A little discretion

Pharast 12, 4713 (late night)

Kali got up from her place around the campfire; the sounds of conversation faded behind her as she walked away. She found Miyaro sitting in the dim light away from the group, just on the edge of the trail through the forest.

“Hi, Miyaro. Do you mind if I join you?”

Miyaro looked up at the sound of Kali’s voice. “You may,” she replied. Kali noted that she didn’t so much as even smile. She was still getting used to Miyaro’s mannerisms. Or lack of them.

She sat down beside Miyaro, and a long silence passed between them. Miyaro is not one for small talk, she thought. Kali finally broke it, speaking somewhat hesitantly. “Miyaro…” The Tian woman looked at her. “You wouldn’t happen to … be a kitsune, would you?”

Miyaro’s expression didn’t change when she replied. “What do you know of these kitsune?” she asked, casually. “Do you know any? Are they good people?”

“I don’t know any, myself. Though I don’t think an entire race of people is good or bad. They are just … people. But, I’ve heard they can be fun to be around. That they enjoy … games.”

Miyaro didn’t answer immediately, so Kali added, “I, myself, used to get into a bit of mischief when I was young. Sometimes I miss those days.” She smirked at the end.

“I always found making up games to be a necessary part of my childhood in the forest. Even now I do enjoy a subtle game or trick. I agree about that being a nice pastime.  I don’t know, though … I’m not sure a kitsune could be trusted.” Her voice turned just slightly bitter. “They’re not human. You know how they all are. Non-humans cause all the problems of human society.”

Kali snorted derisively. “I grew up in a human town, and humans caused plenty of trouble, especially to me. Humans, elves, gnomes, tengu, kitsune … Individuals are good or bad.”

Miyaro turned to face Kali, staring intently while she considered Kali’s reply. “That’s an interesting perspective,” she says. “I don’t usually hear other people talking about their kind that way.”

“Perspective can get beaten into you.”

“Yes, but kitsune deserve it, surely.”

“Why would they? Just because they are kitsune? I find that … offensive.”

“Do you?” Miyaro said. Her tone was a bit harsher, almost accusatory. “I don’t know anyone who would be friends with a kitsune. Would you consider such a one to be a friend? Would you still stand by this friend if they were accused of all the usual things by humans who see them?”

Kali looked taken aback by the sudden hostility. She considered her next words carefully. “Why wouldn’t I? Friends are people who share your goals, your interests and your values, that help each other, and look out for one another. These things aren’t defined by what we are, but who we are.”

Miyaro sat silently. Kali couldn’t read her expression, but she continued cautiously. “I have spent my entire life living in places where I was different. Where I looked different and acted different. Even now, even here, I am different. I know what it’s like to have people assume things about you because of what you are.”

When Miyaro answered, there was a hint of resignation in her voice. “I’ve been so wrong before with people, I think it’s a problem of living in the forest by myself too much.”

“I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.”

“You are the one you asked.”

The silence stretched on to the point where it was awkward and Kali grew very uncomfortable, worried she had insulted their guide. Finally, Miyaro spoke; so quietly that Kali could barely hear her. “How did you know?”

“The kami didn’t recognize you when we first entered the forest. And, the coloring in your hair. Either one by itself…” She let the thought trail off.

Miyaro nodded. “I’ve been hiding among humans so long I thought I was better at it. I guess not. Can I trust you to keep this a secret?”

“Of course. That’s what friends do.”

 

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