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    Tsukihana
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Do vaporwave kitsune count technicolor sheep? - 9. Chapter 9

The sky above still resembles crushed grapes and the rain falls in miserable sheets atop my head with no signs of stopping. At least I got something to eat. Through the gloom I see the billboard for Top Notch Loans gleaming through the downpour.

“Stupid Faes, you deserved an acid ball.”

I keep looking over my shoulder as though I will find the hound still at my heels. Moving on autopilot, I do not feel relief until the city is rising up behind me to touch the sky. This time it’s easy to pick my path back to the kobold’s den, letting myself become lost in the riot of colors that has come to life in the downpour.

Frog-like creatures with bulging eyes and bulbous croaking throats chorus above my head in the boughs of the neon tree branches. Their songs compete for dominance even to the point of being heard over the deluge falling upon us.

I’m surprised that I’m still able to see beauty in this mad world, even as my steps begin to drag through the rivulets of rainwater and mud. The meat pie already feels like a warm and delicious distant memory as my stomach continues to growl angrily.

I let my body shrink into its ‘chibi’ form, almost as though reflecting how small I feel on the inside after that cluster fuck of a venture. Failure weighs heavy on my shoulders, coupled with the shame of not even learning anything of note about the missing kobold. Now I’m sopping wet and trudging back to their den with nothing to show for all my big words.

Some goddess I am.

Through the crush of trees and glowing overgrowth I can scent the smell of brimstone even through the sheets of pouring rain, signaling that I am traveling in the right direction. The paths here are becoming more clear cut in my mind, forming a secondary mental map. My mind is more at home here in the wilds of this world. Nature is a familiar entity no matter where you find yourself and there is comfort in her wild cutthroat savagery.

Incandescent splendor reigns around me as the fat raindrops landing on laden leaves draw forth mysterious halos of light that ripple across their waxen surfaces. Like a beacon drawing me back home, I spy the familiar overhang of foliage that shields the tunnel entrance from the view of any unsuspecting passerby.

Ducking beneath their cover, I make an attempt to shake away most of the water drenching my fur before seeking shelter within the well worn earthen burrow. Instead of being claustrophobic encased within the bowels of the earth, it brought me a sense of comfort. I am a kitsune after all, burrowing in the dirt is not beneath me.

“Lady Moon?”

Ein, the green anole, emerges from the dark recesses to greet me.

“Yes, it’s me.”

“Oh, thank goodness. I told the others not to fret, that it was surely only you returning to us.”

Bowing low before me for a moment before rushing to stand at my side, he ushers me deeper into the system of caves towards where the remaining kobold await.

“We’ll have you dried and comfortable in a moment, Amethyst One.”

“Thank you, Ein. It’s been a long morning.”

“I’m glad that our prayers have returned you safe to us, Lady Moon. We believed wholeheartedly in your magnificence, my lady, but I hope now you have seen for yourself what dangers await in the stones that touch the sky.”

“Indeed, your worries or well founded, Ein. Though my journey was indeed short lived it was eventful and I did gain a sense of what dangers lie in wait with Gatsby’s realm.”

“Lady Moon, The Amethyst One whose coming was foretold has returned to us from Gatsby.”

Ein announces with a flourish to the others as we enter the main communal area.

“My Lady, you are soaked.”

Katia rushes over to where a pile of rough blankets is neatly folded and stowed away beside their rudimentary beds. Grabbing an armful of them, she disperses them among the other waiting kobold.

“Let’s get you warm and cozy, okay?”

“I’m fine, really. No need to get your bedding soaked on my account.”

“Do not worry. Lost Ones have enough to take care of ourselves too. One with lovely fur such as yours must take time to dry properly or you will become ill.”

Before I can protest further, they throw the squares of cloth over my wet trembling frame and begin toweling my coat dry. I must admit that it feels heavenly and I let my eyes drift closed as their little hands wipe the rain from my body.

Baba, who I can tell from his brother by the healed scar on his left shoulder, steps forward with clasped hands.

“Pardon me, Lady Moon, for bothering you while you are at leisure...but was there any news of Laika?”

Opening my eyes, I give him a sympathetic look. It’s obvious from his posture that he’s been fretting greatly over his friend’s fate during my absence.

“There is nothing to forgive, Baba. Unfortunately, I don’t have any news on your friend, but we must not lose hope.”

Frau, taking up her role as dominant female I’ve noticed, places a consoling arm around Baba’s shoulders in a show of solidarity.

“Lady Moon is correct. We must remain hopeful. If the Amethyst One would be so kind, would you tell us what it is like in the stones that touch the sky? Most of us have never dared to enter the city and we are confused what sort of spell it could have placed on Laika to act like he did.”

Much warmer and drier than before, I paint a picture of what lies within the city limits. Describing the sea of smokestacks belching clouds from the factories and watching their faces become alight with wonder. I tell them of the line of carts with their wares to sell along the sidewalks, and how I daringly pilfered a meat pie in my dire hour of need. They cheered for me and I described losing the vendor in the fray. Their little reptilian jaws hang agape as I speak of the wealth and riches that surround you as you spiral ever higher into the sky.

“My companion and I ran afoul of a most tricky creature I’m afraid. It caused us to have harsh words with each other and in a fit of anger I separated from him. It is due to this that I had to prove my mettle and show that I don’t need his currency.”

“Lady Moon is cunning indeed to have stolen from under the noses of the sky dwellers.”

Frau’s neck frill shakes with excitement as I pause in my tales.

“How is it that the Lost Ones manage to survive without going into the city? What do you sustain yourself with?”

This time it is Gustav, the skink of shining brown scales that steps forward with his chest puffed out proudly.

“If the Amethyst One would follow me, I would be very happy to show you.”

Katia and Frau collect the blankets from upon my back and I stand to follow the stout male. He leads me towards the tunnel they were busy expanding yesterday and I can see that another connects out of sight to the right. This leads to a smaller earthen room that is noticeably cooler than the main sleep area.

Walking over to storage boxes that appear to be formed from sheets of now dull bark and ropes of braided fiber, Gustav gestures within.

“The Lost Ones are skilled hunters and sometimes even catch fishes. When the twins disappear in the night, we go out into the forest and reap the bounties of the white dragon.”

I peer into the boxes and see bundles of dried meat and salted fish wrapped in tied leaves. There are also dried berries, grasses, and things that I honestly can’t identify.

“How very clever you all are.”

His forked tongue flicks in and out as he grins broadly.

“When the time of sleeping comes, none will have to do without. We are ready.”

Empty flagons that must be fashioned from the innards of some creature hang neatly from the wall on wooden pegs.

“Is there a source of fresh water?”

If anything his grin grows even wider and with a flourish he bids me to precede him back into the tunnel. My curiosity piqued, I sniff the air and sure enough to my right I can smell the scent of water. Following my nose beyond the overlaying brimstone and dried goods, I can pick out the clean mineral taste in the air of an underground aquifer.

“I must say I am very impressed with your level of preparation.”

Gustav bows low before me.

“Your praises honor me, Amethyst One.”

The moment is interrupted by the violent growling of my stomach once again. The skink pops upright and Frau rushes to my side.

“Lady Moon, you should have requested to be fed instead of letting me carry on like I have. Let us return to the main room at once. It will not do for the one whose coming was foretold to be hungry while in our care.”

“I did not return here with the intention of beggaring from the kobold to keep me fed. I just...have nowhere else to go...and no one…”

Frau tuts and gently steers me back to the main chamber.

“This is the Lost One's honor to care for you, my lady. We are meant to support you and we are well able to do this.”

Leading me to the center of the room, Baba and Liebli bring over a fresh set of dry blankets which they throw over my back to keep me warm.

Copyright © 2021 Tsukihana; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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