Scaling her hotel’s balconies, Sora landed back in her penthouse and went inside to plop into a couch. Scratching the base of her right ear, she growled in frustration. “Three years, I’ve been doing everything I could think of to get away from Kari. I hated and feared her and everyone in her pack. Now … I don’t really care, everything they’ve done, all the horrible things. I just … don’t care.”
Sliding to her back, she stared up at the ceiling, flicking her tail back and forth in the air. “I’ve searched for a direction to run, for something—anything to get away. Now … nothing bothers me; I just feel like … living. Not planning, but living in the present—the moment.”
Biting her lower lip, Sora hummed deep in her throat. “But is that really alright? It’s just not me. I mean … I’ve been skipping school lately … which isn’t that big of a deal. I’m ahead of most students anyways. I’m not afraid of Kari anymore, and after hearing what Aiden said … I’m not exactly sad either. I just don’t care. I don’t understand how I can just wash away feelings like this—it’s scary—mm, but I feel fine?”
Licking her lips, she pursed them to the right. This has to be part of my transformation. I haven’t felt any physical changes since yesterday. Has that stage stopped, and now it’s all emotional? Nilly said that nine is an important number for foxes, and it did start nine days before my birthday. So, in correlation … I’ll change somehow further in the next four days.
Jumping off the couch, she moved to the balcony and spread her arms wide as she walked to an open section, the sky filling her with energy. For some reason, the sky gives me a warm sensation … actually, not even that, it’s more energizing—full … satisfied? Another effect of a fox spirit … but I’m not a spirit? What is a spirit?
Tilting her head and glaring down at the beach, Sora’s arms rested on the guard, the back of her hands supporting her chin as she slid into partial splits. Aiden was confused too. Obviously, that’s an important clue to my enhanced fox abilities and possibly my transformation. Yet, only Nilly commented on the nine days?
Stopping in thought, she mumbled. “No, Jin was pondering something when I told her. Does she know something?”
She felt alone while following a few boats in the distance with her eyes; she wanted to talk to someone about her crazy life. It’s Saturday … Wendy should still be up … her mom, though…
Taking a deep breath to relieve some tension, she closed her eyes, trying to shut out the world. I do need someone to talk to. Monday’s too far away to meet with Mary, and I don’t feel like calling her either … I just need to speak with someone about this … No, I want to talk to Wendy.
Resolving herself, Sora opened her eyes and turned back to stare at the front room door. I could have a staff member drive me there … I don’t want to deal with Ron’s questions, though…
Deciding it would be quicker to run there anyway, she hopped down the balconies of her hotel and ran across the rooftops, cloaking herself with illusions.
She made her way to Normandy Island, branching to 72nd Street, before reaching Wendy’s apartment on Rue Granville. Wendy’s mom rented a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment. She lived on the right side of the second floor, just as you went up the stairs.
Sora noted a few boys hanging out near a car with an open hood in the parking lot when she neared. With her illusions active, they didn’t even glance her way as she went up the stairs. Taking a deep breath, she knocked on the door and released all her illusions, except for her tail and ears.
Please, let me in…
The air in her lungs froze as she heard and felt footsteps coming to the door, her ears twitching nervously. A slightly obese brown-haired woman in her forties opened the door; Sora’s eyes were instantly drawn to the coconut rum bottle in her right hand as she leaned against the door frame.
She didn’t seem to be too drunk because her speech seemed normal, but Sora smelled the alcohol on her breath. “Well, if it isn’t Sora,” she stated dully.
Sora cleared her throat. I should probably go with Ms. Elise instead of Jane. “Ehm, hi, Ms. Elise. Is Wendy home?”
“Yeah,” she stated.
The silence stretched for a few seconds, making Sora swallow uncomfortably under the woman’s cold glare. “Can—can I see her?”
Making a popping sound with her tongue, Jane hummed. “Well—Wendy has an early job tomorrow. She’s getting ready for bed.”
Sora sucked on her lower lip for a moment, staring at the wall. Does Wendy have another job besides working as a school janitor? Just how much free time does her mom give her? It just doesn’t seem fair.
“So, I think you’d better come back another time,” Jane said as she began to close the door.
I tried it the easy way. “Stop,” Sora commanded. Jane’s muscles tensed as the door came to a halt, halfway closed. “Let me in.” The door opened to show Jane’s confused face.
“Come in,” Jane gestured, clearly shocked at her own words.
Walking inside, Sora saw the bathroom light on and heard a blow dryer running. She must have taken a shower before bed.
Sora apprehensively turned to the woman. “Go sit down at the table … quietly.”
Jane complied, looking a little scared. She set the bottle of rum on the table, fingers white and shaking.
Closing the door, Sora went to sit across from her and crossed her legs, feeling more in control. “You don’t have to be scared. Act a little more courteously towards me, and you can speak freely.”
Jane swallowed hard, showing confusion. “What … what are you doing to me?”
Sora leaned back and hummed thoughtfully. “Honestly, I don’t know. If I want someone to do something, then I can make them do it. Another interesting thing I can do is feel your emotions.” Applying an emotional tether to Jane, she sighed. “Which is how I know you hate me, literally hate me. Why? Why can’t Wendy be my friend?”
Jane’s features creased in a manner that said she didn’t want to speak but spoke nonetheless. “You’re rich. You don’t have to worry about anything. You’re a terrible influence on my daughter—giving her unrealistic expectations, you were teaching her things she’ll never be able to experience once she grew up—something I never experienced. She went on vacations with you to Tahiti while I’m stuck working a nine-to-five every day.
“You live in a penthouse with a private five-star restaurant; you don’t even have to go out to eat or even attend school if you really wanted to. Any problems you have fixed with a snap of your solid diamond wand—staff on call to your every whim. Privacy and protection, there’s nothing you don’t have, and I want that, and if I can’t have it, my daughter can’t. She’ll know what it’s like to live in this rotten world.”
“That’s enough,” Sora said with disdain, making Jane snap her mouth shut. Biting at the skin on her lip, Sora felt a little heated. “You have no idea—my life is anything but perfect.”
Sora could feel Jane’s sneering disbelief hit her like a truck; the spiteful and envious woman’s emotions told her everything. It actually hurt in her chest, and she had to fight back tears. I don’t want someone … Do other people feel this way about me at school? It’s suffocating.
A shocking revelation hit her as Wendy came out of the bathroom that made her cut the emotional link with Jane, her skin crawling.
Wendy seemed stunned as she saw Sora at the table with her mother. “Sora? Why are you here this late?”
Sora couldn’t answer as she stared at Jane in disbelief. How can a mother hate their child this much? Why … why does Jane hate—despise her daughter? No … I know why, but how—how can she envy her youth and want to take that away from her? She wants to make Wendy’s life … I dreamed of having a loving mother, but this … this is just wrong.
“Yes,” Jane asked politely, but Sora knew the emotions underneath. “Why are you here this late?”
Clearing her throat and regaining control of her emotions, Sora licked her lips, vision shifting from Wendy to Jane. Making up her mind with a heavy sigh, Sora asked, “Could I have a private talk with Wendy?”
“Oh, but I’d really love to sit and chat with you girls,” Jane stated, eyes burning.
Sora’s jaw locked for a moment in frustration. She added a little more force to her voice while trying to remain calm. “I would like to talk with Wendy alone. I’m sure you’ll agree.”
Jane’s face showed anything but agreement. Her voice didn’t show the emotions she was expressing, which made Wendy’s face go white. “Of course. You girls have a wonderful talk—in private. I’ll go outside, where I can’t listen.”
“Thank you,” Sora sighed heavily, “it would be best if you stayed close enough so I can find you when we are finished.”
“Your … wish i-is my … command,” she politely breathed, but with significant pauses. She made Wendy flinch as she slapped the door on her way out, making the walls shake.
Sora rested her elbows on the table and cupped her cheeks, massaging between her eyes. “I’m really sorry about that.”
“Wh-What happened to my mom?” Wendy asked, sheet white as she stared at the door, rubbing her shoulder nervously.
“You might want to take a seat,” Sora advised, leaning back.
Nodding, Wendy moved to sit across from Sora, taking her mother’s seat.
Sora stood and walked a little ways from the table. “I—umm, I guess the best way is to rip the band-aid off.” She released her illusions on her ears and tail.
Wendy’s eyes came together in question and then opened with shock. “You—where—did you just magically gain a tail and ears?”
“Actually,” Sora shrugged with a nod, “yes.”
“You’re serious?” Wendy questioned tentatively.
“I guess seeing is believing.” Sora applied the illusion and removed it several times. “They aren’t actually disappearing, but I’m making illusions, so it looks that way. I can even be completely invisible, see?” she stated, vanishing from Wendy’s eyes.
Breathing out a long breath, Wendy ran a hand through her hair. “I—how?”
“I’m a Nogitsune—surprise,” she said with a forced smile.
“What’s a Nogitsune?”
Releasing all the illusions, Sora retook her seat. “In other words, I’m turning into a fox monster spirit thing … It started on the ninth day before my birthday—when all my hair spontaneously grew back—and has been getting worse every night.”
Wendy took a deep breath, taking a moment to process her words, eyes flipping between her tail and ears.
“You can touch them if you want to make sure … They are real.”
Getting up, Wendy slowly inched forward and poked at her ear, making it twitch. Sora brought up her tail for her to stroke and hold. “It’s so soft,” Wendy whispered.
“It keeps my hands warm at night,” Sora noted with a light laugh.
Nodding, Wendy moved to sit back down, dropping heavily in the chair. “So, you have magic powers then?”
Sora nodded. “I guess you could call it that.” Deciding not to tell her about Kari and any other monster she’d met recently, she explained her powers. “So far, I can shoot fire, electricity, and light out of my tail, make realistic illusions, hypnotize people, link emotions—understanding someone’s feelings—even force feelings it seems to some extent, and, uh, brainwash I think to a certain extent. I can also feed people illusions, like make their mind think something is there when it’s not, not just visual illusions with light.”
Wendy’s coloring face whitened again. “Did you—to my mom?”
Sucking on the corner of her lip for a moment, Sora averted eye contact. “I guess, um, yeah, I did … she wasn’t going to let me in, and I really wanted to talk to you about this.”
“Will she be okay?” Wendy asked with genuine concern in her voice.
“So far everyone’s gone back to normal once I tell them they’re free. It seems like there are different levels to my … brainwashing…”
That isn’t a really flattering word … I need to come up with something a little softer sounding.
“Your mom really hates me … like, really hates me…”
I can’t tell her her mom’s real feelings about her … I couldn’t handle it if I found out my mom felt that way about me.
“You also linked emotions with my mom?” Wendy softly asked. Sora’s vision shifted to Wendy with concern at her tone. “Are you doing any of that with me?”
“No,” Sora quickly replied. “I wouldn’t do that to you.”
Wendy looked at the floor, rubbing her shoulder again. “This is—a lot to take in. I don’t know how I feel about it…”
Sora was about to suggest that she could read her emotions and tell her what they were but stopped as she realized what Wendy was really saying. She doesn’t want to hurt me, she’s scared of me … or maybe she’s afraid of how I’ll respond.
Trying to put on a convincing smile, Sora nodded. “I get it; you’ll need time to process this. I mean, finding out monsters are real … not that I’m a monster—just turning into one…” She trailed off while staring down at the table. “I’ll go—give you some time to think. Call me when you—when your mind clears. I know this is a lot to dump on your plate.”
She got up and started walking to the door but hesitated as Wendy asked, “My mom, she’ll…”
Swallowing nervously, Sora tried showing a reassuring smile. “I’ll tell her she’s free.”
Leaving through the door while applying her illusions, she took one last look at Wendy before closing it; she looked unquieted. Feeling disheartened, Sora looked across the second-story railing to find Jane leaning against it, drinking from the bottle.
“Finished with my daughter?” Jane asked, sniffing sharply before taking another swig. “Hmh—what are you?” she wondered, scratching above her eye.
“Don’t worry about it—eh, after I leave, go back to normal, but don’t punish your daughter. You hear me?” Sora asked with dark feelings touching her tone.
“Yup,” Jane stated, mocking a salute. “If I were able, I’d call someone a monster, but that’s not polite. So, I’ll wish you a lovely ride home, and I hope a car doesn’t hit you, or you get kidnapped, but that can’t happen because you’d just tell them to kill themselves, right?”
Sora’s nose was twisted with disgust. “You gave birth to Wendy … how can a mother feel that way … know what, I don’t want to know. Just don’t punish or harm Wendy, and you can do whatever you want.”
Jane clicked her tongue with an uplifted expression. “And look at that. I can now call you a monster—a freak—the devil…”
Sora left as she began shrieking curses after her. Wendy’s scared of me … she has a right to be, though…
Sora backtracked her steps to her apartment, slowly this time. Leaping up her hotel’s balconies, she went up to her room with hollow eyes. It’s obvious I’m not human anymore … if I ever really was, and real monsters have called me a Nogitsune. It’s the only clue I have, yet am I actually a full-blooded monster, or am I transforming into one for another reason? Nothing online was very helpful; sure, it said I had some abilities, but nothing was consistent with my transformation.
Eyes flicking to her computer, she took it to her bed and opened a browser, typing: sixteen, Nogitsune. The results showed nothing related to answer her queries.
Thinking again, she typed in: Nogitsune, nine days.
She growled as no information popped up. “Why isn’t the internet helping!” she seethed while pressing her fingers against her brow. “If you don’t know something, then the internet will teach you, but it’s been all but useless!”
Puffing out a breath of air, she leaned back. “Well … I guess it doesn’t matter. Most of what I’ve read just doesn’t add up, but some things seem true. So, I guess not everything is false, but what can I believe?”
Her negative emotions sporadically faded.
Grinning, she leaned back. “I guess trial and error is the only path for me. Is being a Nogitsune really that bad? It seems pretty fun so far; maybe I should just stop resisting and go with my instincts. Wendy was just shocked about it; I mean, how can I blame her for being a little scared? I’m scared!” she laughed.
Closing her laptop, she stretched and flicked her tail around to stroke it. The feeling left a warm sensation tingling up its length to her spine. “Yes, I think I’ll get clear answers from dad when he gets back. ‘Till then, I’ll just go where I end up.”
Yawning, she stretched again and walked to her room. “Come to think of it; I’ve been wearing these clothes for way too long.”
Shedding the attire, she got new garments and put on nightwear. She glared at the light starting to sheen through the polarized windows. “Welcome Sunday—goodnight Sunday!”
She hummed with a grin as she leaped onto her welcoming bed. Snuggling into her blankets, she relaxed on her side with her tail resting beside her head, atop the pillow.
She quickly slipped into fantastic dreams that continued to flitter to and fro. New adventures continually opened up before her, with new characters joining her.