“Oi… Lydia…” I asked stiffly.
“Yeah?” Lydia said, her face still pouty.
“Did you happen to see a ghost over there?” I pointed straight at the spirit of the foxgirl.
Lydia spun around, but then spun right back and gave me an angry growl. “M-master… you shouldn’t lie and tease me like that, you know I’m still sensitive about ghosts! If you trick me into leaving and then buy the cow girl, I might cry…”
“She’s actually a wolfgirl…” I coughed with a blush.
Lydia was growing very willful these last few days, wasn’t she? No, that wasn’t the important part. There was a ghost fox girl who now floated up to Lydia, hovering right next to her head. She pursed her lips like she was going to kiss Lydia, leaning forward towards her ear, and then she blew softly.
“Ahhhh!” Lydia’s tail shot straight out as her entire body shivered. “Actually, on second thought, I’ll wait outside…”
She turned and suddenly fled the tent. Figuro, who didn’t understand what was going on, only smiled and laughed.
“She’s grown very lively, I see.”
“Buy me…” the foxgirl whispered in my ear.
“Shh… you’re dead!”
“Then resurrect me!” She sniffed. “Hire a priest! Don’t act like you can’t!”
“Umm… sir?” Figuro was starting to notice me whispering to myself with a frown.
“Ah… sorry. Actually, my thoughts are on something else. A curiosity of mine. I saw the funeral procession outside.” I said, grimacing. “That’s the fox girl, right?”
Figuro’s expression turned somber. “Yes… it’s a shame with her. I had hoped to sell her to one of the churches, but she was too sick and no one wanted to take her on as a responsibility.”
“Isn’t resurrection possible? You have a priest on your payroll.”
“If I fixed her, it’d cost more than she is worth. Although the priest travels with me and does the identifications I need, I don’t own him. He collects profit for the church, and resurrections are especially pricey. You see, she would come back just as sick as before.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” I asked.
“Her illness wasn’t something contracted. It’s not a disease in the traditional sense. Her illness is tied to who and what she was.”
“What? You said… a 9-tailed fox? A foxkin variant?”
“Foxkin variants aren’t actually that odd. One in fifty foxes have two tails, one in a thousand can have three. A three-tailed fox is about the limit though.”
“The limit for what?”
“For when it starts affecting their health.”
As we spoke about her, the ghost lowered her head and put on a demure expression. Clearly, this topic was one that made her upset.
“You see… only one tail exists in this world. The other tails exist in the spiritual world. This makes foxes kindred to spirits. Three-tailed foxes are considered very powerful mediums, and are often employed by priests. However, they’re also outcasts. Animalkin have a sensitivity to spirits, and foxes with extra spirit tails are considered close to spirits. It unnerves animalkin, and they instinctively don’t like them.
“Some believe that foxkin with many tails attract spirits, and with it misfortune and curses. To add fuel to that prejudice, more than three fox-tails starts to damage their health. Each additional tail is another tie to the spiritual world. It’s a tie to death. You could call a seven-tailed fox a being as close to death as possible.
“But she’s a ninetail!” I said.
“Yes… and her kind will only live a sickly life until death. A six-tail could theoretically live a full life, if one full of illness and weakness. Ten-tails die upon their coming-of-age. A nine-tail like her was always bound to die quickly. Even their own kind won’t look at them. The reason she was in that cage is that only the elderly animalkin who are close to death themselves could stand to look at a living embodiment of death to their culture. If you bring her back, she’ll only die again. She is the rarest variant… and also the most useless.”
I felt a bit of bitterness and depression from his story. Her life must have been a long and sad one. How she had lived as long as she had is anyone’s guess. It must have come from sheer will. One could easily see that death was a release for her. One could see that… if they weren’t too busy looking at her ghost as she tugged on their arm.
“So… resurrect me already!” She demanded stubbornly putting her arms on her hips.
“They’re starting to burn my body!” She suddenly gasped, “You need to hurry!”
“They’re burning her?” I spoke those words unintentionally as I was reminded of this fact.
Figuro nodded. “It’s a custom among the Animalkin. They believe that unless a body is burned, it can come back as a spirit and haunt the living. For a foxkin like her so closely tied to the spirit world, they say that this is almost a certainty.”
I shot a look at the ghost floating next to me. She smiled innocently.
“Yeah… I can see that.”
“Enough chitchat!” She was starting to tear up. “It’ll be more expensive to resurrect me without my body than with my body!”
“But… my warlock… ah… darn it!” I scratched my head. “Would a 9-tailed fox, with 8 connections into the spiritual realm, would they be strong against ghosts?”
Figuro blinked. “Strong? I suppose that’s a bit of a relative term. In theory, they’d be quite deadly, but in practice, their bodies are simply too weak to be effective.”
“Please…” She said tearfully. “I definitely can help with your ghost problem! I see ghosts all the time!”
“That’s not reassuring me.” I said to the fox girl, but Figuro thought I was talking to him.
“What do you mean by that?”
“How much would it cost to buy the dead slave? Can I presume she’s… um… free?”
Figuro coughed. “You wish to resurrect her?”
“Can your priest do this for me?”
“I admit, this isn’t what I expected, but I suppose we can come to an arrangement. I’m the kind of man who likes to find a way to sell everything.
“Then, perhaps we should keep the body from being destroyed.” I suggested, the girl herself was dancing around like she herself was already on fire, and it was growing annoying.
“Ah, of course!” Figuro immediately left the tent and shouted out orders.
I followed behind, and my new ghost traveled behind me. The fire was actually pretty high around her, and she was definitely singed. They dumped large buckets of water to put out the fire.
“I know, I can smell it…” I said, covering my nose.
She had long hair originally, but flames had caught it, and now she had much shorter hair. The juxtaposition between the healthy-looking and lively spirit with nine tails and the sickly-looking dead foxgirl corpse was enough to give anyone a headache. Lydia noticed me walking out of the tent and approached.
“Master, what have you decided on?” Lydia asked, clearly still anxious over whether I was going to pick up the buxom babe.
I pointed at the corpse, still smoking as they put out the last vestiges of flame.
“Master…” Her face twisted awkwardly. “I don’t know how to say this, but you can do better.”
“Why you!” The fox spirit took a swat at her head, but her hand went through harmlessly.
Lydia shivered and spoke to herself. “Two cold spells in a day, a bad omen?”
I could only smile wryly. Lydia’s spiritual sensitivity truly was amazing, but in all the wrong ways.
Figuro came running up. “I’ve asked my priest. He’s willing to resurrect the child for a five-gold coin donation.”
“I’ve already talked him down. He usually charges ten.”
A simple-looking bald man came out and held out a can like I was giving money to the needy.
“Very well, Haggle.” I sighed, and then handed over the coins.
“You’re short some.” The bald man said, jiggling the can angrily.
“Ah… my mistake.” I put all five coins in, and then he nodded.
I guess you can’t haggle with God’s donations. Good to know.
“What does it take to become a priest?” I asked curiously as I watched him approach the body of the foxgirl.
“Devotion.” The man answered snidely.
Well, I had a passing interest in gaining the job. If I could get a few levels in it, I’d have the ability to fight ghosts. I had made sure to check with the guild, and ghosts did not have the same weakness to healing as the undead did. They were considered a phantasm or an entity, and thus harm undead was also useless. As for my Holy Circle, Sanctify Land, and Divine Aura, I suspected that they would be useful, but with out a clear weapon to kill ghosts, I didn’t want to risk it again.
“So, how do we do this?” I asked Figuro nearby.
“Once he resurrects her, most of the damage in her body will be healed. Figuro explained. “Although she’ll be incredibly weak for a while. A normal person would be able to recover from that weakness. As for a foxgirl with that number of tails, she will likely only remain conscious for a few hours, slip back into a comma and die…unless…”
“You can pay the priest to use various healing on her. Nothing will cure her, but some boosts can help her.”
“You mean, like status boosts?”
Figuro nodded. “Priests have a spell that can temporarily increase a person’s health status. If her constitution is high enough, she was start to heal. Although you’d need him to keep applying the spell if you wanted her to live.”
“What about healing spells?” I asked.
“Temporary fixes. And at the cost the priest charges, you’d go broke in a month.”
I nodded. I wasn’t worried as I didn’t exist under the same rules as these guys. First off, I had Slave Master, which I believed should increase slave status across the board. That should help. Then, I had Party Status Up with Hero, which could increase status again as long as I put her in my party. That meant, I couldn’t do white mage during that time. However, as a white mage, I could also cast curative spells. Although there were mana restrictions, it wouldn’t be difficult for me to cast them on her daily to keep her vitality up. I also had hopes of finding other useful spells in the future. Perhaps cure disease and cure curse could do something as well. I wouldn’t even pay for resurrection if I didn’t have to, except that I didn’t know if white mages ever got it, and it was a rather a high, level 20, spell for priests.
“If you have the money, I can create a tonic. My old Master created it for me. It helped me stay alive for years.” The foxgirl explained.
“What is her story anyway.” I ignored the ghost, causing her to give an irritated expression. “Is she a lifer like Lydia?”
“Actually, foxkin do not grow their spiritual tail until they mature. Those that grow an additional tail or two are considered outcasts. Over three tails, and you’re exiled from the clan. When her tails grew, she quickly grew sickly and her parents weren’t able to expel her from her home. It was then that they handed her over to me for slavery. It’s not every day you’re handed a free slave, and I hoped I could sell her and recount the costs of watching over her. To be fair, I was able to sell her to an old alchemist initially. He used her to make concoctions and help him since he was growing blind.”
“Master… died last year.” She said sadly.
“He died last year, some claim it was the foxkin curse at play, but I don’t believe in such things.” Figuro sighed. “One could consider it a miracle she lived to 17. Whatever concoction he brewed that helped her remain alive for those three years died with him. “
“Not true… but the cost isn’t something a slave merchant would offer for a sickly slave. That’s why I never told him about it. Plus… they’re only temporary, I will still eventually die.” She spoke bitterly.
“I really had hoped to find her another home. At least, allow her to die in a loving environment, but she didn’t hold out. Are you really sure you want to take on this responsibility? There are many animalkin in Chalm, and while they are more welcoming than Dioshin, she may not be welcome there.”
“I’m the town’s hero.” I said with determination. “I’ll make her welcome.”
The ghostgirl looked stun for a moment, staring at me with surprise over my bold statement. At that exact moment, the Priest raised his staff and started a chant. The girl opened her mouth as if wanting to say something to me.
She dissipated like smoke, whatever word she meant to say was lost to the wind. The color returned to her body and her eyes opened. Those eyes immediately shot to me as if she had already known exactly where I was standing. Well, she had as a ghost, but for anyone else, it was surprising, since she suddenly lunged at me, her arms wrapping around my waist. Her legs didn’t support her weight in the slightest, so she was hanging half off her bedding, close to falling.
“Master!” She cried out happily.