The summer heat was beginning to die down much to Takeru's relief. The fifteen year old had only just gotten into his yukata and he didn't want it to get damp from the sweat he would have created. "Last thing I need is mom getting mad at me..."
He wore a grey and blue yukata, the same one he wore for the Tanabata Festival for the last two years, and it was still in pristine condition for him to wear. He wasn't as much of a fan of tradition for holidays but his mother had insisted he wear a yukata for the holiday, and take his fiancé with him to show her what it was like to experience a human festival.
Takeru had complained but gave in when his mother had told him it would be best for both him and Megumi, since they were technically betrothed, though neither of them had a say in the matter when that bond had been established.
'Still, Megumi sent a runner to let me know she wanted to go...so she must be more open to the idea than I thought. That or she was blackmailed into going...'
He walked up the gravel path behind his house where the forest lay between his home and the world famous Mt. Fuji. As usual a thin blanket of fog was like a veil hiding what the forest had been hiding for centuries. Takeru knew that, though he couldn't see more than ten feet in front of him, that he was being watched from the trees.
By people? No. Something much more ancient, much more mythical. Not to mention dangerous.
He wasn't worried. A bit intimidated, but not so much as to fear for his own safety. The figures who embraced the shadows were meant to protect him from the dangers the forest kept inside.
As he approached a set of stairs that would lead to the Inoue family shrine he saw a figure standing at the top. He got close enough to see it was a familiar face. A tall man dressed in a green and blue yukata that was tailored to perfection. Yet two things stood out to Takeru: the man had a pair of black canine ears poking out from the raven black hair upon his head, and he had a matching fox tail sway from behind his hips. Though the kitsune family were demons they had the appearance of humans and it helped them blend in with human society.
That and he smiled like he hadn't a care in the world. "Ah! Konbanwa, little brother!"
Takeru winched slightly but bowed to the man out of respect. Then he addressed him, "Lord Shingo. must you call me that? Your sister and I haven't married yet."
Shingo was Megumi's oldest sibling by about a century at least. That was what Takeru noted. Still despite the age and the wisdom of outliving all humans Shingo had the friendly personality that made him approachable for Takeru. Unlike the rest of the kitsune family whom he respected but had never had the courage to speak to like he did with Shingo. He was also the most open about the fact that his sister, a full blooded yokai, was going to marry a normal human. Such a thing would have been taboo in another reality but since it was agreed upon by both families it was allowed.
The fox demon shrugged his shoulders, "True as that is, Takeru, we're like family already. Might as well address each other as such, don't you agree?"
Taking it in stride Takeru went up the steps and followed Shingo past the gate. Now he went from the Inoue property into seemingly another realm entirely. Without the fog the forest revealed a large palace that seemed to come from the far past and had been untouched for centuries. The fog served as a shield for the yokai (demon) family so they could live in peace without any wandering eyes.
Takeru kept up with Shingo as they traversed the front garden of the estate. "So, does your family celebrate Tanabata?"
Shingo didn't turn but spoke in his usual friendly tone. "Why yes, though we do it more privately than humans do. We still wear yukata and play games, but it's a more intimate affair. Mother and father had already gone off on their own."
Takeru gave a slight sigh of relief. He had hoped to not worry about meeting his future in-laws. Save for one. "And Megumi?"
Not initially answering him Shingo led the human boy to the front step of the entrance to the house itself. "She's been preparing for your arrival ever since you requested she come with you."
That had been the day before. Had she been getting ready the whole time? 'It had only taken me ten minutes to get prepared and she's been taking a whole day?' "She must be meticulous about her looks."
Shingo chuckled, "Not really. My baby sister has a warrior's mind in a woman's body. But..."
"Megumi may look the same age as you but she's-oh, never say a woman's age. Where are my manners?" Joked the older yokai. He brought a hand to his pointed chin, thinking mischievously. "When mother told her to look her best for the sake of the family she swallowed what pride she had to make father happy. 'I shall do so but only for the honor of the family', was her response. A warrior through and through."
Takeru felt bad for Megumi. While it was no secret that she didn't like the arranged marriage she at least had her pride and he respected it. 'She must feel like she had a gun to her head...'
Taking a moment Shingo knocked on the door behind him, "Sister? Takeru is here. Are you ready?"
Silence for a minute or two before a feminine voiced responded. "I hate you, brother."
Shingo blinked but he wasn't fazed by Megumi and took it as a jest. "Why is that?"
"This yukata...it's far too bright for my tastes."
"That's because of your samurai mentality. Tanabata is a chance to show off your beauty, not hide it. I took into consideration of how you would stand out in a crowd. I want people to gasp in awe when they see you."
"I'd rather not."
"Regardless Takeru is waiting for you. Please come out."
Takeru wanted to say she could take her time but much like her he wanted to get this festival behind him as quickly and painlessly as possible. He remained silent.
The sliding door opened and Shingo moved to the side. Megumi stepped out and when he laid eyes on her Takeru lost his breath.
Megumi was a natural beauty even for a yokai and though she perceived herself as a warrior first and foremost, yet her beauty was greatly enhanced by the yukata she wore. Sure the many handmaids in the household had a large part in helping her for the sake of the festival and her future groom, but what Takeru saw blew his mind. She wore a pink and green yukata with a flower pattern as well as a gold sash, her hair was up in an intricate bun and red ribbons hung from it. Her fox ears were hidden no doubt by sorcery as was her tail yet the single white streak of her hair was visible.
Though her brother looked on with appreciation and Takeru with awe, Megumi looked as if she would rather be anywhere else but here.
"I look silly," she said, trying to hide her discomfort behind her usual stern expression but only half-succeeding.
Were it any other girl Takeru would have found it adorable, but this was Megumi he was talking about. A kitsune yokai who saw herself as a warrior and had the pride to match. For her this was as close to utter humiliation as she could allow, even if it was only to last for a few hours.
Takeru bowed in respect, "Lady Megumi."
Her yokai yellow eyes fell on the human boy. She bowed in return, "Takeru."
"Go on, Takeru, tell her what you think," said Shingo, trying to get a rise out of either of them.
Takeru wanted to say something but the fact that he didn't know what to say that would be right for Megumi's sake held him back. That and she had her eyes narrowed at him, like his life depended on what he did next.
"You're beautiful..." he said sheepishly.
Though he had said it in a near whisper the two fox yokai had heard him clearly thanks to their sensitive hearing.
Megumi turned away bashfully, though one could say she appreciated the compliment.
Shingo had to hold back a laugh. The whole scene was like a comedic play to him. "Now, you should be on your way-oh! I forgot. Sister, here."
Megumi turned her head towards her brother as he raised his hands to her hair. "What are you..."
"I know you shouldn't have it with you but if it makes you feel better...here's your sword. There," said the man. From what Takeru could see Shingo had put a silver hair pin of sorts on his sister's right temple which held back her bangs. "This silver pin is your sword, in case you inevitably run into a need to use it."
Megumi raised an eyebrow, "'Run into trouble'? Brother, are you saying I am attracted to trouble?"
Shingo smiled, "No, dear sister, I say trouble has a habit of finding you."
Megumi almost smirked for it was truth.
Her brother put his hand on her upper back and motioned to Takeru. "Now, please go and have fun with your future husband."
She rolled her eyes, already in a bad mood as she walked down the steps. Thanks to the wooden shoes she wore she was a few inches taller than Takeru as she approached him. "I hope we can get through this without issue."
"Same here." Takeru sympathized with her. Neither of them wanted to go and had pretty much been talked into it by their parents and for that both of them could actually agree on that.
'Still, we should have as much fun as we can...'
"Well, shall we?" asked the human boy.
Megumi nodded once, "Yes, let us be off."
For that moment the future husband and wife went on their way together.