• Chapter One:

    On the evening of the Spring Equinox I will come for you…
    Wait for me…Kaori.
    The dark silhouette began to fade away along with the man’s voice.
    Reaching out with outstretched hands she tried to run and catch him but it was to no avail.


    Kaori sat up, right hand still outstretched in the air as if reaching out to grab someone. Biting her lip she slowly lowered her hand back to the covers of her futon.

    It was always the same, ever since she could remember. The same dream, the same actions and the same bitter feelings of disappointment. It was the one constant in her life that would never change no matter what.

    Easing out of her futon she crawled to the shoji screen and slowly slid it open. Outside a full moon washed her little garden in it’s translucent light. The sakura tree was in full bloom now that spring was just around the corner. The snow had melted a few weeks ago leaving puddles of water to feed the growing grass.

    Smiling slightly she stood and went into the garden to sit on the bench beneath the sakura tree. Gazing up at the full moon she reflected on the dream.

    For as long as she could remember she had always been alone. For reasons she could never know or dream of understanding her parents had left her on the steps of a small temple in Kyoto. The family there was made up of Toshihiko-san, the Shinto priest that led the temple, his wife Yuiko-san, and their son Takanari-kun.

    Toshihiko-san had taken her into his family where Kaori had been cared for. However, as far as she knew it he had not given her the name ‘Kaori’. According to him she had been given the name by a spirit that watched her.

    From the age of five the dream kept on occurring. Every time the Spring Equinox drew near the dreams would start. A man’s silhouette would shroud her in shadows as he repeated the same things before disappearing as quickly as he came. And every time she would wake up with that same feeling of bitter disappointment. Five years had passed already. The man in her dreams had never shown up no matter how long she waited.

    Five years where she bore her pain in silence not wanting to disturb the happiness of the family that had taken her in when there hadn't been a need to.

    But there were times when she saw Takanari-kun being hassled by his mother about school and little things. Those times she felt a longing so fierce that it choked her and she had to run here to her garden to let out the pent up emotions that would have corroded her from the inside.

    With crystal tears falling from her eyes as she reflected yet again on her life and the dreams she uttered the same phrase. It had been uttered by a man who had come to the shrine after his company had failed. At the time Kaori, who was six, did not understand what it meant but now she understood after having her life's story revealed to her by her surrogate father. And yet she was only ten years old.

    “What does not break me makes me stronger.”

    The wind and a sakura blossom was the only answer she would receive. The only answer she would ever get.

    Grasping the flower to her chest she silently wept with her eyes firmly closed.

    Maybe that is why she never saw the sorrow filled eyes around the corner, or the compassionate eyes that watched her from the shadows of the garden.

    The sakuras hide more than one secret child. Soon you will know the answers…soon.

    Chapter Two

    Eight Years Later

    It was a calm spring night again and Kaori found herself wandering back to the small bench beneath the sakura tree.

    Before this place had been where she silently cried over her forgotten past and the incomplete promise of her dreams. Over the years it had developed into her safe haven. Somewhere she could lie quietly gazing at the dancing sakura petals and contemplate life’s issues. She had vowed never to think about her past and the dream but today she would break that vow after eight years.

    Now as she lay there, an anxious teenager about to cross the threshold into adulthood she couldn’t help but think about those things.

    Sitting on the bench Kaori looked at her surroundings, a blank look in her eyes. The garden and surrounding rooms had hardly changed over the years, which calmed her for a previously unknown reason. The only changes were the small reflective pond besides her bench and the fact that the garden was now exclusively under her care.

    Laying on her stomach she stared into the reflective pond. Her father had built the pond according to instructions from his friend at a nearby shrine. Supposedly if it was built by a strong, spiritually gifted priest the reflective pond would be able to show visions of the future. So far Kaori had never seen anything besides her reflection in the pond.

    Small breezes caused small ripples to spread across the pond’s surface but it didn’t make a difference to her. She wasn’t trying to look for her future after all. Kaori was merely staring at her reflection.

    Her facial features were nothing too extraordinary. She had the typical Asian look with the high cheekbones, pale skin, small mouth, and almond shaped eyes. What could be considered unique was way they blended to make her look delicate. The way her straight, dark brown hair framed her face, and the gentle look in her eyes made her seem fragile.

    However if one looked closer they could see that Kaori hid something deep within her. Every so often the emotions that lay locked deep within her being sprung to the surface through her eyes allowing a person to see a different face to the sweet girl.

    Today her eyes, dark brown in color, reflected a mixture of emotions. Fear, sorrow, anxiety, everything she had been keeping locked within her for the past week. Her graduation had woken her up to the reality that she had feared the most.

    She had to change.

    The shrine and her adoptive family had been her stable ground. She had built her life around them refusing to see that one day she’d have to leave them and start anew. Those were probably her two worst fears: change and being alone.

    Now though, with graduation behind her and her eighteenth birthday steadily approaching she knew she’d have to do both. The crumpled diploma in her right hand only proved that. On top of that her repetitive dream with an unfulfilled promise had stopped occurring. About a year ago the dream had stopped appearing only to be replaced with another. Images of a mirror, sword, and gemstone shrouded in shadows stood in place of a familiar silhouette and soothing voice.

    I wish my life made sense. I wish I knew what waited for me in the future.

    Rolling over she placed her left arm over her eyes breathing in deeply the sweet smell of the sakura as she let her right arm hang over the side of the bench. Tension and lack of sleep mixed with the heady fragrance eased her into sleep at last. Before she fell asleep though Kaori thought she heard the faint sound of bells coming from somewhere.

    Not understanding anything she fell into a dreamless slumber.

    Behind her the waters of the reflecting pool began to churn wildly. A small circle dyed the same silver color as the moon appeared and began to widen. A sakura fell into the middle of the circle and the water abruptly shot up creating a curtain the size of the circle.

    As the water calmed down and the curtain vanished the form of a seven tailed fox was revealed.

    The fox calmly shook itself and jumped from the pool to Kaori’s side. Its silver fur gleamed with water droplets and the bell collar around its neck chimed gently creating a hypnotic melody. As its crimson eyes surveyed Kaori’s sleeping form it gently nuzzled its head against her hand a small content sound rumbling from its throat.

    Stepping back the fox closed its eyes and shook its head. The bells made a different noise and when the melody faded so did the foxes form. Gone was the eerily beautiful creature. In its place a mysterious man stood.

    Tall and lean the man easily stood above seven feet in height. His silver hair was pulled back in a ponytail accentuating the strong features of his face. Eerie crimson eyes stared at Kaori with an unnerving focus and his moon pale skin only served to add to the inhumane feel he projected. A pair of silver fox ears tinged with black and crimson on the tips sat on top of his head.

    He wore a silver haori and hakama with designs of red cherry blossoms and foxes. Seven fox tails tinged the same color as his ears swished to and fro behind him in a lazy fashion.

    One clawed hand reached out to gently remove the arm covering her eyes. As Kaori began to stir the other hand came up to gently stroke her hair as if he were comforting a small child. Before she could awaken he placed a hand over her eyes and whispered a short incantation. Sure now that she was asleep he knelt down and gently scooped up her slight frame into his arms and walked back to the pond.

    Turning to face the garden and sleeping household the man, or rather fox deity grinned. Moving his head down he whispered gently into Kaori’s ear.

    “Say good bye Kaori. It’s time I kept my promise…it’s time you found out the truth.”

    As another sakura drifted off the tree to land on the water the crimson circle once more appeared and the man and young woman disappeared beneath the curtain of the churning waters.

    Soon there was no trace of anything out of the ordinary. The water was as calm and placid as it had been before, only occasionally being disturbed by light breezes of wind. The garden was in the same flowering state. Everything was back to the way it was before.

    However there were two things out of the ordinary. A crumpled diploma on the side of the bench along with the faint sound of chiming bells.

    Upon a full spring moon I wished to know what lay before me…
    Now I only wish I could return.

    To Be Continued.......