PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Sturdy, muscular and strong. Tall and imposing./Lithe, little, and willowy, with long hair and big eyes.
VOICE QUALITY: Loud and boisterous, except when calm./Quiet and meek, shy.
LITERACY: Reads well/does not read.
CLOTHING: Plain brown and cream pants and shirt/Plain, simple, dappled cream and auburn dresses.
FAMILY: None/none known of.
SKILLS: Reads and writes well, and is a scribe to important people./Cares for people and the temple, runs quickly (is nogitsone, and can change into a fox).
PERSONALITY: Easily angered and sometimes foolish, but is wise in some ways and wants to be calmer; does become so, in Kitsune's presence./Meek and shy, obeys people and does their every bidding. Wise in her way and mysterious.
Akiro was angry. It seemed he had always been angry; he allowed frustration, confusion, and pain to overwhelm him and he was known for his hot temper. Akiro was angry this time because he was being sent away to a secluded island to find silence of heart and peace. In a way he was glad--he wanted to be calm--but the fact that it was not his idea simply burned him up. But there he was, walking through the forest of a tiny island, scrolls, brushes, and books carried in a sack on his back.
When Akiro reached a clearing in the center of the island, he was surprised to find a deserted temple. However, it proved the perfect shelter, and Akiro laid out his belongings. Out of the corner of his eye, Akiro noticed a willowy girl walking toward the temple from out of the forest. He frowned.
"I was told no people were here!" he shouted. "Go away." But the girl did not go away and did not stop. In fact, at the sound of his voice, she picked up her skirts and came toward him at a run--she ran faster than anyone he had ever seen, dark russet hair streaming out behind her like a tail. At the temple stairs, the girl stopped and stared at Akiro, and then bowed. Out of politeness, Akiro bowed back. When he looked up, the girl was gone. With a smile and a sigh, Akiro turned around--and jumped. The girl stood beside his scroll and brushes, gazing at him solemnly.
"I am Kitsune. I care for the temple," she said. And she did. Once a week Kitsune came and swept the floors of the temple and scrubbed its walls to shining with loving attention. She also cared for Akiro, placing fresh camellias in a bowl beside his bed. When Akiro twisted his ankle when out hunting, Kitsune carried him back to the temple and tended to him. After that, Kitsune came every day, as if knowing that Akiro needed her assistance. Although Kitsune disappeared, she was always there in the morning, curled up at the end of his tatami mat. Although he questioned her, Kitsune never revealed her whereabouts of the previous night.
Akiro became used to her presence; the way she rarely spoke; her peculiar grace and lithe, little body; the way she put her head to the side when she listened to him speak or the whisper of the wind. Akiro was beginning to find peace.
Autumn came, bringing the trees to dazzling, radiant shades of amber gold and ruby orange, until they shed their splendour, reduced to bare skeletons while all their fiery finery fell in brilliant, crackling showers that, unlike the flames they resembled, did not burn the ground. Akiro noticed Kitsune staring intently at the display, her body tense and taut.
"What is it?" he asked, and her gaze flickered briefly to him.
"The leaves. Aieee, the leaves," she cried, jumping to her feet and darting into the fray. Eager as a child, she sprang wildly from place to place, stalking the leaves to pounce them and rolling in the piles gleefully. Then all at once, as if a fever had left her, Kitsune brushed off her clothing, smoothed her hair, and returned to sit on the temple steps.
Akiro was enchanted. He had never seen a woman like that before, who behaved so unabashedly wild. He took her hand and stroked it methodically.
"Kitsune, will you marry me and stay with me always?" he asked.
"Always? What is always?" Kitsune replied, struggling to get away. Finally she agreed, and they were married on the mainland. Akiro was supremely happy, although Kitsune shivered all the long boat trip back to the island. That night Akiro and Kitsune shared the tatami mat.
Later, Akiro woke and rolled over to gaze at his wife, bathed in the cold white moonlight, and found, to his surprise, that Kitsune was not there! A tiny flicker of anger burned in Akiro, and he did not try to calm himself. Instead he waited for Kitsune to come.
Kitsune arrived early in the morning at the first rosy-white glimmers of daylight. She seemed surprised to see him up, but said nothing and placed fresh camellias in the bowl as usual.
"Where did you go?" Akiro asked, his voice cold steel. Kitsune did not answer, although she paused, the bowl of flowers in her trembling hands. Angered, Akiro shook her, rationality and calmness forgotten. Kitsune did not cry out, but with a stricken look on her face, dropped the bowl. It shattered, and the water formed little puddles on the temple floor, in which Akiro could see himself reflected a thousand times. Kitsune's hair fell around her shoulders, hiding her face, but in the shards of the bowl Akiro saw the sharp-featured head of a fox staring at him. Looking up, he saw only Kitsune, weeping, trembling at the sight of him, unable to move. Then he knew: Kitsune was nogitsone, a were-fox. His terror fueled his anger and it knew no bounds.
"You are not human!" he cried, making her flinch. "Monster, wild thing, demon, beast. You will rip me or tear me if I let you stay. Some night you will gnaw upon my bones. Go away!" At these harsh words, Kitsune fell to her hands and knees and shook twice, her hair flowing over her body. A vixen, she dashed away.
The snows came early; Akiro's heart was cold. At night he dreamt Kitsune wept by his side, and always his ears were filled with the barking of a fox.
"Go away!" he cried to his unseen Kitsune, his wife the nogitsone.
One night it was bitter cold, and finally the barking ceased. Akiro knew Kitsune was gone.
Spring came, grasses shyly pushing through the snow. In the powder still dusting the ground, Akiro saw the footsteps of a woman and a fox, as if the maker had been unsure which form to choose. Akiro's heart fluttered, and he followed the prints, hoping...alas, they led him not to Kitsune but to a pair of fox kits snoozing by his books. Anger boiled within Akiro--he wanted his wife, not these tiny balls of cinnamon fur. And then he remembered it was he who had driven Kitsune away. Weeping, he picked up the tiny kits and hugged them close; but at his touch, they became human infants. Akiro smiled and walked toward the forest, where he knew Kitsune was waiting.
On the way, Akiro was stopped by a loud flapping sound, and the sound of a fox yapping, a woman screaming. Then the sounds stopped, and laughter drifted to his ears. He started to run, the babies held fast in his arms.
"Kitsune, Kitsune, beloved!!" he shouted desperately, "Kitsune, come to me! I'm here!" He stopped and circled slowly, listening. He heard the sound of quiet, soft footsteps.
"Akiro," said his wife softly, gazing at him from beside a tree. "You came, too late."
"Too late?" asked Akiro, his heart wrenched for one aching moment that lasted longer. "Too late for what?" Anger and sadness boiled in him.
"You did not come for me after you sent me away. I have been here a long time, Akiro." Akiro fell to his knees, feeling numb.
"But...I....you...." Kitsune smiled sadly at him.
"I have been sent for by....a place. A dragon place, Akiro." As she spoke, a small green dragon landed next to her, a red-haired woman perched upon its back.