Spinning an invisibility illusion around them, she nodded at Eyia. “Maybe we should give them some training.” She grinned at their jitters wickedly. “Eyia will make you so tough you can stand in a blizzard without so much as a twitch.”
“Please—warm us up…” Ashley stuttered.
Sighing, Sora winked at them. “Fine, fine…”
Nathan made it down the hall and slammed open the door; Sora chuckled at the increased shock that flashed through Wendy, Mary, and Ashley’s minds.
“What’s happening … where are you?” His throat constricted with sudden fear; his eyes darted to the shelf with their dirty clothes.
The three girls screamed; Wendy leaped forward, trying to hide behind her. Eyia knows I have an illusion up; serves them…
Her eyes popped as Wendy latched onto her first tail, tugging sharply.
“Ach,” Sora yelped, voice a squeak; focus shattered, her illusion unraveled, but her mind was blank from the sharp pain that shot up her spine. She lurched forward, flicking her tail and sending Wendy spiraling into a partial front-flip to land with a hard grunt against the ground.
The moment Sora’s illusion showed the slightest hints of breaking ice shot toward the door, throwing Nathan back against the wall. He hit the wood paneling and then the floor with a resounding thud, gasping with Wendy as they fought for air, but Nathan was scrambling to his feet in seconds.
Stumbling down the hall, he partially tripped a few times before getting his balance. “We—we’re under—under attack!” He shouted between wheezes.
“That could have been handled better,” Eyia muttered, eyes following Nathan’s desperate retreat for help; the sword in her left hand had been replaced with Svalinn, fog frothing across the floor as the ice dispersed into mist.
Sora hugged her first tail, repressing tears. “Jeez, Wendy … you can’t just grab my tail like that … it’s sensitive.” She growled, voice cracking and still feeling the stinging needles shooting down its length and up her spine.
Rolling to her side, Wendy coughed a few more times. “Wha—what was—was that about? You could—couldn’t warn us?”
“It was under control,” Sora breathed through her teeth. “We were invisible.”
“Well,” Ashley took a moment to form the word. “We—had no clue … I have—have a husband … geez, Sora.” Mary nodded shakily, unable to form any words as Eyia’s cold gust of mist past her.
Sora breathed a heavy growl through her teeth. “My bad, my bad…” Releasing her tail, she fed her magic down both of them and radiated the heat across the room; quickly warming the space and dispersing the fog as she caught Jin’s high-pitched laughter.
“That was beautiful! In the top three best moments all week.”
“What?” Nathan panted as he reached the bottom level.
Alice and Liz burst through the kitchen doors, fear in their voices.
“What’s going on?” Alice asked before stiffening. “Who—is that…”
Liz rushed a little toward Nathan. “What enemy? Why are they screaming … a—eight-tails?”
The three of them froze as Sora heard Jin waving her hand. “Don’t worry about it; false alarm; don’t worry about my little friend here too, I’ll introduce you when she wakes up. Go back to cooking; that ice was Eyia stopping a sneak peek, by the way. Was it worth it?”
“Sneak peek?” Alice muttered.
“I didn’t—they screamed, and who the hell is that?” Nathan yelled defensively, causing Jin to snicker.
Sora’s attention was pulled away as she noticed Githa leaning against the left wall with a toothy grin. “Such a bad fox.”
She got Nilly flashbacks as Wendy, Mary, and Ashley sighed with relief, the warmth shooting through their bodies. “That was … a disaster, and what’s this about an eight-tailed fox?” Sora moaned, rubbing her eyes, and trying to repress the painful lingering tingles.
Eyia brushed off the incident without the slightest trace of a grin. “Sora, we must discuss an important event that concerns that fox. It would be best shared in private; Jin will construct a barrier so we may talk without worry.”
Sora’s brow creased as she turned toward the Valkyrie, taking a calming breath. Worry about eavesdroppers? Something must have happened, but I didn’t sense anything downstairs.
Mary rubbed her shoulders for a moment before releasing a heavy sigh. “Eyia—are we to be excluded?”
Her vision shifted between Mary and Ashley. “I believe Mary, Ashley, and Nathan would benefit us greatly in this discussion; however, I believe Wendy should be excluded.”
“Huh?” Wendy’s tone dropped. “Why?” She asked, getting to her feet and checking for bruises.
“Information is best kept to those that can contribute to the task and must know. Wendy, I do not believe you have the skills capable of contributing and from preventing information from leaking unnecessarily; it is best to consolidate information to those that are relevant. I do not trust Fen, Jian, Aiden, or Kari, and you do not need to know.”
Wendy glared at the wall, arms folded, but her timid nature was starting to poke through. “I—I guess it can’t be helped then.”
Sora frowned as she felt Wendy’s disappointment and worthlessness spark up. She feels like a burden again, but I can’t imagine Eyia saying this without reason. It was pretty harsh, but Eyia isn’t one to beat around the bush.
She rushed over and hugged Wendy. “Hey—what’s that for … you know we’re still naked…” She huffed, trying to push away. “Honestly…”
“I know, but I just wanted to let you know that I love you and you’re not worthless. I’m sure Eyia has a reason.”
“I know,” Wendy muttered, shifting her feet and holding her left arm. “Fine, you guys have your secret meeting. I’ll just—finish taking a … freezing freaking shower.”
Sora’s lips bunched as she read a little deeper into Wendy’s emotional state.
She thinks Eyia’s a better friend than her now…
Eyia shook her head. “We do not need to have this talk now, but it would be more advantageous to discuss this before the other four return; you may finish your shower.”
Nodding, Sora smiled at her. “Thanks, Eyia. I’ll have a shower and come down to talk.”
Githa snickered before vanishing from Sora’s senses; she heard her at the same time she disappeared, purring on the couch downstairs.
Eyia nodded and walked out of the room, shutting the door without another word.
“Well then,” Mary hummed. “This should be interesting.”
“I’m more concerned than interested,” Ashley sighed. “My heart’s beating a million miles an hour … deep breaths…”
Sora turned to glare at Wendy.
“I’m not comparing friends,” Sora stated.
“I never … fox intuition sucks…” She grunted, storming over to the bottles to smell their content.
“Hey, why are you mad at me?” Sora sulked.
Mary and Ashley just shook their heads with humored grins.
“To be teens again,” Mary whispered.
Ashley clicked her tongue. “No, thank you; I’m a happy adult with kids.”
Sora scratched her twitching ears. I hear every whisper, but you know that! Taking a deep breath, she moved to the base of the copper shower-heads, noticing how close her hair color matched it. Well, let’s see if I can tweak this thing.
She fed her desires into a seal at the base of the primary pipe that all the smaller ones led to and placed a heating spell that would instantly warm the liquid and linked it to the pressure spell, modifying the enchantment to apply max pressure the entire time. The three humans watched her walk back and forth between the two spots with furrowed brows.
“There,” Sora grinned. “I just finished making it a warm shower. That pressure line is a heating line now.” Pride filled her chest.
The three of them looked at her dubiously. “This isn’t another prank, right?” Ashley asked dryly. “I took enough cold baths when I was pregnant with Josie; I don’t need more, and that was freezing.”
Sora rolled her eyes before sliding her hand along the line; the water shot out in a medium spray, light steam filling the room. “I guess I didn’t account for the steam though,” Sora mumbled.
The humans didn’t seem to hear her as they sighed with bliss, hunching over to let the liquid fall across their backs.
“Perfect,” Mary muttered.
Ashley ran a hand through her wet blonde hair. “Mhm.”
Wendy glanced over at her with a short sigh. “Thanks, Sora … for always making life easier.”
Sora smiled back with a wink. “Watch out though, I’m still a tricky Vulpes, remember?”
“Our tricky Vulpes,” Wendy winked back.
* * * * * *
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