Chapter 7: Growing Tails
Nearly a week has passed since Tails first arrived on Sekkai and every day he spent part of his day working on his plane, the Tornado, attempting to get it airborne once more and another chunk of his day with Nova at school learning and training in the ways of Kitsunes. This, of course, included them sparring around with Dyne who day after day pummeled them outright and left them to trudge on home, sore from head to toe and stomachs aching from hunger. The times in between were spent stuffing their faces and recovering their faces before carrying their stuffed guts to bed and sleeping the rest of the day away.
"Looks like you've really gotten used to things around here," commented Nova as he and Tails made their way once more back to Nine City and school.
"Well, it has been a lot of hard work, but tons of fun too," he answered happily.
"Do you think you'll have the Tornado fixed soon?" he asked. "I really want to try flying in it. Just think how cool we'd look going to school in that."
"Probably not as soon as either of us would like," Tails admitted. "I don't have as much time as I'd like to work on it and I'm still short on all the parts I need. Next weekend I'll have to go looking for more wrecked planes to see what I can salvage."
"Next time you do that," he suggested. "Take me with you. That way, I can help you carry extra stuff back. I'm sure together we can get it running no problem."
"That'll help," agreed Tails. "It'll help keep me from getting lost next time too. We can bring a lunch with us and make a picnic of it too. I honestly can't get enough of your mom's cooking."
"Me neither," he chuckled patting Tails's belly, a considerable amount of roundness had appeared on it. "But maybe you should cut down. You've been binging on the food like, well, me lately and you don't seem to burn off the calories as well."
"I'm not used to eating so much," Tails admitted blushing as Nova touched his paunch. "But hardly something I can help when I'm so hungry. All the training we've been doing really works up my appetite and I can't help stuffing my face as soon as we get home. I just hope that all the work we've been doing is amounting to something."
"Sure it is," encouraged Nova as they reached the edge of the city and worked their way to the stairs. Minister Zeal appeared in the sky overhead again and started to address everyone in the city again. "We've definitely gotten a lot better at using our Kitsune Arts and our TP has definitely increased. I've noticed you don't tire out as quickly from using it and your attacks have been getting stronger."
"I'm glad I'm not the only one who's thought that," commented Tails. "But what about getting more tails?"
"There's no telling when we might grow more tails," Nova explained. "Nobody really knows exactly why or how it happens, but I'm sure we must be close. I have a good feeling that today might just be our day."
"Maybe it will be," smiled Tails as he watched Minister Zeal talk and was taken aback by what he head. "Nova, listen to that."
"I'm sorry to say that despite our increased efforts," reported Minister Zeal with a glum expression on his face. "That the Purple Tail has also fallen into the clutches of the perpetrators and the temple, a historical landmark of our home has been destroyed. The only comfort I have is in knowing that all Kitsunes stationed there have only received minor injuries. With only four Tails still in our possession, we will continue to do everything in our power to keep them safe and I promise you all, the fiends involved will be captured and made to pay for all this. You have my solemn vow."
"Do you think that they really will catch her?" asked Tails nervously.
"That Kitsune girl who stole the Tails?" asked Nova. "Of course. Everyone is keeping an eye out for her. She can't keep running forever and her luck can't hold out forever."
"Still, I can't imagine what she's trying to accomplish," pointed out Tails. "Is all the trouble this is causing really worth it?"
"Maybe she's doing it as a challenge to herself or something," Nova suggested. "That is definitely being reckless even for me."
"I doubt she'd do something like this just for bragging right," replied Tails. "She has to have some greater reason than that."
"What makes you think that?" asked Nova confused. "You don't know her, do you?"
"Of course not," answered Tails. "Just the way she looked in that picture you showed me. She doesn't look bad, but from what we're hearing, she's been causing a lot of problems. Is anything worth making an enemy out of everyone?"
"Who knows what is going on in her head," commented Nova. "She's probably nuts, even if she is quite a looker."
"Y-yeah," agreed Tails blushing a bit. "Quite a looker." Thinking of Marle, Tails got lost in thought for a moment till Nova's snickers brought him back to his senses. "Oh, uh, but yeah, probably nuts."
"I never would have guessed that you were into bad girls, Tails," joked Nova as they got off at their stop for school.
"I am not!" Tails shouted at Nova as he hurried down the stairs to the schoolyard. Tails gave chase after him. "And how do you even know if she is bad. Maybe she's just misunderstood or something."
"Misunderstood what?" asked Dyne waiting at the bottom of the stairs.
"Oh, nothing important," answered Tails with a nervous chuckle. "So, are you ready for another round with us?"
"I should be asking you guys that," he pointed out. "We've been having matches every day before and after class this entire week and so far you haven't come close to beating me. So far, the most impressive thing about the two of you is that you both have willingly chosen to fight with me more times than anyone else. Most fight me once and never want to ever again."
"It just shows how determined we are to get stronger," replied Nova eager to start brawl. "I can feel it. Today's the day we finally beat you."
"We'll just have to see now, won't we," Dyne replied cooly as they walked through their park to the same spot they used to fight all the other days. Immediately, all the other Kitsunes there stopped doing whatever they were doing and began following behind them. Each one wore an excited grin and it didn't just include the students, but many of the teachers too, including Mr. Lecture.
"We sure have drawn in quite a big crowd," commented Tails nervously. "Practially everyone in school is here to watch us fight. Are our battles really that exciting?"
"Of course they are," stated Nova cheerfully. "And you are everyone's favorite celebrity so that makes it even more exciting."
"I guess so," Tails continued with a nervous chuckle. He saw a lot of the Kitsune had flags with his face on them and couldn't keep from blushing with embarrassment. Dyne saw them too and scoffed a bit.
"I could be you a hundred times over and they'd still keep rooting for you," he murmured with a bit of jealousy in his voice. "See to it you show that you are worthy of their praise."
"I- I will," replied Tails hesitantly at first. As they reached their battle spot Dyne took his place on his side and Tails and Nova stood on the opposite side. Looking around, the battlefield was scarred all over from explosions, fire, and even cuts. One of the Kitsune on spectators stood at the edge of the battlefield and one of his tails glowed as he used an Art to create a barrier to ensure the safety of the watchers and to allow the fighters to proceed without any distractions. "Boy, we sure have roughed this place up quite a bit with all our fighting."
"It shows how much we've improved," commented Nova, his tail glowing red and he formed a fireball the size of a bowling ball in his hands. "No way I could build up this much fire so quickly before and I don't feel tired in the least."
"Starting off strong," observed Dyne. "Guess that means we're skipping the warm up. Fine with me. We can settle things a lot quicker this way."
Without the need for a signal to start, Dyne made the first move. The air around Tails and Nova began to distort as he created an explosion in that space. Immediately, they both took off in opposite directions and avoided the fiery boom before it was even close to detonating. Right after, Nova began to run around the battlefield in a random manner, tossing flames all over. Meanwhile, overhead, Tails flew around trying to be just as hard to read as Nova was on the ground.
"I suppose, if nothing else, you've both learned how to be quick on your feet," said Dyne. "It would be a complete waste of TP to try and hit either of you while you're moving like this with my explosion arts. But if you are just relying on your normal tactics this won't be much of a fight."
"Don't worry about us," replied Nova confidently. "We worked hard to come up with some new ones. Let's show him the first one, Tails."
"I'm in position," Tails answered back. "Just like we practiced now."
Tails stopped spinning his tails in mid air allowing him to drop downward. With one of his tails glowing, he swung his tail and sent a huge blast of wind straight down, fanning the flames all over the ground making them grow hugely and spread around Dyne. To keep the flames from reaching him, Dyne used his own wind art and kept the flames at bay with a tornado of wind around him. The flames swirled into the tornado, but couldn't get any closer than that.
"Not bad," he admitted with a smile. "Actually, pretty awesome that you two decided to combine your abilities to do something like this. Against another opponent you would have probably had them, but I know a wind art too so these flames won't hurt me."
"That's fine," admitted Nova. "We already knew that much and we didn't plan to use the flames to attack you, just get as close as possible to you." Out of the flames, Nova short out striking Dyne with a punch in the face taking him aback for a moment. Before Dyne could do anything to counter, Nova vanished back into the swirling vortex of flames.
"Nice punch," complimented Dyne rubbing his bruised cheek. "Your punches actually feel like punches now. Seems I have to dodge you after all."
"Don't act like that didn't surprise you," argued Nova his voice coming from all around Dyne.
"Then try again and see if you can still hit me," challenged Dyne. Nova took the challenge and attacked Dyne from behind with another punch. Dyne's ears twitch right before he ducked and avoided Nova's attack. Vanishing for a moment back in the flames, Nova quickly reemerged from the fire right away and attacked at Dyne's side. Dyne's ears twitched again before he sidestepped away.
Over and over Nova attempted to attack Dyne, but each and every time Dyne perfectly maneuvered around him and avoided his attacks. "I guess that proves that my attacks do hurt you if you made sure to dodge them all," observed Nova calmly.
"You haven't lost your temper yet," marveled Dyne. "Typically by now you are completely off kilter when you can't seem to hit me."
"Well, that's probably still true," Nova admitted. "The only reason I'm not this time is because hitting you hasn't been my goal from the start. I'm merely the distraction."
"Distraction?" repeated Dyne quickly turning up as Tails flew into the funnel of the tornado straight at Dyne. "Planning to this extent. You might have gotten me with a bit I couldn't simply dodge."
"We took that into account," countered Nova as the upper half of his body emerged from the flames and grabbed Dyne's legs to keep him in place. "Can you still dodge out of the way while I'm holding you? And with the flames surrounding you, you can't simply stop using your wind art of the flames will get you. Face it, we've got the best of you this time. Nothing can save you this time."
"Except the school bell," Dyne pointed out as they heard it ring followed by the groans of dozens of disappointed fans. "Looks like we'll have to pause until after class, but I'm sure you'll figure something else by then."
"Of all the rotten luck," groaned Nova. He then called up to Tails. "Looks like we will have to stop for now, Tails."
"Stop," cried Tails still dropping fast. "I'm trying, but I can't seem to." Suddenly, Tails gained a burst of speed and fell down even faster at Dyne and Nova.
With his feet still held by Nova, Dyne reacted reflexively to Tails's drop on him, quickly canceling his wind art and at the same time used his Boom Art to create an explosion between him and Tails and let it explode instantly. The force of the explosion burnt out all the flames surrounding them and left a crater in the space where they were. The Kitsune that made the barrier quickly lowered it and a group of Kitsune hurried in to make sure they were ok."
"Ow," groaned Tails stunned and bruised from the power that Dyne had packed into that art. "What happened?"
"Dyne decided to take us all out rather then lose alone," groaned Nova feeling sore all over.
"I don't lose," he ache, but acted like he wasn't hurt in the least. "In fact, that explosion didn't hurt me at all."
"Then why not get up instead of laying face down in this hole?" teased Nova.
There was a momentary silence as they waited for Dyne to come up with an answer. He took in a deep breath before answering. "Because I don't feel like it," he told them. "Besides, the victor should be carried away by his fans and look that's happened right now." Several of the Kitsunes from the crowd approached Dyne and lifted him up. Several others did the same for Tails and Nova.
"What's going on?" asked Tails starting to come back to his senses.
"We're being carried away," Nova answered. "To the infirmary."
There was a home built into the side of a hill. Without know it was there, one would easily overlook it, mistaking the chimney for a random, cluster or rocks and the doorway as the burrow to some animal in the middle of hibernation. Inside the hill, it was surprisingly room, most of it hollowed out, but still structurally sound. It was fully furnished and divided into three rooms, a kitchen with cabinets, a wood burning stove,and a dining table, a bedroom with one small, but comfortable bed, a dresser, a few chairs, and a couple of beanbag chairs, and a storage room that was crammed full of all sorts of miscellaneous dodads all stored in crates.
"Marle," cautioned Oak attempting to keep her from getting out of bed. "You need to keep resting."
"That's all I've been doing for the past week," she complained sitting up and stretching. "If I have to stay in bed for another minute I'm going to scream. I wasn't hurt that bad in that last fight and my TP was recovered after one night's rest. The only reason I even agreed to stay in bed for this long was because I needed to wait you and Squall got the intel on the Orange Tail. Where is Squall anyway?"
"He's undercover," Oak said with quite a lot of satisfaction. "I camouflaged him right outside the temple and he's been keeping tabs on the place to help us out."
"That's great," she replied trying to get to her feet, but almost fell down. "Ugh, my legs feel like jelly." Carefully, she braced herself with a chair and waited for her legs to get their strength back. Meanwhile, she turned to count her tails, Black, Yellow, Green, Blue, and now Purple. The Kitsune gently stroked them one by one, admiring their sheen and luster. "Only four left to collect and then I can get the real treasure that I'm after."
"Your tails look lovelier the more you gain," Oak commented. "You've got five now. That's more than most Kitsunes ever gain even after years of training and you got those in a few months."
"We both know it's practically cheating," she admitted. "But I didn't do it to become a 9 Tails."
"Oak! Marle!" Squall called. "I've got something important to tell you!"
"Looks like the big lug has something to report," the Tanuki commented. "We're in the bedroom! Come on it!"
"I'd wish you'd make the entrance bigger," groaned Squall, the oversized Kappa struggling to squeeze his huge body through the narrow passageway.
"Do you know how hard it was to dig all this out in the first place?" asked Oak defensively. "Very hard and if I am not careful, the whole place could come down on us. Best to not do any unnecessary renovations."
"I think that's just an excuse to be lazy," Squall countered finally managing to make it inside and headed towards the bedroom. As he entered, he was covered from head to toe with stone gray paint.
"I am not lazy!" hissed Oak.
"Are too," argued Squall.
"I am not!"
"Would you two put a lid on it!" snapped Marle putting an end to their quarrel.
"Uh, of course," apologized Oak. "We didn't mean to fight in front of you."
"We should have known better," admitted Squall.
"Now, Squall, tell me what you've got to report on about the Orange Temple," she asked him. She then went silent and focused her gaze on his paint-covered body. "Uh, but first, why are you all gray?"
"It was Oak's idea," he explained. "He figured I could pretend to be a rock and spy on the Kitsunes there. Surprisingly, it worked. I was able to hear a lot of stuff that you'll want to hear."
"I'm all ears," Marle told him attentively. "Tell me everything."
"Well, the name of the Orange Sage is Locke," he continued. "Seven Tails like the rest, but apparently he's only even created an Art for four of them."
"Only four of his Tails have powers and they made him a Sage?" asked Oak confused. "He isn't really better than a Four Tails in that case."
"Not true," pointed out Marle. "In most battles, using more than two or three Arts is quite difficult. Typically, it is better to have a diverse set of Arts to handle different situations. For this Locke guy to only have needed to create Arts for four of his tails means that he's quite capable if that's all he's ever needed and with three blank tails that means he can create a new Art in the event he needs one."
"And that's what he's been doing too," Squall interrupted. "He's in the temple trying to come up with a new Art to defeat you."
"A new Art," cried Oak. "Well, what is it? We need to figure a way to counter his counter."
"I don't know what it is," said Squall. "He's secluded himself in the Orange Temple while trying to figure it out and hasn't said a word about it to anyone. He wants to make sure that it won't get leaked out to us. Looks like he was right to be cautious."
"Even if we don't know what his new Art will be," Marle said. "I have already created the Art for my Purple Tail. Remember, I can only give these tails the power of the Great Kitsune, but his power was greater than any other Kitsuen in history. I will defeat him and obtain the Orange Tail."
"And we're right behind you too," added Oak. "110%! We just need to bide our time till a perfect opportunity presents itself."
"About that," stated Squall. "It seems that on Sunday, they are going to increase the number of guards protecting the outside of the temple ten fold."
"Ten fold!" cried Oak. "How are we going to even get close if they are going to have such tight security? Our plan last time won't work a second time. This is terrible."
"Worse than that," Marle pointed out. "Seems your stealth plan didn't work perfectly. They must have seen through it and purposefully told you all that so you'd tell us."
"But I was so careful," cried Squall. "True I had to scratch at an itch every now and then, but I did it when nobody was around. Anyway, why would they say all this stuff for me to hear?"
"To let us know that there was a small window of opportunity left to get the Orange Tail before it'd be impossible. They know that we won't make a move unless we feel that we can succeed, but they couldn't count on us making a move before the reinforcements would come. In other words, they wanted us to find out so we'd be forced to make a move while it was still possible."
"So what will we do?" asked Squall a bit confused by it all.
"We ready ourselves and make our move on Saturday," she told them. "Get as prepared as possible and get the Orange Tail before the reinforcements arrive. That's what they'll be expecting so why disappoint them? We'll show them that nothing they try will be enough to defeat us. Simple as that."
"I think I understand," Squall nodded, though his expression showed he wasn't completely. "Anyway, I want to wash this paint off with a nice soak in some water."
"No can do," apologized Marle. "You have to go back and keep pretending to be a rock. We have to make them think we haven't fully realized their plan and that we don't know that they know that you were disguised as a rock. If that lowers their guard even a little, it might just give us the advantage we need."
"You mean I've got do that for a few more days?" he cried.
"Sorry," Marle told him then turned to her Tanuki ally. "We all have to do our part. Now, Oak, we don't have a lot of time. I'm going to have to spar with you to make certain I'm in top form. It'll also help me prove to you, that I have been fully rested."
Sensing the impending danger, Oak turned to Squall. "Uh," he said nervously. "Wanna swap jobs?"
"I really thought we had him this time," groaned Nova. He was lying in bed in the infirmary. Tails sat in the bed next to him. They were both banaged all over, though no bones were in a cast. "Our plan was perfect."
"We just didn't have the time," sighed Tails. "But he didn't get out unharmed. He got a few bandages."
"A few and meanwhile we're halfway to being mummies," Nova pointed out. "Well, I suppose there is always next time. We just need to figure out a new plan."
"But what?" asked Tails sitting up out of bed.
"T-Tails!" cried Nova jumping out of bed in excitement only to aggravate his sore spots. "Ow!"
"Nova!" replied Tails jumping out of bed to the same fate. "Ow!"
"You've got three tails," they both shouted frantically at the same time. "I've got three tails?" They turned to look and counted their tails over and over again trying to be absolutely certain about the number. When they recounted for the dozenth time they turned back to one another. "I've got three tails!"
Overjoyed by this they couldn't help but dance around, the bummed feeling they both had was completely gone. Meanwhile, just outside the room sat Dyne in a chair. Hearing them celebrate, said to himself. "One surprise after another. I can't but help feel a little happy for them too." He reclined back in the chair a bit and looked up at the ceiling. "Ow."