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1. Kari (The Bully Turned Shy Friend!)
Recap: Eyia trounced the Vulpes in humiliating fashion … poor tails floof! She then was having a bit of trouble controlling her hatred … racism really, toward Kari, but I mean, Fenrir was responsible for killing a lot of people, and partially, in a way, for her exile.
Sensing the mood, Kari storms off to be alone, feeling like she’s putting stress on Sora for being around Eyia. She names Yeven, the older sister of the little fox Sora saved, and is a little put off by how much the little fox admires her.
After that, she goes into the Outer Body Technique to get help from her mom, who tells her courage is the power of Fenris Wolves before introducing her daughter to the biggest challenge yet … in a much more forceful method than Inari, putting Kari up against the face of all her pain, anxiety, and fear … Eric stands before her. Can she build the courage to face it?
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Kari stumbled back in the white space of her Core, throat catching as her brother’s stone brown eyes leered from his towering position over her.
“E-Eric?” she gasped, reflexively stepping back before tripping; she landed on her butt as everything her mother said was instantly replaced by years of trauma.
A questioning grin spread across his strong jaw. “What’s with that reaction … Don’t remember me?”
Kari’s eyes quivered, falling from his cruel face to the worn leather skins of the various great animals he’d killed in their mother’s sanctum, ferocious creatures that dominated their previous habitat before she removed them, yet they hadn’t stood a chance against her vicious brother … This was her 12-year-old demon returned to life.
Her heart shrank as his lips tilted. “Hmm … Did you think you could just run away to the human world, and I wouldn’t know … Huh?”
Air wouldn’t fill her lungs as her brother’s horrifying visage hung over her; Kari’s bones trembled, remembering the breaks her 12-year-old body received when she’d first tried to fight her brother—she didn’t know what she was doing at the time; it was a reaction when seeing him standing over their dead mother, her flesh in his mouth, but her muscles would never forget the pain.
He stepped forward, left eye narrowing with agitation, causing her to flinch and shrink back a little. “Hmm? Thought running away with Jenny would change the fact Mom is dead? Did I give you permission to leave the pack?”
“I … I’m not af-afraid of you,” she mumbled, unable to stop the quakes in her voice, which only made him smile.
“What … You expect me to believe that? You’ve practically pissed yourself … Who are you trying to convince, because it’s not working for you. Let’s play this game, though,” he stepped forward, reaching out to grab her face in a split second.
His impossibly powerful fingers tightened against her cheeks and forehead, and in the next moment, her thick black hair was flying forward as he sent her rocketing into the blackness of her Core.
She couldn’t think as darkness swallowed her, falling into an abyss with her brother standing at the edge of the white platform above her, growing more distant by the second. Soon snapping to her senses, she tried to gather her spirit to float when a foot smashed into her face, breaking all movement in her brain.
The air in her lungs was forced out as Eric put weight on her head, eyes swimming as he kicked her side with his free leg; she tried to curl in, gasping for air, but the excessive force he was using to keep the side of her face against the ground was limiting her movements.
“W-What are—E-Eric!” she wheezed, trembling fingers gripping her side; nothing in her memory hurt more than her brother’s blows.
“Hmm? I couldn’t hear you following my orders, Kari … Where do you belong?” He put his weight on her temple while bending down to slap her hair out of her face to look her dead in the eyes. “I’m waiting.”
“T-This isn’t real … You’re—You’re in hell!”
His foot lifted before his kick sent all the air from her already struggling lungs, propelling her through the infinite darkness; she gagged upon hitting the metal plate of a large bulldozer, causing the brakes to snap and the heavy vehicle to flip over.
She didn’t know exactly what happened after that, but her wild eyes soon adjusted to the construction zone Sora, and she had tag-teamed her brother in—however, this time, it was only her and Eric.
The man was now older, somehow even more arrogant, and dangerous; he was reverting back from his brown Werewolf Form, shoving the tipped-over bulldozer to the side with a wicked grin she knew all too well.
“What are you waiting for, Kari? Stand up, or bow your head and tail … How many times have you shown me that bushy black tail before? He-he-he … I’ve lost count.”
Kari’s tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth, her throat frozen with the overwhelming fear of being utterly alone with her brother.
“Did that Vulpes take your tongue, Sister? Maybe I can help you find it again.”
“N-No … Please, Eric, I’m … I … I don’t want to fight…”
She struggled to her feet, turning to run … only to run into her brother’s immovable chest, stumbling back to the ground again.
“You know you’re not strong enough … yet you still refuse to follow my orders, Sister … I love you—so much … But you’ve been trying my patience.”
Faltering to her feet, Kari shook her head while cradling her throbbing side, she shook her head. “No … no, you’re not here! Go away! Leave me alone,” she sobbed, shuffling away from him.
Eric laughed, following after her at a stalking pace. “Where are you going, Kari? You know you can’t escape me. Are you trying to play tag like we’re kids again? Because we aren’t kids, and you will recognize my supremacy!”
She couldn’t do anything but run, cry, and whimper—for some reason, she was stuck—she didn’t know how to escape wherever she was inside of her own Core, and facing him was impossible … It was instinctual … imprinted into her very soul.
Eric vanished as she ran around a corner, but she could feel his words rippling through her muscles. “You think you’re strong enough to enter this world without me? If you can’t beat me, then you’re as good as dead, Sister; I am trying to help you … protect you! You never appreciated what I do for you! You cannot survive without my protection!”
She flinched, hands tightened against her chest as she reached the river, Eric somehow right behind her. “You’re weak! Look at you, Sister … pathetic, groveling, and yet you have the purest blood out of all our entire family … Grandpa would be ashamed.”
“… I … I don’t care w-what he’d think … What anyone thinks!”
“Of course not; Mother always coddled you!” he shouted, looming over her with fire in his amber eyes; just his presence was enough to make her mind blank.
“The moment you saw opposition, where did you go?” he asked, gesturing around them at Miami. “To the weak humans, where even you could act strong … You’ve always been a miserable shell of a Fenris Wolf.”
“I … I…”
“You what?” he demanded. “You couldn’t cut it back home—couldn’t even cut a single hair from my body over months of beatings, and so you ran like the cowardly pup you are.”
Kari’s lip tucked under to stop its quivers, her thighs pressing against each other. “I—I’m nothing like you … I’m not like Mom or Grandpa! I don’t want it…”
“Obviously not; that’s the problem!” he shouted, reaching down to pick her up by the front of her black crop top and pull her up; she was stunned, mind wildly hoping the fabric would break, but Sora’s magically enhanced clothing was far more durable than she realized.
“E-Eric … please…” she whimpered as the scene melted into the old construction site again—Sora still wasn’t there.
Her feet flailed, too panicked to even try to float with her spiritual powers as her brother dangled her over eight floors of open-air, standing on the edge of a half-finished parking complex—his grip was unbreakable.
“You are the most pitiful excuse for a wolf in history…”
Kari’s tail stiffened as he let go, thick black locks rising as the wind rushed around her, staring up at his disgusting leer while in freefall. She winced as she struck the solid concrete; gravity wasn’t nearly as bad as being kicked.
A slight jarring sensation spread across her body, but it soon passed, and the concrete remained perfectly intact. Still, she couldn’t believe it; Eric dropped her from the building—she didn’t even know why it was so surprising. All she could do was stare up at the dark, cloudless sky in numb panic. I’m trapped … I’m trapped in my own mind with Eric … How much more?
Moments later, he jumped down, landing beside her. “I have to fight every second to keep my Fenris Blood pumping through my veins—I had to eat mom’s flesh, but you … you get it handed to you on a silver platter and do nothing but disgrace our family!”
Kari took a shuddering breath, the first since she’d landed, and stumbled to her feet. “You were beaten … Sora and I…”
“Did nothing!” Eric growled, stepping forward and making her trip on an edge again, falling to her butt. “All you did was annoy me to the point that I actually did something about it, but did I ever really tap into my Fenris Wolf blood when you were prancing around with that filthy Vulpes?”
Tingles cascaded down Kari’s spine to her tail, any breath she had hoped to take stuck in her throat. “… No…”
“What was that?” he asked with a nasty smile. “No … No, what?”
“You … you didn’t,” she mumbled, eyes falling with her ears as she looked away, fingers tightening around her arms.
Coward … I’m such a coward.
A part of her was yelling to jump up and attack him, but she’d done it so many times before for the same result—her body broken, bleeding, and spirit crushed on the floor with his foot on her face, pressing it into the dirt as her bones and muscles recovered, sharp words more damaging than his blows.
For months she’d tried to stand up to him, but she couldn’t help herself … She was terrified of her older brother, and the thrashing he gave her daily, recovering for it to happen again, only reinforced that. He put her in her place every time.
She didn’t know when, exactly, but eventually, she’d lost hope and ran, bringing Jenny with her … or so she’d thought her friend willingly went … She sometimes wondered if Jenny was ever her friend.
“Hmm? He-he-he. Did you think because some tiny dragon girl beat me once that you were strong? No! You’ve always been weak, and you think you can actually fight now … When have you ever fought anything that wasn’t so insignificant even your trash ass tail could kill it?! Huh?”
Kari had nothing to say in return … he wasn’t wrong.
“Never, and the insane part is that you haven’t even eaten a single creature that wasn’t something I, Mom, or even Tiri killed and brought back for you!”
She flinched at the comment.
“Yeah, a Fenris Wolf that’s never killed in her life! A Fenris Wolf that’s never tasted raw, pumping blood in her mouth! How … How could YOU get something I was made for? You tried to be human! Human, Kari … powerful, invincible, blood unmatched in raw power, and it’s wasted on you! I … I can’t even imagine! I can’t!”
Huddling into a ball and closing her eyes, Kari prayed he would go away; his voice shattered any thought other than the oppressive hell she’d experienced in their mother’s dying Realm after her death. “Go away … Please; I just want to be alone…”
He didn’t go; instead, he changed his approach. “Then that Fox shows up and makes you look like a fool! At least you were herding humans around, beating them into submission—I could work with that—you were exerting a fraction of effort to progress, but then … you let a stupid, weak Vulpes destroy everything you’d built—Lori told me all about it.”
“Not here … You’re not here…”
Her eyes snapped open, fingers tightening against his hand as it closed around her neck, and he lifted her up. “I’m not really here … Pathetic as ever, Sister … as delusional as ever…”
Kari’s tail lashed left and right; she tried to turn into her true Fenris Form, but she couldn’t … her fear was blocking her. “E-Eric … I … I’m sorry…” she gagged, tears streaming down her cheeks.
The desperate words were a betrayal to everything she wanted to be, but there was nothing she could latch onto to pull any scrap of pride she’d shredded long ago—everything she was had been a lie … a persona to give her any semblance of control in her hellish life.
Eric snarled at her wet, puffy cheeks, trembling fingers desperately trying to remove his hands while her legs uselessly bouncing off of his knees and crotch.
“You had no faith in yourself … No pride … Empty … So pathetic that you actually took help from a Vulpes … joining forces with a worthless Vulpes! For what? Were you hoping she would save you from me? You cowardly bitch … leashed to a fox—call your master for help.”
His words pierced Kari’s chest; her black crop top and Jersey shorts pulled into her skin as thick hair sprouted from her body. Eric was forced to let her go as she transformed. However, her body wouldn’t stop quivering, and her wild eyes jumped between areas to escape—something he said gave her a modicum of strength to resist, but only just barely.
“I … I’m not leashed to Sora!” she hesitantly barked.
Eric smirked, rubbing his wrist a little; in his human transformed state, he had to be cautious of her unleashed Fenris powers.
“Oh … Have I finally found something that makes you fight again, Sister? It was Lori before … Remember?”
“Hmm … Sora, right … that was the name of that pitiful Vulpes, crying about her poor, dying father … Has she put a collar on you like the human bitch you want to be?”
“No! I’m not her b—I’m no one’s dog!” Kari growled, finding a shaky platform to put up a fight against the fear her brother instilled. “I’m not calling for Sora’s help … EVER!”
Eric folded his arms with a loathsome tone in his throat. “Mmh … the dog will protect her smelly, Vulpes master. Is that it? There was this word I heard humans say … heh, maybe she hasn’t housebroken you yet.”
Kari took a step forward, but the next was agonizingly impossible; she was staring into her brother’s fathomless amber eyes—a strength within them she could never match. Still, she bore her teeth, even if her legs were frozen.
Move … Dammit! I’m not helpless … I can’t be.
Eric’s smiling eyes were an open fire against her retina as he took another step forward, making her legs twitch; still, she refused to look away. “Hmm … Is there a hint of pride left inside you, after all?”
He took another step—she reacted on instinct, stepping back, tail lowering slightly.
NO!!! Don’t back down … please … please … please… Her heart was shrinking by the second, skin aflame with her pounding heart as her nerves flinched out of impulse.
The air in her lungs caught as Eric motioned to the left. “Mmh … maybe you need an incentive again … You remember Lori … How long has it been for you?”
A bloodied corpse of Lori was spontaneously four feet to her right, causing all four of Kari’s legs to tremble, quakes cascading up her frame in horror as she saw the gaping hole in the teenage girl’s breast. “N-No—you … mmghmmgmm…”
Closing her eyes, Kari shook her head. “It’s not real…” It’s not real … It’s not real … This is all in my head! “No?” Her nose creased, vision opening in horror to see her brother holding Lori’s ravaged figure in front of her, dead eyes open with horror, surprise, and pain.
“Are you sure?”
She whimpered, faltering back. “P-Put her down,” Kari squeaked, tail falling further. “S-Stop … S-She’s already dead…”
Eric lifted an eyebrow, pulling back his arm to stare into Lori’s senseless face, a grin forming as he stopped to think. “… You’re right … Humans are such weak things,” he grunted, tossing her limp body to the side like garbage.
Kari’s gaze followed her old friend’s frame rag-doll across the construction site in numb shock, but this really was the version of Eric that caused every fiber in her soul to scream … She’d almost forgotten how callous and terrifying he was since spending so much time with Sora.
Without warning, Eric gripped her chest with his Werewolf Form’s clawed fingers and threw her through the 3rd story rail guard; the steel beams of the 3rd-floor ceiling stopped her, crumbling concrete falling with her to pile atop her.
It was happening again. N-Nothing’s changed … Have I really not changed? I can hardly stand when he’s…
“How long are you going to make me wait?” Eric growled. “Get down on your belly and submit or get up and look me in the eye like a wolf would—quit cowering in the rubble and wasting my time.”
“M-Mom…” she whimpered. “What … What am I supposed to do, Mom—”
Eric snarled, shoving the pile off of her. Grabbing her tail, he smashed her back against a support pillar, crumbling part of it and taking the air out of Kari’s lungs. “What?! You’re calling for Mom … again? She’s dead, Kari! Grow up, and face the facts! She was weak!”
Kari threw up, but before she could recover, the wind was whistling past her ears, and she was sent through the floor to the lower level. A kick to her gut sent her through the side of the construction zone, spiraling to Miami’s streets to stop against a fire hydrant.
Her chest convulsed with dry heaves. “… E-Eric … It … it hurts,” she cried, mind reliving her brother’s first outlash after their mother’s death. “Please…”
“Am I the only strong one in this family?!”
Her mother’s words echoed as a distant memory in her foggy brain. “You do not need to defeat your brother with strength … You just need to understand him … at least a little if you hope to do what you desire.”
H-How … Mom? How can I understand this … this monster?
“Mmmhm-hm-hm…” She sobbed, struggling to her feet before limping through a revolving door of a store, trailing water from the broken hydrant spraying a fountain into the sky; her bones and muscles were healing but at a slower pace than usual.
Mom … How do I do it? H-He just hurts me…
Her mind froze as a car smashed through the wall, sending shattered glass, splintered chairs, and twisted metal across the tile floor; the vehicle displaced the desks and chairs while sliding further into the hotel lobby.
“There isn’t a place in any Realm where I can’t find you, Kari!” he said, stepping through the rubble. “Did you really think you could escape me?”
Unable to run, Kari collapsed on the floor, unable to move her legs. “N-No … I … I’m just so scared of you…”
He paused, baleful expression lingering on her. “Then submit!”
Kari’s chest convulsed. “I can’t, Eric! I … I can’t … I just … I just need to feel safe … to feel at home…”
Eric’s lips and demeanor slowly relaxed as he took a long breath, dark brown eyes studying her curling into a ball, hiccupping on the ground. “… You are safe, Kari … What do you mean you ‘want’ to feel safe? I’ve kept you safe … That’s ALL I’ve done! Kari … Kari!”
He stormed over to her, causing Kari to curl into a tighter ball. “P-Please don’t kick me, Eric…”
“What is this, Kari? Fight back … stand up to me and fight back … beat me!”
She shook her head, sniffing back her snot. “I … I can’t Eric … I can’t … You’re just … I can’t…”
Eric screamed, fists sending rippling shockwaves through the earth and shattering the tile and concrete underneath as he ripped into the foundations. “You … You can’t give up! That … That doesn’t make sense! You’re a Fenris Wolf! Fight me! Claim your superiority! Get … Get stronger so you can avenge Tiri…” He growled, breathing heavily as he leaned against the massive crater he’d created in the space.
Kari only flinched and quivered in her ball through his outburst, but for the first time, her mind clicked the pieces into place. “S-Stronger to … to avenge Tiri?”
“Who else!” Eric yelled, and as Kari shifted to peek out, she saw tears of frustration in her brother’s eyes. “I can’t kill our uncles! I’m not a Fenris Wolf! I’m not! You are, but—but you’ve always been so weak! I … I don’t understand! You fought so hard at first … then you quit and went to the humans! Abandoning us, Aiden … me!”
“N-No! You were just … I thought…” Kari’s fear turned into confused rage. “You told me you killed Tiri! You killed Mom!”
“To get you to beat me!” Eric shot back, screaming again before punching the side of the concrete in the hole he’d created; fissures erupted out of it to travel up a support pillar. “You were always so spoiled and … and you weren’t strong enough … hard enough to do what needed to be done! I had to … I HAD TO! It was the only way to keep you safe from them … What they had planned for you! I had to get you to start killing and eating things!”
“Y-You beat me … every day!” Kari cried. “I … I couldn’t even recover…”
“To increase your recovery! To build the Fenris Force within you—Mom told us that pressure and damage build a Fenris Wolf’s strength over time!”
“A-All I knew was that…” Kari’s nose was flaming as she hid her burning face with her paw, shaking her head. “My whole world fell apart … Everything was … I had no one but Jenny … And you sent her to … to spy on me … I had no one … no one … but you had Aiden … Stupid Aiden…”
“Ties would only hold you back … You had to kill, but you wouldn’t do it! No matter how many wolves I sent to hunt you or … or creatures to attack you! You just ran!”
“I … I didn’t know anything else!” Kari shot back, struggling back to her feet. “I was just trying to live…”
“That’s all I’ve been trying to do!” Eric roared, pounding his chest. “I have … Do you have any idea how much pain I’m in … Every moment of every day … The fire of Mom’s blood and flesh conflicting with the Werewolf side of me?! The rage and … and hatred … You’re everything I wanted to be … I tried everything to push you, but … but you rejected everything!”
“You rejected me!” Kari yelled, teary eyes glaring at him. “You were supposed to be my brother … like … like take me to stupid boy movies and … and buy me food, and all the other things other brothers do!”
“Stupid human things!” Eric shouted, waving at the severely damaged building around them. “Weak … worthless things that come and go like the wind, but your strength will never leave you! If you could just tap into the tiniest fraction of a—just a sliver of what is in your blood—you could wipe out this entire universe with a whisper!”
“I never wanted that! You wanted that!”
“Grah!” He threw a chunk of concrete through the wall. “I wanted you to be safe! To be able to take care of yourself when Mom’s blood eventually kills me! To have Aiden there to keep Sköll and Hati away from you … To live without being a Pup Slave to feed their insatiable need to strengthen their Fenris Blood!”
“… I just needed a brother…” Kari whimpered.
“I am your brother!”
She backed away. “No … That’s … You’re mind’s all wrong, Eric … I didn’t need you to be my pack leader or Alpha … I needed you to help me cope with our family falling apart … Instead, I had no one … no one … so … so I tried to find someone in the human world … and I messed everything up there…”
Kari collapsed on her side. “… Maybe our whole family’s just messed up … No, what family? Nothing makes any sense.”
Eric took a low, frustrated breath before slowly climbing out of the hole to sit at the edge. “… I won’t deny that … We do have a rather messed up family.”
“Tch … You think? I’ve got uncles that want to make me a baby factory … a Mom that left a half-broken Intelligent Construct in me that Inari, of all Founders, had to fix … and a brother that thought pounding his little sister into the dirt would make her stronger.”
“It’s what my father did to me,” Eric mumbled. “… It worked on me.”
“I’m not you!”
“Heh. Obviously not…”
Her gaze returned to her brother as he put his hands behind his head and fell to his back on the dusty floor, brushing his long hair out of the way. “… Mom’s blood is burning through my veins … sometimes it’s like this fever rushing through my veins … it drives me insane … her memories flashing through my eyes … the poison that’s killing me. It gave me the strength to kill my father before he could get to you…”
Kari’s eyebrows pulled together. “He was trying to kidnap me?”
“Of course … He was obsessed with Fenris Wolves after spending time with Mom, and when she banished him, he had to fill that void somehow.”
“Wait…” Kari slowly returned to her human form, sitting cross-legged. “Are you saying Mom’s to blame for this?”
Eric was silent for a moment, lips pulling in before shaking his head. “… At first, I thought it was, but … No … No, Mom should have known exactly what kind of person Trovaith was, which means there was interference.”
Kari’s gut tightened. “Why didn’t you share any of this with me before … been open about it?”
“Right,” Eric growled, “tell my traumatized sister that our uncles want to have sex with her for all eternity … I was doing what I thought was right … What would help you … Give you a face to hate … I don’t know … That’s just what I thought was the best thing to do!” he growled, the heat in his voice rising for a moment.
He took a deep breath, trying to calm his blood. “… I … I don’t know if what I did was right or wrong, Kari … I did what I thought would help you be safe and prepare you because … whoever set all this in motion is stronger and more cunning than our uncles … which means Aiden is our only defense until you’re strong enough to figure things out, and Mom knew it.”
Several minutes of silence passed, and the fear of her brother slowly faded … for the first time, she was having an actual conversation with her brother … Even if it was…
Her mother appeared several feet to her right, sad eyes on her as Eric faded. “Yes, Kari.”
Swallowing the lump in her throat, Kari’s brow set; the question burned in the back of her mind as long as the events happened, but she couldn’t bring them to the surface until now. “… Did you know what Eric would do to me when … when you killed yourself?”
Alva’s amber irises fell to the ground. “I did.”
“…” Kari tucked her lip under.
Against her will, Emilia and Sora’s relationship came to mind; she couldn’t imagine Sora ever thinking about putting her through that kind of thing. Yet, the things Sora had been subjected to that Mia allowed could be seen as the same circumstance from a psychological perspective as what Kari had done to the fox.
“… I don’t see Inari doing that to her daughter,” Kari mumbled, causing her mother’s eyes to close with a painful look.
Alva slowly nodded. “Yes … Inari might have done something entirely different—she has many more options available to her than I had … far more power given the eons she’d prepared and stored for her revenge. I did fail you as a mother; of that, there is no doubt, Kari.”
Cold air filled her hot lungs before streaming out with more tears; she tried blinking them away while whipping at her cheeks. “Still … I can’t not love you … and it hurts … it hurts so much that you would … you’d let that happen, but … but I’ve learned that sometimes … sometimes things happen we can’t avoid.”
Her mother’s mournful eyes returned to her, knowing Kari both wished to be held by her and rebuke her mother at the same time. “I know all too well … However, there are things you can avoid, and should … I am not a perfect mother, Kari, and I allowed horrible things to happen in the ‘hope’ that a far more positive outcome would occur.”
Kari steeled her heart, rubbing her arms before clearing her throat and rising. “I … Has it been worth it?”
“So far … I am grateful and indebted to Inari for helping to correct a few miscalculations on my part … They are at least not as dire as they could have been, and Sora has proven to be a powerful force for good within your life.”
“She … she’s okay…”
“He-he-he,” her mother gave her a sad, dubious smile. “Kari, the one thing that snapped you out of that paralyzing fear Eric had over you was the thought of being a burden on Sora and the embarrassment of wearing a collar around her. She’s helped you when you were in a very vulnerable place and has not taken advantage of you.”
“… You’d be surprised,” Kari mumbled, thinking about how easy it was for Sora to tease her. “She’s … she’s my first friend—at least, I think she is.”
“You were able to open up to her … to show her your vulnerable side, and that is not easy. Now, to grow stronger, you must build your courage and confidence back … to stand on your own feet rather than rely on Sora.”
Rubbing her left arm, Kari nervously licked her lips, looking up at her mother. “I’m scared…”
Her mother slowly moved in, holding out her arms; Kari hesitated but entered her loving arms after a moment. “… I know, Kari … but nothing will be as terrifying as facing your brother—you are ready to progress.”
“It … It still hurts…”
“Mhm,” Alva’s hands pressed her against her breast. “It does, yet you’re not only willing to face it but push toward the unknown paths ahead, and that, Kari, is courage … I love you and only want to help you move past this horror as quickly as possible.”
Taking a shuddering breath, Kari’s grip tightened around her mother, lips trembling. “… Just … Just not too fast … I’m not strong enough to do this without you yet.”
“… In time … In time,” she soothed. “Still … I am here for as long as you need me.”Kari was a little frightened of the ‘need’ part in her mother’s words, knowing it was inevitable; she’d cherish this time with her mother that Inari gave her as long as she possibly could.
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