Disclaimer: I do not own the Inuyasha series or any of the characters.
Summary: Ever since the Bone Eater's Well closed, Shippou has been watching. No one else seems to notice that Inuyasha is far from okay. Something has to change, but all Shippou can really do is pray for a miracle. Manga-compliant. One Shot.
As usual, translations (quite a few this time) and author notes are at the bottom. Also be aware that this story contains a (mild) description of underage drinking, which I do not support (more on this at bottom) and which is the reason for the T rating. Otherwise, I'd rate this as K or K+.
Shippou couldn't sleep.
He ought to be tired. He'd travelled a long way to return to the village after his last kitsune youjutsu examination, and he'd spent the last few days being swarmed by Miroku and Sango's twin girls, who liked to pull his tail and had very shrill voices that made his ears ring. It didn't help that Sango and Miroku's new son woke up every two hours to be fed, or that the week-old baby's cries were particularly loud to the sensitive hearing of any youkai within a half-mile radius (let alone a kitsune trying to sleep in the hut next door). So really, Shippou had every right to be exhausted.
The problem was that his mind wouldn't go quiet tonight. He was worried, and he had every reason to be. Sure, he'd made light of the subject a few days ago when he'd revealed to Inuyasha and Kaede-baa-chan that the hanyou's habit of jumping into the well every three days wasn't a secret. He'd stopped by the well on his way to the village, and Inuyasha's recent scent at the bottom had been enough to prove him right. He couldn't say that he was really surprised, but he was still worried. Was Inuyasha really planning to keep this up for the next 500 years? Shippou could understand Inuyasha's dedication — the hanyou was half dog, after all, and dogs were known for their fidelity. Inuyoukai prized loyalty above almost any other trait. The idea of Inuyasha waiting 500 years for Kagome wasn't what concerned Shippou. The problem was the way Inuyasha was expressing his devotion. Obsessively jumping into the well every three days for three years straight could not be healthy behaviour. Shippou was afraid that the constant disappointment would slowly drive Inuyasha mad.
No one else seemed to know about it or notice anything amiss. Maybe his view was a little clearer because he wasn't in the village all the time like the others, and maybe they were too close to the situation to see. They all seemed to think Inuyasha was lonely but coping. Shippou knew better. Inuyasha was just barely hanging on, and had been doing so for the last three years without getting any better. Inuyasha was pretty good at hiding it, and his strength of will had thus far prevented him from getting any worse, but Shippou was feeling increasingly doubtful that Inuyasha would be able to keep up the act for five centuries. Especially once their human friends started getting old and dying. Shippou shuddered at the thought of what Inuyasha's reaction to that reality might be.
Inuyasha had jumped in the well again today. Shippou had watched at a distance, almost getting his hopes up himself when Inuyasha took quite a while to reappear. Maybe, just maybe, it had worked this time…? But no; after a few minutes, Inuyasha had resurfaced, his head hanging and his ears laid back miserably against his skull. He'd simply stood there for a moment before he walked away out of the clearing again. His despondent expression was what was preventing Shippou from sleeping now.
Shippou had been wondering what to do since returning here, and he was still at a loss. Something had to change, and he seemed to be the only person who was inclined to take action, but he had no idea how to fix things. He couldn't make the well start working, or make Kagome come back, or make Inuyasha feel any better. He was just a little kid. Just some bratty little kitsune who'd always gotten in the way and had never been much help during the quest, no matter how Kagome had praised him for what he could do.
He missed Kagome, and he couldn't fix anything. He probably couldn't have fixed it even if he was a nine-tailed kitsune daiyoukai. It would probably take a kami to fix this mess.
An idea took hold of him then. He turned it over in his mind for a moment, and then took stock of his resources. He still had some daifuku that he'd bought in a neighbouring village on his way back, which would more than suffice. A quick, silent search of Kaede-baa-chan's hut supplied him with everything else he needed, and he was outside before he could second guess himself. Concentrating on not dropping anything, he set off across the sleeping village.
On the grass at the side of the lane leading into the village, Shippou stopped and set down his burdens. A little roadside shrine carved from stone and wood sat there, such an entrenched part of the village that its presence was simply taken for granted. The wooden parts were in need of a new coat of red paint, and the two small stone statues flanking it — foxes, guarding a jewel and a key — looked a little weather-beaten, and their red cloth bibs were a bit faded. But in spite of the general wear, the shrine had been carefully tended, the weeds cleared away and the dust brushed off. A few offerings had been placed before it by villagers or the occasional traveller seeking good fortune or celestial assistance.
Humans had generally gotten things right when it came to these matters, but youkai had their own traditions, some of which were quite different. In this particular case, the critical parts of the rituals were known only to kitsune, passed down from parent to kit. Shippou tried to recall all that his father had taught him as he prepared. If you were going to beg the indulgence of a kami, you'd best do it properly.
Shippou bowed deeply twice towards the little shrine before approaching. He unwrapped his daifuku and put them in a bowl which he placed in the center of the shrine. He set out a sake cup in the middle and two shallower bowls before the statues, pouring some of Kaede-baa-chan's ceremonial sake into each vessel. Finally he lit some incense with his kitsune-bi and waved it before him, the blue-green flames creating sweet-smelling sigils in the air that would be completely foreign to human devotees. Once finished this, he fanned out the flames and planted the incense in the ground, letting the fragrant smoke curl upward into the darkened sky.
Shippou bowed twice more, because he couldn't remember if he was supposed to do so again or not and figured he would err on the side of caution. He clapped his hands together twice in hopes of attracting the attention of the kami, and then pressed his palms together and bent his head over them, his eyes shut tight in concentration.
"Inari-sama, I've never asked for much before. My father always said I shouldn't make selfish wishes, and I've tried to do what he would have wanted me to. I know I'm no one important. I'm not a powerful nine-tail, or a brave warrior, or a kitsune nobleman. I'm just a wild little nogitsune, and sometimes I do things I shouldn't, but I try to be good. Mostly. I don't really have much to offer, Inari-sama, but I hope you'll find it in your heart to help my friend Inuyasha. He's so lonely, and I can't think of anyone else who can help. Please bring Kagome back to him, Inari-sama!"
Something touched him then, and he straightened up, startled, and looked around him. Then he blinked, wide-eyed, and felt his mouth drop open. He stared speechlessly at the sight before him, scarcely able to believe he wasn't asleep and dreaming.
A beautiful woman gazed down at him, very richly dressed and seeming to radiate an unearthly glow. In her hands she bore a strange jewel and a key, just like the shrine statues had guarded, and at her feet, two pure white foxes rested, surrounded by kitsune-bi. Shippou was stunned, but he wasn't stupid. Flanked by myobu kitsune and bathed in that divine light, this could only be Inari-sama herself. Shippou flung himself down onto his knees, bowing until his forehead touched the grass. His breathing sounded loud and harsh in his ears as he panted shallowly with cramped lungs. He was afraid, suddenly, although he wasn't certain why. He just felt so insignificant and presumptuous and stupid, like he shouldn't have even asked for any favours in the first place.
"Rise, Shippou," said an otherworldly voice that seemed to be neither male nor female, despite its beautiful and lyrical timbre. "You are well known to this Inari, wild nogitsune though you may be. Raise your head, so that this Inari may look upon your face."
There was a puff of warm breath against his ear as he knelt, trembling. One of the foxes snuffled him a bit, nuzzled Shippou's hair with her nose, and licked him before settling at her mistress's feet again. A bit of courage came back to him, then, and he slowly sat up and dared to look upon Inari-sama's face.
Shippou was certain that every thought in his head was laid bare — every motivation, every kind act, every bit of selfishness. As the kami's gaze pierced his own, he felt transfixed, pinned down and unable to move, like a little mouse caught by a cat. But then she smiled, and suddenly he could breathe again as the fear left him. Why had he been afraid?
"You have a pure heart, little nogitsune," Inari-sama pronounced.
Her image was shifting, changing, and suddenly Inari-sama was an old man with a beard, holding a sickle and a sheaf of rice instead of a jewel and a key. Somehow, this seemed normal. It certainly didn't seem out of place to Shippou, who could look like anything he wanted. Why shouldn't a god also be able to change appearances at will?
Inari-sama grinned at him, a network of wrinkles shifting behind the wiry beard. "Pass that sake up here, little nogitsune," Inari-sama said. He seemed less lofty and more approachable in this form. "Being a kami is thirsty work."
Shippou offered the cup to Inari-sama and watched as the sake disappeared into that bushy beard. Inari-sama made a satisfied noise and sat down in the grass, holding out the cup for a refill. Shippou poured carefully; the jug was heavy, and almost as big as he was. Meanwhile, the myobu kitsune lapped up their portions from the shallow bowls and then sniffed at the offering of daifuku. Inari-sama reached out and picked up the bowl of sweets, popping one into his mouth with evident delight before tossing a couple to the two myobu, who snatched them from the air and chewed on the sticky treats. Inari-sama took to staring at Shippou for a while, humming thoughtfully.
"Tell me about your friends, Shippou," he said finally.
Shippou floundered a little. "Well… Inuyasha is a hanyou. Kagome is a human girl who he loves, and they got separated…"
Inari-sama let out a dissatisfied noise that made the words catch in Shippou's throat. "Tell me a story," he directed, draining his cup and holding it out once again. "Tell me their story."
Shippou dutifully refilled the cup as he organized his thoughts. It was such a big story. Where should he begin? With the closing of the well? With Naraku? With Hiten and Manten, and how he had been drawn into the quest? With Kagome? With Inuyasha and Kikyou?
"I'm not sure where to start," Shippou admitted.
"At the beginning, of course," Inari-sama said, as though it was the most natural thing in the world. He turned into a snake and stretched out on the grass. "That's where all stories start." He turned back into an old man again, lying on his side, propped up on one elbow.
"Once," Shippou started slowly, "there was a powerful miko called Midoriko-sama…"
Somehow, once started, the rest of the long, tangled story simply fell into place. For hours Shippou talked, and Inari-sama listened without interruption, holding out his cup now and then for more sake, and occasionally changing forms as the mood struck him, from man to woman, spider to fox, dragon to glowing ball of light, and back. When Shippou's voice trembled as he spoke of his father's death, the two myobu came and lay beside him, lending him courage. Several times, Shippou had to pause and turn his face away to wipe his eyes on his sleeve when the telling got to be too much for him, and Inari-sama waited patiently while he regained his composure. When his throat grew dry and raspy, Inari-sama conjured a cup from out of nowhere and took the sake jug from Shippou, pouring a measure out and passing it to him, just like they were two friends pouring each other's drinks. And somehow, no matter how many times the cups were refilled, and no matter how many daifuku Inari-sama ate, neither the jug nor the bowl ever quite ran out. There were always a few more sweets, always just enough sake left for one more drink.
Shippou finally came to the end of the tale. He lapsed into silence and looked away, waiting for Inari-sama to say something. It felt good, somehow, to lay the complete story out like that, to talk about all the parts that had still been too near to speak of three years ago, to tell someone the whole account from start to finish instead of in disjointed bits and pieces. But the telling had also been tiring and harrowing, as if he had relived that entire year all over again, with all of its triumphs and tragedies, victories and failures. Shippou felt completely exhausted.
Inari-sama was quiet for a long time, and Shippou continued to stare off into the night, curling his fingers absently into the fur of the myobu who still flanked him. He wanted to say more, to question or to plead, to say something; but he felt too tired and worried and sad to speak. Finally, he closed his eyes and leaned forward, resting his face against the soft-furred neck of one of the myobu. The celestial foxes smelled soothing, and familiar, like being back home in his parents' den as a little kit. It was nice, and he felt like he could almost fall asleep like this, if not for the fact that he suddenly felt like crying.
Without warning, he was picked up and drawn into a warm lap, and it was so overwhelmingly comforting that he didn't have room to be amazed at the fact that he was being cradled by Inari-sama, that he was being touched by a god, when he was so small and ordinary that he shouldn't even dare to look upon such a wise and powerful being.
"So many heavy burdens for so small a kit to bear," murmured Inari-sama, back in the guise of a beautiful woman now. "And you have shouldered them for so long on your own. Did you not know that you could have come to me long ago? Never will your pleas fall on deaf ears. Did you not know that even the smallest of my kitsune are so adored by this Inari?"
Despite all of her shapeshifting, Inari-sama felt reassuringly solid. Her silk robes were smooth to the touch, her hands were warm and gentle, and her scent was so real and wonderful. She smelled like sunshowers, tilled earth, rice, foxes, and magic.
It was the exact same sort of magic that Kagome's scent had always born traces of.
"You would have me reunite your friends, is that your desire?" Inari-sama asked, her hands stroking his hair and cuddling him close to her breast as he wept. "No matter the cost?"
"Yes," Shippou sobbed. "I'd give anything!"
"What if the price was losing them?" Inari-sama asked. "What if I had to send your friend Inuyasha away to find his Kagome, and you could never see them again? Would you still desire this?"
Shippou faltered, lifting his head from Inari-sama's breast to look at her face. Could he really do that? Could he really give up yet another person for the happiness of his friends? But then he remembered Inuyasha's expression earlier today, when he'd emerged from the well. Shippou couldn't bear to see that look again.
"Yes," Shippou whispered. "Even that."
"Such a selfless wish," Inari-sama said, and her smile shifted into the wrinkled grin of the bearded old man again. "Do not fear, little nogitsune. I am not so cruel as to take your friend from you. Come now! Dry your eyes. And eat some of these sweets before you waste away."
Feeling a little off-balanced by the sudden change in mood, Shippou accepted the bowl of daifuku that was being held out to him so insistently. Hesitantly, he took one and ate it. It was delicious.
"The night grows short," Inari-sama commented, setting Shippou on his feet and eyeing the sky. He picked up the sake jug and filled his own cup instead of waiting for Shippou do so. "Your friends will be waking in a scant few hours. More sake?" And Inari-sama filled Shippou's cup as well without waiting for a response.
"Mrrph!" Shippou tried to speak around a mouthful of sweets, chewing rapidly as the cup was thrust at him. The myobu were nuzzling him affectionately, which wasn't helping, and he gave them each more daifuku to distract them. He swallowed hard, washing down the sweetness of the food with the sake. "But wait, what about my friends?"
Inari-sama paused in the act of pouring as much sake into his own cup as it could possibly hold without overflowing. His eyes seemed to twinkle with a thousand mysteries. He downed the contents of the cup in one swallow and stood up. The myobu obediently went to him, sitting at his feet. Inari-sama studied Shippou once more, flickering between myriad forms before finally settling on the woman again.
"What if I was to assure you that you and your friends will have much happiness? There, will this please you?"
Shippou looked up into those fathomless eyes. "Promise?"
Inari-sama smiled and stooped down, clasping Shippou's upturned face between her hands. "I promise."
Pushing back Shippou's hair, she kissed him in the center of his forehead. A feeling like foxfire seemed to jolt through his veins.
Shippou woke up.
He opened his eyes and squinted at the bright sunshine that was beating down hotly on him. Struggling to get his bearings, he realized that he was sprawled in the grass, and that he was alone. He sat up slowly, looking around. The villagers, not far off, were bustling to and fro as they went about their everyday tasks. From the position of the sun, it was already well into mid-morning, and Shippou felt confused as to how he could have slept so long out in the open with a bunch of noisy humans only a short distance away.
He turned and looked at the small shrine, sorting through memories of the previous night with some confusion. He furrowed his brow at the sight before him. The incense had burnt away sometime during the night — he had expected that. But the cup and shallow bowls were right where he had placed them, still full. The offering of daifuku seemed untouched. Experimentally, he hefted the sake jug in his arms. Still heavy, nearly full.
Had it all been a dream? Shippou stared at the busy village again, trying to make sense of the memory. It had seemed so real. His forehead seemed to tingle, right where Inari-sama had kissed it, and he rubbed at the spot. When had he fallen asleep? And how much of last night had actually happened?
Feeling bewildered and more than a little disappointed, Shippou looked at the shrine again, hoping that he'd been mistaken. But the ash from the incense, the bowl of sweets, and the drinking bowls and cups were still mocking him.
Cups. Two cups.
One shallow bowl full of sake sat in front of each kitsune statue. One full cup sat in the middle for Inari-sama. And one cup, plain white, unadorned and unassuming, stood on the compacted earth in front of the shrine, empty.
Shippou's hand was trembling as he picked it up and studied it. He'd half expected to feel something unusual when he touched it, but nothing out of the ordinary happened. It was just a cup, even if it looked just like the one he thought Inari-sama had produced from thin air for him. There was nothing inherently special about it. It was completely ordinary in every way.
He tucked it away into his kosode, knowing with all certainty that he would keep it forever.
"Oh, there you are, Shippou!"
Shippou turned around and faced Miroku, who was meandering in his direction.
"Did you sleep out here?" Miroku asked with a smile. "You have grass in your hair."
Shippou nodded mutely as his friend drew level with him and gave a respectful bow in the direction of the shrine. "Kaede-sama was wondering what happened to her sake," Miroku added. "Are you done with this?"
Shippou nodded again, watching as Miroku picked up the jug. He was still feeling a little out of sorts. He was struggling desperately to make sense of it all.
"Miroku?" he asked. "Have you ever gotten something you prayed for? Something you thought couldn't happen?"
Miroku looked at him in surprise for a moment, before his expression slipped back into an easy smile. "I'm still alive, aren't I?" he answered. "With a wonderful wife, and three beautiful children, and the warmth of a loving home. So, you might say that I have been gifted with everything I have ever asked for but never thought possible."
Shippou followed Miroku back into the village, silent and thoughtful. Miroku was living proof that prayers could be answered. But did that mean the happenings of the night before had been real? Not necessarily. Maybe it was all his imagination. Maybe the extra cup had already been there, placed by some villager, and maybe Shippou had somehow missed it in the dark. But it had all felt real, and Shippou's night-vision was exceptional. It would be hard to miss a gleaming white cup in the dark grass. But the cup was really the only proof he had. Everything else suggested that it had all been a dream.
But on the other hand, what was the point of praying at all if he was going to disbelieve when something extraordinary happened? Maybe it wasn't such a stretch of the imagination to think that Inari-sama had really visited him.
Shippou sighed as he rubbed at his forehead again. It was still tingling warmly. He felt so confused. He didn't know that much about kami, and praying, and miracles. That's what they kept Miroku around for, after all, to answer all those weird, meta-what-ical questions. How was Shippou supposed to figure out in one day just how strongly he believed in anything?
But he'd believed last night. Why shouldn't he now?
Shippou let out a very perplexed sigh.
Sango was preparing to do the laundry when Shippou and Miroku arrived at the hut after returning Kaede-baa-chan's sake. Miroku was at his wife's side in an instant, gently scolding her for exerting herself so soon after the birth of their son, while lifting the heavy water buckets out of her hands to carry them to the big wooden laundry tub. Shippou listened with half an ear to Miroku's insistent fussing and Sango's exasperated protests, automatically making a wide detour around the twins, who were playing in the grass nearby. He really didn't feel like getting tackled by the little slayers right now.
He caught himself rubbing his forehead again and made himself stop. Was there something on there? It still tingled, like a faint buzzing under his skin. While Miroku and Sango were distracted by their spat over what constituted "exertion", Shippou walked over to the half-filled laundry tub and leaned over the side, trying to find a good angle to see his reflection. He pushed his hair up off his forehead and studied his face carefully.
There! A mark of some sort. Something silvery?
"Something wrong with your face?"
Shippou looked up as Inuyasha wandered over and sat down nearby. The twins noticed the hanyou immediately and began stalking him from behind. Inuyasha flicked an ear back towards the girls, but otherwise didn't react.
"Do you see anything on my forehead?" Shippou asked, still holding his hair up.
Inuyasha peered at him. "No. Should I?"
Shippou looked down at his reflection again. There was nothing there. He let his bangs drop, feeling disappointed.
"Never mind," he answered. "Trick of the light."
Inuyasha furrowed his brow curiously and looked like he might inquire further, but just then one of the twins let out a ferocious cry and they pounced on the hanyou from behind. It certainly didn't hurt Inuyasha — he didn't even budge under the impact — but it distracted him from whatever questions had been forming.
Shippou sat down on a nearby rock and watched as one of the twins tried to wrestle with Inuyasha's elbow and the other started to scale his sleeve, intent on the marvellous prize atop his head. Shippou was pretty certain that the twins thought the only reason Inuyasha had two ears was just so that both of them would have something to play with. Shippou felt quite safe around the girls when Inuyasha was nearby, because they would usually ignore him in favour of their adored Inu-chan. They certainly weren't afraid of the hanyou. He was surprisingly gentle with them, going so far as to hide his hands in his sleeves to keep them from trying to play with his claws, which they seemed to find just as fascinating as any other sharp and potentially dangerous object they encountered.
Shippou knew that a lot of people who had seen Inuyasha and the twins interact thought that Inuyasha was afraid of hurting them, and that this was why he never tried to prevent the little girls from climbing all over him. But that didn't make sense. Inuyasha could easily avoid them, get away from them, or stop them without causing them a bit of harm. If he just let them have their way because he was afraid to hurt them, why would he make himself so accessible in the first place?
Shippou suspected that the real explanation was that Inuyasha secretly enjoyed letting them maul him like a pair of puppies. Despite all the lumps on the head he had dealt Shippou over the years, Inuyasha could be quite good with children when he wanted to be, and kids seemed to instinctively know that he was harmless. Inuyasha tolerated the twins' antics because he liked it.
Of course, the ears were the exception. Shippou smirked as he watched Inuyasha start to get irritated at having a twin on each shoulder, tugging on his ears and chanting "Doggy! Doggy!" in loud, high-pitched voices. It couldn't be any more comfortable than when they pulled on Shippou's tail, but Inuyasha bore the mistreatment with more patience that Shippou usually did.
"You're a toy," Shippou couldn't help but tease, because that sort of thing is always funnier when it's happening to someone else.
One of the twins let out a particularly painful shriek of delight and Inuyasha cringed. "Hey, do something about the twins," he complained, but he still made no motion to put a stop to them himself.
Miroku made a half-hearted and highly ineffective attempt to reprimand his daughters, but they had long ago wrapped their father around their little fingers. Shippou sniggered to himself as Sango apologized, which wasn't any more useful in rescuing Inuyasha from the auditory assault.
Suddenly, Inuyasha sniffed the air, and then plucked the twins off of his shoulders. Had he finally gotten fed up?
"Go slay the kitsune," he said, thrusting them at Shippou without warning.
As the twins took his suggestion to mean that it was open season on foxes, Inuyasha stood up and took off running, leaving Shippou to protest at his retreating back. This was most definitely not fair! What had he done to deserve having the twins turned loose on him?
"Do you think we should follow him?" Sango asked as Miroku came to Shippou's rescue.
"Something must be up, for him to go racing off like that," Miroku replied, lifting the twins into his arms.
They exchanged a look between them, and Shippou's complaints dried up as a strange feeling of anticipation welled up inside him. The tingling on his forehead felt stronger, and seemed to pulse in time with his heartbeat. Miroku had to be right. Something was definitely up. Something had changed dramatically in the last minute or so, and Shippou had a good idea that following after Inuyasha would be the quickest way to find out about it. Apparently Miroku and Sango came to the same conclusion, because they turned as one and started heading after Inuyasha. Shippou hitched a ride on Miroku's shoulder, careful to keep his tail well out of reach of the twins' grasping hands.
It took a few minutes for him to realize the direction they were headed in. But when he recognized the path to the Bone-Eater's Well, his heart started racing. He found himself daring to entertain a very dangerous, wonderful hope.
Please, please, please Inari-sama, let me be right!
Kitsune – fox demon
Youjutsu – youkai magic and powers kitsune are tested on (manga ch. 505-506)
Youkai – demon/spirit
Baa-chan – grandmother, affectionate suffix on the name of an old woman
Hanyou – half demon
Inuyoukai – dog demon
Daiyoukai – very great and powerful demon
Kami – god(s)/goddess(es)
Daifuku – sweets made of rice flour and filled with sweetened red bean paste
Sake – rice wine
Kitsune-bi – fox fire
Inari – God/Goddess of rice, agriculture, fertility, foxes, industry, and worldly success (Wikipedia: Inari), very prevalent and popular in Japan, attended by white celestial foxes, shapeshifts and appears as male or female depending on the tale
Nogitsune – type of kitsune, wild fox spirit, the kind who can be benevolent or malevolent and like to play tricks on humans
Myobu – other main type of kitsune, celestial fox servant of Inari, benevolent and always white in colour
Miko – Shinto priestess or shrine maiden
A/N: Don't get mad at me for the underaged drinking; I'm not advocating it. First of all, the manga shows Shippou getting totally wasted at one point (chapter 486), secondly, Shippou is probably decades older than he looks, and third, legal drinking age is a modern concept. Throughout much of history, children in cultures across the globe were routinely given alcohol (in some cases because it was probably safer to drink than the water supply, but mostly because it wasn't seen as inherently bad for them). Historical accuracy imposed itself upon my creative license in this regard. Oh, and a fourth point is that you could seriously debate whether any of it really happened or not.
If you want to know more about Inari, you can start with Wikipedia for a basic overview, but there is much more out there about him/her. Inari is a very complex deity, and I tried my best here. Oh, and Shippou's little ritual is based on the traditional Shinto style of prayer (bow twice, clap twice, bow once), but modified into the "kitsune-format" I created for artistic purposes. No disrespect of any kind is intended.
Some dialogue near the end of the story is directly quoted from the final manga chapter, for obvious reasons.
The longer the story, the more chance for errors to slip by me. Please let me know if you spot any. Oh, and come visit my deviantArt page (see my profile page for the link).