Diane sighed as Kelsey and Benjamin continued to argue what type of creature Sora’s friend was. Benjamin was very limited in his bestiary, which had led to several long explanations on various creatures from Kelsey. Finally, she had enough when he started getting into a vampire theory.
“That is quite enough speculation. Leave the theorizing to the researchers and go shoot something or steal another magical formula.” Diane snapped. She was pleased as they fell silent and let a small smile play at the corners of her lips as Ranglor muttered, “Finally.”
Gerard and the Senator had been silent for most of the argument, Gerard occasionally giving the guards commands to let Sora’s group by checkpoints. He cleared his throat as Kelsey was about to shoot back a smart remark, which silenced her. “Diane, the Shadow Order will arrive before the dragoons, right?”
Swallowing, Diane straightened. “I am unsure. They are a mystery, even to me; the dragoons should be here within the day, and it is undeterminable when the Vice-President and President will actually show.”
Benjamin was glaring at Kelsey, but asked, “What is this Shadow Order? An advanced OP’s unit?”
Diane’s eyes shifted to Gerard for a moment, letting him know that he could explain. Shifting uncomfortably, Gerard said, “The Shadow Order are monsters, as far as I am aware, that have been with the Organization since the twelfth century—or so I’ve heard. I’m not exactly sure what they are as I’ve never seen them. However, they’re rumored to be gods of monsters, nightmares, used in the direst circumstance.”
Humming thoughtfully, Benjamin asked, “Why don’t you have some stationed at every base?”
Snorting, Diane interjected. “Because, they are a very tight group and very secretive, more so than us. Only the current President or Chairman can ask for their assistance or even know how to contact them. I have never even seen them before and they are given special orders by their senders. Don’t expect to speak with one, they are like wraths from my information. When they deem it necessary, they will appear.”
“And the Chairman decided that this,” Kelsey pointed at Sora on the screen, “Vulpes is worth sending this Shadow Order, dragoons, and both Vice-President and President to secure?” She asked incredulously.
Ranglor sniffed disdainfully. “First, the Chairmen cannot order the President or Vice-President to come, they decided on their own or it was a collective board decision. Second, did you not hear a word I said?” Kelsey sat back in her chair with a sigh, ready for a lecture. “This girl claims to be Mia’s daughter. Mia is the second oldest Vulpes in known existence, younger only to her sister, Inari, a Goddess among monsters and humans alike. We are unsure if Inari is the Founding Mother, but we do know Mia is her younger sister and they are Founders.”
Breathing a heavy sigh, Kelsey said, “Yes, I get it, old, but just because you’re old, doesn’t make you powerful.”
Diane burst out laughing, which made Kelsey and Benjamin stare at her questioningly. Catching her breath, Diane asked, “Do you know dragons hate Inari and want her dead? You know, dragons, the creatures of myths and legends? Creatures that symbolize the very essence of power in many cultures, yet, Inari is still alive. How?”
Ranglor sat back in his chair, returning his attention to the screen, already knowing where she was going. Kelsey and Benjamin could only stare at her blankly.
“Because, Inari killed one of the most powerful dragons in history, Gong-Gong, the creature reportedly responsible for the biblical flood!” Both Kelsey, Ivan, and Benjamin’s faces’ paled, even Gerard looked over with shock. “And you think,” She cut off, noticing Ranglor’s worried expression as he sat closer. “What is it?”
“Who let the Fenris Wolf on the third floor?” Ranglor asked. “Isn’t he supposed to be confined to his room on the fifth already?”
Diane glanced at a monitor near the wall and found Eric heading in the direction of the cells where Aiden was held. It suddenly clicked in Diane’s brain. The pillar of fire, the pack surrounding those monsters, the other fighting areas. She said she was friends with the dragon and Valkyrie, which meant they’d come to rescue her—from Eric. The only reason he’d want to fight Sora—would be to gain her powers. Similar to what Fen did to the Imp, he wants Sora’s power!
“Eric’s after Sora,” Diane exclaimed with horror. The Chairman’s order—don’t do anything rash, I may have already done it! Eric halted, and a wide grin spread across his features, he’d caught her scent. “You need to stop,” she cut off as Eric vanished; the guards were looking around with confusion.
Gerard yelled into his microphone to stop Eric at all costs, but within thirty seconds he had already smashed past several steel security points and was already inside the werewolf detention area. He was shown on Werewolf Containment Room’s camera at the bottom level of the holding room, guards still skidding across the ground or falling off the balcony before anyone knew what was happening. He grinned at Sora; his dark voice echoed through the speakers. “Yes—I thought it was you, Mia’s kin.” Sora and Fen leaped to their feet in fright.
Diane cursed. Jian’s not even there to keep things from escalating. Eric could not have picked a better time! She began to focus on activating her ward on him as both Vulpes backed into each other, and Sora’s pupils suddenly rolled back as she fell to the floor.
Diane hesitated, eyes widening as blue flames flared into life around Sora’s body and suddenly vanished, the connection to her wards had disappeared. “What just happened? I can’t feel my wards anymore! Sora’s wards have been destroyed?”
Eric’s skeptical tone roared with laughter, his body partially transformed into a werewolf. “Did you actually faint! No snide comments or…” He snapped his jaws shut and took a step back as Sora gasped in pain and curled into the fetal position, weeping in agony.
Fen backed away hurriedly; face ashen as she stared down at Sora. Diane and every person in the room leaped to their feet as blazing yellow, almost white flames engulfed Sora’s body. The concrete floor started to yellow and blacken underneath Sora as the fire intensified. Fen had backed further away as the radiant heat pressurized the air, and even Eric seemed to be forced back. She started sinking into the floor as shards of superheated concrete shot around the room like bullets, and she soon disappeared, cries fading. Every witness stood petrified as they looked at the blackened cavity.
A moment later, Jian appeared in the room, leaping down and placing himself in-between Fen and Eric, an ominous expression on his hard face. Eric, however, seemed paralyzed as he stared at the place Sora had been.
Gerard spoke into the tablet, and his voice was carried through the werewolf detention room by speaker. “Eric, if you do not stand down, we will be forced to put you down, immediately.”
Eric took a deep breath; somewhat regaining his composure, he looked up at a camera, his demeaning grin in place. “Oh, and how would you accomplish that?”
Gerard’s voice was cold and unwavering. “By offering the húli jīng her freedom.”
Diane grimaced but knew the situation demanded extreme measures. Fen looked shocked, but Jian’s countenance grew stone cold. Diane smiled, knowing Jian had released his aura as Eric’s grin washed away. His head lowered, eyes slits as he glared at Jian. Diane knew that Jian wanted Eric to follow his nature and resist, wanted him to give the slightest indication of defiance because it would free them.
The stare off lasted a few seconds before Eric’s guard dropped with submission, a laugh escaping his lips as his pack shifted uneasily. “You have my cooperation then.”
She could tell Jian was disappointed at the news. Fen’s eyes swiftly returned to the black cavity Sora had made before regaining control of herself with Jian present. Shooting a glare at Eric, Fen sniffed. “Figures, the wolf is spineless, and in the presence of his pack no less, pitiful.”
Eric’s eyes narrowed as a few werewolves growled around her, Eric slowly cracked his neck, while walking up the extended stairs. “Hide behind that castle, little vixen, but one day he won’t be there to back your tongue.”
Diane breathed a sigh of relief. At least that crisis is averted, but now … what about Sora, what happened?
Benjamine tsked. “Why didn’t you just have the tiger kill him?”
Gerard breathed a heavy sigh. “Because we just learned we’re dealing with beings we have little to no knowledge of. Who knows if Eric’s parents are looking for him … we need to keep our cards open if we’re dealing with gods…”
Duncan nodded solemnly beside him. “That’s a wise decision. If there are gods on U.S. soil then we need to start looking for means to reach out.”
The speakers around the room echoed. “Sir, we’ve found the Vulpes on the seventh level, hallway E Forty-five—you’re going to want to see this…”
Gerard flipped the camera to show the hallway. The flooring had blistered yellow, concrete shards shooting off from the superheated internal moisture, degrading the floor by several inches, but the most peculiar thing was a glowing tail of fire. Ranglor gasped, muttering, “All that intense fire, it converted into a tail! I’ve never heard of anything like this before! Is this how a new Vulpes tail is gained? She still has her original tail, but now she has a new tail of pure flame! It’s hot enough to disintegrate concrete and melt through steel in moments. It must be over thirty-five hundred degrees Celsius!”
Diane swallowed and added. “Not just a tail of fire. Look at the flame’s movement, not with the air current at all. A tail of pure spiritual energy!”
“Yet, all her clothing is still intact,” Benjamin commented. “If it’s really that hot, wouldn’t it destroy the clothing too?”
Ranglor concurred with a light hum. “Theoretically, Vulpes have a sort of safe zone around their bodies to protect themselves against their own elements. Perhaps it’s the cause, but that isn’t the important part. As Diane said … that’s pure spiritual energy in a harnessed form!”
Gerard seemed to be thinking as he watched the screen and listened to the statements flying from Diane and Ranglor. Tapping the tablet to activate his microphone, he said, “I want a medical team down on level seven E Forty-five. Be cautious of the patient’s tail and transport her to level ten J eighty-six. After the medical evaluation, she’ll have no visitors. Escort the bai-hu and húli jīng with the patient as guards in her safety. They can start earning our trust and eventual freedom by doing this.” He looked over at Ivan, who nodded approvingly.
Ranglor and Diane furiously interjected, but Gerard held up his hand, his features firm. “No, we need to keep a handle on this. We’ve been too reckless. This needs to be locked down, while we still can. The President and Vice-President will dictate what happens to Sora. You can go study your dragon and Valkyrie, which is your primary objective.” He directed at Diane.
Grinding her teeth, Diane said, “At least let me be in the room with the evaluation team.”
Gerard shook his head. “You had your chance, and she was originally in Ranglor’s care.”
Diane locked her jaw and shot a furious glare at Ranglor as he grinned triumphantly. Storming out of the room, Diane made her way to the Valkyrie’s detainment cell. This is outrageous. We will never get another chance like this! To study spiritual energy in such a pure state, and he sends a scientist! I can gain much more insight! However, she knew the Chairman would agree with Gerard’s decision, especially after her recent blunders.
Fuming all the way to the tenth floor, she purposefully lingered so she could watch Sora pass. Fen and Jian nervously walked behind the stretcher; both were staring at Sora’s burning tail with apprehension, it had melted through a portion of the bed to drag along the floor; the cement cracked and blistered as her tail pulled along their path. The attendants had to move the cot with some form of cables because of the radial heat.
Diane was a little perturbed by Sora’s condition. She was sweating and breathing heavily, though apparently unconscious and fits of pain escaped her throat. Something happened; the only trigger would either be her fear of Eric or bumping into Fen. Frowning as her eyes followed the cart; she almost followed but knew she couldn’t do anything to help. Any interference and I could actually make it worse. I’m not sure what her condition is. What would cause a Vulpes so young to sprout a new tail and to be made of pure spiritual energy?
It must have a connection with Mia, being a Founder possibly. Pausing in her thoughts, she bit her lower lip. Alternatively, maybe her aunt! Rushing to the Valkyrie observation room, she pulled out a chair and sat at a computer, accessing the footage. She hummed while watching Sora and Fen back into each other, smiling as Fen’s white tail brushed against Sora’s red, the exact moment of her shock. What happened? Was it from coming in contact with a small fraction of Inari’s power or did something else occur? Maybe coming in contact with her aunt’s power caused some kind of connection … and my wards being destroyed in a burst of blue flames … that wasn’t from her second tail transformation…
Sighing, she turned towards the unconscious Valkyrie. She now was in a tank of water, like the dragon; however, this was kept heated. A few researchers were slowly moving around the area, monitoring the equipment and making sure she stayed asleep. After the previous incident, they’d understood the proper dose to keep her under, which was beyond deadly by most monster standards.
“Asgardian physiology is quite amazing.” She muttered. Looking through the glass, Diane studied the girl. “Sora called you Eyia? There is no one in Norse mythology by that name, none having to do with Valkyrie or Goddesses. However—Eyia can be varied to spell Eyja, which means Island … interesting.”