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Saturday, April 16th, 2016 12:50 pm
Zootopia has not only eaten my brain, it's made me commit my first fic in a while.

This is an attempt to meld the present Zootopia with the previous collars storyline, although the method I chose to do it was inspired by Chinese ghost stories. Welcome to my brain ladies and gentlemen.

As I've only watched Zootopia once, liberties were taken in remixing the events and conversations, hopefully in fun ways.

Exorcist Blues (Wilde Spirit Remix)

Summary: In a Zootopia where animals and spirits dwell side by side, some animals turn into guardian spirits. Some go dark. Some types of animals go darker than others.

Judy Hopps should know, since she wants to be the first exorcist in a long line of rabbit mediums.

Or: A Zootopia remix in which Judy Hopps is an exorcist that specialises in hunting dark spirits.

Spoilers: Entire movie, since this is a remix
Rating: T
Genre: Gen
Warnings for: Supernatural elements, mythical beings and vague references to the Chinese Taoist religious system. Implied off-screen character death
Disclaimer: Not mine as I'm not smart enough to think of the collars storyline.

"Is it evil spirits this time Mom?"

The sheep across from Judy nearly upset the table in her panic. Only Judy's quick reflexes saved the crystal ball from being knocked off and unceremoniously reduced to shards, though she had to juggle her wooden sword to do so. She hefted the ball back up onto the table, then assured the sheep, "Don't worry. If there are you can count on me! I'm training to be an exorcist to stab any evil spirits that come our way!"

Judy's mom took a deep breath and smiled sweet as pie at her customer who was no quivering all the way to her woolly tips. "Give me a moment." Then she fixed Judy with The Look that was all Bonnie Hopps and had nothing in common with Aunt Martha's delicious pies. "Judy Hopps. What did I tell you when I agreed to let you come along with me to the fair."

"To sit quiet and not say anything to the customers or the spirits they want to talk to," said Judy, honest even if it meant trouble some time in her future. But she liked to think she was smart, so had to add, "But Mom! I was talking to you and you didn't answer so I had to - " Judy scrunched her face and sounded out the word to get it right. "Re-a-ssure her - "

Mom cut Judy's explanation short. "Where's your Great-Uncle Albert?"

"He's right here." Her Mom's guardian spirit simply stuck his head through the curtain without pushing it aside. Judy was envious. He could choose to come and go as he liked without disturbing the material world, which meant her mom just sighed and let him do what he liked. "Don't know why you need me. This one will take care of any dark spirits." He winked at Judy, which was why he was her favourite of all the ancestral spirits that hung around the Hopps home.

"You're the only ancestor who knows how to fight," Mom sighed for the few hundredth time and turned Judy around with a firm paw. "Don't let her in the tent anymore."

"Why? Is she hiding dark spirits somewhere? Let me at them!" Judy giggle as the spirit did a quick twirl around her, sending a warm comforting spring breeze spinning through the tent.

"That's just my guardian making sure everything is ok," Mom clarified to her customer, even though she was still pushing Judy towards the exit. Judy shouldered her sword and went back out through the tent flap, unable to keep her ears up any longer.

She wasn't expecting the gentle shove from Great-Uncle Albert. It wasn't a strong one, and she felt it more at the soul level than the physical. She turned to him, eyes wide. "But Great-Uncle!"

"Your mom's right. Passing messages to the departed isn't the most dangerous part of a medium's work, but any communication with spirits is finicky and requires concentration." He jabbed a finger at the crowd that was filled with the living and the departed alike. "The fair's chaotic enough as it is. You'll give your mom a headache if you keep flitting in and out like that."


"There's more fun things elsewhere in the fair. And don't go batting your pretty big eyes at me, I'm dead and immune to this stuff."

That wasn't what Great times infinity Grandma had said whenever she cooed over Judy's pretty purple eyes, but Great Uncle Albert was made of sterner stuff. Judy didn't even have the energy to keep her wooden sword from making furrows in the ground as she dragged it into the fair proper. Animals might have accepted that the dead hung around longer than necessary, but they still didn't exactly like spirits and those who associated with them to be any closer than necessary. It messed with the crops, the older folks would say.

Judy didn't think that quite right. The older folks certainly didn't seem to realise that the Hopps' farm grew their vegetables and fruits just fine regardless of the solid line of Hopps' mediums. In fact, the produce on display at the fair did little to attract Judy. She'd seen bigger and juicer in her own groves and fields.

"Most of them can't see spirits anyway," she grumbled, as she watched a woodchuck spirit gnaw on a pumpkin of a particularly superstitious neighbour. Animals could keep the more visible aspects of the spirit world away, but they couldn't keep the spirits themselves from going where they would.

Out of the corner of her eye, Judy spotted the flicker of multiple fox tails.

Judy knew she was a curious kit. Great Uncle Albert would say it with a chuckle and her Mom would say it with a sigh, but she had heard it often enough. Judy had been reading enough of the Hopps books to be curious about this many tailed fox. How had this spirit managed to stick around for so long without being encouraged to move on? Now that was a question best resolved by an exorcist.

Judy pretended she was still browsing the fruits. Spirits were best spotted out of the corner of the eye. Sure enough, Judy saw the flutter of tails again after she'd counted her seventh apple.

This time Judy was prepared enough to catch the aura stealing past her senses like a fluffy fox tail. The impression might have been too brief for other types of animals, but Judy was a rabbit. Now she knew what the spirit's aura felt like, she would be able to detect it even with the tips of her whiskers.

She left the fruits and followed the spirit through the crowds, always making sure to keep a few souls between her and the departed soul she was tracking. It was easy enough for the exorcist in training that Judy was. She made use of her current small size to take shortcuts under tables.

That was how she got her first glimpse of the fox spirit. He'd stopped at one of the tables Judy was currently under, staring at something she couldn't see from where she was. She didn't share the same interest as a fox spirit anyway. Her focus was in counting the number of fox trails. Just to be sure she counted aloud, keeping to a whisper only she could hear. "One... two.."

She wasn't expected the last number she ended up on, and so her "Nine" came out as a squeak. She clapped her hands over her mouth to hold the sound in even as her mind raced. If the number of tails was right, the fox had to be a few centuries old!

Unware of Judy's squeal of her rushing thoughts, the fox decided to make his move. In a blink, he had nabbed whatever he was after on the table and was off through the crowd.

A pursuit! The exorcists Judy had read about were always in pursuit. An dit just so happened rabbits were made for running.

But she had forgotten that just because a spirit was powerful enough to touch the material world, it didn't mean the spirit itself would become solid. The fox walked right through people in the crowd like Great-Uncle Albert had gone right through the curtain. Judy had to zig, and zag, and carry a great big wooden sword all the while.

Still Judy preserved. The exorcists she read about might be oxes or horses that hefted ceremonial swords with ease, but Judy was going to show them al.

She caught sight of the fox zipping through the back screen of a stall and stop. This was the end of the pursuit. She could sense the aura of another fox nearby. Did the fox spirit have friends? She crept forward, cautious until she could peek through the gap between where the screen was tied to the support.

The fox spirit she had spotted and a fox kit were bent over a row of fair tickets, counting their haul. Judy recognised the kit. Gideon Gray was always the last to class on account of living so far away. Dad had told her that foxes didn't have a clear understanding of ownership, which only got worse as they moved on through the reincarnation cycle. People didn't like to live near foxes that were willing to consider your belongings as their own.

But even though the spirit was pale white and Gideon was red, it was clear they were related. Great Uncle Albert had often tweaked Judy's ear in affection as the fox spirit was doing with Gideon now. The spirit had to be a Gray Ancestor. Who was Judy to interfere with what an ancestor got up to?

"Gideon Gray!" Gideon looked up from stuffing his new fair stickers with the others in his already overflowing overall pocket. Maisey stomped, sheep hooves kicking up grass. "Give that back!"

Gideon looked guilty as he shoved said tickets out of sight, but he was all swagger as he insisted, "These are all mine!"

"No they ain't! That one's got my aura on it!" Maisey would have stomped right up to Gideon if the fox spirit hadn't shoved her back.

Ancestor or not, that still wasn't right. Mind made up, Judy stepped out from her temporary shelter, sword in hand. "Stop that!"

Maisey grabbed Judy. "G-ghost! Can you see it? Does it look awful? Oh it felt awful enough when it touched me!"

Judy patted Maisey's hand but pushed her classmate behind her. "Give back the tickets!"

"I said they ain't hers! You sure have bad hearing for a bunny."

"I don't need to hear when I can see Maisey's aura on the tickets just fine. Give thme back!"

"Oh yeah? What's a bunny going to do to make me?"

Her sword swished through the air as Judy brought it down to point at the Grays.

"Fake sword for a fake exhaust," Gideon sneered.

"It's exorcist!" Maisey groaned. "You're a dummy Gideon!"

"No you!"

"Now now," Unlike Gideon who rushed his words like he would forget them if he stopped to think, the Gray ancestor had a rather lazy way of speaking, as if he was more used to the forever that spirits had. "Don't go swishing that around if you don't know what that does."

Obviously he didn't know Judy was a Hopps. Judy had gone along with her Dad when they went to the orchard on a full moon night and asked the apple tree nicely for a branch to make her sword. She knew the right way to make her sword glow, though she wasn't quite sure why she had to do it. Didn't matter. The fox spirit had shrank back like all the dark spirits did in the shows.

Judy's victory was cut short by a very solid punch to the face.

The ground was just as hard on her back, making Judy slow in pulling herself together and replaying what had happened. She'd been so distracted by the spirit that she'd forgotten about Gideon.

Who was going to punch her just as he did the first time, from the way his fist was drawn back. Frantic, Judy slapped away his hand with her sword.

She didn't see the slash, just felt the white hot soul deep pain split her face. Eyes closed, she just focused on the bits of aura that made sense through the pain.

That was why she knew the exact moment Great-Uncle Albert appeared. She opened her eyes to see him standing right in front of her.

"I ain't saying she was right to wave her sword at your boy," said Great-Uncle Albert. "But that was too far Gray."

Gray sniffed. "Which Hopps are you again?"

"The one who's going to make you feel real sorry if you don't turn around and leave while you can."

Judy didn't get to see the Grays leaving. Great-Uncle Albert and crouched down to check Judy's wound and just so happened to block her view.

"You dad will need to take a look at that."

"Yeah," Judy managed around the huge lump in her throat. "Maisey?"'

"Your cheek," Maisey blubbered. "That spirit was so mean!"

Judy didn't have anything to say to that. She just held out the tickets to Maisey.

Maisey sobbed even harder as she pulled Judy into a hug. Great-Uncle Albert tugged on his ear. "Never through I'd see the day a fox got outfoxed."

The moon was new enough to just be a sliver in the sky, which was why shoots and all the growing and green things were going into Dad's basket.

"Good thing you're just a bit of a thing, or these won't have any use on you."

Judy preferred to look at the moon and forgot about her wound. But Dad was turning her cheek so he could get a better look at it. Then he bustled about the grove as he added more things to his basket, humming all the while. That meant he was thinking.

"Jude. Jude the dude," he intoned without breaking the melody. He let the tune drop as he put on his Serious Dad voice. "Judes what did I tell you when you wanted to bring that sword this morning?"

"Whack spirits not people," Judy duly recited.

"Well that too. But the point of that sword was to keep the spirit distracted enough so you could urn like the blazes as soon as you could."

"Exorcists don't run from fights!"

"Maybe they don't. But rabbits do." Dad had gathered all he needed, and was now sorting through the various plants. "We're sensitive to everything spiritual. We can track any aura we've felt once, we can open any path as long as it's been used a spirit, and any one attack goes soul deep for us." He plucked one of the leaves he had gathered and pressed it to Judy's cheek. Immediately her wound felt nicely cool. "A dark spirit that needs an exorcist will be looking to injure worst than that."

"I'll get faster. They won't get me the next time."

"Jude, there are things that come easier to certain animals and spirits. For rabbits it's tracking. For dark spirits their stealing and all the bad things they do give them skills that make it easier for them to hurt and disturb others. If you become an exorcist, that's what you'll have to face every day."

"Dad, this is something I have to try."

"Is settling really that bad?" Dad had poured ingredients into a bowl and now pressed down with the pestle. The burst of green and growth filled the air and mixed with the moonlight. "When your Mom and I talked about being Settlers earlier, we didn't just settle for what we had. Being a Settler means stomping out the ground you're standing on and staking your claim. Making it your own and taking care of it.

That was what he was doing now as he ground the plants. He was a Hopps rabbit on Hopps ground. He had taken care of the land like his father and his father before him and so the land took care of him and his own. Judy was awfully grateful for it all as her Dad removed the first leaf and applied the newly made poultice to her face.

"There, that should take care of the worst of the aura." He rummaged in his carry bag and dug out a clean cloth, which he started to secure to Judy's face. "It'll still scar at the soul level, but you only need to worry about that after you're dead."

"Thanks Dad."

"The best thanks you can give me is not to get hurt again."

"I won't."

Dad's ears shot right up. "Really? No more exorcist stuff?'

"I'll just be fast enough that dark spirits won't ever catch me again."

His perked ears dropped. "Well. I guess that counts for something."

Judy felt the cool cloth now covering her face, then hugged her dad tight. "You're a Tryer too Dad."

Dad chuckled as he patted the top of her head. "Not a very good one. I tried but you still want to be an exorcist."

Trying had brought Judy all the way here: on a stage receiving her exorcist sword.

Even though the sword was real metal and not the wooden one she had carried around in her childhood, Judy carried the weight easily now. Academy had built her up to be a proper exorcist, and she was grateful for her training.

Over the sword, Assistant Mayor Bellwehter beamed at her. "Congratulations on joining the Zootopia Exorcist Department." The sheep might have said more, if a lion ancestor spirit hadn't nudged her out of the way. On the ancestor's tail followed the Mayor of Zootopia, Leodore Lionheart.

"Judy Hopps." As a much taller lion, he had to bend down to shake her hand. Judy slung the sword strap over her shoulder so she could shake his hand. "How does it feel to be ZED's first rabbit exorcist?"

"I'm really honoured and grateful for the chance," said Judy, as Mayor Lionheart steered her to face the cameras. His ancestor spirits that had filled the stage shifted to give them more space.

"Of course," Mayor Lionheart agreed, before saying to the reporters. "The Mammal Inclusion Initiatives gives opportunities to predator and prey, living and dead alike. I hope Judy today will be the first of many to benefit from this scheme."

Cameras flashed and Judy knew she was giving her biggest and brightest smile. This was all she had hoped for and more.

She was still buoyant as she left the stage, but was surprised when Assistant Mayor Bellwether followed. "Aren't you giving out the rest of the swords?'

"Oh it'll be much too hard for me to the swords to the others, they're so much taller. It's not as if there's any space for me up there either." Indeed Mayor Lionheart seemed to have brought his full set of ancestors with him, they now formed a backdrop to the other exorcists receiving their swords.

"I'm surprised there are so many spirits here." Other than the lions, there were many ancestors in the applauding crowd.

"More of the living in Zootopia are able to see spirits, and there's a lot more interaction between the living and departed." Bellwether looked past Judy. "Is that your family?"

"Yes Assistant Mayor. This is my father Stu Hopps and mother Bonnie Hopps. Dad, Mom, Assistant Mayor Bellwether." Handshakes were exchanged all around.

"Aren't you from that Bellwether family up in the Meadows?" Dad asked over his handshake.

"I am indeed. I gave up the family business when I went into politics. All I've got left is this bell as a memento." Bellwether showed a small hand bell to the Hopps.

"That's still a finely made bell."

"My wife's in the same line as your family. We've got us a medium, a healer and an exorcist right here. Almost sounds like the beginning of a joke."

Judy shared a look with Mom, but Bellwether just laughed along with Dad's chuckles. "That just proves how talented your family is. Oh. Oh dear." One of Mayor Lionheart's ancestors had come down from the stage and now was gesturing to Bellwether. I think I'm needed. Judy, do look me up when you get to Zootopia. Us little folk have to look out for each other."

"Thanks," Judy called after Bellwether, who had to walk faster as the lion spirit had hooked its claws into her sleeve to drag her forward.

"Good to know our sort of people are also in Zootopia. Sounds like a person you can rely on."

"Dad, she's the Assistant Mayor. She was just being friendly. I'm sure she didn't mean anything by it."

"Well there's no harm in asking her for help if you need any."

"Your Dad's right. Zootopia is far away, and you won't have us or your siblings to rely on."

"I can take care of myself." Judy gestured to the sword slung across her back. "I'm a full-fledged exorcist now."

"Who will be fighting spirits."

"Dark spirits," Judy's dad chipped in. "Remember what I said about dark spirits. They're well-versed in ways to hurt."

Judy laughed. "Mom, Dad, I am fully prepared for anything that comes my way. This sword is a sign I'm a qualified exorcist now."

"You could be even better prepared. Exorcists are allowed to have guardian spirits," Mom said. "Are you sure you don't want to ask your Great-Uncle Albert to go with?"

"Did someone call me?"

Great-Uncle Albert!" Judy put just enough pressure in her hug so Great-Uncle could feel it without Judy sliding right through him. He hugged her right back, then stepped back to get a good look at her. "That's our Judy. All grown up with a proper sword and all."

"But she could use a good guardian to watch her back," Mom pressed. "You must be tired of watching mine by now. Are you sure you aren't going to Zootopia with her?'

Great-Uncle Albert tugged on his ear. "Judy and I talked it over, yes. She's a grown woman Bonnie. Besides, after she got the better of Gray I think she ought to be fine."

"Fox spirits are especially tricky," Bonnie admitted. "But that's why you have to watch out for them. Your Dad and I made this for you." She took Judy's hand and dropped a pouch of bits and ends in it.

Judy glanced over her shoulder for foxes that she knew weren't there, but she had to be sure. "Mom! You could have hurt someone!"

"No fox is going to appear at a proper venue like this."

"Your Mom and I would be more comfortable if you kept this by you."

Judy shoved the bag in her pocket before anyone saw it. Just to be sure she started to steer her parents away from the stage. "So I hear there's going to be a big party. Is Mom going to make her carrot cake?"

"Martha said she was going to make some pies," Mom said, mind probably running through the details of the party. "Do you want a cake?'

"Why don't you talk to Aunt Martha about that? Dad, you know how Uncle Terry really gets into things. Why don't you see how he's preparing for the party?"

Parents diverted to the party, Judy allowed herself a sigh and a seat at the back of the graduation ceremony that was still continuing. She had a few classmates to cheer on. Great-Uncle Albert drifted over to hover by Judy's shoulder. "Your Dad and Mom didn't say it, but they're real proud of you too."

"I know. Coming to the ceremony and the big party after..." Judy blinked away tears and Great-Uncle Albert was really interested in the horizon. "You'll look after them for me, won't you?'

"I was fighting Commies and dealing with uppity spirits longer before you were born. Don't you go telling me what to do." He tweaked Judy's ear, then set her exorcist cap on top of her head. "You don't worry about a thing here. Enjoy yourself in Zootopia, you hear?'

Judy grinned up at him. "I will Great-Uncle."

Part 2 || Part 3 || Part 4 || Part 5 || Part 6


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