One hundred years is a long time. And yet, somehow, it is also no time at all. I do not remember everything when I awakened. But I remembered enough. I knew who I was: Amaterasu, a goddess. The goddess, if one can pardon my pride. For the gods are proud, you know.

I did not realize that I was asleep. I only knew peace. Quiet. Darkness. One would think that darkness would offend me or harm me, but no. This was a healing quiet. I remembered pain, the pain of wounds, the pain of loss, the pain of falling, the pain of poison. I had been hurt long before I appeared as Shiranui the White Wolf. Those hurts were the ones that forced me to succumb to the Eight-Headed Dragon. I still hurt from those old wounds. From a betrayal.

I remembered nothing more than that…at least at first. I was pulled from my dark, safe, quiet cocoon when Sakuya called unto me and shown the bright light of my Divine Mirror upon me. I stretched and shook myself, feeling the heavy, comforting weight of stone shake free like water from my fur…


I opened my eyes and realized that my stone haven, my refuge, my prison, was still in the form of Shiranui, and, being called forth through a statue, I was now trapped within that same form of a wolf that I had taken so long ago. The bodies of wolves are ideal for running, for finding, and for battle. But it had been so long since I had stood as my true self. I yearned for it, to walk upon two legs once again. But I could feel that I was weak. Strong in comparison to many, but weak in comparison to the power I had once commanded. The power of light, of the sun, still flowed through my veins, but all of the brushes I had collected, all of the art I had learned, the skills I had mastered…were gone. I could sense them, so they had not been destroyed. But they were no longer part of me. They had developed separate selves in my absence, separate existences, perhaps creating their own legends. Good for them, but their departure left me more vulnerable than I cared to admit. Suddenly, I was glad to have my wolf's body.

Sakuya spoke with flowery language, but I paid little heed. Instead, I lay down and rested my head on my paws. She seemed surprised at my indifference, but really, for a tree spirit, she was very chatty. I did not need to hear her eloquent pleas for my aid; as the mother goddess, I was already committed to helping free the land from this curse. I could see and sense the darkness around us. I could smell Orochi's stench. Some fool had removed the seal. The one thing any deity can count on is the curiosity, greed, and stupidity of humans. There would be a great deal for me to do in the coming weeks. A great deal of it would probably involve fighting. Something in me stirred eagerly at the thought of battle, then shied away. Something about the idea of battle made me ache inside.

Suddenly a small, green lump came flying out of Sakuya's robe. I jumped to my feet, expecting an attack, but it was only a small bug. Or rather, a Poncle, one of the small bug-like wee folk of the forest. It was odd to see one this far south. Another memory stirred and fled. I growled in frustration. Would my memory continue to do this, taunt me with a vision, then flee? The little green man called himself Issun and leapt onto my nose. The bouncing annoyed me. I shook my head. His chatter annoyed me even more. Like so many men of my acquaintance, human, spirit, demon, or deity, he tried to make up in volume what he lacked in size. I snapped my jaws around him, intending to swallow him, but a sharp poke from the hilt of what felt like a tiny sword made me think better of it. I spat out the little pest before he could think to use his tiny weapon to carve out my insides. I must admit, I felt some amusement at his change from green to red as he bounced about in a fury. It is just so funny to see such rage expressed so ineffectually by something so tiny.

Orochi's roar shook the earth. I laid back my ears. He was angry. And hungry. His touch blanketed the land, and yet he had no made an appearance. I wondered why. Was part of the seal still in effect? Sakuya, exhausted and weak, retreated back into the tree that housed her spirit. Somehow she had shielded her village of Kamiki within a special fruit. It would have to be cut down to release the village. I growled again, frustrated. If I had my powers, or could jump higher, I would have no problem cutting down the fruit. As it was…I would have to do this the hard way. And it appeared that I would have company. Issun planted himself on my head and refused to budge. Resigned to his presence, at least for now, I crossed the gateway at the base of Sakuya's tree, hoping to find something that would help me.

Sakuya was an old tree spirit, despite the youthful appearance of her human vision-construct. As such, she was connected to the spirit world in a way that allowed for a passage between Nippon and a portion of the Heavenly River of Stars. It was possible for one or two of my brushes to have come to this place seeking refuge. And I was right. Yomigami, the Dragon Brush Spirit of Restoration had come to hide among the stars. Issun seemed surprised at my ability to complete Yomigami's constellation, even disbelieving. For a wandering artist and collector of legends and information, Issun was woefully unaware that he stood in the presence of a goddess. Or rather, kept hopping up and down upon the head of a goddess.

I think that the most frustrating part about being a wolf is that one cannot talk. And others talk far too much. Issun insisted on talking to me as if I were a dumb animal or a tiny human child, speaking of things that I already knew or could easily figure out without his dubious "help." His need to state the obvious is, in a word, annoying. But since I could not speak myself, I feared that, sometimes, he might have to do my talking for me, assuming he did not mistake my intentions or feelings on matters. I sighed. Somehow, I knew that this was going to be a very, very long trip.