The Author's Notes:This story contains angst, violence, swearing, and sexual references. Be forewarned. Rating may vary, so be alert. To avoid confusion, the story is generally PG-13 but if the content for a particular chapter is too sensitive, I shall indicate an R rating at the beginning of that chapter in question.
Whenever I use the term "xiao hu", I mean 狐 (hú), not 虎 (hǔ).
No one may reproduce/redistribute this story without the author's permission. If anyone wishes to publish or post this story to any web site or periodical, obtain my consent through email. Plagiarism will not be tolerated.
Disclaimer: Some poems that are interlaced within this work are lyrics from various songs. I, in no way, claim to own them, and shall be aptly credited at the end of each chapter. Ω
by rachel writing as foxdance
First published on May 30, 2003
I've been sleeping a thousand years it seems
Got to open my eyes to everything
Without a thought, without a voice, without a soul
Don't let me die here
Chapter One: Tempest
A shining silver arc finished it all.
Blood dripped down the lengths of twin swords and met on the plush rug in a pool of scarlet - scarlet as his vision, scarlet as the trail of bodies he carved on the way to complete his task. It was a destiny bathed in violence.
He panted long and hard, still as a statue, as he stared mutely at the elegantly dressed woman lying on his feet, bathing in her own blood. Transfixed, he watched his victim's gaping eyes undertake the slow transition from striking gold to a dull, lifeless brown.
Her eyes were glassy in death. They reminded him of his own; an emotionless silver gaze that fervently questioned what honor lies in slaughtering innocent women.
"They are not innocent. A fine line stands between an innocent and a contaminated soul. Once the soul is breached, innocence becomes… inconsequential."
They were mere vessels, women who could have lived decent lives had they had the chance. Instead their futures were deprived of them, wasted, because they had the misfortune of being chosen as a host. The futility of it all was bewildering.
He dropped both katana. Slowly, he reached down to let the tip of his fingers seek out the victim's face. He wanted those eyes shut, hated seeing dead women staring at him accusingly, as if he had wanted this to happen.
Do you remember? I said I would wait for you. No matter how long, maybe, just maybe…
The woman's lids, velvety and cold, drew closed beneath his fingertips. Synchronously macabre, his own eyes followed suit, engulfing him in the darkness of his own mind. That voice… He always heard that voice after each kill, a haunting tune that repetitively dug at his deepest consciousness in search of an old, unforgettable crime crying across several lifetimes' worth of repression. Strangely enough, it comforted him.
…maybe you would learn to love me.
"But I… I did…"
In his mind, he saw a nameless, faceless girl whispering those words to him, her voice faint as a breeze. He could almost feel her fingers caressing his cheeks, brushing through the raven-black strands of hair that fell against his temples. Caught in these ephemeral moments, he could almost believe he was pure.
He suddenly opened his eyes and met sparkling amber eyes softened by an emotion too profound to name. Was it hope? Could there really be hope for him?
And then a warm, sticky fluid ran down his hands, and shook him to his soul. It felt as if it were his own blood draining his life away. Abruptly he looked down to see his hand grasping a golden dagger, jammed against her heart. A delicate hand grasped his wrist weakly, while her thumb caressed his pulse as if she was trying to comfort him.
As he stared at her, his eyes turned tumultuous, gray as the stormy skies. Anguish, he thought, recognizing the mind-number emotion that petrified him.
Almost audibly, the assassin heard his soul crack and shatter into a million pieces.
A loud clap of thunder pounded against the earth and temporarily bathed the old Shinto temple in its bright, silver radiance.
A young man's eyes flew open the same moment as the harsh light flashed inside the room, but he was oblivious to the blinding brightness. A bead of sweat slithered down his temples towards his jaw and then dropped ever so slowly to his heaving chest.
A warm hand squeezed his shoulder in question. "Kira." The voice was melodious, husky, and spoke English with the barest hint of a French accent. "The dreams again?"
Kira took several seconds to adjust to reality. He quickly wandered his eyes around the room, assessing and wary. It used to be the tea room of an old Japanese-style house behind a temple, battered and scarcely furnished. Warm fire flickered inside several gas lamps lined on top of a low table. Sprawled on the floor was a fourteen-year old girl in a loose white shenyi, chanting in archaic Chinese as she clutched a necklace of oversized beads. Kira glanced to his left. A young man wearing a traditional gi over faded jeans towered over him, his slender hand fretfully twisting and tugging at his own waist-length pale brown hair. His lime green eyes, almost luminous in the warm light of the lamps, were clouded with worry.
Kira shrugged the hand away. His body was quaking, but he refused to show it. Truth be told, he could not remembered much of the dream, as is with every other nightmare that frequented his brief moments of slumber. Every detail seemed to dwindle away upon the eve of every awakening, save for the memory of the last person he assassinated, the attempt of a long-buried conscience to manifest itself. And then, there was that voice… Always, it was blurred to the point of non-recognition, yet it never failed to draw him into a trance. Spellbinding, that voice was, and steadily reverberated through his memory even in his waking hours.
"Nevermind." He cast the other man a dismal gaze with eyes much too old for a twenty-one year old.
Juno shook his head and let out an tired sigh. His crossed his arms and glared down at Kira's huddled form on the floor, who was trying to stop his shivering by pressing his back hard against the wooden wall. How typical of his stubborn cousin, he thought - forever trying to take on the world alone.
"Onii-chan," the girl whispered worriedly, pulling Kira's black sleeve. "I feel a…"
Another flash splashed the grounds, only this time, more explosive that before. The thunderous sound that accompanied the light reverberated from the ground like an outraged deity's fury.
The girl threw herself against her brother's chest, shivering against his body. She felt his arms envelop her protectively. "Onii-chan, I feel something-"
"Stay here, Suu. Juno, watch over her." Kira mumbled in a low voice before pushing Suu back gently. In one swift movement, he stood up and grabbed the two swords that lay crossed over the other on the floor. He paused momentarily by the fusuma to pull on a black leather trench coat over his matching black shirt and pants. He slung the two swords on his back.
Juno stomped forward, a line forming between his delicate eyebrows. "Kira, it's raining like hell out there. Don't tell me you're crazy enough to-"
The paper door slid open and then closed without preamble, leaving Juno speaking at nothing but empty space.
"I don't like this, Jun-chan," Suu said as she pulled herself up to stand beside the tall young man. "I felt something earlier, a strong force, like…like energy unbound. I'm sure Onii-chan felt it, too, that's why he…"
Juno smiled down at the child. The fourteen-year old sported the same jet black hair as her brother, but her eyes were a warmer, more innocent brown. She has not seen as much, he thought. "It's alright, Suu-ko. That jackass of a brother of yours can take care of himself. He's fought his way up from more evil than I know."
"That's what bothers me. It doesn't feel evil."
From afar, he looked shadow looming against the angry sky. His trench coat flapped behind him like wings as he leapt off the high cliff where the temple stood. He landed in a graceful crouch twenty feet below the cliff, where the rugged growth of the woods began. The harsh rain battering against his back went ignored as he took off running in the direction where he heard the thunder crash. He swore under his breath when he realized where he was headed.
Their temple was situated in the middle of one of Kyoto's few untouched woodlands. Unlike most of the prefecture's more popular temples that have become tourist sites, theirs was not part of the visitor's itinerary. The temple has been their ancestors' and was built there for one particular purpose, which was to guard a large boulder believed to house an evil fox-spirit. Old stories told that any living being that comes in contact with the stone would die because of the evil presence within it.
It was ironic, though, because that same boulder was part of Kyoto's tourist attractions, and visitors regularly visited the sinister stone to take pictures. Visitors were superstitious folks, though, and so nobody dared to touch the kitsune rock.
Kira finally came upon a clearing in the middle of the woods. Noticeably there were no other living things within a three-meter radius. An old wooden fence bordered the circular clearing, and plastered all over the fence were numerous pieces of fuda and other charms that he knew were placed by his sister. To his left was a stone post, a landmark that indicated that this was the legendary rock of the fox-spirit, and scrawled around were various graffiti some visiting vandal left as a legacy. Kira ignored this as he easily jumped over the fence. He caught the image of the huge boulder rising from the ground, but the storm clouds covering the moon kept the woods pitch-black. He walked towards it, undaunted yet wary.
About a several feet from the base of the rock, he stopped to notice how the grass dried up as he neared the boulder. More importantly, he also noticed that the boulder was deformed; in fact, it seemed to have been struck down.
He broke into a run, halting when he was already standing on some of the smaller pieces of rock. His heart thumped wildly in his chest. The lightning had destroyed the boulder! He kicked off some of the boulders blocking him, already aware that the cursed rock cannot harm him or his kin. He strained his eyes against the darkness as he looked for any sign as to what the tempest has released.
As if on cue, lightning struck once again, hitting a spruce tree to his left. But he did not notice the huge fallen tree split and then burst into flames, nor had he noticed that the rain had stopped.
The split second of brightness the lightning afforded him burned the image into his eyes. Nestled among the broken pieces of rock was a naked young woman, lying curled on her left side. Her hair was a rich dark mass that flowed in waves down her back to tangle around her thighs. Her skin was a creamy porcelain but very pale. Too pale. Her shoulders slightly shook from the cold, the only sign of life.
Kira stood shocked still for a moment, gaping at the unexpected sight. A shock, surely, but he knew who she was—Empress Taichi.
This was not supposed to happen.
He shook his head and forced himself to move. Quickly he stripped off his cloak and draped it over the young woman. Then he lifted her up, amazed at how light she felt in his arms. And how right it felt, too. Wasting no time, he sprinted again towards the temple.
He had thought her to be unconscious, and so he was surprised when she lightly grasped the front of his shirt as she lay nestled in his arms. Still, he ran. The grasp in his shirt grew firmer.
"Zhang?" she whispered in a hoarse voice that seemed as if she hasn't spoken in a thousand years.
It was her voice that did it. It was so familiar, as he had been hearing it every day of his life. He suddenly slowed down to a halt to stare down incredulously at his burden.
Her eyes fluttered slowly, dramatically. It seemed as if the world paused just to witness her open her eyes once again after two thousand long years. The woods quieted down, and all Kira could hear was his own breathing. When her eyes opened an eternity later, all he could do was stare. They were amber, clear and golden as sunlight shining through brandy.
And then she smiled weakly, holding him transfixed. "Zhang. I knew it was you."
She spoke in archaic Mandarin, but he understood her. He also knew he had been mistaken for another person. He had no time to correct her, though, as her eyes fell closed again as the weight of a suffering overtook her frail body.
- to be continued -
Song and lyrics © Evanescence, Bring Me To Life
More Author's Notes:
Although the initial setting is in Japan, the story will jump to Britain, China, and other different locations my whim chooses. Foreign terms will be used, which for the reader's convenience will be defined at the end of each chapter (but only at the first time each term is mentioned).
Why Japan? The plot was inspired by my Japanese Studies class project. My report was on old legends, which included the myth of the nine-tailed fox demon (which was actually of Chinese origin, adapted by the early Japanese). The story tells of fox spirits wreaks havoc by taking the form/bodies of beautiful women to seduce men to their doom. There are various versions of this legend, and I have taken it into my discretion to mix and mingle certain versions to suit my plot.
I'll be e-mailing reviewers whenever I post an update. If your email is not in your profile but you wish to be given notice, leave your email addresses in the review section. If you don't want to be bugged, just tell me so when you review and I'll take your name off my mailing list. As for proofreading, I have decided that I shall redo all grammatical mishaps after I finish book one unless they are unbearably blatant.
Chapter 1 Vocabulary
katana - (Japanese) sword
shenyi – (Chinese) A type of Hanfu (Chinese traditional clothing) consisting of a full-length one-piece robe wrapped around the body
gi - (Japanese) robe-like shirt
kitsune - (Japanese) fox
onii-san - (Japanese) reference to an older brother from 'aniki'older brother
-chan - (Japanese) suffix added to a name indicating familiarity/endearment
futon - (Japanese) foldable mat similar to a sleeping bag
shaman- (Japanese) sorcerer/spiritualist/sage
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