How long has it been since he freed him?
When Haruka had noticed, he was surprised at how long it had been.
Life at the Ichinomiya house hold has settled into a routine. It was quieter without Rosalie visits as she grew up. They just received a wedding invitation from her. Human aged quickly, Haruka mused, feeling a slight unusual nostalgic.
And that is when he realized who hadn't. Kantaro Ichinomiya. The somewhat young exorcist still looked the same as the day he was finally free. The day he met him for the first time. He even looked younger that him normal age kept his boyish appearance. It's odd… Even Hasumi showed signs of aging when he delivered the invitation grudgingly. Graying hair, wrinkles at the corner of the eyes and his reaction against Kantaro's taunts was less energetic.
Were the two of them similar age?
Life at the Ichinomiya household had become timeless. None of Kantaro's youkai housemate had changed, naturally, the fact that Kantaro haven't aged a single day went unnoticed.
Haruka can't denied that he was curious but he wasn't sure whether to bring up the topic, as if he would break the spell that had been bounding everyone of them since the beginning.
It wasn't a few days later that Kantaro had emerged from his study to take a tea break when Haruka decided to ask.
The boy stopped on the corridor between the kitchen and the living room. He turned and waited.
Haruka was not sure how to bring this up. "You haven't change." He stated after awhile of hesitation.
"Don't worry. I promise that I was only taking a real short break. Or Reiko-san will never shut up." Kantaro said with a laugh.
"Not that." Haruka decide that bluntness is required for this conversation. "You haven't aged. Not since the day we met."
Kantaro's smile becomes more force and Haruka swore that his eyes just shined for a second. He sat down at the table before replying, "So you have notice?"
Suffocating silent hanged around the air.
"Do you really want to know?" Kantaro stared right into Haruka's black orbs.
"Of course. It really doesn't matter. I had promised myself ever since I freed you. If you ask about it, I will tell you and not a single word less." Kantaro said with a small smile.
Then, he stood up. "Tomorrow night. Karakura Mountain."
Youko just coincidently heard the conversation when she past the living room.
"Youko. Prepare the materials required for tomorrow's ritual." When Kantaro went past her, he ordered.
Youko stayed on where she stood. "Did he ask?"
Kantaro turned to face the fox, his eyes shined slightly in deep crimson red. "Yes."
The journey to Karakura Mountain was peaceful. It is a famous tourist spot for relaxation. But Kantaro had another destination in mind.
Once they arrived, Kantaro straight away told they to head into the forest. The forest consists of no youkai, only weak divine aura. The three of they spent three hours going to the center of the mountain and at last, reached their destination.
It was a shrine, located in the middle of a mountain that no one bothers to enter, feared for their life. The shrine was old but clean and tidy. It was dedicated to a fox god. The statue inside the shrine was featured as a large fox with nine tails; divine markings were seen on its face and body.
'Why would Kantaro bring us to a fox god's shrine?' thought Haruka as he approached the shrine.
"Ha… it's been a long, long time since I left here." Kantaro said happily once he saw the shrine.
"Kantaro. What are you trying to say?"
Kantaro showed a sly smile and replied, "You'll know soon enough. Why don't you going rest for a while? Youko and I still need to prepare."
Haruka did as Kantaro suggested.
It was night when everything was in order. A ritual circle was drawn on the ground in front of the shrine with pearl dust. A yin-yang symbol was in the center of the star in the circle.
When the full moon appeared from the cloud, Kantaro, who dressed up in his ritual clothes, stepped right into the circle, in the center. Youko had turned back into her original form and started to use fox fire to light use the star's five point. Wind grew strong as it continues.
Kantaro closed his eyes softly and started to dance in among the fox fire.
Haruka noticed that when Kantaro dances, he was collecting energy from the full moon. Youko's fox fire grew bigger as Kantaro's speed increased. Finally, he was completely covered up by the fire. Both kitsune and tengu still can see Kantaro moving inside the cage of fox fire.
The flames changes colour as the ritual goes on. From orange to yellow to blue to green to purple and finally, it stopped at the colour red. The fire was starting to go out. The wind grew strong once again and the fire disappeared.
Right in front of them was not a silver-haired teenager, but a large silver-furred fox with bright deep crimson eyes. Marking of the divine was seen on its face and body. Nine furry tails were swaying slightly as the fox shook its body a little.
"I haven't been in this form since I left home. So… What do you think, Haruka?" The fox focused its eyes on the demon-eating tengu, waiting for an answer.
"I am a fox god that was blessed with the ability to bring harvest for human. Of course it required a long of time and training. But one day, I was ambushed by a strong youkai and was badly injured. Luckily I was saved by a human with high spiritual energy enough to rival a god. He transferred his blood into my body, thus allowing me to live and obtaining human blood. He adopted me into his home and named me. Funny, that it wasn't a bounding spell. I continued to live until the day I finally found you, Haruka."
Haruka was speechless. His master, friend and companion, is a fox god. And he never noticed, neither did Sugino and Muu. How are all of these possible?
Kantaro sighed, as if he heard what Haruka was thinking. "Because of the human blood, I can hide my own spiritual energy and pretend to be a human with spiritual energy. It is also because I had seal most of my power in this shrine. So it is impossible to sense that I am a god."
"My name. How did put the bounding spell on me?"
Kantaro's ears perked up, "It's is not a bounding spell. It is the way how the human named me without bounding me. The reason you have to listen to me was because of the divine aura in my body." He explained.
"Haruka… I apologize for keeping this as a secret. I left here just because I wanted to find you. You were my best friend before you were bounded by others and I went missing. Please…"
"…Best friend…" Suddenly a sharp pain went through Haruka's head. Memories pieces starting to formed.
A small fox was seen walking around in the forest searching for something. Its nose was on the ground for a moment and then lifted up in the air. It halted suddenly and dashed off deeper into the forest.
A lonely boy was sitting on top of a branch of a huge tree. He has a pair of wing as black as night itself. This boy is a tengu, and not just any tengu but a demon-eating tengu. He was having a nap when footsteps woke him up.
"Aha! Found you, Tengu!" It was the little fox from earlier and it has its front paws on the tree trunk, trying to reach the tengu.
"What are you doing here? Leave me alone." The tengu mumbled angrily at the fox.
"I come here to keep you company." The fox answered. It tried to climb the tree but failed miserably.
"…" The tengu watched as the fox's effort of climbing the tree always failed. And he had enough of it; he flew down the tree, picked up the fox and flew back onto the branch again. "There, happy?"
"Arigato, Tengu!" The fox cried as it nuzzled the tengu's face. But the tengu turned his face away to hide his embarrassment.
The fox examined its surrounding from a new view and was clearly enjoying it. "Wah! It's so high up here. Is this why you like to sit of branches, Tengu?" The fox turned and red meet black. The tengu had turned to watch the fox that was full of excitement.
The fox focused its eyes back on the tengu's black wings and it had an idea.
"Ne, tengu. What is it like, you know, flying?" It asked as it went to sit on the tengu's lap, eyes still focused of his wings. The tengu was taken aback by the question. No one has ever come close to him yet to ask a question. This fox… is really something else.
Out of the blue, the tengu picked up the silver fox and placed it on his shoulder. "Eh? What are you do-ing?" The tengu had stretched his wings and flew into the blue sky without waiting the fox to finish its question.
The fox had closed its eyes when the tengu took off into the sky. Once it felt the wind current slowed down, it opened it eyes and wasn't prepare for what it saw.
The view was magnificent. The fox's eyes went wide as it enjoyed the view from its perch on the tengu's shoulder. "This is beautiful!" And it did something it never did before, it licked the tengu's cheek. When it realized what it did, its face turned bright red as its eyes.
What the fox didn't know was that the tengu's cheek also turned slightly pink.
"Ah… What a beautiful view." The fox tried to change to conversation.
Unknown to both of them, the short amount of time had allowed them to bond further than they think.
Thousand years had pasted and both youkais had fully grown up. The fox has become more beautiful than it used to be. Sliver fur coat on its body stood out among all others foxes. Marking of nature embedded on its fur in red. The tengu is stronger than before. His wings are fully grown and he is able to control lightning as he wishes. Their bond has grown stronger in the past thousand years.
But the unexpected had happened. One day the tengu was waiting for his furry friend on his usual branch. Sound of footsteps alerted him. It was not the fox's footstep, it was slow and loud compare to the fox's elegant and quiet footsteps.
The owner of the footsteps appeared. It was a woman, more precisely, an omyoudo practitioner.
The tengu narrowed his eyes, "Who are you?"
The woman showed a wicked smile and started to attack the tengu. Thanks to the tengu's quick reflect he dodged the attack. He summoned his staff and called upon lightning to strike the woman. The woman set up a barrier to protect herself and used a binding spell on the tengu.
"Don't think this spell will working on me!" The tengu yelled as he tried to free himself from the spell but found himself unable to do so.
"What? This is impossible!"
"Oh. It is possible, Tengu. I secretly put a spell that tengu weak against on the binding technique. He he… From now on, your name will be Rin. And you will be obeying my wishes whether you like it or not."
'Fox. I'm sorry but I'm not strong enough to fight against this human.'
The fox arrived later than usual to their meeting spot. "Tengu! Sorry I'm late! Because I had to…!" The fox stopped dead in its track and shocked to see the tengu was not on his perch and battle marks were all around the place.
"What is this? Tengu! Tengu! Are you here? Answer me!" The fox screamed of the top of its lung, tears forming quickly at the corner of the crimson orbs. It ran all around in the forest, hoping to find its friend. Unfortunately, it didn't find the tengu and was ambushed from the back by a same level fox youkai.
The fox lay still on where it was injured, not finding the will to stand up and heal itself. 'Tengu. Why? Why did you leave?' Lost in its thoughts, the fox closed its eyes.
When it woke up, it found it was all healed up and was inside of a house. "Where am I?" It wondered.
"Ah. Thank god that you had woke up." A deep but kind voice said. The fox turned and saw a man with sea blue hair in his twenties standing at the doorway of the room. "You were badly injured when I found you in the forest. So I had to transfer some of my spiritual energy via blood into your body to save you. Are you feeling better, Tenko-sama?"
Tenko was sure that the human had powerful spiritual energy to rival himself or he would not be able to heal him. "Thank you, human. May I have your name?"
"Oh. My name is Ren Ichinomiya, Ren written in the kanji lotus. Please to meet you, Tenko-sama."
"And the pleasure is mine." Tenko replied.
Ren noticed that Tenko's ears were lowered, unlike the usual fox that held his head high and proud. "Pardon me for asking, Tenko-sama. But what is troubling you?"
Pointed ears perked up and body froze, Tenko was unsure that whether he should answer the question. Ren just stayed at where he was and waited patiently for the fox god.
After a great deal of hesitation, Tenko confessed everything. About he and the tengu. How they become best friends and how he felt when the tengu was missing. Ren listened to the fox god's story and never interrupt him.
"Hmm… From the battle marks you described, it seems like your friend have been bound by a name-bounding spell." The man said when Tenko finished his story. "Name-bounding spell?" Ren nodded. "Humans with spiritual power have the ability to name and bound a youkai to do their bidding. "
Red orbs went wide, "You mean, Tengu is being bound and used as a slave right now?" He asked with fear in his voice. "I'm sorry that I can help you further, Tenko-sama." Ren said I with an apologetic tone. Tenko remained where he was and was deep in thought.
After a while, the silent was broke. Tenko took a deep breath and declared, "I'll go look for him. No. I will find him no matter where he was. No one is going to stop me!"
Ren hid a smile behind his folding fan, "You really are naïve as the legend said, Tenko-sama."
"From now on, you will no longer be Tenko but instead Ichinomiya Kantaro. You will be bound by this name!" Ren Ichinomiya chanted as Tenko felt he was bound to the name. "YOU! You good for nothing human. You saved me just to bind me for your own bidding!"
Ren gave Tenko a sweet smile, "My, Kantaro-kun. Do you know that youkai that achieved divine stage will nothing be bound by any name contract."
"You- What did you say?" Ten- No, Kantaro Ichinomiya was confused.
"A god is unable to bound with simple name contract; therefore you only got yourself a name. Think of it as a gift from me and a charm to prevent others human to catch you, Kantaro-kun." Ren ended his sentence with a hearty laugh.
Kantaro's fur burned in embarrassment. "I… I'm sorry for yelling at you earlier."
"Don't be. If I was a youkai, I'll also feel mad being bound. Why don't you start your journey?"
"Thank you, Ren Ichinomiya. Your kindness will not be forgotten. May heaven be with you." With that, Kantaro disappeared into thin air.
"That's what happened? Tenko?" Haruka turned his aching head towards Kantaro, who was in his fox form. He showed a sad smile that only foxes could make. "Yes, Haruka. You are not bounding to me, because I gave you a last name and that is Karasumura, crow village in kanji. And Youko, Sayomi."
Kantaro approached Haruka and gently nuzzled his hand. The feeling was so nostalgic. It seems like they were doing this for a very long time.
"I finally found you, my dear friend. My friend that never casted me out despite your loneliness. I'm glad. Glad that you are finally back." Tears flowed out of the crimson orbs and never bother to hide it.
Youko witness everything and was secretly happy for the reunion of both of the youkai after several hundred of years. How would lord Sugino deal with this? She wondered.
"What?" A high pitch and yet still deep scream had erupted from the Ichinomiya household.
"Ichinomiya is a fox god? This is impossible!" Apparently, Sugino had arrived to visit Haruka while Muu decided to visit Kantaro when Kantaro was having a fox nap on Haruka's lap.
"Lord Sugino, please keep it down. You're bothering the neighbors." Youko said as she entered the room with a tray of fresh tea.
"Maa, maa. Youko-chan. Lord Sugino is like this, you can't change his personality." Kantaro commented as he stretched his body on the tatami floor. "That was a nice nap."
"Muu. Muu." Muu had attached herself on the back of the large fox.
Sugino was left to sulk at the corner and Youko decided to fill him in after Kantaro's order.
Life can never be sweeter.