Lotus petals floated delicately across the still pond water, a large black koi pressing its mouth to the surface to nibble on leftover crumbs from earlier. Sometimes, Mother would allow us to feed the fish after dinner, if we had behaved of course. She would give us a dinner roll each, and Kichirou would dangle his legs over the edge of the pool, his toes brushing the water ever so slightly, with bread on them to tease the fish into coming up. Mother and Father would sit near the kitchen, talking about the day while they watched us. They always assume we don’t notice them, but we do. Sometimes they come join us before bed, and Mother entertains us by having the koi dance in the water. I hope to learn how to do that, someday. Maybe she will teach me if I ask.
Mother hasn’t made the fish dance lately, though. She talks with Father in a low voice about someone named Kogi-sama. I’ve never met this person before, but from what Kichi said, Kogi-sama was one of Mother’s most cherished friends. He said she called him her ‘sword’ – I guessed he was similar to Hasebe or Mitsutada. I’ve never met him before, but he seemed important to Mother. One day, I came upon her nearly in tears, but she brushed them away quickly and put a smile on for me, as if I wasn’t to think anything of it. But I told Kichi that night, and he agreed with me that we needed to do something for Mother.
Last night we were finally able to act. Kichi and I went to the shrine of Izanami that Mother and Father erected after we were born. Together, we prayed that she and Inari would send Mother a sign that Kogi-sama was alright. Perhaps that would cheer her up. As we snuck back into our room, I saw the whisper of a tail disappear around the corner of the hall. Making sure Kichi was already in bed, I slid out once more and pulled my robe on to follow it.
It led me across the courtyard, past the touken danshi quarters, and into the garden. Mother and Father had been married there, I remember it like it was yesterday. Mother looked radiant, and I think Father agreed as well. But I saw something sitting in the spot where they had been, under the willow tree. A little white fox had its head tilted at me, as if I was the strange one in the garden. It let me approach it, and I was nearly able to pet it before it took off, though not as fast as before. I think it wanted me to follow, so I did.
I’m unsure how I was so lucky not to run into any guards, or that Kichirou hadn’t decided to chase after me. He was never as sneaky as I was, and he made so much noise just breathing. I hated playing hide and seek with him. But I followed the fox through the whole citadel it felt, until we ended up outside our parent’s room. It walked right in, and I had to hold my breath to slid inside – the door was still creaky, since it hadn’t been fixed yet. I looked around the room and saw the little fox had jumped onto the bed, and as I got closer, it sat squarely on Mother’s chest. I dared not shoo it away, but it felt like I didn’t need to. It stretched out slightly, and lay its head down on its paws, over Mother’s heart. I stayed for a few minutes, and we watched each other until I felt it was okay to go. I’m not sure I had to feel that way before I could leave, but I did. I went back to bed, and forgot all about it until the next morning.
Mother made us all breakfast while Father instructed the swords on the day’s work ahead. She served us and then went to speak with the rest of them outside. Of course, Kichi and I wanted to listen as well, so we grabbed our toast and snuck to the back door.
“It was like he was right there, Kuro. I felt like Inari had hugged me tight, like it was Kogi’s way of saying hello.” I watched Mother hug herself, and Father had a smile on his face. They both looked relieved, and Mother definitely looked happier. “I have no idea what blessing has been wrought on me, but I shall pray today in thanks for the sign. I will not worry anymore.” Mother kissed Father on the cheek and thanked him for being so patient with her. I had always admired their bond – it was so special, even among other families. I never saw daimyo’s or samurai treat their family that way in front of others. We saw Mother coming back with Father, and Kichi nearly fell over as we ran back to the kitchen to keep eating. She scolded us gently for letting our eggs get cold but we didn’t mind. It was good to hear the happiness in her voice again.
Izanami, you have my thanks once more.
Kichirou and Kuro belongs to Kuro Nuko
Nori and Akane belongs to me.
Some Touken Ranbu fanfic ~