The ice falls around him ever so lightly as the sound of spring trickles in the far off distance, a like brook that will soon turn to a river when the time is right. The sleeping animals make it so that the forest is without movement and the only signs of life are the occasional bear tracks that quickly disappear.

Somewhere on the march up the mountain he had ditched his clothes, the only thing on him being the dark blue scarf that had belonged to his uncle, or so he'd been told. The 14 year old couldn't remember much on how he'd gotten up to the snow-peaked top, or even why. The only thing he blamed were these damned instincts he didn't want, the ones that drew him out to the wilderness especially when spring was coming. It was why he had much preferred the city to the country; at least in the city he could repress his instincts enough to stop them from coming out.

But mom made it clear that she wanted him to spend time with his grandmother last summer. Last summer. They practically left him here in the old woman's dying house in the small town where his parents were raised, and he was treated as the transfer student from the big city that couldn't last a week in a place where you had to farm on unforgiving land to keep yourself alive. The kid had already lost count on how many times they would mock him for going to the convenience store all the time or anything else the town had to offer for "convenience", as if it were true.

He'd also lost count on how many times he'd hiked, ran, clawed or otherwise his way to the top of this stupid rock in whatever season it was. Summer was just as unforgiving as the winter was and the pollen in spring made it insufferable while the dead leaves on the ground during autumn made the slopes all the more slippery. And if he searched long enough, there were traces of a wild beast that he'd never seen before living up here. He thought he remembered seeing it once when he was little, maybe 3. But it had scared the crap outta him then, so all the memory was is a long jaw with sharp teeth and eyes so bright they were almost red.

The snow piled around him as he lay in his "Halfway", two Shepard-like dog ears perched on his cherry-wood colored hair with a dark nose to tip off his own. Large paws that once belonged to his grandfather now rested on his in a beige tanned fur with his legs sprawled out in an unorganized manner, a fox-thick tail that aligned with the dark red pattern running down his back lay on the snow rather than sinking into it. He was told by Hana, his grandmother, that he would've looked exactly like his mother if she had chosen to be a wolf.

But she chose to live with the only boy that she'd shared her biggest secret with, and raise their small child when the time came. He was only registered as a citizen after he was old enough to control when he would shapeshift, and with the good memory that always seemed to serve him well, the child protective services got really mad at her for that (supposedly neglecting her child by not giving him checkups and so forth). And with the fear that he would've been born the species that his mother was, he was born in that old house of Hana's, the older woman serving as a midwife for her daughter.

He slowly roused from the awkward position that he had managed to fall asleep in and shook off the snow like a dog, tucking away his ears and nose and turning his way into the fleshy person he wished to be. Only his dad and his grandmother were normal. They didn't have to worry about people seeing what they were; they didn't have to worry about the animals at the zoo glaring at you and trying to attack or growl; they didn't have to deal with a little kid and their heightened sixth sense.

With the way the air had left a chill lingering even heavier than usual, he could tell that the sun was beginning to set, even through the thickened grey clouds. If he didn't hurry down the mountain now, there would be a good chance that he'd freeze to death or be forced to spend the night with the oh-so-sensitive bears. He tightened the scarf around his neck and began marching downward, his feet imprinting the same places they had been for months. Chances were if he followed the same trail, his forgotten clothes would be somewhere along the pathway.

And sure enough, when he had reached the bottom, an old woman with whitened hair and a slightly hunched back was waiting patiently for the budding teenager (who was now fully clothed). It was painfully dark all around them, but even so, he could still see Hana's brightened smile. He sighed something bashful for making the old woman wait, knowing that if any of the other adults in town knew about this that he'd get an earful. He would gently grasp her hand as though he were 3 again, except this time he'd be the one to lead her through the dark as though he knew the way around better than she did.

Her hands were the kind of soft that only came with the years of hard work and wearing down, the kind that left a leathery feel rather than a spongy one. It made him think of how long she had been left on this mountain alone after her daughter left to spend time in dormitories after she turned 13. The only thing that she had left of her family was the driver's license her late husband left her and the two dolls that looked like dogs she stitched for her children when they were born. The three items had been left aligned neatly on a small bookshelf and kept there with great care, the dark doll placed closer to her husband's driver's license than the brighter one.

Hana and her daughter had told him that that doll belonged to Ame, his uncle, when Ame was little. But since he'd never seen the man, he was always skeptical on whether he had ever existed or not. By now he'd probably be about 35, but he wouldn't know.

"Have any of the animals come out of hibernation yet?"

He nearly dropped the kabob that he held to his mouth. It was rare for Hana to try and start a conversation with him, not because she didn't like him. But when you've been forced on a relative you haven't seen for over 8 years and just left outside your element, it kinda leaves no room for a conversation unless it's really awkward. "… The bears are starting to wake up… And another predator is somewhere up on the high points…"

Her wrinkly face turned into a sagging smile as though she knew something he didn't. These kind of conversations with her bothered him, but always seemed to give the 56 year old woman boosts of energy. If he thought too deeply into it, all sorts of things would happen like when he was little. He used to think that his uncle was living on the mountains as a graceful beast that no mortal could touch, painting an image of something almost godly for the mythical man. So when he was 4, he would go up on the lower edges of the mountains to see if he could catch sight of the last wolf in Japan. But the whole memory is kind of fuzzy, and the only thing he can recall from it was meeting a monster that almost swallowed him whole. And even then he just brushed it off as a nightmare, knowing that he woke up in his grandmother's bedroom while mom and grandma laughed about nothing he cared to know.

Spring showers pounded against the window as students socialized, only half paying attention to the algebraic equation that the teacher was demanding an answer for. It did him better to keep quiet about the answer that was so obvious rather than answering. People would've considered him mental and weak, as if being the city outcast weren't enough. The last of the snow had finally melted and the warm weather was slowly rising all around the mountain side, the new school year already in a full swing.

"Fuji! Hey, that is your name, right Fuji? Fuji~" He could feel a growl emanating from somewhere, the annoyance of another student coming on to him hard. If only Mamimi or Shouta were here… "FUJI-!"


The boy sitting in front of him looked slightly taken back at the harsh response. "You don't have to be so mean about it. See? I told you city people were cold." Two on-looking girls stared at the red head hard as he wished that they would just drop it already. It had already been 9 months since he had officially moved here, you'd think there would be someone who wasn't so judgmental to someone from the outside. He wondered why he even tried.

The class bell chimed loudly releasing students for lunch, and at the sound of the familiar bells, he practically bolted out of the room. Down in the courtyard was the closest thing he had to the hypnotizing forest, a tall maple tree that had planted itself center school with concrete blocks surrounding in a good 3 feet off the ground. The sky had just barely cleared up enough to leave it in a drizzling state, the whole school drenched in puddles. Warm weather had shrouded itself in the heavy dew drops hanging in the air, leaving it painfully easy for him to fall asleep in a place where none of the other students wanted to be in the rain.

The earthy smell surrounding the only plant life reminded him of the forest on the foot of the mountain and how the rabbits had already come out of hiding. He'd been out for the past few weeks constantly trying to capture the fast prey, only to come near and then have the floppy eared creature slip through his jaws. Just dreaming about capturing a rabbit seemed to soothe his soul.

A piercing sound snapped his eyes open. Something was echoing down the mountain, a deep husky sound of a canine throat that shouldn't have existed, not here at least. All the hairs on the back of his neck were standing straight up as though it were a challenge, his mind slowly losing its concentration as the sound of another was coming from somewhere he couldn't see. This only happened one other time, when his mother had let out the bone chilling howl. In that instant, he had felt himself swap sides without a conscience of doing it. And he could feel it happening again.

Authors note*

i must apologize if I've overstepped boundaries or rules; please tell me if i've done something wrong! A