Fuyuyama-no-Kenta awoke one crisp, cold morning with an idea so clear in his mind, that for a moment he could see it hovering over his bed, rotating so that weak rays of the sun touched the curved surface of the thing and created brown shadows in the secret hollows. It would be a mask, a mask of an oni, like his father: long fangs, huge bulging eyes and a whipping tongue. Kenta made many things, from footstools, to earthenware jars, bells and tiny pagodas, pitchers and bowls, sword-guards and helmets; they were all of good quality and imbued the supernatural energy that flowed out of Kenta's broad, spade-like fingers.
He made many things, but Kenta of the Fuyu Mountain was most famous for his masks. They were so well-done, so realistic, that one half-expected the bulging eyes to roll threateningly, and for the wide, thick lips to move in speech.
Kenta rose out of his wide, low bed, throwing off the thick covers and scratching at his hairy chest. Shivering slightly, he shuffled across the woven mats which covered the cold floor, and bent nearly in half just to peer out one of the roughly-shaped windows. Snow had continued to fall last night; the many trees and the slope of the mountain were covered in a bright layer. Kenta rubbed at his arms, and yawned; he tried to push the demanding shape of the mask from his mind, but it hovered at the very edge of his thoughts tantalizingly, impatiently. He sighed; he would have to go down to the village today, and get a good supply of lumber, or else he would be tormented by this idea all day. He scratched his belly underneath the thick sleep-robe and then made his way out to the narrow corridor.
Kenta's house had once been a cave which was located near the peak of Fuyuyama; instead of twisting into the mountain, this cave for the most part cored along the stony side, so that Kenta's bedroom had windows all along one wall, albeit very low; the roof arched upwards from the window-side, and the section over his bed near to the rug-covered stone had enough space to accommodate his height without being too high. His father had been fearsome and wild, and in his time the home had been dark and cold, although fastidiously neat, for Kenta's father had been a fastidious kind of oni. When Kenta's mother had come along, a disastrously temperamental human-woman who was also a witch, she had put in the windows. Kenta himself had made most of the furniture as he grew from child to man, and wove all of his own clothing.
Before his mother killed his father and then herself in a fit of passion, she would always claim that Kenta had gotten his talent from her side. Kenta, who was nothing like either of his parents in terms of personality, would shrug, and continue with his work.
He entered the bathroom, beside which was the kitchen; the kitchen itself was next to a small sitting-room where he read books; these were mostly borrowed from the new school in the town at the bottom of the mountain. He liked books; they were nicer to handle than scrolls, and the historical ones reminded him of his life growing up. How much the world had changed! Being the son of an oni guaranteed that as the years wound past him his face remained much the same as it had when he had entered his mid-thirties. Sometimes Kenta would take a long sleep as that enjoyed by his kind now and again, letting fifty years or a century unfold past his deathlike-rest. When he awoke, the world was always different and yet just the same; he liked that, too.
Books were nice; piped-water was even nicer. Kenta washed his face and cleaned his teeth before returning to his bedroom to retrieve clothing from his trunk. He dressed in jeans which covered his long legs, a snug sweater and a long cloak to complete his attire, all so different from the robes he made and wore as a child. At the front entry, he took the carved walking-stick and shoved open the heavy door, struggling a little with the snow which had gathered there. Inhaling the chilly air, he began to make his way down to the bustling town at the foot of Fuyuyama. The trees were still thick up here, but closer down he would begin to see the marvels of roads, not to mention automobiles and trains, machines which delighted Kenta to no end. One of his kin owned a mechanical-shop in the heart of the town; he would allow Kenta to tinker around the cars when he came down the side of the mountain to sell his special crafts.
"You should be a mechanic," Daiki said once, laughing as Kenta wiped the grease off his hands with great satisfaction. "You are good with your hands, Kenta."
"Wood feels better than metal," Kenta had admitted. "It likes me...more forgiving, too. But metal is nice. These tiny parts are interesting, as is all this...electronics." That last word was odd, and Kenta wasn't sure if he was saying it right.
Daiki wrinkled his nose. "You'd earn more money, too. Instead of being up there all by yourself."
Kenta had shrugged. He liked his little house and his quiet life. He got enough money from his handmade products, and people claimed that they brought good luck, which was interesting to encounter in this age.
This mask, though...Kenta wasn't sure if it would be lucky for anyone, really. It would be a mask of great power.
Kenta spent an entire day in the town and visited with Daiki, admiring a new, bright-blue sportscar which had stumped Daiki until Kenta had wriggled underneath it and tapped inquiringly at a few gears. He also stopped by the tiny shop and showroom which sold his work to tourists and townsfolk alike. Keiko, delighted to see him as always, told him that there had been many requests for vases of a particular style, and Kenta had written down a list in his careful hand.
Then, he had visited a brightly-lit supply store, looking over the thick, straight pieces of lumber: yet another thing he liked about this particular age, its almost fanatical obsession with neatness and precision. He touched a few of them, listening to their potential and ignoring the employees staring at him. He always got quite a few stares, anyway, because while he wasn't quite oni-like, resembling his mother more than his father, he was tall and broad-shouldered, with a rough, craggy face and messy, spiky hair. He found some lengths of timber with dormant power in them, unknown and unremarked upon by humans, except for perhaps the fact that they might have come from some very old trees. He would honour their power in this new mask.
He purchased the lumber and had it cut in four-foot pieces for easy carrying and after some thought, purchased some food items as well. He placed everything in his hardy bag to sling across his back so he could climb up the mountain again. Night fell like a heavy curtain when he got home, but he couldn't fall asleep as yet. After eating, he put on his sturdy working clothes and went out his front door to the workshop.
The door for the workshop was a few paces away from the one for his home; his workshop was a cave as well, except that it burrowed into the mountain instead of along the side of it. It was well-lit with electricity that he had spent a lot of money to have wired up so far from the village, quite different from the soft lamplight he maintained in the living quarters. Most of the tools were small, but he had recently bought a large table-saw which had pride of place in the very middle of his workshop. The table-saw delineated the space between roughwork and fine detailing. The whole workshop was the one place in Kenta's life given over a general air of well-organized messiness.
He loved it. He set down his armful of timber in one corner, near a mat on which he sat to do his carving. Out of one drawer in a tall cabinet, he pulled out the soft casing which contained his carving implements. He fetched his whetstone and a larger block upon which he would rest the wood to shape it.
Kenta silently informed the wood what he was going to do, rubbing one rough palm over the sweet-smelling surface. Agreement rose in eager delight through his fingertips. Then, he went to work.
Kenta spent five hours cross-legged on his work mat, creating the rough shape of the mask. Already, he could sense its fearsome beauty, for the face of a true oni had a particularly dangerous attraction. The pattern of the grain seemed to pulse with released energy under his fingers; now and again, a spark would lift from the surface of the emerging mask, singeing Kenta's fingers so that he would shake them ruefully, or put them in his mouth to soothe the burn. It was a sign that he had chosen well and right.
He decided that he had worked enough for the night, and the compulsion to create seemed to be sated, for now. Slowly, he arose from his cramped position on the floor, wincing at the complaint of muscles in his thighs and back. He placed the mask on a small bamboo mat, and wrapped his tools carefully, leaving them out for use tomorrow. Making a mask such as this took many weeks, but he felt deep within his soul that even with his other projects, this new mask would be completed very soon.
He opened the door of his workshop and stepped out; before he switched off the light, he glanced down and paused, a frown gathering between his heavy brows. There were dainty paw prints in the snow, many of them overlaid over each other. Stooping, he inspected the prints and sniffed at the air. The creature that made these marks was familiar to him, and Kenta scowled even more.
Tiresome fox; Kenta hoped that he would be left alone to carry out his work. He needed no idle chatter and mocking laughter to bring vexation to his life as it was now.
In a strange fit that reminded him of his mother's temper, he stomped on the marks and obliterated them. Then, glaring at the quiet forest, he turned out the lights and slammed the door of his workshop, before hurrying from the cold into his house.
"Don't bother me," he said into the night, before locking his front-door as securely as he could.
Wrapped up tightly in the heavy covers of his bed, Kenta heard his name being called as if someone was standing deep in the forest, shouting at him.
Jerking up into a seated position, Kenta snapped his head around and stared, bleary-eyed, towards his low windows. In the low light of early morn, a young man knelt out there in the snow, head tilted as he considered Kenta. He was garbed elaborately, a glow touching the bright red and gold of his clothing. The style of his robes had not been seen in this world for many a century. His face was narrow, the slant of his light-brown eyes sharp. His hair was very long, and descended down his back in flowing waves; it was an unusual shade of red, except for one white streak which began at his left temple and cascaded down in the same wavy manner as the rest of its coppery brethren.
Startled out of sleep, Kenta dragged his covers up to his chest in a gesture of defense and concealment before he could stop himself. The man blinked at him, and then tilted back his head in a loud laugh that managed to filter through the heavy stone wall which separated them. Feeling foolish, Kenta threw back the sheets and swung his legs out of bed, glaring at the laughing man.
Presently, the noisy mirth died down, even though the man's brown eyes still danced mockingly.
Open the door, he mouthed and then arose gracefully. Kenta could only see his feet as he walked past the bedroom windows; they were long, and thin and bare, except for a woven red cord around the left ankle. The sight of that slender red cord jolted something deep within Kenta, and he was up within a moment, dragging on a cloak over his sleeping-shirt and running towards his front door.
"Yuuta, your friend most humble, is here to visit with thee!" The man said when Kenta opened the front door. This Yuuta was as tall as Kenta himself, except there was something more feral in his build, rangy and strong, in contrast to Kenta's more solid frame. "I bring thee blessed greetings from Inari-sama." He paused in this arcane speech, tilting his head with faux-innocence. "Not going to let me in, Kenta?"
"You could have opened the damned door by yourself," Kenta said sharply and tried to close it in Yuuta's face. Laughing again, Yuuta put out a hand and held the door fast. Kenta could have pushed it shut with ease, but Yuuta would have purposefully kept his fingers on the edge of the wood and cause himself harm, just to bring guilt upon Kenta's head. Yuuta was like that, and Kenta knew him too well. He had always been the more devious of them both. Even in their childhood scuffles Yuuta would best him through unmitigated cheating. Kenta would run to Inari-sama, folded in a gentle embrace and tears pressed from his cheeks with comforting fingers...until Yuuta sidled close again and coaxed him away for more play.
Kenta left the door in Yuuta's grasp and stalked off. He was determined to get back to bed, and so snuggled back in his thick covers with the grim resolve. He shut his eyes, trying not to listen to Yuuta as he rambled around Kenta's small home.
"Oh, good, it's warm in here, as usual. I like this new kotatsu you have! I can tell you made it, Kenta, it's nice. I want some tea. I've been a long way, you know, the least you can do is offer me some tea. How parched I am! How thirsty! What kind of tea do you have? Oh. I don't think I've had this kind before. Did you buy it in the town? Do you know that I tried on jeans the other day? I didn't know my legs were so long. Sexy, as they say nowadays. What have you to eat---"
And so on. Kenta kept his eyes closed tightly, because Yuuta could run all day on the sound of his own voice. Something smashed in the kitchen and Kenta exhaled heavily as Yuuta sang out, "Sorry! I'll get you a new one, promise."
He managed to fall asleep despite Yuuta's babbling. He awoke twice during the day: once to find a cup of tea on the shelf beside his bed, the contents dark and cold. The next time, he flinched out of sleep when something light landed on his bed. Looking around, he saw a red fox turning around in a circle on his bed before settling down, blinking at him with amber eyes before closing them and seemingly slipping into an instant sleep. It had a long white mark in the fur down its left side.
"You're annoying," Kenta grumbled to the fox, which twitched its big ears and didn't open its eyes. "So. Very. Annoying."
The fox was unfazed. Unable to sleep with such a treacherous little thing at his back, Kenta arose and stomped off towards his bathroom to refresh himself. He put on his working-clothes and escaped to the mindless serenity of carving the powerful mask.
"What's that?" Yuuta asked from over Kenta's head just as he was about to peel another sliver of wood away from the form of the mask. Kenta jumped and nearly toppled over. With very deliberate movements, he set aside the sharp blade he had wielded, lest he drive it into Yuuta's closest foot in sheer annoyance.
"What is it?" Yuuta repeated, leaning over. Kenta glanced up at him and looked away quickly. Yuuta had discarded those luxurious robes and now wore one of Kenta's jeans and a t-shirt. His feet were bare as usual, but his hair had been wrestled into a messy braid. Kenta got up and walked away from the temptation to fix it; he had always liked to play with Yuuta's hair when they had been younger, to unravel the braid and plait it again, far neater than before.
"It's a mask," Yuuta said in answer to his own question. He dogged Kenta's steps, darting to one side when Kenta tried to block off the view of the mask using his own bulk. "Who are you making it for?"
"For one who deserves it," Kenta answered, and then paused at the strangeness of his own tone and words. "No-one," he said a few awkward beats later. "It's just a mask."
"It's..." Yuuta reached out for it, long fingers greedy as usual, but Kenta held it away. A sly expression stole over Yuuta's already crafty face. "It's so wonderful, Kenta. I can feel the power in it...and it's not even finished."
"Don't touch it," Kenta told him, and stepped away when Yuuta leaned close, trying to snatch at the mask. "Don't touch me."
Yuuta stared at him wordlessly for a few moments. If Kenta didn't know any better, he would have said that Yuuta was stricken at his command, but Kenta had known him for so long. When he had been sent to the Realm of Prosperity to live after a particularly violent episode between his parents, Yuuta, youngest of Inari-sama's clever kitsune had befriended him speedily with his constant giggles and tricks. Yuuta had never been stricken in his entire life, least of all when Kenta spoke to him in a brusque manner.
Yuuta hitched one shoulder suddenly, and turned away as if he couldn't care less.
"Whatever. I made an afternoon meal," was all he said, and strode towards the exit of the workshop. Pausing, he threw a cryptic gaze over his shoulder. "Come and get it."
Kenta should have really stopped himself from peeking at the shapely contours of Yuuta's buttocks in those jeans, but it was a compulsion almost as strong as the one which prompted the creation of the mask. Yuuta smirked and glided out the door.
Kenta put down the mask on the bamboo mat carefully, and stalked out of his workshop. In his kitchen, there was a wooden table at which he took his meals; the poor table fairly groaned under the weight of the dishes that Yuuta had placed on it. Kenta sat down, eyeing the steaming food with a suspicious eye.
"I didn't poison any of it." Yuuta deftly served himself a large helping of everything. "You can't poison an oni, anyway."
Kenta said, "You don't have to give me poison to harm me."
"Don't be so dramatic," Yuuta said. "Try the chicken rice. I didn't find any fresh mushrooms in your pantry, so I had to make do." He ate with quick, neat bites, humming as he slurped up his noodles. Kenta tasted the food; Yuuta's cooking was good, for they had both learned to prepare meals in the same kitchen.
Kenta ate far more slowly than Yuuta, savouring the taste. There was a slightly sweet flavour to everything, and when he was almost finished, he glanced up at Yuuta and his throat went dry with want. Yuuta was staring at him intently, his brown gaze almost blazing as it caught with Kenta's.
"What did you put in the food," Kenta asked, flatly. He dropped his utensils and gripping the edges of the table even as he felt his cock fill out rapidly in his underpants. Yuuta licked his lips, a fine sheen of sweat appearing over his top lip; the wood of the table creaked alarmingly under Kenta's tightening grip.
"Yuuta," he murmured. Yuuta's eyelids fluttered and he licked his lips again. Kenta wanted to leap over the table and taste his mouth.
"Just a little something for the two of us. It'll be like the way it was, hmm?" Yuuta answered, and his hand moved between his legs, out of Kenta's sight. Kenta watched the slow rocking movement of his shoulder and tried to shake off the sudden lust. It was a battle he was losing rapidly.
Yuuta moved first, rising quickly. Kenta stood to meet him, his chair clattering backwards behind him as Yuuta practically leaped into his arms; their lips and tongues clashed frantically. Yuuta grasped tightly unto him, clawing at his back as they whirled and stumbled out of the kitchen. In the narrow hallway, Yuuta ripped both their shirts over their heads in rapid succession, pressing Kenta against the stony surface of the wall. He murmured nonsense as he ran his hands over Kenta's chest, stroking through the thick mat of dark hair. He pressed his hips forward against Kenta's, who groaned at the feel of their erections pressed together.
Kenta kissed him deeply, tasting his familiar flavour, wild and sweet-sour; he stuck his hands past the material of the jeans. Recklessly, he slipped a finger down the top of Yuuta's cleft. He had never felt so desperately wanting before, as if he would throw Yuuta on the floor, shove down his jeans past those strong thighs and part his buttocks to reveal his puckered brown hole. Before he could follow through with the thought, Yuuta dragged him into the bedroom and they rolled unto the bed.
Yuuta ended up atop him, straddling Kenta's hips and frustrating all attempts to pull off the rest of their clothes. At Kenta's nonsensical noises of complaint, Yuuta let out a throaty laugh. He twisted and pulled; finally, finally, they were nude, bare bodies writhing against together. Kenta licked his way up Yuuta's neck, biting at the lobe of his ear. Yuuta ground against him, releasing hard pants with every thrust. He shifted up more and more until the thick head of Kenta's cock pushed up against his entrance. Kenta was throwing around one arm, trying to reach the little drawer built into the wide headboard of the bed; there was a small pot of ointment which he used when he found pleasure in his own hand.
"Stop," Yuuta said from above him and Kenta froze. His prick was so hard that it could have probably bored right through the wall into the bathroom. He looked up at Yuuta's face; the other man wore a triumphant, self-satisfied expression. Kenta's cock twitched violently.
"Kenta," Yuuta sang out softly, writhing slowly so that Kenta's cock slid up and down between the cheeks of his buttocks. "Kenta, how badly do you want this?"
"You know," Kenta grunted up at him and tried to move. He found he couldn't and Yuuta chuckled. He trailed one finger around one of Kenta's brown nipples. It tightened under his touch.
"Kenta." Yuuta's tone was quiet, almost contemplative. "Kenta." He undulated atop Kenta again, setting off a wave of lust upon which Kenta trembled, fixed at the edge of pain and pleasure. Kenta could hardly think; whatever Yuuta had given him, it filled his mind with a soft frenzy which had no outlet. He was under Yuuta's influence, panting and whining softly.
Yuuta said, "Promise me the mask, Kenta. When it's finished, promise that it's mine. And I'll release you."
"You....little monster," Kenta choked out, trying to reach up and put his hands around Yuuta's slender neck, but he gasped in exertion. His prick had never felt so stiff before, and he ached for release. "You....little--"
Yuuta bent forward and kissed him deeply, tongue stealing away Kenta's curses. Kenta arched up against him, briefly released from Yuuta's will. He could feel the dampness collect between their cocks; vaguely, he wondered how much Yuuta was affected by his own potion.
"Say it's mine," Yuuta whispered and he licked at the seam of Kenta's lips. They both shook. "Give it to me."
No, Kenta tried to whisper in reply, but his body revolted, dragging his mind with it. He just wanted to bury himself deep into Yuuta's body and attain release. It was all he could focus on right now; nothing else mattered. "Yes," he groaned. "Damn your eyes, you'll have it."
Yuuta hissed and scrabbled over Kenta's head, yanking out the drawer and pulling out the lubricant. He moaned softly as he tried to pull it open, scooping out a large amount and reaching behind to press fingers inside himself. Kenta flinched when long fingers stroked slickly over his cock, and he watched Yuuta with wide eyes as the other man raised himself up, holding up Kenta's cock.
As he sank down, Kenta closed his eyes and revelled in the sensation. He was still a little too tight, but so warm around Kenta's prick. Kenta heard his low grunts and he discovered that his hands were clamped onto Yuuta's hips. For his part, Yuuta braced his own hands on Kenta's chest, fingers arched and scratching at Kenta's hair almost absently, bouncing on the thick cock around which his hole stretched. With some effort, Kenta dragged one hand to fondle Yuuta's heavy balls for a moment, before wrapping his fingers around the erect flesh and jerking at it. Yuuta said something unintelligible, but Kenta understood him; he pulled back his hand and spat in his palm. Then he returned it to stroke Yuuta's cock, bringing him ever so close the edge.
Neither of them were particularly loud during sex; Yuuta's only sign of release was the way his entire body went rigid for a few beats and then jounced a few times, his insides squeezing mercilessly around Kenta. He tilted his head back, mouth open and thin trickles of sticky fluid spurted out of his slit. His come spattered in a short arc to land on Kenta's stomach, and then, with a few more wordless jerks, he continued to dribble over Kenta's hand.
Kenta groaned out, his other hand digging into the flesh of Yuuta's hip. He felt his come lurch into Yuuta, and for a moment he could imagine how it might coat his insides. His brain buzzed in mindless contentment for a long time. Yuuta shifted and Kenta's spent cock slipped out to flop lazily atop his thigh. He was half-asleep when Yuuta rose from the bed and padded to the bathroom.
He awoke nearly half a day later, completely free of whatever concoction Yuuta had created for him. Kenta raged through the house naked, even going as far as to stomp out into the cold to find Yuuta and do him grievous harm (although he knew well within himself that there was nothing grievous he could ever do to Yuuta, no matter what Yuuta did to him), but the kitsune was long gone.
Kenta spent six more weeks on the mask. He carved and polished, burning the inner surface with a candle; he plastered, whitewashed and painted, adding brass detailing in certain locations such as the eyes and the tips of the sharp teeth. It was the longest time he had ever spent on any project. When he placed the mask on its mat for the last time, he knelt in front of it and simply stared. In the last few weeks, he hadn't had time to shave, and a beard was a scratchy discomfort on his face. The air around the mask shimmered as it gazed back at him with its leering grin.
He heard the light step at the open door of his workshop. The scent of a tentative spring wafted in, bringing in the wild scent of a fox.
"It's finished," he said, still looking at the gleaming mask. "Take it," he said, for a promise of an oni is one never to be retracted or broken. Yuuta stood beside him, now dressed in robes of the same antiquated style, but more somber shades: black and grey. His hair was loose again and Kenta wanted to grab a handful of it and drag him down, plunder his lying mouth and finger him until Yuuta shuddered and shouted, and stayed with him for as long as they both wanted. He remained still however, not moving even when Yuuta reached out and retrieved the mask.
"What can it do?" Yuuta murmured, cradling it in the crook of one arm and petting the horns.
Kenta said, "When you wear it, you see the smallest wisps of clouds. You hear the whisper of a waterfall leagues away...and you'll smell the sweet breath of a lost love."
"How romantic," Yuuta said. He raised the mask to his face, and looked closely at the craftsmanship. "It's astounding, Kenta."
"Try it on." Kenta managed to inject just the right amount of offhandedness in his voice. "Tell me how it feels."
Yuuta hesitated. Kenta kept his gaze level, but he sensed more than felt the way Yuuta glanced at him quickly. Then, with one of his quick shrugs, he placed the mask on his face.
Kenta heard him inhale sharply and finally looked up at him; he felt a smile touch at the corners of his lips, hidden by the beard. The mask had molded itself so well to Yuuta's face, it was impossible to tell where skin ended and wood began.
"Kenta!" Yuuta rushed to the door, looking out in wonder. "This...have you tried this?"
Kenta got to his feet, but did not reply.
"Everything...so close!" Yuuta exclaimed, stepping into the bright, cold day and turning around in a slow circle. "I can see it all! And smell it and hear it. I can almost taste it, too. Never in my whole life, Kenta, never. Come, you should try--" he paused. He had placed his hands on the surface of the mask, trying to tug it off.
It would not move.
"What...Kenta!" Yuuta fought with the mask, scraping at it with ever more frantic movements. Marks from his nails appeared, scoring off curling strips of paint and polish, but they faded away almost instantaneously. The mask was as much a part of his face now as his own skin, and just as impossibly painful to remove. "Kenta!"
Kenta watched from the doorway as Yuuta's human form shifted into that of the small red fox, and back again. Yuuta yipped and cursed and howled and kicked, rolled from one shape to another, but the mask stayed firm.
Finally, when Yuuta lay sprawled on the stubborn grass, his chest heaving in defeat, Kenta walked over to him and knelt at his side. He placed a hand on Yuuta's shoulder; Yuuta took his hand by the wrist and flung it away from himself.
Kenta reached out again and hooked a forefinger under Yuuta's chin. Unerringly, he located that seam where the mask had tapered into the flesh and pulled. The mask came away easily; he placed it, face-up, on Yuuta's chest. Stubbornly, Yuuta continued to stare at the sky and with the mask located where it was, he seemed like some two-headed monster lying there on the ground.
"I'm the only one who will ever be able take it off, Ta-kun," Kenta told him, very gently. "But it's still yours. Keep it forever, until you find someone else who deserves it as much as you do."
He rose and walked back to his workshop. There was a sharp sound behind him, like a piteous whimper and a vengeful snarl, but when Kenta turned around, he saw neither fox-form nor human.
And the mask was also gone.