Sora blinked. “What? I’m going to get a second tail when I wake-up?”
Sighing as she sat back against the dais, Inari nodded. “It will be painful, more than your previous transformations; your body isn’t meant to change this quickly. However, we can bypass the pain by having you dream walk, which you have been doing subconsciously to escape your lack of power. Your mind will do it again when you leave my sanctuary.
“This is a good place to start your education. There are things you must know when traversing the different Planes, so listen well. This is how you are composed; you are a combination of physical matter, the body; spiritual matter, the spirit, sometimes erroneously referred to as the soul; and your mind or intelligence, the part that makes you, you. These three parts make up your soul.”
Nodding, Sora said, “I was dream-walking—which means I was in someone’s dreams. Probably Eyia’s from what I learned when I was there last. So, I am made up of a body, spirit body, and my—intelligence?”
Her aunt straightened and lifted a finger to move the cushions back to their previous spot and lightly sat atop them. Getting into a comfy position, she nodded.
“Your intelligence is more than just a brain in your physical body. Your brain is where your intelligence is housed, yet that does not mean you lose your intelligence if your brain is damaged. Your intelligence uses the spirit as a medium to send signals from your brain throughout your body, operating the physical body; it is quite a complex system to delve into, yet simple to understand.
“Your spirit produces spiritual energy, which is the fuel for your abilities and to a certain extent your intelligent life. Your spirit is the link between your physical body and intelligence. It is critical you comprehend how these three Planes operate with your soul if you are going to traverse them as there are real dangers. Understand?”
Sora nodded. “So, these three—planes are separate, but somehow connected?”
Inari took a deep breath, puffing it out in a steady stream before better situating herself. “In the Physical Plane, it is easy to block your intelligence sending information throughout your soul by harming your physical body, but difficult to harm the spiritual body itself; it usually takes some special magic or ability to do so.”
“Like Diane’s wards?” Sora shifted, remembering the feelings she had.
Inari nodded. “The same inside the Spiritual Plane. Your physical body is tough to possess without physically being there, while your spirit and even your intelligence can be harmed if the creature is powerful enough in the Spiritual Plane.
“Then you have the Dream Plane, which while in, is hard to harm your spiritual or physical body, but your intelligence is quite vulnerable. Meaning, by manipulating your intelligence they can cause damage through your spiritual network to harm your body; however, it is still possible by special means to hurt your physical and spiritual body. Do you understand?” she asked brightly.
“I think so,” Sora replied.
“Good,” Inari chirped, seriousness returning. “Now I am first going to teach you a little meditation skill that will help you train faster. Some have called it Outer Body Training, which is not entirely wrong but also isn’t correct. Your spirit receives spiritual waves and impressions produced around you. It is quite complicated, but if someone were to punch in a specific spiritual radius within your spiritual area, your intelligence would record that subconsciously by your spiritual network.
“This is much more than simple mimicry, but the actual spiritual tuning of that particular spiritual signal. This will allow you to train against that person with his spiritual wave as a guide on his possible actions, even personality. Every person you come across that does not shield their spiritual emanations will produce an image of their intelligence, which imprints through your spiritual network.
“After I have helped you understand this skill we can start your real education. Note that this form of training ordinarily takes humans a lifetime to even scratch the surface in technique; your practice in this state translates from your spirit to your intelligence, bypassing physical movement; reactions become nigh instantaneous, akin to muscle memory.
“Mastering this will help me teach you spiritual perception and spiritual manipulation much faster. You will be mastering the basics, yet you will surpass roughly one hundred years of personal tutelage from one of my Kitsune or three hundred years of personal effort, all in just these five hours with your beloved aunt. It will be hard. Are you ready?”
Firming her resolve, Sora nodded. “I don’t want to be trapped anymore.”
Tilting her head with a small smile, Inari said, “Being trapped you say. This exercise is going to be a lot different than you think it is and for you to be able to internalize my words to a greater degree, it will be a necessity to learn this training method. To explain it simply, you need to take a deep breath, close your eyes, and call upon your spiritual network to direct energy to the intelligence, not the brain.”
Her aunt’s power filled her, guiding her with invisible hands that gently nudged her along, pulling her in the right direction. It took Sora three hours to learn how to control her spiritual network and an hour to guide it into her Intelligence.
Finally getting the hang of it, she entered the Outer Body Training method; opening the meditative state as her spiritual network synchronized with her Intelligence, she opened her eyes. She was in a dark space with a single bright light overhead and was a little surprised to see herself directly across from her. Her vision shifted as her aunt appeared to her left.
“Splendid, my Little Niece! Just this surface level takes human and monster alike many dozens of years to achieve.”
Sora blushed. “I have an excellent teacher.”
Inari’s smile softened, and she was silent for a moment as her head shifted to Sora’s clone. “What do you think this is?”
Sora shook her head. “I don’t know.”
Moving to Sora’s clone, Inari stopped at her back. “This is a visual representation of your Intelligence. With spiritual perception you can see everything there is to Sora Moore.”
Sora swallowed reflexively. That’s scary! Wait … was Jin doing that to me before?
“It is scary, and she was.” Inari laughed lightly as Sora’s mouth opened and brow creased in question. “Jin, however, could only view a very surface level of information. Everything that you think and know is before me like an open book, even parts you are unaware of, which is how I know exactly what you desire.”
She paused to stare into Sora’s eyes, “Freedom.” Sora’s body tingled as she said it. Inari started to circle around the side of Sora’s Intelligence.
“Freedom is the desire of most every creature, whether they consciously know it or not. However, freedom, in its root, is rather ill comprehended by the vast majority of beings.”
“What do you mean?” Sora asked, shifting slightly.
Humming, Inari stopped as she reached the right side of Sora. “Freedom to many is the liberty to choose, which is true, but not what most actually desire. No, what people want is the liberty to act without consequence, which is preposterous and hampers potential.” Her eyes were sharp as they locked with Sora. “You are not meant to sit idle and be used or submit yourself to self-pity.”
Mouth going dry, Sora cleared her throat, but her aunt spoke before she could question her words. “Tell me,” Inari’s voice held no malice, but was hard as steel, “what has shaped your life?”
Sora was lost for words. Her eyes wandered, looking for an explanation; she locked on her clone’s face and knew the bitter answer. Her stomach tightened with shame as the words left her lips. “Kari—getting away from Kari.” She jumped as Kari replaced her clone.
“Kari, a near pure descendant of Fenrir. She is very similar to you. She only wishes for freedom from her brother’s influence; it is clear to see. From what I see and know of fate’s weavings before she met you, she had a very dark future ahead of her. However, due to Aiden and his desire to somehow save his adopted family that all changed.”
Sora’s eyes widened, and she looked up at her Aunt. “You know about Aiden and Eric too?”
Huffing lightly, Inari said, “Of course, Dear. I’ve already told you, your life is an open book, and the shadow of their Intelligence is imprinted on you. Aiden is an extraordinary kind of monster that can alter future events by manipulating probability.
“A short interaction here, a chicken bone left just outside of a trash can or a gesture to a man across a street; some coin this process as the butterfly effect. Aiden, by pure instinct, by desire, has brought you into both Kari and Eric’s lives to change their tragic fate, much to the Fenris Brother’s ire.” Inari’s lips curved with mischievous pleasure at the thought. “Now, for their survival, Aiden has latched onto you.”
Stunned, Sora was lost for words, but her Aunt continued. “Kari’s actions are driven by a desperate desire to take any form of control in her life and an instinctual desire to connect with people, which has made your only wish to get away from her, while the acts of countless individuals around you, influenced by Aiden, have played in the opposite direction to keep you both together.”
“How—do I get away?” Sora asked, anxiety filling her chest.
A smile curved Inari’s lips. “That’s the wrong question. Their intervention presents itself with a myriad of opportunities that shake the very foundation of creation. It is rather fascinating, to be honest. All the possibilities that are open and that will soon be decided by you alone for the very fact I have met you, and am teaching you. All because Aiden, unknowingly set it up, everything led to this point, you met me. I have the utmost gratitude toward Aiden for that simple fact. I met my little niece…”
Inari went silent for a moment before she started circling them. “Eric believes in power. The definition of power is simple, to have power is to have the ability to act, to accomplish something. In reality, everyone in this world has the power of action; although, it can just as easily be taken away. That is the absolute fear in most creatures, an action you are very capable of doing.
“For instance, you stole the freedom from the Police department employees, a bowling alley attendant, Wendy’s mother, and the girls that bullied you. What we Founding Vulpes can do is much greater than hypnosis or mind control, it’s pure Intelligence control.”
Sora swallowed, feeling the guilt hit her. I literally stole people’s freedom—I didn’t think—just like my freedom was stolen, I took others…
Her aunt tsked. “That is pure fantasy, Sora; Kari by no means stole your freedom.”
“What?” Sora asked in shock as her fingernails dug into her thighs.
“Kari acted on you, but you had the opportunity to react back. Think very carefully on this principle.” Inari stated in a sharp tone. “Jane had no such luxury; she could not react to your action, nor could the Police. There is a very fine line you must understand.
“When you use some of your Founder Vulpes abilities, you are literally taking away someone’s born ability to act and think; they, in essence, become slaves, in every sense of the word, puppets dancing to your commands on magical threads of your making.”
Sora’s face turned white as she continued.
“That is not to say your abilities do not have their place and purpose, but with who you are and what I have seen, you must understand this. You are having a challenging time reconciling your human experiences and mindset with your Vulpes nature.”
Stopping behind the image of Kari, Inari considered Sora’s eyes. “You are more than your nature, but your nature is still a part of you, and you must recognize that. Doubting yourself in every decision, ripping apart your emotions, and denying what you have become is not healthy, for a human or Vulpes.”
Her aunt sighed, lips curving into an understanding smile. “You are in a unique position that takes most Vulpes hundreds of years to learn and because of that let us shift the conversation to principles I teach every creature that I accept into my family.”
Lifting her arm, she snapped her fingers, and Eyia appeared where Kari had been. “Vulpes come to me for power; seeking to have their potential unlocked. However, I do not provide this service to just any Vulpes. They must prove to me that they have acquired the adequate control necessary to carry my name with their appearance.
“What I teach, and the tests Vulpes must pass to become Kitsune, is most applicable to Eyia; she is the embodiment of everything I wish to convey to you. She guards her spirit well, which has only left slight impressions that I can judge her from, but I knew of her before you met in Miami.
“Eyia is the most prominent image of success in your entire spiritual archive. She possesses a very rare Intelligence, a pillar among her race though she may not see it. From what I can read off the impression you were able to acquire and the knowledge I already possess, she was raised in what most would deem an unreasonably cruel fashion, but her father was a sagacious man whom I spent a decent bit of time with.
“Asgardian culture was muddled with time, and there were a great many grudges and mistakes that foretold its downfall. However, because of Eyia’s upbringing outside of that culture—though she has much to learn—her core is unshakable. She exemplifies the Asgardian Code without flaw, which is phenomenal.
“Nine virtues make up Asgardian Code; in order, there is courage, truth, honor, fidelity, discipline, hospitality, self-reliance, industriousness, and perseverance. It is truly an amazing lifestyle that is near the opposite of Vulpes culture; it is something I cannot teach Vulpes and why many abandon the quest I set. Keep an eye on Eyia; she is one to emulate.”
Sora’s eyes moved over Eyia’s impressed Intelligence. “How can I change to be like her?”
Her aunt smiled brightly and clapped both hands together, which shot Sora’s vision back to her. “Finally, we can begin. You understand the importance; however, you are you, not Eyia. Incorporate the qualities of those that are great or admirable, but do not walk their path, find your own path.
“Now, what I will be doing may sound odd, but it will change your life; we are going to begin the process of enhancing these nine virtues within you, and when you awake you will be an entirely new creature.” She waited for Sora to nod, before asking, “Tell me what the word courage means to you?”
Thinking hard, Sora took several seconds to answer. “To do something that is scary.”
Inari snapped her fingers and a cushion appeared between Eyia and Sora, in a triangle shape, and she sat. “Fear is a part of courage. There can be no happiness, joy, nor dreams when trapped in the land of fear; in this land, you are a prisoner. Having courage is to take charge of your destiny. You take responsibility for your decisions, both good and bad, blaming no one else for the circumstances you are in because that is a choice.
“Being compliant in bullying is a choice, staying somewhere where you do not want to be is a choice, running is a choice; all things you have chosen in your past.”
Sora’s eyes defocused as her mind shifted through her past experiences and Inari went silent. She’s right. I chose every action I took. I had the choice on how to act in every circumstance. Was it a choice to be afraid?
Her vision refocused as Inari smiled. “Having courage means you are afraid; nonetheless you are willing to die rather than be entrapped by its invisible walls. When others collapse in defeat, you rise in defiance. Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than it. Courage is when you stand and fight your fears.”
Sora’s eyes widened as her surroundings changed to her school gym, Kari and her darting around, locked in combat. “You had courage here, yet you were sickened by your actions. While you had courage, you feel like you had no honor and that is important, even for Vulpes.
“Eyia recognized your action as a Vulpes, but if it were her in that fight, she would have died rather than dishonor herself. She is a bit too firm, in my opinion, on this stance, but it defines her character. Personally, I would consider this an acceptable outcome, but I would have also been sure I could win before confronting Kari. There are always trade offs.”
“I didn’t want to hurt Kari or Lori; I just wanted to be free,” Sora muttered as she watched herself trick Kari into hurting her friend, which would eventually lead to her death.
Inari shook her head. “You cannot be certain if that action was the pivotal moment of fate’s design for Lori’s death. It is arrogance to believe it so; take responsibility for your action, not Eric’s. If you feel this action was wrong then own up to that, but not his. The actions of everything in it fuel this world, and you are but a ripple of endless ripples in a vast ocean.
“It was Eric’s doing that caused the death of Lori, from before you even knew her name. Now, tell me what you understand about truth?” Inari asked as she examined the fight replay around them.
Swallowing as she tried to break her vision of the fight, Sora said, “Truth is like something that is real. The opposite of a lie or fabrication.”
Nodding, her aunt laughed. “Truth seems unimaginable to most Vulpes and takes courage beyond most all creatures. Truth is being in accordance with what is; a fact, what some humans have termed empirical. A lie, theory, or half-truth cannot be the truth as truth is what is, not what might be or fantasy.
“Truth is sincerity in action, character, and speech. It is often better to not say anything at all if one cannot be honest. It is having the quality of being free from pretense, deceit, or hypocrisy.
“Being true to one’s self and others is the most challenging undertaking any creature can hope to achieve, yet what else could be more noble. To take responsibility for everything in your life without exception; it is all on you to find a solution, to find a way to win, regardless of circumstance.”
The scene around them continued to the point of her throwing up outside of the gym. “You had a hard time taking responsibility for your actions, blaming your Vulpes nature—your nature is a part of you, and your actions are yours alone. Although I am not so honorable to my enemies, you seem to have a spot in your heart for them.”
Inari’s tails caught Sora’s eyes as they began swaying with Inari’s half-smile. “That being said, do not be fooled into speaking the truth when others lie to you; Odin counseled to respond to a lie with a lie. We had many amusing conversations,” she noted fondly.
“Tell the truth, even when there is pain to be had, that is what steels courage. Without truth, we have no fundamental realization on any significant level, nor the courage nor the will to achieve and evolve, relegating our very being to nothing more than a farcical play. Exaggerating is also a means of dishonesty, yet as any Asgardian would tell you, it is not bragging if you can do it. Truth is a cornerstone for Asgardian society because your word is as good as law, more binding than any contract.”
Sora nodded solemnly. “I’m just so new at being a Vulpes—no, I understand that it was my decision, my action that caused Lori to be hurt by Kari.”
“Your Intelligence is an interesting thing,” Inari commented as the image around them vanished. “You are designed to do things in the easiest way possible to avoid danger, and your mind will naturally try to protect you. However, what you have been learning is how to break that mental block of doing potentially dangerous things and act, sometimes good, sometimes bad.
“There is about a five-second window for Vulpes and humans to translate mind into action. Vulpes will naturally use that five-second window as a means to act, mostly without thinking, to find the easiest route to survive or draw out emotion to feed upon, but if you can count backward from five, you can break that instinct and shift to your conscious thought. You must break the Vulpes habit of survival above all else because I know you believe there are things worth more than just survival. Tell me what you think honor is.”
Sora’s eyes dropped to the floor. Honor, I don’t really know what honor is. Is it like doing the right thing? Like knight stories where he has a code of honor, like being kind to women.
Inari laughed, her left hand covering her lips as she shook. “Being of honor means you have a keen sense of ethical conduct, which allows one to be regarded with profound respect and esteem among his peers, but more importantly, himself. A quality of worthiness and respectability to everyone around you by your courage and truth. Honor is the regard of your worth and stature based on the harmony of your actions. Eyia is a perfect example; it is better to die in battle with your honor intact than to live in shame because you did not defend your beliefs.”
Sora’s heart stung with gratitude as their environment changed to show Eyia appear between Eric and her. “You will make it not because you step on others, but because you help others; help those around you get what they want, and you will find the world open to help you get what you want. It is an age tested lesson; add value, get rewarded.”
Gaining control of her emotions, Sora nodded. “She—she really is amazing.”
Inari hummed with a light smile. “She has nothing that you do not possess, but simply lives a code that she values above her own life. It is never a question to vary from her chosen path. What do you know of fidelity?”
Sora was ready for this one. “Fidelity is being loyal to someone.”
Inari nodded as the werewolves tried closing in on them and Eyia froze seven of the eight with her icy thread. “Fidelity to her beliefs and those she calls brothers and sisters, sworn never to harm those she loves, even if they raise a sword against her. That is the devotion to those she calls her own. Having fidelity is to faithfully support people, causes, and beliefs which are demonstrated by continual loyalty, no matter the price to one’s self and the sacrifices one needs to make. To never turn your back and remain complete and undivided in the face of adversity; remaining faithful and maintaining a firm adherence to your own moral values under pressure.
“There is also a very crucial difference in the level of fidelity an Asgardian like Eyia has and everyone else. The Asgardian Code of Fidelity Vengeance for instance. Avenging the murder or harm of one’s kinsmen was not just a virtue, but an obligation. For instance, Eyia will kill Eric if she finds him because of what he did to you. She now sees you as her kin, because of the actions you’ve shown to her.”
Sora couldn’t help but start feeling overwhelmed by this will of Eyia that she was beginning to experience. She’s the most incredible person I’ve ever met.
Inari nodded with understanding. “As I said, she is a rare Intelligence. One you can emulate and begin to harness the Vulpes nature inside of you. After all, you not only have your mother’s blood in you, but your father’s as well.”
Sora’s eyes widened. “I thought my blood was completely converted into Vulpes DNA?” Inari’s smile made Sora nervous.
“Yes, and no. Your mother is quite the Vulpes—of course, she did learn from your Aunt Nari, she was quite a little vixen,” she noted with a fond gleam in her eyes.
Inari’s vision pacified as their environment changed again. Sora’s lips went dry, and her face drained of color as the scene between Eric and her father played out, her father flipping Eric on his back and putting him in an armbar. “Please,” Sora pleaded. “Why this memory?”
Inari was passive as she watched the scene. “This is the truest moment of your life. At this moment you displayed the most courage, truth, honor, and fidelity. That is one reason why you feel so much pain. You take responsibility for the actions that lead up to your father’s mortal wound and in part, you are right.
“Many of your actions did contribute to this moment; however, you must have courage in the face of truth, and in living by it, overcome those fears. You offered your own life, offered to be eaten alive for your father, how true is your fidelity and honor in this moment of desperation.
“You found something worth more than your death and would willingly sacrifice yourself for your father. Some may call that fear and selfishness, but they would be cynics and megalomaniacs. Self-sacrifice is the most noble and honorable feat there can be, prioritize the life of another over one’s self and not only be willing but in actuality offer themselves. That is what power is.”
Sora could feel her aunt’s admiration flowing into her. “The number of Vulpes that have experienced that deep of an emotional connection are few in all Vulpes history; always obtained with great effort on the side of a human that conveys those same attributes. You do not understand the significance of your action, not lip service, but true self-sacrifice. The act of giving everything that you are for another. That is not Vulpes nature; willingness to dive into danger, self-sacrificing, sacrificial love, those are human characteristics that normally Vulpes must learn.”
“Thank you,” Sora said as she felt a weight lift off her chest. Human nature.
“You have always had discipline; it shows in your actions throughout your life.” Inari’s lips curved into a devious smile. “Besides the little pleasure foods you indulged in.”
Sora couldn’t help but blush. “The cooks are really good at making a lot of stuff—even if it’s not on the room service menu.”
Inari chuckled. “It makes little difference now that you are mostly a Vulpes. You need not eat at all if you do not wish.”
Sora’s eyebrows raised doubtfully. Right, magical powers are one thing, but not having to eat. She must be joking.
Inari only smiled in response, shifting back to her original topic. “You have disciplined yourself greatly over the years at your schoolwork. Showing self-control in the face of temptation whatever it may have been. You have always had a level mind, being able to determine the best course of action regardless of your personal desires, which may have been opposed to what you must do.
“One such example is cleaning up your mess at the police station; even though it was a daunting task and required much concentration and time, you controlled your emotions. This also includes the ability to discipline yourself to stay the course of your beliefs even when your Vulpes nature seeks to take the easy route.”
Sora hummed as she thought. I never thought about it like that. I guess it is discipline, but it just felt so natural. It wasn’t a question about doing it; it was something I just needed to do and did—I see, that is what Inari means when Eyia just does it, it isn’t a question to Eyia, but life, who she is.
Her attention diverted as her environment shifted to her hotel, Eyia, and Jin in-tow.
“Hospitality is more than good candor; it is protecting those who are under your roof. Providing for their needs, such as giving Eyia your own dress, and offering free lodging. The relentless defense of those who are within your domain, unhesitant, unwavering in the face of your opposition.”
They watched the event play out, Sora smiling with the warm feelings it brought back. The image suddenly shifted to Eyia guarding her again. “Do you remember what Eyia said to you when she intervened?”
Sora’s throat caught as she spoke. “How could—how could I ever forget. She said we shared a feast. We are sisters—who would deny a sister in need?”
“Asgardian hospitality,” Inari said as they watched the fight progress. “That is what it means to have hospitality. What is self-reliance?”
Sora lightly bit her left cheek. Asgardian Self-Reliance is probably deeper than I normally think. It must be more than just relying on yourself. They are very clan-oriented and kind, yet at the same time fearsome to those who cross them. Maybe it has to do with being free to think and act for oneself, not relying on another person’s view.
“Good thoughts,” Inari commented. “You are thinking independently, which is a part of self-reliance. Learning new things, developing trades, the virtue of being industrious works very well with the concept of self-reliance. Being able to provide for oneself does not mean you are denied the comfort of those close to you or your community.
“Asgardians believe that being self-sufficient is the highest concept of freedom, letting someone else do your job is a disgrace. You should be anxiously engaged in doing good work for oneself and one’s community because you have freedom. It is because of your industry and self-reliance that you can show hospitality to the weary and downtrodden. A great part of being self-reliant is learning knowledge and wisdom, applying what you learn to better those around you.”
Sora couldn’t help but feel more and more respect for her new friend. “They sound perfect.”
Inari’s frame shook with silent laughter. “No one is perfect, Sora. However, your friend Eyia lives by a code that few can. Even the Asgardians slip in their endeavors, but that is where the final virtue comes in—perseverance. The ability to stand up and return from defeat and failure, forgiveness and growth, never stagnation. Continuation and adherence to these virtues are only possible through perseverance.”
Their environment changed to her in the construction site with her father, Wendy, and Kari; Eric’s smug face leering at them. “This is a moment where you magnify the nine principles of the Asgardian Code. A titanic shadow hanging on all sides, yet you stood your ground in the face of despair.
“Agreed to work with the monster that haunts your nightmares to face an even greater threat, actively made that choice to let the past be the past. Your courage was boundless, you were true to yourself and did not vary. Honorably you fought for your father and did not falter, showing your devotion without waver, and persevered in the face of hopelessness, working with every tool at your disposal.”
“I see all of that now,” Sora said as she watched Kari and her work together, trying to beat Eric with little success, yet striving forward.
Inari’s demeanor sharpened. “I have been distilling these lessons into your Intelligence through your spiritual network. You cannot be satisfied; you must never cease the pursuit to grow. There is a price for success; sacrifices must be paid upfront and in full.
“Remember, when you do succeed, it will not be because of a, b, or c, but rather because of you; not because you did not have obstacles or did not suffer setbacks—not because everything went right; you will make it despite the obstacles, despite the challenges, you made it because you have fire inside you.
“Set your own standards. Luck has nothing to do with success, only the successful can understand that; the weak believe in luck. Never settle. Do you understand?” Inari asked, her eyes burning with intensity.
Sora swallowed, but her brow set. “Yes.”
Her aunt frowned. “You must be willing to make the hard decision, to feel uncomfortable, awkward, to face rejection, to fail, to be pressured. Every Founder is placed on a pedestal, and you will feel that way, but you must recognize that you are no better than any other Vulpes by one simple fact, growth.
“I am who I am not because I am a Founder, but because of me, my decisions. I stand at the pinnacle of the Vulpes race because I persevered; I did not die to the countless enemies that have sought my life.”
The image of Eyia appeared before Sora. “This girl is the most potent image of success in your life. Ingrained in her very spirit is an indomitable will, unyielding to the circumstance in front of her, confident, but never arrogant.
“Yet, she will need your help in the future. Only you can provide something that will save her life. She has an understanding of fate and the ability to shape it, but she has her weaknesses; she recognizes the incredible power of the things she cannot change, yet the obsessive nature of choice versus fate.
“Fate is the many small actions made by others, from a world, galaxy, universal, and Existence-level—while I cannot change their actions, I can change mine—and that is the true power of fate. I rose above my limitations and so will you.”
Her aunt’s passionate furor softened. “Now that I have enhanced the Asgardian Nine Virtues into your Intelligence it is time to work on your spiritual control and perception. This will be easy; the true test will be in practice.” Inari’s smile dampened slightly. “We need to do something about your vulnerable spiritual network and Intelligence; knowing everything you will say or do is just too easy.”
Confused, Sora asked, “Is that a bad thing?”
Laughing, Inari ended it with a heavy sigh. “Yes and no. I know everything I must say, what I must do to train you in the system you need the most, but it is just too easy—not just that, but you are open for others to take advantage.” Clapping her hands together again, she stated, “We will just have to change that!”
Sora trained for the remaining time with little to no small talk about anything but her perception of the spiritual network, shielding herself and controlling her spiritual energy. She felt like a new person, lighter than she had ever imagined, confident.
“That is enough,” Inari said, while she stood over Sora, hand extended over her head as runes cascaded around her body. “I am going to ease your physical form as much as I can from the Spiritual Plane, but it will be hard. Once you wake, you will find your surroundings completely changed with your development in spiritual perception, and there will be much chaos.”
“Thank you so much!” Sora panted, feeling sweat course down her body. “I didn’t realize spirits could sweat,” she puffed with a chuckle.
“It is not sweat,” Inari giggled but paused in her response. “That will have to wait for another lesson.” Her eyes narrowed in a teasing way. “You are so cute!”
Kneeling as the runes faded, Inari pressed her finger against Sora’s forehead. “I have marked your Intelligence with this spiritual location and given you complete access to my shrine. If you ever need advice or help, you just need to access the Spiritual Plane again. This has been so fun!”
“How?” Sora asked as Inari lifted from her crouching position.
Her aunt winked with a small smirk. “That is another test. This will not be pleasant; the coming pain will be much greater than before; your body is not meant to gain tails this quickly, even as a Founder, your body is not yet ready for the power. Since you have been in the Physical Plane, a mere two seconds have passed.”
Inari’s expression fell as an ominous wave washed over her and the air began to rapidly heat; flashing lights illuminated across her aunt’s body as her vision rose to the door. “It seems … I’ll need to be quicker than I expected,” she mumbled, and from the cracks in the doorway, Sora could see flames licking through.
Golden symbols sparked around Sora as Inari was engulfed in an effulgence; the light quickly intensified into a radiant pillar that blinded her. “I love you, Sora,” she whispered as an explosion sounded behind her.
Confused, Sora found herself on her back, staring up at the werewolf containment room. A second later pain shot through her entire body. It was more intense than any pain she’d suffered, dwarfing her previous transformation into a Vulpes.