She woke up in her bed, squeezing her eyes shut as the early morning sunlight filled the room. She raised her hands above her head, stretching out her back, a small ‘eep’ escaping her lips as her tails fanned out beneath her, her body relaxing as she began to smile.
“Good morning, my husband.” she said as she turned over, reaching out to grab onto him only to some up short, his side of the bed vacant. Opening her eyes, she frowned at the empty sheets, letting out a wistful sigh as she sat up.
Standing up from the bed and donning her silk robes, the Inari walked over to the window in their room, looking out into the valley that lay beneath their small home, the fields and forests washed in the orange hues of the rising sun. In the distance, she could see the small farmhouse of their neighbours, smoke rising from the chimney. “Perhaps it will be a good day to visit them,” she thought aloud, pushing off the window sill, “I do need to thank them for the meats they gifted us.”
Walking from the bedroom into the main room of the shrine, she stopped by the kitchen, grabbing a bushel of fruits before stepping outside, the warm wind of the summer running through her hair and tails.
Stepping barefoot onto the grass, she walked towards the small gardens beside the shrine, admiring her well cared for flowers. The budding chrysanthemums and oleanders swayed in the breeze, busy bees flying about them, spreading their pollination on their search for food. Stooping over, the Inari took a particularly large chrysanthemum between her fingers, twirling it back and forth before finding it satisfactory, and pulling it from the ground.
Continuing on with the fruit basket slung on her arm, the flower resting on top, she made her way down the path along the stone wall that divided the fields behind the shrine. In the distance, she could see the lone oak tree that had been growing since the shrine had been built, its strong branches standing solitarily in the breeze.
Quickening her pace, her tails swished back and forth as she neared her destination, running her hand along the cobbled wall as she did. A small smile formed on her lips as she approached the oak, craning her neck to see the far side of it.
He sat there, back leaning against the trunk of the tree as he ran a hand through his long black hair, his strong eyes gazing out at the lands before him. He looked over as he heard her approach, his surprise giving way to a warm smile as he scooted over, patting the open spot of ground beside him.
She quickly sat, setting down her basket as her red and white tails wrapped around his legs, pulling him closer for a deep kiss. Her slender fingers brushed back his bangs as she broke their embrace. “Good morning, Taiki.” she said happily, snaking her left arm beneath his right, grabbing hold of his strong hand and giving it a squeeze.
He looked down at the fox woman, kissing her on the forehead, “Good morning, Kiku. You missed a beautiful sunrise.”
“Only because you didn’t wake me up.” she said with a giggle, leaning into his arm. “Maybe tomorrow instead.” she said quietly, her fingers slowly tracing the outline of his hand.
Taiki only nodded, his gaze wandering to Kiku’s basket. “Oh, what’s this?” he asked playfully, grabbing the handle and pulling it towards them. He picked up the light pink flower, bringing it to his nose and breathing deeply, “Is this for me?”
Kiku nodded, “They always are, and so are the fruits. I figured you would be hungry.”
He reached again, picking out an apple before leaning back against the tree. He went to take a bite out of it, but his hand was stopped short by a strong grasp. Kiku leaned over and brought her mouth to the fruit, taking a large bite out of it before letting go of his arm. The man just laughed as he bit into it himself, the sweet juices running down his chin and onto his lap.
“So,” he said while still chewing, “What’re your plans for the day?”
The Inari looked back across the fields, nodding her head towards the neighbour’s house, “I’m going to go visit the Saito family this morning, and thank them for their offering they gave us last week. I unfortunately missed them when they visited, so I thought it would be nice to go see them instead. After that, I’ll probably just take care of the shrine, nothing special.”
He nodded, taking another bite from the apple, “Well, I shouldn’t be keeping you then, seems like you’ve got a busy day.” He pecked her cheek with a kiss, “I’ll still be here when you’re on your way back, we can talk more then.”
Kiku nodded, returning the kiss before standing up and brushing off her robe. She picked up the basket, and began to walk away from the oak tree, before pausing and turning around.
Taiki was gone, the smiling man replaced by a stark grey slab of stone, on top of which a single chrysanthemum and an apple missing a bite lay. She stood, staring back at the tree as the wind blew, her robe and hair slightly waving in the breeze.
“I miss you, Taiki.” she whispered, a single tear rolling down her cheek and falling into the long grass.
She turned away, wiping her eyes and adjusting her robe once more, continuing her walk onwards to her neighbours home. “Maybe tomorrow I can watch the sunrise with him.” she mused to herself.