Sora easily kept pace with the two attendants as the guards led them through the halls. Her ears picked up a multitude of screams, shouts, and growls; it was hard to keep her immediate surroundings in focus as she inhaled the putrid scent of frenzied werewolves with every breath; their hormones were everywhere.
Trying to block out the discord inside her mind, she folded her fox ears down and found the sound easing. However, with her hearing diminished, she could only rely on her nose to pick up anything unexpected, and it was already overstimulated; her sixth sense only reacted in split-second intervals, she might be too late to respond. Taking a calculated breath, she let go of her ears and tried her best to power through it. Should I find Eyia and Jin? They’d be able to get us out of this situation or come up with a better plan than me.
Just before they entered a junction point, her fur bristled. She grabbed both attendants’ collars, throwing them back and swiftly scooped up Wendy. She leaped back as two seven foot tall werewolves sprang around the corner. Both guards were quick in lifting their weapons, but not fast enough to deal with the enhanced speed of the beasts. Both werewolves jumped on them, ripping them apart within seconds. The attendants screamed as one werewolf turned its attention to them and vaulted.
Sora locked her jaw, as her tails burst into red flames. She took care to keep Wendy from getting whiplash as she flicked both tails in its direction with a quick flourish. A quarter of the square space lit in flames as her attack burned through the air. The combustion sent both werewolves and dead men flying down the hall. The men’s bodies were lit ablaze, and the werewolves’ fur had caught fire; they’d sustained forth degree burns in a few areas, but didn’t show any signs of backing down.
Setting Wendy down, and quickly dragging both attendants to their feet, Sora yelled, “We need to find another way!”
They ran down the hall toward the previous corridor. They only took ten steps before the werewolves had recovered enough to pursue, fur still blazing as they howled their rage. Fur bristling with static, Sora sent a bolt of red electricity toward them. It struck one, which made its hair stand on end; blackened, it tumbling across the floor with smoke trailing behind it. The second reached her before she could wind up another attack.
Wendy dove out of the way, still as cool as winter with Sora’s spiritual energy strengthening her, nimbly rolling back to her feet. She sent the attendants sprawling across the floor again as she dodged the werewolf’s attack and grabbed its reaching arm. Using its momentum and enhanced strength, she flung it down the hall.
It tumbled several times before righting itself thirty-five feet away. It instantly turned its attention away from them as gunfire shot from the junction, and it dashed toward it.
“Th—thank you!” The female attendant panted with a shaky voice; she looked like her legs wouldn’t support her any longer.
“Yes, we are in your debt.” The male attendant stated. “If not for your quick…”
Sora cut him off. “I can smell several more around the corner, and they’ll probably target my scent. You two need to find somewhere to hide ‘till things quiet down.”
The male nodded with understanding as he helped the woman to her feet. Walking to a nearby door, he said, “This is a research area. It should have ballistic glass and a research room inside; we can lock ourselves in it.” Sora nodded and waited for them to open and close the door. They’re innocent as far as I know. I hope they’ll survive.
Wendy stood next to her, alert and looking down both hallways. “What are you doing to me? I feel totally relaxed.”
Swallowing, Sora laughed nervously. “I wish I could do the same thing to me. I’m increasing your spiritual network. My aunt did it to me; so, I thought I could help you with Jian’s fear aura. Seems to be working.”
Wendy nodded and repositioned herself behind Sora as two more werewolves ran through the next junction and turned their way. Stomach tightening, Sora muttered, “I hope we survive this!” They both lowered their bodies to pounce with low growls.
Tails lighting with flames, Sora poised herself to leap away. However, her ears picked up something running at a sharp speed from behind her. Another werewolf? No, a Fenris Wolf … it’s fast!
Springing to the wall to get away from its trajectory while wrapping Wendy in illusions she was astonished to find a brown furred Fenris Wolf dash in-between her two attackers; biting the left werewolf in half, while crushing the second against the wall. Sora winced as she heard the snap of bone and blood gushing from its mouth. Both beasts twitched on the floor, not rising.
The brown Fenris Wolf reverted to reveal Eric. He turned to her with a passive expression. Sora couldn’t guess his emotions past his shielded spiritual network, and she didn’t want to try an empathic tether. Swallowing, she brought her flaming tails around and took up a defensive posture, ready to counter as she let Wendy circle to her back. He might be able to see Wendy beside me.
She didn’t turn her head away from Eric as Aiden’s voice carried down the hall. “Sora—it’s alright.” Not turning, she waited for Aiden to run between them. Eric still held a neutral stance, not ready to attack or retreat.
Bending over to grasp his knees, Aiden wheezed for a few moments before saying. “Eric’s—Eric isn’t going to hurt you—he just—wants to talk.”
Her vision shifted to Aiden for a fraction of a second before returning to Eric. Honestly, does he have any powers at all besides transforming into a bird and giving people energy? Where’s that probability power? “Why should I believe you, Eric? Last time you almost killed my father and tried to eat me; not to mention our most recent encounter.”
Eric’s voice held no edge. “Things have changed. I’ve had to do a lot of planning and things—I never wanted to sacrifice my—I had to go through a lot to get this opportunity with you. Can you at least give me a chance to explain myself?”
Sora’s eyes shifted to the two mangled werewolves. He killed two of his pack. Why? Isn’t this his big jailbreak scheme or something?
“Jenny is dead,” Eric stated.
Sora’s eyes shifted to Aiden again as a sad expression passed over him. “He’s right. The people here shot her in cold blood. That’s why the werewolves have become ravenous. Nothing is linking them to Eric and their humanity now; they’re acting on pure instinct.”
“What does that have to do with me?” Sora asked. “I have my own problems.”
“With Lori and Jenny’s deaths, my sister has lost her will to live. She’s operating on her last fumes against me, but as soon as those burn out, she’ll be empty. She feels alone, worthless, used, and hopeless.”
Taking a step back, Sora said, “Again, what does that have to do with…”
She frowned as Wendy touched her shoulder. “Maybe it’s just your power giving me strength … but I don’t want anyone to feel like I did. You felt those emotions inside me…”
Sora frowned as she considered Wendy’s words. Eric sighed and looked down the hall as more gunshots fired not too far away. “Believe it or not, everything I’ve done is for Kari … this isn’t what I wanted to do. Give me a chance, and I’ll explain it. A new path has opened up, and certain things are about to happen.”
His vision narrowed as he looked down into Sora’s eyes, they showed no deception; she could tell there was honesty in every word as his spiritual shield dropped, which irritated her. “If you don’t listen to me, then both Eyia and Jin will die, along with my sister. Is that reason enough?”
Her breath caught as her teeth clamped together, disturbed to hear Eyia and Jin’s names fall from Eric’s lips. “What do they have to do with Kari.”
“Let me explain,” Eric pleaded. What do I do? If Eric really wanted me, then he could use force. I know I could put up more of a fight now, but I doubt I could beat him and protect Wendy—if he’s right about Jin and Eyia … why can’t I sense any deception from him?
Loosening her stance, Sora nodded. “Fine, I’ll listen. Just promise not to eat Wendy or me.” She stated, glaring at him.
“I will not threaten either of you in any way,” Eric said without a blink. “You have my word, on Kari’s life.” Aiden settled beside her as Eric silently led the way.
Taking a side glance at Aiden, Sora asked, “Do you actually think Eric’s changed?”
Aiden looked thoughtful for a moment before nodding. “Something is definitely different about him and what he said about doing everything for Kari … I don’t know how he’s going to explain that one … we’ll have to see what he says.”
Wendy hummed as she looked backward, studying the two dead werewolves. “Could he do that the entire time?”
Sora nodded with a sigh. Deciding to poke the bear, she said, “Yeah, but he’s weaker now since Jin crushed him.”
“You’re right. I am weaker now then I was, if you didn’t have to defend anyone, I’d even say you could kill me; if we were outside. The energy you are getting from the earth is good, but not as potent as the sky.”
Sora huffed. “How can you tell? I’m hiding my spiritual network.”
Eric shook his head. “I don’t know … I just know.” Sora glared at his back, not responding. She let a slow stream of air pass through her nose. Aiden doesn’t know what’s going on with Eric. Jenny dies, and all the werewolves go berserk. He basically said she was their link to humanity, but I don’t know, this could all be a trap…
Stopping in front of a steel door, Eric opened it with a code and went inside, gesturing for them to follow. Sora hesitated as a scent rounded the corner. That’s Mary… She heard gunshots nearby.
Glancing at Wendy and Eric, she said, “I need to do something real fast. Eric, if you really are sincere then protect Wendy for a second.”
Eric hesitated. “We don’t … I understand. I will die before anything bad happens to her.” She swallowed as his spiritual network confirmed his response. Why is he going this far?
She dashed the hall, time seeming to slow as she accelerated. Rounding the corner, she found three werewolves darting toward a group of four soldiers. How can I stop Mary? Aiden said everyone infected lost their humanity … I have to try to save her though! Her breath caught as the soldier’s fired and a bullet struck her side. Extending her influence as much as possible, she yelled, “Stop!”
Her magic swept over the werewolves and soldiers, making them freeze in place, unable to twitch. Sighing with relief as she neared, she turned to the soldiers. “Retreat to a safe location and forget you saw me.” They nodded and began running at top speed.
Turning to the paralyzed werewolves, she said, “Calm down and follow me.” The beasts’ thumping hearts eased as they nodded and casually followed her back to the room. I’m glad my magic is working at least. I hope I can help them. She noticed the blood dripping down their fur as they walked, the silver preventing their bodies from healing. Their spiritual network was showing they were losing strength, but it wasn’t serious since the rounds didn’t hit anything vital.
Aiden’s brow creased as she rounded the corner with the three werewolves. “What did you…”
Eric sighed. “You’re controlling their Intelligence, aren’t you. Overpowering their very ability to act.”
Sora nodded. “Yes, I know one of them … you ruined her life. Ruined so many people’s lives.” She stated with contempt.
Lips becoming a line, Eric nodded. “I did.”
Sniffing, Sora led all of them into the room, dropping the illusions around Wendy. It seemed to be a break room for staff. Eric sat in a couch, Aiden sitting across from him with Wendy.
“What do you plan to do with them?” Wendy asked.
“I want to try and heal them,” Sora muttered as she studied them.
“Is that possible?” Aiden asked in a hopeful way.
Eric leaned back, hand resting below his chin. “It might. The link is broken, but if you can overpower the original curse of the werewolf, then it would be possible. I’m not certain of the specifics, but I’m sure you can analyze their condition, and as a Founder that specializes in powerful magic, you might be able to.”
Sora licked her lips, her tails lighting with a faint blue aura. I first need to heal them of the silver and wounds. She brought her tails close to Mary, and her breath caught as her energy connected. There’s foreign magic affecting her spirit. It’s attached to some kind of physical toxin in her body.
She frowned as her healing magic destroyed the toxin, but it started to return from the spell on her spiritual network. I see. This is the curse Eric was talking about. How am I supposed to get rid of it though?
Thinking back on her aunt’s words about removing her wards, she pursed her lips. I don’t know if this is the same. The ward was a piece of magic that was affecting my spiritual network, but it was a spiritual construct that was infused with magic. This is a magical force; there’s no construct bridging it like the wards. Inari did say I could destroy it by forming my spirit into an offensive force. Could I target the curse that way?
Closing her eyes, she entered the Outer Body Technique and tested her theory against the Intelligent imprint of Mary. She extended her spiritual flow and tried forming it into a fire, extending it through Mary’s spiritual network. To her surprise, it worked—the spiritual fire purging the impurities.
Exiting the technique, she took a deep breath. “I hope this works in practice.” She mumbled. Repeating the process, she watched a red aura of fire surround her, spreading to the three werewolves. Aiden gasped, the three beasts began reverting to their human forms as the werewolf curse was cleansed from their spiritual network.
Wendy hurriedly moved to the closets and found some lab clothing for the two naked women and man the werewolves had reverted to. She wrapped the confused women and man with the coats. Sora took a deep breath as she eased back her energy. Spiritual attacks take a bit of energy, but it will return soon enough. This warm energy the earth gives me is sufficient.
A smile lit her cheeks as she bent down to Mary’s level. “Are you okay, Mary?”
Mary blinked before looking around. “Yeah … what did you…”
“She broke the werewolf curse,” Eric stated with an impressed tone.
Mary shrank back as her eyes settled on Eric. “You!”
Sora hugged Mary, feeding positive emotions into her and the two other survivors. “It’s okay. I fixed you. You aren’t werewolves anymore.”
Mary began to shake as she noticed Wendy, tears dropping down her cheeks. “You—you survived…”
Wendy nodded. “You were the werewolf that was trying to get me away? Thank you.”
The man and woman next to her began crying too. “I—my family…” The woman sobbed. “I haven’t seen them in months.”
Calming them with her aura, Sora said, “We’re still in a bad situation. Let’s sit down and take a breather. I don’t know what we’ll do after but just enjoy some peace. I’ll do my best to keep you safe.”
The three nodded and began dressing. Sora wrapped them in illusions to give them some privacy and took the seat next to Wendy, waiting for Eric to start his explanation. Aiden was examining her with an impressed and thankful expression.
Sitting, Sora said, “So you’ll explain? How do you know Eyia and Jin will die? They’re extremely powerful; strong enough to shut you down.”
Nodding without a twitch at her comment, Eric said, “Yes, they are strong. However, something is coming. Right now Diane is setting into action a plan to pit Jian against Jin. Jin will have restrictive wards on her that will severely diminish her abilities; I suspect she’ll be fairly weakened. I don’t know what else, but something dangerous is about to occur. Eyia is also a portion of their plan.”
“I don’t understand,” Sora said. “How do you know this?”
Eric was silent for a moment. “Do you know who the Herald of Sakura is?”
Sora sat back. “Hmm, my aunt knows her. She’s not to fond of whatever she is, but they’re on speaking terms. Apparently, she helped my grandma too.”
“I now serve her,” Eric stated.
Teeth coming together, Sora said, “Okay, she’s super strong. I know that, but why is she interfering? No, it seems she has been watching me…” Sora mumbled.
“I’m not threatening you, but simply telling you that something will happen. Currently, Diane is in a position that would require her to take action. If you stay here, then she will not find you, but assume you got away safely into the sealed room she prepared for you.”
“Sealed room?” Sora questioned.
“Where those attendants were taking you is a room designed to seal in monsters. They wanted you isolated for when their superior arrived. I know certain things from the Herald, but the information she gives me is limited. I don’t know why he wants you, but if he does capture you, then a lot of bad things will happen. That I’m sure and I cannot let that happen. There are things at work, but I don’t know what those are.”
Sitting back, Sora breathed a long breath as she debated Eric’s words. “Why won’t Diane find me?”
“Because, I activated the room already; showing two people inside. I put two researchers inside that have no way to communicate as I’ve disabled a section of the base’s functionality.” Eric explained.
Sora breathed an unconvinced sigh. He disabled communications? How would he know how to do that, and why hasn’t he escaped yet? Why try and save me?
Her attention was brought back to Eric as he said, “I know you have many questions, but let me answer what I know.” His eyes shifted to Aiden who had been listening silently. “This is what Aiden has been waiting for. There is a lot that I need to explain, so be patient and just listen.”
Taking a deep breath, he began. “First of all, my family has been in a power struggle among the children of Fenrir for millennia. When Fenrir died, he left a hole in the hierarchy, a place that was supposed to be filled by one of his two sons, Sköll and Hati. Beforehand, both brothers had killed any other second-generation that could claim the title. However, there was a split in loyalty among the Fenris generations.
“Among these was my mother, who decided to split away from the savage bickering of her two brothers. She was the only second-generation female left, meaning the only one that could reproduce a full-blooded Fenris as her brothers and even herself were not born of pure blood. Fenrir was a male Founder, which meant breeding with a standard female wolf or monster. For a normal wolf or most any beast for that matter, to give birth to a Founder means death, which meant that all of them had different mothers, but shared ties with Fenrir. There’s a reason why most first-generation Founders are female.
“My mother had three children. I was the first born, and my mother found that breeding with a Germanic werewolf causes a mutation within the Founders genes. Yes, the Founder blood is stronger, but the werewolf blood attacks the body rigorously and even if a single cell survives it will still reproduce at a rapid pace. It keeps a stalemate with the Fenris blood with sheer numbers. The effects would have killed me long ago, but with Aiden’s feathers, my young Fenris blood was able to manifest itself better, destroying the werewolf blood to almost extinction, yet the Germanic werewolf blood still has a hold on me.
“Going back to my other siblings,” Eric’s eyes shifted to Aiden, and he looked unsure how to continue. “I had a younger sister named Tiri.” Hesitating, he licked his lips before saying, “I know it’s impossible to believe, but I did not kill her.”
Sora was surprised to see Aiden leap to his feet, face red with fury. “You expect me to believe that! I was there; I saw a brown coated Fenris Wolf!”
Nodding solemnly, Eric said, “You did, and that is why my mother had us go on the run.”
“The run?” Aiden asked with a frustrated tone. “We chased after Kari after you killed your mother!”
Sagging into his chair and looking up at the ceiling, Eric whispered, “No, she killed herself after sustaining heavy wounds from Hati … when I wouldn’t … couldn’t do it.”
“What? There’s no way Alva would do that. She’d lived over two million years, why would she kill herself?” Aiden asked, his countenance wavering.
“Hati,” Eric cursed lowly. “My father sold my mother out and pledged his loyalty to Hati. Before my mother knew it, he had found and entered her realm to kill Tiri, testing a Fenris Wolf legend. He left before my mother could do anything about it, but when she did confront him, they fought … she sustained mortal wounds, but managed to force him to retreat and recover.”
Aiden looked stunned. “Why, why would Hati kill Tiri? What Fenris Wolf legend?”
Darkly, Eric said, “There’s a legend among the Fenris Tribes. If you consume enough purebred Fenris Wolves, you’ll transform into one yourself.”
Swallowing uncertainly and looking utterly lost, Aiden asked, “Why would Alva kill herself? She could have fought back?”
Eric shook his head. “It was long since rumored that my mother had died or was barren, like Inari and Mia, because she had waited so long to give birth. She knew how the other tribes would react. When the word got out, she was marked. Every wolf with a smidgen of Fenris blood was coming after her. More importantly, Sköll and Hati; she could have beaten any other Fenris Wolf, but her two brothers were stronger than her.”
Sora felt tingling prickles crawl across her body as she finally realized their predicament. Swallowing, she said, “With Alva dead … Kari’s the last Founder capable of giving birth to more pure Fenris Wolves. They want to use her…” She trailed off as a lump caught in her throat. That’s horrible!
Aiden was ashen-faced and looked repulsed. “So … that’s why Alva did it. In a way … she was saving Kari.”
“I killed my father, told the situation to Jenny, and with me being the new Alpha, there wasn’t much she could do against my orders.” Eric sighed. “I ordered you to put escape into Kari’s head, then had Lori befriend her. I stuck with the story that I killed our sister to protect her from the truth, and we’ve been under the radar in the human realm ever since.”
Eric’s eyes shifted to Aiden with narrowed vision. “Then there’s the problem you added … maybe it was a blessing, who knows.”
Suddenly confused, Aiden asked, “What did I do?”
Staring at the floor with pursed lips, he said, “Honestly, I don’t know if it was good or bad.” Raising his head to look at Aiden, he said, “Your desire to save me has radically changed everything.”
“I don’t understand?” Aiden said.
Working around his mouth, Eric whispered, “A son of Homā.”
Aiden’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “That’s what that evil darkness said. What do you mean I’m a son of Homā? Why is it so important?”
“The Homā race are Founders of the Fire Birds,” Eric explained in a serious tone. “An almost extinct Founder, and there’s a reason for it.” Looking Aiden directly in the eyes, he said, “The lineage of Homā can grant their own desires. They can shift the flow of fate.” Vision flipping to Sora, he said, “And you wove us right into this deadly pattern along with the dragon, Valkyrie, and so many others. It’s become so complex and branches into so many possibilities and areas that creatures with power on a colossal scale have started to move … such as the Herald of Sakura.”
Grinding his teeth together, he glared at the floor. “And all this attention has brought Hati running, and now Sköll has entered the stage as well. I had no idea, but he was so close to us that night we were captured. In fact, we were extremely lucky to be captured at that time. I don’t know how he didn’t catch up to us, but we escaped by the skin of our teeth.”
Sora was at a fracture. The enormous energy we felt just before our capture … was that Sköll? If that was then … the other Fenris Wolf I smelled that Nilly … Nilly went to fight off Sköll? What the crap is Nilly then? Was she sent by my mom to protect me against big threats or does Nilly have her own agenda?
Her vision returned to Eric. He’s evil. He’s done evil things, yet … I can’t really blame him. His methods yes, but his reason. He’s had to sacrifice a lot in his own right, but still, he’s done horrible, unforgivable things. She looked at him with irritation. Yet … for some reason … I can’t bring myself to fully hate him now. She cursed him under her breath. Why did you have to make this so much more complicated! I just want everything to go back to normal.
Leaning back with a long sigh, Sora looked up at the ceiling. I can’t keep fooling myself. That ship has sailed, I’m a Vulpes, locked in some Founders struggle.
Grimacing, she said, “That’s why you wanted to eat me. You thought I would give you enough power to face Sköll and Hati?”
Eric didn’t even blink as he nodded. “It had a chance at working, but now that I have a better picture of the threads of time … even Fenris himself would have a difficult climb with the trials ahead. The creatures that are beginning to move are…” He cut off, a shudder running down his frame.
Eyes narrowing, she glanced at Aiden who looked to be in an internal struggle himself. Massaging her forehead, Sora breathed deeply. “You obviously need me for something … everyone seems to need me for something.” She groaned.
For the first time, Eric looked shaky. “This decision is crucial. You could call it a pillar in time that will break into uncountable different shapes to form the future.” Swallowing, he asked, “Will you escape with my sister or leave her?”
“Wait … what? Why! Why do I have to escape with Kari! I hate Kari for what she’s done to me!” Sora yelled. Her strengthening aura slipped for a moment, and the four humans flinched. Growling, she renewed it.
“Nonetheless … this decision will set not only your future but billions of monsters and even the fate of humanity itself.” Eric stated slowly and clearly.
Sora hated the emphasis he put on her decision. I hate him! I really hate him! Why do I need to make such an important choice? She looked to her left and found Aiden no help; he was lost in his own terrifying thoughts.
Cupping her face, she snarled in frustration. “Fine! It’s not like I could leave her … not after everything you told me.” Glaring at Eric, she added, “But I doubt she’ll come willingly, or believe anything you have to say. I hate your new sincerity! Hide your spiritual network; it’s making me sick…”
Looking relieved, Eric breathed a sigh. “That’s not the issue. It’s if you can move past your differences at this point.” Sora didn’t like that even more. What does he mean at this point!
Sitting back against his chair and running a hand down his face, Eric said, “We have some time before it starts. Let me explain what I know.”
“Wait, what starts!” Sora demanded.