Kitsune: A Little Mermaid Retelling
Rin is a Kitsune, or at least she was until a witch’s spell turned her human. To regain her powers, Rin must make the lord’s son fall in love with her before the next full moon. She thought it would be easy, her kind have been seducing humans for centuries. But Hikaru is different. He’s handsome, intelligent and kind –the opposite of everything she’s assumed about humans. The plan is to seduce him and get back her powers, there’s no room for love.
Hikaru never believed in the Yokai. In fact, he thought it foolish to believe in monsters. A lifetime of skepticism has guarded him from truths too painful to accept. And Rin’s mysterious arrival in his life challenges all his long held beliefs. She has bewitched him. Though he is drawn to her, he has to keep his distance. His father’s treaty depends on his marriage to another and even an innocence dalliance could ruin everything.
While they try to deny their attraction, they are drawn together as if by fate’s design. Falling in love is dangerous. Not only are they from different worlds, but their time together can only end in heartache. To break the spell Rin must betray Hikaru or be turned into a fox. But if they’re willing to risk it all, they may find a love to last lifetimes.
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The boar was covered in coarse black hair. The giant yellow tusks curved around his snout as he pawed at the ground. The young man stood transfixed in place, staring down the eyes of the beast. Rin watched him, wondering what he would do. From the trembling of his hands, he did not seem to be the type who could defend himself very well. His clothes were tattered and dirt stained but finely made. He must be someone important in the human world. I wonder why he came into this forest.
She did not meddle in human affairs as a matter of principle. They lived such brief uninteresting lives she could not be bothered by them. Then as she stared at the young man, he turned slowly to face her. His dark eyes looked at her and saw her not as a fox, as he should, but as a woman. She could see the spark of recognition, and the confusion, overlaid by his fear. The boar charged and the young man looked for his sword, just out of reach in a bush nearby. Not that it would have mattered either way—no human blade could kill that beast. She should not have cared what happened to him. But as if controlled by some outside force, she pushed the young man out of the way of the churning hooves of the monstrous boar.
The boar roared as he passed, the sheer weight of his body propelling him forward and crashing through the brush. It was a large clumsy beast. It collided with a tree twice as thick as Rin and snapped it in half. It tossed its massive head and focused gleaming yellow eyes on the pair of them. Now I’ve done it. Akio will have my head for interfering. She looked down at the young man as she straddled his waist and he stared up at her in a daze. His eyes glazed over her face and came to rest upon the pair of fox ears on top of her head. No doubt about it now, he knows what I am.
He opened and closed his mouth like a fish out of water. It was rather amusing. She grinned as she jumped off of him.
“We should get out of here; those trees will not hold him back for long.” She jutted a thumb towards the trees that shielded them from the boar’s wrath. The boar tore at bark with his tusks, grunting and snorting as he dug chunks of earth out of the ground. The space in between the branches was too narrow to allow for his massive body to pass. But judging from the growing pile of splinters, they would not remain an obstacle for much longer.
A wild animalistic panic threatened to overcome her. It screamed at her to transform into a fox and hide in the underbrush. She smothered the impulse; for some strange reason she felt she had to help this young man. If Akio wants him this bad, then I cannot let him have this man.
The young lord climbed to his feet, his hands shaking. His open mouth gaped at her ears; then slowly his gaze traveled downward to her foxtail, which she swished back and forth behind her. The boar roared again and the young man tore his gaze away from her and stared terrified back at the beast trying very hard to come and tear them apart.
“Run, my lady, I will defend you,” the human said. He reached for a sword that was not there. So instead he put up his arms to shield her from the boar.
She laughed. She did not mean to, but he had all but wet himself out of fear. How could he hope to protect her when she had to save him first?
“You cannot hope to defeat him,” she replied. “Follow me or die, those are your choices.” She jogged away from the clearing and deeper into the forest, where the undergrowth grew to her thigh and the trees close together. It would be impossible for the boar to follow.
It was foolish to save him, even more foolish to talk to him, but sometimes it was the foolish things that brought the most entertainment.
What I want to know is how he can see me. A human should not be able to see my form without me revealing it to him. Any other Yokai in her position would leave him to the mercy of the boar, but he had piqued her curiosity. He fumbled in the undergrowth as he followed after her, whereas Rin moved about with grace, not so much as bending the grass underfoot. He broke branches and mumbled curses under his breath when his silken robes got caught on a thorny bush and tore a gaping hole. He’ll wake every bloodthirsty Yokai in the forest, stomping around like that. She waited perched on a boulder as he mourned his ruined clothes.
He glanced up to see her watching him, dropped the fabric and continued onward. She flicked her tail and leapt down from the boulder, running ahead, checking to make sure there were no more nasty surprises waiting for them in the shadows. She spread out her senses, searching for other Yokai, and though she sensed others in the forest, none were close by. That’s a relief, at least.
She led him through the twisted pathways through the forest known only to forest inhabitants. She felt the boar waiting on the edges of the forest, where the woods were sparse. He roared again but too far away to be any danger now. He’ll be returning to his master, I suspect. She glanced over her shoulder to check on the young man, and found him bent over gasping for breath. I forget how fragile these humans can be. She waited for him to regain his composure. She wanted to question him further, but she had broken enough laws just by saving him. She dared not incriminate herself further, not in Akio’s realm. She looked away from him lest he catch her staring and take it upon himself to ask his own questions. She had seen the sidelong looks he gave her, and she knew he had questions of his own.
When he stood upright once more, she said, “Keep going this way and you’ll be outside the forest.” She pointed to a narrow animal track that twisted around the trees and led out onto a human road. He looked up at her, then past her to the path. When his eyes were off her, she cloaked herself. When he looked up again, he would see the forest behind her.
“Thank—” he started to say. He swiveled his head back and forth. He scratched his head as his eyes skimmed over her, unseeing. She could see the question in his eyes, wondering what she was, just as she was wondering why he could see her. After a few moments, he shrugged and turned to walk away. She watched him amble down the pathway she had indicated. He took a few steps before stopping to check for her over his shoulder. A part of her wanted to chase after him, but she knew no good could come of that. They lived in separate worlds. How he could see her would remain a mystery. After searching for her to no avail, he continued on the path and disappeared around the bend. She waited until he was out of sight before heading back into the forest.
Once again in fox form, she flew through the forest undergrowth. She could smell blood in the air; the boar had not been completely unsuccessful. I thought humans of this region knew to stay away from this forest. I wonder what madness drove them in here. She leapt over a fallen tree. It does not concern me, I suppose. Though I would have liked to learn more about that human. He was interesting. She laughed at her own curiosity. That is the first time I’ve ever thought that of a human.
As she ran, she spread out her senses. She had felt nothing since the boar, and then as she approached her destination, she noticed an overhead shadow, which leapt from branch to branch, keeping pace with her. If it was a Yokai, they had cloaked their spiritual energy, making them invisible to her probes. And if it was a Yokai, it also meant they were more powerful than her. She reached a clearing in the woods; the trees circled a grassy area open on all sides. It was a convenient spot to confront her stalker, one where she could escape from if need be.
She transformed back into a woman and said, “Come out, I know you’re there.”
It dropped out of the tree to her right. She tilted her head to look at him, as if she were merely curious and not on the defensive. His tunic and split pants were black and he wore a white mask over his face. The mask had only two dark holes for the eyes, no space for a mouth or nose.
“Can I safely assume you are here to welcome me?” Rin asked.
The messenger did not appear to be amused. “What business do you have in the guardian’s forest?” was his monotone reply.
“I am the Dragon’s messenger.”
The warrior’s hand hovered over his sword. “And what message might the Dragon have for Akio?”
“Are you Akio?” Rin asked, though she already knew the answer.
She laughed. “Then I am not inclined to answer your questions, now am I?”
“You saved that human, why? You know I must report this to the guardian.”
She shrugged. How could she explain such a whim when she did not even understand it herself?
“Do you plan on taking me as a prisoner to Akio, then?” She held out her hands as if she expected him to bind them together.
“No, but I will escort you to his palace.”
She waved her hand. “Lead the way, then.”
Rin followed after the warrior. He walked with an upright rigid air that one would expect from Akio’s guard. He did not turn to make sure she followed. Not that it was necessary, he could stop her in an instant if she tried to flee. The guardian’s palace was hidden in the middle of the forest, the entrance guarded by a long rope bridge over a canyon. They crossed the bridge, which swung back and forth. Rin glanced over the edge at the chasm below. Low-hanging clouds blocked the bottom from view. The palace building itself was hidden amongst the trees, some twined with the building, as if it had been here since the dawn of time and the trees merely grew through the structure. The verandas and covered walkways were shaded by the canopies of trees to the point where Rin could not see where the building started and the trees ended.
Once they crossed the bridge, they climbed up a narrow set of stairs, which ended at a double door. There were two guards; both of them had the head of deer and the body of men. They wore armor, painted red, over black gathered pants and tunic. They stared straight forward, ignoring the warrior who had come to fetch Rin. The warrior moved silent as a ghost into the courtyard beyond. It was slated in marble, twisted with black and gold flecks. The roots of a large tree grew in cracks of the marble, like veins. She followed after the warrior, who gave her no instruction but seemed to expect compliance.
They climbed a smaller set of steps into the main building. Here the floors were covered in tatami, bamboo mats, and at the far end of the room on a raised platform sat the forest guardian, Akio. He was a massive creature who dominated the space. He had the head of a boar and instead of hands he had hooves. He wore several layers of bright silk robes. The sleeves draped over his arms and pooled on the ground near his thick meaty thighs. Yokai attended him, all of them animal hybrids like the guards at the door, a few monkeys, and a few more deer women served him platters of dumplings and fish cooked in a thick dark sauce. The warrior who had come to fetch her knelt down before the boar and laid his head down to the ground.
“My lord, I found this Kitsune wandering the forest,” he said in a formal clipped tone.
The boar ate messily; dark sauce dribbled off his snout and onto his bright yellow kimono. He glanced over at Rin like one does a buzzing fly. He had small beady eyes like the creature who had attacked the young lord. But unlike the dumb animal, there was cunning staring back at her.
“You are a messenger of the Dragon,” he said. His voice rumbled and shook his massive gut.
“Is it that obvious?” Rin replied. She could not help but taunt him. Her position as a messenger gave her immunity.
Akio did not seem amused. “Does your master forget that I have forbidden any of his court in my domain?”
“Ah. As the Dragon has often reminded you, your domain is within his kingdom and therefore you are his subject.”
The boar laughed. “You are brash for someone with such a low status.”
He thinks to humiliate me. Well… “That jibe might sting more if it were not coming from a mouth full of food.”
He jumped to his feet, knocking over platters and spilling a jug of sake in the process. Rin grinned, not backing down an inch.
“How dare you insult me in my own palace!” he roared.
“I would chastise you for being rude as well, but I feel it would be a futile effort.”
“You insolent worm. I should have you locked away to rot.”
“And then you would have a real war on your hands,” Rin replied.
The boar narrowed his eyes. “Who are you really?”
“Just the Dragon’s messenger, nothing more.”
“I find that suspect.” He sat back down on his cushion. And then he leaned forward, his hooves folded in front of him.
“The Dragon asks that you attend a feast,” Rin said.
“Does he now? Is this his way of distracting us from his human lover?”
Human lover? She had expected tricks from Akio, but this was too farfetched even for her to imagine. The servants that sat beside him leaned in and whispered to one another, giving her furtive looks. A doe towards the front gave her a slow smile. Rin smiled back, full of honey laced with poison. They cannot possibly know me. I am just being paranoid.
The boar grinned, revealing crooked yellow teeth. “You know about it, I am sure. They say the Dragon has become ensorcelled by a human woman. There are rumors he has even abandoned his palace in favor of dancing to the human’s whims.”
She tried to picture the Dragon with a human. She had spent so much time avoiding him she could not recall where she had last seen him. He leaves from time to time and he’s been known to take human lovers but never for long and never serious. “That’s the problem with rumors, they are often misleading. Don’t you agree?” she said.
The boar shook his head. He waved his hoof and the servants rose as one and filed out of the room. Rin watched them go with a growing sense of dread. She may have bitten off more than she could chew with Akio.
“I have no time for your games. I know the Dragon wants to lure me out of my palace, but I am no fool. You thought to trick me, but you’re not nearly clever enough to play this game.”
“I never intended to enter a game of wits with you. There’s no competition where you are involved.” She examined her pointed nails.
He grinned at her, revealing yellow teeth. Perhaps he missed the insult. “You would have done better to come groveling if you wanted to play a spy, Rin.”
Her mouth dropped open as her stomach sank. How could he possibly guess her motives? She had told no one of her intentions, not even Shin. “You—”
“Yes, I know who you are, and I know you are no mere messenger. You would have been better served to not break my laws as well; I might have let you go otherwise.” He waved his hoof and guards approached from all sides. “Take her prisoner.”
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