A Stranger in Lawndale
a multi-part story by Belle Book
Chapter Five: Revelations
Stacy was stunned by what Derek just told her. When he first talked about Shintoism, kami, and kitsune she thought he was just speaking of fascinating fables that had no real connection to her. Until he told her that he was a kitsune. Now she didn't know what to believe.
"Is this true?" she whispered.
"Take a good look at the pupils in my eyes," Derek said softly. So Stacy did. And then she realized something she'd never really noticed before: the pupils in his golden-brown eyes weren't round. They were more elliptical. She nearly gasped at the realization.
"Then -- what you told me about kami and kitsune isn't just a fascinating fable?" she whispered.
"No, my dear," Derek whispered gently, taking her hand. "It's real. Ask Daria if you don't believe me."
"Daria?" asked Stacy. "She knows about this?"
"Remember how Upchuck mentioned that he was out walking some dogs when Daria asked him to walk with her past her best friend's house?" Derek asked. "He thought he'd imagined seeing a woman turn into a fox, but he hadn't. It was my sister, Rachel."
At that point, she saw two shadows fall over the booth. Stacy looked up and saw Daria & Jane waiting there.
"Would it be okay if we sat down with you two?" asked Jane.
"Sure," said Derek. Stacy watched as Daria and Jane sat down across from the two of them.
"Stacy, there's something we have to tell you about Derek," Daria began.
"Is it that he's a kitsune?" Stacy asked. "If that's the case, Derek already told me."
"He did?" asked Daria, her eyes widening.
"Yeah, I did," Derek confirmed. "I figured you were going to tell her, so I beat you to the punch."
"Were you ever going to tell her?" asked Daria.
"I was," said Derek. "I just wasn't going to tell you as soon as I did, Stacy," he added, looking over.
The look on his face told her that he was sincere in what he said. She turned to Daria. "Derek told me that you knew his sister was a kitsune, and that apparently you got Upchuck to walk you past your best friend's house, thus forcing his sister to turn into a fox. I presume you found out the truth about her. Would you mind telling me how you figured it out -- and why you acted the way you did?"
Daria wondered where she should begin -- and how much she should tell Stacy. It was interesting that Derek would tell Stacy himself that he was a kitsune. He had a practical reason for doing so -- he didn't want Daria to drive a wedge between himself and Stacy -- but what was more interesting was that Derek apparently had planned on telling Stacy even before Daria & Jane had met him. Perhaps Jane was right in thinking that Derek was genuinely in love with Stacy.
After a few moments of thought, she took a deep breath and began telling Stacy (and Derek) how the whole thing began. How she and Jane had first learned that Trent had met this girl named Rachel and fell in love with her, how Daria first met Rachel when she accompanied Trent and Jane to pick up Daria for a night at the Zon and how Daria had gradually begun to suspect that something was wrong with Rachel. Then she mentioned how Jane revealed the next day that Trent had become so exhausted, and how Upchuck had first met Rachel while out walking a dog as well as the reaction between Rachel and the dog. Then she mentioned what happened the day afterwards -- and her encounter with Andrea.
Derek looked really interested when Daria explained that Andrea was an empath and that she used her talent to discover that Rachel wasn't really human. "I didn't know that an empath was the one to lead you in the right direction," he explained. "I'd reconnected with Rachel and learned all that she could tell me about her first encounter with you, but she didn't know how you figured out that she was a kitsune. Nor did I."
"I still didn't really know about kitsune back then," Daria explained. "All I knew was that she wasn't human and that Trent was in danger somehow." Then she went on to explain that the following day Jane told her that Trent was sick and looked kind of pale. Later that day, she met Andrea in the library, where she learned all about kitsune.
"What do kitsune do?" asked Stacy. "Besides shapeshift, I mean?"
Before Daria could answer, Derek explained. "We can possess humans, willfully manifest ourselves into the dreams of others, and create illusions so elaborate that they are almost indistinguishible from reality, among other things. I don't have the ability to willfully manifest myself into the dreams of others -- I'm not strong enough -- I do have the ability to possess others, create foxfire, and create illusions, although I don't think I'm powerful enough to create illusions so elaborate that they're almost indistinguishible from reality. Foxes are associated with Inari, the Shinto god of rice and some of them are his messengers. They are white and unambiguously good. Rachel and I are nogitsune, wild foxes. We can either be good or evil -- as you probably know from experience, Daria."
"I know," said Daria. This led to her second tale -- where she accidentally got on the wrong bus and wound up attending a football game. Then she told about how she attended a party where alcohol was served, and how she met the guy who gave the alcohol to the others. From there, she talked about the alcohol bust and how she was blamed for it, her second meeting with Rachel, and how Rachel messed with Casey Adams's mind.
"Unfortunately, I found out later that Casey wound up in a coma," Daria concluded. "I learned that in a final meeting with Rachel. That's one of the reasons why I wanted to warn you about Derek, Stacy. I wanted to make up for my failure to warn him."
"I don't see that as any big loss," Derek said, shrugging. Daria, Jane and Stacy looked at Derek. He explained, "I don't have the same kind of morality as humans do. However, I do believe that if you do something good for others, you should get something good in return, while if you do something bad to someone who didn't really deserve it, you deserve to get into trouble. Casey did something really bad by serving alcohol to minors and then blaming you for being busted."
"Do you think he intended to blame me for the bust?" Daria asked. "Mack -- one of the football players and perhaps the only smart one -- he said that after the party was busted, Casey just said that he believed it was me."
"Maybe he didn't intend to have the football players all confront you and accuse you of being the one who revealed that alcohol was being served to minors," Derek admitted. "If he was that drunk, any ability to form intentions might've been badly impaired. But he's indirectly responsible for your being falsely accused. Anyway, as I said, I don't have human morality so I don't see what Rachel did as anything deserving of punishment. What she did to Trent, however, did deserve punishment -- in the form of you thwarting her efforts to finish him off."
"How did Rachel get Trent sick?" Stacy asked.
Daria said, "She seduced him. Andrea herself said that the motives of fox-women vary, but some of them seduce men in order to feed on their vitality. They can do it to a succession of victims in order to prolong their existence."
"These are the worst tricksters," Derek explained. "Kitsune are most commonly tricksters. Some of them are merely mischievous, others are downright malevolent. The crueler ones abuse the poor and good ones. I don't do that -- I tend to trick those who deserve it, in my eyes. I tend to lead men astray, confuse them with illusions or visions, steal food to give it to poorer ones who have been abused by wealthy men, and humiliate the proud men. I've spent time in China, Japan and Korea and there I tended to possess women. In America, I have seduced women to drain them of their vitality, but it's rare for me to do so and I only do so to bitches. Since you're a nice girl, I won't do that to you, Stacy."
"Thank God!" said Stacy. "Did Trent recover?"
"Yeah," said Jane. "In fact, when I go off to college I hope Trent and his band, Mystik Spiral, come to Boston for some gigs."
"Anyway," Daria continued, "when I spoke to Rachel for the last time, I asked her what she was doing in America. Rachel admitted she only remembered living on this continent and she didn't remember that far back. But she never mentioned having a brother."
"I think when she met you, she didn't remember having a brother," said Derek. "Our paths crossed only about a year ago. I had some vague memories of Rachel before our mother basically had us leave the den where we grew up, so I remembered her when I saw her. It also helped that I was able to see that she was a kitsune despite her looking like a human."
"Maybe you have memories or knowledge of how you and Rachel came to be on this continent in the first place," Stacy asked. Daria nodded. She sure hoped Derek could fill in the blanks -- this might be her only chance of finding out.
Derek had already decided how he was going to explain his and Rachel's being in America to begin with -- even before encountering Daria, Jane and Ms. Li. So he took a deep breath and began.
"Rachel and I were born in early 1624, in the forests near Jamestown, Virginia," he began. He would've continued on except he heard Stacy gasp. Looking at her, he realized she was stunned to hear this.
"Are you telling me you're nearly 400 years old?" she asked him.
"Yeah, I'm actually almost 400 years old," Derek explained. "Kitsune live a very long time. My mother was a little more than 300 years old when she met my father and she would be 700 years old now, since she was born in 1300. Anyway, our mother was a kitsune and our father was an English merchant. They met in late 1622 and got married in early 1623. However, tensions were growing between the Tokugawa shogunate and foreigners and trade in Japan had never been really profitable for the English, partly because the Portuguese and Dutch competed with them. The English Company withdrew its people and enterprises in 1623. My father agreed to take my mother with him to Virginia. But on the trip to Virginia, things went horribly wrong, although my mother didn't realize it until after they landed in Jamestown."
"What went wrong?" asked Daria.
"Mother realized she was pregnant and decided to tell him that she was a kitsune," Derek explained. "But she promised to help him succeed in America. I think she believed that his love for her would be strong enough despite learning the truth, or at least that he'd stay with her for the sake of Rachel & I. Unfortunately, Father was so scared that he apparently spoke about it to the crew. They urged him to abandon her and he was so terrified of her that he agreed. When the ship carrying my parents arrived in Virginia, other members of the crew got off first before my parents did. But when they arrived on shore, they were greeted by dogs which started barking madly at her."
"I'll bet they detected her scent and realized she wasn't human," said Daria. "Andrea told me that no matter what shape kitsune take, they never lose their true scent. Humans can only detect it through urine, but animals have keener noses and can detect the true scent right away."
"Yeah, that's exactly what happened," Derek explained. "They scared her so much she turned into a fox and rushed off into the woods. She had Rachel & I some time afterwards, in April I think. I don't really remember much of what I did before I realized I was different from other foxes."
"When was that?" asked Jane.
"I think it was in 1700," said Derek. "I had developed the ability to increase my height and make myself look human. That's when I definitely knew I wasn't a normal fox. I went searching for my mother but by the time I found her I'd developed the ability to shapeshift as well. She told me the story I told you and all about what I really was. She'd moved on and she didn't know if Rachel was still in the Jamestown area or not."
"What then?" asked Jane.
"Before re-locating my mother -- she was living near what would become Baltimore, btw -- and even before fully realizing that I was different from other foxes, I'd spent time around Native American tribes and Caucasians as well. I developed a fondness for Native American tribes but wasn't too fond of Caucasians in general. These feelings simply intensified after learning about what happened to my mother and more importantly, after befriending various Native American tribes only to see them removed because the English and later American settlers wanted their land. I developed the ability to look like a white person in part so that I could fool them if I wanted to help out the Native Americans I was spending time with. But don't get me wrong -- there were and are individual white people whom I like, the three of you among them."
"That's a relief," said Daria sardonically. Derek chuckled at that.
"But as a group -- I don't like them so much," said Derek. "Actually, I've spent enough time among Asians and even Native Americans that there are times when I don't simply dislike Caucasians as a group, but humans in general. However, as I said before there were and are individual humans whom I like."
"When did you spend time amongst Asians?" asked Stacy.
That was a long story in and of itself, so Derek explained that after the Native Americans were all put onto reservations he eventually moved to Los Angeles, where there were Chinese and Japanese people living. He began mingling with both groups, especially the Japanese since it was a chance to get to know the people from his mother's homeland. Eventually, he traveled on board a ship which was heading to Japan, arriving there in 1889. At first, he was happy spending time amongst kitsune, learning the rules of being a kitsune and gaining knowledge in general. But the Japanese were becoming imperialistic, most likely to survive the imperialistic Western nations, but this reminded Derek all too well of the treatment of Native Americans back in the United States, so he moved on to Korea and eventually to China, staying in both countries for some time.
"It ended in 1949, after World War II ended," Derek continued. "By that time, I realized that I was really alone in the world and I had to decide where my home really was. Ultimately I decided that it was back in America, so I came back here. I reconnected with my mother but by this point, I needed to reconnect with Rachel. Finally, I arrived in Maryland, where Rachel happened to be, and last year I reconnected with her."
"And you learned what she'd done over the past about 300 years or so," said Daria. "Including her time in Lawndale."
"Which is why you came here," said Stacy. "I guess you lied when you said that you came from a moderately wealthy family and you worked for awhile, so you had plenty of money."
"Yeah," Derek admitted. "I did it because I believed that your mother would be more approving if I said that. Also, at that point I wasn't ready to tell you that I was a kitsune. During the past year, I created the illusion that I was a human so I could create a fake I.D. I had determined that I was going to spend time in Lawndale for some time, so I needed to create a steady form of income and do other stuff which would ensure that I could live amongst you for a long enough time."
"Why?" asked Stacy.
Now they'd come to the heart of the matter. Derek looked directly at her as he explained, "One of the effects of realizing how alone in the world I really was learning that I didn't have a real companion. When I decided that I should return to America, I returned to Japan briefly, hoping I could persuade a kitsune there to come with me to America. That didn't work, so I decided that I had to find my companion here in America -- after I reconnected with my mother and Rachel. However, I also figured that if I found my permanent companion, that person would be a human. So I learned how to turn a person into a kitsune while I was in Japan before coming back to America."
"And after catching up with Rachel, you decided to see if you could find your companion here, in Lawndale," said Daria. "Have you found him? Or her?"
"Yes," said Derek. He looked directly at Stacy. "After our first date, I realized you were the one. However, I'm giving the final decision to you." He smiled brilliantly as he added, "I could use my powers to have you eat out of my hand, but that wouldn't be fair to you, my dear."
"Why?" asked Stacy.
"Because I wasn't lying when I told you that I'd fallen in love with you," said Derek. He meant it, too.
"How do you turn someone into a kitsune?" asked Stacy.
"Daria told you that some kitsune seduce people in order to feed on their vitality," said Derek. "If you agree to it, I'd use my powers to feed on you until you're near the point of death. Then I'd insert part of my essence into your soul and that part would merge with your soul before feeding on it until only the spirit is left. At that point, you'd be a kitsune. It would enable me to have children with a woman -- I could sleep with a woman and not get her pregnant. I'm not sure why, but that's the way it is."
"I'm afraid I'll have to think about it for awhile," said Stacy. Derek couldn't really blame her. He'd given her a lot to think about. At that point, the guy behind the counter approached their booth.
"Hey, Joey," said Stacy. She turned to Derek and explained, "This is Joey Black, one of Quinn's personal entourage of guys who'll do anything for her. Joey, this is my boyfriend, Derek Powell."
"Pleased to meet you," said Derek, extending his hand. Joey shook it. "What did you want with us?" Derek asked.
"Well, I wanted to tell you that the police called from the station," Joey explained. "They arrested Ms. Li. However, she still seems to believe that she's at Pizza Place. More important, however, she ranted about why she was there in the first place."
"Why?" asked Daria.
"Apparently, she'd come from a meeting with Superintendent Cartwright, and he'd fired her," Joey said. "For some reason, she blamed you and your mother, Daria."
Well, now I know what caused Ms. Li to come here and attack Daria, thought Derek. But he didn't know exactly why Ms. Li would blame Daria for being fired. He didn't think Daria would have any real influence on the Superintendent. So he asked, "Do you have any idea why Ms. Li would blame you for being fired as principal of Lawndale High?"
"Well, my mother and I have never been on good terms with Ms. Li," Daria said. "She tends to come up with money-making schemes so she can pay for expensive security measures, is more concerned with sports than with academics, and when she says that she wants honor and glory brought to Lawndale High, she really wants her own personal aggrandizement. Just this past school year, she dealt with a strike by bringing in a substitute teacher who was a potential pedophile (1) and she made a deal with a representative for Ultra Cola after budget cuts affected sports equipment, only to really push the soda to the point where the Lawndale Lions had to forfeit a game (2). And that doesn't include the time she brought in modeling recruiters (3), had a Medieval Faire at our school to raise money for repairs to the school library (4) and after Mr. O'Neill altered the message of a poster Jane & I made and we tried to remove the poster according to a deal we'd made with him, she overrode it and entered it in anyway, forcing us to deface it (5)! Oddly enough, when she tried to punish us for the defacement, my mother defended us."
"In other words, you've been enough of a thorn in her side that she has reason -- in her mind, at least -- to blame you for her being fired," said Derek. "She may have deserved being fired, since she sounds despotic. What was the message of the poster?"
"The poster was part of a art contest," Jane explained. "Ms. Defoe, the art teacher, wanted me to create a poster for it. I convinced Daria to help me out. After we got sick from eating too much pizza while brainstorming, Daria came up with the idea of us creating a poster of a very pretty girl looking in a mirror. Then she wrote that the girl knows she's a winner and couldn't be any thinner, but went upstairs and vomited after dinner. Ms. Defoe thought I was making fun of a girl with an eating disorder, but we were trying to suggest that she might be thin and look pretty but the thinness might come at a price. It was meant to shock people into thinking more about the focus on appearance. Unfortunately, Mr. O'Neill wanted us to alter the eating disorders part and suggest that she was thin because she barely touched dinner. We agreed to let him work on our message, but he did so by suggesting that she was thin because she watched what she ate! Because he agreed that we could withdraw our work if we didn't accept his idea, we tried to do so only to be overriden by Ms. Li."
"Maybe if you'd added a question about whether beauty was worth the price, that might've helped Ms. Defoe," said Derek. "However, it wouldn't have worked with Mr. O'Neill or Ms. Li. Stacy told me all about him and from the time I spent with him he seems overly sensitive to me. And Ms. Li seems too concerned with her image and that of the school. I can see why neither one would be happy with that kind of a message but it's probably needed, so I would've approved of it if I was either one -- with the suggestion that you make your message a little clearer by asking if beauty was worth the price."
"So you think that the equation of thinness with beauty is exaggerated?" asked Stacy.
"Probably," said Derek. "Exercise and a good diet is the best way to remain thin. However, you can go overboard in dieting and exercising. The poster would be a good reminder of that problem."
By this time, Joey had left to return to the counter. Derek heard Stacy ask, "Once we're done here, would you please take me to the road overlooking an abandoned quarry? It's also known as Lover's Lane. We can sit down on some rocks overlooking the quarry. It would be a good place for me to think over all I've learned."
"Sure," said Derek. "And meanwhile, Daria, I heard you were dating a guy named Tom Sloane. Rachel told me you had a crush on Jane's brother, Trent."
"Yeah, but about the time we first met Tom, we had to do a multimedia project and Jane suggested Trent write some music for it," Daria explained. "He didn't come through with it. Although I'd earlier begun to notice Trent's flaws, this effectively ended my crush (6). Later, I began dating Tom, but the circumstances were pretty painful for me & Jane. I won't tell you the details, but eventually we sorted it out. However, Tom got accepted into Bromwell College, an Ivy-League college and I got accepted into Raft University, and that prompted me to end my relationship with Tom (7)," Daria explained.
As they ate their pizza, they talked about other stuff, including the situation that they'd just gone through. Derek confirmed that he'd hypnotized Ms. Li into thinking she'd gone to the wrong place and sent her to the police station under the assumption that she was heading to Pizza Place. When asked if he'd break the spell, he admitted that he wasn't sure. It didn't matter to him if she remained under the spell or if he broke it, since she was a bitch and had tried to murder Daria & Jane.
He also told them that he didn't really have a last name, and just used whatever last name he could think of whenever he lived among humans. However, Derek was his first name -- or at least the name he used whenever he lived among humans ever since he learned about his past. It was his father's first name and he wanted to have a part of his father with him, at least. However, he and Rachel both had another name, given them by their mother.
"I can't give you my real name, or that of Rachel for that matter," said Derek. "No kitsune can give their real name out to humans."
"For the same reason Rumpelstiltskin found himself in trouble?" Daria asked.
"Ah, you've read fairy tales, I take it," Derek said, smiling. "Yeah. If you learn a kitsune's real name -- or any fairy's name, in general -- you can control it. And kitsune don't like being controlled -- at least, not by humans."
Eventually, they finished the pizza and Derek and Stacy got up to head to Lover's Lane. Derek hoped that Stacy's choice meant that her feelings for him were strong enough that his confession hadn't ruined it for them. But he wasn't sure.
Stacy was thinking over all she'd learned about Derek on the drive to Lover's Lane.
Derek was a gorgeous guy, but he wasn't even human. She'd fallen in love with him, but he'd lied about his wealth as well as not telling her that he was a fox in human form. However, the lie about his wealth was certainly less important than failing to tell her about his true identity.
On the other hand, Derek didn't wait for Daria & Jane to reveal the truth to Stacy but told her as soon as he could after sending Ms. Li off. And he'd saved Daria & Jane from Ms. Li. And he'd been sincere when he told her he had planned on telling her the truth about himself -- just not this soon.
And perhaps most important of all, she could somehow tell that he wasn't lying when he told her that he loved her. And she was still in love with him. Her head wasn't sure that this was such a good thing, but her heart was telling her otherwise. And thanks to her upbringing, she desperately wanted love and affection. Maybe Stacy should take a chance that a romance with Derek might be the real thing after all.
Eventually, they arrived at Lover's Lane, where they walked towards the area that overlooked the abandoned quarry. Stacy noticed that Derek seemed nervous. Perhaps he was worried about whether his confession would destroy their relationship. That reassured Stacy.
When they arrived, for a moment they stood there, facing the abandoned quarry. Then she heard Derek say, "I certainly won't be happy if you break up with me over my not telling you what I really was. But I won't be surprised." Glancing over, she could see that his hands were clenched, as if he was trying to control some strong emotion.
Stacy said, "Actually, I want to continue seeing you." Derek gazed directly at her, a hopeful look in his gorgeous face and striking eyes. "However, I think we should take it slow at first. My trust in you hasn't been destroyed, but it has been shaken, and I think it needs time to recover."
"If you're willing to continue seeing me, that's just fine with me," he replied. "I wasn't planning on going farther than kissing and embracing you for at least a month anyway. Although I'm not a jerk -- at least, not by kitsune standards -- I think it takes time for a guy or girl to see if the person they're dating is really decent or a total jerk -- or bitch. Jerks and even bitches can fake things for awhile -- ask Trent Lane, who was victimized by Rachel."
Stacy sighed in relief. "I'm glad that you're willing to take things slow."
Derek then smiled as he said, "And I'm glad you're willing to continue seeing me at all. I would be very unhappy if you did, and I don't think it's a good idea to get a kitsune unhappy -- or mad at you. But I wouldn't physically hurt you. I'd just haunt you and play some tricks on you or your parents. But that's not going to happen since we'll still be seeing each other -- albeit at a slow pace."
"So that's why your hands were clenched," she said. "Well, I'm glad I don't have to worry about the anger of a kitsune."
"I'm glad too," Derek said. "For I still love you, Stacy."
"And I still love you," she said. Derek smiled warmly, took her into his arms and kissed her.
As Stacy melted into his arms, she felt totally content and at ease. Despite the shock of learning that the man she loved hadn't told her everything, love still survived. And hopefully in time, it'll be stronger than ever.
1. Referred to in "Lucky Strike" (and also in my fanfic "Lucky Quinn.")
2. Referred to in "Fizz Ed."
3. Referred to in "This Year's Model."
4. Referred to in "Fair Enough."
5. Referred to in "Arts 'N Crass."
6. Referred to in "Jane's Addition."
7. Referred to in "Is It College Yet?"
To be continued,