Sudden brightness tickled Kama’s nose and the sun forced a sneeze from her slender snout. Feeling a tug upon one of her seven tails, she lashed it good-naturedly. Tsuki wrinkled his tiny muzzle around the mouthful of her fur with mock ferocity.
Bounding from the dark den, older sister Shumi imitated their mother with a perfect miniature of the vixen’s sneeze. Kama proudly admired the female kit. Her girl-child already sported two tails. Was that the start of a third? Shumi just might take after her very wise father. Tori had gained the full compliment of nine far ahead of adulthood. Why couldn’t his daughter?
Tsuni yelped, obviously noting his mother’s admiration of older Shumi. Without a doubt, his playful call begged for Kama’s notice. She felt a surge of guilt and looked toward her young son. Single-tailed and simple, her boy deserved no less love or approval.
Kama watched Tsuni dart between clusters of wildflowers. Her eyes were newly appraising. Diminutive paws were sure, Tsuni’s flight swift and agile.
The rueful mother fox took on a playful stance. As she prepared for the chase, a figure on the horizon stopped her. A sharp call to her kits sent them scurrying for home.
A mysterious man approached, the unfriendly wind carrying all useful scent away from Kama and her babies. Did he mean them harm? Or had he come out of respect? Before she could decide on a course of action, the unmistakable fan of Tori’s tails thrilled her to the core. The rejoicing vixen leapt to welcome her Reynard, the unexpected return bittersweet.
Tori was home. But for how long?
Their Lord Inari didn’t often dismiss his kitsune servants short of five decades. Nor did he normally grant temporary leave for these vital messengers. Yet here stood her beloved Tori in the flesh, resplendent in this particular human form, and far short of completing fifty years.
Standing upright, she reached delicate fingers toward his strong face. Kama spoke the only thought she could voice.
“I have wonderful news, dearest Kama. Inari has sent me to begin training our little Tsuki. He is to be Inari’s right hand in a mere thousand years.”
With that most unanticipated blessing ringing in her ears, Kama watched the large fox run toward his children. Her husband’s golden fur shone, gilded to brilliance by the spring rays.