Taking a deep breath, she said, “I need to think…”
She trailed off as Mary cleared her throat and stepped forward with a slight tremble as she glanced between all the different monsters. “Sora—I think it would be best to get everyone’s opinion on this. I…”
She flinched as Bathin’s eyes locked on her, his sardonic smile returning. “I did not expect a human to be the one to speak up. If you weren’t leeching strength from these two to keep your spiritual networks from shattering, you’d be a husk.”
Mary’s brow set as she marched up to Bathin. “That may be true, and I don’t know much about this monster world, but I assume there’s a reason for humans to pass down, through every culture, the warning to never trust a demon. You are not the trustworthy type, everything about you screams an agenda. What will Sora’s energy be used for?”
Wendy nodded and walked behind Mary, still slightly afraid. “Yeah, can you control her? Like, take over her soul or something with that little piece of her spirit?”
“No,” Eric puffed out a long breath as he sat down on a broken pillar. “He couldn’t control Sora, which is why we didn’t speak up about that…”
Jin interjected. “That may be true, but there are many other things that can be done with a spiritual being’s natural energy. Sora has a unique signature as a Founder. It could be used in all manner of diverse ways.”
Everyone’s attention shifted to Githa as she nodded frantically with a beaming smile. “Mhm, mhm,” she looked around curiously as everyone continued to stare at her. “Oh—umm, I liked you guys talking about it. It was fun listening to! Don’t stop.” She pleaded.
Bathin chuckled lowly. “You are so courteous, Githa. I’m sure you already have an answer, but you’ll indulge these creatures. I don’t like wasting that kind of time…”
“Shh,” Githa hissed as she turned back to Mary. “Go on, go on!”
Clearing her throat, Mary said, “As I said, I don’t know much about this stuff. Can you explain to me why Sora couldn’t be sealed or hurt by doing this deal?”
Sora smiled at Mary. “Thanks, Mary. This does affect all of you as well. I want to make the correct decision, and I don’t know much either.”
Eyia smiled at Mary. “Thank you for your concern. I do not wish to deal with the devil either, but it is correct that infusing her energy into an object will not give cause to worry for my sister’s safety.” She frowned, thinking for a moment. “I do not know how to express it, Jin.”
“Fine,” Jin mumbled. “Imagine Sora’s spirit as the sun and her spiritual energy the energy expelled by it. You can harness that produced energy, but it is fixed and cannot be used to harm or manipulate its source. Now, there is a multitude of things you can do with that stored energy, too many to count, but it wouldn’t hurt Sora herself. It’s an unusual deal…”
Eric hummed. “I mean, I can understand why he’d rather propose a deal than fight. It seems Githa is strong enough to make Bathin deal, but he does have an agenda that can be accomplished with just a tiny amount of energy from Sora. He wouldn’t give us the purpose; you could say that’s a part of the pact. I can’t think of anything worth mentioning … I mean, perhaps calling Mia or Inari. However, that would be way too risky for a Demon to do and they’d know it was not Sora herself that called out to them, but some foreign body using Sora’s imprinted power as a medium. They could even tell it was a Demon.”
Sora groaned. “No one knows the reason then or can think of a reason not to take it?”
“Ehh,” Aiden shifted uncomfortably. “I think taking a deal with a Demon is reason enough, but if we turn him down, he’ll just fight Githa, and any kind of deal would be off the table. In the off chance Githa lost,” he held his hands up, “not that you would!”
Githa shook her head with a big grin. “You never know!”
“Right,” Aiden breathed through his teeth. “If she lost—we’d be pretty screwed.”
Everyone’s eyes dropped to the floor. Bathin’s smile turning innocent. “Well then?”
Scratching the base of her left fox ear, Sora groaned. Fen kept quiet as she continued to hug Jian protectively, trying to block out all the bad things happening around them and the two other humans didn’t speak up. “I guess…”
“No deal,” Githa chimed in with a sweet smile.
“What—Githa…” Sora’s throat constricted as Githa’s gentle face turned monstrous; her eyes widened unnaturally as her lips twisted, showing fangs as a sharp hiss escaping her throat. There was no aura of power evident, but Sora quivered as danger leaked from the girl. Wendy and Mary quickly retreated beside Jian; Jin, Eyia, Eric, and Aiden straightened as the atmosphere changed.
“Do you think me stupid, Bathin.”
Bathin sighed, “I was hoping it wouldn’t contend with the Nekomata Faction’s goals, but it seems we’ll quarrel.”
Githa scoffed. “No, we don’t dispute with your goals. Frankly, it doesn’t matter to us, but it would dampen our relationship with other factions if I let this happen. You expected at least that since your pawn has set all those summoning rituals while we’ve been talking. It’s not nice to lie about food, Bathin.”
Bathin chuckled with a soft shrug. “I tried, but you always knew more than you let on. Once summoned, my forces can be brought to me at any time.” He said with a wicked grin. Are you sure you want to fight, Githa?”
A spiteful laugh left Githa’s throat. “Bathin, your armies can’t save you.” Her tongue slid across her fangs. “I’ll just devour them.”
Sora blinked as both Bathin and Githa vanished. She looked around and after a moment’s study, heard a sharp noise smash against her consciousness. Wincing, she looked to her right and found a massive claw mark in the concrete. She didn’t know how deep it went; it was at least six meters across, a green light glowing within.
Githa appeared before her; an eyebrow lifted in surprise as Bathin stood several meters away, holding his neck with a deep frown. Her nose was twisted with contempt as green flames burned along her tails and right hand. “I didn’t expect your body suit would be so compatible. You’re near your full strength; I meant to cut off your head with that swipe.”
Bathin grinned grimly. “You’re as fast as ever, but it was a good call to retreat. One step closer and I would have teleported you a thousand miles away. Your Ghost Light is as effective as ever though.”
Sora focused her spiritual perception; a red aura surrounded Bathin, but there was damage at his neck, green light eating away at his shield. The red glow around his hand intensified as he pressed against the green light, it slowly faded. “You understand I’m just buying time, but you also know any Demon is well prepared.”
Githa hissed. “Sora, you should get all your little friends together, and try to keep those humans alive. It’s going to take a lot of energy.” Her tails flicked with annoyance as she glared at Bathin.
Sora cleared her throat as she backed up to Jian, everyone else closing in. “Alright.” This is … what kind of fight are they going to have? Should we try to run away or will Bathin just teleport to me when I’m outside the area Githa’s able to react? If she’s about to fight seriously then she’ll release her aura, she warned me Wendy and the others wouldn’t be able to handle it at their current strength.
“Aiden,” Sora took a deep breath. “We’re going to have to really focus on protecting Wendy and the other’s spiritual network.” He nodded, staring at Githa’s back, he swallowed nervously.
“I will support you if needed,” Eyia nodded firmly.
“Thanks,” Sora returned her smile for a moment before her vision returned to Githa; she fed a large amount of her spiritual energy into them. Dozens of cloaked figures appeared around the partially broken arena. “We’re ready,” Sora whispered, knowing Githa could hear her.
Her hair stood on end as Githa’s features became more feral, her inner odium surfacing in a crushing wave that froze Sora’s lungs. It was much stronger than Jin’s Dragon Rage state, but not crushing, this was smoldering. Green flames enveloped Githa, the radial heat expanding in sharp waves. Eyia’s ice dome encircled them as Svalinn appeared in her hand, the concrete under Githa was turning yellow, cracks spider-webbing across the floor.
The unknown figures’ hoods blew off, and Jin growled, “Succubi.”
Sora’s vision of Succubi shattered. They had the appearance of a human, but their features were fierce and rigid looking. Deep red skin, small jagged horns across their faces, and hairless, they were more frightening than enchanting. As they began to inhale, the fire pulled toward them.
“They consume spiritual energy; they’re trying to drain her,” Eric stated.
“There’s no way,” Jin scoffed. “You feel that? She hasn’t even attacked; that’s just her released spiritual energy.”
Eric nodded. “They’re likely distractions.”
A red trigram appeared around Bathin as he spoke a few words. Eric was right; he’s up to something. Should she…
Githa vanished, and all the Succubi burst into green light; that was when Sora heard the screams. Transparent skulls materialized from nowhere, all of different sizes and species of monster, green fire surrounding them. Their jaws opened to release a horrifying screech, shrieking their wrath.
“Souls consumed by Nekomata become fuel and weapons to them,” Jin stated as she watched the circling apparitions.
Four massive demons emerged from black flames; they resembled the classic image she’d seen in paintings, only much larger. The burning lights of the devoured Succubi joined the skulls as they circled the room. Green claw marks ripped the demon’s flesh within moments as black lightning enclosed Bathin.
“It looks so once sided?” Sora questioned.
Jin and Eric shook their heads. Jin glared at Eric. “Those are Bathin’s preliminary attacks and defense. He’s preparing the demonic rituals to strengthen his body against her weaponized spiritual aura.”
Three of the skulls smashed into the lightning, and an explosion of flames shot across the field, engulfing Bathin. Eyia winced as the fire grazed past the shell. “I cannot withstand this heat for very long. I will be completely drained soon.”
Sora’s vision returned to the fight as the fire cleared and she watched Githa’s claws thrust into Bathin’s shoulder, clawed toes ripping into his shirt front as she kicked off him. He was sent smashing into the base, the building trembling around them.
“Is that it?” Aiden asked, sweat gathering at his temples.
Eric and Jin seemed confused. “No,” Eric questioned. “Bathin should have been waiting for something. He can’t be…”
Githa huffed as the fire started dying down around her, Eyia’s shell breaking. “Bathin, that was pathetic compared to the old days. Why didn’t you prepare any…” She cut off as Sora’s fur bristled and she looked up as a spray of water shot from the open windows; she could hear sprinklers going off all around her.
Her’s disgust flipped to panic as she disappeared; a massive burst of green light flashed by the open exit doors as the water fell across them. Sora could feel a soft healing effect lift her. “Blessed Water?” Jin questioned.
“Yeah,” Eric muttered. “How…”
“Lord Bathin, was it successful?” Ainmire called down.
Bathin’s pained laughter echoed around them as Sora noticed a wet white cat plopped on her belly by the massive steel door. “You didn’t suspect a thing, Githa. Didn’t you think I was being a little easy? Dropping your guard so frivolously, you never change. After our last bout, I made sure to have Holy Water on hand if needed. Just a few concentrated drops in the water supply and all that savage spiritual pressure washed away. Such a simple weakness, of course, I’d use it.”
Githa meowed angrily and then slumped to her side, it almost seemed like she was pouting.
He chuckled. “You thought I would be affected by it? Of course, you would, it should have, but this suit, as you called it, is for more than looks.”
When he appeared, he was far from unscathed. The green flames around his body were weakening as the water fell, but he was burned and scarred in several places, a deep gash across his front and shoulder. “I didn’t expect you to actually use your skulls though … you intended to kill me quickly. Your haste was your undoing. You should have analyzed the area a bit more.”
Eric whispered quickly. “This is the opening. My sister will be awake soon; then we run, just follow me. Bathin has a history with Githa and will milk his satisfaction.” He turned to Aiden with a long glance. “Aiden, you’re free from your bond to my mother by me as the proxy, and all promises made to me.” Aiden was speechless, but his brow furrowed as Eric concluded, “Will you offer me a bit of power one last time?”