The bruises across Sora’s body faded from her mind as Eric watched her; she’d used most of her energy trying to help Kari, causing hot air to puff out of her frantic lungs and sweat to slick her face. Eric’s wet, crimson fingers kept snagging her focus; she was defenseless, yet the murderous wolf didn’t make a move while his pack continued to box them in.
I used so much energy in that last attempt! What can I do?
Ringing started in her ears, and she felt like vomiting as her anxiety built; Eric wasn’t making a move. It was challenging to center on anything but the werewolf.
What’s he waiting for? Should I run? How do I get Dad out of this … Did he kill Kari?
Her thoughts scattered, taking a step back as Eric reversed his transformation to his human state. Disgust was on his face as his gaze slowly shifted to his little sister’s unmoving body. “I lost my temper for a moment … Aiden, go check the damage—I was a bit heavy-handed.”
Aiden lurched from his sitting position once given permission. Dropping to his knees beside Kari, he muttered, “You’re taking all of this too far, Eric!”
Eric didn’t respond, working around his jaw while Aiden tossed bricks off Kari’s partially covered form; much of her clothes had rematerialized, but most of it had been torn away by the savagery to reveal cuts and gashes across her skin.
Devin whistled before giving the display an impressed chuckle. “Dude, Eric, I haven’t seen you like that since you killed your father … Nice!”
Can we escape? No…
Eric grunted, nose twitching a little. “Just keep an eye on the Vulpes,” he snarled, causing Sora’s ears to twitch and her tail to lower a bit. A frustrated growl rumbled in his throat when turning his gaze to her. “That little … tag-team was getting on my nerves.”
He bit his lower lip, drawing blood that soon drifted to Sora’s nose. “What to do with this … disruptive Vulpes? I’m having to really think about it after what you tricked my sister into doing.”
Sora sucked in a shuddering breath, her focus darting to her father for a second to take the little time Eric was giving her to check his condition; falling over ten feet with the kinetic force behind Eric’s strike had taken its toll on him, even if she’d taken the brunt of it.
He’s unconscious again; his heart’s still beating, at least … he’s breathing—cut up pretty badly, though.
Unfortunately, two werewolves were standing over his limp form, ready for any order Eric might give them. Quick scanning for Mary and Wendy, she discovered they were gone, and she couldn’t hear them nearby, but her senses were somewhat frazzled with her nerves.
At least Mary could get Wendy away; I should be thankful Eric hasn’t noticed … Am I actually going to be eaten alive? Is there anything I can do? If I try to run, then he’ll just move in quicker … Buy time to regain my energy?
Swallowing as a nervous jitter flipped around her abdomen, she returned her eyes to Eric as his lips pulled in, making a brooding expression. It was only his twisted mind, working through how to kill her, that was giving Sora time to come up with any solution.
The wind had picked up, and the moon had risen further into the sky, yet still, nothing came to mind; she was stuck.
Why wait?! I either run or fight, and obviously, I can’t fight him … He’s stupid strong. Aiden would help if he could, but it’s like his body literally won’t allow him to cross the guy … Eric can see through my illusions to some extent, my mind powers won’t work on him, and my charms are probably useless like they were with Kari.
Lightning does work but requires too much energy, and he’ll expect it now. Fire’s only a deterrent, and light … light … light could work! I just need to make it to the river!
Eric’s scowl deepened. “No, you’re too troublesome to keep alive. Your weak energy will…”
He cut off with astonishment as Sora flicked her tail around, closing her eyes, and with everyone’s gaze on her, blasted their retinas with the strongest effulgence she could muster while saving enough energy for physical effort.
The man’s arm instantly rose to protect his face, stumbling to the left from the spots no-doubt assaulting his sight. “What in … You’re testing my patience!”
Sora did her best to influence the minds of the werewolves around her to draw their confusion and created an illusion of herself slinging her father over her shoulders and running into the broken building.
Eric still needs to see if Kari’s okay … Maybe I’ll get lucky, and he’ll send his pack after me instead.
Her tank of magic dropped to fumes as she rushed to her father, pulled him over her back—for real, this time—and leaped to a nearby rooftop, pushing herself as hard as she could. Tears fell down her cheeks with the pain that erupted from her injuries, but she fought through it.
Landing with a grunt, she wobbled, vision hazing; she couldn’t check if they were pursuing her out of fear of tripping, and blood pumped in her ears.
No! You can do this!
Biting her lip, bitter liquid touched her tongue and dripped down her chin.
No … keep going!!
The muffled shift of air and grunts of werewolves landing behind her drove her to press forward, and she squeezed out another flash from her tail with the amount of magic the open sky gifted her. Her legs felt like lead bricks, almost buckling as she jumped down to the street below, vision swimming.
Just … a few more times, and they’re going to start relying on their other senses; I need to get to the river!
Using every ounce of mitigated strength from the energy sources that fed into her, she managed to trick and elude the werewolves for another two minutes. Eric wasn’t with them, but just as they made it to Indian Creek waterway, she slowed to a stop, legs trembling with the giant of a man standing between her and the running water.
“I was … so close…” Panting heavily, Sora let her tears fall, and finally, everything she had was exhausted, wobbling legs buckling under her father’s weight. “No … why … I just want to be with my dad…”
It took an incredible effort to just shift her father off of her as she crawled over him, puffing out shallow pants. Once again, Eric’s pack circled her, but it wasn’t like she had much of anything left at this point.
There was a line of trees before some docks in a small field, and she could see the lapping rush of the waves that burned her ears and chest. I was so close! Why aren’t the police—or anyone here? This is Miami Beach!
Eric didn’t look happy. “You know—I’m honestly impressed. I never imagined a single-tailed Vulpes could cause so much chaos.”
Devin chuckled as he walked beside him. “Did you see how she manipulated their senses? They were following a fake trail for at least a minute; you were right about her being something special. What kind of Vulpes is she?”
“I did, Devin,” Eric mumbled, seemingly studying her spirit itself. “You are one odd Vulpes.” He sighed, walking forward with a disgusted twist to his nose and lips. “I should have done this from the start, though.”
Sora struggled to her feet and tried moving to the right.
Just keep moving … Just stay—get him away from Dad.
She yelped as he neared and struck her across the face, sending her toppling across the ground. Sora’s senses warned her, but she couldn’t move as a crushing force compressed against her right thigh, a loud crack burning her ears.
The pain came after she looked down; unfocused eyes froze at her broken leg.
“Mmh-mm-hmm…” she whimpered, curling as best she could while clutching her leg, but Eric wouldn’t give her a break.
His hand closed around her writhing tail, lifting her by it; pain reverberated up her spine as he swung her back and forth, aggravated voice cutting through her cries. “Honestly—you were so much trouble!”
Hair obscuring her vision, gravity shifted, and her body crashed into the sidewalk, skidding across it to land in a crumpled heap; everything burned like ice and fire rushing into her bones.
She couldn’t see, but one thing drew her spiraling brain into chilling focus—her father’s yell pierced the air, and she heard a grunt as something thrashed over the ground.
Fighting past the pain, she cleared her vision to discover her father’s legs over Eric’s chest, holding his left hand in an armbar. Strain evident on her dad’s red face, he pulled back and thrust up with his pelvis as hard as he could to no avail.
No … Dad…
Eric looked utterly vexed. “Has everyone lost their minds!”
He roared, and with a sharp jerk, sent her father skidding face-first across the ground. Getting to his feet, Eric stalked closer to finish the job.
“No,” Sora choked, “No—you wan-wanted me. You wanted to … to eat me—right? Just leave my dad alone!”
Eric slowed, and a wicked grin split his face upon looking back at her. “Oh? I suppose I could give you one last show.”
Horrified, Sora watched her father desperately get back to his feet and charge toward Eric. “No! Dad—don’t!” Sora cried.
Without even glancing in her father’s direction, Eric thrust his blood-soaked arm down and through her father’s stomach. Sora screamed, only seeing her father’s face as it turned to her, smiling apologetically.
Every cell of Sora’s body tingled numbly, and she felt something slide in place—a piece of her shift. Power filled her soul with her fading pain, body rising higher and higher with the painted image of her father bleeding across her vision.
The entire area lit with pure radiance as fire embraced Sora, engulfing her in warmth, but it couldn’t fill the cavity in her chest.
Eric’s overwhelmed voice carried along the warm, whipped-up wind as he retreated. “Nine tails of fire—flame consumed irises—and three ink-black whiskers on each side of your cheeks … You are the daughter of Mia!”
An inferno filled her cold heart, limitless force expanding her very core across existence while focusing her hate on Eric. She wanted him dead—wanted him gone, and yet in the next millisecond, moments before enacting her furry, the endless energy was ripped away from her.
Bewildered, she slowly fell to the grassy soil and the radiance she’d generated turned into a pillar of fire that rose into the heavens to disappear.
Perplexed and in shock, Sora numbly trembled on the ground, hugging herself while staring at the concrete in front of her. “Why—I had the power?”
Her head snapped up at Eric’s hysterical laughter. “I understand! Nine days, and the potential that’s hidden inside. You have Mia’s blood, but your body isn’t strong enough to handle the power.”
Turning to one of his pack members, he asked, “What time is it?”
Sora instantly knew what he meant. “Past midnight … My birthday’s over.”
Eric chuckled. “Thank you for confirming it, Mia’s kin. Your nine-day transformation is over, and all that innate power has burrowed within you—probably because your soul could no longer keep you safe from your own energy, but … but that’s fantastic!”
Slowly walking toward Sora, Eric spoke with exhilarated delight. “Consuming Mia’s blood—tapping into that hidden Founder source with my mother’s blood … I’ll become a True Wolf Founder. I’ll be Fenrir incarnate!”
Sora felt empty; she was completely healed from the outburst, yet one thing pulled her mind—the faintest of heartbeats. Her focus darted from the advancing man to her father.
He’s still alive!
Tremors churned her stomach.
No … I can’t go through your death again … I’m about to die … I didn’t even apologize…
“Is this really my destiny … To be eaten?” Sora whispered in despair as Eric bolted into a sprint, lips peeled back with eagerness as he transformed into a werewolf.
Swallowing, Sora closed her eyes; she wasn’t fast enough or strong enough to stop him.