B2 — 31. Escape

Eric’s statement left Sora in a temporary haze, trying to connect the words to the man as the implications spiraled in her mind and Aiden hesitated, just as speechless as her.

Eric set him free… completely, as in… his story about Aiden being a slave… it’s over?

Linked with Aiden as they attempted to keep Wendy and the others alive, the emotions flooding through that connection sent a torrent of anxiety, fear, joy, and feelings so complex and mixed Sora couldn’t grasp the overwhelming declaration that assaulted the broken boy.

While Bathin reveled in his victory over the Nekomata, Sora entered the mental vortex dragging Aiden under—biting her tongue, the stress of such powerful temperaments digging into her linked spiritual network—Sora instinctually reached into the chaos to drag him out.

“A-Aiden!  I… can’t do this alone…”

“No, I… I don’t understand…”  Aiden mumbled, unable to grasp the chains binding him being released as Eric’s commanding fangs left his neck to free him of the promises he’d made.

An annoyingly knowing look in Eric’s eyes, he placed a hand on Aiden’s shoulder to draw his focus.  “It’s hard to comprehend… I get it, and you don’t need to give me all of your power… I only need the smallest amount to access the unique properties you have.”

“Why…  If you’re not coming with us…”

“Haaa…  You know why, Aiden.  I’m not much of a brother or friend, but everything I did, I did for my own selfish reasons, and this is no different…  Live, Aiden, and don’t look back.”

A loud hiss came from Jin.  “Cut the melodrama—what are you, teenage girls?  We doing something or what?”

“I agree,” Eyia muttered.  “We… have few options, and though I hate your existence…  If my sister can be saved from this Demon, I will listen.”

“Okay,” Jin pointed at the Valkyrie, “if she—she—can put her hatred aside, you can buck up and save the tears for later!”

Conflicted tears in his eyes, Aiden coughed and rubbed them away.  “Mmgm…  I’m sorry, Sora…  I just—”

He cut off, everyone glancing to Bathin as the Devil cracked his neck and laughed at Githa, sopping wet fur dripping while attempting to struggle to all fours.

“No, no, no, Githa!  I won’t kill you, heh…  Oh, I have a lot planned for you.  Mmhm… the things I’ve imagined.”

He glanced toward them as if an afterthought.  “Feather or not, foolish Wolf; what hope do you think you’re spreading if Githa—a being far more ancient and powerful than your short life understands—could not stop me?”

The lilting and sarcastic voice Sora remembered touched Eric’s words.  “By all means, you are beyond comprehension, Bathin—don’t mind the fodder!”

“Humph…”

Aiden’s emotions stabilized—in no small part by Sora’s already strained aura and power—and took a deep breath to calm his racing heart.  “Fine, Eric…  I don’t know what you have planned, but—”

He cut off as Eric hugged him, making Bathin seemingly want to gag and return to his fun with Githa’s trembling, defiant hiss. 

“I couldn’t have felt regret and pain like this without you, Brother…  I’m no longer numb.  Thank you, Aiden…  I am so sorry for the torment I’ve caused you and my sisters.”

Aiden slowly nodded, emotions entering a nosedive before Sora shoved them apart, sweat now slicking her brow.  “How… much pressure are you trying to put on me, Eric!  Get this over with!”

“Heh…  Sorry, Sora,” Eric forced a laugh, making her growl and scowl distrustfully at the entirely different person standing before her.

Holding out his hand, brilliant light condensed into a small, very dull feather compared to what she’d seen in the past.  “You only needed a tiny bit?”  he muttered.

“More than enough…  Thank you.”  Eric accepted Aiden’s hesitant gift and turned to her.  “Sora…  I know it is going to be rough on you, but could you push your influence on Kari to leave with you.”

“Huh?!  She’s immune; I’ve already tried when I wasn’t blowing through energy…”

“No, with all the energy we’ve been exposed to that she’s had to fight, and with how weakened Kari already is… it’ll work for a short time.  Fen will know where you can seek refuge.  Run.”

Dropping that last part on her like a bucket of cold water, Eric opened his mouth and inserted the feather as Bathin neared the hissing silvery cat.

“Mmh-hmm-hmm-hmm…  Can’t even run, Githa—”

The Devil paused, Sora and Aiden backing away from Eric as a savage grin split his lips.  “You were saying, Bathin?”

“What…  How?”

Eric’s skin fractured, as if reality were breaking apart as hair sprouted underneath, Fenris Form pulsing in and out of existence from the mending and breaking fissures in space; darkness rolled off his countenance, a drawing, haunting frenzy leaking out of the shimmering colors mixing into the void.

Voice mixing to hear a sweet tone underneath Eric’s sharp edge, Sora’s mind returned to her aunt’s sanctuary.  “All I needed was a bridge to let a tiny drop enter my Oltera Nexus…  Did I not mention it before…  Oh, well, Bathin… I’m sworn to the Herald of Sakura.  I don’t think you’ve met.”

Sora winced as more of her energy fed into Wendy and the others, yet somehow the force coming from Eric didn’t touch them; it was almost as if it didn’t exist at all.

Bathin took a step back, uncertainty and fear in his infernal eyes as time drew to a crawl; Eric flickered between rips in space as his transformation continued, closing the distance with the Devil in a slow, haunting advance.

Not wanting to stick around to find out what would happen, Sora reached down to pick up Eyia’s paralyzed body; she’d never seen the courageous Valkyrie shaken, yet something deeper than terror was in her sapphire eyes upon witnessing the tiniest drop of the Herald’s power infuse Eric, a chilling mumble she could barely understand.

“She… lives?”

Jin floated into the air, shaken at the unveiled existence but taking command of the situation as she motioned to the stunned group.  “Let’s go!  Now!  I don’t want to be here for anything involving that thing!”

Redoubling her efforts, Sora followed Jin’s prompt.  “Wendy—Jump on Jian’s back, and Fen, don’t let them fall!”

Fen had been trembling for some time but sprang into action at Sora’s order, gut feeling like it was being torn apart while extending some of her aura to the Vulpes; she helped the humans onto the giant tiger.

Aiden gave her a nod as she turned to him, thankful for his supporting waves after burying his emotions.

Every flicker Eric took toward the Devil caused him to retreat another step, malicious voice ringing with mirth not his own.  “Your teleportation won’t work on me, fool.”

“I… I want nothing to do with you…”

“Oh, too bad.  Hmm… Sora, straight two hallways, right, through the elevator, up the ramp, and through the large doors.  I disabled the exit fail-safes; Diane and the Vice-President are a little busy with, heh… something else right now.”

“Impressive,” Bathin seethed.  “So, the infamous Herald is involved…  Even with that power you’ve gained, you can’t kill me channeling only that much power—you’re already break apart.  Mmh…  Ah, you could run—I wouldn’t chase…”

Eric vanished from Sora’s sight with Bathin as a space, walls, and pillars cracked, explosions beyond her sight happening in nearly every direction with quakes shaking the earth they stood on.

“Welp,” a strained grin touched Jin’s lips, “I can respect his sacrifice—let’s go!”

Eyia didn’t look so forgiving, eyes trembling a little while muttering, “He deserves a coward’s death,” vision drifting to Kari as she began to wake.

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Sighing, Sora mu  Her cold eyes shifted to Kari as she began to wake.

Sora sighed, noticing her friend’s hatred.  “I promised I’d take her with us…  And forgive her…  It might take some time, but I don’t have the same feelings anymore.  Honestly… I kind of feel bad for her.”

“Can we please leave?”  Mary asked from atop Jian as he rose.

“If the Herald is involved… we must go,” Eyia agreed.  “Nothing but destruction follows her path.”

Nodding, Sora moved to Kari as her amber irises eased open.  “Eric… coward—where…”

Doing her best to sink her magic into the Fenris Wolf’s severely fatigued and barely repairing spiritual network, Sora pushed her influence over the girl she used to hate.  “Kari, we’re in danger.  We need to run; follow me!”

Kari’s building rage turned to confusion as Sora’s magic took hold, causing the girl to look around in bewilderment.  “Danger?  I don’t want to run…  I… I want to fight.”

Sora did her best to strengthen the bind around the girl’s resisting iron will.  “No, Kari!  We need to run!  We can fight after!”

“Oh—is that what we’re doing?  Uh… mmgm…  Okay… where are we going?”

“Just follow us.  Alright?”

“Okay?”  

I hope she doesn’t try to kill me when she realizes I’ve taken her away from Eric and he’s likely going to die…

Without a second word, Sora dashed toward the large steel door she’d entered through, Eyia in a princess carry; finally, it was her turn to be the knight for the vigilant Valkyrie.

As if subconsciously on the same wavelength, Eyia bent down in their race past Githa for the Valkyrie to scoop her up, the sopping wet cat giving a dull meow in thanks.

Jin and Aiden flew, the Dragon gritting her teeth, seemingly almost falling out of the sky a few times before catching herself, and Aiden wasn’t doing much better.

Jian carried the rest, and as Sora shouted the directions, Kari took the lead, possibly trying to act as the pack leader in her hazed, spell-locked delirium, and crushed the steel panel door in their way.

Mildly impressed with how strong Kari was, even at her weakest and unable to resist her control, she watched the Fenris Wolf get her fighting mind state by smashing through any obstacle in their way.  Sadly, all of the humans in the base they came across had their spirits smothered.

A few hallways were destroyed and impassable, yet following Eric’s instructions to the elevator went without incident, outside of Kari’s rampage against the steel barriers, and the thick metal elevator containment wall was torn to pieces in the wake of the Fenris Wolf’s claws.

Kari in the lead, she shot up the passage, destroying more barricades for Sora and the others to dodge the chunks of steel, using the support beams inside to propel her in their upward climb.

Jian shrank a tad to fit through the opening, Fen helping Wendy and the others from falling off in their flight.  Sora saw many traps or tools that could be used to block the elevator shaft or detonate certain parts if triggered by passing, remembering Eric’s statement that he’d disabled the fail-safes.

Making it to the top, Kari quickly broke the doors for them to flood out; the large black wolf cleared the blockade, man or metal, until they came to a supply warehouse, and Sora could smell the greenery beyond with a thumping heart.

No more confinement!

Rushing past the stupefied workers, unaware of what was happening far below their feet, they destroyed the warehouse’s closed metal doors and raced into the forest, out of their captors’ grasp.

Once cleared, Sora fell back a bit to run beside Jian.  “Eric said… you’d know a safe place, Fen.  Well?!”

Fen looked a little unsure as she prevented Wendy from falling, and they made a sharp turn.  “I just—I don’t think everyone else could enter…  That’s why I didn’t go.  Only Vulpes are allowed—there’s a barrier!”

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Sora clutched her chest as Kari’s defenses fought to regain control, looking forward to see the alert girl scanning the forest for danger; she was beginning to question why she was there.  Eric wouldn’t suggest a place Kari couldn’t enter.  There has to be something there!

“We have to go there then.  Er—mmhm…  He’s been right so far.”

She caught herself while examining Kari’s weaving puffy tail.  “What is it—where is it?”

Concern in her voice as she rubbed the tiger’s back, Fen forced herself to answer.  “It’s…  It’s the Vulpes dimension—open to all Vulpes, excluding Kitsune—I don’t know if I can even enter now,” she cried, glancing back at her white tail.

Sora swallowed.  “Well, it’s the best bet we’ve got; we’re going to the Vulpes dimension!  Lead the way…”

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