Sora was a little unnerved by how empty the streets were at this time of night as she raced after her father’s scent. Miami Beach is always busy at night … where is everyone? It took Sora five more minutes before she caught sight of Devin, leaping across rooftops on La Gorce Drive. Gritting her teeth and extending her claws, Sora jumped into the air, flicking her tail; beams of red light raced toward Devin as she tried to get his attention, the light curving around him, illuminating her father’s unconscious face.
Devin snarled and diverted his path. “What’s up with that speed?” Jumping off the rooftop as he shouted at the two werewolves around him. “Keep her busy!”
Sora hesitated as images of the little boy flashed across her mind, and she braced for a fight. He didn’t want to fight me or hurt anyone … Devin was somehow forcing them. Are these just normal people? What’s going on!
One of the werewolves charged her, but he was moving slower and slower as her energy continued to recover, giving her speed. She sidestepped him and jumped over the second. I shouldn’t waste my energy on them. She followed Devin as he ran into the La Gorce Golf Course, the two werewolves in pursuit. I can’t use lightning or fire; I’ll hurt my dad! What can I do?
Picking up her pace again a stick broke into her side as her energy leaked out of her. She dashed toward Devin fighting through it and slashed at his leg. Howling with rage and pain, Devin toppled to the ground, and Sora watched in horror as her father went skidding across the grass. Running to him, she looked him over real fast, breathing sharply as she pressed a hand against her side, and turned her attention back to Devin and his accompanying werewolves.
Devin was on all fours but smoothly rose to his feet. “You’re a lot faster than I gave you credit for—your dad’s pretty bulky though…”
Sora bared her teeth and flicked her tail, a trail of foxfire burning across its length. Hair bristling, Sora’s ears twitched as they picked up hurried footsteps around her. Following the noise, she stared north across the golf course, stomach tightening.
She watched more than twenty werewolves running her way. Is that the pack? How many more do they have? I need to get out of here, but there’s no way I can carry him and outrun the pack! There’s Wendy too … if it’s just me, but there’s nowhere safe I can drop him off. Maybe Eyia or Jin … but I don’t know where they are. She licked her dry lips, swallowing. There’s nothing I can do but wave my tail around threateningly! That won’t hold them back long, unless … it might buy me time…
Keeping Devin’s confident sneer in sight, she grunted as she hoisted her father over her shoulders and stood. “Are you serious.” Devin chuckled.
No joke … I am a lot stronger than I was, but he’s still heavy and more than a little bulky… Imaging them both invisible, she watched Devin’s sneer vanish as she made her way across the field.
Devin swore. “You’re playing pretty hard to get Sora—but I can respect that in a girl.”
Her ears picked up the packs movements as they met with Devin. They made snarling and grunting noises to each other, but Devin quickly silenced them. “Idiots, she’s invisible, not gone. Use your noses! You know what to do—now get to it.”
Sora’s heart stopped as they began sniffing the air, following her scent. Can I catch a break! I need to find a good place to defend while recovering, but there’s no way I can drop my dad off somewhere, they’ll follow his scent … and how in the world am I going to save Wendy? Devin said I’d been summoned, but why would Aiden send them after me like this? Is there someone above him pulling the strings?
Making it to the fence line, she gathered her strength and jumped it. Tightening her grip on her dad as his weight shifted in the air, she landed as softly as she could but still heard a sharp gasp escape her father’s unconscious lips. Shifting his weight, she groaned. Her ears pricked, and her tail bristled. Fantastic, they’ll be here any second!
“What’s—goin’ on—Sora?” Her father asked with a sharp cough.
Setting him down, Sora earnestly explained. “Dad, you need to run! I’ll try and keep them away from us, but I can’t carry you anymore. They’ll catch us.”
Staring back her father grimaced; the pack was sniffing around the edges of the fence. “They can’t see us?”
Sora shook her head. “Not at the moment and I’m trying to mask our sounds from their minds, but…” Sora dropped to her knees with a sharp intake of air. “It’s getting harder and harder to keep up the illusion. I don’t have enough energy!”
Her father nodded and with a swooping motion picked her up. A yelp escaped Sora’s lips at the action, the shock almost making her lose control over the illusion. “Dad—you need to run away!”
She stopped as he chuckled, the rumbling transferring to her body and he began running down Alton Road, the werewolves close on their heels, but taking time to follow their scent. “What kind of a father—would leave his daughter to fight a pack of beasts like that?” Sora recognized a slight limp in her father’s steps.
A warm prickling sensation filled Sora’s body as her father’s emotions filled her, giving her strength. “Dad—I’m not a normal girl—I’m a Nogitsune—a Vulpes.”
Feeling the rumbles in her father’s chest, she looked up into his grinning face. “You could be the devil incarnate, and you’d still be mo chuisle chroí—you are the pulse of my heart!”
With her father’s swift, but strained strides, they started outpacing the werewolves. “Hey, Sora—did you lose a few pounds with that transformation? You’re a lot lighter than you used to be.”
He laughed as she lightly hit him on the chest. “The last time you carried me was when I was in elementary school!”
“No, I’m serious! You’re a lot lighter than you should be…” He cut off as a frown creased his brow, eyes hardening. They’d just entered a partially built construction site off sixty-third and Aqua Avenue. Several men were waiting around the place; they weren’t wearing construction equipment.
Sora stiffened as one man looked straight at them, an expectant grin on his face, they should still be invisible. Stopping, her dad set her down as she released the illusion with a discharge of air. She appraised the men bitterly. Is this why Devin wasn’t worried? Was he leading us toward an ambush?
“A setup. I assume that one is the leader.” Her father whispered.
“Very astute.” Said the man. “So, you’re the Vulpes my dear sister’s been plagued with over the years. Your magic is astonishing for a single tail. I’m intrigued.” So, he’s the brother Kari’s gang was so frightened to speak of, not Aiden…
Sora’s eyes leveled with the man, he was in his early twenties and surprisingly built for his age. Standing by the men around him, he looked like a giant at six-foot-seven. Long silky brown locks fell down his back and front; he parted it down the center, leaving his dark blue eyes clear. He had a chiseled face of arrogance that held amusement and pride.
Teeth coming together, Sora couldn’t see a way out of the situation as she examined their surroundings, hearing more movement. I’ve used a lot of my energy already. It is filtering back, but not at the pace I need. We’re surrounded, there’s no way to cover my dad from all these werewolves. Her tail bristled as her hearing confirmed their confinement; the group from behind had caught up and more appeared at their sides. My only way out is negotiating with Kari’s brother, at least he seems a lot more talkative than her.
Taking a deep breath to calm herself, she added a smile and took a more comfortable posture. “You must be Kari’s older brother. I must say that I haven’t heard much about you—really, all I have are Kari’s tantrums over your very name. So—in conjunction with what you’ve said—yes, I am that Vulpes that’s been—abused by your sister over the years. Nice to finally meet you, my name’s Sora.” She said with small pauses for light entertainment.
He seemed to enjoy her floristic introduction with silent laughter. “Yes, you’re definitely a Vulpes.” His tone hardened, but still held delight. “The vixen will bare her teeth when cornered and resort to carefree witticism to see another sunrise.”
Thinking quickly, Sora felt her options narrowing. He knows my dad’s someone important to me, but I don’t think he knows how we’re related … do they have Wendy at another site? I can’t pass him off frivolously, or they’ll just kill him for seeing what they are. What to say, what to say!
Her eyes centered on Devin as he circled them to stand beside Kari’s brother. “Eric, sorry I made you come all the way here, but she has some strong magic.” Pointing at her dad, he added. “Took her dad to draw her here faster.”
Sora resisted biting her lower lip. I’m beginning to understand why Kari hates Devin.
Eric’s smile didn’t falter. “You did well to bring her to me, Devin. Lori didn’t give us all the information; this fox could be interesting.” Looking to his right, he said, “The newest recruit returned without a scratch too, unlike the others I sent with you.”
Sora’s breath caught as the eleven-year-old boy she’d healed walked out to join the crowd of men. Eyes lowered, he didn’t look at her. I told him to go somewhere safe … why did he go back to Eric? I put him under my influence! “I told you to go somewhere safe.” Sora pleaded.
The boy shifted to look away from her in shame as Eric laughed at her comment. “You don’t understand anything about Germanic werewolves. Do you? The only safe place is beside me; otherwise, he’d turn into a monster and kill everything around him. Such is the curse of a human turning into a Werewolf.”
“You’re blackmailing him to join your gang,” Sora stated with disgust.
Devin laughed, before explaining. “Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m a wolfwere, not a werewolf. A pure-blooded wolfwere is a wolf that transforms into a human-wolf or human. These mutts around you are just shells, human werewolves or partially infected—turned by a pure-blooded Germanic werewolf. They can’t infect anyone, and they can’t leave the side of the Alpha for more than ten miles unless they want to lose control of their minds. It’s simply hierarchy.”
Thinking about his words for a moment, Sora hummed. “So, Eric is a Fenris Wolf, and you are a wolfwere—then who’s the Germanic werewolf that turned all the humans?” She caught sight of her dad still studying the situation around him.
Eric held up a hand. “Impressive, and from everything I’ve heard—you don’t want to ruin all the preparations I’ve made. This is a big night…”
Her dad put his hand on her shoulder, whispering. “Look—you have a chance to run, you take it!” Sora already knew she wouldn’t leave her father, even if it cost her life.
Eric chuckled with a wicked grin. “Oh—don’t worry about her getting away, daddy—it won’t happen. We also have her friend, who knows, maybe I have her turned.”
Sora’s teeth ground together, and she shouted. “Why do you want me so badly?”
“Why?” Eric questioned. “I thought it would be obvious, little Nogitsune. Do you know nothing about Fenris Wolves?”
Sora huffed but kept her lighthearted tone alive. “I know the fleas must be unbearable! Also—maybe the lack of women in your group isn’t due to your hairy—predicament—but with the rancid skunk-soaked stench you put off. Honestly, have any of you seen water? If you warm it up it’s quite enjoyable—you know, with fire—fire; it’s a neat little invention!”
Sora was taken aback as Eric broke out with spurts of mirth; he doubled over, clutching his stomach as his face turned red. Gasping for air, he wheezed, “That’s—so refreshing! It’s been so long since anyone has spat such words at me.”
Frowning, Sora pursed her lips. “I see—so, you arranged this little get-together to be made fun of? Personally, I’d suggest a bikini and a crown of flowers while walking down Main Street. Hmm—maybe a miniskirt and schoolgirl uniform would be a better fit—oh and wear some panties. You’d be the talk of the town!”
His smile slowly faded as she spoke. “I think you’re running your mouth too much, vixen.” Wicked smile returning, he lifted his hands to point at a particular werewolf. “We have quite a few women in the group, by the way, I think you know a woman named Mary?”
Sora’s mind chilled as she remembered Mary’s voicemail. They forced Mary to turn … because of me? The werewolf Eric pointed to shifted shamefully as she avoided eye contact.
Before Sora could reply, her attention was diverted as her fur bristled with shifts in atmospheric pressure and the sounds of flapping wings made her ears twitch. Looking up, Sora saw a radiant bird descending from the sky. Rainbow lights emanated from it as a trail of brilliant colors followed.
The bird landed beside Eric and produced a discharge of bright hues that veiled the bird from sight. As it faded, Sora found Aiden at its center, the soft glimmer slowly dispersing. Aiden considered the scene. “Eric, what’s this about?” Is he a friend or foe?