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"Kitsune" (1/3)
A Daria Fanfic by Rey T. Fox (hogg8934@uidaho.edu)

PROLOGUE

It had taken the better portion of a night, but the transition was
finally complete. There still remained work to be done, though. Getting out
of the forest was part of that. She stood up, and wobbled uneasily, still
woozy from her exertions. Still she half walked, half staggered until the
trees thinned out, then ended, and she stumbled and fell as the ground rose
somewhat sharply ahead. She got back up and realized that she had reached a
roadway. Her left side was suddenly illuminated by a white light, and she
turned to notice a pair of headlights about 100 yards away. She collapsed
again, this time on purpose. The ruse worked, because the lights began to
slow their approach and finally stopped a shot distance away from her. A good
Samaritan, she thought, always the best kind of victim. Things were looking
up already.

The lights were attached to a smallish, beat-up sedan, and the driver
was stepping out of the car. As he walked into the field of the headlights,
she finally got a good look at him. He was a young man, probably 19 or 20,
she thought. A faded green T-shirt and a pair of old gray corduroy pants
(with a hole in the knee, no less) covered his lanky frame, and his head was
topped with a nice crop of tousled black hair. Hmmm, cute, she thought, in a
strange sort of way.

"Hey, are you alright?" he asked. A nice smooth voice, too, she thought.

"Uh, yeah, I think," she answered, "I must have gotten a touch of amnesia
and wandered out into the woods. I'm coming out of it."

"Do you need a ride?"

"Well, yeah, that would be real nice, thank you. It's a bit of a walk
from here. You're going in the right direction."

"Cool. Hop on in, I'll get you home."

Not a bad pick, for the first one to come along. It must have been
predestined, or something. And there was a definite gleam in his eyes when he
said that last line. Hook, line, and sinker. She smiled as she slid into the
front seat of the car. He'll do just fine.

CHAPTER 1: Silly Love Songs

"What are the eleven herbs and spices in Kentucky Fried Chicken? And why
are they such a secret? The shocking truth, NEXT, on Sick Sad World!"

Jane Lane pushed the mute button on the remote control. Commercials
should be seen, not heard, she thought. Then she revised it: Commercials
shouldn't be seen or heard. But what can you do about it? She turned to her
left and addressed her friend, the reigning queen of cynicism, Daria
Morgendorffer.

"Well, tonight is Saturday night," she said.

"It sure is," Daria said, matter-of-factly.

"Well, aren't you planning a wild night of drunken debauchery?"

"Nah, that would require moving. And an initiative."

"Dually noted. But how about coming with me to The Zen tonight? Mystic
Spiral's doing another gig. I'm sure you'd be happy to see Trent pour out
his soul again."

There she goes, twisting the knife again, Daria thought. An unrequited
crush is bad enough without having your "best friend" know about it. Or even
worse, having that crush be your "best friend's" brother.

"I'd also be happy to see you in traction. But I'm not sure how to make
it look like an accident."

"So, now that you've delivered your empty threats, how about answering
the question?"

"Yes, I would like to go. Anything would be better than Saturday night
with the folks. Not to mention the wicked cousin, er, sister."

"Good. How about we pick you up about sevenish? Dress appropriately."

"I'll make a note of it."

"This should be a good show. Trent has been down in the basement all day
by himself. I think he might be birthing a new idea or something. In fact,
we better go down there, and see that he hasn't gotten lost in thought. It
would take days to find him."

"Gee, I dunno. I would sure like to see what ol' Colonel Sanders has
really been selling us all these years."

"Surely you could let that wait? For Trent?"

"I hate you, Lane."

They made their way down to the basement, where Trent was playing a new
tune on his guitar. Daria wasn't sure, but she could have sworn that he looked
more animated than usual. Which was no little thing for Trent.

"Hey Trent," greeted Jane.

"Hey Janey," Trent montotoned back. "Hey Daria."

"Um, hi." Daria said mutedly.

"Had any moments of inspiration yet?" asked Jane.

"As a matter of fact, I have. I'm on a roll with this new song. I just
got the first verse down. Wanna hear?"

"Lay it on us."

Trent started out with a few power chords, and progressed with the main
riff, a surprisingly upbeat one. Then he began to sing:

"I know that we have only just met,
But I can't shake this feeling that I get
When I see you smile at me,
Could it be that you've come to set me free?
With your long red hair like a copper river,
Your golden brown eyes that make me shiver,
Your sweet face is always on my mind,
What I feel must be true this time!
I believe!
I believe in love at first sight,
I believe!
I do believe it, I believe that it's right!
Oh yeah!"

Trent reached back and turned off the amplifier and looked at Jane and
Daria.

"You like?"

They just stared back at him, goggle-eyed. Trent suddenly felt strangely
naked.

"Uh, I guess it's confession time."

Jane folded her arms on her chest. "Confess away, young man!"

"I met someone."

"Judging by the song, I would guess that she's a supermodel. Or a
mind-controller."

"Nah, she's just a girl, although she could pass as a supermodel. Her
name is Rachel. I went to the 9-To-5 last night to get some Ding-Dongs, and
when I was driving by Hargrove's Woods, I saw this girl by the side of the
road, and she looked like she had walked a long way through the woods, and
was really tired. Anyway, I stopped and asked her if I could give her a ride,
and she said yes. You oughtta see her. She's a TOTAL knockout. And it's not
just that. She's nice, too, and she likes musicians."

"Yeah, a lot of them do. I don't think she could take that to the bank
with you, though."

"Come on, Janey, she's not a groupie or anything, in fact, she's never
even heard me play. Besides, I told her that we're not that big, she didn't
care. Some girls just like sensitive guys with creative talents."

"More girls than you may think, Trent. Ow!" said Jane. Daria had given
her a hard elbow to the side.

"Exactly. Not all girls are shallow. Rachel is definitely not shallow."

"Well, I'm glad to hear that, really. So's Daria." Daria elbowed her
again. "In fact, Daria seems even more playful than usual today." Daria
almost hit her in the arm, but decided that it would probably be futile.

"Well, I think I might need to get home for dinner now," said Daria.
"See you all at seven. And Trent, you might wanna bounce that idea off Jesse
before you go anywhere with it."

"Good idea," Trent replied. "See you later, Daria."

"Bye."

PART 2: Jealous Girl

Daria laid on her bed, staring at the ceiling. Her stomach felt somewhat
queasy from the combination of her father Jake's latest attempt at cooking,
and the thought of Trent with a girlfriend. Not all girls were shallow, he
had said. But guys, that seemed different. The guy that Daria had the most
respect for had just fallen for a pretty face. Just goes to show you that
you'll never get anywhere in life without a pretty face, Daria thought, I've
dropped him hints for I don't know how long, and here comes one damn redhead
with a flawless complexion, and, what did he say again? Oh yes, GOLDEN BROWN
EYES, and now all of the sudden, he's gaga. The story of my life.

Daria turned over, put her chin on the pillow, and stared straight ahead at
the padded wall, for a little variety. I suppose I shouldn't be so
judgemental, she thought, maybe this Rachel person really is a nice, sweet,
intelligent girl. Besides, why would any girl take advantage of Trent? What
would there be to gain? Other than his soul. Great, she thought, now I'm
REALLY going out of my head. Either way, she'll probably be there tonight.
I'll have to give her a thourough inspection.

As if tuned to her thoughts, the doorbell rang. Daria bolted up, and
walked quickly down the stairs. She knew she had to intercept the door from
Jake, before he could end up embarrassing Trent, and/or himself. Luckily, she
was able to get down to the door without competition. She opened the door,
and the reality of Trent's words hit her all at once. Trent was at the door,
and Rachel was at his side, with both of her arms around him, one in front,
one on back.

"Hey, Daria," Trent said, noticably chipper.

"So this is the happy couple?" asked Daria, as if it needed to be
questioned.

"Yeah, Daria, this is Rachel, Rachel, this is Daria, my little sister's
best friend."

"Hi, Daria!" said Rachel, extending the hand that was previously draped
across Trent's chest. Daria clutched it as if it were a week-dead carp and
shook gingerly. Rachel withdrew her hand and put her arm around Trent again.

"Now now, don't be shy," she said. "I won't bite." Daria was more than a
little shy, however. Rachel looked like she had just stepped off the pages of
one of her sister Quinn's Waif magazines. Only she didn't have much makeup,
her face was just naturally beautiful. Her hair did remind Daria of a river
of liquid copper, just like in the song, but perhaps more red, and with
highlights more golden. Her eyes were also remarkable, they were deep and
brown, but also strangely golden. The more Daria looked at her eyes, however,
the more she sensed a deep disquiet within herself. There was something not
right about this girl.

"Daria, who are you talking to?" Daria instantly recognized that shrill,
horridly cute voice. She turned around to see Quinn standing in the middle
of the stairs. How long she had been monitoring this conversation was unknown.

"I'm talking to a couple of friends, if it's any of your business," Daria
shot back.

"You don't have any friends," oozed Quinn, "am I missing something?"

"I won't go into all the things you are missing right now, but one of
them is the point."

Quinn was undeterred. "Hey, who's that girl?"

"Earth to Quinn, come in please, this doesn't concern you..."

Rachel piped in, "Oh Daria, don't be so mean to your sister."

"Um," Quinn stammered, "We're actually cous-"

"Sisters." Daria interrupted, pleased at the opportunity to exploit a
chink in her sister's armor.

"Hi, sister Quinn!" Rachel exclaimed. "I'm you sister's friend's
brother's...girlfriend!" She giggled about this, the sort of lilting feminine
giggle that brings men to their knees. Wonderful, thought Daria, they met
yesterday, and they're already boyfriend and girlfriend. Somebody pass me a
noose.

Naturally, by this point, the encounter was becoming a family affair.
Daria's parents, Helen and Jake stood on the far side of the living room.

"Hey, Trent, how's it hangin'?" Jake shouted, in his familiar pseudo-hip
tone.

"Um, good."

Daria decided to cut this off before it got any more embarrassing. "Um,
I think we better go now, you guys need some time to set up and do sound
checks and all that."

"Oh yeah. Uh, see you guys later."

"Goodbye, Daria, don't stay out too late!" Helen shouted, quite pleased
that Daria was getting out for a change.

"Bye, Mom," Daria said, with no particular attention paid to whether
Helen heard her or not.

"Have fun!"

"Get jiggy with it!" shouted Jake.

"Wait, Rachel, what shampoo do you use?" yelled Quinn.

"If the Mystic Spirals play too loud, just stick a couple pieces of paper
towel in-" Jake's last instruction was cut off by the slamming of the front
door.

"Now do you see why I am the way I am?" asked Daria.

CHAPTER 3: Suspicions

Once in the car, Daria tried to gather more information about this Rachel
person.

"So, uh, how long have you lived here?"

"I moved here recently after graduating from Middleton. I got an
entry-level job at Halcyon Hills, doing secretarial stuff. Kinda boring, I
would really like to get into music, somehow."

"You know," said Trent, "we could use a backup vocalist. I bet you got a
great singing voice. You could probably even take over lead vocals."

"Oh no way! I couldn't possibly steal that from you. I'm certainly not
THAT good. Besides. You look like you got stage presence."

"Yeah, I've been told that," said Trent, smugly.

"Now, now, Trent," said Jane in her matriarchal voice, "let's not let all
this attention go to your head."

"Yeah," agreed Daria, "One groupie isn't quite enough for that."

"Daria!" exclaimed Jane, surprised at Daria's gall.

"Oh, she's just joking around again," said Trent, "Daria's like our
comedian, or something."

"Um, thanks," said Daria, unsure of what to make of that remark.

****

Shortly after eight, Mystic Spiral took the stage. The Zen was in its
usual state, dark, smokey, and filled with people only slightly less grimy
than the walls. The house lights went down, the P.A. went silent, and Trent
stepped forward to address the small, but loyal crowd.

"Hey everybody. We're Mystic Spiral. If anyone has an idea for a better
name, just give it to Janey over there."

Jane was standing a ways to the right of the stage. She gave the crowd a
small wave, arched her back, and stuck out her lips, then quickly went back to
normal.

"She's our agent. And manager," Trent quipped, then turned to face
Jesse, did a short count-in, and the band burst forth into the thundering
sound of "Behind My Eyelids." The crowd mostly stood and watched, but a few
of the more dedicated fans proceeded to the front to do their strange dances.
Rachel stood off to the side with Jane and Daria and nodded her head apprecia-
tively. Daria stood motionless, but eventually started tapping her foot.

"I gotta hand it to you, Daria, you can really cut a rug!" shouted Jane
over the music.

"Yee-haw, I'm shakin' mah groove thang!" Daria yelled back, without
losing her sardonic tone.

Trent squealed into his guitar solo, periodically looking up at Rachel,
as if seeing if she was approving. Daria looked over and saw a sanguine smile
spread across Rachel's face. She looked up at Trent, and blew a kiss.
Trent's eyes grew wide, and he lost the beat momentarily, then regained it.
Daria turned and walked towards the back of the club. Jane followed her, and
the song ended.

"Daria, what's wrong?" she asked, as if she couldn't tell.

"Nothing. It was just a bit too loud up there."

"You get used to it after a while."

"I don't wanna get used to it," Daria heard herself say. Great, now I'm
pouting, she thought.

"Admit it, Daria, you're jealous."

"I'm not jealous. You know me, I'm bigger than that."

"Daria, don't be ashamed."

"Okay, so I am jealous, what's it to you?"

"I just wanna see you enjoy yourself, Daria, and since that may never
happen, I would at least like to know that you're not in the back of the room
here, beating yourself up."

"I just wish she wouldn't...it's all happening so fast."

"Relax, Daria, it might not last very long. It seems to good to be true,
so it probably is. Trent is smitten, but Rachel might just be grateful that he
helped her out, and this is how she shows her gratitude."

"You might be right. Lord knows you always are."

Jane smirked. "That's why I'm here."

"I'll be right back, I have to go to the bathroom."

"I'll wait."

Daria didn't really have to go that bad, but she felt like having a
little space, at least until she could get herself together. She stood by the
sink and pondered, as one stall was occupied, and the other had a crudely
written "Out of Order" sign duct-taped to it. She thought again about what
Jane said, and brightened up a little. It still wasn't right, though. Rachel
wasn't right, either.

Daria had never believed in Women's Intuition, but she was starting to
think that she might have been getting a touch of it. Rachel was beautiful,
but TOO beautiful to be believed. She had lovely red hair, but it was just
TOO red. And Daria didn't pour over fashion magazines like Quinn, but she
knew that it wasn't dyed. The color went all the way to the roots, for one
thing, and the highlights shimmered just a bit too much. Her eyes, however,
were the most telling thing. The color was part of that, but so were the
pupils themselves. Daria could swear that they weren't quite round, but more
elliptical. And the weirdest thing about them was the way that they dimly
reflected any light that shone into them. She could see that when Rachel was
standing by the stage.

Just then, the stall door opened, and Daria jumped. Coming out of it was
Rachel.

"Oh, hi, Daria, enjoying the show?"

"Um, yeah."

"Well, you oughtta be a little more enthusiastic."

"I try to conserve my energy for emergencies."

"Boy, you're weird, Daria."

"Yes, I am," Daria dead-panned.

"You probably get a lot of that at school."

"Yeah, when I get anything, it's usually along those lines."

"Well, anyway, I'm going to catch more of the show. Trent ROCKS, you
know that?"

"I'm aware of it."

"Bye now."

"Um, bye," said Daria as the bathroom door shut. She stepped into the
grimy stall. Upon reaching the toilet, her nose detected a odor uncommon to
the club. She bent over as close to the toilet as far as she could bring
herself, took a sniff, and winced. The toilet had a fresh, yet somewhat faint
smell that was reminiscent of skunk spray. Daria straightened up quick,
backed out of the stall, and burst from the restroom feeling queasy. There
was quite definitely something not right about this girl. And she was the
only one that noticed.

CHAPTER 4: Nudge Nudge

The next day, Daria and Jane were at their normal booth at the pizza
parlor. Daria had allowed herself to relax after last night, but some doubts
still lingered.

"So what do you suppose REALLY goes into Kentucky Fried Chicken?" asked
Jane.

"Oh, I dunno, opiates, possibly heroin. Stranger things have happened.
You do know where Coca-Cola got it's name, don't you?"

"Any idiot knows that, Daria."

"Hey Daria, I don't know. Could you tell me?" Kevin, the clueless
quarterback of Lawndale High's football team was sitting backwards in the
booth next to them, looking over the top.

"How long have you been listening to us?" asked Jane, annoyedly.

"Only since you mentioned heroin. I thought, it wouldn't be very cool if
Daria was taking heroine, so I-"

"I'm not taking heroin, Kevin, life here is enough bliss for me," said
Daria, "But anyway, Coca-Cola got its name from the cocoa beans that they get
the juice from."

"Dude, I thought that was chocolate!"

"No, they mine for that," said Jane, as if this were common knowledge.

Kevin stared into space for a second, then said, "Cool!"

"Kevvie!" called his cheerleader girlfriend, Brittany.

"Coming, Babe!" answered Kevin, and he disappeared back into his booth.

"Well, that was fun," said Daria, "Anyway, what happened with Trent last
night?"

"Well, after he dropped you off, he dropped me off."

"Then what?"

"Dunno. But this morning, he was really tired."

"So what else is new?"

"I mean really tired."

"And I mean, so what else is new?"

"I mean REALLY TIRED, nudge nudge!"

Daria choked on her pizza.

"Cool!" said Kevin. "Ouch! Hey, babe, whatter ya hittin' me for?"
Brittany just grumbled.

****

A while later, Jane and Daria were walking home.

"Daria," said Jane, "I hope that you're not making a big deal out of
this."

"Why should I? This situation has just gone from bad to worse in the
space of a night."

"Just remember what I said last night. It might just go boom-and-bust."

"And in the meantime, I'll just lock myself in my room with the life
works of Kafka."

"Daria, you do that when you're HAPPY."

Just then, they noticed Rachel across the street, walking in the opposite
direction. Well, speak of the devil, thought Daria.

"Hey, Rachel," Jane called, "What brings you 'round these parts?"

"Oh, hi, Jane! I'm just going for a stroll!" Rachel answered as she
crossed the street.

"Speaking of which, where DO you live?" asked Daria.

"In the apartment complex down the road from the 9-To-5. My apartment is
being painted during the day, so I usually meet Trent outside. You should
consider yourself lucky to have a brother like him. He really cares about
you."

"Yeah, I guess I am lucky," said Jane.

Just then, their conversation was interrupted by high-pitched barking.
The dog, a diminuitive Jack Russell terrier, was across the street, on the end
of a leash. At the other end of the leash was a face that Daria and Jane knew
all too well.

"HELLO, ladies!" shouted Upchuck, and he began to lead the dog across the
street.

"Don't you have some other nasty little business to attend to?" sighed
Jane.

"As a matter of fact, I do, and as a matter of fact, I already am. I was
just wondering if any of you three lovely ladies have a special canine
companion."

"As a matter of fact, I do," said Daria, "And as a matter of fact, he's
with me right now, trying to communicate with us, in his cute little subhuman
way."

"Well well WELL, I'm FLATTERED, but anyway, my gist is that I am
currently offering a dog-walking service to the people of this town."

"Since when did YOU have to go extra-curricular to get a little cash?"

"Since I decided to upgrade my prehistoric Macintosh. Besides, my dad
had to earn every penny of his fortune, so it's only fair that I should do
likewise."

"Couldn't nag the old man into a handout, huh?"

"No," said Upchuck, resignedly, "Anyway, how about it?"

"Huh?" shouted Daria over the noise of the dog. By this time, the little
terrier's yapping was getting truly savage, and it seemed to be directing its
fury at Rachel. Rachel was backing away from it, and she had suddenly grown
rather pale.

"Hey, Upchuck, call off your hellhound now!" Jane growled. "Rachel, are
you all right?"

"Uh, yeah, I'm fine," Rachel stammered.

"Suit yourselves," said Upchuck, "Come on, boy, lets go, don't scare the
poor fox-I mean lady. Come on now, come on..."

Even as the dog was pulled away, it still shot glances and little yaps
back in their direction, as if to say, "This is FAR from over, baby." Rachel
was still breathing hard.

"Are you afraid of dogs?" asked Jane, sympathetically.

"Don't like 'em," panted Rachel, "It's a phobia, I guess, they just...I
just don't trust them. It seems like...they don't like me."

"That's okay. I'll make sure that little turd never comes near you with
any mutts. Well, we're heading home, take care."

"You too."

It was true, thought Daria, that dog sure seemed to have a bone to pick
with her personally. Daria suddenly froze. There's that feeling again, she
thought. Could it be that animals could sense evil? Nah, that was silly.
But she still felt uneasy about it.


CHAPTER 5: The Stranger

Another day passed uneventfully, and Daria found herself back at school.
It was lunchtime, and the sun was warm and pleasant. Many of the students
were socializing in the field in front of Lawndale High School. Daria was
sitting by herself near the parking lot, when a familiar beat-up sedan pulled
up. Trent stuck his head out the window and greeted Daria.

"Hey, whassup?" His eyelids were hooded, and he looked like he could fall
asleep at any moment. Sheesh, thought Daria, he's usually at least somewhat
alert when he's behind the wheel. Well, hopefully if he nods off, Rachel will
wake him up. Rachel waved at Daria from the passenger seat.

"Uh, not much, I'm at school."

"Where's Janey?"

"She's doing make-up work in Math class. Trying to keep that straight-C
average."

"Aw, darn, I wanted to say hi. Me and Rachel did."

"Well, she won't be getting out of there today."

"Okay, later then."

"Hey Trent," said Rachel, "Lets go get something to eat."

"Anything you say, Rache."

Rachel giggled. Then Daria noticed Rachel smile at Trent. An icy chill
ran down Daria's spine. That smile, she thought, why did it look so...
predatory? And did her canine teeth look just a bit too sharp? Trent sped
off, leaving Daria back in his dust with her worries.

"Damn it," she said out loud, "That girl just...isn't...right!"

"I know what you mean."

"What?" Daria whirled around to face this unexpected guest. She was a
dyed-black-haired girl, with black clothes, black eyeliner, and a single
fishnet glove over her left hand.

"I said, I know what you mean," Andrea answered calmly, "She isn't
right."

TO BE CONTINUED...