Determined to find freedom and avoid an unwanted bond, Taeyo runs away from home. But no sooner does he make his escape then he is captured again, the latest victim in a string of kidnappings. His rescue comes at the hands of Germane, a half-wolf, half-dog sent to find him. The rescue results in a mating bond, however—a fact that pleases Taeyo, but angers Germane. Until the mystery of the missing kitsunes is solved, however, he can only endure it…
The sun shone brightly above, sending its rays to warm the earth. The fields were bursting with various colours: the red of roses, the blue of daisies, the purple hues of the hibiscus plant. Flowers and wheat moved gently in the breeze, a silent dance to the song of the wind.
Taeyo reveled in the wind blowing through his fur, making him almost fly as his tails swished behind him. He loved running in his fox form, especially the way everything passed by in a blur as he raced to his destination. A thrill hummed through his body and laughter bubbled in his throat, but he suppressed the sound. The wind would carry it, and then his parents would find him and drag him back home. He was free and he was going to stay that way for as long as he could. It had been two weeks already and he had not yet been discovered. He had plans to ensure that things remained that way. Hopefully, by the time his parents decided to send his cousins after him, he would have had more than enough time to enjoy being free before the saddle of a union with Saya.
He arrived at the creek that was located at the boundary of town and slowed down. Taeyo raised his head and sniffed, asking the wind to make the smells sharper. He thought he smelled something and he needed to be certain what it was before he moved forward. When he sniffed again, he immediately recognised the smell. Ahead of him was the strong, distinctive odour left by three-tailed kitsunes, also known as sanbis. The smell was a couple of days old and carried with it a warning of danger and a plea for help from others of their kind.
As Taeyo trotted forward, he wondered what could have led kitsunes to visit this particular valley. Few people came this way, especially three-tailed foxes that preferred to stay close to their families.
Curiosity fully awakened, he continued to move forward; the wind muffled the sound of his steps and prevented the water in the stream from splashing about and alerting anyone to his presence.
The path finally led to level ground. Beyond some trees stood a small house, almost a hut. Taeyo sharpened his vision, but he could see no one in the building. He heard his mother’s voice in his head, warning him not to be the naive character in horror movies that entered a suspicious building and then wondered why terrible things happened to him. His father’s voice encouraged him to be a man and enter the place. It wasn’t as though he couldn’t handle anything that might happen.
His mind made up, Taeyo moved to the house and pushed the door open with his nose. It opened with a creak and he passed through the small opening.
The house was bare; the only pieces of furniture that he could see were a table and a chest made from silver birch. Taeyo stared at the chest. It was simple enough, but on its cover was a seal embossed with the swirls that represented the movement of the tails of kitsunes in flight. The chest was tightly shut, although there was no lock. Opening it should be very easy to do. Even as he had that thought, it occurred to Taeyo that whomever had placed the chest in the room probably knew what it meant, and that it would attract other kitsunes.
Just as he got to the middle of the room, thin silver strands appeared out of thin air, winding tightly around his body until he couldn’t move. It would take brute force or a small portion of his power to break the strands. But if he used his magic, his family would sense the flash of his power and be able to locate him immediately. He had not gone through all the trouble of trying to remain hidden, including changing his silver fur to a bright red, all so he could be discovered so easily.
As Taeyo lay on the floor, he wondered if the trick was one that his captors had used on other kitsunes. Any kitsune worth his or her salt would have been curious seeing the box and the swirls on it, and would have definitely moved towards the chest to investigate. And although it would be easy for him to break free of the strands, the same could not be said for sanbis, who were not as strong.
The wind brushed against his ears, bringing him the sound of approaching footsteps. His captors had decided to show themselves. Taeyo considered using just a minuscule amount of his power to break the strands, and then attacking them. After, he could either kill them all immediately, or leave some alive to question. Either way, he would kill any survivors, and then make a quick escape before anyone could come looking for him. Or, he could pretend to have no power, let them capture and take him to wherever they had hidden the other kitsunes. Then he could make his escape.
As Taeyo ran through the advantages of the different options, he heard the door creaking as someone pushed it open. Two sets of heavy treads told him that his captors were most likely of burly stature.
“Well, another kitsune is caught,” one of the unseen men said.
Publisher: Less Than Three Press