Eizan studied the homework questions laid out in front of him, trying to make sense of them. Since when did a ninja’s relationship and trust issues matter when it came to finding out the perfect trajectory to make a sneak attack on an enemy?
“This is the worst!”
He looked up from the papers and over at his partner, Jimmy, who also had an expression of frustration and confusion written on his face, but the boy wasn’t exactly staring at the homework and was instead glaring at the fluffy tail that was attached to his backside. Oh, was it that time of the month?
“You’re not the only one struggling with this assignment,” Eizan replied, “If you want, I could help you with some of the-”
“I don’t care about the stupid homework, Eizan!” Jimmy snapped back, his sharpened teeth making the other boy flinch a little. With a huff, the former grabbed his tail and pulled it up. “ This is what I’m talking about!”
“Yes, my tail! Well, more like, every part of me!” The beastly boy’s ears pressed against his skull, disgruntled with how airheaded his friend was being. His scowl dropped, along with his unusual appendage, which laid completely flat against his legs, not making even the slightest twitch of movement.
Lycanthropy was not the easiest curse to bear, especially on someone so immature and naive. It had all started on one cold night when the two, plus Okuni, were out in the woods near the school, looking for Pork, who had run off following one of Daisuke’s horror stories involving the fanged creature of the night that haunted the school, prowling for. Somebody should have told the two of them that this beast of darkness did exist, but didn’t prowl in the school, rather, outside of the school.
As the trio continued to look for their ungulate friend, they didn't notice the wolf-like creature creeping around behind them, blending into the shadows and keeping its distance while still managing to not lose track of its prey, them being none the wiser.
All of them except for Jimmy, that is. As if he could pick up on something that the other two were blind and deaf to, he found himself constantly slowing down and checking his surroundings with a tinge of suspicion and distrust, but never stopping entirely. They didn’t need to see him as some kind of worrywart or chicken, it was probably just the wind, anyway.
They eventually found a sniveling Pork huddled up in a tree branch, curled up in fear against the hard cold bark with his eyes closed shut, waiting for the danger to pass. It took a while for them to coax the shivering pig from his hiding spot, but when they did, the nightmarish fiend from beyond the shadows sprung out at Eizan, brandishing sharp and deadly fangs of fury, fully ready to tear into its victim.
But that so-called victim wasn’t going to be the young ninja-in-training, as Jimmy gracefully lept into the scene, pushing Eizan to the side and getting tackled by the rogue rougarou in the latter’s stead.
The two beings, one a normal human and the other a mindless beast, struggled with one another as Jimmy tried to get the man-sized furred creature off of him, even though the size and muscle difference between the two made it impossible for him to do so. The snarling monstrosity eventually got the upper hand and bit the kid on the arm.
Jimmy couldn’t help but let out a cry of anguish, starting to wonder if that night would be his last. Thankfully, his friends managed to break out of their trance and come to his aid, radiating an aura of pure hatred and fury at the creature for hurting their friend.
Okuni tried to trip the beast up with her skipping rope while Eizan grabbed his ruler and started slicing at the thing’s back, though its tough hide made inflicting any lasting damage nigh impossible. Still, it wouldn’t stop him from trying.
Pork managed to be the solution to a losing battle of embarrassing proportions, ironically enough. Grabbing his lucky flute, he played a relaxing serenade, one which distracted the ugly wolf-monster-thing and allowed Jimmy to sneak out from behind.
Shedding several tears from the pain, the rapper-wannabe grabbed his skateboard and started bashing it as hard as he could against the brute, trying to inflict as much rage-infused injury as possible against it. Having enough of such torment, the wolf sped off into the night, howling furiously.
The other three immediately went to check on their friend and especially to check on his arm, which was a mess. It was bleeding pretty heavily from the sustained injury, drops of blood dripping and staining the dirt below the group.
Luckily, Eizan had a couple of spare bandages on hand and wrapped up the boy’s bloody arm, though it was obvious that simple bandages weren’t going to cut it for a puncture wound of this type and they’d need to get Jimmy back to the school as quickly as possible for some proper disinfectant and maybe a rabies shot.
But they’d be okay after that, wouldn’t they? Just let his arm heal and he’d be good to go! Jimmy did take the injury in stride, sharing his story of heroic actions and bravery to his impressed teachers and anyone who cared enough to listen, after all, a ninja always looks out for others, especially ones that can’t defend themselves.
Unfortunately, Jimmy’s injured arm would be the absolute least of their worries.
In the weeks that followed, the heroic student’s behavior and overall temperament began to go down a bizarre and disturbing path. He started to act more antisocial and withdrawn from his friends and classmates, spending most of his time after classes alone in his room or outside by himself.
It wasn’t like he’d outright reject Eizan and Okuni when they would try to hang out with him, but it was clear that there was something wrong with their friend, though they couldn’t tell what it was. Whenever they’d try to ask him, he’d just shrug them off and say he was fine, even though they knew he wasn’t, but they didn’t want to push him, either.
It only got worse as time passed, sometimes Eizan would wake up in the middle of the night only to see Jimmy staring out of one of the windows, looking at the waning moon in an almost trance-like state of mind.
When the former would ask the latter what he was doing up so late, they would wordlessly get up from their position and lay back down in bed, ignoring the giant elephant that was sitting in the middle of their dorm.
But the most unsettling part of Jimmy’s ‘behavior’ wasn’t his new aloof and loner personality or his strange need to watch the moon during the dead of night, but it was how his diet drastically changed. Back then, while he didn’t have an aversion to meats by any means and would eat the occasional burger or steak, but now it seemed that he had completely given into such foods, eating meat and fish whenever he was able to. It wasn’t even like he was eating an obsessive amount of burgers, either, whatever meat he did get his hands on tended to be so uncooked that Eizan swore he still heard it mooing.
He remembered bringing it up with his teachers, though they tended to simply dismiss him and his concerns. Kubo went on a spiel about how a ninja’s diet was crucial to proper body function and that the boy could eat more protein himself, while Kita said that a growing boy like Jimmy needed the extra food to sustain his impending growth spurts due to… puberty, ew.
And Vlad? Truth be told, he didn’t ask Vlad. The last thing he needed was the Russian teacher telling him a combination of what the other two had said and then being told how a little more ‘diet regulation’ and ‘exercise’ would help him grow into a ‘strong man like Vlad!’, which would end up with him being forced to do fifty push-ups just to prove their ‘point’.
But while there were only three teachers in the school, heaven help him and everyone in a five-mile radius if he asked Zumichito for any kind of support. They would tell him the same cookie-cutter advice that everyone else had said or would say, should he ask them, and then completely derail the subject with random tangents and memories of his life, said reminiscences being only vaguely related to the original question.
The principal would probably be the best option out of all of them, but he was probably way too busy sorting out finance-related issues with the school to truly do something about it. Ultimately, the adults were practically useless at handling this problem, leaving it up to Eizan to do something about it. At least he had Okuni with him, right? They would find out what was bothering Jimmy and fix it, together.
Then the full moon came and everything went from bad to worse. It started as a normal night or what had been a normal night for quite some time now, Jimmy would sit by the window, looking at the moon as if it was the only thing in the entire world that he loved, while Eizan would curl up under the covers, having completely given up on trying to tell his friend what to do, he wasn’t his babysitter or anything, why should he care?
However, just when he felt himself slipping into dreamland, a bloodcurdling scream tore through the night, waking him from his blissful doze. Looking around the room, the leftover drowsiness promptly left his mind as he spotted the hunched-over figure of his friend, convulsing violently in the middle of the moonlight that filled the dorm.
Rocketing out of bed, he rushed towards Jimmy, wondering what was wrong. However, the closer he got to his friend, the more Eizan began to wonder if he was in a horror movie, hearing Jimmy’s whimpers turn… animalistic, almost.
Sensing their presence, the wounded boy snapped their head up, glaring directly at Eizan with a stone-cold gaze that sent a chill down the junior ninja’s spine before attempting to stand itself upright, on wobbly legs that weren’t Jimmy’s legs. The kid, if he could even be called that, looked nearly identical to the beast that attacked them almost a month ago, albeit with darker fur.
Whatever this creature was, it wasn’t Jimmy. Well, technically speaking, it was Jimmy, but not their Jimmy.
Breaking the petrifying silence, it let out an unearthly howl and launched itself out of the window, landing on the rocky pavement below with incredible ease. Were-Jimmy, or whatever he was supposed to be called now, then proceeded to take off into the night, leaving a very confused Eizan to question what had just happened and what he should exactly do about the situation. His teachers never really taught the class or him the basics of dealing with werewolves, well, maybe Kubo did, but he was so boring in his discussions about anything that it would have simply slipped Eizan’s mind if the man ever did bring it up.
Still, he had to do something. Jimmy was out there and he wasn’t exactly in his best mind, he could hurt someone or himself! But who should Eizan turn to? Who would be willing to help him at this hour?
Okuni wasn’t ecstatic at getting woken up in the middle of the night, and even less enthusiastic at the prospect of going on a werewolf goose chase throughout the school grounds. But Jimmy was her friend, after all, and if he was in actual trouble, it wouldn’t be right to just shoo him off like that, he was acting weird for a while, so it wasn’t like this was completely out of the blue.
Any doubts that she had about this were quickly washed away as an eldritch wail resonated within the schoolyard and building, making everyone’s blood run cold, including Ami, who also wasn’t too pleased with being rudely awakened.
The two of them wandered around the perimeter, keeping a close eye on the shadows and trying to find the rabid furball that was who knows where. Following them, however, was not their friend, but a sickeningly familiar sight, once again on the hunt for prey.
A storm was beginning to roll in, thunder clapping and lightning flashing in the distance, it wouldn’t be long before a downpour would manifest itself, soaking them to the bone with rain and flooding the streets outside. But rain or shine, they would still try to help their friend. Who knows what damage he could do if he got into the city or local town?
Out of the shadows, the monster from before stuck again, lunging at the two with claws outstretched and an expression of animalistic rage. It had come back for round two and without Jimmy or Pork around to distract or beat it up, it knew there was nothing Eizan or Okuni could do to stop it.
At least that’s what it thought.
As time seemed to slow down and the duo braced for the assault, something barrelled right into the creature, pushing it onto the ground with a snarl. It was Jimmy, err, Were-Jimmy, and boy, he was not happy.
The battle between the two continued once more, though Jimmy now had an advantage against the other werewolf, having grown considerably in both size and power and was able to quickly make the cryptid reconsider its actions, desperately clawing at him in an attempt to regain the upper hand to no avail.
But how far was Jimmy willing to go? He wasn’t the same person he was mere hours ago, was he so bloodthirsty with instinctual rage and bestial urges that he’d just outright kill the supernatural animal without so much as a second thought?
The two humans weren’t able to get in the middle of the fight unless they wanted to get ripped to shreds, so all they could do was sit and wait, hoping that Jimmy still had enough humanity within him to not resort to more violence and go in for the kill. Protecting his friends or himself is one thing, but murdering another creature in cold blood just felt… wrong. Even if that did happen, however, it wasn’t like Jimmy was truly the one to blame, being in such a primal state.
Before the were-boy could make another slash or bite against the night terror, a familiar melody played upon a flute rang throughout the woods, causing all four of them to glance up. Did Pork have to start playing a tune right now? Jimmy would get distracted!
But it was quite the opposite.
The loup-garou beneath Jimmy froze in fear, it knew that song. It also remembered the painful experience of being beaten up with a skateboard, also because of the boy it was currently fighting and losing to. With a fearful howl, it kicked him off and once again took off, hopefully for good.
However, there was still the matter of Were-Jimmy that they had to deal with, who had started to walk towards the sound of the music, intrigued and almost… mesmerized. After all, Pork’s music was marvelous, even for his young age.
But it wasn’t just Pork who was busting out the tunes on the bridge, the Principal was there as well, brandishing a violin of some sort. When the monstrous Were-Jimmy made his entrance, Pork lost it and was about to run back to his dorm, but upon seeing the Principal still playing the violin without a care in the world despite the hulking man-beast looming in the distance, decided to stay and continue to play, despite his increasing anxiety.
When Eizan and Okuni finally reached the pond, what they saw shocked them. Jimmy, though still in his werewolf-like state, appeared to be thoroughly placated by the soft tones of music, cocking his head as if he was trying to desperately understand or remember something important.
But then he started shrinking in size, his fur and muzzle disappearing as he reverted into his old form, though he still had the tail, ears, and sharpened teeth of his previous Okami-like form. Needless to say, Jimmy was very confused about what just happened, where he was, and why he had a tail and dog ears.
Turns out, the Principal had a hunch about this happening all along and had also been studying Jimmy and his behavior. Well, maybe adults weren’t as useless as Eizan thought they were, at least not any adult that could kick him or his friends into the next prefecture.
Jimmy had to get used to this predicament because unfortunately, Lycanthropy wasn’t curable, but the effects of it could be lessened, such as whenever he did transform he would only grow the tail and ears and other minor effects of such a curse.
And here we are now.
“I didn’t know you hated it that bad,” Eizan muttered, watching his friend stare at his tail with a look of annoyance, “I always thought you’d think of it as cool or something, I do.”
The wolf-boy blushed for a second before shaking his head, trying to clear his thoughts. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Cool or something, sure. I mean, I guess I did think of it as a little cool for the first couple of months, but now? I don’t know man, it’s just weird, I have these weird urges when I’m in this form.”
“Uh-huh! Like right now for example. My body really wants to get out of here and chase a squirrel or two and bark at the mailman even though it’s the middle of the night! It’s ridiculous, but… I can’t help it!”
“So you feel animal-like instincts when you’re in this form, even though you’re not exactly a full-fledged werewolf?” Eizan asked, watching Jimmy nod, “Sugoi!”
“Don’t you Sugoi me! Don’t you think it’s… oh, I don’t know, weird, that your best friend turns into a wolf-creature every month or so?”
“It’s no different from Okuni and her… you know-”
“Alright, Eizan, we can drop the conversation right now. ”
The boy held back a small giggle at Jimmy’s comment, “But it’s true! When she has her, uh, time of the month, she acts weird too, even worse than you! Besides, you’re only in this form for one day, but she’s stuck with her… thing for a whole week!”
“That does sound worse. But you sure you’re not too weirded out by this?
“I wouldn’t leave you hanging like that! This kind of feels like my fault, anyway. If I didn’t get attacked by that wolf, then you wouldn’t have to jump in there and save me-”
“Listen,” Jimmy interrupted, his voice dropping into a stern tone, something which was uncommon for the usually happy-go-lucky boy, “I would take a bullet for you! You were in danger, I did what any good-natured ninja would do and took the blow for you! Truth be told, when I was getting attacked by that thing, I didn’t exactly know if I would make it out alive.”
“Nah, I was… I was scared. Really scared. But I lived, didn’t I? Even if I do turn into a werewolf every full moon. Huh, that puts a whole new perspective on everything. Life sucks sometimes, doesn’t it? But… I guess if we keep on moving forward, we’ll be okay in the end?”
Eizan nodded, walking over and giving his friend a small hug, who returned the gesture. While life wasn’t exactly fair, that’s what friends were for, to help the bad times get better.