“I can’t believe I agreed with you to take him back to the house,” Tiffany said as I carried the little fox—Kazuya in my arms. We moved quickly and quietly, continuing to make our way through the silent street of Easton Avenue, hoping to make it home within the next few blocks.
“We’ve already decided on this,” I said, referring to her last statement. “So stop complaining and deal with it.”
Tiffany scrunched her face, giving me an exaggerated look of faux-irritation. “My god, how’s it come to this? My naive little sister has become a slut willing to bring strange old men home!”
“Oh, shut up,” I said while rolling my eyes in annoyance. “And what do you mean little? We’re the same age.”
“I came out like a second earlier which makes me the older sister, Duh. It’s simple logic. You should know this stuff, Ems.”
Kazuya turned around in my arms, fixing his glaring slit pupils on Tiffany. “Would you children stop with the bickering, you’re giving me a headache.”
I was startled a bit as Kazuya’s voice echoed through the top of my skull. His telepathy would take some getting used to. Tiffany, on the other hand, looked pleased that we were annoying the fox Valterian.
“Good,” she balked at him scornfully. “Now you know how we feel after getting dragged into your mess.”
I smiled despite myself, rubbing Kazuya behind the ears in an attempt to soothe him. Tiffany had a habit of getting under the skin of people, but she only teased people she liked. Kazuya growled at me a bit as my fingers traveled through his fur, causing me to stop with a flinch.
Tiffany started to complain again, reprimanding Kazuya for trying to bite me until I could get her to calm down. Both Kazuya and Tiffany eyed me carefully as I tried to sneak my hand around Kazuya’s neck, striving to pet the fur around his ears.
Tiffany warned me but Kazuya didn’t protest, instead, he closed his eyes—seemingly ignoring us. As we continued to walk through the quiet streets, I observed the environment around us. Different vehicles were parked near the side walked we traversed, all of them empty. We passed by various shops and storefronts at a hasty pace. Most were closed. It was pretty late.
Even with Kazuya by our side, I didn’t feel comfortable walking through the city at night. It was just me and Tiffany—the two of us unarmed girls with a weakened cape. Luckily, we were in the safer parts of Ravensworth—the upper residential area, usually devoid of the distinct criminal activity and cape action that plagued the lower part of the city. Even though the city seemed peaceful and ran smoothly during the day, the hallowed gangs that ran Ravensworth’s underworld would rise to the surface at night. Particularity around the lower end of the city—the shopping district, downtown, and the waterfront as well.
I was grateful we didn’t have to deal with that on the way back, but something—a slight feeling of fear was worming its way through my mind. After everything that happened earlier, was the craziness of this night over? I huffed. Only a few more blocks before we were home.
“I wonder what our parents would say if they found out what happened to us tonight,” I said.
“They’d be horrified,” Tiffany replied. “Probably start screaming at us for going to the party in the first place. We’d be grounded for months.”
I shuddered at the thought of Dad’s angry face and my Mother’s disappointment. “That would be bad.”
“You’re worried for no reason,” Tiffany said in an effort to comfort me. “We don’t have to tell them. Check your phone. They haven’t called or texted, right? They haven’t called mine.”
Taking a hand off of Kazuya, I felt around my jeans pocket for my cell phone. I could feel cold jagged edges of metal against my fingertips. After scrounging around, I realized objects in question were my house keys after hearing them jingle. My phone was nowhere to be found.
“Crap,” I blurted out. “Don’t have it. I must have left it at Timothy’s place,”
“Seriously?” my sister asked. “I don’t wanna go back to that asshole’s house again.”
I sighed, thinking about my ex-boyfriend. Remembering how he tried to take advantage of me earlier. “Me neither.”
“I can get Terra or someone else to go by and pick it up tomorrow.”
I tilted my head pensively in thought. “Tim might bring it to school.”
Tiffany glanced at me carefully. “You think he’s gonna bribe you with it or something? Don’t worry, Terra and I will be there with you if that’s the case. He wouldn’t be stupid enough to try anything.”
I shook my head. “Timothy isn’t like that. The both of us made bad choices tonight.”
Tiffany mouth opened in surprise, she tilted her head—looking at me like I said something crazy. “Mercy. Are you serious?” She touched my shoulder firmly. “He tried to have sex with you, without your consent. He was fully aware of what he was doing. I don’t buy that he was buzzed bullshit either.”
Kazuya opened an eyelid and looked at us in annoyance. “Well, it is my opinion that whatever you two are babbling about can wait until we get to a safe haven.”
Tiffany scowled at him. “Nobody asked you, fox-boy.”
“Be quiet. I need to rest so I can regain my strength. It wouldn’t do for me to be in this weakened state if the Arcadians manage to find us, now would it?”
I looked down at the bundle of fur in my arms. “You mentioned something about getting in a fight with the leader of Arcadia before. What exactly happened? That woman said you were wanted for acts of aggression or something.”
Kazuya’s irritated sniff vibrated through our heads. “I don’t think that’s any of your business, my dear.”
“Uh—yeah, I think it is. Considering how you landed right in front of us, dragged us into a dangerous situation, and threatened to kill us. Plus the fact that we’re taking you home?”
Kazuya snorted. Tiffany grabbed one of his tails and tugged hard, but not enough to hurt. “Ems is right. You owe us, answer up.”
Kazuya growled at her. “Insolent girl! Have you no fear? Remove your hand,” Kazuya spat in disgust. “That is your problem. Humans this era have no respect.”
I took hold of Tiffany’s hand unclasping her grip. She removed her hand without any complaint. No need to further antagonize the dangerous fox I carried in my arms.
“Look, Mr. Kazuya, I understand if you don’t want to tell us everything,” I said. “But I think we at least deserve to know that much. I had visions with you in them. Before I tried to help you. I can’t shake the feeling that you know something about us.”
Kazuya looked at me quietly for a moment before he sighed. “Just call me by my name, normally,” he said. “I can tell you more about it later, but the Arcadians have always had a complicated relationship with Valterians, especially us of the Fox clan.”
“What do you mean?”
“They were never big on letting Valterians travel the worlds of lesser third-dimensional beings unmolested.”
“Third-dimensional—what?” Tiffany asked.
I frowned slightly looking at Kazuya. “When you say lesser beings are you talking about humans?”
Kazuya nodded. “That and more,” he opened his eyelid again to look at our surprised faces.”Please. Don’t tell me you believe your the only sapient life in this universe? Why are you so surprised after what you witnessed tonight? Even now gods walk your planet and you don’t even know it.”
“Gods?” I whispered.
“Of course. Nexus, the Type-Eater and more.”
Tiffany looked at him, shocked. “Wait, Type-Eater? You mean PTE? That thing is a Valterian?”
I paused for a moment, trying to think of what my sister was talking about. My eyes widened slightly as I remembered who PTE was. A huge crystallized metallic creature that looked similar to a gigantic jellyfish, like an alluring eldritch abomination. It was nicknamed ‘The Jellyfish” by most people until the Special International Guarding Military Agency or SIGMA and the American government had renamed it to Primordial Type-Eater years later. It first appeared from space during the sixties and after a few resolving a few misunderstandings with Earth’s governments, it began traveling the world non-stop, randomly helping people during times of need or other calamities. Type-Eater was considered the first hero of the modern era.
Kazuya confirmed that PTE was a Valterian, from the same place as Nexus and himself. He claimed PTE was one of the first Valterians created in fact. Interestingly enough, I noticed that all the ‘gods’ in question all looked very different from one another. Nexus looked like a normal human, Kazuya had fox ears and nine tails, and PTE was something indescribable altogether. Perhaps the word Valterian was a classification of sorts, like a genus, that of multiple species.
“I still have so many questions,” I muttered. “Are the Valterians like a broad group of races under the same umbrella? You seem so different from one another, and when you called us third-dimensional beings… are you saying that you’re from a higher one?”
Kazuya harrumphed. “I told you, you would have your answers soon didn’t I?” He sighed in annoyance. “Great Elders, these children will be the end of me.”
“Yes, curious child,” Kazuya said cutting me off. “You are correct to a point. Valterians are distinct as a group, however, even though we may have ‘breeds’ we are not divided the same way humans or other species on this planet are. When everything began, the start of our race, we were spiritually created from the Elder Gods, unlike the Irregulars who were born from them biologically. As for your second question, I’m sure Nature spoke of the Seven Realms did she not?”
I nodded. “She mentioned something about it. She told me we were in the Realm of Contraception when we talked.”
“The first realm,” Kazuya acquiesced. “Here, the realm which you exist in now is the seventh, the Realm of Solids. It is full of first, second, and third-dimensional beings such as yourselves. You have a spirit but you need a physical body to exist and interact in this realm. Fourth-dimensional beings such as Valterians or Arcadians requires no such thing.”
“You guys aren’t physical?” Tiffany asked.
“Not in the way you may think. The more we solidify ourselves, the greater impact we can have on the physical world. Unfortunately, that can make it harder to control our abilities.”
“So, what realm do you Valterians come from then?” I asked.
“The fourth. The Realm of Heavens, where the gods exist,” Kazuya said. “Where the great land of Valteria exists.”
I hummed. “I assume those Arcadians are from there too? Arcadia?”
“Arcadia exists in the Realm of Heavens, yes. Separate of Valteria, as well as others.”
Tiffany whistled in appreciation. “Seems like the afterlife is full of grandeur.”
Kazuya snorted at her proclamation. I absentmindedly smoothed his fur-coat, softly kneading it through my fingers. “It seems like Arcadians don’t really like Valterians that much. Considering what that woman said before.”
Kazuya chuckled, amused. “You’ll never be able to agree with Arcadians on anything. They envy us for being the first race created by the Elders since they will be forever second. The Arcadians feel that they are superior to us; They look down on us for mating with lower beings, feeling we should be punished by the Elder Gods.”
“Yes,” Kazuya said in a charming voice, entertained by the fact that I found being called a lower being insulting. “Even the humans of this world. You didn’t think the hallowed gene came out of nowhere did you?”
My mouth dropped. “But we were told—”
“That it was due to evolution?” Kazuya let out a humorless laugh. “Humans weren’t originally designed to have powers. That is only possible because some of your race has Valterian ancestors.”
I glanced at Tiffany her eyes meeting mine, our gazes solemn. Could it be possible?
“Do we have Valterian ancestors?” I asked him.
Kazuya laughed again, refusing to answer.
“Drop him,” Tiffany demanded, tapping my shoulder. “If he won’t answer he can walk rest of the way.”
I shook my head. “We can probably get him to tell us, eventually.”
“You’d have to make it worth my while,” Kazuya said.
Only a few more blocks from home, we cut through a neighborhood park. But, as soon as we stepped onto the thin grass of the park fields, Kazuya surprised me—jumping out of my arms landing on the ground with his four paws.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
Soon after, for golden lights appeared from the shadows. The Arcadian warriors that were chasing us before revealed themselves. Aleph, Caphriel, the one who nearly killed me, Tartys, and leader of the group, Shekhinah. They walked toward us, majestically with weapons in hand—their golden armor mixed with silver shining radiantly in the night.
Kazuya instantly transformed to his humanoid form, growing in size as most of his fur coat shed to reveal human-like skin. He was still unclothed, but Tiffany and I really didn’t care at the moment. I could feel the fear erupt deep inside, twisting my stomach in knots. We had narrowly escaped the Arcadians before when Kazuya was still able to fight. Now, with Kazuya even weaker, we had no chance.
Shekhinah stepped forward; She flashed her pairs of wings and pointed her crimson lance at Kazuya. “You didn’t think you could escape, did you? I’d recognize your fox form anywhere.”
Kazuya sighed. “Of course you would, Shekah. I must say, you’ve really become an annoyance. You did never know how to give a man space.”
Shekhinah growled, her visor reforming under her helmet hiding her golden eyes from view. “Enough of your nonsensical stalling. You fall here!”
The Arcadian knights surrounded us as Kazuya moved ahead a few feet. Shekhinah approached Kazuya from the front, slowly walking toward him with her deadly lance in hand.
Kazuya gave her a confident smile. “You know me well Shekhinah, but there are things I haven’t even told you about.”
Shekhinah looked a little discontented by Kazuya’s claim but she continued to move forward, waiting for Kazuya to make a move. Kazuya turned his face a little to get a better look at us.
“You two should stand back,” he said. “If there is an opening, run, don’t look back.”
“Will you be alright?” I asked, fearing the worst.
“That’s not important. I will hold them off long enough for you to escape.”
Shekhinah huffed. “Still giving out empty promises, Kazuya?” she mocked. “You were hit by my lance. Your body is probably feeling the effects it’s poison now. You won’t be able to do anything.”
What? I looked at Kazuya, aghast. Was he poisoned this entire time?
“You know,” Kazuya said, “I was actually surprised how you found us at first. I kept my vapor signature low enough to be undetectable. There was no reason for you lot to be here. Then I remembered,” Kazuya smirked while looked at Shekhinah, “How you came into contact with these girls before.”
Kazuya motioned a hand toward Tiffany and I. For a moment, it seemed as if the other Arcadians hesitated like they were demanding for Shekhinah to defend herself.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said.
“You never do. Sadly, you’re a woman that does not understand subtlety. It never ceases to amaze me.”
“Attack!” Shekhinah yelled angrily, her warriors charging toward Kazuya at her command.
Tiffany clutched my arm, pulling me further away from Kazuya. “Ems, we need to run now.”
“But, Kazuya!” I complained.
“All we can do here is get killed!”
“Your sister is right, Mercy,” Kazuya said getting on all fours, his tails whipping through the air. “Step back if you don’t want to die.”
“Still bluffing?” Aleph yelled running up to Kazuya swiftly with his blades in hand.
Kazuya chuckled before breaking out into a maniacal laugh. “You left me too much time to recover,” Kazuya started to glow with with with golden aura as an elegant fox tattoo with nine-tails spreading from the center became visible on his back glowing a bright orange. “I didn’t want to use this man’s power; I can barely control it. But I have no choice! Let’s die together shall we?” he exclaimed.
Kazuya roared toward the sky as his body had increased in size. Fur grew from his skin rapidly. Within moments he changed into a giant fox, as big as most of the houses in the area. Aleph faltered as he looked up at the growling monster, frozen with fear. Kazuya quickly swiped him with a huge paw. Aleph attempted to dodge but it was too late, he was bisected in two as Kazuya’s claws tore through his abdomen. Blood and guts, Aleph’s intestines, poured out the bottom of his torso as he fell, his legs thrown across the park fields. He squirmed in excruciating pain on the ground for a moment coughing up blood, reaching for his teammates before he died.
I was horrified. Even though he was an enemy, seeing him die right in front of me made me sick. Lightheaded. I hunched myself over and hurled, vomiting the lunch I didn’t know I had eaten. I felt like I was about to fall over. Tiffany had the presence of mind to hold me up for balance. I glanced at her, her facial expression oddly detached.
“Aleph!” Tartys yelled, after seeing his disemboweled ally. “Bastard!”
Tartys flew up into the air as a luminous energy formed around his golden blades, extending them. He aimed a for Kazuya’s neck preparing to behead him.
“Tartys!” Shekhinah warned while flying trying to reach him.
It was too late; one of Kazuya’s colossal sized tails had lashed him from behind, sending him flying before he was grasped by Kazuya with one paw-like hand. Kazuya summarily crushed Tartys, squeezing him tight enough for blood to drip from his hand. Shekhinah and Caphriel tried to save Tartys, but they were held at bay by Kazuya’s swaying tails.
Kazuya threw Tartys into his mouth, chomping down on him hard as he screamed for mercy. Hearing the disgusting sound of skin and bone being twisted, torn, and crushed by razor-sharp teeth as blood-drenched the ground made me feel nauseous inside. Kazuya spat Tartys out, his lifeless body hitting the ground with a pitiful thud before it was crushed by Kazuya’s hand.
“You monster,” Caphriel gasped, seeing how quickly her friends had fallen. Kazuya wasted no time as a ball of white light, of pure energy, formed in the front of his open maw. Before I could blink, Kazuya projected the ball outward. It shot like a laser beam from his mouth, the sound of it ringing through the air. The beam immolated Caphriel, disintegrating her before she had time to react.
Kazuya roared again his voice echoing through the sky. He turned to look at my sister and I. My heart stopped. He was going to kill us next. Before I could even piss myself, Kazuya turned to look at Shekhinah, who had fallen to the ground in despair looking at where her friends stood before only a few moments ago.
“So that was it,” Shekhinah said in a shaky voice, disillusioned as her lance rolled out of her weak grip. “You were given one of those seals…”
Tears welled up in her eyes. “This was pointless from the start.”
The giant fox stopped over to Shekhinah and then stopped in front of her. Shekhinah glanced upward, look Kazuya in the eyes as tears ran down her face. She was unafraid. Shekhinah may have been defeated but she would die like a warrior, with pride and honor.
“What are you what are you waiting for? Kill me.”
Kazuya roared in her face saliva raining down on Shekhinah before he closed eyes tightly and locked his jaw shut. Kazuya started to shake forcefully like he was struggling to make a decision. Soon after, a bright aura wrapped around his body as he shrunk back down to his human size, fur disappearing from his skin as it was shed off. The tattoo on his back that glowed orange from before had turned black.
Kazuya rubbed his forehead softly as if he had a terrible headache. “Is that what you want me to do, my love?”
Shekhinah looked down at the ground. “I failed my mission, against you that means death. I let my team die. It won’t be acceptable for me to appear before Lord Corinath like this. I cannot face him with such disgrace… It’s only fitting for me to be with my subordinates.”
Kazuya rolled his eyes. “You didn’t kill them. I did.”
He smirked as Shekhinah looked at him angrily her fists tightening. “I won’t kill you Shekah. I can’t, even if I wanted to. The Sacred Seal was the last thing I had in my arsenal and it’s not really my power in the first place. I don’t have any energy left to fight. You on the other hand…”
He glanced the lance that near his feet. Shekhinah didn’t make an effort to reclaim it.
“You could if you wish to. I’m in your hands now. What will it be?” Kazuya asked.
Shekhinah turned away from him refusing to answer. Kazuya simply grinned at her before turning away. She had lost her desire to fight. As Kazuya approached us I gawked at the destruction he had caused. If anyone saw us and took video or pictures, we’d on the news in a heartbeat. Surprisingly the police or SIGMA didn’t appear yet.
“Ladies,” Kazuya said with a smile. “Are you alright?”
Tiffany nodded but I didn’t move.
“You killed them…” I whispered.
Just like that three lives had vanished before my eyes. Kazuya nodded. “And they would have killed you if I didn’t. Or report you to the Lords of the Twelve Celestial Kingdoms at least. Trust me, we don’t need the entire Arcadian military on our necks.”
Tiffany eyed the Arcadians warrior still on her knees. “Then why didn’t you kill her? Won’t she tell?” she asked.
I looked at my sister, appalled. Was she really advocating for Kazuya to kill someone else?
“She won’t, so it’s not worth it. I don’t need to kill an opponent whose will has been broken.”
Tiffany frowned but I couldn’t tell what she was thinking. Maybe she didn’t believe him. I had my own reservations about that as well, he didn’t seem to have a problem with getting rid of the other Arcadians, even Caphriel who knew attacking him after he transformed was futile.
“She won’t attack us,” Kazuya said trying to ease our worries. “I can promise you that.”
“Seems like you guys have a history,” Tiffany remarked.
Before Kazuya could reply, he grabbed his chest hard—with a hand over his heart. He locked his eyes shut, gritting his teeth in pain as he fell to the ground on his stomach. Kazuya coughed while writhing in the grass. Breathing heavily while spitting out thick phlegm as he started hyperventilating. The tattoo on his back started to glow, but he wasn’t moving.
“Kazuya?” I asked in a worried voice. I touched his shoulder feeling the heat seep off of his skin. Hot! It was like his whole body was having a fever. “Kazuya!” I shook his body but he still wouldn’t respond. “What’s wrong? Kazuya!”