Drying herself off as best she could with paper towels, she left the restaurant. Slowly walking back to her penthouse, Sora pondered over her personality flips.
I don’t understand why, but I’m not afraid of Kari anymore. Not even after seeing her power. It just made me giddy with excitement, and I couldn’t stop taunting her … Even though I wanted to stop—did I?.
Her chest felt like an anvil was being pressed against it; her stomach twisted, and a corrupted film coated her body. It almost felt like she was dying.
Turning down the street to her school, she stopped as she saw a group of girls and boys walking toward her, probably just finishing weekend practice. When they saw Sora, they grinned broadly and waved. A girl came rushing over. “I heard Kari went to the hospital with Lori … and that you were the one responsible.”
“Is that what you’ve heard?”
Sora’s lips tightened with uncertainty. Already rumors are flying around. If I get linked with that incident, then I could get in a lot of trouble and have to tell an unbelievable story.
The girl waved her hand dismissively. “You don’t have to worry about the school. It’s just a rumor spread around by the students, and everyone’s keeping it on the DL; Kari’s getting most of the heat, but everyone’s more concerned about the state the gym’s in.”
Sora smiled weakly. “Thanks,” she stated as she passed them.
That’s right. Kari and Lori aren’t angels. They’ve humiliated, bullied, and destroyed plenty of lives besides mine. Why should I feel bad about what I did? It’s been a long time coming. I didn’t start this, and Kari forced my hand; she wanted it.
Feeling a little better, she examined her clothes. First things first, I need to change.
Switching direction, she stopped by a clothing store and bought new garments and a knee-length, chiffon dress in a white and blue tie-dye style. Putting her wet clothes in a bag provided by the store, she fixed her hair in their bathroom with the combs she kept in her purse, using the hand-dryer to dry her hair.
Smiling at herself in the mirror, she nodded. That’s a lot better! I don’t even need makeup to look cute, she thought with a wink.
Looking back at her tail and ears, she imagined them vanishing, and her human ears returning. Humming with interest, she found a dazzling light surrounding them. I’m bending light to make them invisible! Everyone else won’t have a clue unless I release the illusion.
Demeanor changing, she felt her spirits rise as she left the bathroom, miasma fading. Sora spent most of the morning in shops but didn’t find anything that snagged her interest. She caught the faint scent of Aiden and Devin with several others that resembled Kari’s pack, but they were old. Lunch quickly came, and she made her way to the Italian Restaurant.
Sora frowned as she stepped onto the street to spot a large crowd; her sharp eyes scanned the group to find a good portion of Kari’s gang.
Sniffing the air, she frowned. All of them are human. I guess with the higher leadership gone, they’re trying to pull together.
Ears pricked and scanning, she found the spokesperson and smiled. Heather, trying to lead thirty-five girls. I wonder what Kari would do to her?
Heather talked lowly to the girls that had rallied to her. She sat in the middle with her boyfriend, who seemed to be enjoying the company.
Sniffing the air, Sora caught Fletcher’s scent and made her way toward him. “Fletcher, I’d like a seat.”
Smiling as he recognized her, Fletcher nodded. “Sora, you’ve become a regular customer! The usual?”
“Yeah, that would be great and an extra portion, please,” she said, sitting in the seat he guided her to, taking care to properly position her tail. Listening to the conversation outside, she hummed to herself while waiting; she knew some of the girls had spotted her.
Heather’s voice was heated as she spoke to the group, “Does anyone know what happened to Lori? Why did Kari only bring some of the group? Can anyone answer me?”
“Sorry, Heather,” Sarah whispered, “but they wouldn’t tell me. They just said to go home.”
Brianna’s eager voice spoke up, “I heard it had something to do with Sora. Olivia was swearing up and down about her.”
Heather sounded incredulous. “Sora’s a beanpole. What could she do to Lori?”
Another girl chimed in, “It might not have been Sora that hurt Lori … I think Tiffany said something about Devin and Kari’s brother.”
“But,” Brianna broke in, “I know I heard Oliva say Sora’s name.”
One of the other girls whispered in Sarah’s ear about Sora being inside the shop, making Sora giggle. She thanked Fletcher for the water he brought. “Oh, and a heads up, those girls out there don’t really like me. They may come in and try to cause a scene, but don’t worry, okay.”
Fletcher looked slightly dazed as he listened to her. “Yeah, no problem,” he said with a nod. “I won’t worry.”
Sora hummed as he left to serve another table. Did I just do something to him? I didn’t look into his eyes to hypnotize him. Was it like the bowling alley guy? It’s staying active this time, though.
Her thoughts shifted as the door opened to admit the group. Sora crossed her legs as they began to surround her table, Heather standing up to face her. “Sora! What’s going on with Kari and Lori?”
Taking a sip of her water, Sora appraised the crowd, taking a deep breath. All of them are nervous about confronting me, even with Heather’s boyfriend and a gang behind them.
She smiled as her ears picked up Fletcher, reassuring some of the staff as they gathered. “Don’t worry about it, guys. Sora said it would be fine.”
That’s pretty handy.
“Did you hear me, Freak!” Heather said, slamming both hands on her table.
Sora’s hand darted out to stabilize her water. “Careful, Heather. You don’t need to be violent. Why are you so nervous?”
Heather swallowed hard before looking at the girls around her. “Nervous—why would I be nervous?”
Sora shrugged as she leaned back to appraise her. “Beats me. Why are you nervous?” She felt threads connect to all the girls present, their emotions easily read. “Oh, you don’t want to go home because your mom brought back another guy. So sad, Heather.”
Heather’s face went scarlet. “What—what are you talking about—that’s not true!”
Sora shook her head. “No need to hide it, Heather.” Examining the emotions of the group around them, she sighed, “Most of this group already suspected it. I mean, Sarah did start the rumor; she’s feeling pretty guilty about it now.”
Heather’s eyes shifted to Sarah with disbelief. “It was you?”
Sora took a sip of her water in the ensuing silence, eyebrows lifting as she watched the live-action drama. Sarah was speechless.
“Was it?” Heather asked. Sora could feel her shields drop as her emotions became vulnerable.
Oh, this is going to hurt, and here it comes—queue the noisy attention seeker.
“It’s true,” Brianna eagerly interjected, taking a step away from Sarah as if in disgust. “She told me about it.”
“She’s the only one I told, Heather. I didn’t tell anyone else! I swear!” Sarah pleaded.
“Well, I didn’t tell anyone,” Brianna said with a huff.
Sora giggled. “Right, tell the truth, Brianna.”
Brianna scoffed. “Oh, okay, fine, yeah, it was me! I mean, it was so funny. Miss ‘perfect boyfriend’ and all. Heather, the spotless. I had to spread it around.” She suddenly looked horrified. “Wait—no, I-I didn’t.” The group stepped away from Brianna as the customers began taking an interest in the conversation. “Please—I don’t even know why I said that.”
Fletcher came bustling through, carrying Sora’s dish. “Excuse me, pardon me. Ah, here you go, Sora.”
Sora nodded. “Thanks, Fletcher.” Turning to Brianna as Fletcher returned to the back, she asked, “But is that really true, Brianna?”
Brianna’s face instantly became etched with contempt. “Of course not. I spread the rumors; I mean, I can’t stand her.” She clamped her hands over her mouth, vision shooting to Sora. “Stop it!”
Heather’s lower lips were trembling as she began to hyperventilate. Her boyfriend showed sudden concern as he put a hand on her back. “Hey, Heather, calm down, breathe!”
Sora cut a piece of her rabbit and took a bite as Sarah hugged herself defensively, staring at her. “What are you doing, Sora?”
Swallowing, Sora hummed. “I thought it would be obvious—I’m eating while watching a drama.” Turning to Heather, Sora added, “Oh, spoilers, your boyfriend’s cheating on you with Tonia behind you … he thinks she kisses better.”
“You’re a monster,” Tonia breathed in a fearful tone.
Sora nodded as she cut another piece of her rabbit. “You know … I’ve been feeling more like a monster lately. Thanks for noticing, but,” looking over at her, she huffed, “aren’t you really the monster? Being a boyfriend thief and all.”
Looking up at Heather as she began to hiccup, Sora sighed. “You’re getting a bit too worked up. Relax.” The group’s breath caught as Heather instantly calmed.
Popping another piece of rabbit into her mouth, Sora chewed and swallowed. Turning to look at Heather again, she said, “Here’s a thought—go to the nearest supermarket and balance some eggs on your nose while rethinking how you should live your life.” Everyone gasped as Heather started moving toward the door, several girls following, pleading for Heather to stop, her boyfriend close behind, spewing apologies.
The girls began to shift uncomfortably before a few started to leave but froze as Sora commanded. “No, don’t leave. I’m not done.” Fear permeated the air. “Don’t think about bullying anyone else, okay.” Her eyes shifted to each girl as she leaned back in her chair, folding her arms. “Everyone you’ve wronged, you’re going to go confess to and ask for their forgiveness.”
Humming lightly, Sora shook her head. “I won’t tell you to do whatever they say … because there are probably some that would say, go die, and we can’t have that.” Debating if there was anything else she wanted to add, she shook her head. “You don’t have to go out of state or anything, just in the area—I think that’ll do. Carry on.”
The group of girls quickly left, leaving the restaurant a buzz of low mutters. Sora paid them no mind as she finished eating; she felt more alive than ever as emotional energy enveloped her. Leaving with a hundred dollar tip, Sora made her way back to her penthouse.
This feeling is so intoxicating—the thrilling atmosphere of tension and chaos … but this isn’t me!
The thought only lasted a second before it vanished as she began skipping down the sidewalk, feeling every eye her aura attracted as she walked. The sun’s enriching glow filled her with so much energy; she felt like she was going to explode.
Getting two blocks, she couldn’t take it anymore; dumping her sandals in her bag, she zipped it up and dashed into a sprint. Turning into an alley, she threw her damp clothes into an open dumpster, leaped twenty feet to the roof, and raced along rooftops.
With the wind whipping past her hair and stimulating her ears, she could clearly distinguish between millions of different noises around her, easily associating them with their cause. Countless smells sent shivers down her spine with vivid new clarity, and her skin felt alive as air rushed past her, energizing sunlight heating her skin.
Cheering, she made her way up to taller and taller buildings. Leaping thirty feet at a time as she flew across town, she flipped around in random directions as she whipped her tail.
How can I feel this good?
Landing on a hotel balcony, she halted and realized something strange about her fingers. “I have claws!” She watched in disbelief as her fingernails extended and retracted on desire. Her fingernails grew, toes pawing against the concrete flaking away as she slowed herself. Smiling, she dug her nails in and leaned back. The vibrating sensation of vertigo filling her stomach.
Releasing her grip, she fell back, using her tail to whip into a backflip; further extending her nails, she dug into the side of the balcony below, skidding down a few inches to a stop. Readjusting her purse, she kicked off to fly back over the street, landing on a roof; she continued her run, eyes scanned everything as she leaped around the city.
Finally making it back to her hotel, she jumped up several balconies to her penthouse. Dropping into the balcony sofa, she breathed heavily, relishing the rush she felt. “This is crazy! So, I’m a Nogitsune. Does that mean Mom was a Nogitsune? If so … does Dad know? Why wouldn’t he tell me about this? Maybe he thought it was insanity to believe in this kind of stuff—I mean, I can’t wrap my head around it, and it’s happening to me!”
Sighing, she suddenly felt tired. Curling up on a sofa, she tucked her tail around her front and under her head, mind drifting with the sound of the sea.
* * *
Waking, Sora blinked blurrily and found it nighttime. She stretched, feeling wide awake as she hopped to her feet and moved to the edge of the balcony, leaving her purse by the sofa. Looking up at the sky and moon, she shivered with the energetic sensation filling her body, slightly different but just as powerful as the sun.
It’s like I just finished a full course meal.
Looking over at the spa, Sora smiled and imagined herself in the water. She wasn’t surprised to find an image of herself appear; even the water rippled as if disrupted. Shattering the illusion, the water shifted and now ran smoothly again.
I can make illusions that well, and that last until I dispel them!
Leaping up on the edge guard, she balanced dexterously on the beam. Laughing giddily, she said, “It’s just as simple as standing on solid ground. Is this how a cat moves around so elegantly?”
Nilly popped into her mind. Yeah … Nilly is different, like me. You also have that woman, Kari, and some of her gang, Aiden and Devin … even Eyia and Jin. See, I’m not alone!
Kneeling, she looked over the dim ocean view, clearly seeing the people walking across the beach. She pondered on her change. She could smell like a bloodhound, hear with acute accuracy, her sense of taste was clearly enhanced, and her sight was vastly improved; even the wind against her skin felt crisp and new.
She sniffed the air again before a hum rumbled in her throat. “I can smell some kind of difference between monsters and humans … Does that mean I’m no longer human?” A frown creased her lips. “If Nogitsune, Nekomata, Ogres, Orcs, and Fenris Wolves are real … does that mean other monsters are real too?” Sighing, she shook her head. “One problem at a time, Sora … one problem at a time.”
Flipping her tail around, Sora twisted it in a circle; a red trail of energy flew out.
That wasn’t fire … electricity? No, that was more like light.
Flicking it around again, the red light returned. Picking up the rhythm, she flicked her tail out, and a brilliant spray of red lights shot into the distance and quickly faded.
It’s like a light show or flares!
Thinking about lightning, she whipped her tail around as reddish electricity crackled around her fur; the energy left her hair bristly and feeling uncomfortable as it crackled across the air. Cutting the electricity off, she thought about foxfire and twisted her tail over the railing. A flick of red fire blazed across the sky and died. Yes … I’m a monster.
Shrugging with a smile, she flicked her tail around in circles bobbing back and forth on the railing, laughing as red lights danced across the sky. Getting bored, she dashed inside and moved into her bathroom. Turning on the mounted tablet and opening Spotify, she flipped to the Pop Rock station.
Nodding her head from side to side, she considered the mirror and began imagining herself looking different; green hair, blue, blonde, black. She played with illusions for a good hour, laughing at all the strange contortions she created. Giggling as she imagined herself having nine tails, she watched the illusion manifest; she could tell what was an illusion and what wasn’t, which took a little fun out of the experience.
Humming to herself, she raced back down the hall to the balcony and, without hesitation, jumped. Laughing as she flew across the sky, she felt time almost slow as she neared the ground. Landing with both feet, she dove sideward, flying over the street and onto the nearby shoreline, sand kicking up all around her as she skipped to a stop.
Breathing heavily, she grinned, heart pounding. “Why’d I do that? Man, but what a rush!” Ignoring the wide-eyed looks she received, she hopped back up the bank and walked to the sidewalk to stroll the streets. Playing pranks with illusions and shocking people with dazzling displays of red light, Sora continued her nighttime run.