B1 — 10. Seven Days; Research

Arriving at her hotel, the tenants called for the elevator.  Howie greeted her with a frown as the doors opened.  “Skipping classes again?  This isn’t like you.”

Sora grimaced as she entered.  “I know.  Maybe I’m hitting my rebellious stage … it’s just—there are some things happening at school that I just don’t want to be a part of.”

Howie looked troubled but inputted the commands to her penthouse.  “We’re all really concerned.  It’s like you’ve changed into a different person overnight,” he pressed.  “I’m sure your dad’s going to be really worried when he gets back.”

Sora was silent as she struggled to find an answer, fighting the monstrous impulses inside of her to say something snarky.  Arriving at the top, Sora nodded with a weighted sigh.  “I know, and I’ll talk to him when he gets back … I have a lot to tell him.  I should only be a second, though; I just want to get my purse.  Mind holding the doors?”

“Not at all, but … is there anything I can do?”

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Sora shook her head before dashing in.  “Not right now.”  Running to her room, she snatched her phone and brought it out of sleep—nothing from her father.  Blowing out a puff of air, she sat on her bed, hand to her forehead.

I should call him.

Staring at her phone for several seconds, she removed her hat, scratching her left ear before pulling her hair back and rubbing her neck.  “Gah, what am I supposed to say?  I have fox ears … I’ve been having a lot of pain at night … I’m going through changes—yeah, that would be taken out of context.  Argh.”

She brushed back her hair in frustration.  “How could he possibly understand what I’m going through?”

Howie called into the penthouse.  “Sora, someone is trying to call the elevator.”

Sighing, Sora yelled back.  “Go ahead.  Thanks for waiting.”

Sucking on her lower lip, she brought her phone out of sleep and smiled.  Opening the messaging app, she made a cute face and took a selfie.

Licking her lips, she wrote:  Hey, Daddy.  Just grew fox ears.  Crazy, right?!  We got some ridiculous things to talk about when you get home!  Love you!!!  She sent the message.

She pressed her phone against her face.  “That was insane … I am insane.”  She felt tears gathering in the corners of her eyes.  Taking a deep breath to calm herself, she pushed back the tears.  “Right, I’m just a little emotional because of Lori and whatever I did to her.  I’m not fine.”

Taking a few more minutes to compose herself, she dropped into her cushy bed; hair fanned around her as her hat slid off.  I’m a fox girl, and other crazy things are going on that I can’t explain.  I should be freaking out a lot more, but every time I really start to panic, it just vanishes.  Is this a part of being a fox girl?

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Rubbing her temple, she huffed.  “I’m fine; I just need to do a little study!  If I study, reward myself with food—study then I eat … hear me, Monster!”

Hoisting herself up, she went to her desk and sat down, fighting her rebellious urges to head to the restaurant.  Pulling up her laptop, she typed in the password.  Spotify popped up to play classical music.  Sora pursed her lips and clicked the Stations tab.  Hovering over several stations, she clicked hip-hop and smiled as the beat of the music sent a shiver down her spine that made her want to move.

Swaying back and forth, she opened Chrome and typed ‘fox monster.  Several images and pages popped up, most about a sports brand.  She paused over a wiki page on ‘Kitsune,’ the page description catching her interest.  Clicking the link, she read the opening article.

Sitting back, she bunched her lips to the side.  A Japanese fox monster that is smart and gains paranormal abilities as they age.  They can take on the shape of humans and can range from tricksters to friendly ordinary fox people.  I don’t have any tails, but my ears came in time; why not tails?

A shiver ran down her spine.  Easing the stress in her neck, she moved to the origins section.  Dad said Mom was Japanese … It was always pretty odd that we didn’t have any pictures of her.  If Mom was a Kitsune … why wouldn’t Dad tell me something like that?  Seems pretty important!

She tried to calm the heat rising in her chest.  I’m way too emotional these days!  Deep breath.  Who knows, maybe Dad didn’t know, or perhaps Dad’s the Kitsune?  Hey, his success at business would be easy if he had supernatural powers, right?

“Mhh … I shouldn’t jump to conclusions like this,” she sighed while staring up at the ceiling.

Turning back to the page, she read through the Etymology section.  “Eh?”

Legends state that Kitsune would change into one’s wife and bear children?  Was Dad tricked?  One of the translations could also mean stench.

A bad taste entered her mouth at the thought of Kari’s gang always saying she smelled.  “Hmph!”

It could also mean ‘ne’ as in ‘neko’ or cat … nope, not a cat.

Her mind shifted to the two-tailed cat.  Opening a new tab, she searched ‘two-tailed cat.’  Two wiki links hit the top of the search results, ‘Nekomata’ and ‘Bakeneko.’  Reading the descriptions, it stated Bakeneko only had one tail, while a Nekomata had two.  She clicked the Nekomata link and read through the article.

So … if I’m to believe all this folklore stuff is real…  Sora scratched at her left ear with a frown.  …Which I have decent evidence of.  Then that two-tailed cat could be a Nekomata, or, as it says, these Japanese legends come from Chinese legends on the Senri; it could be both.  A leopard, cat-like creature that gains divine spiritual power as it grows older and the stronger it is … its ability is linked to how mistreated it was and vengeful it is.

That’s not scary at all.  It’s supposed to eat people, or at least is known for it.  Maybe the area around the Italian restaurant is its hunting grounds … but it says Nekomata are more prone to live in mountain forests.  Maybe it lives in the national park?

“Hmm.”  Returning to the page on Kitsune, Sora started reading the article.

She crossed her arms as she finished reading the Characteristics portion of the column.  There are two kinds of fox spirits, in Japan at least, Kitsune and Nogitsune.  Kitsune are considered good foxes, while Nogitsune are more neutral, I guess.  Are they free to their own morals?  Then there are all these powers: lighting, fire, time and space manipulation, illusions.

  Her mouth creased into a frown as she reread the last line.  Other Kitsune have characteristics reminiscent of vampires or succubi and feed on the life or spirit of human beings, generally through sexual contact … no, thank you.

Shifting back to the part about dogs, she worked out her stiff shoulders.  So, Kitsune hate dogs … Kari could be some kind of dog monster.  She hated me the moment she saw me … but how would she know I’m a fox when I didn’t even know … Smell, I guess, but why didn’t I notice her from the start?

Filing the information away in her mind, she continued through the article.  Kitsunetsuki … basically, the state of being possessed by a fox … Some of the descriptions hold true, but most of it doesn’t.  I don’t have any strange bumps that have a life of their own, just ears that I can use at will.  I do crave food, though, and rabbit seems to be a big attraction to my taste buds right now.

Lips dry, she slid her tongue across them, feeling the growl of her stomach.  Fighting her urges to head back, she pressed on.  The only changes seem to be my senses, odd behavior, and these ears.  It seems to happen at night when I’m sleeping, and I get all that pain … likely my body changing, like these ears.

She leaned back with closed eyes and a loud sigh to release tension.  How can I be calm like this?  I’m kind of stressed, but nothing like I should be.  I’m hungry, feel like I’m starving, but I’m calm right now … mad if I think my dad lied to me, but calm that I’m a fox.  I might be possessed; who knows?  Maybe the cat will know if I ask it?  Maybe it’s just an average cat with a tail mutation, and I’m overthinking it…

“I need to find some kind of expert … easier said than done.”  Getting up, a smile returned to her face as she closed her laptop.  I did my study, now to eat!

She grabbed her purse and donned her hat before heading to the elevator and calling it.  She smiled at Howie’s bright greeting.  “Wow, you look like a girl on a mission.  Plans?”

Stepping inside, Sora nodded.  “Yup, I’m going to hit up the town and confirm a few things.  Oh, I left a message for my dad too.  It’s like three A.M. in South Korea right now … not like he’ll get it until he gets his phone back.”

Pressing the button for the ground floor, Howie nodded slowly.  Sora got the impression Howie was worried her father’s recent business project was the source of her rebellious attitude.  “Good.  By the way, what happened to your friends?  Are they going to come back anytime soon?”

Sora shook her head.  “I don’t know how soon, eh-heh, yet, that is.  They’re a strange bunch, but I do hope they want to come back.”

Howie laughed softly.  “I’d like that too.”

Reaching the bottom floor, she left the hotel and made her way back toward the restaurant.  I’ve seen the cat twice near the restaurant.  I might as well check and see what’s going on after I eat, no use in waiting, and if it wants to eat me, it’ll get what it wants eventually.  It does know where I live…

Reaching the street, she lifted her hat a little and pointed her ears, scanning for the bell sound.  She heard the tingle across the road in the same alley.  She folded her ears down and replaced the hat but felt conflicted in which direction she should go.  Food or cat…

Her curiosity broke through, and she darted across the road into the back alley.  Lying down on some boxes sat the black two-tailed cat.  The cat looked up as she appeared but continued to lick its paws nonchalantly.

Sora frowned as she stopped a little into the passage.  “Well—I wonder if you’ll eat me or try to … maybe you’re a leopard cat?”  The cat’s right eye narrowed as if to say ‘really,’ its two tails weaving back and forth.

Finding a large box by the left wall, she sat and watched the cat, speaking to it as if it understood.  “There’s been a lot of strange things happening lately, Nekomata cat.  Honestly, I don’t understand it … I mean, I’m worried, but I’m not.  It’s all so confusing.”

She huffed, shaking her head.  “My personality has changed so much over the last few days, but my life has somewhat improved … So, why should I complain?  See!”  Flipping positions, the cat began licking its stomach, its tails going stiff.

“I have fox ears!”  Sora exclaimed and then jumped slightly, looking back down the alley.  She sighed, not finding anyone walking by, and turned back to the cat.  It was staring back, most likely alerted to her tone of voice, its large, luminescent amber eyes clear.

Sora sighed in defeat.  “And now I’m talking to a cat.  I should institutionalize myself; maybe I’ve just cracked from all the stress Kari’s put me through.”

Her head darted up as she heard the cat meow and watched in disbelief as it leaped from wall to wall and disappeared over the roof.  “The cat—just jumped up the alley walls.”  She nodded.  “Right, a normal cat can do that.”  She started shaking her head.  “Actually, no, a normal cat can’t do that.”

Taking a deep breath, she looked behind her at the street; no one was watching her.  “Alright, I’m insane … monster cat … monster fox.  Right, I’m a monster fox … A vicious, completely lost … monster fox … Yay, me.  Jumping up a wall should be easy!”

Taking a few deep breaths, she jumped and found herself leaping over half the wall length in the single bound.  Caught completely off-guard, she panicked and waved her hands in front of her; bouncing off the wall, she fell to the ground.  Legs buckling as she landed, she felt a jarring sensation shoot through her butt.  Groaning, she rubbed her bruised area and looked up in pain.  

“Maybe—I better practice a bit more before trying acrobatics.”  She mumbled.  Pushing herself up, she double-checked the damage.

Just a bruised butt … I’m more durable than I thought.

Searching for another way up, her focus lingered on the chain-link fence, almost as tall as the roof.  Climbing up while taking care to not dislodge her hat, she hoisted herself over and looked around, her focus being taken by a strange child.

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