I have returned from a long hiatus. I apologize profusely from the bottom of my heart. I recently got into RWBY. It is an awesome show and is the subject of much debate, is it anime or RPG? Whichever you decide, it is a story worth getting into. The characters are original, the plot is amazing and not bordering into cliché or overused story plots like romance harems and the like. No offense to those who are into those sorts of genres.
I meant to get back to writing sooner but fanfiction and habits are hard to break. I also have been enjoying my summer and doing things outside the computer and home. I just wanted to get back to doing what I like before the pull of other fandoms got me in too deep. For now read and enjoy and review.
The Fox Princess
Chapter 11: The Arduous Journey
Sasuke rode Mangetsu through many uncharted lands as he continued his quest. He cared little that he was dirty and unkempt. The horse's needs were always met despite the hardship that came with it. He cared little that he missed his birthday. He could always celebrate that later. He had plenty of supplies on stock so there was little need to stop at or stay in one of the towns. He did so only to obtain information or when the elements became too much. Plus, a hot meal every once in a while was not so bad. Still, taverns were expensive and he hated the way the waitresses and other local girls would throw themselves at him. He rebuffed them since they were not her. His only clue was the name given: Orochimaru.
The tavern doors to the pub flew open as a raven huffed in frustrations. The tavern owner was practically useless. The locals were no better. Sasuke was just having meaningless small talk when he uttered if he happens to know where he could find Orochimaru's lair. The tavern owners sunny disposition turned frantic and demanded the raven leave immediately. It made the raven prince wonder. Why was it that people would react all violently whenever the name Orochimaru was mentioned? It mattered not. He still had a long way to go.
The trip took him farther to lands uncharted. He traversed forest, mountains, and ocean beaches but met no success. It was disheartening to say the least but the feather was his only clue. He resisted the urge to shout for joy when he finally found someone willing to talk to him. It was in a small village called Azul on the outskirts of Sunagakure, a sister kingdom to Konoha (1). He met a kind farmer named Jin who lived with his wife and three kids, two girls and a baby boy. The man was kind enough to let him stay for the night. The next day, Sasuke found the answer he had awaited. In a local library, he found a book recording all the tales young and old from ages past. The name Orochimaru was not unknown to most. He was originally one the three Wizard Lords who at one time ruled the Celestial Realms with justice and prosperity. At one point, people could actually come before the three beings for wisdom and if needed magic for things like medicine or to help mediate any crisis that developed. For a time, all things were good. Orochimaru began to question why they should have to rule and govern such weak, pathetic, creatures that had the potential to turn on them when they could easily conquer and make them submit. Unable to dissuade the others, he stormed off into the vast unknown never to be heard from again. The event would go down in history as the Fall of the Celestial Lands. No one knows exactly why he had gone dark. Perhaps Orochimaru had delved into dark magic he shouldn't have. Others say he became lost to his own darkness. Whatever the reason, he had become a being of true evil known as Orochimaru the Immortal (2). Try as they might, neither the other two Wizards nor the good citizens of the kingdom could hold back his relentless onslaught. With a heavy heart, they fled their once beautiful kingdom leaving it to its fate.
The book went no further. All other records were lost or destroyed, only to pass off into legend. Sasuke grimaced at this. What happened to the other two Wizards? And why of all times did Orochimaru suddenly reappear? And why the urge to steal his wife away? Sasuke grew angry as he thought of all the horrors she must be facing right now. With a silent vow, he exited the library determined to rescue his princess and destroy Orochimaru once and for all.
Sasuke hit another roadblock in his journey. After leaving Azul, he traveled a far distance across the desert until he reached a rocky outreach going into the temperate and lush country of Marcel (2). It had not yet begun to snow yet the chill in the air was apparent. At first Sasuke contemplated waiting out the first few days in cave. He was later rebuffed from such an idea when Mangetsu kept prodding him with his nose. It would start snowing soon and travel proved dangerous especially up in the mountains where temperatures could drop to freezing. The prince knew he could only go so far with his title. If Orochimaru's cohorts were poking about, it could ruin things. Sasuke held up residence at the local inns, shelter in mountain caves who did not already have a wild animal occupying them, and sometimes if people were welcoming, allow him to stay in their home. He did not dare tell them he was the prince of a neighboring country for fear they would be overly humble or exploit him for money.
Still there lied another dilemma. How was he to find his beloved when he was stuck in a random village waiting for the snow to melt off the mountains? The other thing to consider was where in the world was the Celestial Realm? His frustrations doubled when the first flake of snow started to drift gently to the ground. With his horse tucked safely away in the Inn stables, he could only think of the next best thing to vent his frustrations: to find a random log (3).
Sasuke huffed heavily after setting to work on whatever innocent logs crossed his path. He sat beneath a tree and stared up at the sky. Snow continued to fall steadily blanketing the ground with white. His breath blew into clouded wisp. The air was cold around him yet he could not find himself to care. His only thoughts were of her. Memories ran through his mind. His father's quest, the arrow leading him to his future wife; the same girl from his dreams, how she flawlessly granted each test, the way she and him danced for the first time, her smile and laughter echoing in his ears, her tears…Sasuke became morose.
He had been so blind back then. He had never taken the time to try to get to know her until after he had seen her true form. And now she was gone. He reached into the pocket and gingerly clutched the feather. Strangely enough, it still glowed. A smile reached his lips for the first time in a long while. Naruko, had not yet become the devil's bride. Looking upon the mountain peaks once again, he made plans to continue his quest.
Sasuke spent the rest of the month in Marcel where he spent a few more nights at the Inn until he was made welcome by the tavern owner, Tazuna. He was an elderly man with a slightly large build, white hair with beard and goatee, a tan overshirt with an apron and grey pants with worn out shoes. He offered the raven a stay at his home until the deluge passed. The raven also made friends with the man's daughter and young son. Tsunami was a pretty young woman with long dark hair and a fair complexion with a personality to match. Her son Inari was a rambunctious but friendly lad with side-swept brunette hair which he wore in a sailor hat.
He got along rather well with them and assisted with chores. It was a bit awkward being in the same room as Tsunami as she reminded him a bit of his late mother, but said nothing. It was near the end of February when the storms finally began to clear. Sasuke was ready to bid the family goodbye before he was stopped by Tazuna.
"Prince Sasuke wait! We have not been completely honest with you".
Sasuke was brought back inside the house. Tazuna sat across from him with Tsunami and Inari next to him with grim expressions.
"We lied when we told you there was no other way around the passes. We only said that to protect you".
"From what?" he gestured to the nearby forest just outside the town. "What is so frightening about those forest that you feel the need to keep people from venturing there?
Tsunami pursed her lips and locked her fingers. "Around the time from before I was born, rumors starting popping up about the Baba Yaga (3). People started saying the forest were inhabited by all sorts of nasty things. At first people laughed it off as a joke. At least until children started disappearing from their homes" she said in a clipped tone.
Sasuke raised his brow. "Are you certain it wasn't a prank by some rascals hoping to scare the adults? Or some bored delinquents making use of the superstition?"
Inari piped up. "Not unless you are a child-stealing old hag out to make stew of any passerby misfortunate to cross her and have her use your bones to extend her house decorations".
"Inari!" Tsunami shouted indignantly. Inari shrugged his shoulders. "Sorry mom but it's true".
Tazuna dismissed his relatives. "True or not, Sasuke can't stay in this village forever. Besides, I am certain he can handle himself witch or no witch". Sasuke bowed his head grateful to have someone on his side. "Although, if he is lucky he might not see the old crone. There is something else my daughter neglected to mention. Folks also began seeing traces of an old hermit said to inhabit the mountain area. If one was lucky to meet him, he would give out pointers on how to avoid the old crone and find a way off the blasted mountain. I am certain he could help you on your quest as well if luck serves you well".
Sasuke tented his fingers in tentative silence. He knew there was little options in this case. Traveling up the mountain pass was suicidal. Then again, so was traversing through a 'haunted' forest with a frightful witch. Still, waiting any longer would prolong his love's suffering assuming Orochimaru had not already dealt his hand. His ground his teeth at the thought. He sat up abruptly and bowed to his host.
"Thank you Tazuna, Tsunami, and Inari. You have helped me more than you will ever know. I will be sure to tell everyone back home of you. If things work out, I will be sure to come by with Naruko in tow".
Tsunami rushed up to hug him. "Just come back to us alive whatever happens" she plead softly.
Sasuke turned to Inari who held his hands behind his back and looked at the ground. There was the telltale sign of unshed tears in his eyes. Sasuke broke from Tsunami to place a gentle hand on Inari's shoulder.
"Hey kid don't worry so much. This is the future king of Konoha you are talking to. I've had plenty of years of combat experience". Inari glanced into his eyes and gave a teary smile. Sasuke left the farmhouse and hitched himself back onto Mangetsu. After reigning his emotions, he gave one last farewell before galloping far away from the village and toward the dark, forbidding forest; the realm of the Baba Yaga.
It had taken over a week to reach beyond the outskirts of Marcel and to the forest realm of Taiga (4); a vast network of forest trees and tundra's far as the eye could see. At a bird's eye view, it wasn't all that different from any other tree cover in the world. For those at ground level however, it appeared to be something out of a scary story. The trees barely allowed any moonlight to shine through making the journey all the creepier. The different sounds of unnamed animals echoed against the dark. Mangetsu neighed in protest. Sasuke caressed the animal.
"Easy boy. We'll find a way out soon I promise" he said calmly despite his nervousness.
He urged the poor animal onward and tried not to think of the worst. An owl zoomed past him unexpectedly causing his horse to buck and almost throw him fall off his saddle. Once he was able to get his bearings again, he continued onward. Pretty soon visibility had become non-existent so he lit a torch to aid his way through the veil of vegetation. A breath of relief left his lips when he spotted what he believe to be a way out. Sasuke almost shouted for joy when he came out of the woods into a vast meadow. The moon shone brightly overhead accompanied by the dotting of stars. There were flowers dotting the edge of a lake. A cherry blossom tree hung over the water's surface. Sasuke got off Mangetsu and undid the horse's saddle and reigns to which the horse responded with a thankful snort. He scanned the area and smiled for the first time in months. It was a beautiful sight to behold. He was certain it would be even more beautiful in the morning. It reminded him almost of when his mother and father would take him and his brothers to their summer cottage and they would play for hours in the meadow caring very little if they got dirty. It was worth it if it meant seeing Mikoto smile when she saw the flowers they gathered for her.
Sasuke sat down on a rock near the lake's edge and craned his head backwards as he inhaled deeply. It was getting late and he and his horse were both tired. Luckily, it was a warm night so there was no need to build a fire. He took off his cloak and set it down to create a make-shift pillow. Mangetsu was nearby munching on some grass or flowers. He lied himself down and preceded to drift off to sleep.
Sasuke opened his eyes to see he was standing in a veil of clouds. He could have sworn he was back in the meadow with Mangetsu. Wait, where was his horse? He sprinted back and forth calling forth his steed but to no avail. The fog began to dissipate and soon found himself in a familiar location. It was the same area he first found his beloved. He walked along the water's edge hoping to spot her or at least hear her beautiful voice once again.
He stopped walking when he found no trace of her. He hung his head in despair. Suddenly, he felt himself enveloped by a warm and loving presence. He slowly swerved around to see the face of the one he longed to hold once again.
Finally after all this time, he finally found her. Or did he? Who knows how the rest of the story will play out. It won't be much longer my lovelies. The next chapter will focus primarily on the princess and how she became cursed. You know in a strange sort of way, the story of the frog princess is similar in a way to Swan Lake. The same sordid plot but different. Ignore the 1997 "The Swan Princess" movie.
I am proud of how far this story has come. I also want to thank the faithful readers who patiently awaited and supported this story and helped me to keep moving forward. I will do my best to keep on writing. I know I still have a lot to learn and need to improve my grammar skills. Thank you all the same. Read and review.
(1) A fictional place
(2) I am going to base some of this off European countries/ via Budapest.
(3) The details surrounding the Baba Yaga are skewed at best. Depending on which version of the story you read, she can be good or evil. I have plans for this enchantress.
(4) Any coniferous forest consisting of spruce, pines, and larches. Also known as a snow forest. For this story I will call it that.