It was a day like many many others. Her world was a room. Two paces, cool stone, three paces, rough wood, a door, and in that a smaller door, a tiny one, a food door. Kitsuniko would have despaired, but it was her world and she could remember nothing else. There was a dim light coming from the light place, sometimes it was yellow, now it was blue.
“Daylight. The day begins, the words must be said, the ritual must be performed, that I might find my mother, that I might help her in her need.” She gathered herself, moving by feel the proper distance from the wood, from the door. “Body remembers what the mind has forgotten,” In the semi-darkness Kitsuniko moves, fighting shadows with shadow knives. In the half light nothing is unreal.
Heart beating rapidly, the circle complete, the ritual almost full. Her body is as it always is. There is delicious ache, there is need for food, there is life, blood rushing, there is, “This, that I might find my mother, that I might help her in her need.”
Breath in, breath out, and, there is silence there is discord in her world.
Puzzled, Kitsuniko knows that there should be an opening of the food door, the smell of it, wholesome, needed and there the bowl which ever holds what is needful.
* * *
Above there is discord indeed. The Scholar and the Herb Witch have come before the Shogun of the Pinnacle of the Rice Fields. They have come to plead for Kitsuniko’s release with subterfuge. There have been four Shogun since Kitsuniko killed the Shogun the fourth replaced. That Shogun did not last long enough to release his ally before the third put him to the sword. All this was most unfortunate.
The scholar was speaking in the way that he had that made men of action’s eyes glaze, “It has been fifty long years since Kitsuniko was placed in that cell. Apparently, she was a hired assassin and in my research there are tantalizing hints that the woman was a skilled sorcerer. In fact, there is good reason to suppose that claims that she could transpose herself with another were not just fictions meant to cover misdeeds, but in fact true. This I have from many reliable sources. Kitsuniko can, given the right conditions, move from one place to another where there is a victim, and in turn the victim assumes the previous position of Kitsuniko. I think the Herb Witch can confirm that such is possible though not common.
The Shogun’s eyes were glazed, but he felt justified as a man of action. He waved off the scholar and tried to get the man to his point, “All of this is fine to hear, facts and sources and hints, but what exactly or you telling me?” The scholar blinked stupidly, as if he could not comprehend the Shogun’s clear question.
The Herb Witch stepped forward, “Simply put, the Kitsuniko in your dungeon, is not Kitsuniko at all, but an innocent. The assassin and sorcerer, Kitsuniko herself, has escaped leaving the poor innocent to pay for her crimes.”
“I don’t see how this involves me.” began the Shogun, “I didn’t even know this creature was in my dungeon.”
“Most regrettable,” said the Scholar.
“Most unfortunate,” agreed the Herb Witch.
“How can you possibly know? If it has been fifty years, who would know the assassin? Besides, I have no complicity at all. This is not my affair.”
“MMmmm, true, and yet Kitsuniko’s assassination of Warlike Name, brought Sneaky Dragon to power. She undoubtedly expected quick release. But when Strong Phoenix overthrew Sneaky Dragon she was never freed. She has languished there ever after. Through the unfortunate reign of Strong Phoenix and the grievous mismanagement of Golden Stag even when your father, Wise Griffin, saved our good pinnacle from sure destruction, may he be remembered reverently for all time, and you now ensure our continuance with your strong sword, she has been left to rot in the deepest darkest dungeon.”
The Shogun, Rising Tide, shook himself. His eyes had glazed again, “I don’t see the problem. You keep talking and talking and I wish to understand, but I see no problem in this for me.” The old scholar looked dazed himself, perhaps he wasn’t totally immune to his own droning.
The Herb Witch stepped forward again to explain, “Only this my lord. Kitsuniko might well be in great anger at the Shogun of the Pinnacle of the Rice Fields though you are not the foolish man that did not release her as promised.”
“But that was Sneaky Phoenix’s problem . . .”
“ummm, Sneaky Dragon, my lord.” corrected the Scholar helpfully.
“Fine, Sneaky Dragon, but how could this assassin hold me accountable for something done long before even my father, . . .”
“May he ever be reverenced,” intoned the elders
“. . . Wise Griffin was Shogun before me?”
“Fifty years in prison might cause one to be unhinged. . .” said the Herb Witch.
“Assassins . . ,” furnished the Scholar
“I thought you said she had escaped by changing places with another.”
“How to know but to look and see?” asked the Herb Witch.
Being a man of action, the Shogun, seeing an action to be done, did, “Guards attend me. You Scholar, and you Witch, come also. There is no need to wonder when we can see.”
The trip down into the deepest darkest dungeon was revealing, this was a place where a prisoner was sent to be forgotten. The Shogun wondered how anyone could survive fifty years with the weight of the pinnacle above them. The jailer only spent time here when he worked and he seemed a bit made, “Is it much farther, Jailer?”
“Not much to the door. Who can say if it will open? That door has been shut tight for. . .”
“Over fifty years.”
“Long before I started” The jailer shoved his key into the lock and struggled for a few moments. They heard a metallic click and mumbled curses, “That’s the key, it’s broken off in the lock,” said the man.
“What now?” asked the Shogun.
“I push it in?” asked the big galoeer.
“Do so,” said the Shogun, Rising Tide.
* * *
They had found the girl cowering in the corner, blinded by their torches. It seemed obvious to the Shogun and when it was explained, the Jailer, that this child, no more than twenty, could not be the seventy-year-old assassin, Kitsuniko.
The Scholar advised, and then produced a written pardon and parole, absolving the former Kitsuniko of her former now fifty-year-old deeds. It seemed stupid to the Shogun, but for some reason the Scholar thought this might molify the great sorceror and assassin Kitsuniko. Being a man of action, Rising Tide, the Shogun, signed and had this pardon proclaimed throughout the pinnical. Why borrow trouble?
The two elders, the Scholar and the Herb Witch, had even taken care of the poor waif, wisking her off to their den, the Shogun hoped, never to be seen again. All was well, all was back to normal.
* * *
Behind the Herb Witch’s shop and the Scholar’s library there was their home. It was dimly lit now and the two elders fussed over the disoriented girl. “You need to eat, I know this all is strange to you. Rest, be refreshed,” said the old woman.
Are you my mother? Are you in need? Kitsuniko thought. All this is strange, this of the old woman, this speech. I do not know it and yet I understand.
Now the old man spoke, “We apologize for the long delay. It is not right that you were in that hole for so long. We do beg your pardon.
The hole, Kitsuniko looked at the old man, he meant well, but his words confused her. When he said hole did he mean the world? And what was this place? So bright, and with these others. “Are you my mother? Are you in need?” Kitsuniko directed her question to the old woman, the words came with difficulty.
The old man was confused to silence by her mumblings, but the old woman heard and reshaped the words into something intelligible. “Am I your mother?” The old woman smiled and look to the old man. The Herb Witch smiled at Kitsuniko, “No, I am not your mother, but we,” and she made a motion that included the Scholar, “We are all blood.”
There was silence, comfortingly like her world. Quiet like the old world, this one was messier, confusing, but she knew from her ritual that there was a wider world that she wasn’t allowed, but one day she would. It was today.
The old woman and the old man got to their feet and stood, hand pressing hand, “Daylight and dark. The day begins, the day ends, the words must be said, the ritual must be performed, that I might know my purpose, that I am ready at need.” The words were different, but the ritual was the same, the movings and steppings, Kitsuniko flowed with her blood, two she could not remember but seemed to know or be known by. “Body remembers what the mind has forgotten,” In the semi-darkness Kitsuniko moves, fighting shadows with shadow knives. In the half light nothing is unreal.