Time: 600 years ago
Location: Edo, Japan (Now modern-day Tokyo.)
Period: Start of Kamakura Period
The screams of agony were enough to make even the fiercest yokai run in terror.
"Almost there… Come on!"
An ear-piercing howl erupted from her throat, then nothing.
"You're the father, correct?"
"Yes. How is the princess?"
Nothing. Just the sounds of heavy breathing.
"What is it, sir? Is everything going to be okay?" the man said.
"Yes, everything went smoothly. It's okay."
For a few moments, the woman did not move. As the man was about to speak, the doctor interrupted him. "She is not dead, just exhausted. But, this is something I haven't seen for the past 400 years."
"What is it, doctor?"
"It's twins. Two healthy boys."
The man's eyes grew wide, and he opened his mouth to speak.
"Boys!" he shrieked. She nodded her head, waiting to hear the joy in this tone. But what she received instead was a growl. "This is taboo, and I won't accept it!" She wanted to cry, but she pulled herself together and listened to the rest of his spiel. "Do you know how many years we've been bearing girls as twins?! There is no way that it should be possible to have twin boys!" She tried to protest but she was silenced immediately. "Either one of them has to go, or one of them has to die!"
She gasped at the mere thought. "I can't let either of those things happen! They're both my sons, and I love both of them!" She looked at the Emperor in question. "Either you'll have to kill me, or you'll have to make us outcasts!" He cringed at the thought of her screaming at him. "And I doubt that you want to do either of those things," she said with a smirk.
"I didn't raise you to be an insolent brat!"
"You didn't raise me at all! You had your way with my mother and threw me away. Then when you got tired of her, she was next," she spat back.
At this, he was taken aback. "You either do as I said, or I'll have no choice but to take action!" He saw her slightly falter in her argument, but she quickly regained her relaxed composure.
"Fine! But don't expect me to come back after this!" She turned on her heel and stormed out of the Great Hall.
"Wait, what?!" he roared.
"What you did to get the crown was pitiful. I only answer to three people as of today. Kami-sama, my husband, and my dying mother, the true Empress! Goodbye, Father!" And with that, she slammed the doors.
"Halt, halt!" She had no intention of stopping. "Guards, seize her!" he screamed at the top of his lungs, mildly shocked that she would do such a thing, but his anger clouded his better judgment. He turned to the figure cloaked in purple next to him. "And make sure to kill her! Don't fail like you did the last time!"
The shadow that stood listening outside the room swiftly moved to intercept the fleeing princess. I have to make sure that she stays safe. If I cannot do this one thing, I'm not fit to be her husband! He thought to himself. If any harm comes to her or those children, I will never forgive myself!
The shadow quickly followed in pursuit of the princess and the two children wrapped in her cloak. For three long days, he followed them. Never sleeping, never eating, never stopping. Finally, when he saw that they were far enough ahead, he brought them to a small, underground shelter, where no man had ever been.
For 200 years, he stayed with the woman and her children, teaching them The Way of the Fox.
Lesson 1: How to be Stealthy. Hide in crowded areas. The less you stand out, the better.
Lesson 2: How to be Cunning. Don't let anyone outfox you. Use your brain to your advantage.
Lesson 3: How to Trust. Not everyone is your enemy. The more you learn to find trustworthy people, the more you learn to love.
Lesson 4: How to Survive. Cooking, cleaning, living. Anything can happen, so stay on your toes.
Lesson 5: How to kill. When absolutely needed, you should know how to defend yourself. Even if it costs a life.
"Listen here, boys. I have to leave. But I will be back shortly, so don't fret. Take care of your mother, and stay out of trouble."
"Yes, father. We will." Both boys nodded in unison.
"Good. Take care." And with that, he left.
After a few months, the man came back. But he was happier than when he left. His wife and children met him at the door, where he warmly embraced them all.
"What has you grinning like that? Hurry and spit it out."
"We can go back! Your father has passed away, your mild-mannered cousin stands maintaining your spot as Empress, and everyone awaits your return. This is bliss."
"Mother, what is he talking about?" the youngest of the children asked.
"You’ll find out, soon, my love. But for now, we are going home. So pack your stuff, and leave anything that isn't important behind."
Days later, they made the trek back to the Great Hall. All who encountered them rejoiced at their rescue. Oh, how great was that day, for their ruler had returned! Songs were sung, festivals were held, and the days grew merrier! For 20 years, their arrival was celebrated.
Time: 380 years ago
Location: Edo, Japan (Now modern-day Tokyo.)
Period: Muromachi Period
"What do you think you're doing, Tsuin?!" the elder asked his younger counterpart.
"What does it look like I'm doing, dimwit? I'm hanging upside down talking to a mole," he snarkily replied.
"Number one. I am not a mole."
"Maybe not, but you're as blind as one."
"I was going to ignore that, but I feel that as the oldest, it is my duty to make you understand where you're wrong. You fail to see the flaw in your argument, brother. First off, moles are not blind. They are colorblind and can only see movement and light. They use little sensors on the end of their snout to find food and other moles."
"Okay, smarty pants. So what's your point?"
"My point is, not only did you fail to insult me, but you complimented me instead. To put it quite frankly, you're like an ostrich."
"An ostrich? What is so bad about them?"
"Dearest brother. Let me put it like this. Instead of moving your legs fast, you tend to move something else. In other words, your big mouth moves faster than your pea brain."
"Why, you little!-"
"Ah ah ah. I don't think YOU are in the position to call anyone little, younger broth- AHHHH!"
Crash! The two young foxes tumbled to the ground. They rolled over each other until they reached the bottom of the hill. The eldest pinned down the younger and laughed heartily.
"How does it feel, brother, to be pinned down by a mole?"
"Whatever. You win this time, but next time for sure."
"That's what you said 89 times ago."
"Come in the palace, boku no shison. Dinner is almost ready. "
"Sekoii, mama!" both boys happily responded. They raced each other to the stunning cherry doors that concealed the rather large eating area. They squealed in delight when their mother followed in pursuit. Together they pushed open the doors to find a spread of delicious food on the table.
Sitting at the head of the table was their father, who happened to be munching happily on what seemed like wild boar. There were fruits, stews, meats, and desserts of all types spread out for as far as the eye could see, or so it seemed. The boys sat down, and with permission from their father, began to dig in.
"The miso stew is especially delicious, mother."
"Yes, I quite enjoy the imagawayaki myself. What's the special occasion? Why so much food?"
"Your elder cousin is coming to visit the palace once more, so we are celebrating his return," the Empress replied.
"And here I am, Akihime!" a voice loudly proclaimed. Once more, the large wooden doors were flung open. A man with white hair and blue eyes proudly strode into the room and sat at the other end of the table. He smiled gently at the Empress, then at the children. "They've gotten so big!" he commented.
"Indeed they have," their father responded, "What has been, 180 years?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact, 180 years, 2 months, 27 daytimes, 8 hours, 1 minute, and 8 seconds. A very long time. How are you, Haruhi?"
"I could be better, Mamoru. The perks of being old, I guess! Hahaha-haha-hahaha!" Haruhi proclaimed.
"Is that so? Perhaps I should try being old sometimes, cousin!" he laughed.
"So, shall we dawdle and let the food spoil, or should we dig in?" the Empress asked.
"Let us feast!" all of them remarked at once.
A few hours later, everyone's hunger was satisfied, and not a crumb was left on the table. They were each assigned a servant and brought to their respective rooms. For days this went on until the seventh day of the week. The twins woke up earlier than usual, excited to spend a day in the marketplace with their elder cousin, who was waiting for them at the front gates.
"I hope you have everything with you, especially your satchels."
They both nodded in agreeance. "But we have a small problem, Kie Onii-san."
He looked at his young cousins with a questioning look. "And that would be?"
"We each only have thirty mon. We haven't gotten our allowance yet, and you know the system. 4000 mon = 16 shu = 4 bu = 1 ryo," the youngest replied.
The eldest looked up in earnest. "Please, Onii-san. Won't you help us?"
Mamoru sensed the gravity of the situation, or at least what the children thought was an issue. He reached in his pocket and pulled out two sparkling coins. "Here. Think of it as a gift," he said to the boys. "It might be the last gift you ever get from me, so be thankful!" he snickered. The boys reached out to grab the coins and joyfully thanked him. "Wow! A ryo!"
They walked to the marketplace, laughing the whole way. When they arrived, both boys stood awestruck. Never in their lives had they seen so many different people with various types of goods gathered in one spot. There were Africans with figs and citrus, Arabs with assortments of grapes, Egyptians with trinkets, mangoes, and pomegranate, and Indians were selling tigers and elephants as pets.
"Don't go into any alleys, and always pay upfront. Stick together. Now follow me. I have some business to take care of."
"Alright. We will be right behind you." They walked in silence as they disappeared into the crowd. Unbeknownst to them, the stranger who was tailing them sighed, then vanished as quickly as they had come.
"Did you hold the items I requested? I need them now, or else the procedure will be delayed, and we will be discovered."
"Do you have the amount we agreed on? Because if you don't, then you don't get the items."
"Oh, so we're going to play this game. Time shall not be wasted going back and forth, nor will I stand here wasting it, for I am a busy man. I have the amount that was promised. Or at least the amount we agreed upon. I will only give you half the amount until you show me the items. Is that okay with you, sir?"
"A fine gentleman like yourself wouldn't scam an old friend, so since I trust you, I'll agree to that." Both men shook hands.
The taller of the two stepped back, pulled out two white satchels, handed one to the man, and set the other on the table. The other went to the back and brought out a purple cloak and a dagger, a golden dragon with rubies for eyes as the handle.
"I never thought I would live to see the day when you dawned those items once more. One more thing." He reached in his pocket and pulled out a vial with a blood-red liquid in it. "This is a concoction I made some time ago. It will stop your breathing for 20 minutes, but you won't be dead. It also heals any damage you may take while in that timeframe. Take only 3 drops, or else you will actually die."
"I will keep that in mind. Thanks, Jungo. I will bring revenge for the true king. And for myself, his forgotten heir."
After a few hours of walking through the marketplace, they decided to head back to the palace. The two young boys were chatting happily about the trinkets and food they had just bought.
"Are you still upset about that bird being sold apart from her offspring?"
"No, not anymore. I admit I was infuriated at the ruthlessly murderous actions of the seller and the inhumane treatment of the mother and her children. But after we left, someone in the crowd bought both her and her hatchlings for a fair price. So my anger has been satiated."
"That's good to know," said the eldest brother. "Oh, look. We're here."