Hear ye hear ye!
All the drunk gentlemen and fair ladies alike,
Today I shall tell you a tale!
Legend speaks of a nine-tailed fox that comes to accompany the night...
She lives and bathe by the deep wood's lake,
Her beauty is unlike others,
Her skin glows under the moonlight,
Her hair lustrous and lips supple,
One look of her eyes and you'll be enchanted for the rest of your life!
But don't be so hasty on making her yours,
For she eats your soul to maintain her youth!
The man stumbled and staggered, trying to reconcile with earth from his drunken stupor. The crowd within the inn laughed and jeered on the man as he falls face first on the ground, breaking the sake bottle that he carried around. The remaining bits of liquor spilled into a foreign adventurer's boots who failed to retract their feet in time. The man looked up into the hooded figure who had strands of silver hair peeking out from the cloak, frosty blue eyes staring intently back. Sobering up from fear of offending the stranger, the man stammered and begged for apologies several times. Yet, no punishment came to the man. The foreigner stood up and tossed a gold coin to the man, "Thank you for the story." they said in a voice muffled by their mask.
Bewildered, the man watches as the cloaked figure disappears into the moonlit night.
Hailing from Europe, the adventurer came to the far east for the sole purpose of finding the legendary fox. It is said that the power of this deity may grant you eternal youth, and the king of Europe will pay a big bounty for those able to return with it. The king was bedridden and frail from his sickness, and so this quest is issued to nobles, knights and peasants alike. And so, the silver-haired female knight from the renowned Kaslana family sailed across the vast ocean to heed the king's decree. The story differs from places to places, and most of them told within a tavern with many drunken men. The knight goes on gathering stories for 3 nights, hiding under the dim shadows of unlit corners. If she returned with the bounty, she would become the Paladin that serves the king directly and fulfilled her late father's wish.
Kallen Kaslana was her name, and her third night was fruitful albeit having to clean her boots from liquor stench.
She turned in for the night at an inn located far from the roadside and closer to the woods, a perfect resting place before she continues her hunt tomorrow. Twins with blue and rosy hair greeted her as she entered the inn, "Welcome stranger! We charge 3 bronze coins for a night and breakfast, stay with us and tomorrow you shall feel refreshed!" they spoke in unison. Kallen showed them 3 gold coins nudged in between the gaps of her fingers, "Then what can I have for this much?" she lifted her hood and pull down her mask to reveal her face.
The twins were surprised and then proceeded to whisper to each other, "Liliya, the rumour is true! There is indeed a foreigner that has been going around giving golds!" the rosy haired whispered to the blue haired, "Yes Rozaliya, we can have a lot of candies this way." the blue-haired replied in an ever-stoic expression.
"You shouldn't wave around your gold recklessly like that, dear stranger." came an elegant voice from behind the candle-lit shoji paper partition screen. The twins straighten themselves up from the voice.
Kallen turned to look at the divider and saw a silhouette of a woman, seemingly sitting behind a writing table. The sound of rattling abacus beads now becomes much more prominent, the woman was calculating with it. "With no more than one gold, I will let you stay here for seven nights. You will have the best room and the servants in your beck and call. This much I can offer you." then the sound of the rattling beads stopped. "Then one gold it is." the adventurer tossed one coin to the twins who fumbles around to catch it. "What's your name, stranger?" the silhouette speaks again, waiting for a reply.
"My name is Kallen." said the adventurer.
"Rozaliya, Liliya, please lead Lady Kallen to our best room." then there's a pause, "Then help her to clean her clothes from tavern's spillage." Kallen was surprised with the command and felt wary of her smell. "How did you know?" she couldn't help but asked as she sniff around her cloak, but only a light chuckle came from the woman. "Other than my sharp sense of smell and the uncomfortable shuffle from your foot, rumour has it that you have been going from tavern to tavern, only eating a bowl of soup and listening quietly by the corner. You gave gold to those who tells a story about the kitsune."
"Tell me, Lady Kallen, why does a foreigner like you have such interest in our folklore?" her tone was amused and intrigued.
The adventurer hesitated on giving out the answer, but then she gave in because she felt like the woman is trusty. "I need to bring back the fox and use its power to heal our king."
There was a tiny laugh from the silhouette, it was not meant to mock but rather filled with pleasant surprise. "Stories carried out by the wind and it disperses from soul to soul. And what if the blessing and the deity you seek was just a drunken tale from lustful men and fearful wives?" the woman asked. Letting the king die would be devastating, but if the power is indeed non-existent... "I will never venture again and stopped being a knight, for I have failed him and my late father. But for now, I will try and look for the existence of this deity.. for a legend doesn't exist without a witness. If it doesn't show before the seventh night of my stay, I will sail home with a wild fox fur as a reminder of lesson learnt." it was a difficult question but she have to ponder about it. Silence followed after her answer.
Kallen was about to turn and leave before she heard the sound of fire burning dried leaves and the smell of tobacco. Tiny smoke wafting out from the silhouette and from the partition.
"Do come back in time for dinner, the woods can lead you astray at night." said the woman.
The smell of tobacco then slowly disappears as Kallen went deeper into the inn's hallway, leaving the silhouette of the woman.
She was hiding behind the bushes, a rifle within her clutch. Instead of a bullet that wounds you, the rifle had sedative ammunition that would render you unconscious, enough to take down a bear without harming it. She doesn't want to injure the creature even if it's dangerous, and hopefully it could be reasoned with if it's capable of human speech. This is the sixth day of her waiting, and there was no sign of the said deity anywhere. Maybe the woman was right, and her search was nothing but a fishermen's tale. The rustling sound of leaves shaken by the wind soothed her thoughts, gently lulling her into a nap. Kallen then falls asleep with her back on the tree.
In her dream, there was a woman with her bare back facing her, long pair of foxy ears on her head. The rosy hair was still drenched from her dip in the lake, she sat by the water with transparent white robe over herself. She combed her hair meticulously with her slender fingers as Kallen watches from behind. The knight then looked down to the ground and saw nine rosy tails rests by the ground, belonging to the woman. Noticing the presence behind her, the woman stopped combing her hair and covered herself up properly with the white robe. Her tail then went up to help her cover up the transparency of her cloth as she turned to face the silver-haired adventurer. She didn't speak, instead her foxy lilac eyes just stared into Kallen's deep blue.
The adventurer felt lightning strike over her chest and tried to approach the deity, but then the woman turned her gaze away from Kallen and disappeared.
"No, wait! Please help me cure the king-" she shouted, but her hand only grasped the air.
Kallen woke up with a jolt, her hand stretched out like she was trying to reach something. A white fox jumped over her lap, startling her and make her knock away the rifle within her clutch. It then stopped by the bushes and stared at Kallen with its lilac eyes before disappearing into the deep woods, its single tail tells the adventurer that it was just a wild fox. The sun was setting and the last bit of light greeted the adventurer's dazed sight, forcing her to shade her eye with her hand. Something fell off into her lap as she tried to block the sunlight, it was glowing white strand of fur.
"Where did it came from?" she didn't remember holding anything, but the fur looked similar to the one belonging to a white fox that leapt over her. But the glow was similar to the nine-tailed deity. It exudes warmth and energy, maybe this is a sign that her travel was not in vain. Kallen cupped the single strand and smiled, "I hope to know who you belonged to and thank them." she then left the woods with the strand inside her mantle's pocket and hoped to find or dream of the deity again tomorrow.
Little did she know was the set of green eyes staring from behind the tree. The pair of greedy gaze the has been following Kallen for days everywhere now came and pounced down on the silver-haired adventurer. Kallen turned back too late and she was knocked into the ground with the impact of rifle's hilt, the assaulter then forcefully rummaged inside Kallen's pocket and retrieved the glowing strand. "This is it! This is what I needed!" Kallen wiped her mouth from blood and looked carefully at the assaulter, a blonde man with a crazed expression dressed in black noble coat. "It's not yours." the adventurer then used her knee to kick the man on the groin, trying to make him let go of the fur. He yelped in pain and lost his grip, Kallen tried to catch the floating fur with her hand. But before she managed to do so, a dagger with a nobility crest engraved onto it.
The crest of house Apocalypse. Nobility serving right under the king.
"No, Kaslana. What benefits the king shall fall into the king's servant. Not into the line of knights trying to leech their way into power." he caught the glowing strand as Kallen was stunned with shock. In terms of strength, Kallen have more strength. But in terms of politic, house Apocalypse have the power to crush her family into dust. Dejected, Kallen moved back and the man retracted his dagger. He smirked and left, "Like an obedient hound, you should indeed know your place. We are finally going to raise as rulers." his laughter echoed in the darkened woods, ringing within Kallen's head.
Kallen refused to eat her dinner and curled up on the mattress, staring out at the moonlight by her room's veranda. She got no reason to be here anymore, and so she decided to sail back to Europe tomorrow. With a heavy heart, she tried to sleep it off. As she was about to close her eyes, a figure with rosy hair and blue kimono was sitting by the veranda, blowing out smoke from her lips. Lilac eyes staring into the blue, the familiar smell of tobacco filling up Kallen's nose. The woman then stood up and walked closer to the enchanted adventurer, dragging her rosy nine-tails behind her.
"Hello, Lady Kallen." a smile graced her foxy features, complimenting the alluring and elegant voice.
This voice greeted her on the first night, by a figure hidden behind the partition screen. "You.." Kallen propped herself up with her elbows, the woman only chuckled. "I see you have lost my parting gift." the woman sat beside the adventurer, "I was hoping that it's enough as a proof of your noble effort, but a greedy heart took it away from you." she set aside her smoking pipe by the small table beside the mattress, resting both of her hands gently over her lap. Her tails rested by her sides, making her look like a flower. "Maybe it was not meant to be. Why did you give it to me? I was hunting you." Kallen smiled sadly as she sat herself up properly, facing the inn owner that's apparently a deity in disguise.
"You have no intention to harm me. Others would have tried to capture me when they see me." was all that she said in reply. Kallen's face went a little red because it was true, and something else stopped her too.
"And so, which part of the story is true?" the adventurer asked out of curiosity, earning a gleeful laugh from the deity. "People may believe what they want to believe. I am just a protector of the shrine, a messenger." she covered her smile with her hand, "As for my powers... I can shapeshift and heal, or bestow a small blessing. But in return..."
"Are you going to consume my soul?"
The deity laughed again.
"I just took something small from your possession. Like this." she stretched her hand out and pulled the ribbon that tied Kallen's braid and let the silver hair fall down over her shoulder, "This have accompanied you since you took your knighthood. If you were truthful with your quest, you will not lose your memory of that day. If you were dishonest, you will not remember anything and go insane." her lilac eyes disappeared under the lid of her eyes, as she was smiling widely. Indeed, a memory of a person is a part of their soul and made them who they are now. Maybe that's why there were tales of this deity consuming the soul...
But now Kallen have nothing from her.
"You can keep that as a remembrance of me. I have no reason to stay here." she clasped the deity's hand and let her hold the ribbon, "You should be safe when the adventurers leave." then she retracted her hand and set it on top of her own lap, smiling. The rosy-haired deity stared at the ribbon, "I cannot take something without giving something back. I have taken the man's dagger, the one bestowed upon him from he was an infant." her eyes met Kallen and it spoke with sincerity, "Tell me, adventurer, what blessing shall I give you?"
Kallen couldn't think of anything that she wants, but maybe..
"Tell me your name, and something to remember you." maybe one day she would come back here again, to meet this deity. The tip of the entity's tails then glowed brightly, and somehow Kallen was drawn closer and closer to her. The deity leaned in, her hand pulled Kallen's closer as the latter closed her eyes. Locking her lips with the adventurer, she bestowed a fragment of her energy, a piece of her soul that shall act as protection before she pulls away. Her finger then slide down to Kallen's chest, drawing a seal of blessing. "Until time granted us the chance to meet again, you shall be protected and safe from harm's way. With this, you shall remember me."
The deity then slowly dispersing into thin mists.
"My name is Sakura."
The villagers speaks of the brave knight,
Her beauty was like a white lily,
Her hair silver like her steel,
Her eyes the colour of calm ocean,
Her resolve unwavering in combat.
She returned from the far east,
Capturing the crazed noble and healed the king.
She lead our armies into battle and won,
Yet she refuses the throne and left for the far east,
The very reason why she held her chest every time she prayed.
There was nothing heard of the knight after she sailed,
But the sailors and strangers carried the stories caught by the wind,
That the knight settled for a mundane life,
By the lake surrounded by cherry blossom she sat,
Waiting for her nine-tailed fox lover.