Daichi, a young kitsune has a favorite trick. He likes to give humans the powers of a yokai to see what they’ll do with it, reveal their true nature. But this time, his marks are a little strange.
The Analogy of the Tail
Daichi considered most humans to be lagging behind when it came to sapient lifeforms. After all, they couldn’t truly be an evolved educated race if they still wore pants. Proved they were too hung up on personal appearances. But, for an unevolved pants-wearing race, they could come up with some pretty interesting ideas. Especially when it came to philosophy. Kitsunes like Daichi weren’t that big on philosophy. You were either a spiteful Inari or a helpful Zenko. And Daichi felt like neither one of those quite described him.
Daichi wasn’t an adult yet. His fur was still the normal red color of a plain forest fox, and he only had three tails. By human standards he would have been around fourteen years old. Right now, the young fox was in a humanoid form, sitting in tree, his back to the trunk, his ears twitching as he listened to the voices of his new victims drawing nearer. Though victims didn’t feel quite right. They were going to be the targets of a little joke. But really, if there were any victims it would be up to them.
This went back to the human philosophy that interested Daichi so much. Specifically, Plato and Ring of Gyges. A magic ring that could turn anyone invisible. The short version of it, was that someone who had the ring would reveal their true nature. While invisible, they were free from the consequences of their actions. With no way to be held accountable, would they remain virtuous, or would they steal, trick others, do other random human crime things. Daichi should really learn what other human crimes existed. But it was an interesting idea. Give a seemingly normal good person power, and watch their true nature come out when they use it. It was a fabulous idea, and Daichi loved it. Shame Plato was kind of a jerk. At least he had a few cool ideas.
The Ring of Gyges wasn’t a perfect analogy for the pranks Daichi planned, but it was close enough. If nothing else, it had definitely inspired him. And now, the two targets were getting closer. He could hear them arguing.
“And this is why I don’t do outdoors.” Leon, the older man with dark blonde, tied back in a long ponytail spoke up. “You can’t get lost in your own living room.”
“We’re not lost.” Zach insisted. He was slightly younger, had paler brown hair. Both of the two were in shorts, a t-shirt and sandals, but Zach also wore a pair of glasses. “We’ve gone in a straight line, all we have to do is go in a straight line back and we’re fine.”
“Which we’ve been trying to do and we still haven’t caught sight of the trail.” Leon sighed. “The weird thing is I don’t even remember stepping off it. How the heck did we get lost in the woods?”
“Heh.” Daichi quickly threw his hands over his muzzle (which he had due to being in a humanoid form right now) to prevent his laughter from being heard. Them being lost was entirely his fault. Daichi had led them off the trail and gotten them turned around in the woods. Moving around an entire forest was a bit above Daichi’s level of power. But, throwing up the illusions of extra trees, concealing the trail from sight, changing the location of the illusionary trees to make it impossible to pick out a straight path. That was child’s play. And another failure of humans. They relied on sight too much. Daichi could only make visual illusions. If the two had relied on their sense of hearing or smell, they would have seen right through the trick. Well maybe not seen, but figured out what was up at least.
“Alright, we need to start making markings on trees so we know if we passed them or not.” Leon grabbed a sharp rock off the ground and approached one of the trees. “I’m going to draw an arrow to show which direction we walked in from each tree I mark.” He reached out to carve the arrow only for his hand to pass right through the tree. “Huh?”
“Leon… What is wrong with your hand?” Zach asked. “How are you…” He looked over Leon, seeing there was no hole or indent in the tree. His friend’s hand was just going right through it.
“GAH!” Leon jerked his hand out of the tree as if it might bite him. He dropped the rock and looked at his hand, happy to see it was still there.
“Well… That’s weird.” Zach very slowly approached the tree and held out his own hand. He moved it inside the tree, feeling no resistance whatsoever. The tree didn’t exist. They could see it, but it had no physical presence. “What… Are we looking at?”
“Dang it.” Daichi muttered under his breath. The humans were on to his tricks after all. And not by being clever. No, that would have been fun, then Daichi would have gotten to play a little game of wits against them as they tried to figure out what was going on. But no, just by dumb luck. Well, they were almost directly beneath the tree he was hiding in. He supposed now was as good a time as ever as to start the experiment. His four tails quivered, and a blue flame appeared on the tip of each one. Then, wanting to hide the direction the flames came from, he hurled the flames in the opposite direction of the two men, had them circle around.
Each one was no bigger than a baseball. But the blue glow lit up the area as they closed in on Leon and Zach.
“Leon! Watch out!” Zach shouted as he saw the flames first and tried to move out of the way. Two of the flames changed direction to fly directly into his body. The other two flew into Leon. Neither one of them was harmed. However, a moment later they were both engulfed in flames. They didn’t match the blue fire, and in fact each of them had their own color flame.
The fire around Leon, was almost more of a gold color. Meanwhile, Zach’s was blue, but not the same shade of blue of the fire that had struck them. A much deeper one. Both of them prepared to shout as they caught on fire, but froze in confusion when they realized neither one of them was getting hurt.
Their clothes on the other hand… Those were being burnt away, leaving them naked. But that was hardly the thing to focus on when you were suddenly on fire. Even if it didn’t hurt.
“What-“ Leon started to ask. As he did, both he and Zach sprouted fox tails. A golden orange for Leon, and a dark brown for Zach. The tails they sprouted then split into three tails each. Matching fur began to grow in over their entire body, as their faces pushed outward into muzzles, their ears moved to the top of their head, and their feet shifted into paws. Both of them fell down onto all fours, as soon they looked like just normal forest foxes. Other than the fact that they had three tails.
“Okay, seriously, what?” Zach asked. “Oh! Hey! We can still talk!”
“That we can…” Leon walked in a circle trying to observe his tails. “Is this because we stuck our hand in the tree?” He stretched. “Cause honestly, I kind of like this. I should have tried to carve arrows into random trees a long time ago.”
“I mean… That feels like an unlikely cause…” Zach responded. Though he didn’t have a better idea. It didn’t help his mind was distracted. Yes, he had transformed, and that was a thing to deal with. But he was experiencing the sensation of having a tail, or tails actually. And he wondered how he ever managed to walk around and keep his balance without one in the past.
“Hey where did our cell phones go?” Leon asked. “I want to get a picture so I can see fully what I look like.”
“Uh…” Zach looked to what ashes remained of the clothes they had been wearing. There were two burnt up rectangular chunks. “Pretty sure they’re gone. And could you even use a phone with paws?”
“Maybe?” Leon replied. “I mean texting used to be hard before I got practice at it, sure I can practice again, though I suppose hands would be useful…” As he spoke, he nearly fell over as his forepaws turned back into hands, though still ones covered in fur. “WHOA!”
“What’s wrong now?” Zach hadn’t noticed the change yet.
“Nothing’s wrong but… Gimme a sec…” Having seen his hands change as he thought about it, Leon closed his eyes and slowly stood up on his hind legs. As he did, his body shifted and changed, and after a few seconds he was a humanoid three tailed fox, with working thumbs and everything. But he had lost about two feet in height from when he had been human. “Aha! It worked! So… We’re shapeshifters then?” Leon rubbed his chin. “We touched the tree, then there were those blue orbs of fire…” He paused. “We might be possessed, or possibly wondered into enchanted forest… But I feel like now is not the best time to look a gift horse in the mouth. Come on! Just focus on walking on two legs! See if you can do it too.”
“If we are shapeshifters that does make things a lot simpler.” Zach tried standing up on his hind legs. His gait shifted immediately to accommodate him, as he two gained a humanoid form, though much shorter than his human form. “Heh… That’s… Really cool.”
“Huh, they learn fast.” Daichi observed from up in the tree where he was still hiding. Usually, most people were freaking out about now, and would still be several minutes before they learned they could change forms, or even become completely human again by focusing on it. Usually at the time they started rambling about what would happen when so and so saw them like this. But these two? They seemed more curious and excited for the change than worried. It was as if all worries had gone out the door the moments they had sprouted tails. Well… Daichi couldn’t imagine life without his tails. So, he could understand how they could be a comforting thing in a trying time. But still! Most humans freaked out.
But this was good. It meant it was time to move the game along. He had given them Plato’s Ring. Sort of. He had transformed them into kitsune yokai with all the magical power that came with it. Now the fun part came in seeing how they used that power. Once they realized they had complete control of their form, and all kinds of other things they could do, there would be a ton of opportunities for them to give in to their Id without any worry of being caught.
As for Daichi. Technically. He had done nothing wrong. They could take human form and live their lives as normal humans if they chose. He had simply given them the option to have power. What they chose to use it for if anything was their prerogative.
“Hmmmm.” Leon muttered. “While this is nice, there is the problem of getting back into town and…” He paused, noticing that he was standing on the trail. “Wait… We’re… Not lost anymore?”
“It would seem so.” Zach didn’t know what to make of it. Obviously, magic was happening. And so if asked for any kind of explanation the best he could do was throw up his hands and shout ‘magic.’ “So, we can go home but looking like this… Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but we’re going to turn a few heads.”
“Maybe we can change more?” Leon grinned. As he did, his muzzle melted back into his face, fur disappeared from his body, and he soon began to look like his human self. Minus a few details. His hair now hung loosely around his shoulders, the tie having burnt up. Also, he still had three tails, ears, paws and paw-like hands, and fur that went from his paws to his knees and from his hands to his elbows. “Ta-daaaaah! Can fit in perfectly as humans.”
“I think you missed a spot.” Zach muttered. He focused, and changed entirely back into a human without any issue. So why had Leon stopped where he was? Well… Zach felt like he was missing something now. Having had tails, even briefly, their absence just felt fine. Soon, he shifted back, copying Leon’s form, keeping the tails, ears and paws. The two were also taller like this. Likely only having lost about a foot off their normal height.
“Heh… Knew you would miss ‘em too much to get rid of them.” Leon teased Zach. “Don’t get me wrong, I mean I feel the same way. Still, it’s only one problem. We’re kind of naked right now. And while we’re both fine with that… There are those decency laws that we’ll get in trouble going home like this.” Leon crossed his arms. “Even if we go fully human going to draw attention. Maybe try going full fox again? See if we can conceal the extra tails? Gotta figure out what all the limits of this are and what else we can do.”
“What else we can do huh?” Zach looked down at his paws as he considered. He could transform himself. Could he change others? If so, by how much. Leon was still rambling, coming up with a plan for getting back home. Zach smiled mischievously. He was just going to pull a small little joke. He didn’t even know if it’d work. He held out a finger as a blue flame appeared on it. He smiled with delight as he saw it did, then flicked the blue flame into Leon.
“But our keys burnt up too so we’re going to need to find a way into the house and-“ Leon paused, noticing his voice was becoming higher pitched. And also, he was getting shorter. “Hey what?” He looked up, seeing Zach whose fingertips were still faintly glowing blue. “What did you do?” Leon asked and huffed as he put his hands on his hips.
“Gave you something you always wanted.” Zach stuck his tongue playfully. Then patted the smaller Leon on the head. Leon was roughly twelve years old now. So, their magic could change other people’s age. Zach wondered what else it could do. Species maybe? But if he did that would Leon lose his shapeshifting? Maybe best to stay away from that for now. Could go even younger… Or maybe just smaller or…
“AHA!” Leon threw a golden orb of fire at Zach. “So that’s how you do it!” He crossed his arms and smiled triumphantly as Zach slowly shrunk down to a twelve-year-old as well. “Now we’re even.”
“Even huh?” Zach asked. “Well, that hardly seems a fun way to end it.”
“Hey, don’t we have the bigger problem to focus on of how to get back home without being seen or caught or something?” Leon asked.
“Well, yes I suppose.” Zach muttered.
“Okay, just checking we haven’t forgotten. But it can wait.” Leon grinned, and then tackled Zach to the floor. The two kitsune boys rolled around in the grass as blue and golden flames surrounded them. Both of them began to get younger again, but were also getting smaller, a lot faster than their age decreasing should have made them.
Zach rolled out from under Leon, and managed to get back up onto two feet. He was eight years old and one foot tall. He thrashed his tails, thinking about how to go on the attack.
“I think I’m winning?” Leon teased. He had a few inches and one year on Zach. “And yet I can’t help but feel jealous.”
“I can fix that!” Zach charged Leon. Leon caught Zach, and tried to get him in a head lock. As the two wrestled, gold and blue flames appeared around them again and the two resumed shrinking and getting younger. As they got younger, Leon’s hair slowly turned to a bright golden blonde, the color it had been when he was a little kid. Zach’s hair changed less dramatically, but was still noticeably a lighter color.
Soon, grass towered over their heads, but that didn’t stop them. The sound of high pitched childish laughter came from beneath the grass as the two continued their wrestling match, neither one having the common sense needed to concede the match regardless of how small or young they got. The match only began to slow down reached the age of toddlers. Moving around was a bit harder now, and it made it difficult to charge, grapple or pin each other.
Not that they stopped trying. And the colorful flames, now quite small, continued to dance around them. They were only a few inches tall, and at the rate they were going they were going to need a new unit of measurement soon.
“Gotcha!” Zach belly flopped on top of Leon, pinning the blond kitsune boy to the floor best he could. “Ready to admit defeat?”
“Have I ever conceded anything ever?” Leon asked.
“Well…” Zach started to think. “There was-“
“Let me rephrase that.” Leon shook his head. “Have I ever conceded other than games or contests I didn’t want to be in and was looking to get out of as fast as possible?”
“No, I suppose not.” Zach shrugged. Leon was pretty stubborn. When playing board or video games with him, no matter how badly his back was up against the wall, he would keep playing till he had completely lost. He always went down fighting, and refusing to given up in case he could find the play to turn things around.
And the frightening thing was, in board games at least, he often did. It was funny, for someone who claimed to suffer with math, he was great at figuring out multipliers and additional bonuses in different games to suddenly bust out something ridiculous and turn the entire game on its head.
But, for how to turn this around… The only idea Leon had was to change Zach into an animal that couldn’t use magic. And just as Zach had been reluctant to do the same to him, he had the same reservations. Right now, they could change between fox and human at will. Who knew if turning into another animal would mess that up? They’d have to find some way to experiment on that. Leon wasn’t sure how. But being stubborn and refusing to give up a wrestling match seemed a poor time to test these things.
So instead, he just focused his flames on making Zach smaller. They were two years old already. Not much younger to go. If Leon focused all his magic on shrinking Zach then even if Zach did the same he’d have the advantage and win the match.
“Huh what?” Zach noticed Leon getting bigger beneath him. It only took him a few seconds to realize what was going on. He had played enough games to know when Leon was pulling one of his tricks. Zach abandoned his regressive magic and focused entirely on size as well, and managed to keep Leon the same size as him. Soon, the two were no bigger than ants.
And at that point, the match ended. Not because either one of them had given up. But because a pair of claws had very delicately reached down into the grass, grabbed both of their full sets of tails and lifted them into the air.
The two kitsune boys found themselves suddenly looking at the comparatively giant Daichi in his humanoid form.
“You two are ridiculous. I want you to know that.” Daichi muttered as he looked at them. “I mean you were supposed to take your magic and go cause trouble in town! And then we’d get a lesson about your true nature, you’d get in trouble and I’d get to laugh.” He then gave a small chuckle. “Or maybe your true nature is that you’re both just children with poor impulse control.
“Hey! Take that back!” Leon shouted.
“Yeah even if it is true!” Zach replied. He exchanged a glance with Leon, and then both gold and blue flames were short forth at Daichi. The flames vanished before they reached the much larger fox.
“You can’t shrink me.” Daichi explained. “I mean you could but only if I allowed it. I’m the one who gave you your powers. That means I can choose how they’re limited.” He gave a sigh. “I suppose watching you two go at it was fun. Tell me were you even aware of how small you were getting or just focused so much on winning your little spat?”
“Well… I mean, after the grass was taller than us it got harder to keep track.” Leon did his best to shrug while hanging upside down.
“I was sure we were still at least an inch tall.” Zach insisted. The truth was, they were just under half an inch tall each. And that was why Daichi had interfered. Much longer and the two would be too small for him to even make them out.
“Well, congratulations, you have completely demolished a perfectly good allegory.” Daichi gave a sigh. “I mean, I don’t even know what kind of lesson I’m suppose to attach here. If there’s not a lesson pretty sure that drops me in the Inari category.”
“Inari? What’s that?” Zach asked.
“Oh! I have an Inari mask on my wall back home!” Leon brightened up. “Basically, they’re foxes that play pranks on people.”
“That sounds fun, what’s wrong with that?” Zach asked.
“I mean, usually the malicious nature of the pranks?” Daichi had a blank expression. “I don’t know, but most kitsune are tricksters. But I really don’t get how we can be divided into just two categories.”
“So which are we?” Zach asked. “Inari, or… what’s the other one?”
“Zenko.” Daichi replied. “And I feel like, you two are too busy messing with each other to qualify as either. Like, what do you call a fox who just gets himself in trouble?”
“No idea…” Leon grinned. “And maybe this is just the blood rushing my head. But if we don’t fit either one, then there can’t only be two. So, who says you’re either?”
“That’s… True.” Daichi considered. “Tough some might just say you two don’t count since you’re really humans.” He thought for a moment. “Yeesh, I can’t really leave you two out here like this. You’d be lost for sure. Well… I guess I’m getting two little brothers… Maybe that won’t be so bad. Can show you how to properly use your magic.” He paused. “Though at your size you may more be pets… Pet pets? You’re really tiny you know that?”
“Yeah.” Zach replied. “And it’s scary but also wonderful at the same time cause the world is like a much bigger adventurous place.”
“Heh.” Daichi couldn’t help but laugh. Humans were such ridiculous creatures. And these two were ridiculous even by human standards. “Well… Welcome to the family ‘little’ brothers. I’m sure mom and dad will find your state entertaining. Don’t expect any help getting back to normal size though. Those are your enchantments you’ll have to figure it out.” He looked in the distance. “About time I start getting home anyway. Well… You two hang on to some fur clumps or something.”
“What does that mean?” Zach asked. He got his answer when he and Leon were tossed into Daichi’s chest fluff. It was easy for both of them to find clumps of fur to grab onto and easily hang out.
“And now two little brothers stowed away safely, time to head home.” Daichi dropped down onto all fours, and took off running deeper into the forest. Meanwhile, hidden among his fur Leon and Zach looked at each other.
“So we both know this match is back on the second we arrive wherever he’s taking us right?” Leon asked.
“Oh you bet it is.” Zach grinned.
Neither one had been a kitsune long. But one thing they saw eye to eye on. What would be the point of using their magic to prank other people? It was much more fun when the other person could retaliate and you turn it into a game or contest.
Foxes that played games instead of playful or mean spirited tricks. Neither one knew if there was a term for that. And as they rode in Daichi’s fur they debated possible names for what they might call such a fox as they rode to their new home. After all, neither one planned to let up on the other. They’d only try to figure out how to reverse the enchantments at some point so they could start over from the top and enjoy the entire game again. Maybe come up with new rules or goals at different times.
And maybe eventually get Daichi to join into their ‘little’ games as well.
The thought of returning to their old homes hadn’t crossed their mind. And thus the problem of how to get home without getting in trouble for being naked or part fox was solved. They just had to wait for their ‘big’ brother to get there and introduce them to their new parents.