In the beginning, when I lived on my mother’s milk alone, Father would come every day to see me. He acknowledged my sisters too, but it was a different sort of attention he gave them. It was the kind a god bestows upon his wards and not the kind a father gives his children. I was the only one he brought to the lake.
I feared my sisters would be jealous of me for gathering all my father’s love, but they saw their existence differently than I. As the months passed, their concerns were more related to shelter and food, while I sought knowledge of the universe’s intrinsicness. They never learned how to speak but communicated to me in barks and chirps, and I understood them.
It saddens me that I lost many of my memories of my mother and my sisters. Time is different for a fox and a kitsune. Looking back it feels their lives passed in the blink of an eye, as long as it took for a feather to fall from a tree, while my life crawled like an old snail.
At the lake, Father taught me of the world. He told me of the gods Izanagi and Izanami that created Japan. He told me of the goddess Amaterasu, the sun in the sky that brought the day. He told me of the yōkai, spirits living in the mountains, in the water, in the snow, and in the trees. The lake rippled with their images, Father’s way of teaching me his magic of illusion. Amaterasu stood tall and white of skin like bone, with shining eyes and onyx hair, sunrays erupting from her head. Izanagi and Izanami were as old as the world, their white hair brushing their heels.
“All spirits are called yōkai and we are yōkai too,” Father said one day, “but some yōkai take on a second name which distinguishes them from the others.”
He named the vengeful spirits of the dead the ayakashi. I had to stay away from them, for they were dangerous even to the young son of the Inari god. Those that lived in trees were called kodama. Tengu, the black birds with huge noses and Kappa the river monsters.
Even my kind had a different name among the yōkai. I was a kitsune, a shape shifting spirit that mastered the skill of illusion and could transform at will.
One day Father told me of the humans.
“You should stay away from them, Kogitsune. Humans are not to be trusted.”
“Yes, Otousan,” I said.