Bare feet pounding, the sound of fox paws drumming the earth by her side, dirt and dust and scree flying up at their ankles. She heard the steady thud and rush of her pulse in her ears - and the heavy beat of the samurai's pummelling feet behind them - as they ran full-pelt towards the cliff edge.
Her grandmother held aloft a golden lantern - steadfast and bold and clear in the dark night - a beacon to guide her home. Grandmother Yuzuke's many tails curled and bowed softly as she craned her neck, her sharp eyes watching for her granddaughter's approach. Miyu coiled and slid elegantly through the air beside her, sighing out a long lazy plume of smoke.
One, two, and three - the foxes leapt effortlessly into the air in one fluid bound, and across to the waiting precipice where her Grandmother stood.
Akane did not pause - compelled now not by fear but by the exhilarating thunderous call of freedom - so close now, just one more leap, just one last effort.
She hurled herself into the yawning chasm, and for a fraction of a second, felt herself to be suspended, held aloft in the heavens like a star.
The kitsune mask Akane always wore in performance - (a delicate game-within-a-game: a fox pretending to be a girl, pretending to be a fox) - flew out behind her and sailed through the air, before landing, discarded, on the rocky breach behind her.
She leapt towards home and family and safety.
Neil got me pondering fox spirits, which have long since fascinated me - and I discovered all sorts of interesting things that I didn't know before..... for instance, the fact that they are often known to have up to nine tails...and the greater the number of tails, the older, wiser and more powerful the creature...which is why my Grandmother Yuzuki has multiple tails... :)
And the race of Lionheart - a blaze of red hope, running against all the odds through an unforgiving and treacherous landscape, guards baying at her heels - running towards her beloved brother - has been haunting me for months.
And, as with King and Lionheart, I like stories that leave their endings open to possibility....