Okay, I enjoyed this story more. Let’s see if it’ll all fit. (Oh, and Enan, being Enan, doesn’t always act the way he should.) Of course, the story makes more sense if you’re familiar with the soap opera that is Ryu.
Enan threw the bag containing all his belongings down the side of the ravine and kept running. Letting them go hadn’t been his first choice, but it was a decision he realized he had to make; it slowed him down, and his pursuers did not seem all that interested in taking a break so the kitsune could gain a better lead. And with the unnecessary baggage out of the way, he could run much faster. Looking over it, there hadn’t been all that much there, anyway: just an extra change of clothes that he had with him at all times and more than a few rocks he had picked up while out to make a better wall for his shelter. The rocks had really slowed him down.
Enan knew this forest; he lived nearby, after all. He had spent a good part of his five centuries alive in the hundreds of acres that comprised these woods, and he knew everything there was to know about it. He scrambled across fallen tree trunks and bored his way through the undergrowth. For the second time that day he was thankful that he had splurged enough to purchase high-quality rubber-soled shoes in the town that one time he had been there. (The first was when he bolted across a beach coated with sharp shells and stones.) They served better than the worn moccasins he had worn for the past several years. While they were perfect for sneaking around unheard, they were not the best for running for one’s life, especially when the sole had been worn down so far there were holes in it.
He ignored the pain inflicted on him by the briars that lined the trail he was making up as he went along; they were nothing compared to what he had seen earlier.
“You are taking the proper arrangements?” Enan asked one of the town leaders, a kitsune with a weathered face and graying ears. The elder pulled an object from the folds of his burgundy robe and handed it to Enan.
“We’ve been training with these ever since the humans came,” he said. “Are you familiar with them?”
Enan held the L-shaped metal device in his palm. “Not really. What are they?” Then it clicked in his mind. “This is a human weapon! Where did you get it?”
“You of all people should know that we’re not the most passive of races.” The elder grinned. “We’ve been biding our time, that’s all.”
Enan shoved the weapon back into the elder’s hands and spat on the ground. “Biding your time while the rest of Ryu has gone to hell! Since when did we start caring about using their weapons?”
“About the time we got sick of our firefoxes being abused,” the leader replied. “Of course, there are those of us who would rather pamper our foxes than train them for war.”
“Shut up,” Enan said. He did not take kindly to insults about his firefox. His had never matured beyond the kit level, so while most self-proclaimed warriors had foxes that towered to four feet or more at the shoulder, he was stuck with a playful creature that would only pose a danger to those who dissolved in saliva. Cute, yes, but not the most effective.
A rumble filled his ears. He spun around, searching for the source of the noise. A glance at the elder told Enan that he had heard it, as well. “What is that?” His ears moved forward, and his tail twitched. He scraped the ground with his shoe, noticing that there were no shadows. He looked up. Cloudy. “Not thunder, is it?”
A foreign object appeared in the distance, flying closer. Several of them. “Gina! Teru! I want you to round up all our fighters and tell them to meet me in front of the city hall in the next ten minutes!” the elder shouted. A blond-haired and black-haired kitsune saluted before dashing in opposite directions. “Enan, get out of here.”
“The rest of us will be moving underground before long. You’re not advanced enough to do any good.”
“Well thanks a lot.”
“The humans are surprisingly strong,” the elder rebuked. “You and your firefox would just get in the way.” With that, he summoned a four-foot-tall fox creature made of congealed flame and climbed on its back. “Take me to the square!” The fox growled its acknowledgment and raced to the center of town, leaving Enan behind.
“Leave? Yeah, right.” He summoned his firefox, only to have it yip with delight and run across the street. “Where are you going?” he asked. The kit returned with a bone, which it placed at Enan’s feet. “We’re not playing fetch right now.” The kit looked at him with a sparkle in its eye before snatching the bone and running off. It skidded to a stop thirty feet away from him and dared him to chase it. Cursing himself and the kit, he obliged. The kit scampered away as soon as Enan took a step toward it and stopped again. It was all a game.
This went on for several minutes, the absurdity of the situation not lost on Enan. The rest of the town was readying itself for an attack, and here he was playing a game with his firefox. He rolled his eyes and ran after the kit again, who was now running back the way they had come from.
A popping sound startled Enan and made him gasp for air. He finally noticed that the objects in the sky were much closer, and he could make out all the details of the machines. His kit dropped its bone and bolted for its master, leaping into the air and colliding with Enan’s chest. Enan grabbed the kit and held it close, covering its ears with his hands. “You need to go away,” he said gently. The firefox dissolved into nothing, leaving Enan with his hands free again. He raced for the town square.
Fighting had already begun by the time he arrived. He threw himself behind a stone wall and peered through one of the narrow cracks. Humans in their hunter green masks and uniforms and kitsune in their multicolored tunics battled it out. I didn’t know humans used fire, he thought. But their fire was different. It came from weapons similar to the one the elder had shown him earlier, and the only clue to the flame inside was the smoke. A group of two kitsune stood in front of Enan’s wall and launched streams of fire at the humans, who replied with explosions from their weapons. Both fell to the ground, and a small piece of the wall chipped away. Enan’s heart raced, and blood pounded in his ears. This wasn’t supposed to happen! The fire should have incinerated the humans. Unless they had learned.
He saw the elder collapse under the superior force of the humans, then he made up his mind and rushed from the scene as fast as he could.
He had been followed, apparently. Some of the humans from the town must have noticed a lone kitsune trying to escape with his life intact, and since that went against the orders of whoever they served, they needed to remedy that. Sighing to himself, he came to a stop and changed direction, choosing to hide himself in the undergrowth.
Enan heard them as they walked by, alert and at the ready. They were going to pass him.
Unfortunately that was the moment his firefox decided to summon itself and protect its master. The kit growled and lunged at a human, who fired at the creature out of surprise. The bullet passed through the firefox without causing any harm, but the human had managed to scare the kit witless. It had run back into hiding and was now yipping and growling at the humans from a safe place: between Enan’s legs. Enan wanted to strike his firefox, but he knew that would do no good. And it wasn’t obeying his orders, so that was out of the question, as well.
He looked up and locked eyes with the human when it approached him, or more correctly he glared at where the human’s eyes would be if they weren’t behind the mask. “What are you doing out here, kit?” the human asked, using the derogatory shortening of the race name. Enan resisted the urge to snap back. The human leveled his weapon at the kitsune’s chest and indicated that he was to walk out of hiding.
He obeyed without saying a word. He surveyed the humans who had come to capture him, looking for a sign of weakness but finding none. One of the humans said something to another and reached for the kitsune’s ears, stroking and pulling them.
That did it. “What do you think I am, a dog?” He pushed the human back several feet and growled. The other human shoved its weapon into his chest again. Enan thought he could smell smoke coming out of his ears. No one touched him there.
An orange creature roared and attacked one of the camouflaged humans, forcing him to the ground and tearing at its clothes with its claws and teeth. The human’s allies turned on the creature, an acceptably-sized firefox, and fired at it. As expected, the bullets passed right through, causing no harm to the fire-composed creature. It must have felt Enan’s shock, because it stepped away from its victim and faced Enan. He recognized it immediately.
All of a sudden he felt weak, and he staggered against a tree. The human who had first found him swore and jammed his weapon against Enan’s back, demanding an explanation. “I don’t know what happened!” he cried. He had an idea, though, but he wasn’t about to tell them. It would get them killed.
“It’s gone!” Enan let himself relax. It wasn’t going to be a problem, anymore. Then he sensed movement behind him and all of a sudden he blacked out.
They brought him to one of the many prison camps scattered throughout the region. They stripped him of his old clothes and outfitted him with the prisoner uniform: a stark-white tunic with matching cotton pants. Then they threw him into a cell of his own, and there was nothing he could do but wait.
He already had a dislike of the creatures who had invaded his home, but the realization that not only did they claim to be able to conquer but actually had the means to back up their statement irritated him. For what reason did they feel it was their right to subjugate a foreign species? But the humans weren’t the only target. He still had not forgiven himself for his humiliation in defeat.
“Here! This way!” The voice shook Enan out of his dark thoughts. Whoever had spoken wasn’t speaking English, so there was the small chance that the kitsune had finally managed to muster the courage and resources to strike back.
The strangers’ steps clacked on the hard concrete floor and came to a stop outside his cell. Because his room contained no window to the outside, he could not check to see if his suspicions were correct. “This one!”
“You sure?” another asked.
“Yes, I’m sure!” The sound of a lock being tampered with made Enan’s heart jump. He leaped to his feet and ran to the door.
“I’m in here!” he said. He tapped on the door and swore. “I can’t help you, though!”
“No problem; it’s taken care of.” That was the second voice. The door slid to the side, and Enan got his first look at the two who had come to help him. His blood immediately went cold.
“What do you want, human?” The human reached in and tried to grab Enan’s arm, but he wouldn’t let him. “Stay back!”
“We don’t have time for this! As soon as the shock wears off, the humans are not going to be forgiving,” the kitsune with the human said. “I’d give us two minutes, tops.”
The human shoved a hunter-green uniform into the captive’s hands. “Change into these,” he ordered. He nodded at his helper, who reached into her pocket and pulled something out. Enan didn’t get a good look at it before she lunged at him and forced whatever it was between two of his molars.
Enan’s hand shot to his face while his tongue searched for the device. He found it, a metal chip that had been successfully wedged into place. “Don’t move it,” she said. “It’ll help you escape.”
“And how, may I ask?”
“You’re running out of time,” the human said. “Change into those things now!”
“Okay. You come barging into my cell, shove the scum’s clothes into my hands, make me feel like you’re ripping out a tooth, and you expect me to go with you?”
“Put simply, yes.” The sound of movement from above made the two kitsune and human look up. Enan saw that both strangers looked quite nervous about the whole affair. He decided to take it.
He tore apart his old clothes and forced his way into the uniform. “Hey, I’m not going to have room for my—” He felt the back of the pants, hoping that maybe he could stuff his tail down one of the legs. “What did you do to me?!” Was that a snicker?
“It’s only temporary. Come on, we have thirty seconds left.”
Grumbling to himself, the now-human-appearing Enan stepped out of his cell for the first time in weeks. Or was it months?
The kitsune nodded. “Looks good on you. Now come on!”
He followed the pair up the stairs and out into the courtyard, where the kitsune and humans were fighting it out. “What happened?”
“We got sick of having our side cooped up in cages, is what happened,” the human replied. For the first time Enan wondered if this human was another kitsune in disguise like him.
The three hurried outside the camp to the relative safety of the no-man’s-land. “Think you can stay human until we get back to camp?” asked the kitsune.
“I guess.” He didn’t know how he had changed in the first place, so he certainly did not know how to revert to his original form.
Once they arrived, one of the rebel kitsune approached the trio and engaged in a short conversation with the human. Enan’s English wasn’t that great, so he didn’t catch all of what was said. The kitsune told Enan to follow him, and after checking with his rescuers, did so. “I realize that was a tad unorthodox,” he said. “Sorry about that.”
“So you can take that chip out whenever, but unless you want your tail to be in a very uncomfortable position, you may want to wait.” The kitsune winced when he spoke.
“You could say that.”
He followed the kitsune’s advice and stripped himself before removing the chip. It came out with some difficulty since it had been lodged in there rather well, but before too long he was staring at a strange metal object. “You can hold on to it if you want,” his host said. “Might come in handy later.”
“You trust the human?” Enan asked.
“Yeah. Considering he’s been helping us for the past several months. We wouldn’t’ve even found the camp if he hadn’t helped us out.” He pulled a loose hair from the top of his ear. “Unfortunately that made him a fugitive. His name’s Chris. He’s a nice guy; might want to get to know him.”
Enan had nothing better to do, so he wandered around the camp. He ran into Chris while he walked. “Oh uh…hi.”
The human flashed him a smile. “Good afternoon,” he said.
Enan grunted in reply and let his firefox out to play. It waddled over to Chris, who laughed and picked it up. “He’s cute,” Chris said. “You got a name for him?” The firefox licked his face, so Chris gently moved its head so it couldn’t attack him again.
“No. Never bothered naming him.”
“So listen. This is about the time that I apologize to a kitsune I’ve just met for the evils my kind has caused.”
“Don’t bother,” Enan said. “I don’t really care.” A buzzing sound filled the air. “What’s that?”
“Oh, it’s probably my parents emailing me again,” Chris replied. Moving the firekit to one hand, he pulled a small device from his pocket and began tinkering with it. “Yep, that’s what it was.”
“They…what?” Enan moved so he could see the device better. It was a small plastic rectangle with a colored screen. “What’s it say?”
“They’re asking me how I’m doing, that’s all. I’ll reply to them later.” He put it back in his pocket and cradled the firefox again. “So where do you come from?”
“Nowhere, really. I’m a wanderer. I already know you’re from Earth. How’d you end up helping us?”
“I came here to see something different, but I’ve been working for you since day one,” Chris said. He wouldn’t answer any more of Enan’s questions. “Anyway, nice meeting you.” He waved to another kitsune a few yards off and headed his way. Chris walked with a slight limp, Enan noticed.
Later on the kitsune rallied around Chris yet another time. He produced the blueprints he had used earlier, and he and the leader kitsune (who was a few years younger than Enan and was named Flair) began assigning tasks to everyone present. The humans had not followed them back, which as a shock in itself, but the current opinion was such that no one would tolerate the humans’ presence any longer. They would begin with this camp as a symbolic gesture, and hopefully this would begin a turning point. If all went well, the humans would either be dead or would return to their world.
So what would that mean for Chris? Enan had heard whispers of disappointment that their hero would be forced to leave. Chris himself had stated that he would return home as soon as the war was over, but some believed he was only saying that so others wouldn’t accuse him of working for his own gain.
They returned to the camp, a force just under fifty strong, ready and willing to sacrifice themselves for the redemption of their home. Both sides fought fiercely, but as time wore on the kitsune gained a definite foothold that they did not lose. Finally, the humans surrendered the camp.
That was an odd time. The humans and kitsune stood on opposite sides of the courtyard, the blood of both races mingling in the center. Chris and Flair approached Enan and asked him to come with them.
The three crossed the courtyard, and Chris began to speak. “We are going to give you a choice,” he said. “You can either be prisoners until we can find a way for you to return to your home, or you can join your fellows there.” He left no doubt that he referred to the bodies lying about.
Enan saw why he had been asked to come with the two. The humans had been disarmed, but at least two burned with hatred behind their calm demeanor. Should they try to attack the traitor human, Chris might need someone to protect him.
Chris nodded to his two helpers and backed away. Then blood came from his head and he fell to the ground.
“We would like to take his body with us,” the soldier who referred to himself only as Ashton said. He was one of the few who had helped restore order to the courtyard after the sniper had murdered Chris. And as expected, it had been the kitsune who had reacted the most violently to the event. Enan and Flair had not been enough to keep them under control.
“Understood,” Enan said. “Although, if you don’t mind…have all his valuables been taken care of?”
Ashton shifted on his feet. “Er, well, yes, they have. Why do you ask?”
“I was wondering if I could have something of his.”
Ashton paled and then turned red. “How can you even ask that?”
Enan held up his hands and took a step back. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for it to come out like that. I would like to contact his parents, if you do not mind.”
Ashton frowned. “There’s going to be someone to do that,” he said.
“I know, but that person isn’t going to give the perspective that matters. Our perspective.” The official reports were that the human Christopher Bryce had fallen in battle, but the kitsune refused to allow the report to say anything about his defection. He would be just another number in the battle.
“He was a traitor.”
“He was a hero. Goodbye.” Enan left the human to his complaints.
He was able to inherit Chris’ PDA, and when the humans were arranged to be sent back, he grabbed the chip he had used to transform into a human and went with the defeated soldiers with the understanding that he would be allowed to return as soon as his mission was complete. It was difficult going from place to place with only a rudimentary understanding of the language, but he picked it up quickly enough.
Finally the day came when he stood outside the Bryce front door. There was a car in the driveway, so he knew someone had to be home. He knocked on the door three times and waited. After a minute a lady wearing a pink sweat suit answered him. “Mrs. Bryce?” He bit his lip. “I am a friend of your son, Chris. May I come in?”
She let him and to top it off called for her husband. He sat in a chair, and they on the couch, with only a dark wooden coffee table between them. “What was it you wanted to say?”
“I wanted to tell you what really happened.” He removed the chip from between his teeth and set Chris’ PDA on the table. “And to say, ‘Thank you.’”