Fox of Nine Tails by Princess PrattlesThe Fox Mother Before She LeavesHayato's mother notices him watching her wrap her two braids atop her head. As long as her child doesn't look at her directly, observing only her reflection, she won't have to return to mountain forest where his father rescued her four years ago.All she remembers about that time is that she must've been chasing some kind of prey, a man on a horse, to be precise."Surely, he deserved it," she tells herself, "However, a fox-woman seldom recalls her previous incarnations. Kami only grant a pure heart to she who luxuriates in forgetfulness.""Okaasan/Mother," Hayato enquires sweetly, "Why do you have three furry ears on your head?""I don't have three ears. I only have two. However, my right one was split in half. I appear a little silly, don't you think?" she giggles warmly.All of a sudden, Hayato springs forth like a ninja from the shadows with his make-believe sword, "I shall defend you, Okaasan!" making her smile, grabbing hold of him, hugging him affectionately."You're our brave and beautiful soul," she weeps, dreading the day she'll be forced to depart, "Remember me whenever you see a fox with three ears."A Fox-Family Reunion of SortsTwenty or so years later, Hayato spots a fox with three ears. Sadly, she is skin and bones, her fur mangy, her tail broken from having been run over or chomped on by a predator. Everywhere he walks along the river, she's lurking behind fir trees and baby bamboo. He knows it must be is fox-mother!Three nights in a row, he makes a fire, camping by himself, cooking half a dozen hares he's been shooting with his bow and arrows, only enjoying a couple of morsels for himself, leaving the rest. On the fourth day, it's unseasonably warm, and so he decides to bathe quickly in the nearly freezing water. It's there he catches a glimpse of her reflection, vividly recalling her as she used to be decades ago.The next thing he realizes, he's awakened from a dream, and glaring at him through the firelight is a fox-woman seated across from him, wearing a black kimono. He tries to make out its captivating design, but it's a blur that changes into something new and unexpected each time he focuses his attention on it."What is she doing with her hands, working so intently?" he wonders.He rubs and squints his eyes, then rubs them again.Of course, it hasn't gone unnoticed that this fox-woman peering deeply into his eyes is a stranger to him, for she has two ears and not three.He smiles sleepily, begging her pardon before returning to bed. As he's turning to lie on his side, the corner of his eye witnesses a shiny white object so gruesome he can hardly breathe! The Yōkai /Spectre is polishing the skull of a fox! She holds it up against her face as if trying on a mask, and it is then that she finally speaks:"I am the mist of the forest, born from the depths of Sakurajima," she warns him in an eerie tone, foretelling a volcanic eruption!Afterward, she starts to giggle, resulting in her third ear popping up abruptly, despite having been glued with pitch, and in a quarter of a second, the formerly pathetic creature, now invigorated by another hearty meal of fine fresh hare, scurries off so fast, not even her doubly distended stomach slows her down.Huli Jing, Fox Fairy"Surely I must be dreaming," Hayato exclaims, "for you're not supposed to revert into an enormous fox, standing erect; not according to Japanese folklore, anyway.""That's because I'm not Japanese," his mother replies."So you originated in China then?""Hardly.""Ah, I see, you're a desert dweller!""Wrong again," she sighs, "you see, this world has changed many times over; however, I remain the same, thriving within its impermanence.""I'm Japanese, right?""You certainly are!" his fox-mother says immodestly, "You're perfect, and you've the strength to achieve everything I can't; nevertheless, your children's children will grow weaker with each passing generation; unless they're daring and fortunate enough to meet and marry heavenly fox-women, of course.""Are you implying they'll become sickly?""In mind and spirit, yes. As time goes on, a superficial understanding will overtake them like the morning fog does the shoreline; except there's no sun behind the clouds to demystify it.""The circumstances must be just right," Hayato mutters, recalling the story of how his father saved his mother, "Or could it have been the other way around?"She smiles hopefully, "Someday, you'll be even more clever and wise than I and all those who've gone before," rising to her feet, "Now go back to sleep, for this is all a dream because nobody rescued me that day. The man you know as your father arrived too late. He took pity on me, granting me dignity as I took my last breath by covering my face with a silk fan of sweetly scented sandalwood, a gift for his concubine. Yet before my blood turned its pastel flowers bright red, I finally comprehended the ancient script of the poet who personalized it. It was he who guided me to this place," she pauses, wistfully gazing upon the magical surroundings in which she still finds herself, "leading me ever so tenderly back to you."