Everything that happened after it all seemed too fast for Kyungsoo, or at least that was what it appeared to him.
After he had forced Chanyeol to swallow down his saliva, because of the belief that a human’s bodily fluid could be used to exchange energy into that of a mystical creature, Kyungsoo was the one finding himself feeling weak and dizzy before passing out on the forest floor not very far from the four dead bodies belonging to the bandits.
Before passing out, Kyungsoo last saw a very shocked and horrified face belonging to Chanyeol, who seemed well enough to be standing already and looking on so judgmentally yet concerned towards him.
It appeared that Chanyeol was indeed the messenger of the goddess Inari, so as someone in such a position, Kyungsoo assumed that he had done something unholy to cause such a reaction from Chanyeol.
But other than saving Chanyeol, Kyungsoo didn’t really know what else he had done.
When Kyungsoo woke up again, it was dark and nighttime. There was a fire burning not far from where he was and Kyungsoo found himself lying on the sleeping mat he had brought along for his journey.
All of his belongings and his ringed staff were not far from where he had been sleeping, all of the items arranged and undisturbed.
Kyungsoo quickly got up, feeling his legs as rather weak when he stood up, with a slight headache lingering in his head.
He wasn’t sleepy anymore but he was certainly not energized and ready to trek through the forest either, not like he was going to do so in the pitch black of the night deep in the middle of nowhere.
Kyungsoo looked around for Chanyeol at their campsite or any traces that might notify him of the latter’s presence. Kyungsoo parted through the bushes near the fire and looked behind the trees, hoping to see either a white fox or maybe even Chanyeol in his human form.
Kyungsoo wanted to know if he was seeing right and whether the image of Chanyeol being alright before he passed out, was indeed real and not a mere hallucination or trick of the mind.
Chanyeol certainly had to be around here or not far from here if he had left, Kyungsoo believed. Because who else was there to light the fire, pull Kyungsoo up onto the sleeping mat and arrange his things nearby in a neat pile if it wasn’t Chanyeol?
After not finding Chanyeol anywhere nearby, Kyungsoo grabbed his ringed staff and attempted to leave the campsite to look for Chanyeol.
Kyungsoo just needed to know that Chanyeol was alright, and if he was, Kyungsoo still had a lot of questions he needed answers from Chanyeol too.
Just after Kyungsoo had grabbed his ringed staff and was about to leave to look even further than that, he heard the sounds of rustling coming behind from him near the long grass and bushes. It was too dark for him to see what it was yet but Kyungsoo was hoping very much that it was Chanyeol.
Kyungsoo looked over his shoulder and turned around completely when he came in view of a white fox with a red bib, walking and appearing through the bushes as it dropped something from its mouth onto the ground in front of the fire just across from where Kyungsoo was standing.
It was a bird of some sort that was dropped from the fox’s mouth and Kyungsoo smiled, knowing it was Chanyeol.
Chanyeol proved it was him by then changing into his human form, now standing in front of Kyungsoo in his long white kimono which was a stark contrast to the dark of the night. This time, Chanyeol didn’t seem too reserved about hiding the truth behind his identity, evident by the way he still had his long and flowing white fox tail still visible from the bottom hem of his kimono.
“You’re alive,” Kyungsoo exclaimed.
“-and I have your dinner too,” Chanyeol continued.
Kyungsoo chuckled out of relief, sitting back down on the grassy ground as he pressed a hand to his forehead and sighed, “Well, I can’t eat it like that, you know.”
“I’ll take the feathers out for you then,” Chanyeol shrugged, squatting on the ground as he used his human hands to pluck out the feathers from the corpse of the bird.
Kyungsoo smiled, easing up a little as he observed Chanyeol’s antics of attempting to prepare the bird to be cooked over the fire.
“Are you still injured?” Kyungsoo asked out of concern, remembering that Chanyeol had been very injured the previous time.
“I’m alright now,” Chanyeol replied, spitting out a feather from his mouth after giving up on using his human hands to de-feather the bird. Chanyeol would have just eaten it straight up with feathers and all but he knew that humans like Kyungsoo had to do this and cook it over a fire or else they would fall ill.
“Oh,” Kyungsoo gaped, looking away and asking again after a brief pause, “Did I help?”
In the dark of the forest with only the burning firewood as the source of illumination, Chanyeol looked up from the ground and towards Kyungsoo sitting across the fire.
Under the glow of the orange fire, Chanyeol’s striking gold eyes appeared even more “fox-like”.
“I suppose you can say so,” Chanyeol answered, biting off the head of the dead bird, knowing that humans also tend to leave the heads behind and not eat them.
“I’ve heard tales about kitsune like you before,” Kyungsoo added, going through his belongings that Chanyeol had put aside near the campsite.
“What did you hear?” Chanyeol asked, looking up from the ground towards Kyungsoo who had now moved and was standing beside him.
“That they can be rather mischievous and lecherous,” Kyungsoo replied, smiling as he had retrieved a handkerchief to wipe off the blood from the dead bird on the corner of Chanyeol’s lips.
Chanyeol’s eyes followed Kyungsoo’s hand that wiped his face before it was retracted and Chanyeol asked once more, “So, you’re scared of me now?”
“I wouldn’t say I am because I know you’re not those troublemaking kitsune like in the tales,” Kyungsoo smiled, sitting himself down on the grass beside Chanyeol, “After all, you saved my life many years ago and now I saved yours.”
Chanyeol turned his head away, muttering, “What do you want now?”
“Oh, I don’t want anything from you,” Kyungsoo was quick to say, “In fact; I just want to fulfill my promise of taking you back to where your home is. Didn’t you say that you had to return soon? We’ll leave tomorrow at the break of dawn.”
Chanyeol turned his head back slowly to look at Kyungsoo from the corner of his eye, “Don’t you even want who I really am or why I saved you so many years ago?”
“I do, actually,” Kyungsoo confessed, “-but after what happened, I don’t think it’s that important for me to know either. I think I can make my peace with that. So please, just tell me how I can get you home.”
“I-I’m not from here actually,” Chanyeol admitted, feeling slightly more trustful of Kyungsoo for not demanding something else out of him, especially after Kyungsoo had saved his life.
“I know you’re not but I don’t know where it is you’re really from either,” Kyungsoo mentioned.
“The reason I want to go to the mountain is that there’s a gate there that can actually to my real home. It’s in Takamagahara. You just have to walk me there but I can do it on my own actually,” Chanyeol revealed, still gripping the now fully de-feathered bird in his hand.
“Ah, I see. I’ve heard about Takamagahara. It’s another realm where beings like you reside in,” Kyungsoo nodded, “So I can just take you there and you can do your thing and get home.”
Chanyeol was expecting Kyungsoo to act shocked or even ask more questions, being impressed that he did not.
While Kyungsoo rambled on about making sure they were safe, in case any more of the bandits from the same gang they killed came to look for them, Chanyeol smiled and finding himself easing up more in Kyungsoo’s company.
Chanyeol handed over the now bald dead bird to Kyungsoo with a smile, “Here’s your dinner.”
“Thank you,” Kyungsoo smiled in return, accepting it in his hand, “I still have to probably wash this.”
Kyungsoo went back to sleep later that night after cooking the bird on the fire, which could have tasted better if he had some more ingredients to work with, he thought. Kyungsoo tried sharing half of it with Chanyeol but the latter refused, saying that the head of the bird was more than enough.
Kyungsoo wasn’t asleep for long before the dark skies turned bluer and the sun was already rising from beneath the horizon as daybreak approached.
Chanyeol did not sleep at all as he seemed to be more of the nocturnal kind, although he still didn’t seem to want to sleep during the day either. Then again, Chanyeol wasn’t human and Kyungsoo wasn’t expecting him to follow a certain sleeping routine away.
Together, they continued their journey down the forest and towards the mountain Chanyeol wished to head to. They were already so close to the foot of the mountain, from where onwards their path grew increasingly steep and rockier.
Therefore, even before noon, they were already on the mountain itself and trekking up a path that seemed to have been formed by the numerous people who have come up the same way.
What caught Kyungsoo’s attention were the small footprints of an animal on the mossy ground, from what was most likely a quadruped such as a fox. Although, he didn’t seem to sense the presence of such an animal the entire time they had been traveling that morning.
Kyungsoo thought that Chanyeol probably wasn’t the only one who utilized this same path to return to this place allegedly claimed to be Takamagahara.
“Is this the only way your kind uses to get home?” Kyungsoo asked, using his ringed staff for support while he walked up the inclined mountain path. Kyungsoo had to occasionally look to the ground when he moved so as to avoid tripping and often so, he would catch the sight of Chanyeol’s white fox tail peeking fro