Disclaimer: I don't own Kannazuki no Miko. I just own the AU.
For as long as I can remember, wolves and humans have been at war.
Well… maybe war isn't quite the right word to describe it. I guess you could say it was… more of a stalemate of some kind. Wolves and humans actually preferred not to clash, but sometimes it was unavoidable. And the way our world was, it was hard to avoid a confrontation.
Wolf packs in the modern world are very different from the ones our ancestors followed. For one thing, instead of one pair of alphas, each pack is led by several of their strongest (but not necessarily oldest) wolves. These wolves tended to take commands from the strongest wolf, often called the First Head. The numbers ranged from there—First, Second, Third, and so on.
My pack had the largest number of Heads in the wolf world; originally there were eight of them, but by the time I was born the Eighth Head had been killed. It was her death that sent me spiraling down this path, because our First Head had suspicions about exactly how she had died.
Wolves today also have gifts that our ancestors never possessed; first of all, wolves can actually speak to each other—and sometimes humans, if willing—telepathically. But the second gift is perhaps the most powerful…
This gift… allows us to take on a human form.
A wolf cannot actually assume its human form until it is a year old, a recognized adult in the eyes of the Heads of its pack and able to hunt and kill for itself. Even then, once it gains the ability, it takes time to master and control; the ability to appear human doesn't come without a price.
The fact is, wolf bodies can't generate the human form for long periods of time; if I remember correctly, I think adult wolves who have fully mastered it can only hold it for three days. Pups who have become a year old or are still young—like I once was—can only hold the form for a day before feeling the effects.
And the effects themselves are enough to make any wolf wish they were dead. I can list them even now—nausea, dizziness, weakness, fever and cold—but that wouldn't properly describe how each sensation truly felt. I don't think there's any way to really describe it unless you've felt it.
If any wolf is brave enough to hold their form past their limit, it simply becomes a matter of mind over body… and usually body wins. A popular wolf legend is that if a wolf can hold its human form for seven days and seven nights, it actually becomes human.
My pack had settled in the forests around the Himemiya mansion before my own parents were born; it was just our luck that the clan happened to be the best wolf hunters in the world, renowned for their skill and the number of wolves who had died by their hand. By the time I was born and two years old, the star of the Himemiya family was their only daughter, Chikane Kaon Himemiya.
By my second birthday, the young heir of Himemiya was sixteen—and already a recognized wolf hunter after her twelfth birthday, when she had successfully killed her first wolf. Legend was that by the time she was sixteen she had actually wiped out the entire wolf pack on the northern border of our territory, but that was never confirmed.
My parents were actually killed by the Himemiya family; not by Chikane herself, but by some cousin or ancestor of hers. I was only a pup at the time, and I… I was too young to ever really develop a grudge.
I don't actually hate humans. I find them fascinating. I often had a bad habit of holding my human form for too long and eventually collapsing; Mako usually had to carry me back to the pack. She always scolded be on it, but I couldn't stop. I wanted to know everything I could about humans, what they loved and hated, who they loved and hated and why.
I suppose a part of me… knew what would happen, when I had just turned two but was still considered in many ways a pup. Perhaps my heart had already accepted that in the near future I would meet a human, would fall in love… and that human would be… a wolf hunter.
And not just any wolf hunter.
Oh, the irony.
But… I can never say that I regretted it. Even after it led to what it did, I never regretted it. I never could.
I fell in love. And most of all… I wanted humans and wolves to be able to live in peace, so that my love would be acceptable to the world.
Was that really too much to ask? Maybe it was…
"Jin? Jin, where are you? Jin, this isn't funny…"
Nose twitching nervously as her fur bristled, the slim young she-wolf picked her way cautiously through the meadow, paying no mind to the flowers that drifted in the breeze; usually she enjoyed being out in the open, beyond the shadows of the trees in the forest, but she was always alone when she did that. Now…
"Jin!" Her voice was barely a whisper, her lips curled back and her teeth baring slightly. "Jin, I'm serious! You'll get us both in trouble at this rate! Jin!" Shaking her head, eyes flickering with humor despite herself, the small golden wolf plunged on—the pink shell around her neck glittered in the sunlight.
She couldn't blame the pup—not really. It had been raining for the past two weeks, confining the youngster to the den, and it had been torture for the six week old pup. It was only natural that he would try and sneak away. No one had predicted that any offspring of Tsubasa and Miyako would be this wild, but it was an aspect of the pup that Himeko adored.
"Jin! For the last time—"
The words died as a small dark brown bundle hurtled into her legs; the golden wolf yelped and crashed to the ground as the pup pounced on her. Dust clouded the air and when it finally cleared, lifting her head, the young baby-sitter found her charge sitting on her chest, his front paws resting on her throat and his tail wagging as his golden eyes gleamed.
"Gotcha, Himeko!" Tail still waving, Jin lowered his head and licked her nose, his eyes gleaming, the slight golden glow only calling attention to the unusual light green markings around his eyes. "I got ya good, didn't I?"
She chuckled. "Yes, you did," she agreed, lifting her head slightly to bump noses with the pup. "I'm sure your mother and father would be proud to know how their son ambushed his own baby-sitter, after the way you disappeared."
That knocked the wind out of Jin's sails; his shoulders slumped and he slid off Himeko as he realized that he'd wandered off, leaving worried parents behind. Again. He scuffed one paw along the ground as the golden she-wolf sat up, shaking her fur. "Sorry," he muttered. "But I just wanted to play, and Mom told me not to bother Dad when he was sleeping, so I thought…"
"I understand." Himeko cuffed the pup gently over his ear to silence him. "And I'm sure your mother and father will, too, once you explain it to them." She lowered her head, gently bumping noses with the crestfallen pup. "So what do you say we go back, huh?"
Content that everything was taken care of, at least for the moment, Himeko nosed Jin to his paws and guided him into the trees, quietly relieved as shadows darkened her back and caused her golden fur to dapple. She glanced back over her shoulder, eyes narrow as her ears swiveled forward.
Such an odd feeling… as though someone was watching me…
Frowning a little, Himemiya Chikane watched with interest as the two wolves faded into the shadows of the trees; her horse snorted and shifted uneasily, scenting the two creatures, but she gently rubbed her hand along its neck and whispered soothingly into its ear, keeping her eyes on the place where the wolves had disappeared.
Chikane had known most of her life that a wolf pack dwelled within the forest around her home; rumor had it that it was one of the largest packs in the world, but despite this Chikane herself had never seen any wolves for years. It only proved how well these animals were able to hide themselves from human eyes, and her frown deepened.
It seemed that her home had inherited the most cunning pack of wolves; if the group was indeed as big as other hunters claimed, they had to have mastered the art of hiding themselves. These were the first wolves of that pack that she'd seen since birth.
They didn't seem like much, those two—a young female wolf, small and slender, and a chubby wolf pup with baby fuzz. If Chikane had to guess she'd wager that the female was about two years old, though her slim build seemed closer to that of a yearling. Chikane only knew she wasn't because of how efficiently she handled the pup. The pup, on the other hand, only appeared to be six weeks old, young and energetic. For the briefest moment, watching them, her fingers had itched to slide her bow off her back, to draw an arrow and shoot them down where they stood.
But she hadn't. She watched, and she'd let them go.
Shaking her head, Chikane tugged gently on the reins and turned the horse around; despite herself, her eyes once again sought out that spot, as though the two wolves would magically materialize. She searched the trees for a flash of gold, though she knew the she-wolf was long gone, pup in tow.
For some reason, the golden-furred female had attracted Chikane's gaze first; she'd only noticed the pup later. All her life, a wolf had never haunted Chikane's thoughts the way this wolf was.
Get a grip, the blue-haired girl ordered herself firmly. The wolf is gone. You'll probably never see her again. And even if you do, you'll probably have to kill her.
But she still gazed at that spot, as though waiting. She scowled.
"You're dead the next time I see you," she muttered, yanking roughly on the reins and urging her horse into a trot, suddenly eager to get away. "That's a promise."
This story... is probably going to be last on my list of updates. Thankfully the weekend is coming up, so I'm hoping to update some of my other stuff to devote some more time to this...
I know where I'm planning to go with this story, anyway. I know things are a little confusing right now (what with the wolf/wolf hunter thing), but everything will be explained soon.
Read and review, please!