CHAPTER 2: HOOD'S BACKSTORY
I wasn't always a fox. In fact, my name wasn't always 'Hood' either. That's just what Mikan named me. But I had a life before Mikan came along. A life in her story book world, as one of them.
"Kikuo, get back here!" The young boy, biting back fits of laughter, ran down the streets of Howling Hollows, taking a sharp right down White Rabbit lane as his sister chased him. He sped past the rabbit houses and leapt over one of the younglings that was standing in the middle of the lane.
"Sorry about that Leo!" He called behind him to the young rabbit who waved at him in admiration.
"Watch out Leo!" The young girl swirved past Leo, brushing his arm with her dress as she continued running after Kikuo. White Rabbit lane was situated right next door to WitchChester lane, so that's where Kikuo ran down next. He checked behind him to see where his sister was and found that she was hot on his trail. As he turned his head back around, he collided with someone.
"Oh, Artemis! I'm so sorry!" Kikuo bent down and extended his hand out to the young witch who was dusting off her dress. She took his hand gratefully and smiled up at him.
"Thank you Kikuo." He helped her to her feet and dusted off her shoulders as his sister skidded to a stop beside them.
"Caught you." She huffed, catching her breath. She wasn't as much of a runner as her brother was. And they'd been running across Howling Hollows from the "T" lanes to the "W" lanes; which was a good six kilometres in distance.
"Oh, Shiro! How are you cutie?" Though Artemis was only two years older than Shiro, she was always treating her like she was a whole lot younger. Not that Shiro minded.
"Tired. Kikuo is a handful." She complained.
"Hey, I'm right here you know!" Kikuo snapped. Shiro grinned cheekily at her brother, knowing all too well that he had had the biggest crush on Artemis for years on end. Artemis looked between the two and her eyebrows quirked in amusement and she bit her lip.
"Would you like to come in for tea?" She asked, gesturing towards her front door. Shiro looked over at Kikuo and smirked.
"Sure. Thanks Artemis." She smiled, following her witch friend into her house. Kikuo followed behind the two, closing the wooden door behind them. Her house was always so neat and tidy, the living room bright with the afternoon sunlight and warm with the heat of the fire blazing in the hearth in the corner. As the siblings sat on the couch, Artemis excused herself to go and fetch the tea from the kitchen. Shiro let out a breath and turned to face Kikuo. "Are you alright Kikuo?" She asked and he nodded almost instantly.
After they left Artemis's house, Kikuo was silent, kicking up the pebbles as he walked.
"What is wrong with you?" Shiro asked, walking alongside him. Her brother always got this way around Artemis.
"It's nothing really. I better go see Leo. You head on home. I'll be there soon." Shiro watched him curiously as he turned at the opposite corner and headed back down White Rabbit lane. She shook her head and headed back home. She skipped her way back down to Tree Twirl lane where all the Earth element mages lived happily in their tree houses.
"Hello mother," Shiro called up the tree as she closed the door.
"Hello dear. Is Kikuo with you?" Her mother called back
"He's with Leo mother." She said, climbing up the ladder to the second floor. She found her mother in the kitchen, cooking her famous stew. Her mother was the best cook in all of Howling Hollows, and Shiro wasn't afraid to boast about it. She sniffed the air. "Oh it smells lovely mother. Did you add thyme into this time?" She asked, kissing her mother's cheek.
"Yes, in fact I did," She tapped her daughter's nose. "You're getting good with your senses my girl."
"Mrs Clockwork!" They heard the door open and slam shut and the scurrying of rabbit paws up the ladder. Leo appeared on the second floor and hurried towards Shiro and her mother. "Kikuo he-," Leo stopped to catch his breath and Shiro and Mrs Clockwork looked at each other.
"What's wrong Leo? Where is my son?" Mrs Clockwork asked worriedly. Leo looked up.
"He- he was taken. Just disappeared like that miss," Leo snapped his fingers. "I tried to grab him but he was swept up into the sky." Shiro gasped and covered her mouth with her hands. Her precious brother had been swept up into the Outworld. He was gone.
Kikuo woke up to find himself inside an old building in the arms of a young girl with brown pigtails, her room a small attic.
"Oh! You're awake Hood!" He opened his mouth to speak and realised that he couldn't. Kikuo looked down at himself and saw the white fur covering his paws. "You're such a cute little fox. My name is Mikan, Sakura Mikan. Will you be my friend? I don't have any here." So he was a white fox. He was so desperate to talk, so eager to ask questions. Was this the Outworld? Was she an Outworlder? His mother had always told him that they were deadly but she, well, she looked so kind and young. He decided right then and there that he was never going to leave her. And he never did, not in the five years that he'd known her, and not even now when he'd come back to Howling Hollows. His mother and sister were still out there but they could wait a little longer. His main concern at this point was returning to his natural form and he figured that, out of everyone here in Howling Hollows, his childhood love would be the only one who would understand him. Artemis could turn him back. He just had to find a way to communicate with her. A way to get his feelings across once and for all.