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Some nights, Kirara would settle down to sleep without transforming back into a kitten. It was nice to be able to stretch, to be able to feel the night air ripple down the length of her fur, but mostly it was nice to be needed.

She knew she was helpful – she knew her mistress and her friends would never have gotten as far as they had without her – but sometimes it was nice just to have her family around her. When she was large, her mistress and the kitsune would snuggle down into her fur to sleep, leaning against her and trusting her to guard them through the night.

It reminded her of her own kittens, the youngest now already grown and with masters and mistresses of their own.

She knew, of course, that one day her mistress would lie curled with the monk, that he would be the one she turned to for safety from bad dreams, but she didn't mind. They would have kittens of their own that she could curl up with. She might even have more kittens herself, if the time was right.

But for now, she reveled in being needed.