Halfling: Chapter Four–Furs

I had no idea why the professor was so adamant in his efforts to have me stop writing my white fox story.  It was just a story, and I was just a girl having fun with it.  I hadn’t intended to publish it, hadn’t even intended on letting anyone besides myself read it.  However, just to prove myself to Dr. Evil, as I’d started to call him, I vowed to finish the story and get it published no matter what.

When I went home after that first degrading day of class, I got to work right away, first by looking through the class material.  As I glanced through the syllabus and the textbook, another reason as to why Dr. Evil wanted me to drop his class became clear.

We were learning about shape-shifter legends the first week and seductress legends the second week.  White foxes in Asian myths fell under both categories, and I was sure the professor did not want me to learn more than I already knew.

Well, it was time to kill two birds with one stone.  I would research everything I could about white fox legends for my class and for my story.  It was a good thing the first day of class started on a Thursday, and I had no classes on Friday because that meant I had the entire weekend to study and research legends to my heart’s content before I had to face Dr. Evil on Tuesday again.

In my story, my main character was the son of a white fox and a human, so I focused on researching what characteristics a half fox, half human might have.

According to both Chinese and Japanese legends, the child of a fox and her human husband looked human.  The sons were described as being huge, strong and powerful men, both physically and socially.  Physically, in the sense that they were tall, strong, and able to fight well, and socially, in that they were important, charismatic figures, contributing a lot of influence in running society.

Also, they had certain supernatural powers inherited from their white fox mothers.  I wasn’t able to research exactly what these powers were as none of the websites I looked at were too sure either.

It was very interesting to research myths instead of biology for a change, and I was so excited about it that I forgot all about dinner.  But my stomach growled in violent protest, and I wasn’t the only one who was hungry.  My dog, Faun, a black Scottish terrier, was right beside me, barking to be fed.  So I had no choice to head to the kitchen to feed both her and me.

Liana, Nia, and Stacy were already cooking up something that smelled like heaven.

“Well, it’s about time you came out of that room,” Nia said.  “You’ve been studying all day.”

I pulled out the bag of dog food and filled Faun’s bowl.  She wagged her tail happily and dug in.  “Yup, I refuse to drop that class, so I need to study my butt off.”

Liana smiled in understanding.  “It’s because she wants to prove herself to Professor Inari.”

“I was thinking of dropping the class.”  Nia frowned.  “He’s proving to be such an ass, and I don’t want to get a bad grade in a class that’s supposed to be easy.”

“Don’t worry,” I told her.  “I assure you all his meanness is reserved solely for me.”  I didn’t want to talk about him anymore, so I looked at the pan on the stove.  “Ooo, spaghetti.”

Stacy sighed.  “Yup, plain, simple spaghetti.  This is why we usually leave the cooking up to you.  You make much better dishes than we could ever muster up.”

“That’s not true,” I said.  “This spaghetti looks delicious.  Let’s eat.  And after dinner, we should go out and get dessert.  How does Extraordinary Desserts sound?”

My idea was met with a lot of enthusiasm.  We ate far too much spaghetti, and ended up eating far too much chocolate cake as well.

Which led to my decision to wake up extra early the next morning to take a long jog in an effort to burn off all those calories.  I usually did make it a regular habit to run at least three times a week, so it wasn’t too much a deviation from my regular schedule.  However, because I’d eaten so much chocolate, I knew I needed to run an extra two miles.

I took Faun along for company, and the two of us trekked our way through the neighborhood.  When we turned the corner of Nobel Drive, to my utmost horror, I spotted a familiar white head of hair running right towards me.  It seemed Dr. Evil was fond of early morning jogs too.

I thought about turning around, but he’d already seen me.  He waved at me, as if he had just met up with a friend he hadn’t seen for years.  I ignored him, jogging right past, but he turned around and followed me.

“Good morning Caren.  It’s nice to see that you’re health conscious.”

With all my might, I started to sprint.  But the darn man easily kept up with my pace.  “It’s rude of you not to greet me.”  He didn’t even sound out of breath.  He ran in front of me, preventing me from running further.  With pent up frustration, I stopped running, and through gritted teeth, spoke a greeting.

He shook his head.  “No need to address me as Dr. Inari now.  We’re not in school.  You can call me Christian.”

I rolled my eyes.  “That wouldn’t be proper.  You’re my professor.”

“I don’t see why that should matter.  Thousands of students address their teachers by their first names outside of class, especially when they know each other well.”  He smirked, leaning in closer as though he were about to tell me a secret.  “You can call me Khit too, if you’d prefer.  It’s what my parents and close friends call me.  Spelled K-H-I-T, not K-I-T.”

My smile was iced in mockery.  “But that would imply that we’re friends or that we actually respect each other.  And neither of those scenarios is true, nor will they ever be true in a million years, Professor Inari.”

Then it occurred to me he’d just confessed his nickname was Khit.  My anger was replaced with pure amusement, as the name Kit conjured up images of fluffy kittens and that cute girl from the American Girl series, Kit Kittredge.

It was such a harmless name for the man whom I thought must be the spawn of the devil.  To my surprise, laughter welled up in my chest.  “What kind of name is Khit?  I’ll bet your mother came up with it because you were a cute, cuddly baby.  Too bad you grew up to be such a horrible person.”

“As a matter of fact, my father was the one who started calling me Khit,” he said.

That only made me laugh harder.  “If he thought the change in spelling made it more masculine, he was very wrong.  Not to mention, it’s such an English name.  Doesn’t seem like something a Japanese man would come up with…at least I assume your father is Japanese based on your last name.”

He nodded.

“Then your mother must be Caucasian, since you don’t look totally Asian,” I guessed.

For some reason, he had to pause to think.  “I suppose you could say she’s…white.”

He supposed?  “You’re not sure what ethnicity your mother is?”

Shrugging, he didn’t answer my question.  Instead he said, “I take it since you’re asking me about my background, you’re done making fun of my name.”  Although he said this with a heavy sigh, he looked far from embarrassed by my taunting.

“Not by far,” I said.  “I just can’t think of any more ways to make fun of it at the moment.  Don’t worry, the next time we meet, I’ll have more witty things to say.  You should’ve known better than to admit your nickname to your mortal enemy.”

He chuckled.  “I think it’s a silly name too, but I’m used to it and it takes far more than a nickname to embarrass me.  Besides, I don’t consider you my mortal enemy.  I told you because I knew it would make you laugh.  I’m tired of seeing you frown every time we meet.”

That reminder immediately put a frown back on my face.  “You should have thought of that before you thoroughly assaulted, insulted, and humiliated me.”

He was about to make a reply, but his eyes feel upon little Faun for the first time.  I suppose he had been so focused on me that he hadn’t seen her trailing behind me on her leash.

His smug smile immediately was replaced with wariness.  In fact, he looked a bit fearful.  Was he scared of dogs?

I smiled secretly, thinking I’d finally found my enemy’s weakness.  The day had finally come for me to take my revenge.  I picked Faun up in my arms and stepped closer to Dr. Evil.  He took a step back, confirming my suspicion.

“What’s the matter?  She won’t hurt you.  Don’t tell me you’re a cynophobe.”

“A what?”

“Someone with an extreme fear of dogs.”

“You mean there’s a term for that?”  He blinked in surprise, taking his eyes off of Faun for two whole seconds before she barked, making him jump.

“So you are a cynophobe,” I taunted.  “A big man scared of a little girl doggie.”

He glared at me.  “I’m not scared…just…umm..allergic.”

What a liar.  If he really was allergic, he would have already been sneezing by now since Faun had been next to us the whole time.

I continued to draw closer to him.  “Why don’t you hold her?”  I threatened to thrust Faun onto him until I noticed that my dog was growling in pure distrust.  Apparently, she didn’t like the professor either.  Maybe it was true what they said about dogs taking after their owners.  My heart swelled with pride…until Faun leapt right out of my arms and jumped at his target in a full assault.

Shocked beyond belief, I couldn’t move at all, my brain completely numb as to what I should do.  Faun had never attacked anyone before.  But Professor Inari had fast reflexes.  He caught my dog in his arms and managed to keep her from biting him.  He threw her onto the ground, and at that point, I had jumped out of my stupor.  I caught the leash and held it tight.

“Sit still!” I commanded.  Although Faun was still snarling, at least she sat in obedience, under control once again.

“You need to control your dog,” Professor Inari growled at me.

I apologized wholeheartedly.  I might hate the man, but the last thing I wanted was for my dog to maul him.  I didn’t need Dr. Evil to have a reason to sue me.

“I don’t know what got into her,” I continued to say hastily.  “I—”

My words were cut off as I saw a tuft of fur, peeking out from under the professor’s jacket, which he had tied around his waist.  It was pure white, and I knew if I were to touch it, it would feel like soft down.  In fact, it reminded me of…

I pointed to it.  “What is that?  It looks like the tail of a white fox, exactly like the pictures I saw yesterday of the Arctic fox.”

I thought I heard him cuss under his breath.  “Oh that…it must have fallen loose from the inside of my coat.  It’s made out of…a white fox’s fur.”  He sighed in annoyance.  “I guess they don’t make coats as well as they used to.”

Gasping in outrage, I cried out the first words that came to my head.  “You fiend!”

He blinked in confusion.  “Fiend?  Do people actually still use that word in this century?”

“Call it what you will!  Fiend, brute, Cruella DeVille, offender of animals!  How could you wear that jacket, knowing that to make it, they had to kill a poor, helpless animal?  And a white fox for that matter!  It’s people like you who drive animals to extinction.”

“Actually, the Arctic fox is nowhere near extinction,” he said.  “You can check it out on the Internet.”

He winced at the scalding look I gave him.

“I’m going home now, and don’t you dare try to follow me, or I’ll take out my cell phone and dial the cops.”

I whirled away in a tumble of rage.  That man was the worst possible thing that had ever happened to me.  One day soon, I hoped he would get the punishment he deserved.

It was only later that a thought popped into my head.  Why would anyone wear an expensive fur coat to go jogging, especially when it was a particularly hot summer’s day?  But I dismissed the thought.  One never knew why insane people did what they did.

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