Isamu, the anthro wolf, stepped past his crops, the leaves yellowing and curling up, its edges burnt. He placed his grey hand-paw on one of the leaves, which broke apart with a gentle touch. He sighed, still holding onto the shattered leave as his shoulders sagged. He shook it off before tipping a wooden watering can forward, showering what remaining crops there were. But the water ran out too soon, and he shook his head, his tail still.
“Isamu?” A voice said behind him, and he turned around, his dark hair-fur shaking from the motion. His wife, Haruka the anthro coyote, strode toward him, her gray clothes stained with dirt and her brown fur soiled. She turned to the crops for a few seconds, no shine reflecting on her blue eyes before she grabbed Isamu by his brown sleeve. She pulled him up close, her fair-colored hair-fur rubbing against his chest, and he blinked, lowering his ears. “Have you heard about the Eguchi family?”
“Did anything happen?” Isamu asked, though his tone suggested that he guessed the answer. “Apart from the fire, that is.”
“The Eguchi family has left our little village,” Haruka answered, and Isamu turned to the yellowing crops, his ears touching his shoulders.
“I figured that is the case,” Isamu said, the sun baking into his and Haruka’s fur. “I tried to convince Kaito to stay even after that fire burned most of their house and farm, but I knew deep down that he would move away.” He sighed, clutching the watering can tight, the wooden handle creaking. “And that’s another childhood friend who left.”
Haruka nodded, rubbing Isamu’s shoulder. “Maybe we should do the same.” Isamu twitched, but Haruka continued. “I know. Your family owned this far for generations. Same with my family and their farm before they left a year ago. But things aren’t getting better. The drought is worse than ever, with fewer crops growing. First, our remaining livestock who didn’t die from starvation were sold off. Then, two months ago, a tornado went by, destroying several houses in its path, though at least most of them were empty. But there hasn’t been a tornado in fifty years. And now the ground shakes beneath us. This land is no longer productive.”
Isamu sighed. “I know.”
“And besides,” Haruka said, her ears folded back, “it isn’t just us two here. We still have our little girl, Hana, to take care of. Oh, she is so thin already.”
Isamu nodded. “I don’t want to lose her. But,” he twisted all around, from the shambling farmhouse to the patched-up work on the house to the dying crops, “I don’t want to abandon this land.” Haruka nodded, patting his shoulder. “If it’s between her and the property, I’ll choose her if I have to. But, I promise you, my dear,” he turned to face her, “if I can’t get any sustainable crops by next week, we’ll leave at once.”
Haruka nodded and smiled, though it was bittersweet. “I’ll take your word on it.” A faint cracking sound came from behind, and Haruka and Isamu turned to the source. “And speaking of Hana, here she comes.”
Isamu smiled, the little anthro wolf running along, pulling her gray skirt up as she ran. Hana panted, her thin body heaving in and out as she approached her parents. Her brown fur was thin along with her dark hair-fur, yet they were kept as clean as possible in this farmland. Soon, she grabbed Isamu’s and Haruka’s hand-paws tight, and they both bent down to hug her.
“Mommy! Daddy!” Hana said, her yellow eyes shining even as she rubbed her muzzle with both of them.
“Hey there, Hana,” Haruka said, picking her up before they nosed each other. “How’s my special little girl doing?”
“Doing OK,” Hana answered, though she tilted her head at Isamu. “Is something wrong? You look so,” she paused, clicking her tongue, “worried.”
“It’s nothing,” Isamu replied, Haruka handing her to him. “Just us grownups having a talk.” His yellow eyes lightened up. “Say, do you remember that forest at the other side of the village that you always wanted to explore?” Hana nodded with a grin. “How about we explore it today?”
“We can?” Hana wagged her tail fast before she licked Isamu’s cheek. “Thank you, daddy! You’re the best!” Isamu lowered her to the ground. “I’ll get ready! Thank you again!”
Hana ran once more, heading back, though she stumbled a bit. Soon, she ran back inside the house, slamming the door behind her. At that point, Isamu sighed, his eyes darkening once more. Haruka shook her head before gripping Isamu’s shoulder.
“She’ll have to find out eventually,” Haruka said. Isamu nodded in response, his ears folded back even as he bent down to one of the crops, with its leaf falling off. “Do you think she’ll be safe exploring that forest? No one entered that for generations now.”
“As long as she’s with me, she’ll be safe,” Isamu said, standing up and hugging Haruka close. “Besides, I want her to be happy, even for a moment.”
Haruka nodded before she kissed Isamu. “Be careful, my dear.”
Isamu held up an unlit lantern attached to a stick, the trees above blocking much of the sunlight. Though there was enough for him to see with. With the other hand-paw, he carried a basket containing what little food he brought along with a leather water canteen. Hana skipped by his side, pausing to hop over a risen root before skipping again. Soon, she got ahead of Isamu, and he raised his head.
“Hana,” Isamu said, and she paused. “Don’t go too far. I don’t want to lose sight of you.”
“Yes, daddy,” Hana said, nodding and waiting until he reached her.
“That’s a good girl,” Isamu said, patting Hana’s head between the ears, and they continued their trek through the forest.
Isamu turned from side to side, lifting his head as the forest’s shadows stretched longer. The trees above grew thicker, blocking more sunlight, and he lowered the lantern before kneeling down. He opened it and pulled out one of the remaining matches he had. He struck it, the sulfur on it bursting into flames, and he lit the candle. He blew the match’s fire out before closing the lantern, standing up and letting the light guide the way. Yet, it grew darker as they went deeper into the forest.
Hana skipped ahead once more, and Isamu was about to raise his voice when he spotted a clearing ahead. He blinked before he jobbed beside Hana, making sure not to drop either lantern or basket. Soon, they entered the clearing, and he gasped and lowered his lantern even as Hana opened her mouth wide.
Within the clearing was a shrine, with a red gate right in front of it. Isamu and Hana stepped through the gate, with him spinning around several times, the gates holding up despite the peeling off paint and the rot in the wood. Next, the steps below them were carved out of stone with some small pawprints within. Soon, they stood in front of the shrine itself, with only a couple of small stone bowls and a small opening in front of them.
“Oh, wow!” Hana said, her tail wagging fast as she got onto her knees. “I want to go inside!”
“Now, now,” Isamu said, grabbing Hana by the collar, stopping her from lowering herself to a crawl. “We don’t know what’s in there.” Hana frowned, but she nodded, and Isamu pulled her back onto her feet-paws. “Good.”
Hana puffed up her cheeks before she bent down, rubbing one of the stone bowls. “Say, daddy? Do you know what this place is?”
“It looks like a shrine of some kind. A place of worship for the gods,” Isamu answered, leaning the lantern against one of the railings. “Though I never heard of anything like this.” He bent down to the bowls. “Look likes folks from long ago sacrifice something for a god of this shrine. What kind, I don’t know. Something valuable, I guess.”
Hana nodded before she poked the basket. “Say, daddy? Why not offer our food?”
Isamu blinked, turning to Hana with his ears folded to the side. “Why?”
“Because food is valuable,” Hana answered, having an innocent grin while wagging her tail. “And I bet the gods will be happy with the food.”
“Um, when I said ‘valuable,’ I meant something like gold or jewels,” Isamu said, scratching the back of his ears. “And I don’t think gods need food. Why should they since they’re immortal?”
“Do you know for sure?” Hana asked, and Isamu stammered for a few seconds. “Why would they want gold anyways? If I were a god, I would get unhappy to get them with an empty stomach. Besides, couldn’t they just create something that they could buy?”
“Uh, er.” Isamu stammered some more.
“Besides,” Hana said, reaching up and poking Isamu’s nose, “I bet gods will never get tired of receiving food.”
“M-maybe,” Isamu said, nodding. “Still, if we leave behind our food, that’ll mean we’ll have to leave. Are you sure you want to do it?” Hana nodded, her tail wagging as she grinned, and Isamu sighed. “Very well.”
Isamu opened up the basket before pulling out a batch of cooked rice wrapped in paper. He unfolded it before setting it in the bowl, with Hana reaching in and pulling out the other wrapped food, a batch of grain. She handed it to him, who unfolded it and set it beside the rice. Finally, he pulled out the leather water sack and, opening it, poured it into the other bowl. Once done, both Isamu kneeled and clapped their hand-paws three times, closing their eyes for a few seconds.
“OK. Time to go, Hana,” Isamu said, opening his eyes and gripping the empty basket.
Hana nodded, standing up even as Isamu picked up the lantern by its reach stick, with him pointing it forward. Yet, the shadows seemed lighter than before, but only slightly. They stepped down the stone steps, traveling past the wooden gates, with Isamu having a small smile despite the trip being cut short. Hana paused, and, despite Isamu’s tugging, she refused to walk forward, and he turned back, confused.
Hana pointed at the shrine, where a red fox poked out from the small opening. The fox’s body was thin, enough that the bones were visible through the skin and fur. The fox turned to the offering and, nosing its contents, ate the rice and grain.
“That fox is eating the gods’ food!” Hana said, her voice loud and high enough that the fox turned up. “Should we drive it off?”
Isamu observed the fox before shaking his head. “I think that fox is hungrier than either of us. Let it be. I’m sure that the gods won’t be too unhappy. In fact, that fox might just be their messenger.”
Hana frowned, but she nodded, and soon, the two walked away, the fox turning back to the food and eating it again.
That night, Isamu sat before a desk with several books open and candlelight shining beside him. Each page was handwritten, with one sharing details about farming techniques written by his great-great-grandfather and how they helped with the famine that plagued his time. Another was about the lands and politics observed by another ancestor, and he shook his head. Finally, he sighed heavily, leaning back while closing that book.
“Isamu?” Haruka said, stepping instead and walking over to Isamu as he turned back. “What are you doing? Trying to find something that could help save the farm?”
“That would’ve been a good bonus,” Isamu answered, picking up one of the books. “You remember about the shrine that Hana and I found?” Haruka nodded while setting her hand-paws on her hips. “I was trying to find something, anything, about that shrine. One of our ancestors must have built it before the forest overran it. Yet, I can’t find anything about it.”
Haruka sighed, rubbing Isamu’s shoulders and squeezing them. “Do you think that could save the farm? Or even the entire village?”
“I don’t know,” Isamu admitted, shaking his head. “But if I could confess some of my feelings to you, the more I read about our ancestors’ writings, the more this feels off.”
“Oh?” Haruka tilted her head while twitching her ears. “How so?”
“You see,” Isamu answered, handing one of the books to her, “looking at our history, everything was better the older the writings got. In fact, I find it disturbing that my granddad talked about how plentiful the water was, how fruitful the crops got, and how fat the livestock got back when he was a kid. And his dad said much of the same thing. Yet, it doesn’t seem to be nostalgia blinding them. After all, even when we were kids, you remember how much more food and water we got, even if it was a little, compared to now, right?”
Haruka nodded, tossing her hair-fur back behind her shoulders. “I remember. But dear, it could just be the changing weather. By the time we passed away, this place could become a desert with the rate it’s going, and any reason why is beyond us.”
Isamu sighed, leaning forward to the desk once more, flipping open some more books. “I guess.” He turned to one of the opened books and blinked, grabbing it and flipping through its pages. “Shrine. Fox. Inari. I think this is it!”
“What is?” Haruka placed the book down before leaning over, the handwritten text fading and its pages worn.
“That shrine. I think I found it.” Isamu set the book on the table, with Haruka skimming the pages as he flipped through them. “It was built by the original settlers of this land to worship the god, described as an extension of Inari’s will. It is said that the land will forever be plentiful as long as ‘she’ was given offerings. It mentioned something about the fox of the shrine, though it uses colorful descriptions, such as ‘towering over the lands’ and ‘playful, but generous.’”
“Dear, it can’t be the same fox,” Haruka said, shaking her head. “That happened who knows how many generations ago. That fox would be long dead. Of course, it could be possible that the fox you saw was just a descendant of the original fox, but that is unlikely.”
“I don’t know,” Isamu said, leaning back. “But perhaps all we need is a little hope and faith in such rough times.”
Something stumbled and fell behind them with a clank, and both Isamu and Haruka turned around, only somewhat surprised. Hana picked up the empty watering can, having an embarrassing blush as she smiled. Haruka sighed and walked over, picking her up and carrying her in.”
“Hana, you know it’s bedtime,” Haruka said, with Hana nodding back as Isamu stood up and took the watering can. “Why are you still up?”
“Because I heard you and daddy talking,” Hana answered, her ears drooping down. “I got curious and snuck down to hear what you were talking about.” Her ears perked up. “So, is it true? That fox is the god of that shrine?”
Isamu chuckled, rubbing Hana’s hair. “That fox? No. Like I said, that fox is likely just a messenger to the gods.”
“But you said that fox once towered over lands,” Hana said, having a cheeky grin. “That sounds like a god to me.”
“Or someone who is a mere servant to the gods.” Isamu shrugged before kissing her forehead. “Now, we’ll take you to your bed, and you’ll sleep. You need it.”
“OK, daddy,” Hana said, her ears folded back. “Still, can we go to that shrine again tomorrow” I want to feed that fox.”
Isamu blinked as they stepped into the hallway. “Why? Because that fox might be a messenger?”
“I just want to do something nice to that fox.” Hana reached from Haruka’s arms before nosing Isamu’s cheek. “Besides, I told all the kids about that fox and how it could be a messenger.”
“Y-you did?” Haruka asked, and Hana nodded. “What did they think?”
“Some thought it was just a wild fox,” Hana answered as they strode into her bedroom, empty outside a bed and some drawers. “Other thought it might be a messenger. But the rest of us, including me, thought the fox was a god. In fact, they said that they’ll get their parents to go to that shrine and feed the fox to restore its strength.”
Isamu chuckled as Haruka rolled her eyes and set Hana on her bed. “If so, that fox won’t be starving anytime soon.” Hana’s eyes became watery, and Isamu sighed. “OK. Tomorrow, everyone will head to that shrine to give an offering.”
“Yay!” Hana reached up and hugged Isamu and Haruka, who blinked. “Love you both, mommy and daddy!”
“We love you too,” Isamu said, hugging back and rubbing her head again.
“Yes,” Haruka added, leaning forward and kissing Hana’s forehead. “Good night.”
“Good night!” Hana pulled up her sheets before rolling to the side. She was fast asleep in a few seconds, with her snoring a bit. Isamu and Haruka stared at her for a couple of minutes before they stepped, closing the door behind them. Haruka sighed, shaking her head.
“Do you think it’s wise?” Haruka asked, with Isamu lowering his head. “We don’t have enough food for the next couple of days with no way to replace them. So we’ll be giving away our future for what is likely a fantasy.”
“I don’t know,” Isamu admitted, with Haruka grabbing his hand-paw and pulling him into a hug. “I just wanted to keep her spirits up, especially since this week will likely be the last time she spent it here. Besides,” he turned up with a slight smile, “if there is a god of that shrine, maybe that god would be pleased that, despite having so little, we’ll still be offering away most of what we still have.”
Morning came, with Isamu, Haruka, and Hana walking through the forest once more, with Isamu holding an unlit candle. Yet, it wasn’t as dark as the previous day, which he wondered about before shaking that thought away. Haruka turned from tree to tree, doubtful even as she clutched the basket full of food and water tight. Hana walked between them, somewhat skipping while singing a nonsensical tune.
Soon, the three entered the clearing, and Haruka gasped, with various anthros already at the shrine itself, all having kids along. They walked under the gate, with Isamu raising an eyebrow at how new it looked before stepping up the stone steps. Soon, the three paused in a line, with Isamu and Haruka knowing everyone there and being lifelong neighbors.
Standing before the bowls was a fox with a bright red votive bib around the neck. No longer did the fox look thin, with the fox’s belly rubbing against the ground despite standing on all four. The belly pressed against the fox’s limbs, yet the fox kept eating and drinking whatever was brought in. An anthro placed a gold ring in the bowl, which the fox frowned at and nosed off of it when the anthro left, the next one taking the ring.
Isamu leaned to the side, with his left ear folded, before he said to the anthro tiger in front of him, “Kokawa?” The tiger twisted around, his ears folded back. “Who placed a votive bib around that fox?”
“No one,” Kokawa answered, shrugging his shoulders. “That fox, according to some folks who came in even earlier, was wearing it when they arrived. Just as plump too.”
“That’s strange.” Isamu rubbed his chin. “That fox I encountered wasn’t wearing it nor fat. On the contrary, that fox was unbelievably skinny.”
“Then it was a different fox,” Kokawa said, rubbing the back of his head. “If that fox was as skinny as you said, it wouldn’t take much effort for another to drive it away and claim its territory.”
“I guess,” Isamu said, and Kokawa turned forward.
Several minutes passed, and the villagers ahead of the line kept offering the fox more food and water. The fox ate without end, becoming more bloated with every meal. Yet, for some reason, the fox kept eating despite looking like its stomach could burst.
Soon, Isamu, Haruka, and Hana stood before the bowls, with the fox’s tail wagging. Haruka lowered the basket before opening it, giving out a few wrapped packages of rice and grain. Soon, she pulled out the leather water sacks and emptied them into the other bowl. The three lowered themselves onto their knees, and, with three claps, they pressed their hand-paws together as the fox ate and drank.
“Please, give us a rainy day,” Hana whispered.
The fox gave a slight smile.
The day passed, with the sun going down the horizon and stars passing above the dying village. Yet, Isamu twisted and turned in his sleep before groaning and rolling off the bed. He turned to the window, with a slight glow from the horizon, and he picked up the lantern, with it attached to a stick. He walked outside before lighting the candle within it, shining a light through the darkness.
Soon, he strode down the road with rows of empty houses that once held families back when he was a kid. So many of the houses were rotted, with parts ripped off. The marketplace past that was empty, with shelves devoid of anything, and he sighed. A few houses past that did hold what remaining families there were, but their walls were falling apart despite some patchwork over the years.
Isamu approached the forest when he heard pawsteps coming from behind. He spun around, his ears twitching, with a figure approaching through the darkness. His expression lightened, with Haruka stepping into the light. She came and rubbed his cheek even as his ears drooped forward.
“I don’t even need to guess where you’re going,” Haruka said, and Isamu nodded with a sigh. “I don’t understand why especially at this hour.”
“I couldn’t sleep,” Isamu admitted, turning to the woods. “Every time I was about to reach deep sleep, I heard a voice calling me to return to the shrine. That voice doesn’t explain why I must, but I feel compelled to. I must be possessed.”
Haruka shook her head, her ears drooping forward. “To think feeding an overweight fox with most of our food would be the least of my worries.”
“I know. It’s all crazy talk,” Isamu said, rubbing the back of his head. “But trust me on this. I don’t think that fox possesses me, but something supernatural is going on.”
Haruka sighed before reaching forward and rubbing his cheek. “I don’t know what I should believe. But I know you well enough that you don’t do this for no good reason. Alright. I’ll trust you. I’ll even come with you.” Isamu raised his tail before Haruka added. “Just know that, if it is nothing, then we’ll be packing up our supplies and leaving as soon as possible.”
Isamu blinked, deflated, before he said, “It’s a promise.”
“Good.” Haruka grabbed his hand-paw before the two entered the forest, with a chill coming over them.
Isamu turned from side to side, his fur flat against him even as he clutched Haruka’s hand-paw tight. The trees above blocked the stars and moon from shining down, the forest much darker than daytime. But Isamu pointed the lantern ahead, the light shining from it, and they proceeded deeper into the woods. The candle’s light flickered and faded, but before Isamu felt his heart sink, a new light shined ahead.
Isamu and Haruka turned to each other, both baffled, before walking forward. With every step, more light shone upon them, peeking between the trees. Soon, they entered the clearing, with it just as bright as daytime, and they both gasped. Ahead, the shrine no longer looked decayed from disuse but looked as though it was built yesterday. Yet, that wasn’t what held their attention, nor was it the unusual light.
Instead, it was a massive fox, which lay beside the shrine yet towered over it. The fox’s eyes shined gold, with lips curled in a mischievous grin. Around the fox’s neck was a votive bib, just as bright red as before and fitting quite snug, though the fox was skinny rather than fat like the one from the previous day. Finally, the fox turned to Isamu and Haruka, with the tail wagging from behind and brushing against the trees.
“Ah, welcome, Isamu and Haruka Machida,” the fox said, her voice smooth. “I was waiting for you.”
“You-you can talk?!” Haruka took a step back, her eyes wide.
“H-how are you massive?!” Isamu asked, his eyes just as wide.
“Ah, sorry.” The fox snickered, rubbing her paw against her mouth. “I guess my appearance can be,” she paused before fluttering her eyelids, “overwhelming. And yes, I can talk. After all, what self-respective goddess can’t talk?”
“Wait, a goddess?” Isamu asked as Haruka blinked. “Are you, in fact, Inari herself?”
The fox gave a loud and hearty laugh, which rang in both Isamu’s and Haruka’s ears. “Sorry. Thanks for the compliment. But no. It is often that I get mistaken for her, though. I guess it’s because,” the fox rolled onto her back while staring at the two with a cheeky grin, “we appear to have similar powers, with me being a mere extension of her power. Must say, this is the most power I felt in centuries.”
“What do you mean?” Haruka asked before turning to the shrine, the two stone bowls polished, and she rubbed a bit of her hair. “Is it because you need worship?”
“Worship? Worship helps, but that isn’t what fuels me the most.” The fox’s eyes sparkled as she got up. “If it did, then maybe I wouldn’t have diminished in the first place, and the forest wouldn’t have overrun the shrine.” She reached under and rubbed her thin belly. “To explain, your ancestors, in their height, thought that giving me offerings like gold and jewels would’ve boosted me more than the usual. I warned them that it wouldn’t work, and when it didn’t, they blamed me for their mistake. So, they forbid travel to my shrine, which continued until I was forgotten, with the forest overcoming it. By the time you met me two days ago, Isamu Machida, I was starving for anything.”
“Wait,” Isamu tapped his head for a few seconds. “So, you are the same fox we met two days ago and yesterday?” The fox nodded with a smirk. “Looking at my ancestors’ writings, I found scant details about the shrine along with a fox of the shrine that ‘towers over the land.’” The pieces clicked into place in his mind, his tail puffing up. “So, are you that very fox?”
The fox stepped towards Isamu and Haruka, looming over them as their eyes widened. “So, there was something about me that your ancestors left behind.” She lowered herself, her eyes bigger than either of the two. “I guess there was some small wisdom they kept.” She walked by, her tail brushing against the two and even curled around them for a moment. “Yes, I am that fox. And despite my powers diminishing over time, I did my best to uphold the blessings over this land, no matter how little it was. But, thanks to your efforts, I shall restore the land like it was with the original settlers. Just be a dear and hang on.”
Isamu and Haruka turned to each other, confused until the fox glowed gold and grew in size. Isamu gasped and, guessing what the fox was referring to, dropped the lantern with a crash and grabbed Haruka’s wrist, running toward the fox’s paw. They scampered onto the paw, hanging on tight, as the fox grew larger, her head poking out from underneath the trees. She gave a hearty laugh at once, and her growth rate increased.
Her laugh echoed through the village, with every anthro still living within it lighting up their lanterns and stepping out. The ground rumbled beneath them, with a couple of anthros gasping, the fox stepping out from the forest and knocking down several trees. The kids stared in wonder before their parents ripped them away, dragging them out of the house and away from the growing fox.
The fox snickered, still glowing gold as she grew, becoming colossal already and causing a couple of empty houses to collapse from the forest of her pawsteps alone. The anthros fled, but she grew so large and fast that she towered all over the village. One anthro, Hana, stepped out from her house, filled with amazement while wagging her tail. Her parents hang onto the ever-enlarging fox’s paw, with her only stopping her growth at twelve hundred feet.
“Anthros of this village!” The fox said, her voice ringing in every anthros’ ears. “Long ago, I help support your ancestors as your goddess! But their wisdom failed, believing that wealth such as gold would sustain much better for me! They had forgotten what truly fuels a goddess like myself, something far more valuable!”
“Valuable,” Isamu said, more to himself even as he edged out of the paw, with Hana waving at him. “Our daughter realizes the truth.”
“What are you talking about?” Haruka asked, pulling Isamu back.
“When we found that shrine,” Isamu explained, with the fox above grinning ever broader, “she thought that food was more valuable to the gods than golds and jewels.”
“Wait,” Haruka said, her tail puffing out. “Are you saying that food offerings are what fuels this fox goddess?!”
“Exactly,” Isamu answered, rubbing the back of his head. “The more I think about it, the more it makes sense.”
“But thanks to your efforts, my powers have been restored, though most do not know why!” The fox said before stepping away, ensuring nothing was above the village. “May the few who found it share in their wisdom! And thanks for what you have done, I will rejuvenate the blessings of this land!”
The fox sat down, shaking the land beneath her before she stretched her head. Soon, she gave a bark-like howl, with the ground vibrating and various anthros pressing against their ears. But once she stopped, she grinned, the sun edging from the horizon before clouds blocked it.
Dark clouds stretched all over the sky when, moments ago, it was clear of any cloud, and a low rumble came from above. Then, rain fell upon the land, and the anthros cried out joyfully. The fox grinned wider as she lay down, extending her paw with Isamu and Haruka on it towards their home. They slid off and ran over to Hana, who sprinted out of the house, and the tree hugged each other, a tear falling from Haruka’s eye.
A year passed since the fox goddess called rain upon the village, ending the drought, with Isamu walking between rows of his crops. He rubbed the leaves of several of them, with them green and filled with life, and he smiled. Each of them held a large about of grain, rice, or other kinds, far more than he was used to. Indeed, she did a lot more than just make the harvest produce more food, and he flexed a bit, his clothes straining against his muscles.
Once satisfied, he turned to the farmhouse, its walls and doors fixed, and Hana stepped out carrying a couple buckets of milk. Despite the short time, she grew so much, already outgrowing the third set of clothes Haruka got for her, no longer frail looking. She placed the buckets down before she ran over to Isamu, with him lowered down and picked her up in a hug, both laughing.
“How are the cattle?” Isamu asked, lowering Hana down before they walked back to the farmhouse.
“They’re doing well, daddy,” Hana answered, picking up the buckets. “And I think I’m getting better at milking them.”
“Good,” Isamu said, with them stepping into their fixed home, Haruka cooking various batches of food before setting them inside baskets. “Honey, is everything ready?”
“Just about,” Haruka answered, rolling rice balls before putting them in. “OK. All done.”
“Great,” Isamu said with a grin, walking up to Haruka and kissing her. “Shall we?”
“Yes, my dear. Hana, please put the buckets on the table and carry one of the baskets,” Haruka said, with Hana nodding and doing as told. Soon, each one carried a basket before stepping out of their home, their spirits high. “To the shrine we go.”
The three walked down the road, with it cleaned up and several houses and farmhouses filled up with families. Isamu turned to one of the houses where an anthro rabbit, Kaito, was working. He paused before waving at Isamu, who waved back, and they both smiled.
“Glad that my childhood friend and his family came back,” Isamu said, rubbing against Haruka. “I thought I could never convince him that things got so much better.”
“Hey! Mommy! Daddy!” Hana pointed, and Haruka and Isamu turned. “There’s our goddess now! Shall we offer her our food here?”
Isamu rubbed his chin, with the fox goddess at about a hundred feet tall and her claws extended. Then, she ripped into the ground at once, creating a few rows. She repeated it several times before she carved in three rows that crossed through. Water flowed from the three rows, soaking it, and a new farmer stepped in, planting rice for the new farmland.
“Best not to,” Isamu answered, with Hana puffing her cheeks. “She looks busy. Best not to interrupt her.”
Hana nodded, and the three continued their walk. The marketplace, once barren, was filled with various merchants from all around. Most of the anthros within were from other villages, most out of curiosity as to how a dying village could recover and produce so much food in a short time. But rather than stopping there, they went onto a new path, formed not too long after the fox goddess revealed herself. Much of the forest was chopped down, exposing the shrine within, with it shining a light in the dark.
Soon, the three stepped up the stairs, passing by a fine-dressed anthro snow leopard with a satisfied grin. Up on the shrine were multiple packages of food, and the three kneeled in front of the bowls. Isamu sighed, a gold necklace within one of the bowls, and he removed it, replacing it with foods from their baskets. Once completed, they clapped three times and offered a prayer.
Meanwhile, the fox goddess grinned, her tail wagging.
Art Trade with Tails230
His part of the Art Trade: [PENDING]
The village that Isamu and his family lived in has been in trouble for decades. With less and less rain, more disasters, and no reversal in sight, villagers have left it in more significant numbers. Isamu and his wife, Haruka, are considering leaving the village themselves with their daughter, Hana. But Isamu wants to make his daughter happy for what little time they have left, so they go to explore a forest.
And within that forest, they found a shrine where a fox lives.
When I shared this image with him, he asked me to have an art trade with him. And, as you can see, I agree. It is another fun story, one that I enjoy writing.
As an aside, while I am thankful for all the story commissions I got this year, I'll have to pause on such work. It's not because I'm burning out, far from it, but because I have a couple of major projects I want to work on. I've already written the outlines for them and need to type them down.
In any case, I hope you guys enjoy this story.