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Sora’s mind was a mass of confusion and frustration. I’m hormonal? What does he know? I’m the one with a tail and ears! I’m the one that monsters want to kill! I’m the one that’s not human! She knew her dad hadn’t meant it in a bad way, knew he truly wanted to help her, but she needed something to latch onto, something to rage at.
Why did I read my dad’s feelings … it’s so confusing! How can he feel all those things and when he thinks about mom … she’s not even here! How could he love her? She abandoned us for something else! Jumping up, she ran as fast as she could to the balcony, throwing open the door. She wasn’t even surprised to find Nilly, in cat form, on the rail guard; jumping over the barrier, she ignored Nilly.
Soaring through the open air, she smiled as the sky filled her and the air rushed past her hair, the energy drowning her turmoil. Landing on the sidewalk, Sora kicked sideward to the beach. Flying over the street, she skidded to a stop just before the beach edge.
Huffing, she looked up at her hotel with spite. Her head darted around as she caught the sound of gasps. A large group of people all around her. Most tourists, obvious by their bags and clothing. They had dropped their items and were gaping at her in shock. Not caring, she turned and walked away, not going anywhere in particular. A few people called out to her but didn’t chase when she turned around the first corner. Jumping up onto a three-story building, she sat at the edge and passively watched the world go by.
“What am I doing?” Growling in frustration, she looked up at the sky. “Why’d I do that to my dad? It was so confusing … painful, it wasn’t helpful at all! And … I really did hurt him, and he wants to make things right.”
Scratching at her head, she screamed in frustration. “Why is he so sincere? I can’t blame him!” Seething, she folded her ears down with both hands. “There’s so much noise—I feel too many things—I’m so hungry!”
Tail bristling; she looked down; a familiar scent coming to her nose. Glaring at the boy staring up at her, she snorted. Why do I keep meeting the same people randomly around town? Aiden was staring up at her curiously. Dropping down from the building, she heard gasps as she landed next to Aiden and glared up into his green eyes. “What do you want?”
Aiden watched her questioningly. “Is it wise to be performing like that out in the open?”
Sora smirked and shrugged. “Hmm, I don’t really care. People see crazy things all the time and discount it as a trick of the eye or hallucinations.”
“I see,” Aiden said slowly, “Is this a—girl thing?”
Flushing, Sora made an irate growl in her throat. “No! It’s a monster thing!”
Hands coming up in defense, Aiden smiled lightly. “Whoa there, Ms. Tigress. Don’t bite my head off.”
A smile itched at the corners of Sora’s mouth. “Tigress? I’m a Vulpes.” She noticed a different scent on Aiden; she’d smelled something like it before. It was like Kari, but different. Is it a Fenris Wolf’s scent?
“Oh—so you’ve finally come to terms or figured something out?” Aiden asked with a chuckle. “Eh—you really didn’t know what was going on then?” Sora’s smile vanished as she shifted uncomfortably with a nod. Humming uncertain, Aiden looked around at the crowd they were starting to attract.
Sora yelped as he grabbed her hand and led her into the building she’d been sitting on. Getting inside, he looked back into her eyes with a grin. “Would you let me take you to dinner?”
Smile coming back; Sora regarded him incredulously. “Are you asking me out?”
Making a deep sound in his throat, Aiden scratched his hairless chin with a grin as they slowed. “Maybe.”
Sora held out her arm. “Well then, lead the way mysterious feather person.”
Chuckling, Aiden took her arm and sarcastically said, “Oh—not even a first name basis. You know my name.”
Walking further into the building, she saw that it had a branch of small businesses inside. He guided her to a door and opened it for her, a variety of smells coming from inside. She flushed as her stomach growled, hiding her face by looking the opposite direction, she waited for the server to come. Trying to get her emotions under control, she looked left and found Aiden smiling, examining the restaurant.
Clearing her throat, Sora asked, “Have you been here before?”
Aiden pursed his lips as he did a quick sweep of the restaurant. “Nope, but it looks like a nice place.”
Sora agreed with a nod but didn’t reply as the server walked to them and asked their numbers. Aiden replied, and they followed the man to an empty table. They sat, and the server handed them menus. “My name’s Rick, and I’ll be your waiter. What would you like to drink?” They both answered water, leaving Rick to fetch their glasses.
Considering Aiden for a moment, Sora asked, “So—why did you stop to look up at me?”
Aiden looked out the window while answering. “To be honest … I wasn’t looking forward to where I was going, and I guess seeing a pretty girl on the rooftops caught my attention.”
Trying her best to prevent a blush, Sora cleared her throat. “My dad came back—and I learned a lot of new things.”
Eyes moving back to study her, Aiden sighed. “Was it really that bad?”
Feeling a depression enter her stomach, Sora shook her head. “No, I think I was a bit unfair to him. I found out that my mom’s still alive—she’s just in the service of someone else—that’s why she’s never come around.”
Adjusting himself, Aiden frowned. “Oh, what’s your mom’s name? I know a little about Vulpes culture.”
Sora bit the inside of her lip and looked down at her hands, which were trembling slightly. “I don’t know her maiden name; her first name’s Mia. My dad said she had nine tails and had hair the same color as mine.” When Aiden didn’t answer, she looked up to find his face white.
Swallowing, Aiden looked down, sucking on his lower lip. Feeling a little impatient, Sora asked, “What? Do you know something?”
Clearing his throat, Aiden hesitated. “Uh, your mom’s name is Mia—has nine tails and has copper colored hair?”
Hope sparking within her, Sora nodded. “That’s what my dad said.”
Slumping back against his seat, Aiden looked stunned. “Well—there’s only one Vulpes like that in all history, at least of what I know of and…” He seemed unsure as he stopped.
“What do you know?” Sora pressed, yearning to know more about her mother.
Swallowing, he said, “Mia, the red-tailed Nogitsune is said to be—let’s just say ages old. Going back before Japan was even created and—she’s said to be the younger sister of Inari, the oldest Vulpes alive.”
Confused by the information, Sora asked, “Then—my aunt is Inari, the rice deity?”
Aiden looked a little spent. “I guess. I know Mia and Inari had a falling out, but the details are scattered to the wind. There’s hatred between them that spans obscure legends and myths amongst our community.”
They went silent as Rick brought them their water and asked what they wanted to order. Absently opening the menu, Sora picked the first item that had chicken in it, Sweet Potato Chicken Curry. Giving the server their menus, she waited for him to leave before continuing.
“Our community,” Sora repeated with excitement. “So, is there a city or area where all the monsters are?” Sora asked expectantly.
Aiden’s senses seemed to return. “Yes—and no. There are long-standing cities that have been referenced through legends like Babylon, Avalon, and Asgard, but I have no idea how to get to them. More commonly, you have small clans here in this world, and it can be dangerous. A lot of the times you have loners, like you. I guess they just integrate into human society.”
Sora hummed with interest. “What about my mom? What else do you know?”
Shaking his head, Aiden scrunched his lips to the side. “She’s the most powerful Vulpes known, besides Inari—legends and stories tell of her serving someone, but I don’t know who. There’s a certain—class rating I guess you could call it. To us new and weak creatures the information is scarce. Then you have demigods, gods, and Titans; that’s when you start getting real information.”
“Start?” Sora asked.
Aiden nodded. “There are things more dangerous than gods and titans, but they’ve receded into myth and legend inside our own community. Mia and Inari are some of them.”
“Where did they go?” Sora asked, taking a sip of her water.
Shrugging, Aiden chuckled. “Who knows? They’re either dead, lost interest in us, or off doing their own thing.”
“When did that happen?” Sora asked, really starting to enjoy her first real conversation about the new world opening to her.
Leaning back, Aiden took a moment to answer as he examined his memories. “Well—Inari is somewhat active in the human realm as far as I know, but more through a proxy then herself. The other myths, like your mom … I think the story dates back twenty-six thousand years. A civilization ruled by Titans and it was destroyed in an instant; I believe the people that worshiped the Titans were called Mu. After that it was the wars between the gods and titans—the other figures vanished.”
Sora hummed thoughtfully. “So, that’s the last report of those beings?”
Aiden frowned and shook his head back and forth. “I guess—I mean—my adopted mom was one of those beings and she said the Ancient Greeks had some kind of knowledge of them, but she never expanded on it. She’s where I learned about Mia.”
Nodding, Sora leaned forward. “Adopted mom? You mean Kari’s mom?”
Aiden choked on the water he was drinking. “Yeah—she died a few years back. Being a very old Fenris Wolf—she knew pretty much all there was to know about our world, but I wasn’t really interested in the stories at the time. Now—I can’t ask her.”
Sora’s eyes dropped, understanding his tone. “Sorry.”
Shaking his head, he said, “I have mixed feelings about her—I just didn’t understand her or her choices.”
Feeling the conversation turning sour, Sora shifted directions. “So, you said us new monsters—so, how old are you?”
A smile spreading across Aiden’s features. “Would you believe me if I said I was a thousand years old?”
Pursing her lips, Sora studied him with narrowed vision. “Honestly—I don’t know if I can trust you at all—you are the adopted brother of a girl that bullied me for years.”
“Ouch.” Aiden’s laugh died off. “I understand—Kari has not had an easy life … still, no excuse.” Producing another smile, he winked. “I’m seventeen by the way—one of the few monsters born in the technology age.”
“Oh,” Sora questioned. “Are there not that many creatures born anymore?”
Aiden spread his arms wide. “Have you seen many so-called monsters around Miami?”
Sora snorted. “More than I expected. You, Devin, Lori, Kari, and her pack, Eyia, Jin, a woman, and Nilly.”
Aiden frowned, tasting the names on his tongue. “I haven’t heard most of those names; a woman is very descriptive by the way. Usually, I’d know when newcomers arrived, that’s actually pretty odd.”
Sora lifted an eyebrow. “And why’s that?”
He chuckled nervously. “You’ve just reminded me of something I need to do. It’s been wonderful talking to you, but I’m afraid I need to go.”
Sora huffed haughtily. “The food hasn’t even arrived!”
Aiden laughed as he set two twenty-dollar bills on the table. “I’m not hungry; I just needed a way to break the ice with you. I bet we’ll meet again.” Starting to leave, he half turned and added. “Some advice from your elder, make up with your dad, you’ll live a lot longer than him and regrets can kill foxes like you.” Winking, he left.
Sora sullenly sat alone for another minute before the food arrived. Picking up her fork, she bit into the curry with savagery. I’m always left alone, the story of my life!
She fumed at every glance she received from the staff and customers around the room. Every stare showed pity, every one of them thinking that Aiden had been her date or boyfriend that had left before eating. Why am I always the one to pity! Staring passively down at the delicious chicken, she couldn’t even enjoy it. I have powers of illusion, lightning, fire, light, seduction, hypnotism, and still, I’m the girl that needs sympathy!
Unable to stand any more compassionate understanding vibes, she left with half her food eaten. Storming out of the restaurant, she walked to the back and went into the bathroom. Pacing back and forth, she let seething tones rumble in her throat. “Aiden just comes out of nowhere and just uses me to pass time—as a distraction!”
Flicking her tail back and forth with irritation, she raged how unfair her life had been. After a few minutes of smoldering curses, she realized the distinct smell of burning cloth. Frowning, she looked back and yelped. Her tail was on fire, orange and yellow flames blazing down its length. Worse still, her gray shirt started smoking and quickly caught fire; she couldn’t feel the heat at all.
Smothering the flames along her tail and burning cloth with a thought, she slid her shirt off and ran it under sink water, breathing deeply to calm herself. She sighed with exasperation; she felt tears starting to run down her cheeks. “I can’t even get angry without causing myself problems!”
After a minute, she took some paper towels and dabbed at her eyes, patting down her shirt. She held it under the air dryer, her lips pursed. “I’ve turned bipolar! In pure bliss one second and vexed the next. What am I going to do?” She whimpered.
In misery, Sora examined her partially destroyed shirt. “Only the back is burnt—I can still wear it, my tights aren’t damaged.” Putting her shirt back on, she felt a little bit of discomfort, knowing she was wearing a burnt shirt and suddenly an idea popped into mind. “I can just make an illusion!” Turning her back to the mirror, she imagined the shirt whole again. Grinning, she watched the fabrics slowly appear to fill in the burnt areas.
“I guess being a Vulpes isn’t such a terrible thing.” Taking a deep breath, she let it out slowly. “Alright, Sora! It doesn’t matter anymore; I’ll be fine. I can live with being a Vulpes!” Nodding to herself, she put on a slight smile and exited the bathroom.
Walking past several clothing stores, she wished she would have brought her purse with her. Stopping, she realized she didn’t even know where her purse was. Palm striking her forehead, she groaned. “It’s probably back at the police station. They should have it in holding.”
Synopsis: The online game <