitsune stood in his typical prideful stance when noticing the advantage he had upon the Miko who seemed unsettled when another voice popped up. "Hiro! running off from your training at an hour like..this.."

A familiar voice softly echoed from down the hallway as it steadily closed in on the pair until the fox noticed the dark haired man walking up carefully behind the younger mortal's back and placing his hand on her head with a sigh. "You've taken quite the interest in this spirit, Hiro. But regardless, you need to be more cautious with your actions around any form of Yōkai, Hiro, dear. We must treat them all with the utmost respect and privacy when required for it brings good luck essentially to our shrine sometimes. Next time you must knock before you enter the room occupied by our dear Kitsune, and don't run off from your teachers."

Hiro nervously shifted her weight as she glanced down at the floor momentarily before looking back up at the Kitsune, an apologetic expression betraying clearly. "I'm sorry for barging in and running off from training. I just wanted to clean her wound before going to train. I'm a worrier." The awkward apology hung in the otherwise silent atmosphere before she raised the tray with a bowl of warm water and a few folded rags sitting on top to simply show to the fox that her intentions were pure. However, immediately upon seeing the bucket, the wary Kitsune backtracked with a warning snarl before noticing the taller man gently nudging the smaller girl aside before he bowed to the kitsune.

Meeting his eyes out of respect, the man then spoke up. "I apologize. My daughter had only the best intentions in her actions, so you will have to forgive her if she spoke or acted out of turn. She is merely 6 years of age and training to become a Miko of this shrine. I understand that this is a very rough time for you, seeing as you lost all host, family, and your shrine to the Oni. I am here to make a deal with you though kitsune, but you will have to do your best to work with us and our little shrine. I know for a fact it is better than allowing you to turn away from the life of a zenko."

Lowering his haunches to sit gracefully on the wooden floor, the Kitsune looked up at the man as his ears were both attentive to his words and relaxed. He brushed his fluffy tails over his small paws to curl up into a smaller area on the floor before the man offered a small bowl of room temperature milk to the Kitsune. He lowered it a small distance away from the Kitsune as if not to startle him or seem threatening in any way.

Standing back to his full height, the older man paused as he searched for the words to give another suggestion as not to offend the Kitsune. "You see, our small village comprises of peace and reliability upon each other, and it has stayed that way for many centuries. We as shrine protectors make all sacrifices to ensure that. I've noticed without your host nor shrine you may stray from the zenko lifestyle, so in replacement, we offer my daughter as your host in a few years in return for no sly tricks upon our village. "

He subtly bowed his head in respect for the kitsune as the fox made a soft noise in his throat. He then carefully raised off of his haunches and stepped forward to take a lap of the milk, thankful for the gesture as he flicked the end of his tail. The corners of the male's lips tugged into a small smile when he saw that Kitsune decided to take some of the milk, then glanced at his daughter as if a cue to continue the interaction with the fox. "We wish to keep you alive rather than banished. Oni will be looking for you."

Intellectual brown irises peered expectantly down upon his daughter as she took a moment to glance in his direction then back to the Kitsune with perplexed expression. She then attempted to give a small bow only to cause the items on the silver trey to tumble to their side. The action itself was ruined as the sound startled the Kitsune into withdrawing back slightly. His ears remained pinned back as his hackles raised unconsciously in a warning of space.

The female was much more eccentric than that of the elder man in whom the Kitsune felt a small bit of first impressions respect, while the female was noted to be wary of. "I-Uh, I think we can, or could if we put our effort into it, get along pretty neatly since as a Miko in training, I can be very useful when it comes to spiritual things. I- I mean, I'm pretty sure it'd help with giving me more experience as a Miko if I could assist you with the host issue. I don't mind it." An expression of deadpan remained plastered on the Kitsune's face as he glanced over at the silver man in search of answers of why she was being offered a new host, however, upon receiving no look of answers, he grunted and resumed lapping thirstily at the milk. His decision temporarily made until he himself could learn escape routes back to his village.

Watching the interaction between the young Miko and the kitsune, Hiro's father directed his attention back to the kitsune before bowing deeply. "Well, this no longer involves me, so I'll leave you two to talk about the settlement with the village. Show respect, Hiro." The male gave his daughter an encouraging smile as he glanced in her direction before stepping out of the room, shutting the sliding door with a soft tap against the wood frame. Meanwhile, the white fox gave a few more laps at the milk before he smoothly looked up at Hiro, patiently waiting for the nervous human girl to speak up.

Crimson irises remained focused upon the Miko as she had not looked up from her feet, only solemnly standing still while balling up the fabric of her haori nervously in her hand before she spoke up hesitantly. "I apologize for acting out on impulses, I just. After my father further explained what his group and we witnessed back at the Higashi village, I couldn't help but feel like maybe I could help you. It's our fault we didn't make it to your village in time when receiving the help message from your shrine. If I had just listened to father and not… lost my temper we could have saved your home, your family, your village and those in it. If I hadn't been so self-centered… You could have had a place to return to and not have to settle for someone such as me." The young girl brought her haori sleeve up to her face to quickly wipe away any evidence of tears appearing in her eyes.

It became suffocating to breath for the Kitsune as he tried processing what the Miko was trying to choke out. Even for him, being the bear of bad news was an annoyance, and from the sound it sounded to be tearing the Miko apart. Her suppressed hiccups and sniffles told him that even she, felt guilty about everything that had transpired too. It shocked him to say the least, for no child in the last 600 years understood the meaning of life and death when it danced forth.

She had no reason to cry over such issues that never involved her, yet there she was, an occasional tear streaming down her porcelain cheek as she tried to remain calm. "We-there was no survivors from the oni's attack by the time my father and his group arrived at the village. The oni tarnished the building and shrine and the people.." The Miko when silent as a familiar look of emptiness remained plastered on his face.

Inari's future legacy was brutally forced to a close for another few hundred years until either another messenger of the god was made, or created. But this was not how the legacy of the Taraka for Inari was destined to end, even if her family now rested beside Inari himself in the spirit realm where they themselves remained. Thoughts about Inari and her family roamed her mind freely as the fox watched the Miko occasionally sniffle. It was obvious that the young girl's mind was reenacting the events in her mind once again as well. The perturbed kitsune took a hesitant step towards the girl, still restrained by the bandage on his hind leg, the slightest friction of the bandage over the wound causing the fox to wince.

Grabbing the large and plush pillow for the Kitsune to lay on, she gently slid it on the floor over to the injured creature before wiping away the tears that threatened to spill. Hiro noticed the hesitant step of the fox and merely wanted to help, motioning towards the makeshift yet comfortable resting spot. "Here, lay down and rest. You shouldn't move that leg too much since you're still injured. You might strain it above its current ability otherwise." The young girl spoke without any question or hesitation, for she had trained in the medical arts of a Miko since she was even younger. The Kitsune chose to listen to the Miko's advice and stepped on the pillow awkwardly with his wrapped leg, and simply sat and looked at the Miko while his two tail was consciously pulled over his front paws to serve as a source of warmth and comfort.

With a bow of her head, she came to the realization that the Miko made the mistake of giving the deity an order. A hasty apology was forced from her mouth in hopes the kitsune would forgive her. "Please forgive me; I didn't mean to give you orders, it is merely a habit to look out for the well-being of others. You must be in mourning, I deeply apologize." Hiro's tone became weak as she had got stuck on the fact that both she and her father were unable to get to the village in time to stop the Oni before the town became ruins. Hiro raised her head to see the fox studying her with a curious tilt of her head, but the flaming red eyes of the beautiful creature were still dulled with foreign sadness.

His response left a single question forming in the back of her thoughts as she mumbled hesitant at first. "Can you perhaps speak?" Her question was stretched out in hesitation, wanting to avoid offending the quiet Kitsune as much as possible. Yet, from the powerful gaze falling over her figure, she felt her palms grow sweaty. This was all apparent to the silent fox as he found it rather amusing and decided to toy with her slightly. He yipped softly in response before snorting indignantly. This eased the room's tension as she noticed him relaxing slightly, the yip serving enough to earn a modest smile. "Anything with actual words?"

Her amusement lit up at his gentle nod and her desire to learn of her future partner grew. "Of course you can! You're a servant of a god so you've gotta be pretty strong too! But I meant to ask you if you uhm. Would speak for me to hear?" Momentarily mumbling to herself, the young girl looked at her hands fiddling with her long sleeves and then back at the kitsune with a smile.

The white fox had impulsively twitched his tails as he silently debated on whether or not he should actually communicate with the female Miko. He was reluctant in speaking, but the compassionate words and looks he had already gotten from the child had sent him feeling obligated to at least give her something back. In an odd way, both the Miko and the Kitsune were able to bond over the accident that took place the day before, despite the situation not being the best thing to bond over. They both unconsciously felt responsible for the disaster the night before, and it acted as a start to an icebreaker for the two.

"No god or man could have predicted or ceased the attack of Oni in our village human. It was... On our behalf, this happened now. We as spirits failed to serve those who offered us their prayers of security and messages of our God." An Immediate expression of integrity and remorse was evident from the Kitsune's change of tone to both he and the child as his eyes lingered in the direction of the window, contemplating the best choice of words to tell his story to the child. Images of the battle before vividly still looming over his mind as he adjusted his hind legs beneath him on the pillow before his mind steadily forgot the presence of the Miko as a time before crossed his mind.

"Their trust, so enduring that it was there at a time not even I was there. Cherish able regardless, for we served the village for as long as our generations could; when even in the end? Their trust was misplaced and ruined." Rapid patterns of his heart thumped with each image of smiling faces he had grown accustomed to before the eventually vanished from though as if they were never there, to begin with.

His ears were filled with the short laughs of innocent youth as time progressed until the attack and replaced the area with pleads for help. The village he learned many secrets of was now never going to return to its original state, and while he might not have been as well loved as the youngest kitsune, he secretly adored those who visited the shrine. "We were told to watch them from afar and not to interact physically much with the beings. We heard many stories from those who visited our host's shrine and saw many varieties of humans. Big, small, and skinny.." It felt as if it would be easier for him to dwell on the past rather than carry on towards the future alone, for he had 600 years worth of memories in just that of a blink of an eye. Humans are far too fragile to build anything with anymore. So the gods denied nothing further than messages for interaction.

His heart beat as if it would burst out of his chest at any second as he closed her eyes and laid his head down on his front paws. "The gods were right, and so were my father. I guess this is my form of punishment for not accepting we are to bear our gifts alone." The Kitsune quieted down as the room fell silent immediately after he finished speaking and yet he felt as if the human was judging him for even his mistakes now, and for once, he felt the human had the right to. He forced a sigh from his throat in an attempt to relieve the anxious feeling swelling in his chest as the human remained silent, neither giving any indications of her position, or emotions about the story until she suddenly began shuffling. A warm sensation of a palm gently resting in between his ears caught the Kitsune off guard as he tensed up as the fur on his back rose.

"My father use to read me bedtime stories when I was little of gods who carried their doings on this earth alone. Those humans and gods were only to interact to protect the earth, but I never really agreed with how the stories went along. Nobody deserves to bear things alone, even if they're god, spirit, or human. You lost your family, your home, your shrine, your past. Depending on someone during this is okay. It's not easy to deal with." The young Miko's voice trailed off as the kind, and gentle words had reached the Kitsune, his ears twitching with the unfamiliar touch of the child stroking his thick white fur.

The affection from the Miko eventually caused the Kitsune to relax under the warm pressure of the young Miko's hand. "I know how it is to be alone. You don't have to deal with it alone like so many others have to. I suggested an actual conversation because I thought maybe you would want to..talk about it with me. My job as a Miko is to keep the peace within our town, so I will not allow spirits and gods to suffer like this. Although it is a small myth to say that telling your troubles to a stranger can help with easing your mind." An uneasy tail sway from the fox came to a halt as he forced his eyes open in minor shock that such a young human could grasp the concept of such things. Her words managed to send the Kitsune into lifting his head from his resting place and redirecting his attention to the Miko, whose expression seemed still troubled by problems that were completely unrelated to her.

The uneasy beat of the Kitsune' heart steadily calmed down for the first time in the past two days as the child smiled down at him, causing a warm sensation to waver over him... :Long ago, there was a god who fell for a mortal. Their love end tragically, and ours was thought to be no different from theirs. But this is my story of how even ancient tales and rules of mortals, spirits, and gods were broken. We were no doubt scandalous in the beginning, to start a tale of hell upon earth, and even though that is true. I don't my regret choice. I don't regret letting him in. Happiness? Between a deity and a Miko? It's possible for all, but this is where we begin our promise for each other return home someday together.:

Next chapter