A Whisper Amongst the Petals

Submitted into Contest #191 in response to: Make Japan (or Japanese culture) an element of your story.... view prompt

1 comment

East Asian Fantasy

(A side-story to: Might as Well Have Been Wind in the Bells)

I only came to the village for a look, fraternizing with humans has been highly discouraged throughout my life. But I find myself standing stock still, just outside town. Something’s calling to me, an electric feel in the air.

I can’t place it.

My keen eyes flicker across the landscape, searching for the source. The scenery is mountainous and green, full of beautiful rock formations and ornamented with twisted trees and bushes.

The scene is alluring and peaceful, and yet, unsettled by this strange feeling. Something tells me I’m going to have to use different sense to find the source of this pain.

I close my eyes and lean into it, It’s a sort of heavy sadness, but sad in a way I’ve never felt before.

I’m in darkness for a few moments before my mind’s eye alights in a sort of outline of the world that I’d just seen with my open eyes. The trees, the rocks, the smallest blades of grass, all outlined in a fiery blue, coursing with magic. And through it all, a trail of gold.

I take a step forward. Is this a good idea?

I shrug, I can probably handle whatever it is if it’s dangerous.

I begin following the trail eyes still closed as I walk through the stark landscape of spring, all a fiery blue against black in my mind’s eye.

As I move through the landscape, I notice it begin to change, become more tame. It is only when I find myself walking on a cobblestone path through a rain of fiery blossoms that I realize I’ve entered a garden.

And found the source of the strange call.

I open my eyes in surprise. Amidst a neat garden, furnished with a Koi pond, delicate water lilies blossoming on the surface and surrounded by a vibrant red fence, sits an old man on the back porch of a deep cherry wood house, accented in red and elegant in structure.

He blinks up at me in surprise.

I blink back at him, then turn and look back at where I must’ve entered the garden. There’s an open gate with blossoming cherry trees on either side of it like beautiful slender guardians. I must’ve been so focused on finding the source of the call that I didn’t notice entering.

I turn and look at him again. I’m not invisible right now… am I?

Darn it.

I quickly mutter something under my breath and glance at the koi pond. My handsome face is visible for a moment before my reflection disappears.

“I saw, you blue eyed one,” the old man says, with something like a chuckle. To my surprise he doesn’t seem at all intimidated.

I try staying still, hoping that he’ll think I was a trick of the light or a delusion of his ailing mind.

“We’ve met before, haven’t we?” he says softly, tapping his cane against the wood of his deck, “unless my old memory has failed me again.”

My reflection slowly reappears, it was a mistake to try and disappear. I have nothing to fear from this man, and only showed cowardice by hiding.

Besides, my interest is piqued.

“Have we?” I ask, slowly.

“In town,” he muses, not a hint of fear in his old grey eyes, “I believe you helped me cross the street, when I couldn’t see through the rain and storm.”

I pause, surprise thrilling through me. It’s true, I did help an old man cross the street once, but I never thought I’d see him again.

“Have you come for payment?” the man says, stroking his long white beard.

“Payment?” I ask, tilting my head, “what could you possibly give me? I did nothing in search of payment. Merely curiosity.”

“Ahh,” the man says, “I’m surprised, a Kitsune from the northern mountains like you does not usually spare a mortal a word if caught in direct confrontation. Not without payment at least.”

I’m drawn in by the fact that he can tell where I’m from, and am curious— what does he mean by kitsune from the northern mountains, are not all kitsune like that?

I take a step closer, “Are there others, who would not ask for such things?”

The man nods, “I’ve met a few myself. They tend to pick a home to guard and often enjoy the company of humans.”

I stare at him in shock, then breathe in deep, scenting the air. His words are pure, not a lie amongst them. “I have never heard of such kitsune,” I admit.

The man smiles sadly, “A youngling raised amongst beasts is not likely to know there is peace to be found elsewhere.”

My brow furrows, is he implying that I’ve been lied to by my family? I actually feel as if a weight has been lifted of my chest.

Lying amongst kitsune is frightfully common, and family is not as strong a word to kitsune as it is to humans. I don’t particularly like mine, and am more than ready to trust in most the dirt thrown on them.

I’ve always wondered if there were others like me out there, and now that I’m hearing there might be—I desperately want to believe it.

I suddenly remember why I came here, “That feeling,” I say suddenly, “what is it?”

The man looks at me, “What feeling?”

“It’s a sort of longing sadness,” I say, “I followed it here. To you. What is it?”

The man chuckles, “I believe you are referring to loneliness.”

I tilt my head at him, “I’ve never felt it before.”

“Kitsune are not inclined to the emotion,” he says, a sad smile on his face, “it is not one commonly encountered by an independent creature such as you are.”

“I don’t think I like it. It hurts, here,” I say softly, pressing a hand against the left side of my chest.

“More people than are willing to admit it feel this on a daily basis.”

Intrigued I walk over and sit on the steps of the porch and look up at him, “Why do people have it? Why do they pretend not to?” I can’t help but ask these questions, I’m not likely to get answers anywhere else.

He smiles down at me, leaning forward on his cane, “It’s a longing to be recognized, for someone to care about you. To be seen for who you are. Some people hide from it because they don’t want to be seen as lacking. In the end, it only hurts them more.”

My white vulpine ears twitch, as the feeling is explained to me, it hits me harder. It’s sharp and needling in my soul, a tear nearly falls from my eye at the pain. “And this is your loneliness I’m feeling?”

He nods.

I frown slightly, ears pressing thoughtfully back into my blue hair, as I study the old man. His skin is weathered and wrinkled, like a sort of delicate leather and his hair is fine and white. He looks frail, a weak vessel, and yet his tired eyes tell me that he’s holding much inside. It is apparent that he is much stronger than he looks. I’ve only experienced this feeling for a few moments, and already wish desperately to escape it.

“Is there a way I can take it from you?” I ask, biting the tip of my tongue thoughtfully between my canines while tapping my fingers against the rough deck, trying to think of some way to relieve his pain.

The old man looks at me in surprise, then his gaze softens and he looks up over my head at the mountains behind me, my gaze follows his. “Are you really a northern kitsune?” he asks.

I look back at him, I thought he’d said it himself already. “Yes, why?”

He looks at me kindly. “I’ve never met one like you, you remind me of the south. And yet… you bear semblance to the north.” he remarks, his eyes drifting back to the mountains, pink with the cherry blossoms of spring. “Curious.”

I look back as well, then my gaze turns to the guardian trees by the gate and I watch the petals fall with the occasional breeze.

The old man sighs, stroking his beard.

I turn to him suddenly, “The feeling… it’s gone.” I hadn’t even noticed it leave.

He smiles, “Indeed.”

“But how?”

“You have taken it from me,” the man says, tapping his cane on the wood deck.

“But… I do not feel the pain,” I say, looking down at myself, I feel nothing, nor do I see anything out of the ordinary. Just my usual blue yukata. I look back up at the man. “And I have done nothing but sit here.”

He chuckles, “Loneliness is not hard to take away if one is willing to give it up. And if it is truly taken, it will not transfer to the taker.”

“You no longer hurt?” I ask.

“You have kept me company, it is a small deed, but it is enough.”

My brow furrows in confusion. “Why would no one else do it then?”

The man sighs, “Everyone has their own reasons. Loneliness is a poison, and so is time. Or a human’s comprehension of it is. Most people don’t have the time. I couldn’t tell you all their reasons, some are good, and some are not. There are a few in-between even.”

I nod, just as confused as before. “You said other kitsune… guard houses often?”

“Not all, the trait is more likely to be found in a southern kitsune, east tend to be more wild and the west more withdrawn. But yes, some do. It’s not very common for a kitsune to claim a household, but it happens.”

Picking out truth and lies from a human’s words is easy to do, but not so much with kitsune. I feel a pang in my chest suddenly as I realize that they’ve been holding things back from me. I’m not surprised though.

“Can I… can I claim a house?” I ask, curiosity tingling in my fingertips.

The old man shrugs, “I don’t see why not.”

A small smile flickers on my face as I look at the deck again, then my smile turns to a frown. “How does one claim a house?” I feel a little silly asking a human about such things, but I know for a fact that no kitsune I know is going to tell me the answer.

“I don’t really know,” the old man says, thoughtfully, looking up at the sky.

I slowly get to my feet. Looking down at the man, “Your pain, will it return?”

He looks up at me with a smile, “Probably.”

I nod in and turn, beginning to walk away down the path.

“Farewell, blue eyed one,” he calls after me.

I pause in the gate, amongst the swirling blossoms, “Farewell.”

Then I look down at the fence, placing a hand on the gate, instinct taking over.

I whisper something to it, the fence, the house, the old man, the garden the grass, the koi, the cherry trees.

A breeze blows and blossoms fall all around me. I lift my hand from the wood of the gate, a sigil glows there now.

The outline of a fiery blue Sakura petal filled in with white and veined in gold.

So that’s how you do it.


“Perhaps we will meet again,” the man says.

I smile knowingly and glance back at the house, “Perhaps.”

Then I step out of the garden and back into the wilds.

I waste no more time getting back to my home, high in the mountain amongst it’s grove of cherry trees and rich grass. I stand there, looking down the mountain at the village far below.

The wind blows light white and pink petals by, I brush them out of my hair.

“Loneliness,” I muse, whispering the word into the cherry petals swirling around me, testing the feel of it on my tongue. What a strange concept.

March 29, 2023 20:45

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

1 comment

04:50 Apr 01, 2023

I love the new unique character you have added to your small short story series. This old man's personality makes me feel like if I were ever to meet him I would almost automatically perceive him as a grandfatherly figure. Also the topic of loneliness with its simple questions and responses were beautiful. Great job!( ╹▽╹ )


Show 0 replies
RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.