EdwardsSearching for Security

Ch. 11

Natsumi frowned as she paused in her walk. She reached out and grabbed onto Jackson's arm pulling him to a stop. She looked around the woods cautiously. "Something's wrong Jackson."

"Well we've only been here a few days. You just might not be used to the animals around us yet," he dismissed.

Natsumi frowned but nodded and continued to follow him. "What is it you want me to do?" she questioned as she walked slowly after him.

"Well we're heading down to a little grove I started working on several years ago and I want to see if you can transform at will with the energy I give you. Remember in the desert when I gave you too much and we both raced?"

Natsumi nodded. "That was because you gave me too much energy? Why did you do that?" Natsumi asked cautiously. "Couldn't you feel my injures?"

"I could. It felt like they were more serious than they were and I wanted to make sure it didn't come back to haunt us later." Jackson shook his head. "Don't worry about it Natsumi, this isn't something I want to talk about right now. For now let's focus on the results."

"So you're going to take me to a clearing, give me this energy, and we will see if I can what, turn into a fox?"

Jackson laughed and smiled. "That would be fun, sure. You can try to turn into an arctic fox and I will transform with you if you can."

Natsumi smiled, but her eyes thinned and she watched the snow crunch beneath his feet. A dull ache dragged at the back of her neck and shivered down her spine. She felt like there was a fire raging on her skin, as if it would never go away.

When they reached the clearing, Natsumi sat down on a stump breathing slightly hard. She shut her eyes and bowed her head as exauhstion began to overpower her will.

Jackson came over to her and gently lay his hand on her shoulder. She looked up at him and gave the fox a weak smile. Electric shocks stroked down her spine, chasing away the fire and drawing her into the fox. She sighed and put her head against his arm letting her body relax. Her sore muscles buzzed with energy. It began to flood through her emotions, sending them out like shoots. Her breath caught as she held back a cry in fear and pain. She pushed the fox's hand away and shook her head standing up as tears flashed across her cheeks, fleeing to the snow.

"I'm sorry Jackson, it's just feels so weird sometimes," she excused blushing furiously as she felt his energy swarm through her. She turned back and held out her hand.

"Did I hurt you?" he questioned gently as he took her hand. He pulled her closer and tipped her chin up staring down at her with his light blue eyes.

"No, it's not you," she whispered. "I still feel like something's wrong." She hid her head against his chest hiding with her forehead against his bare furry chest. "It all came up so suddenly when you started giving me extra energy. Keep going, and I'll see if I can change," she whispered.

"Well hold on, have you felt this way before?" he asked cautiously. His arm wrapped around her.

"Of course I have you idiot. Everyone feels pain sometime," she snapped yanking away from him with her arms crossed over her chest.

"That's not what I mean. You said something was wrong. What do you think is wrong?"

"I don't know," she whispered shaking her head. "It's so lonely out here."

Jackson frowned and crunched closer to her. He gently put his hands on her shoulders, "Hey, I am here. Why are you lonely with me here?"

"I can't say our conversations are like I want," she whispered looking up at him over her shoulder. "I talk about things that are repressed, and you just seem to ignore them." She turned around and gazed at him curiously, "You're infallible."

Jackson's hands dropped and he stared down at her. His eyes thinned a little as he gave her a curious stare. "Infallible? I have many faults Natsumi, I'm just good at hiding them." He swallowed nervously. "Here, we can do this another day, let's go back to the cave and we can work this out. I want to know that you feel happy here and you obviously don't." He wiped away one of her tears.

"Sorry," she chuckled a little and shook her head. The leftover energy dissipated as she began to walk back towards the cave.

"You have nothing to be sorry about. Obviously something is up," he explained.

Natsumi smiled over her shoulder towards the fox and stayed quiet.

As they settled down around a small fire, Natsumi sighed and held out her hands to warm them. Jackson sat by her side. "Tell me why you think I'm so perfect Natsumi," he requested quietly, a gentle hand drawing her attention away from the fire.

"You never show fear, or pain," she whispered. "It's like you're too good at all of this. How long have you been on the road?"

Jackson sighed and leaned back on his hands. "I've been traveling for a long time now. My parents died when I was young in land disputes. After that I took over our territory and purged it of the threat. That had to be at least three generations ago."

"Generations?"

"The humans take forever to grow up and die, so my family has been marking time by the change of their sects."

"That must be lonely. Three hundred years without your parents is a lot."

"Yeah, but keep the humans company. I teach the humans in town that I am their deity."

Natsumi frowned. "We're getting off topic. When we first met, you said that I wouldn't last long. It sounded like something you'd experienced. Did you ever have a friend?"

Jackson nodded, "A long time ago when I was still with my parents, I would go out with the other foxes from the nearby lands and play. I left that society because they all seemed to complete themselves and I was the odd man out," he explained quietly. He took a deep breath and let it out with a growl of frustration. "They couldn't just put up with the fact that I would remain a bachelor, instead they had to threaten me to stay away from their mates." His eyes thinned in anger.

Natsumi sighed as well. "So you've been alone."

Jackson nodded. "I've had the humans in town to keep me company though. In winter I go disguising myself as an old man to keep in touch. During the summer, I pick up odd jobs."

"They never suspect you?"

"Sometimes, but I've become really good at avoiding the hunters, so they're not really a problem." Jackson reached over and gently tugged at her shoulder.

Natsumi shook off his hand ignoring it. "Why aren't you scared of them?" she huffed.

Jackson laughed and smiled at her. He wrapped his hand around her arm and pulled her down to lay in his lap like they did in the desert. He gently trailed his fingers through her hair.

Her eyes shut in appreciation and she nearly moaned in relief. "That feels good." The gentle tingle of his electric fingers tickling across her scalp massaged away her tension.

"I'm not scared of the hunters because they have never been a real problem for me. For my parents, they were a large problem, but the main hunter was based in a nearby village. The foxes all ganged up on him and killed him before I had to deal with it. The next guy was on the south of the island, so I never had to worry. I do get scared though. When I first met you I was scared of the townspeople. When I heard the dogs and saw you, bloody and pinned on the ground, I was scared. I could hardly contain myself from just changing and killing them both in a swoop of my paw," he whispered. "I was scared when I couldn't find you where I left you too," his soothing voice rumbled through the cave.

Natsumi held back a yawn as her jaw and lips trembled trying to stretch and yawn. She shut her mouth tightly and leaned against him. "You were scared? I thought you were really calm. You acted like the world was fine."

"Oh no, I panicked when I found you tattered and bloody, broken leg and still being attacked. Emma," he whispered. "She was someone special to me and seeing you like that reminded me of that horrible event." He brushed her cheeks off. "It's alright Natsumi, go to sleep. I won't let anything bad happen right now."

"I don't want to. I want to hear why you never seem-" she couldn't suppress her yawn. She mumbled as Jackson chuckled lightly, bouncing her awake.

"You're so pretty and graceful Jackson, that's what drew me to you," she whispered. "Then I fell in love with you and now I don't want to go home but I know Thoth needs me."

"Why is that?"

"He's a war veteran. He fought the humans and he made me. He needs me just like I need his knowledge and rock. He has always been the constant thing in my life even when the other imps thought I was a foolish novice who just gave the humans a reason to hate us," She pulled her legs closer, rolling onto her side facing him. "You have sex organs," she whispered.

Jackson chuckled. "You do too in your human form," he whispered back.

Natsumi blinked awake and looked up at him. She frowned and yawned, closing her eyes and letting her neck relax. "I'm an imp, why do I love a fox?"

"Hmm, maybe fate has a cruel way of taunting us. You're curious enough to be a cat," he accused gently. His soothing hand drew her away from her pondering and let her drift into sleep.

Natsumi shot upright gasping for air. Her vocal chords grabbed and dragged at the wind swarming into her lungs as she grabbed at her throat. She threw herself forward off of Jackson and put out her hand to brace herself. She shut her eyes as pain throbbed across her back and down her legs. It swallowed her muscles, and scorched through her bones. She began to breath heavily, panting hard. Tears dropped to the ground and echoed through her throbbing head.

Jackson's hand stabbed against her side and she screamed in pain pushing herself away from him and drawing up her arm in defense.

Jackson backed off, she heard him whisper as darkness tried to take her over.

Energy shocked away the pain, like bolts of buzzing brilliant light that swarmed across her face and trickled down her back. Her heart throbbed in her ear as her skin stopped screaming in pain. "Thoth," she cried as she fell onto her back against the freezing ground. Rocks jabbed into her ribs and hips as she fell off the soft furry cloth they were on. Sweat trickled down her back as she shut her eyes and arched her back grabbing at her chest. Pain pulled her face apart as her hands grabbed at the ground trying to dig through it, to pull it through herself.

Energy soothed the pain gathering in the small of her back and she collapsed back to the cool ground, sweat overriding her judgment as her hot head swam through the clouds. Her fingers relaxed as her mindless thrashing stilled. She sighed.

Jackson's knees crashed to the ground. He gasped in pain as weight fell upon them both. Natsumi rose as Jackson tumbled down. She hurried over to the fox and reached out to him. Her energy crashed against him like a wave breaking on a rock. It washed across his back and soothed through his fresh wounds as he laughed a little. "I don't think you're on vacation anymore," he whispered, out of breath. He reached out and grasped her knee pushing his face away from the floor and crouching over on his knees.

The white haired fox flickered before her. She saw his intent stare into her eyes, and the man crumpled on the floor. "You're still so beautiful," she whispered breathlessly as she reached out. Double images played before her as she saw her energy touch the soft fuzzy cheek of the fox. Her hand ran through his white fluffy hair.

"Am I?" He let himself down easy on the floor, rolling over and giving her his belly staring up at her as his head came to rest in her lap.

Natsumi smiled down at him, her eyes slowly drawing away from the image of the fox. It curled against her legs as well. The fox that stared up at her had a long drawn out snout. His fur washed back across his face and pooled up into his ears crashing across his neck and fluffing across the rest of his body in tumbles of fluff.

Natsumi reached out and gently rested her hand against the furry chest of the fox. "I think Thoth came into me," she whispered quietly as her eyes followed the swift flicks of fluffy fur she pet down. The imp's eyes teared up again and she shut them. "I feel him close." She swallowed nervously and gripped her free hand on her leg.

"I'm sorry Natsumi. He's not dead though, he's here." Jackson reached up and gently cupped her chin with his hand. "Come on, I want to show you something and this time, you are at home here, so no excuses," he scolded. Jackson rolled himself up onto his feet.

He grabbed her hand pulling her up, then began to jog through the alley he brought her down before. Now, As they neared the darkness, Natsumi felt painfully aware of the land, the mountain, the weight, and the heat around them. She yanked her hand free, and began to pull off her coat. Next came the boots that toppled off her feet. She lastly ditched the cloth that caught at her body, then she ran freely after Jackson.

The two came upon snow. A sheer cliff dropped before them like the land had been cleaved by their knives, barely sloping towards the sea. Mountain ranges passed them were smaller, barely cropping up the edges of the mighty cliff they stood upon.

Jackson wrapped his arms around his small imp and rested his head on her black-red hair.

She smiled. "The ocean," she whispered. Her hands came up to grab the limbs wrapped around her. "You do have it here, it's just through the mountains."

"How do you feel?"

Natsumi blinked and looked up at him. She frowned and considered the question. She shut her eyes and took a deep breath allowing the energy of the lands to flow through her. She felt the soft scuttling of feet on the surface of the snow, the humans deep in ritual. She heard their voices echo in her head and frowned. "I can hear the humans. I can feel the dogs and the cats. I see the horses, and the birds!" She spun back around and fled through the cave back passed their sleeping hall, and out into the open. As she made it to the lip, she jumped.

Wings caught her as she began to float upon the powerful wind. She curled through the drafts that trickled through her feathers.

Curious, and unabashed, she landed on the roof of the strongest human voice and nearly giggled. A cry erupted from her throat as she looked down upon the humans. They stopped, and looked up at her, smiling softly. She looked over the lot of humans, all brown in color, with curly black hair. Something was strange about them. They were not the humans she was used to, and she could feel them.

Long since outrun Jackson, Natsumi swooped to the street and changed, standing tall and proud before the group.

"An imp," one whispered in shock.

She focused on the old man. Her eyes searched him curiously. None of them seemed to care. She smiled and her teeth cracked through her lips. "You see me," she whispered. "You do not run for weapons, but you see me?" she asked, almost unsure. She walked confidently up to a human her height, and waved before their face. The human backed away from her and shied down.

"Natsumi!" Jackson yelped as he crashed into town.

She spun and ran to the large fox that crashed into town with a title wave of snow. She wrapped her arms around his neck burying her face in his thick snow of fur. "Jackson, they see me and they do not run. What is this wizardry the humans have done?" She asked as she turned and looked back at the humans, comfortable with them almost immediately.

"They are spiritual in the lands Natsumi, now come. We must not disturb them like this. They will believe something terrible has happened."

Natsumi dropped her head and kicked her feet in the trodden dirt. "Something terrible did happen. I lost my elder," she whispered. Slowly, she walked out of town without another word, following her guide as he climbed up the mountain.

Within her she felt the warmth of Thoth echo in her bones, and the longing to do as Jackson said. She took a deep breath and sighed. "As this is now my home, and my land, I am sorry for acting so rash."

Jackson paused, his large paw poised in the air as he looked back at her. "They will not believe they all saw the same thing. They never really see us as we are, but rather they see what they want to believe we are. Humans have awful perception."

Natsumi smiled and stopped as she neared the beginning of the climbing rocks. "Jackson, did you put all of those rocks here?"

"I did, It was a long process, but worth it."

"I think I need some time," she whispered and jumped into a tree changing into her favorite finch.

Jackson looked up at the little bird, then trotted off silently into the woods.

Natsumi shut her eyes and saw the soft river that chattered through the trees. She heard it's bustle nearby and took a small flight towards the water. She came upon the side and took a deep breath closing her eyes. Her mind searched for Thoth, the bright mood that always shattered across her pain, or longing when she was with him. She thought of his broad small form, and the scars that creased his body. He had wounds that lay thicker than the snow was now deep, and they all told a rich story.

Gently, she felt through the river, towards the woods and the rest of the mountain on the other side. She took a deep breath, and pulled at the buzz which made her twitch her wings, and chirp at the stream as if it would listen. Her head curled back into her wing as she pulled at her feathers. She heard the soft sounds of answers to her calls flutter through the wind back to her. She smiled as she listened to the gentle noise. It would take time, but bits and pieces, memories, of Thoth sunk out of her, and into the stream.

A fish leapt from the river, splashing loudly back beneath the current as if somehow, she had a large enough beak to catch it.

Her little wings guided her home, back to the cave, and into the glittering golden walls where she landed on Jackson's shoulder. She tucked herself close, and rubbed against his head below his ear.

Jackson smiled and stood going back to the back of the cave. He stood upon the cliff with the ocean sprawled out in front of them like an open book, just begging to be written. "You know, I really didn't think you would last this long Natsumi, let alone end up owning me instead of the other way around." He sighed and shook his head a little. "I am sorry about Thoth, but at the same time, I am relieved that you have him here. Perhaps that is why he did it, whatever it is he did back at your first land."

Natsumi hopped off his shoulder and changed back to her impish form wrapping her arms around his waist. "I am making him a neighboring land on this mountain, I hope you don't mind."

Jackson shook his head. "How long until we get to meet him again?"

"A while, maybe a few years. What do you want to name him?"

"Oh? You rename new imps?" Jackson tried to look behind himself at the imp against his back.

Natsumi nodded. "I think we should call him Gryshnir."

"Gryshnir the immortal? I think people would get mad at you for that," he cautioned. "Let me see you, you're in something new," he requested.

Natsumi giggled and shook her head against his back, "No, you'll have to catch me to find out what it looks like," she darted off.

Jackson laughed aloud and bolted off, clothes falling to floor.

The two danced through the trees and snow, winding like wind across the mountain. Jackson barely kept up with the small white fox who danced across the top of the snow, barely breaking it as her little paws pushed so softly. He watched in mesmerized bliss as she glided like an eagle across the land, barley touching the ground for all her effort. Her movements swished through her tail like a fit cat on a fence. She cried out in a little manic laugh as she burrowed through a bush and made a bolt up the hill.

Jackson cut through a different way nearly coming out of the trees on top of her as he began to climb one of his steps to the top. The two continued passed the forest, towards the peak, and climbed like a vine up a trunk. They wound back and forth, Jackson trying to catch her, and Natsumi nimbly avoiding her like he was made of air.

As they passed the bush stratosphere, Jackson changed. He pushed his energy out of his body and his paws grew, his mane fluffed around his neck and slicked across his body, his back stretched as his tails spread and multiplied. He let out a little yip as his slim face pushed against the air, racing passed his ears. He slid to a stop sending a spray of snow tumbling towards the valley. He eyed the little fox who stood in front of him. She trotted forward and changed in the last few steps.

Before him stood a small little red skinned girl. Her long wavy hair was flashes of gray, red and black, streaks of the colors pushing together around her head like the rocks of his mountain. He lifted his head as she reached forward, her red eyes digging into him like a hot ray of sun in the frozen winter. She smiled, her thick shoulder shaking as she laughed.

Jackson pushed his huge head against her little, near sexless chest. The feathers of snow that fluttered down her dark reddish skin smelled of the pines of evergreens as the small green fluttered across the skirt's hem. He took a deep breath, his thick lungs filling to the brim, then letting go.

Her hands came on either side of his fluffy head and she ruffled his fur. "Thank you Jackson. I'm glad we can finally be happy for a while."

He pushed his head against her in approval and she flopped back in the snow on her butt. He smiled and stepped over her with mischief before taking off. She gave pursuit.

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