Synopsis: A fast-paced story about a youngster who loses everything and everyone he holds dear. Through the only family that still remains with him, his uncle, he gets to choose to dedicate his focus and attention to blacksmithing rather than to fall into depression and street life...
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Sora ran beside Fen, their small group in-tow. “How do we find the entrance to the Vulpes Dimension?”
Fen growled, “I don’t know, it’s a story my mom told me. If you are in trouble, you just have to wish to go there, and it will guide you … humans have similar fairy tales. It’s just a bedtime story. A protected place without all the tests Inari has…”
Swallowing nervously, Sora frowned as she glanced back at Kari; she was still under her influence, but she could feel her powers strengthening. Her charm wouldn’t last much longer. “He said you’d know a place … if that’s all you can think of, then it has to be true. He hasn’t been wrong yet.”
“I still have no idea how to get there.” Fen sniffed.
Sora nervously bit at her lower lip. Fox Magic seems to work on a similar principle … you wish for something, and your energy is used to accomplish it. That’s how I heal and influence people; Inari said it’ll be natural to me. Most Vulpes only have limited use of Fox Magic, but I’m supposed to have everything. If it’s supposed to be natural to find this safe place when in danger, I just need to wish it and expend energy.
Thinking about a safe place nearby, she found something responding. It was like a pulse that passed through her spiritual network; an inaudible sound that made her stop in her tracks. The others skidded to a stop.
“What is it?” Jin asked.
“Do you feel that?”
Fen’s brow furrowed. “No?”
The pulse rippled through her again. “There it is … there’s some kind of signal that’s being sent on a spiritual level.”
Aiden turned back into his human state with a burst of light. “What do you mean? I don’t feel anything.”
Turning to Fen, Sora said, “Focus your spiritual perception and examine the waves around us. It happens every five seconds or so.”
Fen grimaced. “That’s hard. That takes meditation, and I don’t like doing it,” her nose twisted as she realized something. “Oh, so you can just do it without a problem … Founders.” She spitefully whispered.
Eyia seemed to catch onto her meaning. “My father told me Asgard functions in a similar way. Which direction is the source?”
Sora shifted Githa in her arms. Her spiritual network was open since the Holy Water had washed away her energy, so she knew Githa was annoyed at her loss. The moment she started mentioning a pulse, her frustration seemed to vanish, curiosity sparkling in her blue eyes. Sora focused, two more pulses passed before she got the direction. “This way, follow me.”
She darted toward the source, jumping up the terrain. Why hasn’t anyone come looking for us yet? Is Eric really able to hold Bathin off this long? I guess if the Herald is supporting him anything is possible. I have to assume she chose that time to support Eric for a reason and gave him the information we’d need. I guess Inari was right, instead of her giving us the answer, she gave us hints that we had to puzzle out … a bit annoying.
The pulse was strengthening as they continued up a sharp mountain. Where are we? What’s with this plant that’s covering all the trees and ground… Her thoughts shifted as she found the oscillation ahead of her in a small clearing. There was a small brook that trickled down the slope, and she smelled a few animals that had passed by the area recently.
Walking a little bit into the clearing, she stopped. “It’s right here. Eyia, do you know how we enter?”
Eyia’s brow furrowed as she followed beside her. “My father told me you must have the key.”
Jin hummed, floating behind them. “If the story only says Vulpes can enter then it could be linked to your unique spiritual energy. Try interacting with the space.”
Sora channeled her spiritual energy through her hand waving it around the area. After a moment there was a bright light that appeared. Sora leaped back with Eyia and Jin, the group clustered as the small spark of light grew into a pulsating brilliance within a ten-foot diameter.
Fen swallowed, hiding behind Sora. “Is—that it? It is real. What will happen if I try to enter—Kitsune and other monsters can’t enter … my white tail.”
Sora took a deep breath. “We don’t really have a choice, do we. I’ll go last in case it shuts, and I need to open it again. We should hurry.”
Eyia was the first one through, followed by Jin, Aiden, Kari, Fen, and Jian with Wendy and the others. Sora took one last look at the forest around them before entering.
Everything went white before color returned. She closed her eyes, rubbing them. Opening them again, she was looking around the interior of a space. Sora’s breath caught as she felt pressure around her, infusing the air she breathed, flowing around and through her spiritual network. What is this atmosphere? It’s charged with so much power, and it’s poking every inch of my body.
She stood in a massive stone room, the bright ten-foot light behind her. Eyia and the rest of the group were staring around in confusion at the space; there was plenty of room for them all to fit. Comfortable chairs and couches were spaced around the area, all of different styles and color; beautiful landscape and Vulpes paintings were hung along the walls, and the place was well lit by glowing orange orbs that hung evenly above them.
“What is this place?” Wendy asked.
Jin hummed. “Do you feel that, Eyia? There’s potent magic penetrating all my defenses, too many to count.”
Eyia nodded. “I feel it as well.”
Fen was staring around in wonder. “I’ve never felt so good before! This is the Vulpes Realm? I thought monsters weren’t allowed into it.”
Sora’s grip around Githa weakened as she squirmed in her hands. Letting go of her, she dropped to the ground. Landing on her feet, she dashed toward the only exit and disappeared into the hall. The group watched her run off with reservation.
“Should we follow her?” Eyia questioned.
Kari’s brow was furrowed as she was staring around at their group. “Are we still in danger?”
Sighing, Sora motioned to her. “Follow us.”
Kari looked a little confused as she wondered if she should comply. “I … guess I will.”
Wendy, Mary, Nathan, and Ashley stayed close to Sora as they walked further into the building. She frowned as they passed a few rooms without doorways, more chairs, and tables inside.
“This looks like a waiting place,” Ashley softly commented.
Mary nodded. “You’re right, and all the furniture seems to be from all sorts of cultures.”
Sora glanced back, Eyia, Jin, Aiden, Fen, and Jian were following, Jian back in human form. “Jin, have you ever been to another realm or dimension?”
Jin shook her head. “No, the only separated space I went to was Eyia’s island. I noticed there was an altered space and decided to check it out. The way you opened this realm though … I haven’t been to a place like this. The power here is completely different than the Island Eyia was on.”
Humming softly, Sora studied the humans’ spiritual networks. They seemed to be strengthened by the force filtering through them; she didn’t have to empower them against Jian’s fear-inducing atmosphere. Releasing her aura, they stopped sharply, a slight touch of fear creeping through them.
“What happened?” Nathan asked, clearing his throat. “I feel like … I can’t explain it. I feel more exposed…” The other three nodded with worry.
Slowing to a stop, Sora frowned. “I stopped strengthening your spiritual networks. It looks like this place is doing it on its own. I guess it’s not as potent as me personally protecting and empowering you, but it has a similar effect.
Mary nodded with a thoughtful smile. “You know—now that you mention it, I did feel so relaxed as we were escaping and when you broke our curse. It’s like—a drug … I could see it becoming quite addictive. Just the slight boost in security alone that we just lost … I feel compelled to ask for it back…”
Nathan nodded as he folded his arms. “I agree. If I felt like that in some of the shootouts I had as a cop … the clarity inside a stressful situation. I mean, if monsters like you were in the force, the number of lives that could be saved.”
Fen snorted behind them. “Not just any Vulpes can do that. The little princess here is a Founder, basically, a goddess among gods. I’ve heard some of your human stories when you come into contact with gods. It can be horrifying or serene because of your weak spiritual networks; Sora’s natural aura is invigorating, but she can release it in many ways, if she changed it to an offensive form, you’d be snuffed out like a light. Even normal monsters like me, my characteristic makes men trip over themselves, Jian’s instills fear…”
Jin sighed as she cut Fen off. “Great explanation, but can we see what place we’ve landed in?” Fen glared at Jin but soon turned her head away with a sniff.
Eyia nodded. “We must assess our current situation. Once safety is assured, we can talk.”
“That’s a good evaluation,” Nathan nodded.
Sora cracked her neck, easing her stress as they walked down the hallway, it began to curve. There are so many people with us now. I’d feel safer if Githa was here … how long will it take for her to be recharged, and will she vanish like Nilly? Why’d she run off in the first place? Did something catch her interest or has she been here before? I’m kind of nervous about… Her thoughts were interrupted as she heard noises up ahead. It sounded like two female voices shouting in frustration.
“How did a cat get in here?”
“Is it a Nekomata?”
“Yeah, I think so. They’re supposed to have two tails.”
“Cut it off around the other side!”
“What? It jumped to the second level. Luna, run up after it!”
“Why do I need to run up there?”
“I’m the senior here! Get up there.” A few moments passed after Luna’s low growl. “Wait, come back down. The cat jumped.”
“You kidding me!” Luna yelled. More yells of frustration met them as they continued to walk down the hallway.
Sora hummed lowly. “You hear those two?” Jian, Jin, and Fen nodded.
Fen snickered. “Sounds like Githa’s playing with them. I want to make some illusions and play too! Do you hear how frustrated they are? I think they’re close to tears.”