The next morning when
Shino awoke, she sat at the table, holding her head. “Okay. I'm
trying to wrap my brain around all this. You say you're part Honshu
wolf, and your dad was, too. How is it I never saw this before? Did
you just recently learn how to do this?”
I shook my head, sitting there in my human form with Ito in my arms. “I've always been able to do it. In fact, for the first 5 years of my life, I had almost no control over it. I forced myself to control it when I started going to preschool. It had to remain a secret. That whole time throughout grade school, I only turned even part way into a wolf 2 times. The first time was when the wolf appeared out of nowhere and hurt Souhei. That was me, but I didn't make the full change. The second was a fight I had with my brother when we were in 6th grade.” I shook my head. “Looking back, it caused a lot of trouble.”
“But it's part of who you are,” Souhei said, holding my hand.
“Yes. My entire life, I never showed anyone until the day Souhei asked me to marry him. I wished for a long time that I could tell people the truth. That I could just throw away all my fear and smile, instead of being completely terrified.”
Shino gave a nod, looking out the window. “I guess I can understand why you had to keep it a secret. Just like me, most people would be really shocked by it. And I've been your friend since pre-school.”
“Exactly. If others found out, I'd probably be hunted. This town is different. They accept us, even appreciate us half-wolves. For the early part of my life, I grew up with the freedom to become a wolf since we lived way out of the way of prying eyes. I wanted that freedom again. For myself and my children. I got it for my brother as well.”
“Your brother? Where is he living?” Shino asked, looking around.
“He chose the path of a wolf. He lives in the wild outside of town, all but alone. He has one true friend outside the family.” I stood up, gently giving Ito to Souhei before getting Shino something to drink.
“So...your brother is totally a wolf. I'm confused. I thought you said you were half-wolves, or quarter-wolves, or something.”
“We both have wolf blood in us. His just called far more strongly to him. He chose to live in the wild, but he can't totally turn his back on his human side. He was actually at the wedding, but he stayed mostly out of view.”
Shino nodded a bit. “Okay. So the way you're saying it, you could have both gone either way, and you went the way of people. That's cool. I'm just trying to follow the story.” She chuckled a bit. “Don't worry. I won't tell anyone. Your secret is safe with me.”
I let out a deep sigh of relief. “Thank you, Shino.”
“So, tell me everything! I want to hear all about your wolf childhood. I want to hear all about how Souhei took the news.”
“Get comfortable then. There are stories to keep us occupied all day,” I said with a smile.
Just as I told her, we traded stories for the entirety of the day. She laughed a bit as it made some of my little quirks make sense, like my love of catching snakes. When I told her about our time in the snow with Mom, and the big howl we all shared at the end, I let out a little howl. Souhei joined in, and Ito did as well, mimicking us. Shino, not wanting to be left out of the fun, brought her own howl to the game. “That was probably my favorite memory from my time before I went to pre-school, and it was followed by the most chilling, when I almost lost my brother.”
“Whoa. You almost lost Ame? What happened?”
“He tripped over his scarf in his wolf form and fell in the river. I called for Mom, but she couldn't make it through the snow in time. I kind of blacked out at that point, and when I came to, I was soaking wet and Mom was yelling for Ame to open his eyes. Apparently, I jumped in and saved him, but I don't even remember how. It was like wolf instinct driving me to save a member of my pack. That was the last time in my childhood that I became a wolf, and it was the day Ame's wolf blood started to take charge in him. And from there, the next year, I came to preschool, and you know the rest.”
“Uh-huh, uh-huh. But you're forgetting the best part, Yuki! How'd Souhei take it when you told him you were a wolf?!”
I chuckled a bit, looking to Souhei. “You want to tell her, or shall I?”
“You go for it, sweetie,” he said with a chuckle.
“2 months after we started dating, he took me to the same spot as our first date. That night, he asked me to marry him, and much as I loved hearing it, I couldn't answer him. It just felt wrong to start a committed relationship keeping a secret like that. So I slowly transformed to let him see what I was, and I told him I was the one who hurt him. I told him I'd been wanting to tell him for so long.” I took Souhei's hand.
“Hey, no dramatic pauses. I wanna know what happened!” Shino said with a smile.
“He heard my explanation and saw my example, then he told me something that shocked me. Ever since the day he got hurt by the wolf, he knew. He knew it was me, and he never told anyone. He promised to carry the secret to his grave, and that his question was still the same. When I could finally speak again, I threw myself in his arms and told him yes.”
“Wow. That's some man, Yuki. I don't think I'll ever get that lucky.”
“I'm sure you will someday, Shino. Just don't stop trying.” I giggled a bit as I gave her a hug.
Shino left at the end of that weekend, and our lives resumed as normal. Ito was definitely growing faster than a human child. It stood to reason from the wolf blood in him that he might grow faster. It was only 1 year and 4 months before he was easily walking, both on two legs as a human, and on all fours as a wolf. We still made sure to go out into the areas outside of town, giving Ito plenty of time to play there. I was finally able to return to the daycare, and Ito had a wonderful time playing with the kids, though he had to be reminded to be careful. He never hurt anyone, but he did get a bit rough for comfort at times. One night, we got some good news upon returning home. Souhei was waiting for us, having gotten off of work early for the day. “Hey Yuki. I've got some good news. I heard through the grapevine at work that the mayor was looking to hire a new head of sanitation for the town. I looked into the job, and it's pretty sweet. Basically, I set the schedules and the routes for the workers, make any sort of schedule changes if needed, and check up on performance now and again. It's nearly a do-nothing job and it pays about 3 times what I was getting at the grocery store.”
“That's pretty cool! How'd it go?”
“Well, let's just say the guys at the grocery store have an opening. Mayor said he's seen me at the store a number of times, and he loves a hard worker, so it was easy for me to get the job. Old Harvey gave me a glowing referral too. Real stand up guy, Harvey. Anyway, long story short, this will give me more time to spend with you and Ito, as well as bringing in a greater income.” I smiled as I pulled him into a hug.
“That's wonderful news, sweetie. And it's good timing, too. Our little boy's really starting to grow up fast. Who knows what you would have missed while away.”
“I'm glad I get more time to spend with you.”
Having Souhei home more often was wonderful. He was there for me and there for Itonami, and he was glad to finally witness more firsts in Ito's life. His first big howl, his first time catching a mouse as a wolf, and his first time shaking himself dry after a bath. It was a fun time, most of them time. As happens in every life, though, there were downsides, including my first heart-stopping moment as a mother. That night we had ice cream sundaes for dessert with dinner. When I went in to check on Ito after his nap, I dropped the wolf doll I was sewing, seeing him throwing up a lot. “Ito!” I scooped him up quickly and found he was also running a high fever. “Souhei! Ito's sick!” I ran out quickly, Souhei feeling his forehead.
“Let's get him to the doctor with a fever like that.” With a nod, I grabbed a special harness I had made in anticipation of such an event. I put it on, then put Ito in gently. When I changed to my wolf form, the harness stayed in place, holding Ito gently and safely. I bolted out the door at top speed towards the town's pediatrician, hoping they offered emergency services. I knew Souhei would catch up in time, but Ito needed help now. I skidded to a stop in front of the emergency check in, quickly changing back to my human form.
“Please, I don't know what's wrong. Ito's been throwing up, he's running a massive fever, he has no color in his cheeks, and I think he's completely passed out!”
The receptionist placed her hand on his head. “My goodness. You weren't exaggerating the fever. Let's get you two to a room, and the doctor will be in soon.”
“Thank you. This is the first time he's ever gotten this sick. I'm worried.”
“I understand, Miss Yuki. The doctor will be in soon, though this is the first time we'll ever be treating a wolf child.” She led us back to a room and proceeded to take his temperature, but as of yet, Ito showed no signs of waking up. Souhei soon rushed in, panting and out of breath. The doctor was in soon behind him.
“The nurse told me the situation. A fever of 104 is definitely a serious matter.” He opened Ito's eye, seeing him completely out. “And he's unconscious. We'll have to give him a fever reducer through syringe then.” I gave him a nod, knowing that if his temp got much higher, we ran the risk of losing him. The doctor soon had it ready, giving Ito the shot, to which he never budged. The doctor then took a listen of Ito's heart. “It's beating very strangely. An arrhythmia. We should do an emergency blood test.”
“Oh my.” I felt my own heart beginning to race as I couldn't help but worry.
“It's okay, Miss Yuki. We need to figure out what's causing this in order to treat it.” I gave a nod as Ito was placed on the bed, hooked up to an IV. Following the IV treatment, a few blood samples were taken.
“Tell me he's going to be okay, Souhei,” I said, holding his hands. “Please, just tell me he's going to be okay.”
“He will, Yuki. He's strong like his mother.” He held me close. “He's going to be fine.”
The time waiting for the blood test results was maddening. My heart and mind were racing in fear for my little boy. It took about 2 hours for the full results. “What's is it, doctor?” I asked in a shaky voice.
“You see, that's just it. Our tests are showing nothing out of the ordinary.”
“That can't be. This kind of fever and sickness doesn't just come out of nowhere over nothing!” I felt my wolf side starting to become enraged, before Souhei threw his arms around me.
“Doctor, if the tests are showing nothing, is it perhaps something you aren't trained for?” he asked. “Maybe it's not because of his human side that he's suffering, but because of his wolf side. Would that be possible?”
“Well, it's as the receptionist told you. We've obviously never treated a wolf child before, because until Itonami, there were never any here. It's very possible though. We'll forward these results to the vet immediately.” I felt my breathing slowly return to normal, glad I had avoided running wild again.
“Please do. I want my baby to be okay.” I closed my eyes, resting against Souhei. It took about 20 minutes before the doctor returned.
“Miss Yuki? The vet took a look at the results and gave us a call. He said he wanted to talk to you directly.”
I nodded, taking the phone. “This is Yuki.”
“Miss Yuki, this is Doctor Areira at the emergency pet hospital. I think I may have identified the problem, but I need you to answer a question first. Miss Yuki, what did Itonami have for dinner tonight?”
“Huh? Nothing particularly unusual. We had my mother's kebab recipe, which has never had any adverse effect of him before.”
“Is that all?” he asked.
“Well, we had ice cream sundaes for dessert. Topped with almonds, chocolate syrup, marshmallows-”
“Let me stop you right there, Miss Yuki. I heard what I needed. Itonami's wolf side is experiencing canine poisoning from the chocolate.”
“What?” I nearly dropped the phone. “But that doesn't make sense. If that were the case, shouldn't the same thing be happening to me? I've never had any problem with chocolate in my entire life, and I have a wolf side the same as he does. He got it from me, after all.”
“My guess would be in your case, your human side was strong enough to produce the enzymes needed to digest the chocolate and keep it from harming your wolf side. However, it would seem Itonami has a natural intolerance to chocolate, which is not uncommon in humans. However, his wolf side has amplified that to the point that it becomes toxic as it would to a dog.”
I took a deep breath, sighing. “Okay. We know what's causing the problem now, but what do we do? How do we help him?” I put the phone on speaker for the doctor to hear as well.
“The saline IV has done a good job of weakening the chocolate in his body to prevent it from getting worse, but for him to recover, we need to get it out of him with a charcoal solution to cleanse his blood. The charcoal will absorb the chocolate so it can't harm him anymore, and it'll harmlessly pass out of his body naturally.”
“This is Doctor Gansley,” the doctor said, taking the phone. “What is involved in the charcoal mix?” After a short exchange between them, the doctor scrawled orders on a pad, giving it to one of the nurses.
“I...I never would have thought. Something so simple...nearly took our little boy from us.” I wiped my tears on Souhei's shoulder. “I'm so sorry Souhei!”
“Shhhh.” He held me close, rubbing my back comfortingly. “There's no way anyone could have known. You did everything you could, and he's going to be okay now that the doctors know how to treat it.” He was speaking calmly, but I could feel his heart beating faster with his worry. He was trying to keep a strong front for me.
The doctor soon returned with another mix, giving Ito the shot. The heartbeat on the monitor began to slow and regulate after a few minutes with the charcoal mixture capturing the chocolate. “Good. With his small body, the charcoal is circulating and working quickly. His heart's starting to regulate, and his fever is going down. He'll probably be asleep for a while longer while it works, but it seems we got it in time. He's going to recover, Miss Yuki.” I looked up to him with teary eyes, smiling.
“Thank you, doctor.” I wiped my eyes, sniffling. “Thank you.” I pulled up a chair by the side of the bed, taking Ito's hand. “Is it okay if I stay by his side until he wakes up?”
“It could be 12 hours or more before he wakes up, Miss Yuki. You should head home and get some rest. We'll call you if he wakes up earlier than expected.”
Souhei took my other hand gently. “Are you sure you're okay to stay here that long, Yuki?”
I looked to Ito, and back to Souhei, admittedly feeling very tired from the whole ordeal. Grudgingly, I stood up, nodding. “All right. You have a point.” I looked to the doctor. “Please, call us as soon as he wakes up, any time of day. I'll rush back over here as fast as my paws can carry me.”
“Absolutely, Miss Yuki,” he said with a smile. “No matter the time of day, we'll call you.”
“Thank you.” Souhei and I headed out with me stopping to take a look back to Ito, relieved he was going to be okay.
I never forgot that day we almost lost Ito. It took 7 hours before they called us, saying that Ito had awoken. I made my way to the hospital quickly as possible, scooping my little boy up into my arms. “Huh? Mama? What's happened?”
“Let's just say we learned the hard way that you can't eat chocolate, Ito,” I said, smiling as he put his arms around me.
“Why not?” he asked, still a bit out of it.
“Because it made you really, really sick.” I looked over to the doctor, a tear of joy in my eyes. “But you're okay now. We just need to make sure you don't eat chocolate anymore. You're allergic. That means anytime you eat it, it'll make you sick.”
Ito gave a small nod. “Okay, Mama. I won't eat chocolate anymore.”
The two of us made our way home, Souhei greeting us at the door. “We have some company,” he said, leading us in. I set Ito on his feet, smiling a bit as I saw our visitors.
“Hello Sister,” Ame said, Jasmine at his side.
“Hi, Ame. It's nice to see you again. What brings you into town? It's a very rare occurrence.”
He gave a small nod. “It is difficult for me to find the words to describe it,” he said.
“Let me,” Jasmine said with a smile. “I've been talking to Ame...and I feel I wish to be more than just a pack member to him. For two to become a couple, there must be a witness, right?”
“Among humans, yes,” I said with a smile. “But you chose to become a member of a wolf pack. You wouldn't need a witness.”
What she said nearly made me cry. “Yes, but Ame insisted. He said he wants his sister and mother to bear witness to our union at least, but no one outside the family.”
“I think I understand. You want to do sort of a mix of human and wolf ceremony.” I gave them both a hug. “I can call Mom, but it will take at least 24 hours for her to get here. In the meantime, I insist you both stay here. Maybe Ame can teach Ito a bit about his wolf form. Ame knows it much better than I do.”
Ame gave a nod, a smile on his face. “Yes. He should know about both sides of himself.” He walked over to Ito, giving him a gentle lick to the face. It nearly surprised me how gentle he was with children, and equally so seeing Ito turn to his own wolf form, nuzzling his uncle in return. Ame jumped back into what could only be described as a playful dog pose. Ito tilted his head, getting into the same stance as his uncle. Ame hopped towards Ito, jumping back quickly after. Ito smiled a bit as he copied Ame's movements, until he pounced on his uncle. Ame rolled over with a laugh, letting the younger wolf pin him down. It wasn't totally new. Ito and I often played together in our wolf forms, but it was different with someone who had chosen their life almost entirely as a wolf. I watched them play for a while before I went to call Mom.
Jasmine joined in the fun as well. I could tell, just by playing together, Ito was learning more about the wolf side of him. They didn't need words to communicate. They had an unspoken bond all their own. I turned to my wolf form, joining right in with them. The three of us playing together reminded me of our childhood, except this time, there were 2 adults and 1 child. “The winter is approaching,” I said with a smile. “Ame, what would you think of the 5 of us going back to the old house? The mountains around there made for the best fun in the snow, for both wolves and people.”
“That is when I came to love being a wolf,” he said with a smile. “I would love to return there.”
I looked over at Souhei. “What do you think? Can you afford to leave for a while?”
“I think I can. I'll just need to appoint someone interim head of sanitation and we can set up a personal vacation.” He gave me that same warm smile, rubbing my wolf ears. “It'll take about 2 weeks for those days to go into effect.”
I gave a nod. “I'll call Mom back and tell her to come later once you find out what your days are.”
“You know, maybe we should consider getting our own car,” Souhei said. “We live in a small town, so we don't really need it to get around, but we'd still need it for long distance like to your mother's house.”
“Maybe. Do we really have enough money for it, though? I've only recently been able to go back to the daycare now that Ito's not nursing anymore.”
“Well, I don't think we have enough yet. We can look into financing it, though, can't we?” He scratched his head. “Or would we still not have enough?”
“It's hard to say. We'll have to actually sit down and take a good look at it.”
Souhei put in some calls and got things rolling to take some days off in the winter. Once we knew the days, I let Mom know. Ame and Jasmine had chosen to remain in the wild until that day. We knew we only needed to send a howl to call them in. Souhei and I spent some time discussing our options towards getting a car, but we didn't spend too much time in any one sitting. We didn't want to burn ourselves out, after all. The following day, Mom was set to come. That night, we sat together on the couch, Ito between us as we cuddled. It was wonderful having such a great husband and a sweet son. I felt my life was at its best, but I knew it was getting even better. Ame was about to become a husband, and hopefully, Ito would have a little cousin, or more. The Honshu wolf was beginning to make a comeback, albeit a private one. We couldn't exactly tell the entire world. As we sat together, it didnt' take long before Ito fell asleep between us. Souhei pulled the little boy onto his lap, letting him rest peacefully. He loved having time to spend with our boy now.
When the following day came, Ito woke up with a yawn. I went out to the woods to call Ame and Jasmine with a howl. We all met up at the house, waiting for Mom. It wasn't long before she pulled in, barely recognizing Jasmine as the wild child she'd now become. The ride back to the country house was so long. Jasmine was becoming restless as we approached the countryside, Ito sleeping soundly by then. The snow had begun to fall, the forest starting to turn white. Now I was beginning to get impatient. I remembered that wonderful winter here, running through the snow with Ame and Mom. I was starting to get as excited as I was back then, a little girl at heart again. I began to change to my wolf form on the way, until we finally came to a stop in front of the house. I leaped from the car in my wolf form, letting out a howl. I was soon joined by Ame, then Souhei and Mom. Jasmine joined in as well, and not wanting to feel left out, Ito raised his howl as well. We had become a regular pack, mixed of wolves and humans. The snow began to move in heavily that night, and when the next morning came, there was deep snow far as the eye could see. I couldn't hold back my excitement any longer. I leaped into the snow, rolling and giggling in delight. It was just like when I was a child, and in truth, I felt like a child again. Ito was next to leap into the snow, or rather right on top of me. I laughed a bit as I pulled him into a hug. “Oh, I never forgot the fun we had that day,” I said as Ame leaped into the snow as well. The memories of the fun from that day seemed to be coming back to him as well.
“Same. That day was so much fun, and it's when I discovered what I wanted to be.” Jasmine watched and waited for her chance to pounce on Ame and pin him down with a giggle.
“Come on, Souhei! Mom! You guys need to join in.” At my behest the two of them leaped into the snow as well. “Hey Ame. I'll race you to the big hill, just like last time.” I took off through the snow on foot, Ame chasing after me in his human form. Ito took after us, and Jasmine wasn't far behind him. After they exchanged a chuckle, Mom and Souhei followed as well. They were at the greatest disadvantage in the snow compared to three wolves and a wild child. Ito was the first to change into a wolf, easily running ahead of us. “Hey, wait for me!” I called out with a laugh, changing into a wolf to keep up with him. Ame wasn't far behind, turning to a wolf. We couldn't hope to keep up with him as he surged past us, but that didn't stop Ito from trying. We weaved through the trees on our way to the big hill. I tripped a few times, but kept up easily. Watching Ito skating down the hill on his paws alongside Ame, it reminded me so much of the two of us from that day. I slid down with them, Jasmine right behind me. Souhei and Mom had finally caught up. Jasmine slid down on all fours, falling and rolling a few times. Ame and I once again had a competition to see who could do the fanciest leaps. Souhei slid his way down on his legs, managing to keep his balance as if surfing, but Mom hadn't improved, rolling all the way until we all hit the snow pile at the bottom, ending in a chorus of 6 howls. Mine and Ame's lasted the longest, and I began to feel my own wolf side starting to mix with my human side in a wonderful harmony. After a time, we began to make our way back. Ito looked down towards the river, sniffing around the rocks. “Be careful, Ito. Ame fell in that river all those years ago. I pulled him out, but I don't want to have to dive in to save someone again.” He seemed to be mesmerized, watching the water run. “Ito.” He slowly lifted his paw, diving it in at a fish in the water. He managed to scoop it onto the bank with a smile.
“Look what I did, Mama!” He laughed a bit, jumping in joy.
“Hey, your first successful catch. Good job!” I gave him a smile, but I noticed the snow under his feet was starting to slide. “Now please, step away from the water.” He wasn't listening to me at this point. He was watching the water for another fish as the snow was starting to slide. I jumped at him, trying to pull him back, but as I did, he thrust his paw forward into the water, the snow sliding under him and dumping him into the water. “ITO!” I took a deep breath, jumping into the water without a second thought. Swimming towards him as fast as I could, I didn't let my brother go down. I wasn't about to let my little boy go under. I managed to catch up and pull him up onto my back, but I faced another problem now. Looking around frantically, I couldn't find any place to grab on and pull myself up. It was all I could do right now to keep myself and Ito afloat, the river washing us away. Each time I managed to get my head above enough, I called out for someone for help. I couldn't see anyone coming, until I felt Ito ripped from my back. I looked up quickly, seeing Ame set him on the shore, Jasmine taking hold of him so he didn't fall back in. Ame raced alongside the river, soon finding his chance to grab hold of my paw with his strong jaws. He had a good footing as he pulled me out of the river, but his strong grip made my paw start bleeding pretty badly. I turned back to my human form, but the bite had my wrist torn up. We made our way back to the path, Ito running up and hugging me. “I'm sorry Mom! You got hurt because of me.”
I shook my head, rubbing his head with my good hand. “It's okay, Ito. You're safe, and I'll get better.” I grabbed my coat, tearing part of it off to bandage my hand, knowing it would need a better bandage later. “Did you have fun catching fish?”
He looked down. “I don't want you to get hurt anymore, Mama. I won't turn into a wolf again.”
“Don't say that, Itonami.” I scooped him up into my arms. “You are a wolf child. There's no changing that. Don't put away your wolf side like I did. I locked it up for...so long because I couldn't let it out. But you can. Please, Itonami, tell me you'll keep being a wolf and a person.”
He sobbed a bit. “Okay, Mama. If you really want me to.”
During our stay at the country house with Mom, Ito was terribly shaken up after the incident at the river. In truth, he seemed more worried about me than himself. I began to worry when weeks later, as we were playing as wolves in the snow, Ito sat out, staying human. He hadn't turned into a wolf since the day it happened. I made my way over, turning human and sitting beside him. “What's wrong, sweetie?”
He simply shook his head. “Nothing. I'm okay, Mama.” I took his hand gently, and when he saw the scar that had formed across my wrist from Ame's bite, he pulled his hand back and looked away.
“Is it the scar that's bothering you?” I chuckled a bit, hugging him. “Ito, you shouldn't feel bad about what happened. What matters is we're all okay.”
“But the scar will never go away, will it?” he asked, looking up into my eyes.
“No, scars don't go away, but I don't mind it. Ito, have I ever told you the story of how your daddy and I met?” He looked up at me curiously. “We were just kids in grade school. I'd been going to that school a while, and your daddy came there from another school. When he came in, he sat in the chair behind me, and he said it smelled like I had a dog at home. He could smell my wolf side, even though I hadn't turned into a wolf for years. I got scared. Scared he would figure it out and tell everyone, so I tried to stay away from him. He kept trying to talk to me though. He kept chasing after me, trying to figure out why I wasn't talking to him. He chased me to the little garden outside the school, and the door there was locked. I was cornered and I couldn't get away.”
“What happened next, Mama?” Ito asked, his eyes wide in fascination.
“I'm not proud of what happened. I got so scared with him so close that I lost control of myself. I turned part way to my wolf form, claws, muzzle, nose and teeth. In that moment, I clawed up his ear. I hurt him badly. After that, I stayed home, not wanting to see him and risk the secret getting out, but he stayed a good friend, bringing me little gifts and always trying to get me to talk to him, until he met me outside my house one day. He still had the bandage over his ear, and when he took it off, I saw it had healed up, but left that scar.”
“Did he...did he tell anyone you were a wolf?” Ito asked.
“No. In fact for the longest time, the way he spoke, I thought he didn't know, and I never told him until the night he asked me to marry him. When I showed him, he told me he already knew. He knew since the day I hurt him, and he said he was proud to have that scar, even if he couldn't tell people how he got it.”
Ito tilted his head, looking confused. “Why was he proud of it?”
I gave him a smile, ruffling his hair. “Because scars tell stories. That scar on his ear tells the story of how we met, and eventually, how we got married and had you. This scar on my hand tells a story, too. It tells a story of my adventurous son and the family I can count on to help me when I'm in trouble. You might find this hard to believe, looking at him now, but the same thing happened to Ame when he was younger. He fell in the river, too. That time, I managed to find a way to pull both him and me out of the water.” I held Ito close gently. “Please, don't be upset about what happened, Ito. Someday, it'll be a story you can look back on and smile about.” He looked up at me with a smile. “Now please, show me my wolf pup.”
He giggled a bit as he changed to his wolf form, growling playfully. He leaped at me, knocking me back into the snow. I changed to my half wolf form, hugging him gently. “That's more like it,” I said, putting my hands under him and tossing him up a little, where he landed paws up in a snow pile, a smile on his face as he scrambled to roll over. As he did, I went completely into my wolf form, the two of us squaring off. Ito was so busy watching me, he didn't even notice as Souhei came up behind him and scooped him up.
“Gotcha, Ito!” he said with a laugh, holding the wriggling wolf pup close. Ito looked up at him with a growl, pretending to swipe at him with his claws. “Whoa! Feisty little one.” Souhei chuckled a bit, setting him down. “If you want to get me, you have to catch me.” He took off through the snow as best he could, Ito bounding after him on his paws. Souhei's size let him keep ahead for the most part, but Ito had the advantage, leaping through the snow on his four paws. It wasn't long before he caught up and jumped on his father, knocking him down. Both were laughing together in the snow, playing and having a wonderful time. It was truly a blessed sight to see. Curiously, Ito reached up, running his paw along Souhei's ear to feel that scar. Souhei rested his hand atop Ito's paw gently. “I heard her telling you the story of how we met. You want to know a secret?”
“Huh? What is it?” Ito asked, tilting his head.
“If I could go back to that day and do it over again, even knowing I was going to get clawed up, I wouldn't do anything differently. I would still keep trying to talk to your mom. If I hadn't been as bone-headed then as I was, we might never have become friends.” He rubbed Ito's ears gently as he talked. “Sometimes, bad things happen, Ito, but that doesn't mean they won't lead to good things.”
Ito gave a nod, licking his father's face before turning back to his human form. “I'll remember that, Daddy.”