Kitsuria Chronicles - Chapter 2: Second Thoughts
Yuki, Electra, and Pyra stood around a table, examining a map that was laid out on it. It showed several regions of the land, some of which were marked in red, designating areas attacked by Flare.
Pyro walked to the table from another room, carrying a tray with cups of tea. She set the cups on the table and spoke. "As you can see, we've been keeping track of Flare's movements. Based on our reports, she started somewhere further southwest from here."
"Did anyone try fighting her back?" Yuki asked. "She seems to be working alone."
"Some have, as you may recall her mentioning it earlier. She is a formidable opponent. At least, I would think she is. That said, our witnesses have seen her back out and return later with backup. Most of the villages she had attacked didn't have much experience with defending themselves, anyway. We haven't had a situation like this for a long time."
Pyra pointed to a circled area on the map. "So this is our location right now and the last area that Flare had attacked."
"So she's working her way up north?" Electra asked, taking a sip of her tea.
"That's what it looks like. There might not be much up there, but it seems she's trying to get everything she can."
"What do we do, then?"
"What we've been trying to do is track down where she's hiding. We haven't been able to pinpoint her location, but according to some witnesses and based on where she ran, it's not far southwest from here, the same general area she started." Pyra pointed to a region on the map with three circled areas. "If she is going up north, or coming back here, she'd likely come from there."
"So, we should follow her," Yuki said. "If she does come this way, we could stop her in her tracks, and maybe restrain her to try and undo whatever Shiryu did."
"That could work. It probably won't be that easy, but it is worth a shot."
Yuki lifted his teacup and sipped from it, nodding. "I know. It seems I might have just caught her off guard."
Pyra nodded. "The way you two were looking at each other, it seems you both were off guard. At least the sight of you got her to stop for a moment. Maybe you can follow her trail? Electra can go with you, she should be able to stun Flare before she could try to harm either of you."
Electra finished her tea and put the cup on the table. "That shouldn't be a problem," she said. Yuki placed his cup next to Electra's, nodding in agreement.
* * *
Yuki and Electra walked on the path, following the same direction Flare had previously taken. Electra glanced at the ground, noticing the faint footprints in the grass. Some leading toward Pyra's village, others away from it. "We're heading toward what used to be my village," she noted. "I was there evacuating the rest of the villagers when Flare returned to attack me."
"Ah," Yuki nodded. "Did everyone make it out okay?"
"Mostly everyone, yes. Though when Flare first attacked us, some were captured."
"Oh...sorry to hear that."
"It's fine. As long as there are some of us strongly resisting her influence, we should be okay, and everyone will be freed." The two kitsune continued to walk, keeping their eyes on their surroundings and watching for any activity. "Anyway," Electra turned to look at Yuki. "You're from way up north, right? What brought you over here?"
"I'm looking for my mate," Yuki answered. "She left several days ago in search of her sister. I haven't heard back from her yet. She usually sends a messenger if she's going to be gone for long."
"So you're worried about her. With everything that is going on here, no wonder. Hopefully she's safe, wherever she is."
Yuki nodded. "I hope so, too." They eventually passed by a group of burnt-down houses. Electra glanced across them. Only three of the houses were still standing, and even those had burn marks in the wood and broken windows. She sighed softly.
Flare jumped down from a tree in front of the two. "What's wrong? Don't like what your choices caused?"
Electra growled, stepping back. "We made the right choice."
"You can keep telling yourself that. I'm sure you'll change your mind eventually."
"No," Yuki said. "You're the one who will change your mind."
"Are you seriously still on about that?" Flare shook her head, putting her hand to her face. She looked back at Yuki. "Whatever. Anyway, I'm not here to chat. I'm here to take you with me. Shiryu wants to meet you."
"If she wants me to join her, my answer is still 'no'."
"That's funny. We don't remember giving you a choice. You're coming with us."
Flare snapped her fingers. As if on cue, a dart shot out from the trees, striking Yuki's neck. A white furred wolf jumped down, landing behind Yuki. She stood just over five feet tall. Her six thin foxlike tails swished behind her, each measuring about a foot and a half long.
Yuki turned to face the wolf, pulling the dart from his neck. He looked at it, then back at the wolf. "What is this?" he asked. "And who are you?"
The wolf smirked. "My name is Garou," she said. "And that is a tranquilizer. I'm here to give you a little nap." Yuki blinked, his vision already starting to blur. "Ah," he muttered. "Kid...nap...ing..." He let out a sarcastic laugh, "Nice."
Garou chuckled, "Well, I didn't intend for there to be a play on words, but if you put it that way, then, yes."
Electra growled, stepping toward Garou. "I won't let you take him!" Electricity sparked between her fingers. Garou turned around to face Electra. "Sorry, but he's ours now!" She stepped to the side before Electra could strike her, and swiped at the vixen's legs with her tails, causing her to trip and fall. Garou thrust her hands toward Electra, shooting a beam of light at her face, temporarily blinding her. She turned around in time to catch Yuki, who started to fall forward, unconscious. "Let's go."
Flare nodded and started to run further into the forest, followed by Garou carrying Yuki over her shoulder. Electra stood back up, blinking and regaining her eyesight. "Get back here!" she screamed, chasing them. "You cheap..." She was soon stopped by a blue five-tailed vixen. "Don't go any further, Electra. It's too risky to pursue them by yourself!"
Electra panted, trying to catch her breath. "But Mizu..."
Mizu interrupted, holding up her hand. "I know, they've captured Yuki, and I have a good idea of where he's being taken. It's still not wise to just run in there and rescue him."
"So, what do we do?" Electra asked, panicking. "They're going to try to force him to work for them! And if he doesn't, they'll..."
"Relax." Mizu placed her hand on Electra's shoulder. "We're not going to get anything accomplished by freaking out. I'm sure he'll be okay. Right now, we need to make a plan to get him out of there safely. Going in headfirst isn't a good idea. Shiryu probably has guards posted, and we'd also have Flare and her friend to deal with."
Electra took a breath and exhaled slowly. She nodded. "You're right. So, where do you think they have taken him?"
"There is a cavern not too far from here. I saw them carrying Yuki in that direction. There are a couple abandoned houses in that area, too, quite possibly from a village they took over. It's not obvious, but it does seem to be the source of their activity."
"That's where we were heading," Electra said. "It's near Chiyu Mountain, isn't it?"
"That is correct. The cavern is just underneath it, in fact. The village is further west."
"I see...so what's the plan?"
"Go to Pyro and Pyra and report what had happened. I will get with my assistant and meet you over there. We'll discuss the best way to rescue Yuki quickly and safely then."
* * *
Yuki woke up on the floor of a room lit with green torches on the walls. He stood up, finding that his wrists and ankles were bound with barely enough slack to allow him to walk. "Where am I?" he groggily asked. He looked to see Shiryu and Flare standing by the doorway.
Shiryu walked over to Yuki, looking him up and down. "So, you're Yuki," she said with a grin. "Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Shiryu. I will be your queen."
Yuki groaned, shaking his head. "I'll tell you what I told Flare..."
Shiryu interrupted him, "She already told me you'd refuse." She smirked. "However, that will not be an option for you anymore. You will join us, and you will rule alongside me."
"You just met me, and you already want me to..."
"Just think about it," Shiryu began to circle Yuki, brushing his legs with her tail. "You'd have me, a harem of vixens..."
"I'm not interested in any of that!"
"Oh, that's fine. You don't have to breed with anyone if you don't want to, with the exception of my two best servants and myself. We do have to start a family if you're going to be king, after all."
"The answer is still 'no'."
"You have no other choice, since you are here," Shiryu grinned. "Though if you do prove yourself to be too difficult to train, then we'd have to dispose of you. And that wouldn't be pleasant. But that is enough talk." She walked over to Flare. "Flare, I want you to train him. Make sure he is a good, obedient fox for us."
After Shiryu left the room, Flare closed the door and walked over to Yuki with a smirk. "Well, now that we're alone, let's get to know each other a little better."
"We already do," Yuki said. "You have to remember."
Flare shoved Yuki onto a bed and leaned over him, placing her hands on either side of his body. "Enough!" she growled. "I don't know why you keep insisting that I am someone else, but this stops now. I'm going to train you well, so you no longer spout that nonsense, and you're a loyal king for Shiryu." She wrapped her tails around Yuki's legs.
"What kind of training is this, exactly?" Yuki asked, looking Flare in the eyes.
"I never said this was a part of your training. I'm just having a little fun beforehand. Besides, it's been a long time since I've played with such an attractive fox."
"A long time, huh?" Yuki smirked. "Would you say it's been about eighteen years? Tell me more about this fox."
Flare slowly rubbed her finger down the front of Yuki's muzzle. "Shhhh..." She leaned in closer. "You don't get to ask questions." She nuzzled his neck and gave it a playful nip, before inhaling deeply. Flare suddenly released her grip on Yuki's legs and stepped back as she took in Yuki's scent. There was something very familiar about it, and his pressing questions made her stop and think. Just who is he? And why does he smell so familiar?
"Especially..." Flare finally spoke, slowly. "good questions."
"Is it finally coming back to you?" Yuki asked as he stood up from the bed.
Flare shook her head. "It's very hazy," she answered, looking at Yuki. "I get the feeling I might know you, but..." She sighed softly. "I don't know. It could all be a lie, a fabrication. But you're so adamant about it, those vixens are. I'm starting to get the feeling you may be right." She walked closer to Yuki and undid the bindings around his ankles and wrists. "This is going directly against Shiryu's wishes, but I'm letting you go. I need answers, and I won't find them if you're here."
"Won't you get punished for this?" Yuki started walking toward the door.
"Probably, but that doesn't worry me. I just can't have you here. Just go, I'll be fine."
Yuki nodded and opened the door, walking out of the room. Flare sat down on the bed, putting her head in her hands. Just who was that blue fox? That question came to her mind during their first encounter in that village. And what about the fire vixens that lived there? She had sisters? Was Yuki telling her the truth?
Flare continued to sit, deep in thought, until she was interrupted by a voice. "Why did I see Yuki leaving our village?" She looked up to see Shiryu scowling at her, eyes glowing a bright red.
"I let him go," Flare confessed, lowering her head once more. "I'm sorry."
"What kind of fool
are you?" Shiryu shouted, sparks shooting from her horn in several directions. "I have witnessed everything, you know. I was watching through your window to see how his training was going. Do you honestly believe the lies he is feeding you?"
"I..." Flare hesitated, "I can't deny the possibility of what he's saying."
"He is playing mind tricks with you. You had only just met him once, you said as much when you told me about him."
"That's what I thought, but then..."
"Then you got close to him, and he started to manipulate you!" Shiryu yelled, stomping her foot. She exhaled slowly, shaking her head, calmly continuing, "Perhaps I was wrong to assign you to train him. I should have done it myself."
"Shut up!" Shiryu interrupted, raising her voice again. "You have failed me, that is all there is to it! I will think of a suitable punishment. Right now, I have to go get Yuki back. He will be punished as well, severely. You can stay here and hang your head in shame like you were when I came in. You have disappointed me greatly, Flare." She turned around and stormed out of the room.
Flare watched through the window as Shiryu left the village. She sighed and laid back on her bed, closing her eyes before she heard a knock on the door. Flare looked at the doorway to see Garou standing there. "You've come to shame me, too?" Flare asked, sitting back up.
"No," Garou shook her head and walked over to Flare. "I wouldn't do that. I've heard everything. So you think Yuki might be someone you know?"
"It's possible. I remember things, but they aren't clear," Flare said. "I need more answers. That's the main reason I let Yuki go. I know I won't find them if he's here, working for Shiryu."
"I could try and help if you want."
"You'd do that? I don't want you getting punished, too."
"I'm your friend." Garou placed her hand on Flare's shoulder. "I'm here to support you, no matter what the consequences are."
"Thank you." Flare smiled, standing up and hugging Garou. She glanced back at the window. "We should go before Shiryu gets back."