"Sure, she's a little scary — but less than most other witches are. No, I wouldn't trust her as far as I could throw her. But Evergreen's well-known in these parts for solving peoples' problems, at a price... and you'd better be clear on what her prices are before you go about paying them."
Name: Tanuki (pl. tanuki)
Sexes: Male, Female, Hermaphrodite
Height: Usually ranges from 5'2" to 6'
Weight: These raccoon-like people tend to be plump and curvaceous, with common weights ranging from 140 to 200lbs.
Skin: Although individual color palette varies, tanuki are covered from head to toe in brown fur, with a "mask" of darker coloration about their eyes and ringed stripes encircling their tails. Half-Tanuki are mostly devoid of fur save for on their ears, tails, and possibly their lower limbs.
Hair: Generally comes in earthy and dark colors. Brown is the most common to match their fur patterning, but colors of autumn leaves are known to occur in some clans, including yellow, dark red, and even deep green.
Eyes: Brown, green, and red are the most common.
Ears: Small, round animalistic ears sit atop their heads.
Lifespan: 70-100 years.
Maturity: 18 years.
Tanuki are a race of beast-kin who form the greatest share of the Old Country's population. Possessed of bodies that tend to the portly and chubby, with some of their number using that heft to become curvaceous and voluptuous, they're stereotypically easy-going and good-natured to match their appearances. Muzzles sit upon cheerful visages graced with small, round ears, and black lips. While their hands are more human-like as opposed to paw-like, they nevertheless are covered in fine brown fur like the rest of their person. The same goes for their legs and feet, although their fur thins out along their extremities.
While not typically obese, thick thighs, plump buttocks, and a bit of a belly are considered attractive for all sexes, as not needing to engage in manual labour and having plenty to eat is a mark of status and affluence amongst the tanuki. A tail that is thin at the base and plushes out towards the end is also, for some reason, considered a mark of beauty for females and hermaphrodites.
Tanuki naturally come in three sexes: males, females, and hermaphrodites, the last of which are the most common. Feminine tanuki are noted for having some of the largest breasts in the Old Country. Male and hermaphrodite tanuki have canid-shaped knotted members, usually ranging from five to ten inches in length. Around the time they reach maturity, male and hermaphrodite tanuki develop their race's most notable trait: their testicles will expand over time with stored seed, expanding to ridiculous degrees — if left unattended, the weight and size of their balls can easily immobilise an individual. This trait, known colloquially as "'nuki nuts" among Old Country peasants, is legendary among those with contact with the tanuki race. This trait is nowhere near as exaggerated in half-tanuki, but can be induced via alchemical substances. Like their kitsune brethren, tanuki have certain innate affinities for magic and related fields of study, and have taken to those with gusto over the generations.
Because Tanuki do not breed true, half-tanuki have started to appear in greater numbers in the wake of the Godswar. Belhar's abortive attempt to draw the Old Country into the ranks of its many imperial provinces — fortunately cut short by the outbreak of the Godswar back across the ocean — led to the would-be invaders and colonists being housed on a handful of as-yet unsettled islands on the Old Country's periphery. Cordial interactions with their provincial neighbours led inevitably to romance, and eventually half-breeds with elves and humans — known locally as hafus in their tongue — surfaced after a generation or two. Half-tanuki generally retain much of their humanoid appearance, but bear the round ears and ringed tail of their more animalistic ancestors, and depending on the amount of tanuki blood in them, may have fur about their hands and feet up to the elbows and knees. Unlike full-blooded tanuki, natural hermaphrodites are not the dominant sex amongst the half-bloods, but are roughly equal with the other two. Two and a half centuries after the Godswar's end and most of the original human and elven settlers have left behind half-tanuki descendants; relatively few pure-bred Belharans remain. As the local saying goes, with enough refinement even a mixture can become something with a unique identity in its own right. Now, there are true-breeding communes entirely of half-tanuki across the Old Country's outer islands.
Tanuki are the most populous race in the islands of the Old Country, and the reason for that is clear: they like sex quite a lot. Perhaps owing to the males and hermaphrodites' need to ejaculate on a regular basis or risk encumbrance, they're considerably more relaxed about matters of a sexual nature than the other peoples of these islands.
While the practice of yobai originated with the kitsune and the need to sate their ever-gnawing hunger, the tanuki took to these night-time booty calls with gusto and soon were the prominent practitioners of this custom. Slipping into the bedrooms of unmarried women and hermaphrodites under cover of night, single tanuki men and other hermaphrodites would proposition the other party for sex. The deed lasts through the night, and the visitor departs by daybreak. While details vary from province to province, yobai was — and in some places, still is — the primary means through which tanuki effected courtship with one another, and sometimes even other peoples. If pregnancy resulted from the bout of night crawling, intentional or otherwise, the couple would be obligated to marry and take each other as consorts. This custom, certainly, came as somewhat of a shock to the Belharan sailors at first.
That being aside, once pregnancy takes hold in a female or hermaphrodite, it lasts for roughly six months before anywhere between one to three 'nuki kits are born. Pregnant women and herms may slim down slightly over the duration as a side-effect of producing chubby kits; the effects are not permanent, though, and plenty of good food is often recommended as a preventive measure. It's certainly an excuse for them to eat better than they usually do regardless of necessity, and local customs of gifting expectant mothers food considered rich or nourishing exist in several provinces.
Ever since the dawn of their earliest oral histories, the fates of the tanuki and kitsune peoples have been joined at the hip. As the legends go, after having received divine mandate to rule the island chain that would eventually become the Old Country, the first emperor and his court went and recruited this chubby, good-natured and above all, populous race of beast-kin as the first in their nascent empire. The accords and negotiations between these two clever and tricksy peoples were thorough and exacting, and a copy is still enshrined today as a reminder of the bond between these two peoples. With the foxes providing leadership and oversight and the raccoons providing numbers and their own down-to-earth perspectives, the two races quickly swept across much of the land from north to south, subjugating the other native peoples of the islands and establishing their unquestioned dominion over the land.
With the tanukis' side of the bargain now complete, it was time for the kitsune to keep theirs, which they did and more. Comprising a third to two-fifths of the population, tanuki have since then enjoyed comparatively privileged, middle-class positions in society: craftsmen, educated professionals, mundane engineers and architects, civil servants and small entrepreneurs. Merchant is a profession which would be notably lacking to a Belharan observer — merchants are considered to be folk of ill-repute, dishonest and of low social status, and thus tanuki are more than content to leave such shameful work to other peoples despite the considerable material wealth to be accrued.
Of course, certain walks of life are still barred to tanuki; religious callings are exclusively the province of kitsune, not just because the Trickster should be represented by his own beloved but also because all major shrines dedicated to worship of the Seven are controlled by one family of foxes or the other. Hereditary positions in government, too, are denied to tanuki for obvious reasons, as are senior positions in the various ministries even if they are filled by appointment by the emperor's court.
All in all, though, the rule of the Cherry Blossom Throne has been kind to the tanuki as a people over the millenia, which is more than can be said of some of the other races thusly ruled. A common comedic routine employed by street performers in the Old Country is to have a kitsune encounter some problem which stumps them. Their tanuki friend comes along and makes an observation that in retrospect, should have been obvious, but the kitsune's mind is unable to perceive; with this insight and the fox's ingenuity, the problem is soon solved to the benefit of both parties. While it may be played for laughs, it nevertheless highlights the nature of the relationship between the two peoples. It is not perfect — nothing is — but it is good enough to have lasted this long, and where it fails it is antifragile in nature.
Society and Culture
The vast bulk of tanuki take their social cues from kitsune when it comes to etiquette and culture. Those who enter public and professional circles with their foxen rulers are obligated to do as they do; tanuki in this league are comprised of retainers to kitsune lieges, civil servants, lesser officials, craftsmen who enjoy patronage from nobles, and the like. Since these positions bring with them a considerable degree of social status, many try to hold to the behaviours and mannerisms of kitsune etiquette in public as a mark of refinement. Relationships between kitsune and tanuki are tightly bound by laws and traditions spoken and unspoken in how one should approach the other, what one can expect from such interactions, and what the desirable outcome should be. Both peoples suffer from the demands of their nature — one to feed upon the other to sate their insidious hunger, and the other with the need of periodic and voluminous release. These traditions which govern their interactions allow both parties to fulfil their needs safely, and provide for redress should the unfortunate occur.
Amongst their own in relaxed settings, though, tanuki are much more informal and gregarious: their friendly nature emerges amongst those they are familiar with, or who are of lower social position than them. This duality has led to the concept of having a "public face" and "private face" amongst these raccoon-people, and can be shocking to people from other cultures who are used to being more forthright and direct in their dealings. Where kitsune are expected to be refined and elegant even in their personal dealings when no one is watching, Tanuki have no compunction about hanging up their public face like a coat and adopting what can seem like an entirely new persona when in comfortable settings.
What they like to do in such a setting, and do as much as possible, is sex. Males, females, hermaphrodites — they enjoy it a lot, and would do a lot more of it if not for the demands of not just kitsune, but the other peoples they live with. Tanuki social mores regarding sex are considerably looser than what might be considered average for the remainder of the nation, and doubly so when it comes to settlements and villages where they constitute the entirety of the population and don't need to account for others' sensibilities. Family structure is built around extended families, several generations of which may live under the same roof, while the house itself has perhaps been in the family for generations. While they don't observe clan ties as strictly as the kitsune do — any of the twelve kitsune den mothers could theoretically ask anything of anyone bearing her clan name, from the highest aristocrat to the lowliest peasant — they certainly take joy in having large families, which naturally come as a consequence of just how much sex there is to go around. Without the need for other sapient peoples to feed upon, tanuki are willing to expand as far as their resources and ingenuity are willing to take them — thus cementing their numerical dominance over the other peoples of their lands.
Education is viewed highly favourably amongst the tanuki, although the general appreciation of such is less of the love of learning in and of itself, and more of the opportunities that being educated brings — this is cemented in the Imperial Examinations which are held every three years at the capital, from which individuals are picked to fill vacant low-level posts in the civil service. Although theoretically open to every subject of the Cherry Blossom Throne, in practice it's usually the tanuki who have received the learning required to have a fighting chance at the examinations to begin with. The vast majority of the simpler white-collar jobs are held by them, and a few notable individuals have historically risen as high as provincial and prefectural governors by impressing their foxen overlords.
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