The path to that certain mountain clearing was rocky and difficult, but she knew the way well and could climb it quickly. The goal was an old, hollow tree in a mossy landscape where a wise fox used to live.

This was not just an idle mountain hike for her, of course. When the distinctive tree came into view, she called out to the one she was meeting: "Ame! Ame, are you here?"

Suddenly, a gray wolf jumped down from higher up the mountain. He shook out his blue mane and looked down at the cause of the noise.

She smiled, then whispered, "It's all okay. It's fine."

The wolf came closer without hesitation, but seemed somehow sheepish – as if at a loss for words – as he did so. Unsatisfied by this, she threw her arms around his neck, pulling them both to the ground in the process. She laughed light-heartedly as he struggled to escape; eventually the wolf resigned himself to this fate, and let his head rest on her lap. She slowly propped herself up, and started stroking his behind his ears. He wagged his tail slowly in response. "I'm glad you're doing well."

They sat like that for a moment, as if Ame was still a child. "You know, Yuki's still a little upset with you for running off like this."

He shifted his gaze to the side.

"I don't really mind. But I think… she misses you, sometimes. Hey, when she gets married… you will come to the wedding, won't you?"

At that moment, his ears stood up straight, as did the fur on his neck. The slight wagging of his tail ceased instantly, as well.

"Ha ha! I thought that might be your answer. I'm not going to force you. But at least say congratulations, ok? It would mean a lot to her."

He folded his ears back and whimpered slightly.

"Come on, now. It's the least you can do. Oh! I have another favor to ask, too. Do you think you could… around the farm, you know… leave your mark, like she used to do? The neighbors are saying the wild boar cause them a lot of trouble, so…"

This time, the whimper was louder, more exasperated.

"It was just a joke. A joke! Well… mostly."

He sat up and turned his head away indignantly. Though, she only chuckled at his disdain, and he had no choice but to give into her smile. In the end, he let out a laugh as well; a human laugh.

"Ame… I know you're not a child anymore, but I… I still want you to know that you're welcome to come home whenever you like. If you ever need a home cooked meal or a hot bath… I'll be there for you, all right? No matter what, you're my son. That will never change."

"…Yes. Thank you, mother."