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So, as part of the "second chapter" of the Okami story, after you defeat Orochi, you are helped by the Priestess Rao, who is trying to recover the Fox Rods.

However, after recovering the Dragon Orb, you also find that the Water Dragon swallowed the Fox Rods. This is when you see an apparition of Rao guiding you through a shortcut back to the Imperial Palace, to visit Queen Himiko. Here, you find that Rao has been killed/possessed by the Ninetails.

When is Rao replaced by Ninetails in the storyline?

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From my own personal experience, the way this is all explained in game is a little detached, or not quite explained to a level of detail to make it obvious. However there are some pointers that could hint at what the timeline for Rao is (emphasis mine):

There are some obvious differences between the "Real Rao" and "Evil Rao" in terms of clothing: Although their outfit is mostly the same, Real Rao shows both of her eyes, but Evil Rao covers one eye with her hair to conceal the fact that she is missing an eye. Also, if Evil Rao's shown eye is closely inspected, it has a beauty mark below it.

Also, while this might be a cultural thing, when Issun interacts with a "beautiful woman", they usually appear to be shy or bashful. Whereas (Evil) Rao does not act the same way. My initial belief was that she was simply more confident, but this may be a cultural difference, and therefore it went over my head:

Oddly, Rao does not seem to notice Issun's attraction to her. This may be because she is not used to the ways of humans.

So, from this we can surmise that we never met the Real Rao - and only ever dealt with the Ninetails' impersonation of her.

Not much of the real Rao's personality is revealed due to her death before Amaterasu gets a chance to meet her, but Evil Rao's impersonation was so accurate that nobody could tell the difference.

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