First chapter, y'all, hot off the keyboard.
The lion-dogs were playing in the clearing when Kini arrived at the shrine. The two rock-gray puppies tumbled through the drifts of early autumn leaves, more intent on chasing a red-winged flit than paying Kini any mind. Their thick curly manes were tangled with sticks and bits of leaves, and their pink tongues lolled. They weren’t much higher than her knees, about the size of small stone guardians.
That seemed fitting. It was a rather small shrine, after all.
Well, then. Her sister had said if the dogs were around, then the huokei would be, too. Kini shuffled through the rain-damp leaves, kicking them aside to find the stepping stones that marked the proper path. The shrine itself wasn't much bigger than the moss-eaten idol it housed, and it listed precariously to one side. Its roof-shingles were green from weeds taken root, and the carved doors hung askew on their rotting wooden hinges.
Behind and to one side lay the monk-house, now a jumble of rotting wood and broken roof-tiles. In the clearing's other corner stood the mountain-god’s home, a fancy term for little more than a hut on stilts. In Sizija, it was a mansion in its own right, three rooms only ever seen by the mountain-god and its attendants. Here, it was one room, maybe not even big enough for one person to sleep. No wonder the mountain-god had been so happy to move to the big shrine.
Huokei were shy, preferred solitude, and would play nasty tricks if they felt disrespected, but this huokei had been injured. The big shrine at Sizija would've given it proper hospitality, but that was two miles away. The two rooms in their house were already crammed with five children and three adults, so that wasn't an option, either. The only choice left was this forgotten shrine-yard, with the benefit that it was closer to where Sozu found the huokei. To Kini's mind, though, the shrine's solitude lay solely in being abandoned. She wasn't sure it qualified as being respectful to offer what no one else wanted.