In The Fox-Witch's Wake, Pt2: Wolf Among Sheep




Chapter 8: His Truth, Unearthed

Mizuka and Misaki look into each other's eyes with the giddiest of glee, jumping up and down with their fingers clasped together in the most 'We did it!' manner imaginable. Why wouldn't they be? A bona-fide kitsune just agreed to make their wishes come true! Mizuka will catch Togai's attentions once more! Misaki will be the prettiest one in class!

On the other hand…

The fox girl's expression couldn't be any farther from theirs, instead leaning towards the total opposite territory of 'absolutely cranky grouch'.

Why, at the rate she's been rolling her eyes they might as well be popping out her skull any moment now. That the girls are failing to notice this visual cue in the midst of their youthful excitement certainly isn't helping.

With their wishes 'granted'1, Mishio-No-Sae turns to the last and quietest member of the bunch. With an absolutely exasperated I-am-not-getting-paid-enough-for-this kind of grimace, she addresses Honoka.

"Your turn."

Honoka's heart jumps upon finally being the center of attention. She swiftly moves to push Mizuka and Misaki out of the kitsune's alleyway dwelling.

"Waiii! Honoka-chan, what's the big idea?" Misaki pouts from being interrupted mid-jump.

"I need privacy." Honoka hurriedly makes her way back to Mishio, taking one last firm glare to set the tone for Misaki and Mizuka to not snoop in.

"Why the worry?" Mizuka bemoans, "We didn't have issues with revealing our own wishes!"

"Mizuka-chan," Misaki sneaks her head beneath Mizuka's, "You would have kept us waiting ten minutes just so you could get the courage to spell out Togai-kun's name."

Mizuka's face steams up to a vibrant strawberry shade. "MISAKI! I W-WOULD NOT!"

"Would too! Hahahahaha-!" The two resume their slapfight from earlier. Honoka smiles tiredly at their antics, her pains briefly forgotten. Her expression reverts and she makes her way back to the waiting kitsune. Before Mishio, whose intimidating presence was cut short by sitting within a cardboard box.

"I… The protection charm, that one is mine. But it doesn't actually work, does it?"

Contrast to the frustrated and exasperated tones Mishio had adopted with the other two girls, her answer towards this question came off curt and serious.

"No. It doesn't."

Her eyes continued boring their way into Honoka, now fully alert and taking note of every downcast expression, every crestfallen nuance of the voice, every sign that something was not right with the human adolescent.

Honoka nods in acknowledgement.

So it wouldn't have helped mother, then. Worthless, just like me.

She rolls up her sleeves, revealing the brown and purple welts lining her upper arms and shoulders. She unbuttons her shirt and pulls it apart; two buttons only, but enough to reveal more signs of batterings about her chest and her collarbones.

"I see… Can you please, make it all stop?"

It… It couldn't hurt to ask, right?

But for a brief hesitance Honoka reaches down and pulls her skirt up, revealing the final worst sights of her trauma-riddled body. In this moment, the savage marks and bruises glowing across her inner legs were visible to the wider world.

It was funny, though, wasn't it? These things Honoka would never dare show to another human… But Mishio isn't human. That somehow made it okay. It has to be okay, there's nothing to worry about. She wouldn't react the way a human would, neither would she understand it the way a human would. Surely it will be fine, right?

Honoka's shamed gaze looks back up towards Mishio.

She was wrong.

The tranquil stillness of the kitsune's face did little to hide the cold fury seething behind her eyes, like that of murderous currents surging beneath calm ocean waves. Everything about that was anything but non-human.

Seemingly remembering the need for discretion, Mishio's eyes swivel to her left to make sure Mizuka and Misaki were preoccupied with other trivialities. She looks back at Honoka once more. When next she spoke, the collective fates of Honoka's tormentors were sealed.

"How many humans are behind this?"

"Boys, and girls… Saeko's circle? Even, even father…"

Honoka's slurring recedes under sharply-drawn breaths. Her dream-memory tides recede, consciousness returning to the waking world. Dark shapes swim in circles before her shaking vision. Honoka moans, slowly shifting upon cool wood.


In a manner of a certain biblical adage, Honoka's world is instantly bathed in fluorescent light. She winces, eyes sluggishly trying to adjust to this sudden change of brightness.

"Honoka-san, you were talking in your sleep. So cute." Togai…?

There was his blurred form in the distance, approaching Honoka. He leans down before her, sliding the rims of her freshly-polished glasses past her ears. The world becomes crisp once more to Honoka's vision, bleary eyes registering Togai's hand waving up and down her face.

"Are you still tired? That's no good…"

Tssht goes the pull of a finger ring on a canned drink. An arm on her back gently angles Honoka up, pressing the drink against her lips. "You need to be in the right frame of mind. Here, let me help. Drink up, now…"

Honoka placidly blinks, light sip after light sip of coffee going down her throat. Drink, drink… Drink?

The drugged drinks. The rusted shed. The glued-shut doorknob. TOGAI. It all came screeching back towards Honoka with the speed of a runaway truck.

She sputters and coughs, throwing herself off of Togai's arm and rolling straight off the desk. Wheezing and sputtering, she ignores the pain of impact across her chest and shoulder, swiftly catching on after a moment of frantic wriggling that her wrists and ankles were bound to each other.

Togai pouts. "Oh, look what you've done. Dust on your shirt! I just spent all evening cleaning you up-"

"HELP! SOMEONE! HELP! HELP! PLEASE HELP ME, SOMEONE!" Honoka thrashes about like a fish out of water, screaming for a rescuer who'll never come.

"Oh, dear, this won't do…" A cloth gag is spun about Honoka's mouth and tied firmly.

She rolls, kicks, jerks about in muffled panic, only accomplishing the wastage of her stamina. Togai seats himself on the other hand, idly checking his watch with great emphasis towards flicking his wrist. Soon enough Honoka is reduced to a writhing, sweating mess on the floor, sobbing breaths misting past her gag. A fingertip daintily pushes on Honoka's jolted glasses, setting them back between her eyes. Togai leans back down by Honoka's ear.

"So. Have you calmed down enough for a civilized conversation? I have all night to wait. Do you?" He gets back up. "And look! No janitor has appeared. Would you like to know what is happening? Tell you what: I'm going to remove your gag, now. Would you like to talk, or scream a little more? I'm fine with both."

With no choice, a trembling Honoka nods. One sharp tug and the gag is undone. Able to breathe sharply once more, Honoka actively suppresses her urge to scream to seek answers.

"Where am I?! When am I?!"

"We're back where we started. Take a look around you, Honoka-san. Where is this place?"

"School… We're in my class?"

"Yes! As for the time… Do specifics really matter? How about past the average moment that dinner is served?"

"How did you get me back to school?"

"Would you believe me if I said… Saeko?"

Honoka's heart froze at that name. She wasn't surprised her nemesis continued to seek revenge all the way from the hospital, but to hear it admitted so openly…

"No way…"

"Yes! She called me the other day. 'Teach her a final lesson not to screw with me', her exact words! She pulled strings for the last time to help bring us here, to this very point."

Togai looks to the hand he raises forth, as if he were holding an opened book. "It reminds me of a Western story, a tale of obsession and revenge. Moby Dick. The final words of Captain Ahab in particular: 'To the last, I grapple with thee; From Hell's heart, I stab at thee; For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee'… In a sense, have you not become the whale to her captain?"

Togai deflates, mulling over his dramatization.

"Perhaps it's not as climatic as it sounds. How about the original Star Wars? The way she begged me for help, was it not akin to a 'Help me, Miyata-kun, you're my only hope'?"

Concluding the feminine voice-act, Togai undoes his accompanying mock prayer and crosses his arms. "Far from it, however, I have no intention of helping her."

Honoka thrashes about in disbelief. "If you don't care about following Saeko's orders, then why go the length to kidnap me and bring me back to school just to tell me that?! Let me go already!"

"Ah, ah, ah! Don't get agitated. You'll only waste your energy. Soon enough I will. And to answer your question… Why, you ask? I think, I think…" Togai strokes his chin, a darkly-dreaming smile stretching across his features,

"How about: Because, 'I love you'?"

"L… Love?"

"Yes. Love. What I imagine it to be, anyway…" Togai lowers a hand, gently stroking Honoka's cheek. "Such soft skin, for such a spoiled body… Oh."

Togai retracts his hand stiffly, observing silently as Honoka trembles madly from that touch alone, her reddened face on the verge of tears. Taking a moment to consider what action to perform, Togai settles on delicately wiping her eyes with tissue kept on-hand.

"…I could never force myself upon you in such a crass way. Yes, I know what happened to you. As a regular guest of Saeko's circle… I've had the displeasure of listening to their empty boasts and trivial gossip. I've never cared for those, yet how did it come to this? You, who were once a nobody in my eyes, to become this… this flame in my heart?"

Togai flutters gracefully towards the classroom window, looking to the moon above.

"At first I thought you were yet another run-of-the-mill Chuunibyou, Honoka-san. I appreciated that you never paid attention to my existence unlike my legion of insufferable admirers, caught up in your silly fantasies as you were… But that was all to it. Then! I recall seeing you being forced to… service the senior boys while the girls recorded away… I continued to feel nothing. I've always been poor at… feeling things."

Togai pulls out his phone, opening his browser and typing up a search.

"…But now that they're gone, look at you! 'Honoka the Fox-touched', you became known as! Any miscreant who dared to continue offenses towards you met with bad luck, disaster! You, who became a receptacle for pain now reflect that misfortune back at others! Intriguing, is it not? That was when I became interested. And the more I examined you in secret, the more I couldn't help but fall for you…"

Togai dreamily sighs and brings his phone towards Honoka's face. Within it was a picture of a vase; once shattered, reforged with its fracture lines encased in gold.

"Do you know of Kintsugi, Sarada-san? The act of repairing broken pottery with golden lacquer. The metaphor, the message in particular: What was once broken can not only be fixed, but become even more beautiful because of it! Without its breakage, a plain-white porcelain bowl cannot be made beautiful! Without the story of its breakage, those golden lines, never to be duplicated, cannot be appreciated!"

Togai got on all fours, bringing his face close to a madly-shivering Honoka's ear. He whispers tersely, voice sharp as an icicle:

"Let me fix you, Honoka-chan. I want to help."

Honoka spasms wildly, nearly banging her head into Togai's and throwing herself a foot away.

"No! No! I don't want your help! Fix YOURself! I don't want to be helped, not in this way even! And why hasn't anything bad happened to you?!"

Togai's features beamed with the most twisted smile imaginable.

"Oh! Yes, you'd like to know, wouldn't you? Yes, the secret of it all. I know how the Fox-Witch's protections work. It can't affect me, simply because there is not a single fiber of my soul that wishes you harm. OBSERVE!" Togai's arm flings out in a blur, and a lance of pain shoots across Honoka's arm.

She tilts her head and looks in disbelief, fresh beads of blood forming along a freshly-cut wound. Honoka's expression was as blank as her thoughts.


Togai retracts and pockets his box cutter. Ever the gentleman, he applies disinfectant and sets a plaster onto the thin and shallow gash.

"Allow me to explain: I've been observing you for the past while, Honoka-chan, and I've come to notice a recurring pattern. All those who met misfortune at your presence shared one common theme: They all wished malice upon you."

It's true. Honoka remembers what Mishio spoke so long ago as if it were yesterday.

"…Anyone gives you trouble while you have this thing on? It will give trouble back."

"A simple and straightforward algorithm, really, much like basic computer code. Very effective… Until you deal with someone who can choose not to, or simply cannot display malicious intent."

"Are you saying you are immune to it? Because you're too crazy to think normally?!"

Togai stares deep into Honoka's eyes. "Have you ever noticed how this protection fails to work when it comes to accidents? The falling pot that I saved you from, just the other day? What if I told you a curious human engineered that 'accident' to see if the curse would affect him? What if I told you… It was me?"

"No… No!"

Togai leapt up to dance in the glee of his cathartic revelations. "Yes, yes! The time that grocery shelf toppled on you! The ball that struck you in the shin! The speeding car you nearly walked into! It was I! It was me! It was all myself all along! You thought yourself protected all this time, when all those incidents you thought to be accidents was done by ME!"

Togai finishes his frenetic prancing, turning to his hostage with demented breaths.

"That brings me to my final point. I've come to notice a peculiar quirk of yours: Whenever misfortune happens to your would-be tormentors, you always hold a hand to your chest. Why is that, I wonder?"

Togai thrusts a pair of fingers straight into Honoka's shirt, between her buttons. "That is where you hide it, isn't it? The Fox-Witch's gift…"

Her eyes widen in horror as she writhes in panic, not because of any fear of being groped, but rather-

"There!" Togai withdraws his hands with a snap.

Like a fish out of water, Honoka's mouth gapes silently as she stares at the object dangled between Togai's fingers: Mishio's cursed charm.


He holds the charm up to the air, in absolute curiosity and wonder, repeating the word written across its surface as if he were a young child speaking these syllables for the first time.

"Suffer, suffer, suffer… What is suffering, really?"

"Give it back. Togai-kun. Please. Please give it back. Don't take it away…" Togai freezes, the charm continuing to dangle in the air.

"T-Togai-kun, please, please. I'll do whatever you want. I'll be your girlfriend. Please, just give it back, I need it-" By chance Honoka brushes her gaze against Togai's. She sees his returning glare filled with a mix of anger and disgust, but most of all pity.

"You remain deluded, thinking yourself safe and sheltered. I hereby free you from the illusion."


Honoka freezes before the sound of tearing paper.


Within her mind, the world may as well be collapsing about her. Time feels to have frozen.


Having finished tearing the cursed charm apart, Togai scatters the litter like so much confetti. The shreds descend anticlimatically, settling before a paralyzed Honoka.

She no longer enjoys Mishio's protections.

Togai bends down once more, palming his box cutter.

"Suffer; Suffering is what happens to us, happens to all of us. It is a universal constant, and how we react to it is our defining moment that truly moulds us as individuals. I see so much suffering inside of you… Please understand, Honoka-san: I want to help you, free you from these chains… And then, perhaps, then you may see things the way I see it…"


"Let's play a game, Honoka-chan. A simple game of tag. You successfully escape me for this whole night, and I will never bother you again. I catch you… And you'll be mine, forever."

Honoka limply stares at the extended blade hovering inches before her eyes.

"See this knife? I'm going to cut you free. I'm going to start with your legs first, then your hands. You wouldn't be so silly as to begin running while your hands are restrained now, would you?" Honoka remains silent.

"Excellent. Here we go." The cloth binding Honoka's ankles tighten, then fall completely slack. Her legs slide free from one another.

"There goes the leg restraints. Now, the arms." The same tension happens between Honoka's wrists, then is gone. She slowly forces herself to get up, mental exhaustion and hopelessness making her movements sluggish. She tries to reach for the tattered paper strips, only for Togai's foot to stomp firmly upon the remains.

"Now does the night truly start."

A startled Honoka falls on her bottom in horror, feebly sliding backwards from her kidnapper. Finding it within herself to muster her balance, Honoka forces herself back up and rams into her classroom's door. Gripping onto its handle and throwing it open, she flees into the darkness of the corridor…

"Go now, my little sweet rabbit: Run."

Continued in Part 3: Sword Raised High, Head Higher

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