Scribbled Cats has been around for more than two months! So here’s the finished story of The Kitsune.
Nothing seemed to be going right that day. Sandy had gone through at least half a pack of paper and still hadn’t got it right. It wasn’t fair. Everyone else could do it, but she had to do it again, and again and again. She was trying to draw something to go on her fridge. Sandy wanted the drawing to be simple, but nice. But her art had too much detail, too many lines. It wasn’t simple or aesthetic, something always went wrong, or it was in the wrong colours. There was too much detail. Sandy felt annoyed that she was wasting so much time just trying to do something that everyone else found so easy.
Yet another paper was torn and thrown into the bin. Well, sort of, anyway. It fell very close to the bin, but it didn’t fall in. Sandy felt wretched, she couldn’t even throw things into the bin properly. She was a kitsune who had the worst life possible. Wait – no she didn’t. The art was straightening itself. It was going well… Then her pencil pot fell and banged against her elbow. A straight scribble was across her almost-perfect art. Sandy wanted to scream. She had been doing this for days now, and tomorrow she was going to have to go back to school. Why me?! Sandy thought for the billionth time. She hadn’t even done her homework.
She sighed and began again. It had to work this time. It had to… It didn’t. When she saw the time, her eyes almost fell out of her head. 9:30. That meant… She’d been trying for eight hours! There was no more paper, so it was time to call it a day and go to sleep. Sandy still couldn’t sleep though. She tossed and turned. She was no good at all. Sandy was a nine-tailed kitsune. The number of tails a kitsune had were meant to say how wise they were. Sandy was no good at all. What wiseness did she have? The Child from The Mandalorian had more wiseness than her. Kitsunes were tricksters, too. Demon foxes like kitsunes were meant to spend their free time escaping into the human realm and causing mischief or shapeshifting into humans and mess around making trouble at schools. The minute the teacher handed out a punishment, though, they’d disappear back into their home realm. Sandy did none of that. She wasted her time doing things like, wasting time.
Tomorrow had to be better. Maybe her best friend, a nekomata called Kuro (means black, which was silly because Kuro had white fur) would know what to do. Kuro knew everything. The problem was that Kuro was too busy thinking about herself to notice others. She didn’t always listen either. Well, it was best to give it a shot. Tomorrow was hard to predict.
Sandy couldn’t sleep because of the bright light from her realm’s three moons. The moons were all next to each other, side by side. Sometimes they changed positions. Sometimes one or two moons would not be there at all. It was because of the complex way the solar system worked. It was different in the human realm, though. Sandy had heard rumours that there was only one moon. One moon! It was probably very dark for the humans. Nobody could fact-check that because it was dangerous to stay in the human realm after nightfall. One wrong move, and you could be cursed to stay there forever. But that was a rumour as well. Still, no-one wanted to take chances. There was a chance it could be true. The last person to go there would be Sandy. Sandy had never gone into the human realm because she did not know how to open a portal. Sandy managed to drift off but woke up abruptly in the middle of the night. Something was missing, she was sure of it.
‘8:15’ the clock beeped. Sandy smashed it off, then realised how late she had woken up. 8:15! That meant she only had 15 minutes to get ready. It wasn’t the first time she’d had to skip breakfast. Sandy brushed her teeth, pulled on her uniform, grabbed her bag and dashed outside. Luckily, Kuro had decided to wait for her. “What did you do over the holiday?” asked Sandy nervously, hoping that she would not be asked the same thing. “It was cool,” Kuro grinned, “I went into the human realm and set fire to a school. The weirdest thing was that all the students seemed happy about it. They started cheering when the school building fell apart. But something went wrong with my shapeshifting. I was a human, well sort of anyway, but I still had ears! And my tails!” Kuro shook her two tails agitatedly. “I don’t know what went wrong.”
“I’m sure you’ll figure it out.” said Sandy, “I’ve had problems too.” There was no need to mention that Sandy could hardly shapeshift. Kuro still looked worried, though. “Never mind,” Kuro said quickly, “What did you do for your holidays?” To this Sandy had no answer. “I…um…” stuttered Sandy. At that exact moment, the bell rang, which Sandy was grateful for. They ran into their class. The teacher was taking a little bit of time to arrive so for the moment, they were safe. “Sorry for making us so late,” apologised Kuro. “It’s O.K.” replied Sandy quickly. She was glad because at least something was going right that day.
The lesson was so boring, Sandy thought that she was going to fall asleep. The teacher didn’t seem to notice her class looked uninterested and bombed them with questions. Sandy was glad (for the fourth time that day) when the class ended, and it was break. She checked her timetable and was relieved to find that it was art next. Art was going to go right because they were doing her kind of art. Kuro was messing around, as usual, swapping their teacher’s tea for juice. Break was unfortunately very short. At least she had art. Kuro had maths to do.
Art was as perfect as Sandy imagined it to be. Her work was much better than her failures yesterday. The day seemed to be a lucky day. It was full of the lessons she liked (apart from the first one) but sadly Kuro did not join her as she walked home. That was when Sandy looked behind her. It was a lucky Neko cat. The cat looked at her. But with what? Was it pity, or was it scorn? Neko cats have unfathomable expressions. Then it began to speak. It had a voice like Kuro – feline yet not feline. It was hard to explain.
“Sandy!” it said. Sandy was shocked. “How do you know my name?” she gasped. The Neko looked unperturbed. “I’m your lucky Neko cat. Everyone has a lucky Neko cat.” It explained.
“Where have you been this entire time, though?” Sandy questioned, “I don’t seem to have any luck at all, apart from what happened today.”
“I’ve only come out to tell you something.” The Neko answered. “It is this: You need to go to the human realm! Part of your heart is missing. You need to search. Search well, and you may find it.”
“Wait, what?” Sandy began. “Wait!” she cried, as the Neko began to run. It was too late. She didn’t have the slightest idea where to look, or how to shapeshift, or open a portal to the human realm. The only person she knew who could do it, though, was Kuro.
But would Kuro be willing to help? Sandy would have to stretch her luck for that. Meanwhile, she was going to have to go home. Already it was becoming dark. But she needed to open that portal by tomorrow. She didn’t have to shapeshift. She could act as an ordinary fox. Yes, a trickster spirit fox, yes, a yokai, but it did not matter. She just needed to get her heart back.
But what if one of the humans found out she was a yokai?
No lucky Neko
Aria was having problems again. It was the millionth problem she’d had in her entire lifetime.
Her cat was acting strange. It was an old cat, a very old cat, so old that it had been born a few days before her grandmother. How did it live so long? Perhaps it was acting strange because of how old it was. But it wasn’t the usual strange. It had started when her cat’s tail began to grow long, longer, and longer and LONGER. Its fur began to darken. And what was it doing now?! It was walking around on hind legs like a meerkat. Or… a human. Aria logged onto her favourite website about cats and searched up why her cat was walking like a human.
It could be scared. No, it wasn’t. There was no reason for her cat to be scared. Aria had no idea what to do.
Little did she know that her cat was now a bakeneko. When cats grew very old, they begin to develop supernatural powers and transform into yokai. Bakeneko start their life as yokai looking like ordinary cats, but as their age and powers increase, they start to walk on their hind legs and grow as big as humans. Bakenekos possess powerful shapeshifting abilities and can transform into anything, from smaller cats to even their own masters. While they are in disguise, they like to dress up as a human with a towel wrapped around their head. Then they dance around merrily, while looking very stupid. They can even learn to speak human languages. They can eat things bigger than they are, or even poisonous things without any difficulty. It is possible for a bakeneko to eat its own owner and then take on the form of its owner, living in its owner’s place.
Unfortunately for Aria, her cat-turned-into-yokai was able to start dangerous housefires, using its tail as a torch. It even had the disturbing ability to reanimate dead things, using them as puppets for their own purposes. Apart from this, bakenekos are generally a nuisance. But if you are sure you have yokai in your house, don’t call pest control! Yokai have powers that you definitely don’t, so you might wake up one day and find your pet taking over the house. This is why Japanese bobcats have bobs for tails – to prevent their tails from growing long and them turning into yokai.
“Please stop!” said Aria, “You’re making me extremely nervous,” she said to her cat. To her surprise, the cat stopped walking around like a human and went back on all fours.
There came a bark behind her. It was Aria’s dog. Aria’s dog was always patted and given treats and attention because it was such a good dog. It was very loyal and never deserted her. Aria was always kind to this dog because it seemed to bring her luck. Lots of it.
Aria never noticed anything until it became too weird to blend in. Which was good, because then she might have stopped being kind to her dog. And if she did, then bad things could happen, very bad things. I don’t know how Aria didn’t go mad because of all the things that were happening, but maybe it was because of how faithful her dog was. It was always there for her, after a bad day or something went wrong.
The cat was too, but these days it was becoming a little distant. And it was…creating trouble for her? No, it must be trying to help. Her cat was very chatty and helpful, not…mean. But still, the other day her cat had been breaking jars. That had to be taken into consideration.
If only she knew the danger she was in! Even if she did, she would think, ‘My dog’s here for me. What else do I need?’
But would it always be there for her? If only poor Aria knew. Her faithful, loyal, nice dog was a yokai, an Inugami to be exact.
Aria did not have a lucky Neko cat. Her house was overrun by yokai. That should have been it. She should have been lucky that she had not mistreated her dog/Inugami, so it was faithful to her, but no. There was still more to come…
Luckily for Aria, it was the school holidays. But unluckily for her, she was bored. So she just walked around her house, doing nothing (apart from walking around her house). Then she searched for some good hiding places. Oh! What about… Underneath her bed? That was the best hiding place there was. Aria could not believe she didn’t keep her diary there. She could also use it for a game of hide-and-seek. How smart. It was going to be so useful…
But I have mentioned that it was a good hiding place. And Aria does have reason for being shocked that she never thought of it before. It was because she wasn’t meant to have thought of it before. Something was hiding there from her.
“Help me, Kuro!” pleaded Sandy. Kuro was only half-listening. “Yes,” Kuro automatically replied.
“So you will?!” gasped Sandy. Things were looking up. She’d get the piece of her heart back. She’d finally be the wise kitsune she was meant to be, a nine-tailed demon fox who could shapeshift and a powerful yokai. Sandy did not have Kuro’s full attention, but Kuro still showed her how to open a portal to the human realm. “It’s very complicated,” Kuro explained.
“Please tell me,” begged Sandy.
“Ok, so basically,” Kuro began. She explained it as best as she could to Sandy, but Sandy understood clearly what she had to do. She had no chance of failure at all. Making a portal is complex, and yet simple. It is like making a spider’s web. You need to know what to do. The things you have to do to make it are simple, but the steps in themselves are complex (have I confused you yet?).
Kuro then demonstrated, by putting her paws together and pulling them apart, making a sort of web of blue fire. The web became a fireball, that expanded to become a portal. Kuro closed it almost immediately, putting her paws together and pulling them apart. The portal became a fireball that in its turn became a web. The web was back between Kuro’s paws and grew smaller and smaller and smaller until it disappeared. “Don’t be fooled by what you see,” warned Kuro, “It doesn’t automatically fold up like that. Be careful when you are recapturing the power you used to create the portal. It may not come back.”
“Thank you! How am I supposed to repay you?” cried Sandy. But Kuro was only half listening.
Sandy walked off and looked for a quiet location to open the portal. The only place she could find was the back of the park, where no-one ever went. Ten to one were the chances of it being empty, so it was deserted when Sandy began to open her portal. She put her paws together and brought them apart very quickly. No web of magic. She had done it too quickly. Sandy tried again, holding her paws together for a second longer and brought them apart. There was a web of blue fire! It was becoming bigger. It became a large fireball. She suddenly realised how much strength she was putting into keeping her magic stable. Why am I never good at anything? thought Sandy sadly, Kuro can do it so easily, what about me? The fireball became bigger and bigger until it became a swirling portal. Now Sandy was putting so much into it that she was struggling to hold on to it. Just when she thought she couldn’t hold on to it anymore-
“Kuro? What are you doing here?” cried Sandy.
“I’m helping you hold up the portal. That’s a very powerful portal you’ve made,” replied Kuro, who was impressed. It was true. The portal was easier to hold on to now. “Anyway, why do you want a portal?” Kuro asked nonchalantly. Actually, Kuro really wanted to know but didn’t want to seem nosy.
Sandy explained what happened with the lucky Neko. “We have to get your heart back. Maybe that’s why you find things so hard to do.” Kuro told Sandy resolutely.
They both jumped into the portal. It was like diving into water. Sandy closed her eyes and went forward. She had no idea what to expect from the human realm or the portal, but she only opened her eyes when she fell into what seemed like nothingness… And landed on something soft. She looked down. It was grass. The grass looked just like their grass at home, but it wasn’t pearly with rain. Instead it was a little dry…and muddy! There weren’t any trees in sight, but there was a large building, several stories high. Could it be a house? Wait, no it wasn’t… It was a school! Perhaps her heart would be in there…?
“Leave this to me. I’m going to go and investigate.” Kuro commanded importantly.
“As a nekomata?! Don’t you know? In the human realm, nekos only have ONE tail, not two like you! They’re bound to notice if a cat with two tails walked in!” squealed Sandy. Kuro rolled her eyes at Sandy. “Don’t be dumb. I’m going to shapeshift.” She peered closely at the school. “It looks a bit like a high school to me. Your heart could be anywhere.” Kuro informed Sandy. Sandy blinked. Before she blinked, there had been a nekomata in front of her. Now there was a very convincing high school girl, who was perfect for blending in. “Please look everywhere you can. Your disguise as a student looks O.K. to me,” pleaded Sandy. “Ok, now or never,” muttered Kuro, as she walked into the school gates.
Kuro looked around. Where could she start? Maybe by asking someone? Yes, that had to be the best thing to do. There was no-one in the deserted corridor. There was, however, an eye-catching sign on the other side of the corridor. Kuro crossed over to read it. ‘BANK HOLIDAY – CLOSED ALL DAY’ it said in large letters.
“Hmm. Bank holiday. Wonder what that is,” Kuro thought, “Guess it’s when the school is closed all day. But when is this holiday?”
The classrooms were deserted, a deafening silence shrouding them like fog, or mist. No-one was in the cafeteria, or the offices, or even in the playground. “Have I come here for nothing?” Kuro wondered. It was very likely, so she exited and went over to Sandy. “Have you found my heart?!” she squeaked.
“I’m sorry, I haven’t.” Kuro replied.
“Oh.” Sandy seemed to wilt like a dead flower. “Well, we’ll have to keep searching. It has to be in the human realm. But we must get back by nightfall, or, you know…” she added, not wanted to name what could happen.
“Right,” Kuro nodded, “One thing’s for sure. Your heart is not here. We must continue with our search.”
What it was
Aria had one look underneath her bed. Then she screamed, but no sound came out. She tried yet again to scream but found that she could not. No noise. Yet the thing which was underneath her bed was still there. It was her inugami’s true form.
Inugami are usually dogs, to blend in with society. But their true form is a starved, mummified dog’s head, often wrapped in ceremonial wrappings. This was what Aria had just found. She wanted to scream but found that she could not. A bark came behind her…
It was the dog.
Quickly, she pushed the head deeper underneath her bed, and tried to keep calm and steady. A million thoughts rushed through her head. The head had to be… and yet couldn’t. But the head looked a lot like her dog, almost identical in fact. Could her dog be in two different places at once?! Surely not. The dog was now panting at her feet, his tongue hanging out. I want to play. Is it time for my walk yet? The dog seemed to be saying. “Yes… I’ll take you on a walk now,” Aria mumbled in a shaky voice. Her dog looked very happy and wagged his tail excitedly. The dog immediately ran towards the door and waited there. Aria opened the door and they all walked out, apart from the cat. The sun shone down on the duo, as bright as a smile, or a LED light. During that walk, Aria’s suspicions that her dog was… well… something completely disappeared. It seemed so normal. It sat down and looked at her with large, wet eyes, asking for a dog treat (just like normal dogs) and it ran after every stick or ball she threw (just like normal dogs). It couldn’t be anything else. Unlike her cat. It definitely had grown bigger. It now came to above her knees! And that was only its back. It couldn’t be over-feeding that was making it big.
Aria was in a light, happy mood when she got back, exhausted by her dog (who didn’t seem exhausted at all). The sight that met her when she got home made her want to scream and tug her hair out in big handfuls. There was her house. But it wasn’t a house anymore.
It was a mess, falling apart, shrouded with fire and thick, heavy smoke. The firemen had been called, but they were going to take so long to arrive… And then Aria remembered. Her cat! She rushed into the building to look for it. The dog waited patiently outside. Living room. No cat. Bedroom. No cat. Bathroom. No cat. Kitchen. No cat. And the rest of the rooms: No cat. The cat wasn’t anywhere on the first or second floor of the house. Still Aria madly searched, only thinking of her poor cat burning to pieces. No cat. Sadly, Aria walked away. The cat must have been smart enough to get out by itself. Besides, if she were too late she would get burned to a crisp inside (it was lucky that on her search she had managed to save some of her things). The room now was filled with smoke, making it hard to breathe. Aria quickly covered her nose with a towel and ran outside. Another shocking sight. Her cat on the roof, twice as large, a tail as long as a timeline, with its tail on FIRE like a torch. The stupid cat had caused all of this!!! She felt a surge of anger at the cat. Why? Surely it wasn’t on purpose. It could have been on accident. Choosing to ignore the fact that the cat’s tail basically had been a sort of torch, probably triggering the start of the house fire, she contented herself with the fact that it could have been a mistake. The cat was probably feeling so guilty. But now it was time to look at more important matters. Her house was gone. No ifs or buts, it simply was gone. The firemen were here now, trying their best to save what was left. Sighing, Aria realised she would have to get a new one. But money didn’t grow on trees, did it? The cat got down from the roof and acted like nothing had happened at all.
What a traitor! Why wasn’t it there for her anymore, like the dog?
One of the items she had managed to save from the fire was the dog-head. It seemed so important. She felt that she had to do some research on it.
Since the house couldn’t be saved, Aria just stayed at a hotel for a few days. She logged on to her laptop and tried to find the answers to her questions. Why has my cat grown so large? Why is there a head in my house that looks like my dog? No results. Except… What was that link, in the corner? She clicked on it. Perhaps it had her answers, or it was just some clickbait that was, unfortunately, wasting her time. What she read made her go pale and feel lightheaded, as if she were going to faint. At first she didn’t believe it and thought it was quite useless. Who needed to know about an old legend anyway? Then she read a bit more, because she was slightly interested, and there was the answer to her questions. Something called yokai. Her dog simply could not be an inugami. But that head… And her cat probably was (it was showing all the signs of turning into a bakeneko). Or maybe it was getting fat. She had to take it to the vet. And fast.
Night came quite quickly. Her cat and the dog wandered off into the other room to sleep while she took the main bedroom. Aria couldn’t sleep, though. She was too busy thinking about the possibility of her pets being yokai. Her friend was coming over to the hotel to help her. Maybe she should be told too.
Nightfall! “We have to go back!” cried Kuro.
“I’m sorry, you can, but I can’t leave without my heart. I’ll be prevented from getting into the portal.” Sandy replied sadly.
“Alright…” answered Kuro. She weaved her portal and disappeared into the darkness. Sandy was alone for now. But something told her she would be safe. She had to be getting closer now. Something else told her it was in this particular hotel. But who had it? Sandy felt weary. She curled up underneath the shade of a tree and fell asleep.
The next day, Sandy knew exactly who had it. A girl who was often accompanied by a cat or a dog had it. Surely she would be keeping it somewhere. But how to get to her? Oh look, another girl, who looked a year younger, was walking towards the rooms in which the girl with the heart lived in. That other girl was obviously her friend. So that meant… Without thinking, Sandy rushed into the corridor and attacked her. The girl was knocked out cold. Sandy stuffed the body behind a large plant and immediately transformed into the friend. Kuro had shown her how to do it. She would be fine. But she had also been warned that she would still have her ears and her tails. Sandy would have to refuse to show her back to the heart-holder. The coast was clear. Sandy pulled on a hoodie and advanced towards the door. She knocked. The heart-holder girl opened it. “Hi!” she said. Sandy said hi back. The girl hadn’t noticed anything strange yet. Good. That had to be enough time to wrest the piece of heart from her. “Um, why don’t you take that hood off?” the girl asked. Sandy was fuming. Why was she making it so hard?! “No, I’m fine.” Sandy said, “My ears are kind of… cold. Yes, that’s it. They’re cold.”
The girl looked a little suspicious for a moment, then invited her to have some tea. That was fine. Maybe they could talk, and the girl would make it obvious where the piece was. They both sat down in armchairs. The girl did not notice the strange way Sandy sat down. “Um… Are there any good hiding places here?” Sandy asked, then immediately regretted it. It sounded so silly and far too obvious. “Sorry?” the girl replied, looking at Sandy as if she had just sprouted whiskers. “I mean… So there’s these… birds that snatch everything valuable to you, then…they don’t give it back. Luckily, I found out a way to get the items back… but to prevent it in the first place, I find out where you keep your valuables… to…um…say whether it is safe enough.” Sandy lied. It wasn’t a very good story, but the girl seemed satisfied.
“Well… I keep my diary underneath my bed, and I keep my lucky cat charm bracelet under my pillow…” the girl confidently listed. Sandy was shocked at how bad these hiding places were. If such birds existed, they would’ve taken all of it by now. But then again, there weren’t many hiding places in a hotel. There was nothing to suggest a piece of heart anywhere. Disappointed, Sandy stayed sitting, as she wasn’t about to risk showing her tails.
Then the girl told her something which caught her attention. The girl’s dog and cat had been acting so weirdly, and when she searched it up, it said that they were something called yokai.
Yokai! thought Sandy, Hmm… Interesting. They probably know where it is. I wonder why they aren’t in my world. Maybe because they stayed to mischief this girl. Yeah, I kind of feel sorry for her. One yokai is bad enough. But two?! She should be lucky it isn’t a kitsune…
“Do you think they are yokai? I mean, they could be, but it’s only an old legend. Surely not… Do you think they could be?” the girl said.
“Wait, what?” replied Sandy, who had not been listening.
“Yokai,” answered the girl. Sandy was about to say yes, they were, but then remembered she wasn’t meant to know. “I think,” she said carefully, “that they aren’t. It’s not possible. I think you should take them to the vet. The vet might have an explanation,” she pointed out, “It’s probably happened before.”
“You’re right,” said the girl, “I should. I don’t know why I didn’t take them before.”
Sandy waited for the girl to get up and turn her back so that she could leave. But the girl didn’t. “You can leave now,” the girl told her.
“Sorry, I’ll leave in five minutes, I just need to… use the bathroom.” Sandy said, hoping against hope the girl would turn around. The girl did, and Sandy quickly got up and ran towards the bathroom. She had to run backwards in order not to show her tails, but it was fine, at least she knew that even if the girl didn’t know where her heart was, the yokai probably did. If they were yokai at all. It had to be here somewhere.
Kuro promised she would meet up with Sandy after this. Sandy hoped nothing had happened to her, because she was at least a few minutes late when going back home. In those few minutes, it had been night…
Hopefully, nothing had happened. Right now, she had to get out of the hotel without being seen by anyone. Perhaps the real friend had already woken up. She opened the bathroom door. And then…
Aria’s day was just weird. She was glad that her friend was coming because she always solved problems. She was sure that her friends might agree that yokai were probably real. But this time, she was acting so weird (like her day) and edgy. Aria knew it right from the start. The choice of clothes. Her friend’s favourite colour was yellow; no doubt she would turn up somewhere in her preferred yellow T-shirt and denim jacket. But this time… she had been wearing a grey hoodie, even though it was a warm day. And she had refused to take off the hood. That was very strange. It was almost like she was hiding something. She refused to turn around too. The strange way she had sat down was most unlike her. She had spoken too quickly, using old words like ‘Crikey’ and ‘Thrice’. Those words were from centuries ago! That strange way she had acted. Something was not right. Aria was about to ask her friend the meaning of this behaviour when her dog came. The dog barked and growled and bared his teeth. “No! Don’t bite her! She’s a friend!” Aria screamed. But her dog seemed to not hear her. Her friend shrieked with fright and disappeared. Wait, no she didn’t. She had turned into a large fox with gleaming eyes. A fox with nine tails… very much like… “A kitsune!” Aria shouted. The kitsune looked shocked and scared. “Explain!” Aria said crossly, sinking down onto an armchair. The kitsune sat down too in the funny cross-legged way. The kitsune began to speak. Aria was told about how she had come to the human realm to search for a piece of her missing heart. Aria felt disbelieving. That meant yokai were real! That meant her cat and dog… Time to not think about it. “Why were you refusing to turn your back? Why did you shapeshift into my friend? Why were you using such old words?” Aria demanded to know.
The kitsune looked slightly uncomfortable. “I was refusing to turn around because when kitsunes transform into humans, we still have ears and our tails. I was trying not to show it. And as for turning into your friend, it is because I believe my piece of heart is here somewhere. I’m afraid your pets are yokai. The dog will not give you any trouble so as long as you do not give him any trouble, but the cat…”
“Why do you have so many tails?” asked Aria.
“I am actually very old, and very wise, and consequently, very powerful. Kitsunes are all very old. Every hundred years we gain another tail. I am more than one thousand years old.” The kitsune said proudly, “There is much you do not know.”
“Shouldn’t you have more tails?” asked Aria.
“Nine is the maximum.”
“Are kitsunes always evil?” asked Aria, hoping the answer would be no. Fortunately, it was.
“We are trickster spirits, but we are not evil. We choose what path we take, whether good or bad. We can choose to be a good friend or a terrible bully.”
How wise she sounds! thought Aria admiringly. “I’ve decided something.” She told the kitsune, “I want to help you on your search for your heart.” The kitsune looked surprised and happy. “You will?!” it yelped. Aria nodded. “Oh, wait. This time I actually need to go the bathroom,” the kitsune told her. “O.K, you can go,” Aria replied. While it was busy trying to figure out how use the toilet before realising you needed to lift the lid, Aria sensed something tiptoeing behind her. It was her cat. The cat grinned, flashing all its sharp, white teeth. Aria gulped, too scared to smile back. The cat had grown to roughly her size and the tail was probably as long as the side of a small boat. Then the cat pounced onto Aria. “Dark! No!” Aria screamed. Aria was knocked out and stuffed behind a plant just like her friend. The evil bakeneko found that she could transform into Aria! The neko was so pleased that it grabbed a napkin, put it on its head and danced around the living room. Upon hearing her friend scream, the kitsune rushed out of the bathroom. Aria had not been knocked out fully. She was simply just very dazed. She decided to stay where she was; this was no time to fight a bakeneko. The kitsune looked around for the source of the scream. Aria wanted to scream, but something told her it was safer to keep out of harm’s way, where she could figure it out. The traitor bakeneko had shapeshifted into her. To the kitsune, it looked like Aria had been there all along. But the kitsune was smart. “Where do you keep your lucky cat charm?” the kitsune demanded. The bakeneko did not know. “You fake!” the kitsune spat, “You’re that bakeneko, aren’t you?” The bakeneko had no choice but to shapeshift back into what it originally was. “Where’s Aria?” asked the kitsune. The bakeneko pointed to the plant. The kitsune dragged the plant away. Finally, Aria was able to get up. But then she saw something that made her heart stop. “Don’t look at me!” she shouted at the kitsune, “Look at what the cat’s doing!!!” The kitsune turned its head to look. The bakeneko was getting away. “I have the piece of your heart, Sandy,” it hissed at the kitsune, “I stole it from you ten years ago. You may not remember, but I do. Catch me if you can!” Then it jumped out of the window, out of sight.
Aria looked at the kitsune. It seemed to have gone pale. “I knew it. Bakenekos never are up to any good at all. I should have known from the start that the cat had it.” The kitsune whispered.
Sandy did remember, well, sort of anyway. She vaguely remembered what had happened. A young girl of eight or nine or ten had been collecting plants (had she found a Zen leaf?). There had been a boy there, too. He had been saying how ridiculous collecting plants was, and the girl had been saying how silly collecting toy cars was. Then she gave him some extra sandwiches because she felt bad for jeering at him.
Kuro had created a portal for Sandy, so Sandy went inside. It was to the human realm. Sandy had seen both of the humans and decided to steal the leaf. But when she stole the jar, the humans ran after her. She went back through the portal, and so did the humans. They entered her realm. After that, she wasn’t quite sure what happened after that. They must have been helped by a tanuki, as they turned up in a disguise of a kimono and a kitsune mask. That way, they looked like young, naive kitsunes.
Sandy had been hoping to eat the plants, but the girl scammed for the leaf. Sandy had been hoping to scam off the plants, but by the time she had figured out what the girl did, the humans had grabbed the jar and made for the exit. Sandy also remembered how foolish she had felt. She had not remembered this earlier because she tended to remember older things better than recent things. The girl had a cat with her. It must have been then that the cat stole the piece of heart. But how?
“We have to get that piece of heart back!” cried Aria, after Sandy told her that story. She agreed, and they dashed out of the hotel. Half-way, they were met by Kuro. “Meet Kuro,” Sandy said to Aria, breathless from running. “She’s a nekomata. A bit like your cat, except with two tails,”
“Hi!” said Aria. Kuro said hi back. “It’s no good if we just give chase. We must create a sort of trap,” Kuro explained. “What should we do?” asked Aria. “I suggest we lure her into a portal, probably into our home realm. Then we can fight her easily,” suggested Sandy. “Good idea,” nodded Aria.
Kuro and Sandy both weaved the portal. It would be easy to trap the bakeneko now, because Aria had given them a package of some special cat food that was sure to tempt her pet. “Good luck!” Aria called.
Sandy held up the package of food. “Come get me if you want it! Come get me if you want it! Come get me if you want it!” she sang.
“I don’t want it!” grinned the bakeneko from atop a roof, “You can’t tempt me! Ha ha!” But soon the appealing smell of the food reached the neko. The bakeneko tried hard to resist it but she couldn’t. It smelled really good. If only she could go down and take a small bite… So that is exactly what she did. But to her annoyance, Sandy began to run away as soon as she had reached her. The bakeneko ran forwards again, and Sandy at once backed away. Then Sandy threw the food. The bakeneko leapt after the food without any hesitation. But she hadn’t seen where she was going… which, unfortunately for her, was in the portal.
The others jumped in after her and Kuro closed the portal. Aria was able to hold the cat’s paws so that she couldn’t do anything, while Kuro grabbed the cat’s collar. There it was: the glittering piece of heart. Sandy picked it up. This was the moment she had been waiting for. The piece of heart began to shrink. It seemed to melt into her. And then it was gone. But Sandy knew that it had come back.
She suddenly felt she could do anything. The bakeneko was trying to walk away. Sandy took one step forward – and the bakeneko was now a kitten. “What?!” mewed the neko, “All my powers! They’re gone! I’m just a lowly kitten!”
“I’ll take you in if you say sorry,” said Aria.
“Fine. Sorry.” Grumbled the bakeneko-turned-into-a-kitten. Aria picked it up and was getting ready to go back through the portal with her dog. “Thank you for making my life interesting. Yokai are real, and they can be everywhere,” Aria said to Sandy and Kuro before she left, “I’ll keep that in mind,”
Sandy and Kuro waved at Aria as she exited the yokai realm. Sandy felt she could do anything and everything. Nothing was impossible.
We all start off as nine-tailed kitsunes, we just need to be patient and work hard for it.
P.S. If you want to know what happened to Aria’s friend, she woke up and Aria had to give her a long explanation.