East Asian Fantasy Romance

Taro was a poor but hard-working farmer, growing radishes and raising chickens for their eggs, which he would sell at the village market.

One day, he set out for the village with a basket full of eggs. Along the road, he heard the sounds of shouting and laughing coming from a thicket.

Strange, thought Taro, and went to investigate. He saw a group of youths from the village in a circle kicking and beating a slender white fox. Being a kindhearted soul, who could not bear to see animals in pain, he approached the boys.

“Please stop,” he said, “this fox has done nothing to hurt you.”

“That is neither here nor there,” the largest of the youths cried out. “And besides, once we have had our fun, we are going to skin this disgusting beast and sell its hide to Ako the tanner.”

Taro looked at the white fox, panting and trembling in fear.

He held out his basket. “Here, take these eggs in exchange for the fox. You will get far more in the village than some dirty old fur.”

The boys spoke among themselves and decided that indeed the eggs were of more value. They grabbed the basket and ran off, shouting as they left, “Enjoy your precious fox, old man!”

Taro knelt down and stroked the fox. “You are free now, my friend. Go in peace.”

The fox looked with luminous eyes at Taro and trotted away, glancing back once, then vanished into the woods.

The following morning, Taro set out for the market with a wooden box full of radishes. His crops had been poor this season, as rainfall had been scarce. The money he would make from these would have to last him for some time.

Entering the village, he saw the group of youths from the day before.

“Hey look, it’s the fox man!” They surrounded Taro, poking and slapping, causing him to drop his box, the radishes scattering everywhere.

Laughing mockingly, the boys ran off down the street.

Taro bent down and began gathering up the radishes.

“Please gentle sir, allow me to help you.”

He turned, and before him stood the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.

“Wh-Why, my lady,” Taro stammered, “I could not let one so lovely as you scrabble in the dirt.”

“My name is Keiko, and I am not so delicate as all that.” With swift hands, she collected the radishes back into the box.

“You are Taro the farmer?” Keiko said, brushing the dust from her kimono. “I have heard that you are most humble and honest.”

“I try my best, my lady, I mean Keiko.”

Taro took her hand timidly. “After I have sold my produce, I would be honored if you would take tea with me, to refresh ourselves.”

Keiko smiled shyly. “I would be delighted.”

The next time Taro visited the market, Keiko was there waiting. Once again, he plucked up the courage to ask her to join him for tea. Whilst relaxing in the tea gardens, Taro boldly took his chance.

“Keiko, I find you most lovely, and your company is like a summer breeze. Will you do the honour of marrying me?”

Kieko blushed. “Of course I will, my gentle farmer.”

Taro’s heart felt like it would burst. He bowed low.

“I live a modest existence, and cannot offer you riches, but all that I have is yours.”

And so Keiko moved into his cottage, and for a time they lived in bliss, sharing the farm chores. In the evening, they would walk hand in hand along the beach, the soft waves lapping at their feet, while they gazed upon the stars.

After a little while, Taro began to notice that his radishes were much more plump and juicy than before, and the eggs his chickens laid were large with bright yellow yolks.

When he mentioned this to his wife, she replied, “My ancestors have long made tribute to Inari, so maybe the good fortune of the fox deity shines upon us, blessing us with bounty.”

Taro agreed that this was as good an explanation as any. Keiko turned away, secretly smiling.

The couple and their farm prospered, and the reputation of the delicious radishes and eggs spread far and wide, with many coming to buy from them.

One afternoon, while Taro and Keiko were tending to their fields, a huntsman passed by with his hunting dogs. Breaking free from their leashes, the dogs barreled through the farm gate, barking and snarling.

Taro raised his rake. “Huntsman, call off your hounds. We mean you no harm.”

He heard a cry from behind and turned to see Keiko cowering in fear. Then the strangest thing occurred. Her body seemed to shimmer, transforming into a sleek white fox. Both Taro and the huntsman gave a shout, and the fox fled swiftly into the cottage.

“Devils!” cried the huntsman and ran toward the village, followed by his dogs.

Taro cautiously entered the cottage to find Keiko curled up in a corner, tears streaming down her face.

“Oh my husband, I have kept a terrible secret from you!”

Taro knelt down and put his hand in hers. “Tell me, my beloved.” Although in his heart he already knew.

“I am a kitsune. You saved my life, and I was bound to return the good deed.”

Keiko wiped her eyes. “And now I am deeply in love with you, with your kindness and gentle heart.”

Taro embraced Keiko and kissed her forehead.

“It is of no matter, my love for you is as deep as the ocean. I am the happiest man alive when I am with you.”

Keiko shook her head. “Don’t you understand? They will come for me now, and kill me.”

Taro was silent and held her in his arms.

Sure enough, that evening a large group of men from the village stormed to the farm gate, bearing flaming torches.

“Farmer, bring out your devil woman so that we may deal with her justly!”

Inside the cottage, Taro whispered, “You must change form and flee into the woods.”

Keiko looked at him intently, eyes luminous and wide.

“My sorrow at losing you is great, but not as great as if harm were to befall you.”

Taro kissed her lips. “Now go, I will delay these men for you to make your escape.”

With a grief-stricken look, Keiko became a fox once more, and vanished into the night.

Taro walked outside and approached the village men. “I was enchanted by dark magic, but now the veil of sorcery has been lifted from my eyes. I have cast the she-devil out, never to return.”

The men grumbled, but with no further recourse, stood down and left.

Taro sank to his knees among the radishes, a rain of tears falling onto the fallow ground.

March 12, 2023 13:21

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Mary Bendickson
21:01 Mar 27, 2023

Nice romantic fantasy. Maybe she'll be closely watching and still giving him bounty.


Darryl Roberts
22:50 Mar 27, 2023

Thanks that’s actually how the original folklore goes, the fox spirit comes back every so often.


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V. S. Rose
00:10 Mar 14, 2023

Nice story Darryl. I always love fantasy stories. Fun and interesting characters and I liked the world-building that you put into this :)


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Wendy Kaminski
00:45 Mar 13, 2023

This was a beautiful story, Darryl - excellently written fantasy!


Darryl Roberts
00:51 Mar 13, 2023

Thank you, it was a little out of my comfort zone from my normal style.


Wendy Kaminski
00:57 Mar 13, 2023

It definitely didn't show! :)


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