Nathan’s Change; Sora’s POV
Sora looked around as she appeared on the sidewalk in front of a large building; she quickly recognized it as the Southern Miami Beach Police Department. Oh, wow, this brings back memories…
The building had many windows lining it to provide natural light during the day and stood four stories. Many of the lights were on, and people were coming in and out; Sora’s eyes glancing between the groups. Miami Beach never sleeps.
She was in the middle, between her aunt and Nathan. Nathan took a deep breath as he surveyed the scene, a small smile of his face as his eyes locked on an officer leaving the building. “Patrick Wayd, heading home … I assume no one can see us.”
“No, we can move through solid objects yet sit on things when we desire. Desire is the key, your mental state will create an invisible force for you when you wish to sit; it’s similar to us standing on solid ground. If you wished it, you would fall straight through the earth, but gravity and the ground are a standard belief; therefore, you do not fall. This realm is centralized by your Intelligence, but it does have its limits, and you cannot affect any other realm while here; unless you have specific magic.”
“Right,” Nathan muttered. “So,” he turned toward Inari. “What are we doing here?”
“Hmm, you tell me.” She smiled. “You were the one that conceptualized this place as the location you wish to visit.”
“Great.” Nathan scratched the back of his head. “I did think about this place. I mean, this was the place I wanted to be … nothing else mattered to me in life.”
Sora’s left ear folded slightly. “Really? Nothing else mattered … so, work was your life?” Looking down, she frowned before whispering. “Sounds like my dad … what does a Police Lieutenant even do?”
Nathan gestured them to a low concrete wall that separates the wheelchair ramp from the stairs. Sora sat beside Nathan, but Inari simply conjured an elegant chair from thin air and gracefully sat back in it, tails folded across her lap.
Snorting, Nathan took a deep breath. “Right, okay … so, a Police Lieutenant supervises Patrol Sergeants, Officers, and Detectives that carry out suppression and investigations. I respond to major crimes, make sure investigations are completed properly, and that the Captain of the department is updated on important details within my jurisdiction.”
Nodding, Nathan sighed, staring at the cream-colored building across the road “It can be. I liked to be busy. That’s what got me involved with Eric … I was following up on some discrepancies with one of the detectives under me. He’s dead now, with a few other officers that were turned into Werewolves.”
“Sorry,” Sora muttered, looking down at her feet.
“What’s there to be sorry about?” Nathan grunted. “It’s not your fault. You did what you could … you have a good heart. Eric’s the one that deserves to burn in hell.”
Their focus shot to Inari as she smiled. “I completely agree.”
“Wait,” Sora muttered. “What happened to Eric after we left? Is he dead?”
Nathan scowled at the ground. “Death was an easy way out for him, but at least he can’t hurt people anymore.”
“I wonder about that,” Inari mused, casually stroking one of her tails.
Sora shifted uneasily. “You wonder, but—you never wonder? You know everything.”
“You have such high opinions of me,” her aunt chuckled. “I do know a great many things, but there are things that I am unaware of; especially since I am only an Intelligent construct, not your real aunt. I know what she knew when creating me and only what I’ve been able to observe since that time.
“I do not have the powers of Inari, just her knowledge. Do I know much of what will likely happen? Yes, but the accuracy of the circumstances surrounding you are complicated by a few factors, including Aiden, yet not entirely unpredictable.”
A low growl rumbled in Nathan’s throat. “You’re saying … Eric’s alive?”
“Most probably,” Inari nodded. “Bathin isn’t the type of demon to simply kill Eric. No, there are other uses for him. It’s not a guarantee, but with the Harold involved, Eric would actually pose somewhat of a threat to Bathin. My guess, Bathin transported him to a place where he’d be at a disadvantage, such as Hell.”
Sora’s tails twitched at the revelation. “Actually—hell?”
“As I said, it is the most likely scenario, but there are many other possibilities. You needn’t worry about Eric though. If he is alive and in hell, then it would be some time before you meet again.”
Bending forward, Nathan gripped his knees, hands white and face red. “What’s Hell like?”
“Hmm,” Inari crossed her legs. “Hell—it depends on the layer; they are all vastly different … Dante Alighieri was right about several things, but of course he would be, as he traveled with a demon for a time. However, Hell is exceedingly more complicated and expansive than depicted.
“I’d speculate Eric would have been sent to either the Third or, more likely, the First Layer of Hell. Bathin would wish to rid himself of Eric as soon as possible to pursue you. It’s more accurate to depict the Layers of Hell as planes in themselves, composed of all manner of horrors. The energy permeating that plane is toxic to the human spirit, corrupting the Core.
“Humans that have unlocked their Cores can survive longer, but it depends on the individual and their progress. What I am performing with each of you will have a great effect on your Cores, and you would likely survive three days in the First Layer of Hell.
“What is it like there? Think of the First Layer of Hell as a castle; however, a good comparison would be to compare that castle to the size of the Milky Way Galaxy. The Layers of Hell get bigger as well, not smaller, and that is one of the many reasons for the tremendous conflicts within.”
“You’re kidding,” Sora muttered. “Wait … if you call them layers, then does that mean they’re like an onion? Then—how can the first layer be smaller than the inner layers?”
Her aunt giggled. “Sora, do you think you’d understand how realms operate? You’re asking me to explain to you the workings of the most complex machine your minds can comprehend and many more complicated things that far outstrips the nuances of realms. The Intelligence and Spirit itself as an example. Every human spirit has more depth than the entire human realm, but that’s something you couldn’t understand.
“Consider it like a car. How much of it do you really understand? What about a spacecraft? Just because you know something exists does not mean you understand it. You know a car moves forward, but how everything operates, you know not. Jets and boats. These are beyond simplistic, but if asked to replicate the process, you’d be stumped.
“You know it has a combustion based engine. Okay, how do you make the combustible material? How do you develop the parts and make them properly to function in a completely unified manner? These are things you’d need to study, experiment with, and take a considerable amount of time pondering … and it’s nothing, nothing compared to a realm.”
Sora’s cheeks puffed up before letting go of a long stream of air. “I get it, fine, fine…”
Nathan folded his arms. “Can we get back to Eric and Hell? I don’t care how it works … I want to know if he’s suffering.”
“Indeed,” Inari’s head tilted a little to the right, white hair shifting. “The first layer is like a massive castle that has seven demon factions that rule it; Bathin is a part of one of those factions, and you can be assured that Eric is being tormented in all manner of twisted ways. He does have Fenris blood though, Founder genetics; weak it may be, he is still extremely resilient and was taught techniques by his mother. Hell’s energy cannot harm him. The demons, however, are another story entirely. Eric will be subject to many torture experiments; that is if he is alive.”
“At least there’s that,” Nathan muttered. The silence stretched as he pondered on several dark emotions.
This isn’t good … aren’t we supposed to be helping him overcome all of this?
“Give it time, Sora. He is working toward it.”
“Inari … could you give me some advice? Well, I mean, you have been giving a ton of advice, but—there’s something that’s bothering me.”
“Of course,” she smiled.
“If there are real gods … like you. There are—human gods, humans with their Cores unlocked. You’ve talked about a few in history, like with the Egyptian Gods. So—why aren’t there any now—here—on earth?”
“Why are you asking that question?”
“A question with a question,” Nathan groaned, rubbing between his eyes. “I understand why you’d ask that though … humans are so narrow-minded.”
“Well, that’s a given.” Inari giggled. “However, that is not why I asked. Without understanding why you asked a question, you will not grasp the answer. The nature of the question is important to dissect before identifying possible responses.”
Gods exist … they used to help humans, but now they don’t; wait, well, they might … maybe we just don’t see it?
Nathan’s eyes closed as he scratched his scalp, messy black hair shifting with the action. “Why am I asking if gods aren’t here? Well, obviously, because they could help a ton.”
“Sure—they could stop all the disasters and heal people … there’s just, I mean, there’s a real need for something like that.”
“Why? Why is there a need? Well—I guess—because…” He swallowed, deep in thought. “Because we humans create a ton of problems.”
“And why is that?” Inari asked innocently.
I feel like your a kid constantly asking why…
“Children are surprisingly intelligent; they’re looking for more, the heart, the Core.” Inari’s chuckle echoed in Sora’s mind.
“Why do humans create problems? I guess—is it like, why do the leaves fall? Gravity, the natural order?”
“If Mary were here, she’d discuss how even monkeys go to war and perform raiding parties to connect a few thoughts; however, humans are different in the manner in which they engage with one another. Remember what we discussed in regards to resentment; people will ponder, scheme, fixate on some wrong that’s done to them. They’ll fantasize, role play, discuss, and plot their retribution.
“Humans obsess on things, blocking out reason, and focus on how to get even. You are a dominating society. It’s ironic how many alien movies and stories you create, and have all these terrible advanced creatures come and destroy your home. You could even see these creatures as gods, but in my experience, there are very few creatures that are anywhere close to humanity’s lust for war. Humans can convince themselves to fight and that they’re a victim for just about anything.”
Nathan leaned back, looking up at the purple sky as the sun continued its descent. “You’re saying that we’re inherently violent?”
“Mmh,” Inari smiled softly as her orange irises moved up to examine Nathan. “Do you remember the examination we made of children and house or when you played marbles?”
“Okay, create a circumstance. Let’s put a bunch of children in a room with many different types of toys. What will happen?”
“Umm—the kids will play with the toys for a bit and probably join up to play with one another?”
“Think about it as a society, because this can be replicated on all levels. From a group of kids to a country. How will they start a game?”
“They’ll talk about it. They’ll discuss what the rules are and then start working for it.”
“Yes, but those rules are important. Everyone must feel comfortable with the game for it to continue and not collapse. A hierarchy will begin to form with the most competent and intelligent individuals leading the game. They’ll propose many ideas and their status will rise. All the kids continue to play because it’s fun, but the moment someone starts to cheat, whether it’s the leader that created the rules or another person, then problems start to arise.
“The leader is being judged all the time, and if they aren’t following the rules they created, then discord will ensue. No person is the same, and there will always be some level of opposition, but how one deals with that opposition can differ.
“The society these kids created could accommodate for the disorder, and there could be a trial or election or many other factors, but the moment these kids start feeling trapped in their role, then it starts to spike resentment in their hearts that will grow. If you don’t have the chance to climb up the game, to win, then you’ll start breaking the rules since the rules won’t let you get to where you want to be. This is when crimes occur.”
Nathan hummed, staring down at his feet. “Okay, I’ve seen the data on that; I haven’t heard it explained like that, but I’ve seen the data. It was at a police training meeting at one point. Crime corresponds with the level of opportunity provided, but if everyone’s equal, then no one feels like they have anything to contribute.”
“Precisely,” Inari nodded. “There must be some form of achievement for something to be worth anything. If everyone has a trophy, then the trophy isn’t worth anything. No one wants a game where everyone wins; people want stakes, adventure, excitement, something new.
“Now, think about a society with a god. They have a being among them that has a lot of wisdom, power, and the knowledge to advance your tribe or game. Think about him as your game master. You’re going through the game, and you have a bunch of people start questioning the game master, cheating, holding the game hostage, spreading disharmony. What game master would wish to be a part of such a game?
“He has taken out of his own schedule and time to advance this game or this society, and they refuse to even recognize his authority. Could he establish a reign of fear? Don’t break the rules or the GM will do this or do that. Of course, but the wise realize that fear never lasts and doesn’t promote a good healthy game. It may be comprehensible, but it is not self-maintaining or enjoyable.”
“So … gods left to do their own game?”
“In a way; for example. Do I have realms where there are humans that I guide and protect? Yes, but all of those humans must choose to play by the game. If they choose to sabotage the game, then they can leave. What does this examination point to?”
Sora was surprised she caught on. “Free will.”
“Yes,” Inari winked at her. “A game is only as good as its players; society is only as good as its people. Every choice that is made is their own doing. Every choice to trust someone is their own and could result in that trust being misplaced and broken. Are they a victim of circumstance or choice? The answer, it’s complicated.” She giggled.
“Just like you said,” Nathan muttered. “We’re all victims of existence, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t find enjoyment in existence. I’ve seen … a lot of bad choices in my life. People that blame their circumstances on anyone but themselves and some people that blame themselves more than needed. Sometimes I just … there’s so much to think about.”
“Why do you suppose I stay out of human affairs?” Inari asked, folding her fingers.
Nathan sighed. “I don’t think I could ever understand your mind.”
“That’s a wise response. If you were to take a guess though, what would it be?”
“Well—I guess gods just don’t want to deal with our crap. I mean, I can understand that,” he let go of a sad chuckle. “Babysitting a bunch of idiots like humanity … no thanks.”
Sora frowned. “But … aren’t you a cop? Don’t you kind of do that?”
He groaned, rubbing his temples. “I—wanted to help people, but Inari’s made me look at all the hell humanity makes and question everything. How can people think socialism would work when we can’t even agree on scientific facts? How can we get along when everyone plays a victim and want things for free without working? No one can agree on anything but to disagree. I’ve dealt with anarchists, fascists, tribalism, gangs, so … so much disorder.”
He blinked, brow furrowing. “But … Inari, you were talking about order and disorder. We need both the yin and yang.”
Inari’s smile lifted into a smirk. “Opposition in all things is a reality. There will always be those seeking order and those seeking disorder. Humanity is prone to such whims on a stronger basis than most creatures. I have seen a single man destroy empires out of spite, entire realms of oppressed humans strike down revolutionaries seeking to bring about their freedom, small groups of misguided fools play the victim to bring about tyranny upon the masses. Humanity is rife with opposition because of free will.
“If you were able to take away free thinking, destroy free information, would it be good? What comes about when totalitarian regimes succeed in putting information in a stranglehold and brainwashing the masses into thinking everything is as it should be? What was the price and who could carry it out and still remain sane? Then, what happens if a small bit of poisonous free thinking enters that populous? Is free thinking good if it brings discord and division?”
“Deep questions,” Nathan muttered. “Anyone that says they have an answer must be a fool.”
Inari smiled. “Cause and effect, Nathan. Every decision has a ripple effect that will cause pain and joy. Everything requires a sacrifice; will you let someone decide that sacrifice for you or make it yourself?”
Sora shook her head. “I want to be in control! Period.” She whispered, pulling her hair back.
Nathan’s lips tucked in as he shifted his jaw. “Honestly—I want to make my own decisions too. I grew up in a pretty restrictive home … a bit unorthodox you could say. My dad was a professor and hated anything to do with religion. I wanted to date a Catholic girl once, and he flipped out. It’s not like I was going to become Catholic, but he just hated anything religious … he embarrassed me in front of her. He just kept going on and on about how terrible she was because Catholics were terrible … I grew to hate him because of it.
“My little brother got it worse though … my dad was always an Atheist, but my mom was religious. Looking back, I think that’s one reason why he grew so cynical. She died in a car accident when I was four, on her way to church. I don’t even remember her.”
“That’s horrible…” Sora muttered. “What happened to your brother?”
Taking a deep breath, he scratched at the scruff on his neck. “Drugs … my brother really liked this Christian girl, Amy … she was nice. He tried to keep the fact she was Christian from our dad, but eventually, he heard the C word in a phone call. He then made it his mission to open her eyes, and ultimately, the harassment turned her away from my brother. Honestly … my dad always talked about how terrible Christian harassment is, but never looked in a mirror … so much discrimination. I hated his hypocrisy.
“My brother got so depressed after Amy stopped associating with him that he started using … nothing terrible at first, just some weed. It just got worse though, and he moved to Molly. He’s—been in and out of rehab since he was sixteen, and you know what the messed up thing is?”
Sora shook her head, feeling the pain and disgust in Nathan’s heart. I’m sixteen…
“Last time I saw my dad, he was still blaming Amy for Jack’s condition. I just—I don’t talk to him. He lost his tenure from harassment charges and started drinking. So now I just see him when he needs a little money since he’s gotten worse on the alcohol; no university will touch him. Somehow … I still hate him worse than Eric.”
He huffed. “I don’t know how it’s possible. I don’t blame Jack, I mean, it’s Molly and one weak moment that hooked him, but my dad doesn’t have an excuse. He chose to let hate and discrimination rule his life.”
Swallowing, Sora shifted a little. “I mean, could your dad have something that made him like that?”
“I don’t care,” Nathan’s nose twisted. “He chose that, whatever reason it is, over his kids. It ruled our lives. I told him I was going to become a Jew to spite him when I was seventeen, and he kicked me out. At that point, I just didn’t care. A Christian family took me in, the irony.”
“Were they nice?”
Nathan shrugged. “They were an elderly couple that fought a little, but yeah, they were nice, and always made up … I guess no marriage is perfect.”
“But it was still rough,” Sora muttered.
“Yeah—my dad abandoned me, but I still finished high school. My dad came to graduation, and do you know the first thing he asked me? Was I really a Jew … yeah, I told him I was, and he left.”
Nathan worked around his jaw, nostrils flaring. “I just … the things Eric made me do. I hate him, but my dad … he was supposed to be there for me. The elderly couple was good to me, they forced me to get out and look for a job, but never once forced me to go to church or pray with them; when they left, they just told me to watch the house while they were gone and cut the lawn.
“I worked a few jobs for two years before entering the Police Academy, and that little couple did everything in their power to help me. The Police Academy—that was the best thing that happened to me, but, you know … thinking about it, I don’t even care if I go back now.”
“Oh?” Inari hummed.
Groaning, Nathan cracked his neck. “Well—no, I’d like to see my brother, I guess, and one case that pissed me off.” He went silent, eyes low.
Sora cleared her throat. “Umm—when did you see your brother last?”
“I haven’t,” he paused, scratching his neck. “I haven’t seen him in six months … he sometimes crashes on my couch between jobs or rehab. I’ve tried to help him, but there’s only,” he chuckled, “yeah, Inari, there’s only so much you can do with free will.
“There’s nothing really holding me here. I don’t have a girlfriend—I mean, I stopped dating because of my dad and just never got back into it. I have some work buddies, but other than that—I don’t really have a life. Just work.”
Is this what we need to do? Go see his brother and solve that case?
“You can feel the hate and disgust inside of him, Sora. He became a Police Officer, someone that protects others, but has no connections. He’s scared to get close to people, and that stems from his teenage years with his father. He doesn’t want to feel betrayed like the night his father kicked him out. He honestly thought his father would just accept him; that he loved him more than his hatred for religion.
“When that was crushed, so was he, but he still wants something to protect. He wants to protect people from suffering as he felt someone should have protected him. He hasn’t cut off his brother, but opens his house to him, even if he’s a drug addict that could potentially steal his property.”
“So … what’s the plan?” Nathan muttered.
Inari folded her fingers together. “You mentioned a few things. Eric, your father, your brother, the elderly couple that took you in, and a case. We discussed Eric, which do you wish to address next?”
“Ack—I need to deal with all of those?” He sighed at Inari’s gentle nod. “Alright, might as well start with the worst; let’s go with my dad.”
“Very well, Imagine him in your mind, and Sora, you search for the ripple his image leaves in this realm; just close your eyes and search for it using your magic.”
“No pressure,” Sora scratched her left fox ear, heavenly sensations ripple back to her brain. “This realm is so weird…”
Using the image conjured in Nathan’s mind, Sora began to search, and after a minute, she found him. Desiring the shift of locations, she opened her eyes to a small basement. A man in his fifties was sleeping on a red couch that had several rips in it. The space was a little crowded with storage boxes and old water skiing equipment taking up the back corner.
Nathan took a quick glance around the space before glaring down at the man. He looked slightly disheveled like he hadn’t taken a shower in a few days. Walking to the desk, he saw a book open on the table, pencil, and paper beside it.
“The Koran, of course, he’s on another religious crusade. My dad’s more radical than any religious person I know; near broke, living out of someone’s basement, burns every bridge he crosses, and still, his obsession rules him.”
“Would you like to talk to him?” Inari asked, glancing down at an anti-religious rally pamphlet.
He shook his head. “No, this is enough … it’s been all my life. My dad’s never going to change. He’s too set in his ways; just like you said … we all make sacrifices, and he sacrificed his kids for Atheism. I don’t understand the appeal of either religion or Atheism … I just wanted my dad to accept my friends, but he drove them all away.”
“Then … you can’t forgive him?” Sora ran a hand through her hair. Is that complete? Was that the goal?
“I don’t think so. I’m not alright with it, but I think I can choose to let that hope die. He’s never going to just be my dad, and I don’t want to see into his zealot-like mind. Let’s go.”
Sora frowned. We just got here … he’s obviously upset by it.
“Sora, he deals with his emotions a bit differently than you. This will no longer be an issue for him.”
“Family is hard for him, but with this, he’s let go of his father’s image. He’s thought hard on the lecture I gave and has come to accept a few things about his life. Seeing his father brought back the memories of being kicked out and the elderly couple that took him in. Find them from the image he sees in his mind.”
Brow furrowing, she only found a single image. I can’t find the old man he’s thinking about? Does that mean…
“Yes, he is no longer in this realm. Just take us to the woman.”
Teleporting to the location, she opened her eyes. They were in a bedroom, an elderly woman in her late seventies sleeping in a Full-sized bed, ventilator making soft noises beside the bed as she snored lightly.
The walls had handcrafted embroidery works covering them; each one had a different theme, and several seemed to come together into a design. Pictures of Jesus as a baby and Mary were the theme of the left corner and to the left were several photos of an elderly man and her with a teen that Sora assumed was Nathan when he was younger.
Nathan looked around the room with a heavy sigh before his eyes fell on the sleeping woman. “Where’s Davis?”
Inari responded before Sora could stammer a reply. “Davis passed on a year ago.”
“Ah,” was all Nathan could say as he knelt down beside the elderly woman.
Sora stood beside her aunt stiffly as Nathan’s grief washed over her. “Umm—how close were you?”
Licking his teeth, Nathan tucked his lip under for a moment before clearing his throat. He was doing his best to suppress his emotions. “Davis and Bobbie … they lived in the same neighborhood where I grew up. They were one of three families that got my dad’s weekly anti-religious propaganda placed in their mailbox, but they were always courteous to him when out.
“They knew what had happened after a day or two of me being kicked out … everyone in the neighborhood knew. My dad wasn’t the quiet type and blamed the Sullivans for corrupting me with their Jewish lies.” His throat cracked for a moment, and he went silent.
Sora waited, trying not to interrupt the emotions bubbling up inside Nathan while her aunt studied the embroidery without comment.
“I was sleeping behind the high school … showering in the mornings when the gym opened. I hated my dad … hated everything about him. I was walking around the neighborhood, trying to figure out what to do when they pulled up. Davis told me he’d heard about the fight I had and that I had a place in his guest house if I chose to take it; no strings attached, then he drove off.”
Tails twisting, Sora shifted her posture. “That was nice. So, you went to live with them?”
Nathan shook his head. “Not at first. I tried living out of the school, but eventually, the police chased me off, and after a week of eating out of trash cans—I broke down. I cried all night and—I showed up at their door.”
A sad smile moved his lips. “I’ll never forget that moment. My face was puffy and stained with tears, I bet I had some snot running down my face, “he chuckled. “Davis opened the door—it was three A.M. by the way, and the first thing he said was:
“You smell like the living dead. Bathroom’s second door on the right … don’t forget the body wash.” He paused, throat catching. “Bed’s made out back; make it in the morning, and breakfast is on the table at seven. Don’t make Bobbie wait for you.”
He swallowed, and his tone was thick. “I spent four years in that guest bedroom, and they never asked for a dime. I feel bad the way I left…”
“Bobbie was barren,” Inari stated, turning to glance at the woman.
“She—I didn’t know.”
“Of course not. Both Bobbie and Davis had tried to have kids their entire lives, but she never got pregnant. They were talking about adoption, but Davis was afraid they wouldn’t be around long enough to raise a child, and then you appeared in their lives. Do you remember when you were studying for the Police Academy?”
Nathan nodded. “Yeah, Davis spent a lot of time helping me get ready.”
“He didn’t know any of that before you told him what your goal was; he spent a lot of time learning the process to help you. They thought you were a miracle sent from God, and every night, without fail, they thanked him for sending you their way.”
Nathan tucked his lip under. “I—I stopped keeping in contact with them a year ago … it must have been just after I left the state for Miami. I just got so wrapped up in work. I rarely even went back to my apartment.”
Inari moved around the other side of the bed with a neutral expression. “She’ll die in five days of a heart attack; she’s lonely, and wishes to join her husband. Her last wish is to see you, the child not her own, but that she had the pleasure of molding into an adult.”
A tear fell down Nathan’s cheek, and he brushed it away, sniffing. “She … they were more of a family to me than my own dad. Yeah—can we make that happen?”
Inari smiled in Sora’s direction, feeding her the instructions. Taking a deep breath, Sora sent her magic into Bobbie’s Spiritual Network and laid the trail for her to follow.
The elderly woman’s Intelligence detached from her Core, and she looked around in shock. “Huh?” She glanced down at her body. “Huh?” Her vision finally fell on Sora and Nathan. “HUH? Nathan, dear, is that you? I don’t—I don’t hurt? Am I dead?” Her eyebrows shot up as she did a closer examination of Sora, ears twitching self-consciously. “Well, aren’t you a strange but pretty angel … never imagined there’d be fox angels.”
Nathan shook his head, clearing his throat. “No, Bobbie,” he chuckled. “Sora’s actually a fox goddess.”
Her white eyebrows shot up further. “That right? Do all goddesses look as young as you, Sora, and wait, I’m not dead?”
Sora shook her head. “Erm, no, Ms. Bobbie—I—umm—I guided your Intelligence out of your body so you could speak to Nathan.”
Bobbie clicked her tongue a few times. “Well—is this your first time seeing an old lady? Sora, the fox goddess? I feel like I should be more shocked to see you than you to see me.”
Her aunt chuckled from behind Bobbie, making Sora blush and her ears press back. Don’t make fun of me…
Turning, Bobbie’s mouth dropped open. After a few seconds, she nodded, swallowing hard. “Okay,” she sniffed, “okay, you’re a fox goddess; no doubt. I don’t know how this whole thing works or if this is a dream, but I’ll roll with it, as the kids say.”
“Hello,” Inari’s smile was pleasant. “I’m Inari.”
“Pleasure’s all mine,” Bobbie nodded, bowing slightly. She turned back to Nathan with a smile, latching onto his neck. “Nathan! I’ve missed you so much. I tried to get in contact with you about—about Davis, but I didn’t know your new address down in Miami, and I don’t know how to work that blasted computer, but I understand, you’re trying to get out and be your own man. Davis was so proud of you when you made it into the academy, and then getting that Lieutenant promotion in Miami!”
Nathan filled his lungs with air before puffing it out. “Bobbie, I’m sorry I haven’t been around … I know you could have…”
“Please,” Bobbie slapped his shoulder with a hearty chuckle. “Don’t give me that garbage! You need to get out and live your life—I just wish you’d get yourself a girlfriend…” Her eyes widened as she slowly turned around to stare at Inari, and she smiled back innocently. “Are you—dating a fox goddess?”
“What!” Nathan locked up, swallowing hard as his vision shot toward her beyond gorgeous aunt. She continued to smile, head tilting slightly as her tails weaved behind her. “N—no, absolutely not! She’s like—like millions of years old!”
Bobbie lifted an eyebrow. “Millions,” she whispered, appraising the fox. “She doesn’t look a day over twenty-five … you know, Nathan, age is just a number.” She winked.
“Bobbie!” His face began to glow beet-red, causing Inari to giggle, and Sora couldn’t help but smile at the old woman’s energy.
“Hey,” Bobbie grinned with a sharp nudge. “I mean, you have a literal goddess in front of you, eh. Is she seeing someone or is that a human thing?”
“I have not engaged in such acts in a very long time and never with a human,” Inari stated without shame. “However, we are not here to discuss my love life, but Nathan’s could be interesting. He hasn’t gone on a date since you set him up with Gwen.”
Bobbie’s eyes narrowed. “Seriously, Nathan? That was like four years ago!”
“How is this happening?” Nathan moaned, covering his face.
Her face lightened, and she reached up to hug him again. “Hey, any girl would be blessed to have you; so, what’s all this about?”
Nathan’s brow furrowed as he pulled away. “But—don’t you have questions?”
“Tch, of course I do,” Bobbie huffed. “I’m just not stupid enough to ask. I’m sure there are much more important things to discuss than what god is real or if there’s a heaven or such pointless questions. I have faith, and this won’t change that, in fact, it strengthens it!”
She turned to Sora. “And how old might you be, Sora? Don’t tell me you’re older than this drop dead gorgeous goddess behind me?”
Clearing her throat, Sora shook her head. “I’m sixteen—I turned sixteen like, last week, I think? Time’s been kind of tricky lately.” She sighed.
“Well, okay. You look the part, maybe a little younger,” she giggled at Sora’s blush. “So, we have Sora, the sixteen-year-old fox goddess, and Inari, the millions of years old fox goddess. Alright, so, what can this old woman do for you?”
“You’ve already accomplished it, my dear,” Inari said cheerily, appearing a little behind Nathan.
“Huh?” Nathan muttered, glancing back at her.
“Yes, you can say your goodbyes and Bobbie can return to her life knowing that the boy she took in will one day have a wife; all thanks to your powerful intervention.”
“Oh, thank you so much,” Bobbie said, tears appearing in her eyes as she looked at Inari. “You have answered my prayers!”
“May your heart be at ease; now, all you need to do is lie back down on your bed, and you will return to slumber.”
Nodding, she hugged Nathan tightly before releasing him. “Thank you for coming to visit this old lady that always nagged you to shave. You’ll make a wonderful husband!”
“Why—is this happen? Are you serious, Inari?”
“Of course, I never lie.” Inari giggled. “Why don’t I give you a sneak peek, Bobbie?”
“Oh, yes! Please do!” She clapped with glee.
“Hey … I’d like…”
“Ah, no spoilers for you,” Inari smirked, and Sora felt a tiny bit of her energy being used as an unbelievably complex magical pattern was formed.
Bobbie’s tears increased as her eyes widened. “Oh, she’s—she’s so lovely. What a blessing this is, Inari. Thank you—thank you.”
Sora smiled at the happy woman as she kissed Nathan on the cheek. She’s so sincere and straightforward.
“Alright, Nathan, you treat her well, you hear me! If I’m still around, you better bring her by! Now, I better get going, because every minute you waste with this bag of bones is another minute you’re without that beauty. Ya’ hear?” Taking a deep breath, she squeezed Nathan’s hand and sat back. “Until next time, Nathan. I love you.”
Nathan wiped at his cheeks as she returned to her body. “Bye, granny.”
He sat still for several minutes before turning to Sora. “Alright, let’s go see my brother.”
Nodding, Sora guided the magic. They were in a dark room with no lights. Her vision instantly adjusted, but Nathan seemed to be blind.
“Umm, what’s going on?”
Inari utilized her magic, and Nathan suddenly stiffened. “Holy cow, what—what’s this? Everything’s so clear…” He trailed off as he saw the only person in the room; a man lying on a couch with a needle in his arm, drool coming out of his mouth.
“Jack!” He dropped to his brother’s side, but his hands went through him. “Please, can you save him?”
Sora moved forward, but Inari’s voice made her halt. “Nathan, everything up until now has been for a future time, but if you wish for me to aid further, then you’ll have to make a deal with me.”
“Huh? What do you mean?” Sora looked at her aunt with disbelief. Now?
“Yes, Sora, now.”
“Ashley has already accepted the deal I offered. I can give you a few options within the deal if you prefer. I know which you’ll choose, but giving you the different options is only proper.”
Sora frowned as Nathan seemed to freeze in place; she could feel information feed into his mind, but her aunt didn’t use any of her power that she could detect. The information made Nathan hesitate for a moment before he nodded. “I can do that; consider it done.”
“What done?” Sora’s ears twitched. “What did you ask him to do?”
Nathan smiled at her. “Don’t worry about it, Sora. Given the information, it’s something I’d do anyway.”
Huffing, Sora glared at him as his emotions told her something different. “You’re not telling me the truth. You would do it, but you’re scared of something.”
“I’d rather not discuss it, Sora, and that’s my decision, not Inari’s.”
Pursing her lips, Sora slid her icy stare to her aunt. “I bet you didn’t let Ashley tell me her deal either.”
“It’s my choice,” Nathan said. “Inari gave me all the details, but it’s my decision.”
“Well—you’re not lying.” She muttered. Is it dangerous…
“You don’t have time to be worrying about this, Sora. Jack has overdosed; his spirit is leaving his body. You must heal the body and then guide the spirit back.”
“You know how to heal the body, for the spirit, feed the magical desire into his body and search for his Spirit that has left. Inside it is his Core, call to it.”
Following her aunt’s instructions, she hovered her tails over his body, blue energy surrounding her tails.
“Fix the body’s chemical imbalance and drug damage as well. You can cure his addiction.”
Performing the magic, she felt his body return to perfect health before she turned her attention to the Spirit. Searching, she found it, it wasn’t nearby, yet it wasn’t far away; it was the strangest feeling. It’s like … his soul is just beyond reach … just shoot out a tether and latch on …. there!
Opening her eyes, she saw Jack sit up, pulling the needle from his arm as he stared around, clearly confused. “That’s so strange … a fire fox? Huh … what a trip.”
Getting to his feet, he stared at the syringe. “I don’t—I don’t want anymore? How? I’m going to have to tell Nathan!”
He dashed out, and Nathan smiled after him. “I haven’t—he hasn’t been that happy in … since we were teens. He can now live a normal life; it’s all his decision now.”
Turning to Sora, he yawned, but his brow set. “Right, the final point, Patrick. Sora, can you take me to the image?”
“Umm, sure, but are you sure?”
Nathan got up, looking after his brother. “Yeah, Bathin’s demons left the moment he died. He’s free.” A tear fell down his cheek. “You don’t know how hard it is, watching your brother destroy himself, but now he’s got his whole life ahead of him.”
This is so strange … was this your doing again?
“Have a little faith. His brother will search for him, but as time goes on, he will move to better plateaus. He will eventually meet his brother again.”
“So … we’re going to see Patrick?” She got his answer through the mental image she sensed. Here we go.
The environment shifted in a flash, and they were standing in front of what looked like a drug operation. People were measuring vials of liquid and weighing bags of powder.
“Sora,” Nathan whispered.
“Can you manipulate Patrick to turn himself in? To confess?”
“To drug trafficking?”
“Everything illegal he’s done.”
Walking over to the man, she fed her magic into his Core. His eyes widened as he looked around. “God? Is that you? I—I’ll do it!”
He quickly ran out of the facility, features panicked.
Sora followed his exit with a furrowed brow. “That was super easy. Is that everything?”
Nathan nodded. “Yup, Patrick always found a way to sell my brother Molly and ruined hundreds of people’s lives. Now, his entire drug ring will be dismantled. Thank you, Sora.”
Inari hummed. “Sora, I think it’s time we return. Everyone else is done.”
“Okay,” she smiled up at Nathan. “Thanks for sharing so much about yourself.”
With that, everything faded to black as she cut the constant feed of energy, and they were pulled back to their Cores.
Next chapter is Aiden’s POV, then Eyia’s and back to primarily Sora.
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