Old-ish fic from over a year ago...yup. Rao was pretty bomb, even if she did turn out to be an old fox demon in disguise. Ah well.
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to Okami in any way; it all belongs to CLOVER Studios (or whatever the hell they are called nowadays) and Capcom. And SONY, I guess.
In Sheep's Clothing
By: Saya Moonshadow
Rao had a very distinct scent of perfume, which was somewhat odd for a priestess - but then again, most priestesses also didn't show quite so much cleavage, either. Perhaps this was just a new style, or perhaps Rao wasn't quite as innocent-minded as she seemed. Whatever the case actually was, in all the short time Amaterasu had known her, Rao always smelled of a sweet, flowery perfume more suited for a pampered noblewoman than a humble priestess.
The one time she was able to smell Rao as she actually was, without the perfume, was when the priestess was sitting on her back while they explored the ruined ship on the coast of Ryoshima together. Several dunks in the ocean water contributed in washing the artificial smell right off (although Rao's face somehow continued to be as perfectly made up as always).
She'd smelled of a regular human woman then, if not rather salty and sweaty as well. It was much better than the perfume, which had a rather annoying tendency to make Amaterasu's nose itch with the need to sneeze.
But, for an instant, she smelled something quite different. Something she had smelled before, but thoughts of this were put out of her head by the appearance of the great shark Ichiro, and by the time she had finished him off, the wolf goddess had quite forgotten about everything but finding the ship's treasure and getting the heck out. The treasure, though not the one Rao was looking for, was indeed a boon. There were a great many uses for such an item as the Lucky Mallet, and thanks to Waka and his penchant for prophecies and theatrics, she was fairly sure she already knew how to go about it.
It happened again, however, as the priestess abandoned her and Issun to face the maddened Water Dragon on their own - that strange, not-quite-alien smell filled Amaterasu's nose, and then was quickly replaced by that of sea water and her own panic at the sight of so many sharp teeth in one mouth. Issun's horrified shrieks only added to this panic, and though she was not a strong swimmer, she found that fear made her cut through the water like a blade - but it seemed she did not need to, for the Dragon ignored her entirely and chased after Rao instead.
This unsettled Amaterasu further, even as Rao managed to pull off a nimble escape. And while Issun hunkered down in her fur and yelled for her to get out of the water, Amaterasu thought hard.
No conclusions came, and instead she forced herself to focus on her next task. Rao seemed apologetic enough and quite relieved to see them when they met her back in the aristocratic quarter of Sei-an City, and Amaterasu was willing to let it go for the time being. Besides, Issun was more than vocal enough about the whole incident (even if he soon gave up being angry in favor of ogling the priestess's rather prominent breasts - men would never change, no matter the time period, Amaterasu thought with a sigh).
All thoughts of Rao and her oddities left Amaterasu's head for the next several days, during which time she was shrunken down to Issun's size, rescued Kasugami from her prison in a sake flask, fought a disease demon in the belly of the Emperor, sent a girl off to the sky in a metal bamboo shoot, met Sei-an's reclusive queen, found and rescued Kabegami from her own self-imposed exile on top of Catcall Tower, and managed to open up a portal to the bottom of the ocean. Among other things, many of them frustrating and even more just downright confusing.
It wasn't until Otohime tasked her with retrieving the Dragon Orb from the stomach of the maddened Water Dragon and she had actually gone inside and gotten it that Amaterasu was once again assailed with that smell she could not quite place. Tube Foxes, her little Issun called these enemies, and nasty ones they were. They stole her ink and attacked in threes, but were ultimately no match for her superior skills in battle.
Just as the last one faded in a burst of exorcised flowers, she smelled it again - but where on earth had she smelled it before, and why did her stomach nearly contract with loathing at it?
As an unexpected bonus, their corpses yielded a strange treasure shaped rather like a set of reed flutes. The Fox Rods, which Rao had been so desperate to find, and practically glowing with dark power. But why did the Water Dragon have them? Why were there Tube Foxes in his stomach, and really, what was that confounded smell?
But Amaterasu had no time to mull over anything, as the Water Dragon began in that instant to die, and if she didn't want to join him, then she needed to get out. Quickly.
The tale told by King Wada, he who had been the Water Dragon, only disturbed her further. There was something rather not right with things in this region of Nippon, and she knew she didn't have much time to figure out what was really going on. But for now, she at least had the Fox Rods, which she realized smelled exactly like the Tube Foxes had. That familiar scent, one she still could not place...
And then, as if sent by the gods (an ironic thought, she knew), Rao somehow appeared. Amaterasu's first instinct was to be surprised - how exactly had she gotten down here? It had taken her, Amaterasu, a god, an immeasurable amount of inconvenience to be allowed down into the Dragonian Domain, and yet apparently a mere priestess could come and go as she pleased?
That uneasy feeling prickled at the back of her mind again, just before Rao got close enough for her to smell. The water of the ocean had once again washed away the priestess's perfume, and out of habit, Amaterasu took a deep breath through her nose.
She froze, though Issun and Rao, in a discussion about the Fox Rods they'd just retrieved from King Wada's stomach, did not see this. Later on, she'd be grateful to her little Issun for being the clueless yutz that he was and for providing her with enough of a distraction that the monster wouldn't notice the telltale signs of her bringing everything together.
Rao smelled exactly like the Tube Foxes had - or rather, they and the Fox Rods smelled exactly like Rao.
That was what Rao smelled like, the smell she knew but not very well - foxes! Foxes were not exactly a common animal in Nippon, although she had found a few of them here and there. And...there was a pack of them living just outside of Ankoku Temple, where Rao ruled as the head priestess.
She remembered thinking that it was odd, a small pack of foxes living right there (and so close to a pack of dogs, too), but the thought had been barely there, a passing one as she had finished feeding them and moved along. No doubt they'd been drawn by the power of this one here, though she doubted they knew exactly why they felt they had to gather in that area. They were animals, and above all, they followed their instincts. They were bound to feel safe when around such a powerful member of their own species, even if it was a malicious entity born from darkness itself.
Well-played, fox, Amaterasu thought, narrowing her eyes at the demon. Well-played.
She suddenly understood exactly what Queen Himiko had wanted from her - what Himiko's true plan was. It was risky, and one that wasn't likely to fool a sly old thing like this one in front of her, but there was literally no other choice. It grieved her deeply to realize that Himiko had apparently long since been resigned to this fate as well.
Issun had very kindly brought out the Fox Rods (to tease "Rao" with, Amaterasu saw with amused exasperation), but before he could continue his little game, she grabbed them in her jaws and tossed them to the false priestess - no way in the seven hells was she going to go near that thing just yet.
It wasn't fear that rooted her in place. Rather, she wasn't so sure she wouldn't attempt to take a bite out of the faker's rump if she got too close, and that would give the game away far too soon.
It took all of her conviction and considerable willpower to wag her tail and nod as "Rao" asked if she wanted her to have them. In truth, she wanted nothing more than to grab them back and slay the impostor right then and there. But to do so would spell disaster, and she knew the Dragonians would not be able to handle another attack on their home so soon. And so, when Issun doubtfully asked if she knew what she was doing, she gave him a reassuring little yip that contained nothing of what she actually felt.
It all made sense now, all of it - the seemingly eternal youth and beauty as described by Sei-an's admiring citizens, the need for Amaterasu's direction of the Prayer Slips despite supposedly being a fearsome warrior, the Water Dragon's initial attack being aimed solely at her, Queen Himiko's refusal to see her, the palace's ridiculous amount of security, even the constant need for just enough perfume to cover up her natural scent. This was not Rao, and had never been. Likely the real Rao was long dead and gone, murdered by this monster before being almost seamlessly replaced by it.
Foxes always were so very clever, Amaterasu thought bitterly as "Rao" hurriedly scampered away with the Fox Rods clutched to her considerable bosom, and this one was no different. Actually, this one was beyond clever, but it was also arrogant, and she was determined to make that arrogance its downfall.
She just wished it had not taken so long for her to realize what was happening, and she wished even more fervently that she could stop what was going to happen next.