Sora swallowed nervously, shifting to view the four humans in her Core. “Who—wants to go first?” Everyone was silent, but she could feel their emotions radiate. They’re all anxious to see their families; each of them has a level of reservation … but only Wendy wants to skip it … I understand why. She pursed her lips. The adults all feel like they should go last though and all of them think Wendy should go first … they don’t know her circumstances.
Her aunt’s voice entered her mind. “Sora, you’ve already identified all of their feelings, and Wendy must do this. It would be best to start with her. It will not be easy, and she’ll try to play it off, but you must be firm, but supportive.”
She ran her hand through her copper hair before scratching her right fox ear. “Alright—I know how each of you feels … Wendy, we should probably do you first.”
A sharp tremor ran down Wendy’s frame. “What—no, no, I think Ashley should go first—she has her family, right?”
Ashley shook her head. “No—I can wait,” she smiled encouragingly. “I’m sure you’re anxious about your family too. I can wait, and Sora does know how we all feel; so, I’m more than willing to wait my turn … this is a prayer answered.” Mary frowned at Wendy’s statement as she studied her nervous twitches, but kept silent.
Wendy’s brow furrowed as she shifted to look at her. “Why—you know how I feel—why do I need to go first?” Sora pursed her lips, turning to stare at Inari, but she merely stared back with a neutral expression.
A low moan rumbled in her throat as she rubbed her wrist. “Umm—everyone does need to do it … like my aunt said. Everyone wants to let you go first … I know it’s not easy, but I’ll be there with you. Is that—are you ready to go?” She corrected herself. I guess this is something Wendy needs to address … it’s not easy for her, but I feel like she’ll concede with the pressure of everyone voicing their opinion. I guess this is something else she needs to work on when we get to her Shadow.
“I just,” Wendy glanced back at Ashley, Mary, and Nathan before looking at Inari with a hard swallow. “Do I—do I really have to see my mom?”
“I’m afraid so,” Inari stated.
Sora’s vision moved to Mary as she began puzzling out Wendy’s response. Mary’s beginning to understand Wendy’s relationship with her mom. She’s connected Inari’s statement with her current reaction, and she approves … this is exposure therapy. I guess it’s something Mary would suggest, though in smaller doses rather than this big step. Mary thinks Inari is also hitting multiple stones with this one action … it’s breaking a lot of Wendy’s walls.
“I,” Wendy closed her eyes, holding her side and rubbing her shoulder. “I just—what would I say?”
“You’ll know when you arrive,” Inari stated.
“What’s wrong?” Ashley asked.
A sharp tremor ran down Wendy’s frame as she faked a smile. “Oh, nothing—nothing, I—it’s just a lot to—no nothing’s wrong.” She cleared her throat and turned to Sora. “Alright—sure, why not…” She’s panicking internally … I doubt she would be able to present herself so calmly if she were in her physical body right now; her heart would be thumping through her chest, and she’d be sweating a ton.
Smiling reassuringly, Sora got up, chair disappearing. “Okay,” Wendy followed her action, holding her arms to hide the shakes, fake smile still in place. She doesn’t want to look vulnerable to the others. She thinks they’ll think there’s something wrong with her, she doesn’t want to see her mom … who wouldn’t want to see their mom? Another thing to work on with bringing out her more aggressive side; I need to work on that too.
Turning to her aunt, Sora cleared her throat. “So, what do I need to do? Should I hold her hand or something?”
Inari chuckled. “Did you hold their hands when you pulled them into your Core?”
“No?” Sora’s brow furrowed.
“No, you did not,” Inari smiled warmly. “Sora, do you know what you did when you pulled them into your Core? The danger that you didn’t give a second thought about?” Of course, she knows I didn’t … it’s her asking a question to make me think again. “Right,” Inari tilted her head fondly. “What could have gone wrong?”
“Umm,” Sora shifted a little nervously near Wendy. She noticed that her aunt shifting to put a little stress on her was easing Wendy’s nerves a little. Is this her plan? I mean, everything she does seems to have multiple reasons, not just one, so I guess this is one result, but she’s really asking me these questions too. “I could have … killed them?”
“Think about it, Sora, think.” Her aunt tapped her side of her head, making her bright white hair shift slightly. “What did you do?”
“I—pulled out their Cores and brought them into myself—my Core.”
“What’s in their body? What’s sustaining it; guiding it? A person’s spirit is a part of their Core among many other complicated elements.”
“So,” Sora’s vision narrowed as she stared at the floor. “So, she—their body,” her eyes widened. “Did I kill their physical bodies!” Everyone stiffened at her response; fear shooting through their Core.
“No, Sora,” Inari shook her head. “You were able to sustain each of their body’s spiritual needs through the magic you used to bring them into your Cores. You could consider it delicate spiritual surgery that you had no clue how to perform. If Jin or Eyia saw what you just did; the very slight shifts that you took that could have damaged them or you—they’d freak out and for good measure. Not only was it extremely dangerous to perform for each of them, but the manner in which you did it has left you extremely vulnerable. You have much to learn in regards to protecting yourself and others.”
“But—but you told me to do it again!” Sora stammered. “Why—why’d you let me do it again then?”
Her aunt hummed. “The first time you did it with Wendy was very rough, and the tossing and turning that she felt with all those other sensations; those were moments that she was very near complete destruction. However,” she sighed, “you managed to do it; narrowly, mind you, and that did impress me.
“You mapped out the procedure to perform such magic, with humans,” she stated clearly. “Do not do this with any other Core; the level of resistance human Cores have are neigh non-existent, which allowed you to maneuver without any tug or variance. I bring this up now, because you are about to do something else you have never done; it is not nearly—not even a fraction close to how dangerous as what you did with their Cores, but understand there are real consequences to using your powers that could snuff out beings with low Core resistance.”
“Should—should we wait a little bit then?” Wendy chuckled nervously. “You could train Sora a bit more…”
“I’m afraid not,” Inari’s eyes slid to her. “Sora is not moving your Cores, but will be creating an Intellectual copy of each of you and herself; this copy will be linked to your Core in a manner that is similar to how computer files that are read only function, any outside influence done to the copy will not directly affect you. You could meet with Bathin in this manner, and he would only be able to destroy the copy, which would just be cutting the connection. He couldn’t use your copy either, because it is not you, but a fed magical construct that when broken, is no longer fed and dies. It is extremely complicated to create a magical construct like this, but I will guide Sora in the act. You have nothing to fear.”
Wendy looked down at the bright floor. “Okay…”
“Hmm,” Ashley shifted in her chair. “Does that mean that astral projecting is actually dangerous if not done in this kind of way? In movies, I always got the impression it was pretty harmless.”
“Movies,” Nathan huffed. “Right, I guess I should throw out all my movie experience.”
“Not necessarily, Nathan,” Inari chuckled. “Movies are generally symbolizing an archetype that’s been passed down through generations; there’s bound to be some truth in it. As for Ashley’s question, yes, and no—there are means to harm you if you astral project. I spoke to my niece a bit about the damage one could experience between the different Planes of existence. What do you remember, Sora?”
“Man,” Sora scratched her left fox ear with a slight bit of irritation. “I feel like I keep getting quizzed. Umm, so—your Intelligence is what astral projects; not your spirit or your Core, but just your Intelligence, and it can be hurt in a lot of ways, but you’re also safe from physical or spiritual harm … it would take special magic to hurt you. What I’m understanding, my aunt’s saying that she’ll teach me a way to prevent even that.”
“Rough,” Inari sighed, “but get’s to some of the points. Yes, I’ll be guiding you down a path that is much safer than what you’d normally experiment with; this is something you’d normally learn through millennia of experimentation. I am handing down experience I have garnered for myself. Now, close your eyes and listen to my voice, Sora.”
Sora took a deep breath. “Alright.” She reached out her hand for Wendy, and she took it, fingers trembling. She squeezed reassuringly before closing her eyes.
“Sora, you have had to push a little to get Wendy to this point, but you’re going to have to let go when we arrive. We’ve set her stage, let her play it out at her own pace. She must confront this obstacle herself; just be there for support, let her engage. You know what this means … you’re going to have to slowly reduce your Core’s empowerment and let her stand on her own two feet.”
I don’t want to leave her alone…
“You will not be leaving her alone, but you will not be empowering her stability; she must burn this monster and incorporate her aggression. Her mother has been a massive block in her life. She must pull out this dagger in her heart by herself; you cannot be her life support—if you want her to be strong, you’ll do this.”
Swallowing, Sora cleared her throat. Okay, I get that she needs to be strong, but Mary even thinks this is a bit fast.
“Yes, because she deals with people on a much different level than you can. This is Wendy’s Core and you know exactly her issues that need to be addressed and can provide the stage for that in an instant. You are much more equipped to handle someone’s transformation than she ever could be or understands; you do not understand. Just trust me; I have done this for eons. These concepts I taught you are not new, but rediscovered and presented in a different manner than generations past; again, just trust me. This is how you bring Wendy back to life; it is very similar to what Horus did to Osiris in the Underworld—you are giving Wendy sight she never could have imagined.”
I—I’ll trust you then…
“Call upon your magic and link the desire to replicating Wendy and your Intelligence into a physical manifestation inside your Core. Yes, that’s it … now sustain those with a link, just like a power cable and link that power cable to the information feed that connects your replicated Intelligence to Wendy and you; no, do not connect yourself to Wendy’s magical replication, you do not want to interfere with her growth. There you go … open your eyes.”
Sora opened her eyes; the clones stood in front of them, making the other three humans gasp, and she was a little shocked to see her aunt smiling, soft tears falling down her cheeks. “I cannot express—I was advised, you might even say warned, to not interfere like this by The Herald of Sakura; she’s tied to your mother in some sense, and she feels a little protective in that regard, but I was not going to let my only niece face such a future without guidance … I cannot express how selfish I am in this.”
Sora felt tears coming on herself; she sniffed, brushing back a few tears. “I don’t care how it sounds—you’ve been more of a mother to me than I feel she ever could. I don’t know what she’s done for me or the Herald or anything else, but—you were there for me when I needed it. I don’t know what deals she has with Nilly or the Nekomata Faction or The Herald or maybe even Stephanie, who knows … but you—you’ve been there from the moment I met you. You’ve helped me get stronger—not just…” She started to shake a little. “You’ve been doing the same thing to me that you’re…”
Inari chuckled. “Yes, Sora, I’ve been helping to unlock your Core and prepare you for your own advancements. It is a process, not a one-time event.”
All the humans seemed a little lost and didn’t want to interrupt. “Now,” Inari brushed at her red cheeks without removing the stains. “I want you to close your eyes and imagine Wendy’s mother, search for her spiritual ripple; it is in your databank. This is not a completely safe method to find someone that is powerful and could respond in a hostile manner, but for normal humans that can’t even shield their spiritual presence, it is more than adequate; you are not pinging her Core, but searching for the ripples she already sends and following them. It is important to note that you must be careful with this method as someone could be sending a trap; however, with the method of replicating your Intelligence, it is safe. Send your linked Intelligences to the location you found.”
“Sora, once you find Jane, start reducing your Core’s empowering energy feeding into Wendy’s Core.”
Following her aunt’s instructions, for a brief moment, she felt a massive wave of countless ripples before they faded to a single pulse. It feels a little like the pulse from the Vulpes Realm gate; it’s different, but it fluctuates like it. With a desire, she sent her Intelligence replicas toward the ripple and felt a slight tug as she fell through space while actively reducing her empowering energy feeding into Wendy’s Core. The experience only lasted a fraction of a second before she was standing on solid ground.
Opening her eyes, she was standing on concrete; Wendy and her aunt on either side of her. They were at some kind of resort; turning around she saw several people walking around and a red-tinted wood deck that surrounded a large pool. They were at a resort she remembered going to once; it was a luxury 5-star eco-resort in Fiji she’d went to with Wendy during her eleventh birthday, the vast ocean view behind them.
It was twilight, and there were soft lamps atop tables and around the pool; Sora caught sight of Jane sitting at one of the tables, browsing a menu with a satisfied expression, a glass of red wine in front of her. Sora shivered as Wendy’s emotions began to escalate with her continuing to shield her from the energy in her Core.
“What—why am I … I don’t want to do this, please!” Wendy pleaded, turning away from her mother’s smug expression as she looked at a passing attendant.
“Take your time,” Inari stated as three chairs appeared, facing the ocean.
Wendy quickly moved away from her mother, walking toward the beach. “She can’t see us, right?”
“No dear,” Inari said, slowly moving to follow with Sora in-tow. “Everything here is a dreamlike imitation of what is actually around your mother in the Physical Plane.”
“I just—why do I need to do this so fast? I mean, we could go see my aunt … why don’t we go see her?” Sora frowned. She’s never even met her aunt, so I have no clue about her. I guess this is just her panicking.
“Perhaps after your mother,” Inari said. “If you still want to see her, but there’s no need to rush; just sit by the ocean, for now, it’s fine.”
“It’s not fine!” Wendy screamed, making Sora flinch, but Inari placed a hand on her shoulder. “It’s alright. Just let her get away; she’s coming off your emotional security, and she’s a little unstable. We’ll just sit here and let her walk it out; she’ll come back in her own time.”
Sora hesitated as she watched Wendy start briskly walking along the side of the beach. “I want to follow her though.”
“I know, but she needs to calm down on her own. When she’s calm, she’ll join us. Just sit with me and let her work through the rush of emotions you’ve been leveling out for her.”
“Okay…” Sora held her arm nervously. Did I cause all of this built up tension in her by calming her with my aura?
“No, dear, you did not cause this, but you actually saved her life. Again, in a very dangerous manner,” she scolded, making Sora’s ears droop; Inari huffed, putting an arm around her. “Still, it was very courageous of you. You managed to bridge Wendy’s broken heart with yours on an emotional level; she trusts you because you left yourself vulnerable to her when she was most vulnerable. Now, you just need to let her cool down and come back; she’s in flight mode, not fight. She doesn’t want to confront her emotions with her mother; why would she? Her mother is a contemptible creature that doesn’t deserve Wendy’s sacrifices, but it is Wendy that needs to recognize that, and then release all those pent up emotions.”
“This really is important for her?”
“Extremely,” her aunt gestured for her to take a seat. “She was left in an ocean, lost in the open, and nothing could take her pain away, but you bridged her cast off boat to shore. There is a fire that can be tempered through this; in essence, we are throwing her back to the wolves, her ravenous emotions. She’s beaten black and blue, but she’ll survive those wounds, and they’ll shape her; every scar will build a stair for her to climb the pyramid—she may be among the wolves, but when we’re done, she’ll be the leader of the whole pack. She’ll leave her mother choking on every word she spoke or left unspoken, rebuild everything that Jane broke within her, and build a throne to be the master of chaos and order; Jane will be the reason she continues to fight forever, every future wound will only feed her pack, that she tamed here.”
Sora watched Wendy continue walking away from them as she sat with her aunt, shifting their tails to lay across their laps. “I really want this to help her; thanks for calming me down.”