Sora felt utterly helpless as Loral continued her beating. Eyia was already bleeding from a gash on her leg, and with every strike, Loral gave her more bruises and cuts.
Bathin was now looking up at the ceiling with a dark expression, and his voice continued to drop octaves as he mumbled. “Daēva are such fickle creatures and lack any commanding order. It’s no surprise they were overwhelmed and slaughtered.”
His expression turned lived as his eyes opened with shock. “Diane.”
Diane quaked as her name was called, Sora knew that she was more than a little scared of Bathin as she stepped up. Swallowing, she replied. “Yes.”
“This eye incident that is within Benjamin’s memories … everything, I mean, everything, connected to it, eradicate. The bodies, the footage, anything, no matter how small, must be purged. Understand?” Nodding quickly, Diane took off at a run. He motioned to Loral. “This is taking too long. Kill her and be done with it. An unexpected … being has taken notice of my operation, it seems.”
Thrown against the wall again, Eyia managed to struggle to her knees and elbows. She was breathing softly, almost as if she were still in complete control. In contrast, Loral was panting profoundly with rage as she brought up her spear to stab into Eyia’s spine.
Sora watched helplessly, she wanted to save Eyia as she had done for her, but again, she was helpless. She couldn’t even whisper Eyia’s name; the only action she could take was to wait and cry. What is the worth of being a Founder if you can’t do anything but bring misery?
Loral’s spear shot down but missed its mark as her arms jerked back, barely missing Eyia’s side. A small girl was standing behind Loral. Her eyes were instantly drawn to the girl’s two cat tails that were stiff and still. Sora knew what she expected to see, but something was off; the tails weren’t black with dark red tips. This girl’s tails were puffier than Nilly’s and were silvery with black tips.
Following the tails up the girl’s body, she found thick straight silver hair that ended at the shoulders and two silver black-tipped cat ears. She seemed to be near her own age. Her skin was snow white; she seemed to resemble Eyia in some features, including blue eyes. Her clothes were something she’d expect an average high schooler to wear; on closer inspection, she recognized it as her own. A pair of tight black jeans she’d sent to be resized; the shirt was also from her wardrobe, a slightly loose red shirt with a black tank top underneath she assumed was hers as well.
An expression of mild surprise dawned on the girl’s face. Her left hand was held stiffly at her mouth, while her right pierced straight through Loral’s armor, penetrating her mid-back up to her heart. Loral’s body convulsed once as she mechanically looked down in disbelief.
The girl giggled apologetically, “Oh, I’m sorry. My body kind of—acted on its own.” her voice was sweet, but Sora could feel something underneath. It wasn’t dark, but ferocious, the feelings of utter odium; hatred and disgust infused her very soul.
Loral’s body sagged to the side, the girl extracting her hand as she fell. She examined her bloodstained hand. “Blame those thoughtless Daēva for putting me on edge.” She looked more curious at her action than upset. Glancing down at Eyia, she grinned, “Oh, an Asgardian. Old habits die hard, I suppose.”
Sora’s stomach tightened sharply as Bathin’s dark aura intensified. “A Nekomata … if it isn’t Githa…”
The girl jolted lightly and looked over at them as if just noticing their presence. She looked at Bathin with utter confusion and then burst out laughing, doubling over as it intensified. “Is—is that you, Bathin? I haven’t seen you in ages; how’s Fleurety and good old Beelze? Still upset? Oh, a human shell? You were able to regain that arm I ate.” She said with utter innocence.
His aura faded and he adopted a pleasant smile. “Ainmire, if you could go get some food prepared, the best.” The man nodded and swiftly walked out of the room. “Now, Githa, what brings the Nekomata Faction here?”
“Hmm,” Githa blinked. “Oh, me? I was looking for Nilly.”
Bathin looked like he’d swallowed bad medicine. “That right—is Nilly going to be joining us then?”
Githa’s right cheek puffed out as she glanced around. “No … she’s supposed to be here with Mia’s daughter—but I forget her name … Gróa, no … Sora. That’s it, Sora!” Her vision settled on Sora and her features brightened.
Sora felt the lock on her spiritual network release as Bathin vanished with Githa. Her senses were so overstimulated that it took her a moment to realize Githa was right in front of her, Bathin seemed to have retreated to where Diane had stood.
Face beaming, Githa said, “You’re Sora, right?”
Swallowing nervously as her eyes moved to Loral, to bathin, back to Githa. “That’s right…”
Githa’s attention was diverted as Eyia pulled herself up against the wall and looked up at the cat. Breathing softly as she studied Githa, she asked, “Reið?”
Githa huffed. “No! I used to be, but that was a long time ago. Don’t remind me!”
Bathin’s face screwed up with distaste. “I was unaware that you were one of Freyja’s cats before becoming a Nekomata? Is that even possible?” He muttered. Sora saw Bathin slowly flex his fingers from the corner of her vision. “So, Githa, you killed the Daēva?”
Lips bunching to the side, Githa folded her arms crossly and huffed, “Not my fault. They attacked me! I was minding my own business, following my nose and they popped out of the walls, dangerous shadowy stuff flying everywhere!” Closing her eyes and folding her hands behind her back, she tilted her head slightly. Smiled widely to show her thin white fangs, she cheerily stated, “I could have been hurt. So, I ate them.”
Bathin released a depressed sigh; the rest of the group stayed silent as the encounter continued. “Of course you did.”
Githa nodded. “Mhm, they tasted like—hot, just a little, but there was this sweet aftertaste. Kind of like a giraffe.” Examining her blood wet hand, she licked it once, and her paw burst into green flames. The blood vanished as the fire blazed; inhaling, the flames flowed into her mouth. Swallowing, she hummed with a small grin, “Hmm, this is different than what I’m used to,” she licked her lips, “and not fully human.”
“That’s right; you did have a soft spot for giraffe several millennia ago. So, what’s your deal with Sora then? You have me interested.”
Githa looked up at her as Sora took a few breaths to steady herself and asked, “You—know Nilly?”
She smiled with excitement. “Oh! It’s a red fox, Mia’s daughter, Sora!” She’s a little like Nilly, maybe not as forgetful, but still has that quality.
Looking at nothing in particular Githa hummed thoughtfully. “Yes—what do they call it these days—understudy? I think that’s it; I’m Nilly’s understudy or acolyte if you prefer. Sometimes I’m her friend.” Her expression dulled with displeasure, “Sometimes her babysitter.”
“Indeed,” Bathin interjected. “Now, what is your deal with Mia?”
Githa seemed a little confused. “Umm—I don’t know. Nilly talks with Mia. I think keeping her safe is good though, right?” She asked thoughtfully.
Bathin sucked a deep breath through his teeth before letting it out. “Right. Well, I need something from your little fox. With it this close within my grasp … I’m willing to fight for it, Githa.”
Githa looked troubled. “Umm, I don’t want to eat Demon right now … it’s sour and will upset my stomach. It just doesn’t match well with those shadows.”
“Right,” Bathin nodded.
Sora jumped as someone touched her shoulder. Looking back, she saw Aiden, ashen-faced. “Eric wants a word.”
Turning, she saw Eric had recovered and was back in his human form, clothing ripped in several places, but he seemed relatively unscathed. Frowning, she followed Aiden back as Githa debated Bathin’s words.
“You know Nilly?” Eric whispered with all seriousness.
Sora nodded as the rest of the group listened. Even with her and Aiden strengthening the humans’ spiritual networks, she could tell they were barely holding onto their composure. She redoubled her efforts, feeding more energy into them. “We’ve met a few times during my transformation.”
Eric breathed a steadying sigh. “My mother told me Nilly’s a high-level Founder, at least second-generation…” He cut off as Githa appeared beside them without warning.
“Nilly, yes,” She nodded with a grin. “Nilly’s first-generation—she was killed though … nine times! Then she became a Nekomata.”
Jin and Eric seemed winded by the information. “What…” Jin breathed. “That’s insane … the Founding Mother of the cats became a Nekomata … how did that happen?”
“Indeed,” Bathin stated as he materialized a few meters away from them, putting everyone but Githa on guard. “That is quite juicy information, Githa. I’m not sure Nilly would appreciate you talking about her past.”
“Really?” Githa’s eyes widened. “Oh—you’re right, Bathin. It’s super hush-hush!” Turning to them, she smiled. “Forget that please!”
Sora relaxed a bit. Bathin is cautious of Githa, and I can guess he doesn’t want to get anywhere near Nilly’s bad side if she’s like Gloria. She glanced back to Eyia as she struggled to walk across the room to them. Making a quick decision, she darted toward her and scooped her up in her arms. Running back to Jian, she noticed most of his visible wounds were healed.
“Thank you, Sister.” Eyia smiled weakly.
Closing her eyes, Sora didn’t hesitate as she took a deep breath and flipped her faintly glowing tails around. Initiating contact, Sora tried healing Eyia’s wounds. She froze as she connected with Eyia’s soul and felt a corruption marring it. At the moment it was small, but she could sense its infectious nature as it tried latching onto her soul. Gritting her teeth, she charged her spiritual energy, red flames enveloping Eyia. She fought against the Daēva’s dark energy, purging it.
A drag hit Sora’s body as her energy poured into Eyia. She couldn’t add much more support without risking Wendy and the other humans’ safety, so she broke contact. Slumping down next to Eyia, Sora breathed a heavy sigh. “That’s about as much as I can do.”
Eyia nodded with pure gratitude in her eyes. Her head was straight and alert as she stared at Githa while addressing Sora. “The Daēva’s foul mark has been removed. This Githa it quite strong, I have not sensed such a powerful presence since my father.” Jin and Eric nodded at her words.
“How about a deal, Githa.”
Githa’s aimless study shifted back to Bathin. “Deal?”
“That’s right. I’m a Demon; we make wonderful deals … binding for us, even. You know this.”
Githa nodded eagerly. “Mhm, mhm.”
“I’ll show you, and this group, a wonderful time, for the … inconveniences you’ve suffered, the best this world has to offer. I even have some Dwarven Fire Whiskey you’d love, and … let’s say, four hundred giraffes. I’ll throw in half a Kraken.”
Sora’s chest tightened as Githa’s eyes widened, wiping back a bit of drool. “Oh, oh—what about Athena’s olives? They’re the best!”
Bathin nodded with a chuckle. “I do have a source. It’ll take me at least several hours to get all of that prepared, and all I want is a small, simple thing.”
Jin sniffed. “What small and simple thing do you want?”
“No need to rush things, little dragon. I’m sure Githa is eager to try some of the best food we can offer at this base.”
Githa nodded expectantly. “I’m hungry!”
Bathin held up his hand. “Of course, I know you’re always hungry for something. Some food should be out shortly. What was it that had you visiting that Sumerian kingdom where we last met?”
“I don’t remember,” Githa replied with a grin.
“That’s just like you.”
Eric stepped up to Bathin, glaring down at him. “I think it would be best if you told us what you want.”
Githa raised her hand next to him eagerly. “Oh, I want to know too!”
Sighing, Bathin vanished, appearing several feet away. “If you must know. I just need a smidgen of young Sora’s spiritual energy. Just the tiniest bit. She could infuse a ring with it or something. That’s all. I could then transport you lot to wherever you like, give you whatever you want in this world. I have the power.”
He turned to Sora, “I could have your father back within moments, and get you registered with the U.S. government, agencies across the board. In fact, there is an official here at the base. There will need to be some minor complications fixed with him, but it is easily sorted out. You could be completely free from any restraints. What do you say; is it a deal?”
Sora listened with a deep frown. I mean, it doesn’t seem like a bad deal. She glanced around at the others as he explained it and they didn’t show any disagreement. It sounds too good to be true … too simple. I mean, he is a demon, there has to be some kind of catch. If just a small amount of my energy infused into something will get us out, isn’t that a good deal? I mean, if everything could go back to normal and no one else gets hurt … I might as well take it.