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Fox Fire

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General Info
 

First Published: September, 1992 by Fantagraphics Books

Comics Which Contain This Story
 

USAGI YOJIMBO Color Special #3

This comic also contains Nilson and Hermy, "Loxos and Doxos" and the story "Under the Same Sky" from Space Usagi.

Stories in the UY Color Specials

This "book" contains all stories who have been published in the UY Color Specials. Follow these links to the comics:

Characters in This Story
 
Synopsis
 

As Usagi and Tomoe stroll amiably across a grassy hillside, their peace is interrupted by a terrified fox. As Tomoe looks on in consternation, the terrified creature leaps at Usagi - jumping straight into his top! Three strangers run up to the samurai and ask Usagi if he has seen a fox run by, while Tomoe has collapsed to the ground with laughter. The hunters are chasing the beast for its liver, a very profitable medicine. His replies punctuated by exclamations of discomfort as the kitsune wriggles around inside his shirt, Usagi sends the hunters down the hillside after their quarry. With her pursuers out of sight our bemused hero releases the fox in the other direction, but questions the wisdom of misdirecting the hunters. Tomoe, who has laughed so hard her stomach aches, tells him he could hardly just hand the creature to them after all the amusement it provided her.

As they go on their way and the weather worsens, Tomoe recalls the legends about kitsune. Messengers of the harvest god Inari, guardians of rice crops - and renowned tricksters - they grow in power as they age. After a century they are able to change shape and possess people, while after a thousand years they gain nine tails, a golden coat and great wisdom.

Tomoe abandons her recollections as the rain begins to pour down, and the pair seek shelter in a small hut. They are welcomed in by a young maiden, and Usagi seems smitten. She introduces herself as Kuzunoha, and offers the pair a share of her meal. Oddly, Usagi finds fare delicious even as Tomoe thinks it tastes like mud. When she goes to get more firewood to warm the room, her companion tersely tells her the room is quite warm enough and she should sit down and finish her food.

Morning comes, and while Usagi is refreshed from a wonderful night's sleep, Tomoe has passed the night uncomfortably and is looking forward to moving on. She is rather taken aback, then, when Usagi declares his intention to remain for a few days to repay their host for her kindness. He claims it would be insulting to merely leave money, and seems indifferent to Tomoe's decision to remain as well - although he brightens considerably when Kuzunoha appears and asks for his company while she fetches water.

Suspicious of her friend's unusual demeanour, Tomoe follows the pair. She is shocked when she notices Kuzunoha's reflection in the river is that of a fox. Realising Usagi must be bewitched by the creature, Tomoe rushes across the river after them - only to find they have vanished. She gives chase to a fox that appears to be the one Usagi saved, but becomes lost. Hours later she finds her way back to the hut and rushes in, telling an incredulous Usagi to move away from the creature that has enchanted him. As she draws her sword to force the creaure into revealing its true form, Usagi rises to defend the frightened maiden and orders Tomoe to either leave or fight him. Surprised, but realising he is not responsible for his actions, Tomoe leaves, and Usagi comforts the distraught Kuzunoha.

Tomoe remains outside, forlornly watching the hut from a distance as the rain begins to fall again. Eventually Usagi and Kuzunoha emerge and she follows, eventually catching up with Usagi as he stands alone in a field. Tomoe notices glowing lights in the distance, and guesses her friend was being taken to a gathering of kitsune. Suddenly Tomoe is knocked aside by a burst of flame, and angrily faces a fiery fox-like form she realises must be Kuzunoha. The two fight, and Tomoe wounds the magical creature, angering it even more. As it reverts to its natural fox shape, a new scar running between its eyes, fleshy tendrils spring from the ground to bind the horrified samurai. Knocking the hapless Tomoe to the ground, Kuzunoha laughs triumphantly - her jaws scant inches from Tomoe's throat.

Suddenly the great fox is attacked - by a smaller fox, allowing Tomoe time to struggle free. She rushes to Usagi, who is standing exactly as he was before, and slaps him to free him from the trance. They both turn to see Kuzunoha standing over the prone form of the little fox, and Usagi moves to confront the monster. Kuzunoha flees but Tomoe stops her friend from giving chase, claiming he is beyond reach of her influence now. Instead, they turn their attention to the wounded fox - and Usagi recognises it as the one he rescued from the hunters.

Kuzunoha is still running, plotting to revenge herself by returning with a group of her comrades to kill the samurai and her treacherous sister. An arrow in her chest as she perches atop a rock puts a sudden end to her scheming, however, and the fox hunters rejoice over their prize.

The samurai return with their unexpected saviour to Kuzunoha's hut - which they discover is a dilapidated hovel. Obviously their former host possessed considerable power to maintain the illusions she created, and the pair keep an anxious watch for her return as they tend the wounds of the smaller kitsune. After a few days they are ready to travel, and leave without having seen any sign of Kuzunoha.

Back in the Geishu province, Tomoe relates her tale to an amazed Lord Noriyuki, as Usagi is seen atop a hill, waving goodbye to his fully-recovered friend...

 
 
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Usagi Yojimbo, including all prominent characters featured in the stories and the distinctive likenesses thereof are trademarks of Stan Sakai and Usagi Studios. Usagi Yojimbo is a registered trademark of Stan Sakai. Names, characters, places, and incidents featured in this publication either are the product of the authors imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead), events, institutions, or locales, without satiric content, is coincidental.