Sora moved to the red light, everyone but Kari following. The light took up the majority of the wall and looked almost solid. Taking a deep breath she examined the light, looking deeper than what she currently saw; to her surprise, she found symbols. They were similar to what she saw at her aunt’s shrine. Extending her desires, she watched the symbols shift until four symbols appeared in a vertical line. “I see,” she muttered. This is Fox Magic; Inari must unlock the ability to use this in Kitsune. The symbols are the representation of the creator’s desire.
Jin hummed with interest. “I see you interacting with the gate, but I don’t understand what’s being done. It’s a complicated mess to me.”
Fen was studying her hand with a furrowed brow. “I don’t really get it either.”
Sora nodded. “I’ve seen magic like this before at my aunt’s shrine. This is Fox Magic at its finest; that’s what I think anyway. You can’t understand it—how should I put it … in a way, it’s encrypted. My aunt called this type of magic very powerful. I’m not performing it either, but simply analyzing and using a search function … not that you’d really understand that—I’m relating it to computers in the human world.”
“I see!” Ashley said with a bit of excitement. “So, this Fox Magic is like the programming; the thing that makes everything function by following a certain set of rules. What you’re doing is using a built-in tool to help you navigate and manipulate the program in set ways, setting options and protocols already programmed in. That’s really interesting; I didn’t think magic would operate like a computer.”
Smiling lightly, Sora nodded. “Yes. I can’t read the language … I think my mom or my aunt will need to teach me it at some point. However, I can understand what they mean by asking it to give me what I’m looking for.”
Luna and Rayla seemed utterly lost with what they were saying. They shifted nervously next to Sora, waiting for her to continue.
Nathan frowned as he looked at the wall. “So—can anyone interact and change it then?”
Examining the wall’s response as she asked the question, she shook her head. “That’s not the feeling I’m getting. There are protocols against that. It seems you must be able to utilize Fox Magic or—have a specific key. I’m pretty sure my aunt could enter if she wanted. I don’t feel any kind of threat or barrier for Kitsune—never mind … I guess it is programmed to not activate for them.”
“What about me, and this white tail I have?” Fen asked, a bit of frustration in her tone.
Studying it for a few more seconds, Sora hummed, lips becoming a line. “It looks like I can set it to accept everyone for a set time.”
“Really?” Luna asked with a furrowed brow.
Rayla crossed her arms. “But—only the Council can allow others in.”
Smiling down at them, she said, “We’ll have to see.” Sora asked it to allow everyone to enter from this gate for as long as she was interacting with it. A set of strange vertical designs appeared. Is that why Inari made that action to seal her shrine again? Sliding her finger down the symbols, they started to glow. The entire wall shimmered, turning a deeper red.
Rayla and Luna leaped back in shock “What did—you—you changed the gate?” Rayla stammered.
“As long as I am interacting with it, anyone can enter.” She said with a reassuring grin.
Jin smiled at Eyia. “I was looking for adventure and look where it’s landed me. Things have gotten so interesting.”
Eyia smiled. “That it has.”
“Ready to check out the Vulpes Realm then?”
Tightening her grip around her spear, Eyia nodded. “There may be danger on the other side to meet us. I will go first.”
Jin huffed, a smirk in place. “Now, I can’t have you taking all the fun. Let’s go!” They both stepped through without hesitation.
Aiden watched them go, vision shifting to Fen and Jian as they tentatively touched the light, vanishing before their eyes. “I’ll go talk to Kari; give me a minute.”
Sora nodded as he walked back to where she was sitting, still staring at the ground.
“You—you—other monsters are in the realm,” Luna said, ashen-faced.
“Go on,” Sora urged. “I’ll be along after everyone goes through—and if Fen tries to pick on you again, just run to Eyia or Jin, okay?”
They started to tremble again as they looked at her. “You—you’re like the Council?” Rayla asked.
“Umm—I can’t say I am—I’ve never met them and from what I know, that isn’t the likely case. I’m a Vulpes Founder … I do have certain natural talents most Vulpes lack. That’s all there is to it.” Swallowing, they looked at each other and shakily entered the light.
“We’re okay to…” Mary trailed off as Githa jumped on her shoulders, back in cat form. She purred as she settled around her neck, Mary trying to balance her. “Eh—okay,” turning back to Sora, “are we clear to enter?” When Sora nodded, and the four humans entered, leaving only Aiden, Kari, and her.
She listened, fox ears twitching a little as Aiden initiated. “Kari, it seems we still aren’t completely safe here. We’ll need to go into the Vulpes Realm to escape your uncles and the demon. There’s a barrier, so hopefully, it will be strong enough.”
Kari didn’t answer for a few seconds. “Aiden—I don’t know what to do anymore. What am I supposed to live for? I don’t—want anything…”
Aiden sighed. “I don’t know how to answer that…”
“I—have a suggestion,” Sora offered. “I know it might not be something you’d want to do … I mean, I doubt you’d really open up about anything.”
Kari glanced up at her. “What—you expect me to take counseling or something?”
Sora shrugged, arm dropping to her side, the gate returned to its normal color. Now that I think about it … Jin and Eyia not being here right now could give Kari a chance to attack me … I’m pretty sure I could put up a decent fight though. “Look, I still don’t like you very much. You did all those horrible things to me for no reason … you didn’t even look into me to see if I was manipulating people or if I even knew I was a Vulpes. You just targeted me out of … I don’t even know, but—I know what despair feels like.”
She paused, looking down at the floor. “I wouldn’t even wish that feeling on you … Eric, sure, I hate your brother. I don’t really care if he’s dead … which is kind of harsh I guess, but still, I won’t lose sleep over it.”
Kari huffed, chuckling a little. “At least—I don’t know … whom am I supposed to talk to—you?”
Sora shook her head. “Mary—she probably hates your brother too, but she’s a kind person. I think she’d listen and offer her advice. My dad hired her for a reason; she’s one of the most expensive psychiatrists in Miami … though, I bet she has some trauma herself after what your brother did to her.”
Kari closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “I don’t know—I never heard good things about it from the other girls or TV.”
She laughed. “You’re taking your advice from TV and teenage girls that probably are deflecting their own issues? I saw a psychiatrist for over two years, once a week, because of you. They did help me—they helped me a lot. They could tell there was a problem happening, but your brother and Jenny kept interfering.”
“It’s not like I asked them to,” Kari growled.
Sora shook her head. “You probably didn’t, but that’s what happened. If they hadn’t—I bet that organization would have picked you up a long time ago.”
Kari’s nose was twisted in disgust. “I—that’s…” She swallowed. “Whatever, we need to go through the gate anyway, right?” Aiden and her nodded. “Fine,” Kari spat. Getting up she stormed to the portal. Sora interacted with it as she neared and the color changed; she vanished as she went through.
Aiden scratched the back of his hair. “Man … we all need showers. Maybe that’ll curve the tension … everyone feels a little better after a warm shower.”
Sora frowned as she remembered Fen and Wendy’s comments. “Does Kari smell?”
His brow furrowed. “No—she has a good smell around her. Different than yours, but hey, a warm shower never hurt.” He chuckled as he stepped up to the portal. “See you on the other side.” He waved, stepping through the gate.
Sora’s lips turned into a grimace as she stared back toward the hallway. “Honestly, two weeks and—I don’t even know how long I was in that base.” Will I ever be able to save my dad? Maybe Inari’s imprint can help me figure something out.
Stepping through the portal, she felt a little disoriented as everything around her changed and the charged atmosphere increased. She was in a massive golden hall; the word extravagant seemed to diminish its appearance. Murals of glistening gems showed Vulpes of all different tail colors, glorious landscapes, and a massive gated city was impressed into white marble walls. The floor itself was inlaid with gems and seemed to be solid black marble, illuminating the floor and white pillars spaced around the hall were bright orbs of red fire, suspended in the air. Even the black marble ceiling was speckled with diamonds to mirror stars and constellations. Walking down the steps, she looked back to see a black arch, framing the red portal.
Wendy, Nathan, Mary, and Ashley were walking around the hall in amazement as they studied the art, Githa still riding on Mary’s shoulders. Luna and Rayla were close to Jin and Eyia as they stood near the hall’s exit, peering beyond. Fen had elected to wait by the portal entrance, Jian close beside her, and Aiden was standing with Kari as she looked around the area.
“A bit much,” Kari stated with a dry tone, voice echoing a little.
“It’s amazing,” Wendy said, a bit breathless. “It’s like a fairy tale. We go to a new world and find treasure everywhere.”
“Yes, I mean, are there enough gems on earth to make something like this? They’re everywhere, in everything.”
“It certainly is grand,” Mary commented.
Nathan turned away from the jeweled spectacle. “Rayla, Luna, are we in a city and this is some sort of monument or something like that?”
The twins turned, and Rayla shook her head. “No, this is the Mountain Gate. We live in a town nearby.”
“The city is much further east,” Luna muttered.
They both locked sight on Sora and ran over to her. “You are like the Council! You allowed monsters to come in.” Luna said with excitement.
“Why did you bring them here though?” Rayla asked, looking over at Fen and Jian with a little fright as they both darted behind her.
Sora smiled as she patted them on the head comfortingly. They act a bit younger than fourteen, but maybe it’s a cultural thing? I mean, living in the United States you’re bombarded with a ton of information online and at school. “We were being chased by some powerful monsters and needed a place to rest to figure out what we’re going to do next.”
Luna’s eyes grew, “You’re so strong though!”
Fen chuckled lowly, “Ignorance is bliss.” The girls glared at her, which seemed to brighten her mood again. “Jian, let’s explore—I’m getting bored.” Jian nodded, and they walked past Eyia and Jin as they moved toward Sora and the twins, Wendy and the others joining them.
“So,” Jin said with a grin. “What’s next?”
Nathan frowned. “I know you guys don’t know me that well and I don’t want to overstep my bounds—I realize how weak a human is after seeing Githa and Bathin … Eric included. However, wouldn’t it be best to get the lay of the land? Find some adult—Vulpes, I think?”
Nodding with approval, Eyia said, “That would be wise. We have escaped our pursuers for the moment, but it is not certain that it will remain that way. Until Githa is of sufficient strength to combat Bathin, it would be reasonable to be cautious.”
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Githa laughed on Mary’s shoulder. “Bathin can’t get here! Nope, not a chance. The Fenris brothers couldn’t either. It would take someone strong with magic—like Inari’s level to break in.” She said before licking her paw. Her tails went stiff. “Oh, no! It’ll take Nilly like … twenty minutes to slip in … she’s gonna be hungry…” She shivered.
Sora swallowed nervously, remembering Githa’s appetite with Bathin. “What—does Nilly do when she’s hungry?”
Githa hummed ominously. “One time, at Asgard, she ate six Kraken! Odin was laughing off his throne! She drank Thor under the table.” She recalled fondly.
“You were in Asgard before the fall?” Eyia questioned eagerly.
Githa nodded. “Mhm, they had delicious food, so we’d stop in every once in a while. Nilly liked to drink with Odin. Sometimes she’d poke fun at Fenrir.”
Kari huffed at her statement. “Whatever.”
“Ah, you missed that.” Aiden nodded. “Nilly is the Founding Mother of the cats.”
Githa hissed. “I said to forget that! Nilly will be mad if she finds out I told you … I don’t want to starve for a century…”
“Right—sorry about that,” Aiden scratched his temple. “Won’t mention it again!”
Kari’s brow furrowed. “Seriously … of course, the first-generation cat would torment the first-generation wolf … that makes sense.” She sniffed.
Githa hummed with mirth. “Nilly would bring him drinks sometimes, and they’d talk about the past. She teased him a lot, but they were friends.”
Eyia didn’t look happy at that. “Fenrir killed my father.”
“Mhm, Odin and Fenrir were at odds. Nilly understood it all, but I don’t. She liked them both. Too bad, old Fenrir miscalculated the power of the moon … Nilly went to his grave like three millennia ago…”
Eyia shot a venomous glare at Kari that made her step back and swallow. Teeth clenched, she walked away, clearly upset as she moved toward the entrance. “Grave…” She seethed. Luna and Rayla scooted closer to Sora, pushing up against her as the contentious atmosphere continued.
“Why’s she mad? Lots of first-generation Founders do. They were all pretty close.”
Sora sighed as she watched Eyia leave, but Mary responded with concern. “Did she know her dad well?”
Sora shook her head. “Only in dreams. She was exiled to an island because of some other gods that would have killed her. She only knew him from his impressed Intelligence in her mind.”
Mary nodded. “I see … she must be bitter about that. She wanted to know her dad, the real him, it seems, and she sees Fenrir as the reason that never happened. She’s deflected all her negative pent-up emotions onto him.” She turned to Sora. “I might be worrying about something that will never occur, but … she might lash out at Kari at some point. If she’s in a vulnerable state, the image of a Fenris Wolf might trigger that hatred buried inside her.”
Kari huffed haughtily. “I don’t care. Let her attack me.”
Jin lifted an eyebrow. “You’d want to reconsider that statement. Eyia has been through more life-threatening situations than you can count. I was her first neutral contact in her entire life; she’s much older than she appears as well. You may be tough, but Eyia would eat you for breakfast … literally. You’re a long ways off from fighting her when she’s serious.” Kari’s nose twisted as she turned away, not responding.
Mary cleared her throat. “Which of you could stop her, if she were to attack Kari—seriously?”
Jin sniffed. “Why would any of us want to? It’s their business, let them handle it.”
Mary’s frown deepened. “I do have some issues with Kari, and there are things I don’t have resolved yet, but I don’t want to see her die. She may be a Fenris Wolf, but from what I understand, she’s still a teenage girl…”
“Worry about yourself,” Kari snapped as she marched off to the side of the room.
Swallowing as her eyes followed her, Mary pressed a hand to her chest. Taking a deep breath before her vision returned to Jin. “Kari had nothing to do with Fenrir; in fact, from what I’ve heard about her past, it’s a miracle she’s turned out as stable as she is. Who could stop Eyia?”
Jin growled as she considered Mary’s words. “I see your point. If Eyia was to get serious … only Githa or I could stop her. With how focused and how guarded she is, I doubt even if Sora used all her strength in controlling others that she’d just deflect or combat it. I doubt I’d be unscathed in that kind of fight either. Realistically, from what I’ve seen, only Githa could shut her down.”
“I was afraid of that,” Mary muttered.
“Why?” Githa asked. “I can eat all of you right now! I’m really strong.” She said in complete innocence.
Jin scratched the back of her head. “That hurts my pride a little, but it’s probably true. Could you stop her without eating her though? I don’t have very many people I’d consider friends.”
“I guess … sometimes I still get that urge to help Asgardians though…” Githa nodded.
Aiden cleared his throat. “I think we should get together and make a pact to not try to kill or eat each other … I’m just saying.”
“I agree,” Sora added. “Let’s go check out this new land and then we can all sit down at the nearest town and come up with a plan. We’ve been jerked around for so long … that kind of feels odd. We’ll be able to decide what to do next; everything’s been happening so fast.”
They all nodded before continuing to the hall, Kari sullenly following behind them. Sora stayed back, looking down at Luna and Rayla as their bodies pressed against her. Is this protective feeling what it’s like to be a big sister? These poor girls got wrapped up in all this drama they have no clue about … they just wanted to clean a little. Wrapping her arms around them, she squeezed a little.
“Too tight!” They wheezed.
“Sorry,” Sora chuckled. “I haven’t gotten used to how strong I’ve become. Everything will be okay, alright? I won’t let anything bad happen to you.”
They stepped back as she released them. “You’re too strong!” Rayla said with a beaming smile.
Luna stretched her arms behind her back. “You can do Council things too! I’m sure the Area Supervisor will want to see you.”
“I hope we can all get along,” Sora scratched at her left fox ear. “What’s the Area Supervisor’s name?”
“Her name’s Mimi Kogurai.”
“Hmm,” Sora moved after the group. “Alright, let’s go meet Mimi. Can you guide us?”
“Yeah!” They both shouted, grabbing her hands as they rushed forward.
“Woah, no need to rush,” Sora laughed.