The Fox Hunt, Part 1
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Last time on Nuri:
The Wonderland, Part 2

The Hunting Club of Fauna and Flora is a club for better-off people who loved hunting above all else and tried to enrich it in the most extreme forms. To achieve this, the club probed the world in search of the most dangerous game. Animals and also people with unheard of abilities, in front of the shotguns of this kind of people no more than a deer with opulent antlers.

Louis Louro, a wiry young fellow with a mohawk of curly black hair, argued in the clubhouse, a stone-built structure with rows of table benches and an enormous fireplace, with Mario Pestana, a stocky man in his mid-sixties with a gray half bald head and a mustache like a shoebrush. This older man was one of the club's veterans, from whom came many of the stuffed animal and human heads that hung on the walls of the great hall. Louro, on the other hand, was fairly new, having been a member for less than a year. And that was the cause of the dispute. Old versus new.

"Pff! All these technical knickknacks," the old hunter now said. "I'll tell you what, kid, back in the day, we just went out with a rifle and decent shoes. All the technology we had otherwise was a compass, the map, and our dogs."

At the last words, he ran a hand over the head of Leo, his polish hound, who sat disciplined on the ground panting beside his master.

"Get with the times, old man," Louro replied with a grin, putting his hands behind his head to lean the same. "Sure, a dog always comes in handy, but with a proper GPS computer and a decent rifle, you'll save yourself a lot of unnecessary work. Among other conveniences of the modern age."

"Pah!" made Pestana. "You youngsters always seem to know better, huh?"

"Absolutely," grinned his opponent.

"I can see we're not going to get anywhere with a cultivated discussion," grumbled the old man.

"What do you have in mind?" asked Louro.

"We'll settle this in accordance with old tradition. We'll go hunting together," the veteran suggested. "And whoever gets the game first, wins. And, more importantly, he's right."

"Hmm, that sounds fair," agreed the young hunter. "But I hope you're not cheating by getting in my way."

"Hmph. I may be old, but I'm still a sport. You better watch out you don't mess up my hunt with your newfangled stuff."

The two grinned at each other. They held fundamentally different positions, but here they were united by the thrill of the hunt. Only men of honor sat at this table. All right, and a dog.

"Now that we've got that out of the way, boy, what are we hunting? And where?"

Louro's eyes lit up.

"Oh, I've got something special up my sleeve. We'd have to go to South Korea for it, though."

"South Korea?" repeated Pestana. "Hmm, I've only been once before. What's so super great there?"

Louro leaned forward.

"I got this info from a member of the Serpent's Hand, who apparently wants that creature wiped out. Are you familiar with the Kumiho?"


Nuri felt queasy. Elli had said she would find a new home for her, but she didn't really like the idea. She had seen orphanages in movies and decided she didn't want to go there.

The place where Elli's Nexus let her out now, however, didn't seem like an orphanage. Nuri found herself on a colorfully lit street. Exotic smells rose to her nostrils and the pedestrians who passed her by spoke no German. To her astonishment, Nuri nevertheless understood what they were saying, at least as far as a four-year-old could. Here they were speaking the language her parents had taught her at home.

Elli and Dean stepped out of the Nexus behind her. The portal that had formed within a fire door closed.

"Where are we, Elli?" asked Nuri. "The people here speak my language."

"This is Mujin City," Elli explained with a smile. "A city in South Korea, your parents' homeland."

"My parents are from here?" repeated Nuri, looking around excitedly.

She had been told about this country, but she had never been here.

"Not right here," Elli specified. "From what I could gather, your parents are from Seoul, which is a different city."

"But then what are we doing in Mujin?" asked Nuri, confused.
"We're meeting an old acquaintance of mine," Elli explained patiently. "I guess she knows best where to put a little fox like you."

Nuri grimaced. Elli had taken better care of her since her parents died than the bad guys and the doctors from the stupid I-EM-BEH-WEH. Nuri didn't really want new caretakers, but Dean and Elli were adamant. They didn't want to keep Nuri. She wondered if she had done anything wrong …

"Where is she?" asked Dean, also looking around.

"She's waiting a little outside of town. Fewer people who can eavesdrop," Elli stated. "But we still have a little time left, we'll act like tourists for now. Have you ever had Korean street food, Nuri?"

"Is that like fast food?" the demon fox asked curiously. "I want a hamburger! With fries!"

Dean and Elli exchanged an amused look. Well, at least Elli seemed amused.

"We'll get that kind of heresy out of you real quick, right now."


Mujin City was an area with an increased incidence of anomalous events and therefore infiltrated by normality-preserving organizations. However, this was of little interest to the Hunting club of Fauna and Flora. The hunters would have even gone to other planets if there was something there to shoot and hang over the fireplace.

Across the highway, a rented SUV with a large trailer sped toward the fog-shrouded city. Louro was driving.

"What a dense fog," Pestana remarked, shaking his head. "No good conditions."

"Cold feet?" asked Louro with a smug grin.

"Hmph, you'd like that, Cricket," grumbled the old man. "I'll be fine, it's just not the nicest weather for hunting."

"To be fair, our game is pretty crafty according to my research. I imagine this critter expects to be waylaid," the driver warned. "The fog is perfect once it's pulled you into its illusion."

Pestana growled in agreement.

"I've done some reading on that, too. Apparently the strongest of these foxes can rob your mind simply by looking you in the eye."

"Well, there you go, knowing what not to do," the young hunter noted. "If you fall prey to their mind control and try to whack me, that would be very not good."

"I've got my reassurance with me, make sure you don't start simping, greenhorn."

"I'm honestly amazed that you know what simping is …"
In the meantime, the car entered the city. The navigation device showed the route to the specified destination, but the two would not go there directly by car. Only an idiot would approach game in a wooded area with a motor-driven vehicle.

"Hrm," Pestana exclaimed. "I admit, this navigation device is a blessing. I remember when I was the last time I was in this country. Even our map didn't help us, since neither of us can read that scrawl the Koreans use for writing. We lost almost three hours because of it."

"Well, not everything sucks these days."

The car stopped on the outskirts of town in a parking lot. Both unloaded their equipment. Pestana, for his part, fiddled with the trailer for a while until he finally freed his five dogs. The dogs, all polish hounds, looked around curiously but did not move away from the van.

"Got in the whole pack for the occasion, huh?" commented Louro.

"Yes of course, I have a bet to win- what is all this?"

Pestana was dressed in simple forest green and wore a felt hat with the feather of a rare bird on it, which he himself had shot from the sky at some point. He looked something like a classical hunter. Louro, on the other hand, looked like a soldier from the future. It started with his weapon, which looked less like a hunting rifle and more like a thing you could hit something with from two kilometers away, and stopped with the strange glasses he had put on. On his belt, next to his field bag, hung several plate-shaped devices on carabiners. Seemed rather silly to Pestana, considering Louro's clothing was entirely in camouflage.

"This, old-timer, is the future," the young hunter explained.

"How much did that stuff cost?" asked Pestana, frowning.

"Certainly less than the upkeep of your pack," Louro returned with, folding the trunk shut while Pestana shouldered his pack and reached for his hunting rifle. "Good hunting."


In the north of the city, there was a viewing platform that provided a view over the forested and misty landscape of Mujin. One person was standing there when Elli, Nuri and Dean arrived.

Nuri was stuffed by now because of all the great things that could be purchased in the streets of the city. It had been tastier than the fast food she knew, even if very strange things like squid had been offered. But it tasted strangely nostalgic, even though Nuri had eaten these things for the first time.

Despite the slight food coma she was in, she immediately noticed that there was something wrong with the woman who was waiting for her. Four foxtails were sticking out of her rump. The head was hidden under a large balloon cap, but Nuri was sure that a pair of pointed ears fit under it.

She was about to meet a conspecific for the first time. However, she immediately received the first minus point from Nuri, because she was smoking with a long cigarette holder and that despite the smoking ban. Nuri did not like smokers, it reeked terribly in their vicinity.

With the holder between her teeth, the vixen began to grin as Elli approached.

"Booze hound!"

"Chimney!", Elli insulted back in a friendly manner, extending her hand in greeting.

The stranger shook it.

"Dean," she greeted the same afterward. "So, this is the first time you've called me in, what's so important that you-"

Only now did she notice Nuri. And her pulse immediately seemed to jump to a hundred and eighty. She grabbed Elli by the shoulders and shook her rigorously.

"Why you of all people? We've been looking for demon foxes for over ten years and just found one that almost killed us, and then you good-for-nothing come along and have one following you around like a puppy!"

"I'm not a dog!" objected Nuri angrily. "I'm a kuh-mih-ho."

She had pronounced the last word carefully, it was still quite new for her. Her conspecific calmed down by now and let go of Elli, who needed a moment to catch herself.

"Uh, Nuri, this is Hoya1, probably the leading expert on demon foxes, largely because she is one herself. Hoya, this is Nuri, I picked her up in Germany."

"Germany?" echoed Hoya in surprise, glancing briefly at her jacket, which had once belonged to a member of the country's navy. "What's a demon fox doing this far west, as far as I know India is the farthest they ever got."

"Emigrants," Dean explained. "We had to rescue Nuri from a lab facility, apparently they were experimenting with her marble."

"She still has it, doesn't she?" asked Hoya, looking at Nuri critically.

"At least she hasn't regurgitated it since she swallowed it last time," Elli replied, shrugging.

Hoya remained silent for a moment, drawing on her cigarette. Nuri took the opportunity to ask a question that had been burning on her tongue for some time.

"Why do you have four tails, Hoya?"

Hoya gained a strange expression on her face. Dean had made a similar expression when he had first met Nuri, as if she didn't know how to deal with her.

"They tell my approximate age. A demon fox gets an extra tail every hundred years until it has a total of nine."

"You're a hundred years old?" marveled Nuri, who had no idea about multiplication and couldn't imagine anything but 'a lot' under the number one hundred.

Hoya took a breath to say something back, but then turned to Elli as the girl continued to look at her with bright eyes.

"You know I'm not a babysitter," she then said. "I assume you want to give her to our project to save our species?"

"That was the plan, apparently you're feverishly searching for demon foxes?"

"What do we need to be saved from?" asked Nuri, confused.

"From extinction," Dean explained. "You can count the number of demon foxes currently in existence on your fingers, there are so few of them."

Nuri looked at him uncomprehendingly.

"There are less than ten," he specified.

"Oh," Nuri made in surprise, glad that she had some idea of the figure.

She could barely count to nineteen …

"Hrm," Hoya said, looking at Nuri thoughtfully. "We'll find a place for her in the Wanderer's Library, at least with Nuri here it's not hopeless like with certain other individuals …"

Hoya suddenly frowned. Hastily, she threw her cigarette to the ground, stomped it out, and stowed the holder. Nuri heard it, too. In the distance, some mechanical clicking sounded that was out of place here outside the city.

Nuri's body suddenly became autonomous without her intend and threw itself to the ground. Hoya followed her example with a few moments delay, only Elli and Dean remained standing in confusion.

DONK!

Everyone present looked in silence at the smoking rifle bullet suddenly lodged in Dean's shoulder. Then the crack of the rifle reached them.

"TAKE COVER!" yelled Elli.

Dean tucked Nuri under his arm, while Hoya was already tumbling down the nearest slope that was out of the shooter's range. Dean seemed unaffected by the bullet and jumped after her. As he slid down the scree, Elli rolled past them while screaming, having apparently slipped further up.

"Friends of yours?" asked Hoya dryly of an Elli who lay whimpering in pain but surprisingly unharmed on the ground.

"Then they would have shot me first," she groaned. "The shot would have blown your head off if you hadn't reacted."

"And if the shooter is just abysmal?" the kumiho followed up.

"Not with that rifle," Elli replied, getting to her feet.

She pulled the cartridge from Dean's shoulder and looked at it closely.

"[[[raptor-tec-industries|R.T.I. ware]], I don't know the name of this rifle, but you can usually shoot the right hind leg off a mosquito at two hundred meters with it if you aim somewhat properly."

"We should talk about that later," Dean interjected. "Elli, there's a depression, call up the Nexus!"

"Yeah yeah," Elli deflected.

It took about three seconds before she frowned.

"Uh …"

"If you say you can't create a portal now, I'll punch you!" warned Hoya.

"I'll join in," Dean agreed.

"Here's the problem," Elli began. "By itself there shouldn't be any problems, Mujin's reality is even lower than normal for the planet, but the metaphorical switch in my brain doesn't fliIIIIII-"

Hoya and Dean had struck simultaneously, sending Elli to the ground.

"Now this," Hoya grumbled. "Come on, we'll take a path to the Wanderer's Library."

"Okay…," Elli gasped at the ground.

Meanwhile, the sun was sinking behind the horizon.


Louro clicked his tongue in annoyance as he switched from lying down back to upright and shouldered his rifle. He would have hit if the stupid vixen hadn't moved.

"Bad targeting," Pestana assessed the shot as he arrived at his side.

He was no longer fastest anymore.

"Little tip on the side. Next time, use a smaller caliber. With something like that, the skull will burst like a melon and the trophy will be ruined."

Louro rolled his eyes in annoyance. The legs were obviously already impaired, but the guy could apparently see like an eagle. He had certainly shot from a hundred yards away. He must have read what was happening from people's body movements.

"We would still have had the little one."

"Oh yes, you're showing great skill when blowing apart the grand prize," the old man remarked dryly.

Louro knew nothing to retort …

"You've got a lot to learn, Cricket. Now let the professional have a go."

Pestana yelled something Louro didn't understand, and the pack of dogs he had with him began sniffing the air and picking up the scent.

"What do we do with the cub," Louro wanted to know. "That wasn't part of my info."

"What rather amazes me is that the man you met didn't scream," the veteran replied. "Possibly we got more loot than we thought. Extra points for everyone, I'd say."

"We can't just fire on people," Louro objected, slightly startled.

Pestana chuckled.

"Ha! That's the Serpent's Hand, my friend, there's no such thing as 'normal.' And look on the bright side."

His dogs finally found the trail and started barking.

"More trophies to hang over our fire place."

Next time on Nuri:
The Fox Hunt, Part 2

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