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A Series of Unrelated Events: Fantastic Beasts Edition by kurotsuba
Format: Short story collection
Chapter 1: The Meeting
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If losing his magical briefcase back in the United States wasn't bad enough, losing his important notes for the second edition of his bestselling book—Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them—was much, much worse.
Especially in the middle of a foreign land where he couldn't understand the language.
Newt Scamander arrived in Japan—also known as the "Land of the Rising Sun" in some books featuring this mysterious Eastern country—about a week ago. He came here via a passenger ship from the Californian harbor, after finishing the rest of his research on American magical creatures and paying Tina's sister, Queenie Goldstein, a quick visit. He was supposed to meet up with a Japanese liaison wizard going by the name of Fujino, but all the street signs were gibberish to the magizoologist. He couldn't even ask for directions from the locals, who were giving him curious glances as they passed by him.
Much of Japan was still trying to recover from its devastating destruction in the aftermath of the second muggle world war. Even though Newt knew that there was nothing he could do for the war-torn Japanese, his heart couldn't help aching at the sight of their awful living conditions. He did wanted to reconsider this visit, but Fujino told him in his letter that the best time to study this magical creature was "at the height of despair". That made Newt curious just what this beast was, the last push convincing the British wizard to come to Japan.
However, Newt didn't expect a hurricane to hit the country the very next day of his arrival. The storm left nothing but a trail of destruction in its wake; worse, it took his precious research notes with the debris around him into the air. Even if he managed to recall a few pages with a Summoning Charm, the power of nature was truly beyond the league of any magic. Of course, he didn't give up hope so easily without quick-casting a tracing spell so that he still had a way to get back his scattered notes… somehow.
Except that he didn't know where to begin his search.
Even so, he knew he had to start somewhere. Newt strolled down the rubble-filled roads with a hand in his coat pocket. The setting sun dyed the cloudy sky in clashing shades of purple and red, a beautiful sight to behold, which contrasted strongly with the current crumbling state of the town.
He didn't know where he was going. The hand in his pocket was gripping onto his wand, waiting for any reaction from the notes hidden nearby. The rows of shophouses were replaced with the wilderness as he walked further away from the suburb; the shadows around him growing darker as the night began to fall.
When Newt was sure there was no one around, he pulled out his wand and muttered, "Lumos." The tip of his wand lit up, illuminating the path before him—a flight of steps crudely carved from the rocks in the ground, with a series of ascending, red gate-like structure arching over the meandering way. He remembered that these gates were called 'torii', symbolizing the transition from the profane desires of the mortal world into the sacred land of a Shinto shrine.
Ah, there must be one nearby, maybe at the top of this hill. The Japanese believed that the purest spiritual yang energy were usually gathered at the peak of the highlands, far away from the chaotic yin that was abundant among the humans living below. The summit was also the closest gateway to the Heavens, to where the gods and goddesses the people worshiped were residing.
It was in Newt's nature to keep an open mind towards every magical creature he had come across in his life and his research, but there was something about how the Asians (like the Japanese) were devoted to the supernatural that made him respect them. It was beyond just bedtime stories to put children to sleep—they didn't just fear the creatures like how the Europeans and Americans did simply because they represented the unknown; something the humans couldn't control. The Asians had learned to accept these magical beings in their world, co-existing with them, offering each other their needs in exchange for protection and other benefits. A win-win for both sides.
As Newt climbed higher up the rocky stairs, his surroundings had become so dark that he could barely see a few steps before him, even with the wand light. His heart skipped a beat when he heard a sudden caw from above, the sound amplified by the dead stillness of the inhabited woods. The climb was also tiring the wizard out; even if he could attempt short-distance Apparation to make the climb a tad easier, he didn't dare to try in such an unfamiliar place in case he splinched a limb by accident. Furthermore, it was impertinent of him trying to cheat under the eyes of the gods waiting in the shrine at the top.
Compared to his physical agony, the eerie silence was worse. Newt's first visit to Japan to study the kappas a couple of years ago had taught him not to underestimate the magical creatures here. The Japanese took their way of the magical arts very seriously, so much so that they believed that magic was closely related to one's emotions and spiritual balance. Every person had both light and darkness inside them; one couldn't exist without the other. Finding the balance between the two opposing ends was the key to maintain order and peace, to prevent a person to stray too far from the righteous path. That was the basis of their embracing nature: understanding that there was no absolute good and bad in the world, regardless of human or creature.
If only the wizarding community in Europe and America could be as open-minded towards magical creatures as those in Asia.
Newt stopped and leaned against a torii to catch his breath. He didn't know how long he had been climbing the stairs—he couldn't even tell how long this path would stretch on before he could reach the shrine. It was almost the end of autumn and the weather was getting colder, but beads of sweat lined on the British wizard's forehead, where he wiped them off with his sleeve. At that moment, he thought he saw a flash of white before his eyes.
"Who's there?" He waved his wand around him, but the dim light from the tip did little in the pitch blackness. In fact, he felt like the darkness was swallowing his wand light, bit by bit. Then he recalled his drifting thoughts about embracing the darkness.
To his surprise, instead of experiencing blindness the moment he was plunged into the blackness, what greeted him was a shimmering, ghostly fox before his widened eyes. There was something familiar about it, but Newt was too shocked to remember.
The fox turned around and hopped up the rocky stairs, leaving a trail of blue, haunting flames behind it. The strange wisps of fire seemed to glow brighter than his wand light, bathing the shadowy forest around him in a bluish hue, while the red in the torii became black.
Newt couldn't help gaping at the sight. "Beautiful," he breathed in awe.
The aching in his legs seemed to have subdued, so he continued his climb while following the trail of cerulean flames. Each time he passed under a torii, the carved words on its two pillars glowed white. He could feel his muddled thoughts, his fear… all his negative emotions being washed away as he walked further up the steps. He felt lighter and free—like there was a strange, positive energy coursing through his body, purifying his soul from his burdens, filling him with hope and tranquility.
The narrow path began to widen, then the rockiness was soon replaced by a platform of sorts. A torii that was much larger than those he had seen along the way towered before him, guarded by two stone fox statues. Beyond the torii was an oriental structure—the shrine. The ghostly fox sat before the entrance, its tail swishing slowly behind it. It must have been waiting for him to reach here.
What intrigued Newt more was a figure standing next to the fox.
On closer look, the figure belonged to a pretty Japanese lady in a miko's attire—a white haori for the top, ending with a red hakama—who gave Newt a bow when he stopped right in front of her. "I am glad to see you safe," she said in an accented English. "It is dangerous to wander around this hill at night."
Newt returned the bow before asking, "Are you… a shrine maiden here?"
"No," the lady shook her head. "I was here for my training, and then I foresaw you coming here."
Newt's eyes traveled down to the ghostly fox next to her. "Is that…?"
"Yes, I summoned a familiar of Inari to guide you here," the lady replied, bowing once more. "This shrine is one of those that was built to worship the god of fertility, Inari."
"I'm sorry for the trouble," Newt gave the lady an apologetic smile. "I was just trying to look for the notes I've lost."
The lady raised an eyebrow, and pulled out a stack of papers from the front of her haori. "Do you mean this?"
Newt couldn't believe his eyes when he took the papers from the lady. "Yes," he gasped as he flipped through the notes. It was even arranged in order, starting from the time he was in Greece researching on ashwinders, to Iran to follow the myth about a certain white rooster. "Thank you. Thank you so much."
"You are welcome," the lady beamed at him. "You used a very interesting spell on these papers. That really helped me to find them all from the forest around here."
Newt looked up and stared at the lady. "You did mention something about summoning a god's familiar… I take it that you're an onmyoji?"
"I am surprised that you know about us," the lady exclaimed. "Yes, I am from one of the families blessed with spiritual powers from our gods to exorcise evil. I am Yuriko, from the House of Kisaragi."
"Yuriko Kisaragi," Newt echoed her name. "Pleasure to meet you."
"The pleasure is mine, too," Yuriko bowed her head. "I read some of your papers while waiting, and I am interested in your work." She looked up at the night sky. "I can feel your love for these magical creatures that you are researching on. Instead of fearing them like most people do, you sympathize with them."
Newt gave Yuriko a sideways glance. He felt extremely lucky to meet someone who could share his vision, his feelings for his field of study, through such an amazing encounter like this. "I feel that not every beast is a danger to us if we treat them correctly and with the respect they deserve," he said. "They are not detestable beings; they are our friends. They have every right to live in this world with us as much as we do."
"However, humans are not a sharing being." Newt could hear a hint of sadness in Yuriko's voice. "That is why we fight. We go to wars. We do not want to share. We want to own the things for ourselves." She squatted down to stroke the ghostly fox. Even though her slim fingers seemed to pass through it, the fox appeared to enjoy itself.
Newt chuckled. "But that's not entirely true, isn't it?" He knelt down and gazed at the fox. "This magic you're using—I think it's called 'onmyodo'—is one that's built on the connection between witches and wizards with the spirits, right? You can call forth this little one to help me because of the bond you share with it."
"You are able to follow its guide because your heart is pure," Yuriko said in a quiet voice as she looked into Newt's eyes. "The kitsunebi—foxfire—will only show the way to those who are in a real need, but taunts those whose intentions are vile. The kitsunebi may light the path for you, but it is your own will to walk down that very path."
"Hang on," Newt muttered, pulling out his wand to conjure a quill and a bottle of ink. "I need to write that down." Which made Yuriko let out soft laugh.
The conversation went on under the starry night sky, amongst the sounds of quill scratching and light-hearted laughter.
* * *
Years later, Yuriko received an owl mail from Great Britain. She was astonished at the brown-feathered bird, one that was an extremely rare sight in Japan, and it took her a minute to recollect herself to notice the parcel the bird had brought with it.
She opened the parcel to find a book inside. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Second Edition. There was a note on the cover page:
Turn to page 172.
Yuriko did as the note had said, then her eyes widen at the page. An entry about the kitsunebi that she had told a certain Caucasian man back at a shrine in the middle of the night.
At the end of the entry, there was a line that read:
Dedicated to Yuriko Kisaragi, who was the shining light that guided me out of the darkness.
Chapter 2: Once Bitten, Twice Shy
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Somewhere in New York City in the brownstone at 679 West 24th Street, a certain blond-haired witch was pacing around the second floor of the apartment, where every step was accompanied with a jitter.
Memories of the day before still felt like a dream to Queenie Goldstein. She vaguely remembered sending a letter through no-maj mail to someone (and it was her first time!), even buying the finest wine on her way home. She couldn't recall decking the house in full Christmas decorations with magic, much to the chagrin of her older sister, Tina.
"Queenie," there was no mistake to the tone of resignation in Porpentina Goldstein's voice. "You really don't remember a thing? You were acting strangely since yesterday. Are you sure you are alright?"
"I… don't know," Queenie whimpered, equally baffled. "Everything felt like a blur to me. I remember thinking about going to the bakery to try his new product and… Oh."
Now it all made sense—it all began when she had the urge to drop by Kowalski Quality Baked Goods.
Tina was clearly not amused. "Don't tell me… You are inviting Jacob here?" She walked up to Queenie, glowering at her sister in the eye. "Are you mad? The Rappaport's Law aside, you know that Mrs. Esposito doesn't allow men in the house!"
"About that…" Queenie's face broke out into a smile. "Mrs. Esposito will be away for a week. Something about visiting her relatives in California for Christmas."
"That's not my point." Tina wasn't backing down, her hands on her hips as she continued to glare at her sister. "You know there's no turning back, Queenie. It's over the moment he was oblivated in the rain—"
Queenie's eyes hardened. "No, it isn't."
"Queenie, be reasonable."
"I know where to draw the line, thank you very much," the blond witch snapped back, with a note of finality in her tone. "I've already sent him an invitation—with an order for a chocolate cake. That isn't a breach of the Rappaport's Law there, yes?"
Tina could only let out a tired sigh at her stubborn sister. She knew a losing battle when she saw one.
* * *
Jacob Kowalski arrived at the doorstep of the Goldstein's home at six o'clock sharp on Christmas Eve evening, with the cake that Queenie had ordered in a huge box decorated with red and green ribbons. Tina had a smile on her face as she invited the man into the house, but anyone who had used Legilimency on her would know that the brunette didn't like this idea. Not one bit.
Queenie had been busy in the kitchen an hour before Jacob showed up. Since she couldn't use magic in front of a no-maj later, she had to race against time to get all the food prepared as quickly as possible. It was a pretty hectic afternoon; something that the usually easygoing Queenie wouldn't like to do, but tonight was different.
She was doing this for the man she loved.
"Hello," Jacob greeted the blond witch when he reached the second floor, with a poker-face Tina bringing up the rear behind the man. "I smell something good. Did you make all this by yourself?" He pulled out a chair from the dining table (that was already filled with a lavish Christmas feast) to put down the cake box.
"Yes," Queenie breathed, beaming at Jacob. "It's not much, but I gave all my best."
"Not much, you say?" Jacob exclaimed. "This is lovely! They all look very delicious! I can't wait to dig in now."
The praise made Queenie blush, until Tina's fake cough pulled the blond witch out of her own bliss. "T-Thank you. I guess we can get started with the main course, and then we'll get to the cake."
"Of course, of course," Jacob sat down at the table. "Well, let's get started while it's still piping hot, shall we?"
* * *
Much of the dinner conversation revolved around Jacob and his bakery, about his inspirations that helped him created the monster bread series, and ideas for his upcoming cake designs. Queenie enjoyed watching him in high spirits. Peeking into his mind, her smile widened at his thoughts filled with the man's passion for pastries.
So pure, so sweet like his love for breads and cakes.
Jacob turned around, which made him notice that Queenie was staring at him. "Uh, is there something on my face?" He raised a hand to rub his chubby cheek, giving the blond witch a curious look.
"Oh, no," Queenie replied hurriedly. "I'm just happy to see that you're happy. Your smile really helps to bring out the joy in all of us."
Jacob let out a choking cough, looking at Queenie with a mixture of surprise and embarrassment. "Thanks, I… guess?"
Queenie felt a squeeze in her heart. There was so much more she wished she could tell him. "I really like your pastries," she said, locking gaze with Jacob. "There's something magical about them."
A warning glare from Tina made Queenie swallowed the rest she wanted to say. Closing her mouth, the blond witch stood up to clear the table so that they could move on to the cake that Jacob had brought.
It was a chocolate round cake that imitated the design of a tree trunk, with a huge Merry Christmas in strawberry icing written on the flat top and the side decorated with pink sugar roses. What captured the eyes of the Goldstein sisters was the miniature occamy figurine that circled around the cursive words.
"Beautiful, ain't it?" Jacob winked at the ladies. "I'm actually quite proud of this, if I've to say so myself."
Tina stared at Jacob in the eye. "Do you know what it is?"
"No," Jacob shrugged. "I had a strange dream the night after I received Queenie's letter—" he gave the blond witch a sideways glance, "—that I was in a storeroom of some kind, and there was this long, serpentine creature wreaking havoc until someone lured it into a teapot to trap it. I sketched down the design the next day I woke up. I just knew that I had to make this."
Queenie raised her eyebrows. It seemed like he might not remember the names and the finer details, but his memories of their adventure with Tina's boyfriend, Newt Scamander, was coming back bit by bit. Even so, she knew she couldn't tell him the truth.
"Oh, really? That sounds… kind of fun." She flashed a knowing smile at Tina, in which the latter returned with narrowed eyes.
The light conversation went on as they ate the cake, and Queenie brought out the classy wine she had bought days ago to go with the dessert. Jacob was in a very good mood, and soon his face began to turn beef red as drunkenness took over the man.
Queenie supported Jacob as she led him to her bedroom to let the man sober up, while Tina was left to clear up the remaining mess in the dining area. The blond witch set Jacob down slowly on her bed. "Are you alright?"
"Dis is—hic—nuthin'," Jacob slurred. He then clutched his head with a hand. "I prolly feel better after a good night's sleep."
"I can make some tea for you to ease your headache," Queenie said and stood up, but Jacob grasped her hand and pulled her back down onto the bed.
"W-Wait…" Jacob hiccuped, studying Queenie closely. "Y-You… You look familiar."
Queenie didn't say a word. She waited for Jacob to continue.
"I have a feeling…" Jacob hiccuped again. "I feel like it's not my first time here in this room. And I feel… really hot in here whenever I see you." He placed his hand on his chest. "My heart would always skip a beat each time you visited my shop… I think I'm in love with you for a long time."
Even though Queenie knew what he was going to say with her Legilimency, hearing those words coming from his mouth had a different impact than reading the thoughts off his mind. His real voice hit her harder in her heart than the whispers she could pick up from the man's thoughts.
Queenie leaned in and kissed Jacob on the lips. The latter went limp at the sudden escalation of events, too stunned to even react.
"I love you for a long time, too," she whispered into his ear. The wizarding law was the least of her worries now that she had received his confession. "And you just gave me the courage to fight till the end—to do whatever it takes so that we can truly be together."
And she kissed him again.