The second story I’d like to share tonight from Insignia: Asian Birds & Beasts is by a new contributor, Amy Fontaine.
Amy’s story is a fun adventure about a Japanese boy who meets a mischievous kitsune (fox-shifter).
‘The Star Ball’ by Amy Fontaine
Koki’s mother had been tired when she came home from work earlier tonight. Tired, and distracted. After feeding Koki, she had slouched off to bed and forgotten to lock the inside lock on the back door. Koki noticed. Koki notices things.
Now Koki puts on his slippers, slips on a jacket over his pajamas, and tiptoes out of his room and down the stairs. He opens the back door of his apartment and sneaks off into the night.
The apartment is in a very modest neighborhood in the Northern Higashiyama area of Kyoto, but only a few blocks away is a beautiful park. A cobbled path lined with cherry trees and paper lanterns leads through lush ornamental plants to a red, arched bridge across a stream. The bridge leads to a tea house and a pagoda that stands beside it. During the day, Koki loves to come to this park with his mother, but he has never been here at night.
Koki starts crawling under bushes, turning over rock after rock and catching beetle after beetle. He squeals, a sound that seems more fitting of a five-year-old or a puppy than a ten-year-old. As he crawls under the last bush on the left before the red bridge, Koki’s eyes are suddenly met by a bright, piercing white-gold light. Koki yelps and scrambles backwards out of the bush, hearing a corresponding yelp of surprise and terror as he does so. When his vision clears, he sees a four-tailed golden fox standing before him, growling. Beetle legs hang from her mouth.
“What are you doing here, little runt?” hisses the fox, in a voice that isn’t quite real. “This is my territory, and these are my beetles! You have no right to hunt here, human!”
Koki bows to the fox. “I am sorry, honorable fox.”
The vixen bursts into peals of laughter that sound like tinkling bells.
“Honorable?” the fox scoffs. “You know nothing of kitsune, do you?”
In response, Koki begins to recite the natural history of the red fox. He sounds like an encyclopedia. The fox growls and shakes her head.
“You believe everything they tell you in science books, don’t you? Foolish boy. The things those books have told you to be false are the ones that are most important.”
Amy Fontaine is a wildlife biologist who writes wild speculative fiction and poetry. Her first novel, Mist, is a young adult fantasy about shapeshifters, elemental magic, and being the change you wish to see in the world. She is currently writing an interactive novel inspired by Japanese kitsune folklore for Choice of Games. You can find her published work at https://amyfontaine.wordpress.com.
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