Ice. A thick layer of ice bound the lake at the edge of the village. Village children frolicked on the ice all day long. The old foxes grumbled something about danger, about spirit-kami who might be angered by such disrespect. But even adults sometimes went out on the ice, cut holes with red-hot knives and fished in them. The fish was sluggish and fat in winter, it was well caught, and the old people, after a bowl of rich suimon soup, for a while forgot about the wrath of the spirits.
Hitomi was a very young fox when the ice took her brother. Perhaps the lake didn’t freeze well enough that winter. Perhaps one of the fishermen made a hole not in the usual place on the far edge of the ice plate, but closer to the village. Hitomi remembered only the deafening crack of ice, the cry of a fox cub, and the whistling of the winter wind. The wind seemed to laugh at the girl’s attempts to save her brother. He laughed, as the icy old woman yuki-bajo laughs in terrible tales. Hitomi then seemed that the water under her hands instantly turns into ice, cutting off the path to salvation for her brother. Later, the young kitsune found out that it did not seem to her.
Snow. Snow fell in thick flakes on the roof of the monastery. Formed snowdrifts, whitened the slopes of the mountains. The monks trained in the snow-covered yard and it seemed that the snow was flying against the wind, obeying the will of the kitsune gathered under the roof of the ancient monastery on the river bank. Although no, it didn’t seem so. The snowflakes really obeyed the will of Hitomi and her siblings. The new family that the girl found after losing on the lake.
The monks came to the village the same winter that Hitomi’s brother died. They came to exchange food for blessings and rituals, as they did every year. They would have left, but one of the old monks spotted icicles under the roof of a house on the edge of the village. Icicles in the cold, when the last thaw was a few weeks ago, and nothing like this was observed under the roofs of other houses. In the house, the monks found a young kitsune crying quietly, curled up in a ball near the hibachi. And each of her sobs, each tear falling on the floor, echoed like a ringing drop from the icicles under the roof.
Blizzard. A terrible, fierce blizzard broke out in the courtyard of the head of the Scarlet Forest clan. Outside the yard, birds were chirping and the lush spring grass was green, but all around Hitomi the winter wind was howling. Oh no, he no longer laughed like an evil old woman, now the blizzard was a friend for the kitsune sorceress, the snowy sister of yuki-ona. Princess Fumiko was sitting on the balcony, watching the magical blizzard in the middle of spring, wrapping herself in furs and nodding her head in approval.
Even the wise monks who summon the carp spirits were unable to explain to Hitomi the nature of her power. But the kitsune didn’t really want to know it. Then, standing over the already drawn-out ice-hole, the cold mouth of which swallowed her brother, Hitomi made a tikai – an oath to subdue her magic and use it only for the benefit of her people. Years of training at the river monastery turned the young fox into an Ice Witch, and the increasing number of gaijin incursions from the Continent led Hitomi to consider joining Princess Fumiko’s army.
Snowstorm. The blizzard knocked the goblins off their feet, dragged them along the ground, and threw arrows and darts aside. Today, Hitomi was not in a good mood, so she dealt with the insolent people who invaded the Sunrise Isles, especially harshly. The aliens screamed and fled in panic, and behind Hitomi, invisible even to her, the spirit of the young fox smiled with approval.