"Why does he call you Nee-san, anyways?" Atsuo asked Yukiko about Mito-kun as they were walking to the village center. Tonight was the night the Festival Queen and King were to be announced. "Most pets don't call their owners that."
"First off, Mito-kun is not a pet," Yukiko replied "he is my mission companion under training. And he calls me that because we are probably cousins."
"Cousins? What?" Atsuo looked at her confused.
"Don't you know?" Yukiko said "It's widely believed that the Fujihara's are decedents from badgers. If that is true, then Mito-kun and I are like cousins or something."
"Wha-?" Atsuo asked "I didn't know that."
"I never told you the story?" Yukiko asked in return. It was strange that she didn't, as it was one of her favorites as a child.
"No you didn't" Atsuo replied "Tell me now."
"Well, our founder, Mikihisa-sama worked at a small library when-" Yukiko begun but was interrupted by Atsuo.
"I know that story," he said.
"You just said you didn't," Yukiko glared at him.
"I know the story of the founder," he said "you told me that. Some evil lord burnt the library, she fought, but it was useless and she ran to an abandoned shrine to pray where the gods heard her prayer and sent help. I want to know the badger story you were talking about."
"Oh, okay, it's classified as a mythology though," Yukiko said "but a part of me wishes that it was true."
"Tell me," Atsuo requested, practically bouncing off his feet "I'm really curious."
"Well, you know what happened after she escaped," Yukiko said "Mikihisa went to the shrine in the forest and prayed. She prayed all night long, to any spirit that listened, any god that existed, to help her out. The forest where she was praying at was where the Badger spirits resided. A few of them conveyed her message to the Badger god, who was impressed by the vast knowledge she held. He discussed with the other Gods and they decided to help the village. The Badger God even sent his second son, Kenjiro, to help her out as a companion.
He was the one fought alongside Mikihisa. After everything settled, she continued to spread her knowledge here and gained the respect of many villagers. Kenjiro helped her to set up the library, and stayed along even after his time was up. Badgers are known to be loyal, but this loyalty of his turned to devotion, and then love. The poor little badger had fallen in love with Mikihisa."
"That's rather cute" Atsuo said, as he played with Yukiko's hair, trying to braid it. Yukiko swatted his hand away and glared at him. She straightened her hair a few days ago and she liked it that way.
"You want to listen to the rest of the story or not?" she asked.
"I'm sorry," he said, scratching the back of his head nervously, "please continue."
"Fine," and she continued-
When Kenjiro was summoned by his father, he asked him why he was so late. Kenjiro tried making excuses, but the Badger God was a God after all, he figured out the problem. He told his son that it was impossible for them to be together, not just because one was mortal and the other immortal, but because one was an animal and the other human. His son already knew that, but he could not suppress his feelings for his beloved.
One day, he got an idea. He secretly went to visit the Fox God. The Fox God was known for causing mischief and chaos, but he had some genius tricks under his sleeves too. The fox god sent him to a warlock.
'I will make the change, young badger'. The old warlock said 'but it comes at a price'.
'What is it?' Kenjiro asked 'I'll give you anything.'
'Oh, this magic comes with the price of happiness.' The warlock replied 'The magic will be successful, but the happiness of you and your beloved will be at stake.'
Kenjiro thought about this for a while, and then replied 'well, as long as we are together, we will be happy. Make the change, old-man.'
And the change was made.
The next time Kenjiro saw Mikihisa, she was almost a mirror image of him. She freaked out at first, not understanding what has happened to her. But once she calmed down enough, Kenjiro explained some things to her. He told her because he had overstayed his visit, his father got angry and put a curse on her that changed her into a badger. In a way, it was true. After all, the longer he stayed, the deeper he fell in love with her; which caused him to make the deal with the warlock. If he could have turned into a human for her, he would, but according to the laws of the gods, that was impossible. So he had to stick with the alternative method to have them stay together.
He told her that she was invited to come with him to the spirit forest where they could live together. His plan was to make her fall in love with him once she got used to being a badger. With a heavy heart, Mikihisa accepted the offer. After all, what was a badger to do in a village filled with humans.
The two stayed in the forest for a while living happily, or so Kenjiro thought. While she was developing feelings for him, Mikihisa did not adjust to becoming a badger. She still had the grace she had as a human, but she missed her human body; the proper use of her opposable thumbs, being able to turn a page without damaging it, and the best of all, scratching Kenjiro's belly whenever she got stressed. The last she could still do, but it would be very much awkward now.
As days passed by, Kenjiro realized how depressed Mikihisa had gotten since she transformed. He should have been happy now that he has a chance with her, but for some reason, he wasn't. He could not see her unhappy anymore so he went back to the warlock. The warlock happily obliged and performed the ritual that would turn Mikihisa in her human form again.
When Kenjiro returned to Mikihisa, she was fast asleep. She had already transformed back to a human in her sleep and hadn't notice. She was naked as the day she was born, and she had never looked more beautiful. In her sleep she looked so peaceful, her chest rising and falling slowly as she was breathing, her posture showing elegance even in sleep. This was probably the last time he'd be seeing his beloved, so he drank in the sight, wanting to keep this image in his memory forever.
Once Mikihisa woke up, she was confused again. Despite him not wanting to do this, he handed her a cloak he stole to cover herself up. She asked him what happened and he told her the truth.
'But why?' Mikihisa asked him. She should have been angry, but for some reason, she felt sad.
'Because I have fallen in love with you,' Kenjiro replied bravely 'I-I thought that we could be happy together once I turned you to a badger, but I was wrong. I am not going to let your happiness be the price for my selfish feelings. No matter how sincere they are.'
'Kenjiro' Mikihisa whispered and proceeded to stroke his head. Kenjiro dodged her though, and pushed himself a few feet back so she could not reach him.
'Please don't' he said 'Even-even though I love you, I'm not asking for anything except this. Because of our different lifestyles, we can't be together. But the least I could ask from you is to treat me as an equal and not a pet. Please, let me have at least a little satisfaction of knowing that there could be something between us if I were human.'
Mikihisa held the tears in her eyes that were threatening to fall. Kenjiro had been her companion, her best friend. And to see him hurt like this truly hurt her. Before she could say anything, Kenjiro spoke up again.
'You are free to go, my lady' he said 'We can part ways now and I assure you that I won't bother you again.'
With a heavier heart, Mikihisa left the forest and headed to Heart Shrine Village again. During this time, she missed Kenjiro terribly, but there was nothing she could do about it. She tried to continue with her work as much as she could without thinking about Kenjiro.
Kenjiro on the other hand was having a miserable time. He wouldn't talk much anymore, nor would he chase the female badgers or make any lewd jokes. It seemed like a part of him was lost the moment his beloved walked out the forest on her two feet.
The Badger God soon heard tales of his sons behavior from his other children. It was very much unsettling for him and one day, he summoned Kenjiro. He saw for himself how distant Kenjiro had gotten and it made him very upset. He thought about it for a while, and came up with a solution.
'There's one way, boy,' he told his son 'to fix things.'
Kenjiro, who had lost hope looked up at his father hopefully 'is there?'
'Yes, there is,' the Badger God replied 'but it comes at a price'.
Hearing this, Kenjiro got upset again. It was the same thing the warlock had said, and things didn't turn out very well then. Kenjiro listened anyways.
One night, Mikihisa heard a knock on the door. She was confused. Who would bother her at such a late hour. She opened the door and came face to face with a man with godly features. He had black hair with hints of white, but he was a very young man. He was tall, tanned and rather scrawny. And his eyes, there was something familiar about them, it couldn't be-? He sported a flirtatious grin and requested if he could be let in. Normally, Mikihisa would be smart enough to not let any stranger in her house, let alone a man in the middle of the night. But there was something so familiar about him.
Then they talked for hours; about her past, the happenings in the village, about his siblings, about books, about her library. He then asked her how she was doing.... and how much she missed Kenjiro. Mikihisa's eyes widened and she stood up with a start.
'How do you know about Kenjiro' she said 'I never mentioned him even once.'
'Well,' the stranger replied, scratching the back of his head and grinning mischievously 'I am Kenjiro. Don't you recognize me?'
'I-it's impossible' Mikihisa stated. 'You can't be Kenjiro. He said there are laws against transforming into a human.'
'That's true,' Kenjiro said, 'but there was another law connected to it. It said that one can transform into a human for the duration of his or her lifetime. But they have to sacrifice everything they have related to the spirit world. This includes my connection to my father, my immortality, and any chances of turning back into a badger.'
'Bu-but why,' Mikihisa asked 'why would you do all of this?'
'Because I love you, my lady' Kenjiro replied 'if there was anything I could do to make sure we got together, I would. And father found a way. He said he would never allow such a thing, but even he saw how deep my love was for you so he allowed it.'
Mikihisa was overwhelmed with feelings. She couldn't believe it that her best friend, her long time companion, would sacrifice so much just to be with her. Without saying another word, she ran up to him and kissed him breathless. When they finally parted, Makihisa was as red as a tomato and Kenjiro was seen sporting a silly grin.
'I wasn't expecting that,' he said as he winked.
'Shut up and take it'she replied, still blushing. 'I'm sorry you had to give up being a badger though. I know how difficult it is changing species.'
'Don't worry about that,' Kenjiro replied 'It won't be that hard. I'm liking being a human already. Although, I certainly will miss those belly rubs you gave me,' He said smirking mischievously as he winked 'unless you won't mind indulging in them again.'
Makihisa tried to hit him playfully, but Kenjiro caught her hand and pulled her in another passionate kiss.
"The end" Yukiko said as she beamed happily. This story always made her feel warm and fuzzy inside. As a child, Yukiko loved this story very much. She had her mother read it to her, and sometimes, Azami too. Her father read the story to her as well, but his version sometimes included unicorns and rap battles.
"That was really cool" Atsuo said "but how true is it?"
"I don't know," Yukiko replied, after all, anything is possible in Omoichidou "but I heard Azami-nee say that she never kissed anyone as bristly as Buntaro-ani when he hasn't shaven."
Atsuo looked at her suspiciously, but Yukiko just nodded. He shrugged it off and they continued walking.