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

"Hoya?", Dean asked.


"That's a rock."

"I'm aware."

Hoya had led them into the night forest, with Dean tucking Nuri under her arm as she struggled in the rough terrain. Now they stood before a large, moss-covered boulder taller than Dean. The assassin was nowhere to be seen at the moment, but here he had absolutely ideal conditions. Dean didn't want to stay here.

Hoya, meanwhile, retrieved a piece of neon green chalk from her jacket.


She drew the rough image of a door on the stone.

Nothing happened.

"Do we have to ring the doorbell?" asked Elli.

"Shut up," Hoya hissed. "Something's wrong, the Way is blocked."

Nuri's fox ears suddenly twisted and Hoya looked up too. Dean heard nothing, and at that he had a high opinion of his microphones …

"Dogs!" growled the fox-woman, "are we hunting here, or what?"

"Hunting?" repeated Elli, suddenly appearing thoughtful.

"Brooding you can on the way, we have to go on!" said Dean.

No one objected, so the group started moving again. But they were not fast enough, because after a while of walking Dean could also hear the barking of the dogs.

Hoya seemed to see them between the trees, because she drew a very strangely designed pistol. Dean had seen the device in action before, so he knew it fired lasers instead of bullets. Hoya aimed and pulled the trigger …


"JAMMED!?" she yelled angrily at the gun.

"Ah, I think I know who we're dealing with now," Elli announced, as Hoya growled and put the gun back in and started moving again.

"So, who is it this time?" asked Dean, annoyed.

"These gentlemen call themselves the 'Hunting Club of Fauna and Flora,'" Elli explained. "They hunt … abnormal game, including abnormal humans."

"Human hunters?" growled Hoya angrily. "They must have extremely crafty thaumaturges if they can override the Ways- Elli, why are you making a face like I don't want to hear the next thing you're going to say?"

"These people have nothing to do with magic," Elli replied apologetically. "They're just so convinced of themselves that they can shape the world around them."

They set off over a rise. Behind them, still the barking of dogs.

"Nothing major, really," she continued. "They just make the hunt 'fair'."

"Fair?" echoed Hoya incredulously. "My gun is broken, while I almost got my head blown off with a long-range rifle!"

"Well, look at it this way," Elli strained for an explanation. "You're physically superior to them, and you have your fox magic."

"Do I have that too?" asked Nuri from the crook of Dean's arm.

"Not now, Nuri," Dean murmured.

"So you think my magic works?"

"Yup," Elli replied. "I saw one of those idiots get impaled by an invisible pink unicorn, but in the same reality, two of those hunters whacked One from Outside.

Hoya frowned in confusion.

"What's 'One from Outside'?"

That was as far as she got, because the pack of dogs had approached. Dean didn't know much about fox magic, but given what he'd read about the relationship between demon foxes and dogs, he suspected she was poor at influencing dogs.

Dean picked up a large branch with his free hand to defend himself. In fact, the brown dogs did growl and bark at him as they began to circle the group, however, their ancestral genes probably came out telling them to use caution in the presence of a large human with a big stick.

"They're not attacking," Hoya remarked in wonder.

"They're hunting dogs, Hoya," Elli explained. "They just drive the game to where the hunter wants it."

"And this is where he wants us?" asked Dean.

He realized Nuri was shaking in his arm

"I guess he wants us to stop," Elli guessed. "Nuri, Hoya, can you hear footsteps?"

"I don't hear anything, those mutts are too loud," Hoya growled, trying to kick at one of the dogs.

He on his part tried to bite her leg before dodging Dean's branch.

"Didn't you just say they don't attack," the fox-woman hissed.

"I guess he just doesn't like you," Elli surmised with a raised eyebrow. "Maybe it's the … Smell …"

She dug out her flask and took a hearty swig.

"Seriously?" commented Dean, rolling his eyes.

Elli finally finished, crouched down and breathed on one of the dogs approaching her. The animal immediately began howling in pain, tossing its head back and forth as it tried to gain distance from Elli.

"Déja vu?" muttered Hoya thoughtfully.

Elli tried the trick on the other dogs, too, but they quickly learned and just kept their distance from Elli. And thus gave the group a chance to escape. With Elli in front, the group started moving, pursued by the dogs, who, however, did not dare to cut off Elli's way.

"What's the plan, Elli?" asked Dean as they ran.

"The hunt ends when either the game is killed or it escapes."

"I see, so we run, as usual."

He sighed. It came from the heart.

Louro, with obvious confusion, followed Pestana, who was leisurely jogging through the forest. In the distance, he heard the barking of dogs.

"Shouldn't we hurry?" he asked. "Your pack is already pretty far away."

"Greenhorn, here's the thing," the veteran replied. "A good hunter is never where the game is. A good hunter is where the game will be."

He stopped in front of a leaf-covered hollow.

"Ah, here's good."

He emitted a lilting sound.

Louro decided to let the hunter do his thing and backed off. Somewhere, there was bound to be a good spot for a sniper …

Nuri had decided by now that she didn't like being carried around by Dean, he was giving her more than just a good shake. The dogs hadn't let up and were herded the group across the forest, now lit only by pale moonlight. Elli, who felt the exhaustion in her limbs by now, had been picked up by Dean and thrown over his shoulder. He had unfortunately had to drop the branch to do so.

It was Hoya who first noticed the danger and suddenly braked. This was of limited use, however, because the rifle shot to which she had responded was made of buckshot. Some of the bullets bored into her outstretched leg. With a yelp, she fell to the ground. Dean dropped Nuri and Elli to rush to her aid while the hunter, an old man who now stepped out from behind a tree, aimed at Nuri.

Hoya accessed her powers and a jolt went through reality. The hunting rifle dissolved into a cloud of soap bubbles and Hoya's leg was once again intact.

"My-my rifle!" escaped the hunter, staring stunned at his empty hands.

Hoya, meanwhile, had to fight off the hounds that had caught up with Dean. She measured Elli with a puzzled look.

"You took advantage of my illusion, didn't you?" she asked through clenched teeth1.

"Yeah?" Elli answered

"Why didn't we think of that before?" the fox woman wondered.

Elli shrugged her shoulders.

"Do it again."

Hoya concentrated again and suddenly all the dogs were wearing muzzles. They tossed their heads back and forth in fright, trying to get rid of them.

The hunter, meanwhile, tried to retreat. Dean, however, was faster and wrestled him to the ground.

"Let go of me, you beanpole!" he nagged.

"You'll stay here for a while, buddy," Dean retorted and slapped him.

While all this had been going on, Nuri had barely managed to clumsily sit up. Over the scuffle between the men, she heard a low buzzing sound. Five small, plate-like flying objects were coming from between the trees. One of them had a small cone on its head with something spinning on it. Another extended four claws and attached itself to Dean's back.

While all this was happening, Nuri had barely managed to clumsily stand up. Over the scuffle between the men, she heard a low hum. Five small, plate-like flying objects were coming from between the trees. One of them had a small cone on its head with something spinning on it. Another extended four claws and attached itself to Dean's back.

He began to glow in silence and a blue aura as the machine discharged the stored electricity directly into his body. He fell motionless to the ground, burying the old hunter underneath him, who immediately began to struggle out from there. The plate-like thing fell off of him like a full-soaked tick and remained motionless as well.

"Oh no, Dean!" escaped Elli, however, two more disks stood in her way.

They extended small pistol barrels …

Nuri was starting to get scared.

"Elli-," she managed to get out before a sudden sharp pain shot through her right shoulder.

As she stared in mute horror at the profusely bleeding exit wound gaping in her shoulder, the crack of the gun reached her.

There was blood! It hurt! Would she be made dead now? It hurt! She was scared. It hurt! It hurt! IT HURT!

Defend yourself! Attack! Make them pay!

Nuri didn't know what was happening, but she could actually feel something dark and evil rising up inside and devouring her …

Louro clicked his tongue again. If the little fox had not turned his upper body, he would have hit the heart. He took his right glove in front of his face and tapped his fingers on the palm, because the garment was a remote control. One of his intelligent multi-function drones, which he had purchased on the anomalous market, extended small blades and set about freeing the dogs from their muzzles. If the next shot was going to be a good one, he needed to get closer. Hopefully Pestana appreciated his help and had learned something about progress …

Hoya stared down the barrel of the pistol the little thing was pointing at her. Elli beside her rummaged frantically in her purse. She had tried to bend reality, but the drone with the cone was apparently a mini-reality anchor. They were trapped.

"Elli, whatever you're looking for, it would be better if you-"

"I GOT IT!" roared Elli triumphantly.

The two drones fired.

Only their projectiles didn't reach their intended targets. They turned back mid-flight, destroying their mechanical shooters.

Hoya wasted no time, she lifted a rock from the ground and threw it at the drone trying to free the dogs. It was promptly smashed. The reality anchor then took cover.

"What was that?" she asked Elli.

"Reflector shield," was the short answer. "Nuri! Nuri, stay with us!"

Hoya had completely forgotten about the girl. Elli ran to the little demon fox lying slumped forward on the ground.

"SIC 'EM!"

The drone had managed to release one of the dogs from its muzzle and it stopped Elli by biting her leg. Hoya whirled around and took aim at the old hunter who was pointing a gun at the blonde.

Damn, he didn't make eye contact with her, so Hoya couldn't charm him and bend him to her will, but there should be an illusion should do the trick …

She shrouded the man's field of vision in dense fog and made an image of Dean appear, rising from the ground again. Hoya was able to simulate pain caused by Dean's punches, but the man didn't even waver under the onslaught of his effigy.

"Nice try," he remarked with a grin. "But if you know it's an illusion, it's ineffective.

Hoya wondered how he was aiming despite the lack of sight, but then she realized Elli was moaning in pain under the dog's repeated bites. The hunter knew where her head was.

Hoya thought about what else she could do, a stone seemed the most promising, but would she be fast enough to stop the hunter from pulling the trigger?

Elli, the hunter, the hounds, and even Hoya herself suddenly froze as a wave seemingly made of pure malice rolled over them. The fox instincts in Hoya screamed outright for her to flee immediately as she looked at the source of this pressure she was feeling.

Nuri rose as if she were in a trance. Her eyes glowed red while she focused the hunter with them. The illusion she was weaving was not directed and caught Hoya as well. She saw the fox-girl engulfed by black shadows that formed into a gigantic demon fox that stared at the hunter with red glowing eyes and leaned down to devour him. Hoya's own illusion, which actually demonstrated far more finesse and focus, just fell apart under the raw power of the girl.

The hunter didn't stop smiling.

"It's still just an illusion- Agh!"

Stunned, he stared at the bite wound that had formed on his body out of nowhere. Part of his right upper arm had fallen victim to something invisible with sharp teeth. And other parts of his body suffered bite wounds. The man's face was contorted in pain, his pistol wobbled in his hands in such a way that he could not possibly hit anything.

"It's just an illusion …" he muttered. "It's just an illusion … It's just an illusion …"

Louro had come within thirty meters of the group. He, too, was technically caught in the little girl's illusion, but he knew where she was standing. He pointed his rifle at her and put his finger on the trigger while aiming at the figure in the shadows through the scope. The ground was a little unsteady, so he had to shift his weight to get a firm footing.

A branch cracked beneath him. Which the girl promptly noticed and made her turn to him. But it was too late. Louro tightened his finger around the trigger. At the distance, he couldn't mis-

Through his scope, he made eye contact. And that was all she needed. Only from a distance Louro still perceived how he began to change the target, bewitched by the magic of the Kumiho …

Hoya could only watch as the hunter in Nuri's illusion turned more and more into a screaming, bloody mass. The guy turned and twisted because he felt truly strong phantom pain, more than Hoya could give him. And this child was only four!

The shadow kumiho's head had already lowered far enough to take its victim between its jaws and opened its mouth unnaturally wide. Then they closed again with a loud bang. The illusion dissolved.

Nuri stood upright for a moment before her eyes became dead and she fell down, unconscious. The old hunter, meanwhile, put his hand on his chest in confusion. When he took it away again, it was full of blood gushing from a hole that lay perilously close to his heart.

"Oh," he just said in surprise. "Clever girl …"

Without life, he fell backwards.

Elli was already tending to Nuri, shoving something into her mouth. Hoya, meanwhile, ran to the old man, as did his dogs, who completely ignored her.

Yep. Shot through the heart. Must have hit one of the heart veins. The man had already stopped breathing. He was beyond saving. The dogs, completely ignoring Hoya, sniffed at him and whimpered sadly. The guy might have been scum, but apparently, he had been a good master …

"Elli, what about Dean?" she asked, looking at the felled man still lying motionless on the ground.

"Eh, he just got his lights blown out, I'll get him goin' again in a jiffy," Elli replied as she treated the unconscious demon vixen.

"And how is she?" asked Hoya.

"Lost quite a bit of blood, but I can fix that too. You better take care of that sniper."

Hoya didn't quite know if she should be happy that the girl would survive, but for now there were more pressing problems, because Elli was right.

In the undergrowth she found another hunter with a long-range rifle. The one that had gotten the old hunter. He was slumped over and drooling. Hoya recognized the symptoms of too much bewitching. It was as if Nuri had tried to pick up a grape and crushed it by applying too much force. Whether it was possible to save his mind was questionable, but Hoya decided to take him to the Wanderer's Library. Possibly it had been a member of the Serpent's Hand who had set these two upon her. Scanning his mind would tell about that.

When she returned, she saw Elli kneeling beside Dean, who had just sat up abruptly. The dogs had disappeared.

"Oh, over already?" he asked.

"Mhm," Elli replied.

Hoya dropped her souvenir and stomped over to her. It was time for answers.

"Elli, what did you do to her!?" she snapped at the blonde, pointing at the sleeping Nuri, who was still lying on the ground.

Her wound was gone.

Hoya earned a confused look.

"Specify," Elli requested.

"This girl, Elli, has just proven that she has more power than many full-grown demon foxes I've encountered in the past. And she's barely four!"

Elli thought about it for a moment.

"Mh," she then made with her lips pressed together. "I can explain that, in the lab where we found her, her fox bead was pumped full of essence. They took it from a … Yeah, being that could generate far more essence than normal humans."

Hoya gave a suppressed groan.

"How much?" she wanted to know.


"How much essence was administered to her, Elli?"

"Um," Elli said uneasy. "If I answer you now, can you promise to give me to not-"


Elli sighed in anguish.

"Hard to answer, I don't know how accurately the machine can measure essence, the science of it is still in its infancy. But roughing it out … The equivalent of at least fifty thousand people."

"FIFTY THOUSAND!?" echoed Hoya in disbelief.

"Hey, it can't be that bad," Elli tried to placate her. "I mean, your species can be pretty-"

"Elli, most demon foxes can't accumulate that amount of power in a lifetime!", Hoya interrupted her, upset. "That usually takes hundreds, thousands of years. And that power in Nuri will only potentiate as she grows."

Elli grimaced in confusion

"Then I guess it's a good thing that I'm giving it over to your bunch-"

"We?" Hoya fended off with raised hands and had to force herself not to laugh hysterically. "Elli, you have no idea what you're talking about. Do you know how much yang is in this girl?"

"What's yang?" asked Dean.

"What he said," Elli agreed.

Hoya had to call herself to reason. Elli was probably the most well-read person in the known world, but she wasn't omniscient.

"Okay, pay attention. You know that demon foxes can only be created by a special gene, right?"

They both nodded in sync.

"This gene is not uniform, it has a yang and a yin factor that varies from individual to individual. Following along so far?"

Synchronous nods again.

"A strong yin factor is desirable for demon foxes, at least from a human point of view, it mitigates the animal instincts and vicious nature of demon foxes, however, unfortunately, there is hardly anything like this in Korea, demon foxes with strong yin that did not defend themselves aggressively were quickly killed in the past by the paranoia of Koreans. Natural selection."

Synchronous nod.

"What remains is the yang factor, it reinforces vicious tendencies and the animal in the demon fox, in a sense what makes the kumiho a kumiho and not, say, a kitsune like those over in Japan. Both the same species, different temperament."

"And how does that affect Nuri now?" asked Elli.

Hoya rolled her eyes in annoyance.

"Didn't you feel it when she woke up, this malice emanating from her?"

"I even tasted it," Elli confirmed, agonized.

Finally. Progress…

"Well, what I'm saying is, Nuri is a walking time bomb. She may be cute and cuddly now, but she can be overtaken by her instincts at any moment. She's more animal than human, Elli. And I'm already not sure I can stop her when she gets aggressive. Certainly not when she gets older. No seal will be able to hold her."

"What do you mean, you won't take her in?" inquired Elli with her eyebrows drawn together.

"Elli, she's too powerful," Hoya insisted. "We can't give her a home if her mere presence is a risk. No one will."

Elli looked perplexed at Nuri, who slept peacefully in the leaves. Then determination mingled in her gaze. Hoya immediately realized what she was about to do.

"Elli, you can't raise her, it's impossible-"

"I'm impossible," she countered. "You may be able to turn your back on a child who can't find a family, but I can't. Not anymore … What would you do?"

Hoya remained silent.

Nuri knew the ceiling she was under when she awoke. She was back in the Nexus. As she turned her head, she became aware of a teddy bear that had been placed next to her pillow.


Nuri knew the stuffed animal because it came from her old room, from her old house. Mommy and Daddy had given it to her …

As she continued to look around, she noticed that someone had moved her toy box into the room. She was even wearing her old pajamas. On the table in the room was a black framed photo of her with her parents.

Nuri decided to look for Elli. Finding her way around her house was a real challenge, however, since the architect had not bothered with such trivialities as physics or geometry.

Finally, she found something like a workshop, big enough to fit even airplanes. Elli was sitting at a table, soldering away at something Nuri couldn't identify. She put down her work when she noticed the kumiho and pulled up her welding goggles.

"Oh, Nuri, awake?" asked Elli kindly. "I got your old clothes before the police could confiscate them."

"Weren't you going to give me to Hoya?" asked Nuri, confused.

"Hrm, something came up, apparently Hoya's people aren't prepared to take you in," Elli stated, scratching behind her ear. "That's why I decided to let you stay."

Nuri's face brightened. She hadn't liked the expression Hoya had given her.


"Yes really, Dean wasn't thrilled, but he'll come around."

That was as far as Elli got, as Nuri jumped into her lap laughing. She felt as if she had woken up from a long nightmare.

And unnoticed by her, it deep inside Nuri was watching what was happening.



Next time on Nuri:
Christmas at Winter's, Part 2

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