After discovering Chanyeol was indeed a shapeshifting fox in the form of a human, Kyungsoo kept the finding to himself and did not bring it up to confront Chanyeol about it.
Kyungsoo didn’t act any different or treated Chanyeol differently either, so Chanyeol would not suspect Kyungsoo about knowing his secret.
Kyungsoo was still trying to keep it safe because there was no way in telling what kind of mythical fox Chanyeol actually was.
Chanyeol could have been a sly, malicious kitsune that deceived and tricked humans. If it was that case, Kyungsoo did not want to do anything that would invoke Chanyeol’s spite and anger because it would be a hassle to deal with.
At the same time, Chanyeol could also be one of the benevolent foxes that were nothing but loyal messengers of the harvest and fertility goddess, Inari, who was widely worshipped throughout the country. Kyungsoo wouldn’t want to risk being on the bad side of Inari’s messenger either, because it could invoke the goddess’ anger which would affect the quality of that year’s harvest.
Besides that, Chanyeol hadn’t really done anything that would endanger Kyungsoo, and it was in fact, Kyungsoo himself who had injured Chanyeol and put the latter in such a predicament.
The following morning after the night Kyungsoo discovered Chanyeol’s real identity, Kyungsoo got up at sunrise to perform his morning prayer service for Amaterasu at the shrine beside the hut.
After he was done with the prayer, Kyungsoo undressed from his prayer robes and changed into his regular clothes when he returned to the hut where Chanyeol was sitting on the floor beside on the entrance with his white kimono pulled up to his knees.
“I’m going to leave tomorrow. I need to get back home,” Chanyeol announced the moment Kyungsoo was back inside the hut.
“Which village or town do you come from?” Kyungsoo asked, feigning ignorance despite knowing that Chanyeol was not from any village or town at all.
“It’s near the mountain from here,” Chanyeol answered, looking up at Kyungsoo from the floor he was seated on.
“-but your leg isn’t that fully healed yet. You can’t walk through the forest like that yet and it's going to be a two days trip at least,” Kyungsoo eyed Chanyeol’s exposed bandaged leg, “Let me take you back since it's my fault that you’re like this in the first place.”
“No, I can do it by myself. I did get this far all on my own so I’ll be able to take myself home too,” Chanyeol debated.
“I don’t think your leg will be good enough to walk that far by tomorrow, Chanyeol,” Kyungsoo reasoned, sitting cross-legged on the floor hut, facing Chanyeol, “You seem in a rush to get back. Is there something wrong?”
Chanyeol’s breath hitched and he avoided Kyungsoo’s gaze before replying, “I’m afraid that I’ve been away from home too long. I’m not supposed to be gone for this long so I just want to get home as soon as I can.”
“Well, you were wandering this far in the forest dressed like that and all unequipped. You should have known what you were getting into coming all the way here,” Kyungsoo pointed out, giving out hints but not directly exposing that he knew
“I know,” Chanyeol affirmed, sounding a bit annoyed, “-but I didn’t expect to get shot in the leg by an arrow either. I would have been fine and be home right now if it wasn’t for that.”
“Fine,” Kyungsoo sighed, folding his arms over his chest, “I admit that it was my mistake. So, at least please let me take you back home even if it’s just half of the way there.”
“Half of the way then,” Chanyeol agreed, “-but no further than that and this only as an apology for shooting me in the leg with an arrow. But we must leave tomorrow at the latest. Are you prepared to leave by tomorrow? Or else, I’ll just go ahead alone.”
“It should be enough time for me but I cannot say the same for your leg,” Kyungsoo explained.
“It’ll be fine tomorrow,” Chanyeol asserted, “-just make the preparations you need. I can’t waste any more time. It is important that I get home as soon as possible.”
“Very well then, we’ll leave tomorrow after sunrise,” Kyungsoo agreed, pretending to be skeptical about Chanyeol but knowing that a mythical fox would be able to heal their injuries very fast.
Sure enough, Kyungsoo pretended to be surprised the next morning when Chanyeol showed his leg to Kyungsoo, telling the priest that it was fully and nicely healed up, ready to make the journey back to wherever he said his home was.
Kyungsoo spewed something about a miracle or a god’s blessing to Chanyeol, although he knew that wasn’t probably the case. Chanyeol was also seemingly awkward about that whole conversation too.
Kyungsoo knew that it was physically impossible for a human to heal such a wound overnight, and how such an injury would surely leave a scar on it. Because Chanyeol’s leg looked as if it was never even injured or hit by an arrow in the first place.
Kyungsoo didn’t need more evidence to know that Chanyeol was not human but a shapeshifting fox. He just didn’t know which kind of fox he was, and that was what he wanted to know.
Kyungsoo buried some of his valuable items such as pots, pans, and knives at the back of the hut. He dug a hole in the earth and buried the equipment in it before covering it up with some leaves and grass.
This was to deter from his hut being ransacked and robbed by bandits while he had to travel to send Chanyeol home back at the mountain. Kyungsoo was confident that the bandits would not stoop to low to rob a shrine, so he let it be and lit a few candles in it before he left.
Kyungsoo locked up the hut and made sure the windows were also shut in place in case of heavy winds and rain.
Only after then, he left with Chanyeol on a journey that would take them at least two days to the mountain where Chanyeol said his home was.
Kyungsoo knew that were no such things as a village or a human settlement near the mountain Chanyeol wanted to go to. Kyungsoo did not bring that up though and simply led Chanyeol lead him the way there.
Before they had left the hut, Kyungsoo offered to lend Chanyeol some of his clothes that would be more suited to wear while they were traveling through the forests and towards the mountains.
Chanyeol declined it though and continued to wear his white kimono which was previously dirtied but now looked brand new and spotless for some reason Kyungsoo knew to be inhuman. Despite the heat, Chanyeol still kept wearing his distinguishable red scarf for some reason.
Kyungsoo brought along his bow and arrow alongside some things he might need in a travel sack he slung over his shoulders.
As a priest, Kyungsoo had to travel in his black priest robes and carry around his ringed staff. The staff was not only a walking stick but also a weapon to defend himself while he was traveling. Whenever Kyungsoo moved, the rings on the staff would tinkle against each other and make a ringing sound.
Because priests often had to travel alone passing through dangerous places, they were taught to defend themselves and the ringed staff evolved from not only being a signal to tell that a roaming priest in need of alms was in the area, but also to protect themselves from harm.
The pair traveled through the forests in the middle of summer, when the humidity was at its peak, the forest was shrilling with the sounds of the cicadas and the bugs were at their most active.
Kyungsoo wore a straw hat to keep out the negligible sunlight that passed through the canopy provided by the trees overhead them. There were some insects or bugs that often flew past in front of him and Kyungsoo had to swing his staff around to scare them off.
Chanyeol, on the other hand, was the least bit if even bothered by it. He did not sweat in the heat or in the humidity despite how elaborately he was dressed in an exquisite kimono and red scarf. The bugs didn’t approach him either and Kyungsoo didn’t even need to see that to know Chanyeol was definitely not human, unlike what he appeared to be.
Chanyeol also seemed to be several paces ahead of Kyungsoo constantly despite everything.
By the afternoon on the same day they left, they had already arrived at the pass alongside a rocky hill as a shortcut to make their way to the mountain Chanyeol said his home was.
However, they were dismayed to find out that a landslide had occurred because of the storm from two nights ago, leaving the shortcut to the mountains impossible to travel on.
“No! How do I get home now?” Chanyeol gasped, seeing their path blocked by heaps of earth and boulders of rock. There was no option to walk around it either because it was a path at the side of a hill, and they risked a high drop down below if they attempted such a thing. Even Chanyeol doubted he’d be alright to attempt such a feat.
Kyungsoo tipped the brim of his hat slightly upwards, inspecting the blockage and also determining that there no way for them to get around it. They could actually try to remove the debris but it would have taken them days if not weeks, and it was just the both of them too without the right equipment to do so.
“We have to take the long way through the forest then,” Kyungsoo informed Chanyeol.
“But I need to get back home as soon as I can,” Chanyeol exasperatedly mentioned.
“I understand that but there is no way around this,” Kyungsoo tried to persuade Chanyeol; “It’ll be weeks if not months before someone comes to clear this up. We can’t do it too so you can either wait until then or we can take the route through the forests which will just take another day or two more.”
Chanyeol sighed, looking up to the bright sky and then back at Kyungsoo behind him. Chanyeol was wearing a very worried and distraught expression on his face, one that Kyungsoo didn’t expect to see on Chanyeol.
Even if Chanyeol turned out to be a malicious kitsune at this point, Kyungsoo would still be also worried on Chanyeol’s behalf just from seeing how he looked like.
It was as if there was something that Chanyeol was very afraid of. And Kyungsoo wasn’t really intent on knowing what a mystical creature like Chanyeol would be fearful of. It could have been another stronger mythical creature or even worse, a god.
They were forced to return to the forests and take the long way to the mountains instead of passing by alongside the hillside because of the landslide.
Apart from the worried expression Chanyeol still wore on his face, Kyungsoo also began to notice how fast Chanyeol seemed to deteriorate now.
Chanyeol began to sweat, began to pant and began to breathe heavier while they were trekking through the forest when this had not occurred before.
Kyungsoo just thought that Chanyeol had maybe tired out after expending his inhuman stamina and capabilities which included healing injuries overnight and keeping his ever-white kimono so clean and pristine. But Kyungsoo did not suspect that something else was up with Chanyeol at the time.
Sometime in the mid-afternoon, while they hadn’t been traveling long on the detour they were forced to take, they arrived at a flowing stream in the middle of the forest.
Kyungsoo suggested stopping there to rest and Chanyeol agreed, despite his initial insistence of traveling as fast as they could without taking unnecessary stops because he wanted to be home as soon as possible.
Chanyeol sat under the shade of a tall tree with his back to the trunk, near the edge of the stream.
Kyungsoo took off his shoes and sandals before rolling up his sleeves to his elbows and pulling his priest robes up to his knees. Kyungsoo then entered the water with his ringed staff, waiting for a fish to swim past him.
Kyungsoo planned to catch the fish for dinner, by stabbing through it with the other end of his staff when he saw one appear.
The stream was cooling and even though Kyungsoo failed to catch the first few fish that swam by, standing in it and washing his face with the cool water was enough to relieve him of the summer heat and humidity.
Kyungsoo decided to stop for a while before resuming at his attempt to catch a fish that could be cooked for dinner. Kyungsoo sat on the rocks at the edge of the stream, dipping his feet into the cool, clear running water below him.
While relaxing at the bank of the stream, Kyungsoo glanced over his shoulder to look at Chanyeol behind him, who was looking in a direction with a blank stare as he seemed to be intently thinking about something. Chanyeol didn’t look rather comfortable from the sight of it.
“Are you hot? Do you want to come and sit here? It’s cold and nice. You could even take a bath in here,” Kyungsoo suggested to Chanyeol.
“No thank you. I’m alright,” Chanyeol assured but seemed to contradict what he was saying because shortly later, he was wiping beads of sweat from the side of his face. “I don’t like getting wet. I don’t like the hassle of getting dry,” Chanyeol claimed, grimacing at the suggestion of it.
“I do have a spare change of clothes you can use,” Kyungsoo offered, looking at the travel sack he had put aside down on the grass.
“I said I’m fine,” Chanyeol repeated, a bit louder this time.
“Alright then,” Kyungsoo accepted, getting back to his feet in the stream and picking up his ringed staff to attempt to catch a fish again.
Kyungsoo’s further attempts at catching the fish merely remained as attempts because he hadn’t managed to catch a single fish despite the plenty that swam past him.
There was still some dried fox meat leftover from his previous hunt, but Kyungsoo wasn’t going to provoke Chanyeol and feed fox meat to a fox.
Although Kyungsoo didn’t say why he was doing this, it was definitely for Chanyeol.
Kyungsoo still made a connection and wanted to believe that Chanyeol was most likely the same person who had saved him from drowning many winters ago. Kyungsoo believed he still owed this person his life or at least his gratitude, even if they turned out to be a malevolent kitsune.
At this point, Kyungsoo could care less about what kind of being Chanyeol turned out to be. He just wanted to know if Chanyeol was this same person who had rescued him from that icy pond.
After further repeatedly failing at trying to catch a fish, Chanyeol who was watching this, felt like he had seen enough and quickly got up to his own feet too.
Instead of going into the stream, he began to walk off down alongside the bank of the stream, away from their resting spot under the tall shady tree.
“Where are you going?” Kyung