It was a bright day, the kind of day where you'd want to spend your time outside with friends or maybe just a good book to read. Regardless of your preferences and hobbies staying inside would feel like a waste. Which was why Itori was wandering through Rose Garden together with Kenna, looking around as the city thrived as usual. Even more so than usual, because it was Valentine's Day and Rose Garden was most likely the capital of Fiore when it came to celebrating the day of romance. Not surprising, given that it was the city where people always seemed to be lively and cheerful. It made for an upbeat atmosphere.
That said Itori hadn't asked for Kenna to accompany her just to enjoy the sunny skies and the pleasant atmosphere (although that was definitely part of it). She'd noticed something strange about the demoness's soul when they were busy saving Christmas from Santa himself (a train of thought which still left her confused), and she'd already put off talking about it for too long. So she tore herself from the sight of a happy couple walking past to instead look at Kenna. "So, Kenna, as you have probably guessed already I did not invite you to take a walk with me just for the companionship, enjoyable as it may be. There is actually something I noticed in our last job together that I must alert you of, given that it concerns you directly." She sighed, folding her hands together inside of her wide sleeves as she considered how to put this.
"When we combined our magics to defeat Santa, a sentence which I admit I never thought I would say, I noticed something unusual in your soul. I also apologize for looking into your soul without your permission, by the way." There wasn't exactly some ethical protocol for checking out someone's soul... mostly because most people were incapable of it. Still, it basically meant that Itori got a look at Kenna's most intimate and hidden parts, so even if she didn't hesitate to do it when needed she always felt a bit bad about it if she did it to someone without asking first.
"What I noticed is that, impossible as it may seem, your mana pool was missing. While that is not exactly a spiritual organ it does exist in the ethereal parts that make up a person, so I can still inspect it with my spiritual abilities. Instead I found a huge gathering of some corrupted essence where the mana pool should be, and it seemed to hurt you when you tried to use magic." She looked straight at Kenna, her usually calm vermilion eyes now filled with concern. "Were you aware of any of this?"
It had been too beautiful a day to remain locked inside; the sun was shining brightly, only a few white clouds dotting the blue sky. A soft breeze to cool the warm rays of the sun the moment they'd become too hot for one's skin. Honestly, today was a grand example of a perfect Singles Awareness Da--- I mean, Valentine's Day. Maybe even the kind of day many people would get married on, who knows? So when Itori had asked her to get outside for a bit the two white-haired women had decided on Rose Garden for their outing; the perfect place to unwind after the entire Santa business that'd unfolded not too long ago near River Village.
Quietly they’d been strolling through the streets, enjoying the ruckus in the background as the sun kissed their faces. Probably one of the most satisfying feelings the demoness enjoyed when outside. A smile crossed her face shortly. She really needed to make work out of getting outside some more. Kenna was mentally going over things she could do when she felt Itori's eyes suddenly shifting towards her. The demoness did the same and listened intently, her expression growing into a slightly worried frown. ”Hopefully nothing too bad?” she replied, and saw how the kitsune had felt bothered when noting she'd seen into her soul. It was a first time hearing that, someone looking into her soul, and although by the sound of Itori's words she perhaps should've been more prude to the idea, Kenna shrugged her shoulders. ”That's not so bad, isn't it? I don't mind if you look into it-” Yet what followed after, what Itori had seen within it, felt like a wake-up call to the demoness. She stopped in her tracks and hesitated.
“I…” she tried, falling silent almost instantly as she stared at the kitsune. How? Akhator, Avide,... they too knew something had been off but never pinpointed the issue… Her hand crept up to her chest, to the area that had been hurting every time she overexerted herself through her magic, and gripped the fabric of her clothing tightly. “So that's why…” Kenna whispered softly. She wanted to walk again, and took a few more steps. “What they said actually did happen after all… how… I mean,” Kenna bit her lip and stopped in her tracks once again, her eyes unable to look Itori in the eyes as the memories of that fated day flashed before her eyes. The day she met Jigoku and received his power to replace the one she destroyed… her link with the spirit world. She'd honestly hoped it was only sealed away. Never had she thought that her rash actions had caused her to destroy the one thing that allowed her to use magic. Without this lacrima made of Jigoku's blood and magic, she'd be crippled… How would she even explain what had come to happen to the kitsune? Only two people knew of her true heritage, the reasons and events of her obtaining the magic of a dragon slayer kept hidden away from prying eyes. Only Imai and Kite knew who she really was. Kenna inhaled deeply, held her breath for a few moments more and then exhaled long and deeply. She'd have to tell her. In due time… for now, only what the events to the secret she'd unveiled to the demoness had entailed.
“I do. I mean, I didn't, but I noticed I've been having issues with my magic's control sometimes…. pain. I just didn't think… they said so during the battle that I'd never be able to use my magic again… so it was true after all…” The demoness paused, looking Itori back in the eyes. “They... are demons against my late father's legacy. Against me. I wasn't born a full-blooded demon, to the dismay of some, and on top of that I'm the last of a line some never wished to see on the throne in the first place. Trapped the heirloom I was searching for with a powerful sealing magic… if I were to forcefully use my magic I'd never be able to use it again.” A sigh escaped her lips, as slowly but steadily the burnt of her words was hitting home. “But it was that or dying… I forced it to gain part of Jigoku's power, although said draconic power was only temporary. It's… thanks to him that I can still use magic. He gave me new magic.” Kenna silenced again, having a hard time fathoming everything that was going down. Her head felt heavy as the memories of her past life, of the souls she'd bonded with passed her by. “I really thought it was just sealed further, not that it was actually… gone.” Her voice filled with disbelief and a hint of helplessness.
Seeing how much Kenna was enjoying their walk in the sunlit city would have made Itori hesitate to bring bad news if it wasn't for how important it was. She'd already delayed it for too long, knowing that if it kept going the situation might get even worse than it already was. Her friend wasn't showing any signs of damage beyond those pangs of pain whenever she tried too hard to use her magic, but who knew how this kind of condition could progress if it wasn't taken care of?
"I am glad that you hold no hard feelings over it, but I must say that it is not something you should forgive too casually. If someone has the opportunity to see your soul they can learn about parts of you that you would rather remain hidden deep inside. It is not something I do carelessly, and not something you should allow others to do without deep consideration beforehand if you can prevent it."
When Kenna stopped walking the kitsune followed suit immediately, standing next to the demoness as she waited for the other white-haired mage to sort through the thoughts that were now whirling through her head. It was definitely not news that one could just shrug off as unimportant, especially since it was something strange and unheard of so there was also the fear of being afflicted by something you didn't even understand. Her sharp ears twitched when they caught Kenna's whispers, which surprised her as well: it appeared that while her companion was caught off guard by the news she wasn't entirely unknowing about the situation. When Kenna tried to take a couple of steps Itori gently took hold of her shoulder, trying to subtle discourage the notion as she didn't want the fire mage to act rashly or not give herself the time to think about what she just learned.
Of course a side effect of being in direct physical contact with Itori was that she could get a feel of Kenna's surface thoughts and emotions while at the same time emenating a soothing sensation to help the demoness stay calm throughout this. Once again it was a breach of privacy in a way, but a minor way as there were plenty of people who were pretty good at reading surface thoughts and emotions without some supernatural ability involved.
That said what little she learned didn't say a lot. She had already known that Kenna was a fire dragon slayer and that she most likely received that ability from a dragon lachrima, and it looked like even inside her own mind the passionate woman was careful with not thinking about things she didn't want known, instead only referring to them vaguely while moving on with the current train of thought.
She listened attentively when Kenna began to explain about how she had been aware something was up and what was going on. The idea of losing your magic was a horrific one so the fox-tailed spiritualist couldn't blame the other for being shaken up about it. It was only after the explanation was fully finished that Itori spoke up again, in the meantime just supporting Kenna with the hand on her shoulder and a concerned look in her eyes. She also subtly curved two tails around the other mage's lower body, careful not to actually touch her with the furred limbs as that might only startle her at this point.
"To fully nullify the magic of another is a cruel thing to do, although I must admit that it does sound like something a demon would do. Beyond that I cannot say much about the politics of demons as I know too little and now is not the time to learn. It is most likely good fortune that you gained the power of a dragon to compensate, as there are few methods to give someone the ability to use magic as if they were born with it." She shook her head slightly. "To my frustration and concern I do not believe I have ever encountered this kind of situation before, which is very unusual for someone with my lifespan. It goes without saying that I will do my best to help in every avenue available to me. On that note I might also have some good news."
Closing her eyes and focusing on Kenna's magic Itori fell silent for several seconds before once more meeting the fire demoness's eyes with her own. "I cannot say with absolute certainty right now, but it should be possible to undo what has been done. It might not be an easy task but purifying and cleansing spirits is one of the things I specialize in, which also applies to cursed and corrupted souls. Actually regaining your magic might be a harder task, but I should be able to remove the corruption itself once I have the opportunity. It might be that once the corruption is gone your magic will return on its own, but if I had to guess I would say that regaining it will take a lot of effort, in the same way that for most people learning to use a regrown limb can take months if not years."
She would have suggested returning to the Sabertooth guild hall so they could at least get rid of the corruption, but it was at that point that they were approached by a man wearing a festively pink suit and wearing a hat of the same vivid hue. Halting in front of the two mages he took his hat off and gave a deep bow before straightening up again, all the while smiling widely. "Good day to you lovely lovebirds! Excuse me for interrupting your private moment, but as you are mages perhaps you can help me out with a little something?"
Itori blinked before she began to retort that they weren't lovebirds and that this wasn't exactly the best moment, but the man went on as if he hadn't even noticed her beginning to speak. "Y'see, as you might have noticed there are a LOT of couples enjoying this beautiful Valentine's Day. So much in fact that some of our stores are having trouble keeping up with the demand! We have enough chocolate stored away but it needs delivering, which is where some fast magic users like you two can come in." Giving a little shrug the man shook his head as a sign of exasperation. "'Course we also have couriers for this sorta thing but even with those on the roads we're still running low on hands! So, what do you say ladies? Care to help out a fella spread some love and cheer for the lucky couples out there? Of course you will get compensated for it!"
Itori frowned slightly before giving the man a polite smile, although she hadn't let go of Kenna's shoulder yet as she took a tiny step forward so she was just a bit in front. "My apologies sir, but my friend just received some bad news and might not be in the mood to help out currently. I understand your plight and I wish I could help but right now I think it would be best if the two of us did not get involved." She shot a look back at the demoness. "Although of course at the end of the day it is her call. Do you feel like helping out Kenna or should we go back to the guild hall?"
As she moved her arm sidewards her hand brushed against the soft fur of the tails that'd curled around her, making the demoness startle for a short moment. But just as quickly as she'd startled did the demoness relax again, letting her fingers run through the white fur upon the tails, kindly but also absentmindedly. She found it curious how just doing that calmed her mind, be it ever so slightly. Kenna listened carefully as Itori explained what she'd seen and knew about the matter of a destroyed mana pool. That it did seem something demons would do, and that she had been extremely lucky to have been gifted a new one through the lacrima Jigoku had entrusted to her. She knew that thanks to that act of kindness she would be indebted to the fire dragon for probably an eternity, but she did not mind. He deserved as much. Yet somehow it came as a shock when the spiritual fox continued speaking, that she had not come across a similar case like hers before. In her entire lifespan Itori had yet to come across it… which meant there wasn’t much to rely on regarding information. Yet the white-haired fox noted she would do everything within her power to help the demoness out. To find a solution to this issue. And apparently there might be one.
Her eyes closed for a few moments, leaving Kenna to wonder what she was doing, and once she was done met her vermillion eyes with the demoness’, who could only look back slightly flabbergasted. Not because of the situation and conversation at hand, but due to the sudden eye-contact, allowing her to finally gaze upon the vermillion eyes Itori sported. They looked clearer than hers. Wiser. Deeper. Her heart fluttered for a moment as she was reminded of those other pair of eyes she'd been allowed to gaze in so clearly… but those had been blue. And how she knew that people's eyes were the only thing she could find her drowning in. She loved it as much as she loathed it, because it made her heart act weird. Skip beats. Go crazy. It wasn't that she had not looked Itori in the eyes before, but it had never been during a calm moment such as this, where both could relax and did not need to watch one another's backs. This was however the first time she could give them a better look at. These eyes were more similar to hers than she'd imagined. This entire mental monologue took place in but a mere few seconds, as Kenna realised that the vixen was far from done with explaining the situation and her options. Itori mentioned she could not say so with certainty, but that there was a way to perhaps undo the corruption within Kenna's soul. As it was in fact what the fox did best, or so she claimed. The demon heir had little reason to doubt said claim however, and the more she was explained about Itori's capabilities and the off chance of her magic returning to her if the corruption was ridden from her body, the more she allowed hope to fill her mind again. Not too much of course, but every little bit helped. Perhaps she wouldn't be able to reclaim her magic, but if the corruption could be expelled then she would at least not have to worry about her magic going haywire. About hurting those few left dear to her. ”I understand… still, anything is better than nothing at all. I'd gladly accept your help, Itori… very gladly.” Kenna managed to usher a smile. A genuine smile.
Having her eyes focused on the vixen made her oblivious to the man in pink suddenly appearing before them, though while Kenna was still mentally preparing her words without lashing out Itori had taken it upon herself to keep the man and his imagination at bay. The demoness thus remained silent, only adding to her companion's words with nods and gestures. At some point Kenna ended up staring at the man and blinked, a soft frown playing upon her brow before she started shaking her head. Not necessarily in denial, but rather to the man's overacted cheerfulness and wrong assumptions he’d done. ”You know what? Let's do it, Itori. It’s been stuck within me for quite a while now, so having it wait a little bit longer shouldn’t hurt… it's not like it's gonna go anywhere, right?” she said, having made peace with the news she'd gotten far faster than she expected. Or perhaps she'd just put her dismay on pause when the man suddenly appeared, that was also a possibility.
“Glad to see you so eager to help a fella out on this joyous day! No need to follow me along though, for I have the right trinket to help you help me out!” The man exclaimed happily as he pulled out a pair of matching golden rings, sporting several miniscule engravings upon their surface, and each handed them one. ”These contain the deliveries we still need done within a small pocket dimension, as well as a handy built-in map that'll be projected into your mind once you wear the ring.” He added with a smile, urging them to put them on. Kenna, not seeing any danger in the situation slipped the ring around her ring finger, and twisted it a few times to see whether it fitted well. To her surprise it was a perfect fit, and for a moment she caught herself ogling the trinket on her left hand. When she wanted to switch it to her right hand however, the demoness noticed that the ring refused to get off her finger no matter how hard she tried. Not that it felt jammed around her finger, rather that an unknown power was keeping her from pulling the ring off. ”Oh, and did I forget to mention they'll only come undone after certain conditions have been met? Oh dear silly me!” The man burst into a rather eerie type of laughter that sent a shiver down her spine. ”Wait, you're telling me this thing is stuck to us permanently?!” Kenna growled, grabbing the man by his collar. The man in pink however did not seem phased in any way and calmly tapped the clenched fist holding unto his garments for it to let go. “There there, it's not so bad! You'll be able to take them off as soon as their contents have been properly delivered.” With this explanation Kenna’s grip lessened a bit, allowing the man more space to breathe. “Until then you'll just stay married until death do you part~ Or until delivery is complete, of course!” The man chimed, and the demoness, only perceiving the words a few milliseconds later snapped out again. ”Wait, what? Married? What the hell did you do???”But the man had already slipped from her grasp and quickly stepped out of her reach, taking a small bow as he went. “Consider it a small gift, young lovebirds, for as long as the marital bond lasts you'll be able to tap into one another's gifts!” He then disappeared within the masses before either of the two could do anything about it, leaving them be with their apparently newly-wedded statute. ”What the hell is going on here…” The white-haired maiden growled underneath her breath. She then turned to face Itori, an apologetic look in her eyes. ”I'm sorry Itori, this is all my fault.” she sighed, staring at the ring once more.
Wordcount: 1259 Total wordcount: 2260 of 1000
Note to Kenna from her Creator; "Please don't mistake vermillion for crimson eyes again, you almost got me killed! Thanks!"
Itori didn't pull her tails back when Kenna began to run her hand through the soft fur. While she'd been planning to provide comfort in a more subtle manner it couldn't be denied that for most people being able to stroke something with soft fur was a good way to calm down and collect their senses. It was a strange phenomenon, but it was part of the reason why cats and dogs were such popular pets. Of course Itori would object to being likened to them, but she would gladly let people find some peace of mind through her exquisite white-furred tails if needed.
It also was visibly effective. The demoness was handling the news well but it had been obvious that she wasn't happy with what she learned (even if it wasn't completely news to her). Now she looked more steady, returning Itori's gaze without hesitation or uncertainty. While the fox was more concerned with her friend's mental state she did get a good look at Kenna's eyes. They were red like hers, an unusual eye colour amongst humans. Then again, neither of them was human. One of them was a spirit fox, a creature living in two worlds, and the other was a demon wearing a human guise. Given how demons treated souls as food and Itori tried to protect souls it should have been impossible for them to hang out like this, but somehow Itori had found herself learning more about Kenna. While a demon she didn't appear to be like those demons Itori had encountered in the past. She wasn't just a creature of malice, spite and sadism, gorging itself on the terror of mortals and feasting on their souls. She was as much a person with a complex personality as any human or kitsune.
And her eyes reflected that. The eyes were the windows to the soul. While it was just a pretty phrase for humans for the vixen it was more than that. Those orbs were the most closely connected to the mind and soul than any other part. Every thought and every feeling could result in the eye moving, twitching, widening or tightening. In Kenna's eyes Itori could see worry, concern, awe, hope. A whirlpool of feelings that a mere amalgam of negative feelings couldn't possibly have produced. Itori didn't think that this meant that all demons were like Kenna, but it did mean that she was very glad she hadn't attacked the white-haired woman the first time they met.
"I promise I will do my utmost best." She swore as Kenna accepted her help. She smiled back, grateful that she would be able to do what she could. There were people who would have refused help. This kind of situation provoked feelings of fear and paranoia. If your very soul was attacked you wouldn't be happy with the idea of someone else meddling with it, even if it was an attempt to undo the damage. That Kenna trusted her enough to let her do this even after she'd already violated the demoness's privacy of mind once before was quite touching.
And conveniently rational. If Kenna had refused the help Itori wouldn't have known what exactly would happen down the line, but it couldn't have been anything good.
That said she was also surprised when Kenna said that she would help the man out before they returned to the guild to take care of the corruption. As the other mage pointed out that they could afford to wait a little longer the spiritualist frowned before nodding. "You are correct that we can wait. If you wish to help out I will not argue against it, although I suggest that we do not linger too long." Even if Kenna was correct that they didn't have to do this immediately now that they'd actually agreed to it Itori would be more comfortable once it was over and done with.
As the man explained that they could get started on the job right here and now with the magic item that he had on hand the vulpine siren raised an eyebrow in curiosity but didn't say anything as she looked at the rings that he produced. She could sense magic on them, but from what she could tell the man's quick explanation was accurate. She wasn't an expert on the different kind of magics one could use to enchant equipment. She also didn't have much reason to suspect it too much and put it on at the same time as Kenna. However she then quickly felt that something was off. While she could already sense all souls around her suddenly she could feel Kenna's very strongly, demanding her immediate direction as if it was in direct contact with her own.
The fox frowned again as quickly became clear that they'd been tricked in some manner at least. The fact that it didn't appear to be malicious was at least a small mercy. On the other hand the lack of malice was also why the trick worked in the the first place. Either way Itori had no reason to let the man get away from this without some form of retaliation for deceiving them. She wouldn't harm him but she'd remind him not to get too cheeky with mages (although she was getting the suspicion that they weren't the first pair to fall for this: there were a lot of paired mages moving around town).
Twirling her fingers she crafted a small charm, mixing illusion and spirit magic. As the man ran away victoriously she unleashed it. The magic coiled around the man like strands before settling on him and melting away into his soul.
The man's expression must have been priceless when he tried to talk again and found that he was chirping like a bird instead. Unfortunately he'd already run far enough away that while Itori's sensitive ears could still pick up on it in the distance her demonic friend would have to do without that little taste of revenge. Or at least the sound of it.
"Since he was so cheerful and flighty I thought it prudent to make him sing like a bird for the rest of the day." While not a spiteful or vengeful person Itori didn't like it when she was on the receiving end of a trick. As a kitsune she was supposed to pull the wool over the eyes of others. Sighing she looked at the ring and then back at Kenna, shaking her head slowly. "That is not true Kenna. I was deceived as well, and as a kitsune I am supposed to be better than that. If either one of us had to take the blame I would argue that it is shameful for my kind to be tricked by a human."
Closing her eyes briefly she focused on the mental map and the inventory in the ring. The man hadn't lied about anything: everything was exactly as he had told them aside from the magical marriage part. As for that part... As she had sensed before it felt like her soul was now directly linked to Kenna's. It actually managed to make Itori's cheeks redden as this was a kind of intimate contact you shouldn't be having without some time to mentally prepare beforehand. Even if most humans probably couldn't sense it like she did.
"I suggest we just deliver the chocolate as he requested. We can remove the rings afterwards and return to the guild hall. Trickery or not there is no danger in this, only some embarrassment which the both of us should be able to endure." Nudging Kenna with her tail she tried to get the two of them moving again. This time towards where the mental map told them the chocolate shop would be waiting for them. "Fortunately it does not appear to be very far away."
It started off as a chuckle, but soon enough turned into a hearty laughter. ”Guess he will be the ‘lovebird’ for the rest of the day then!” The whitehaired maiden commented, still grinning. But that grin quickly faded into a look of surprise. Kenna blinked. Wait. Was she seeing this correctly? Itori, blushing? The demoness tilted her head slightly to give the short happening a better look, and with doing so the link they had forced upon them became even more apparent. Kenna could… well, feel Itori's embarrassment somehow, as if it were her own in some kind of way. She couldn't quite explain it, but for some reason she could feel themselves growing stronger in their bond… it felt deeper, more intimate. ”Hmm…” Her mind drifting off, Kenna followed Itori's example and closed her eyes as well, only to be left dumbfounded. She opened her eyes again, and just as quickly closed them again. It was no illusion. Souls. She could feel the souls again. See them again. See those of others, that of Itori and her own. There were strands connecting theirs to one another, some glowing golden, and some a faint bluish hue. But how? And it didn't even hurt to expand the magic…
Curiously Kenna tried to expand her unconsciousness to reach further, sense more in a larger radius. And with it the faint blueish hue grew brighter the further she willed it to go, which immediately made the demoness stop pushing, allowing the radius to retract back to just the two of them. The demoness frowned, and opened her eyes again. Were… their respective magic linked to one another? Through these rings, or was it something else that allowed them to do as such? It were questions the demoness wished answers to, somehow someway. But not now. They could figure that out while they went… for now, they'd have their hands, uh, spacial rings, filled with chocolate in a hurry to be delivered. ”Right you are… however I think the embarrassment is only yours, wifey~” The demoness teased with a mischievous smile, giving the spiritual fox a wink before grabbing her hand and pulling her along.
And for those who thought this to be a walk in the park; it wasn't. Or rather, it was, just not like that. It didn’t take long for their first obstacle to appear in the form of children, in double twofold. And surprisingly, also in the park Kenna had suggested as a more quaint shortcut. The hypersensitive look in their eyes following their every move, as if they through some supernatural means had realised that the two mages held chocolates hidden from their very eyes and hands. One of the kids, a little blonde girl, dropped the ball in such a way that it rolled right into their direction, having to let the children but merely follow the object towards the twosome. It was surprising how cautiously these children, despite their young ages, moved about. As if they were stalking a prey with their hyperactive senses on high alert. The demoness had picked up the ball that'd bumped into her leg and squatted down, holding the ball out for the smallest of the four children to take. ”Don't be afraid, this is yours right?” she asked, handing it over. The child took it shyly and stared into the demon heir's crimson eyes intently, throwing all her child-like charms into the fray.
What ensued was a staring contest of the strangest variant, eventually ending in the white-haired mage's defeat; she pulled out one of the boxes, allowing each of the kids to take one chocolate from it. Which she'd better refrain from doing upon seeing the children's sudden change. Kenna swallowed a lump and got back up, slowly stepping back towards Itori without turning her back towards the kids now looking at her with desperate eyes. ”Uhm… Itori,” she ushered, finally reaching her side. ”I think I broke them… do we make a run for it?” Kenna proposed, keeping an eye on the dilated pupils within the four pair of hungry eyes.
At the same time that Kenna became to be aware of Itori's spiritual sensing abilities the kitsune felt a strange kind of heat flow through her. It wasn't a physical heat, but as if there was fire hidden away somewhere inside of her waiting to be unleashed. Given how familiar she was with the demoness's magic it didn't take a genius to realize that this same link which allowed them to feel one another's presence also was making some of their abilities overlap. While that was certainly a useful trick it wasn't something that you wanted sprung on you as a surprise by some stranger with no sense of privacy.
Given how Kenna also was distracted by something invisible to the naked eye Itori assumed that it was her spiritual senses which were being shared. She didn't have any other tricks which would result in her demonic friend/(wife?) staring at the various lifeforms in the area. Coughing her throat and trying to regain her composure Itori took a deep breath only to blink and feel her face become red again when the other mage addressed her as 'wifey'. Under normal circumstances that wouldn't have brought her off balance but this time around she wasn't really in the state of mind that she could take blows like that and roll with them.
"W-wait, I thought you also..." She was cut off when Kenna grabbed her hand and pulled her along. After a feeble attempt at finishing her sentence she gave up and just walked along, closing her eyes and letting Kenna guide her for a moment as she forced herself to calm down. She was ancient, it was honestly silly that she could let herself get toyed with like this. First that pink-clothed man and now Kenna... What kind of kitsune was she?
She had been enjoying the sights, sounds and smells in the park when she noticed the kids following them. They didn't appear to be harmful like those children she had to deal with at Motor City but they were definitely showing a lot more interest in them than was normal. Even if both Kenna and Itori weren't exactly your average people usually it ended with some staring and maybe some whispers. Being followed was definitely not part of the everyday package. What could be the cause of this?
The staring contest was kind of amusing, but the way that the little folk kept staring as if trying to get the two mages to surrender the chocolate through the sheer intensity of their gazes alone was less so. Not that it was going to work, but having a bunch of children look at you like that wasn't as adorable as you might think. There was something haunting about those gazes.
"Give me a moment." She stepped forward towards the children and held up a finger. At first it was ignored, but when she began to wag it from side to side their eyes went up to that moving digit as if wondering whether it would give them the chocolate. Once she had their eyes Itori began to draw them in through their ears. She began to sing softly to the rhythm of her moving finger, a lighthearted song suited for such young creatures. As the song progressed the children slowly lost that feral aspect: they began to slowly sway in tune with the song, their gazes returning to something more becoming of them. Of course given that Itori was using her enchanting voice for this Kenna might also be feeling the peacefulness and carefree happiness flowing over her, but given that she wasn't also staring at the finger the five-tailed fox figured that the demoness could shake it off without much of a hassle.
At the end of the song she smiled at the children, who were also grinning happily. "Go back to enjoying the day, all right children? It is a beautiful day and you should make the fullest of it."
The children nodded at once and ran away, their almost frightening desire for chocolate having vanished.
While Itori was entertaining and calming the children Kenna would suddenly find someone assaulting her. Together with a punch aimed at her gut the assailant tried to pull the box of chocolates out of her hands and run away with it, obviously hoping that the punch would make the white-haired fire mage let go of the box and respond too slowly to stop the thief.
When Itori started singing Kenna had not bothered to cover her ears, and found herself slowly being swayed by the soothing, gentle voice. Similarly to the children, the demoness found herself growing at ease, her unease towards the feral look in the children's eyes fading away together with any other care currently occupying her mind. The calmth that descended upon her was bliss, and the demoness found herself grinning rather stupidly for a few moments longer. Truthfully if someone had been looking at her at that point they might have deemed her a simpleton. Luckily for Kenna, and her pride, the moment did not last too long, snapping out of it almost out of the blue. The white-haired maiden shook her head and blinked in surprise, trying to fathom the seconds-lasting black-out she'd just experienced, looking around her to gather what was going on. The children were seemingly satisfied and calm, listening politely to the kitsune as she urged them to move along. The children each nodded and did as told, leaving the demoness to make mental notes of the scene for future reference.
Her mental notes however were rudely interrupted by a blur coming from her right, taking the white-haired maiden by surprise. The thief's fist dug deep into her side, effectively having the demoness bend double over it. To both's surprise however, Kenna stared at the man with a frown, seemingly unphased. "And what is it you think you're trying to achieve through this?" she nearly hissed, looking the man dead in the eyes. Shaken the man stepped back, but quickly found his bearings again and tried to lunge out once more, aiming for her face. The demoness did not participate in the charade however and dodged, slamming her palm in the man's unguarded face, causing him to stumble unto the ground due to the cheer impact. "Honestly... what is it that you want? Before I teach you how to throw a proper punch." Kenna muttered, squatting down before the man, a stern look on her face. "I, uh..." Obviously embarrassed and taken off guard by the question, found himself unable to answer. His eyes however betrayed what he was truly after, as they gazed upon the pack of chocolate a tad bit longer than they should've. "You wanted the chocolates?" she guessed, and by the man's reaction, correctly. "I know the stores are short on chocolates, but that's no valid reason to just snatch them straight out of the deliverer's hands." "N-no, you don't understand, we... can't afford them..." The thief whispered, seemingly embarrassed about having to spill his financial situation to the one he'd trying to rob not a minute ago.
Kenna glanced over her shoulder back at Itori and gave her a silent nod, as if to tell her she knew how to handle this properly. Her hand moved in a flicking motion, and from it two boxes appeared within the palm of her hand. [color=#0066ff]"Then why didn't you just say so?" The demoness smiled kindly, holding out the boxes for the man to take. "Also... sorry about your nose. Might've been a bit too eager there." Yet the man did not seem to be bothered by it as he accepted the boxes, tears nearly flooding his eyes as he started getting emotional about the kind gesture. His voice seemed to fail him, and kenna was quick to silence the man. "Don't mention it. Valentine's about more than just spoiling your loved ones... putting a smile on the faces of strangers is just as worth it." she said with a broad grin, helping the man back up on his feet. Both Itori and Kenna were thanked over and over, until they finally convinced the man to get going as well.
The demoness, feeling satisfied over the man's genuine happiness, couldn't help but let the smile linger upon her lips. "You know, I don't think our "employer" may be all too happy with me giving out chocolate for free, but seeing how happy it makes them..." she turned slightly to face the spirit fox, her eyes just as gentle as her smile. "Is definitely worth the trouble, don't you think?"
When the brief struggle began Itori quickly turned around, an alarmed expression on her face. Under normal circumstances she never would have let the thief get this close, but she'd been so focused on taking care of the children that she'd forgotten to pay attention to her surroundings. Which was also why she hadn't warned Kenna about the fact that she was planning to use her song to make them more compliant (it was somewhat uncomfortable knowing that you could mess with people's heads just by singing to them. Technically anyone could do it if they were good orators, but it was still messy business).
Luckily she didn't need to intervene: while seeing the demoness get hit made her worried it looked like that worry was unfounded as Kenna quite easily took care of the thief on her own. Instead of getting involved and possibly making things more complicated Itori acted as observer as the demoness briefly interrogated the man and then handed him some chocolate when it became clear that the thief was motivated by poverty, not greed or malice. While this meant that they were essentially stealing from the shop Itori couldn't fault Kenna's decision: valentine's day may have a focus on lovers and romance but it was also a good day to try and be nice to one another. There were many types of love after all, including love for your fellow living beings and a desire to make them happy.
She bowed slightly towards the man as he expressed his gratitude, then when he finally left she turned towards Kenna and returned the gentle smile. "I agree. Given that the employer is requiring the aid of outsiders to keep up with the demand of chocolate they must be making enough money today that they should not mind losing two boxes. And it is definitely worth it to make happy those who might otherwise not have the opportunity." She twitched one ear as she slowly reached to grab Kenna's hand. "Listening to that man I believe that if he had succeeded in stealing the chocolate he would have suffered from feelings of guilt for the remainder of the day."
With that said she softly pulled Kenna along as the two of them still had to make the actual delivery. Grabbing the demoness's hand was definitely not something she would have thought of doing before the whole situation with the rings occurred, but fair's fair and Kenna did it first so Itori might as well return the favour. Maybe she could fluster her friend a little bit as well before this ordeal was over.
Unfortunately she then picked up on something less pleasant. Coming to an abrupt halt Itori motioned for Kenna to also stop moving as her ears were aimed forward. Beyond a corner there was a woman waiting with sharp weapons in her hands. Given her position it was certain that they were attempting to ambush the two mages once they got around the corner. Closing her eyes briefly Itori focused. It seemed their ambusher was struggling with feelings of loneliness and self-loathing, but also rage and envy. Well, that wasn't very difficult to deal with once you knew what to do. "I will be right back." She whispered to Kenna before stepping forward. Her form became ethereal as her hand slipped away from that of the fire mage. Quickly following her figure disappeared before it reappeared right in front of the lady beyond the corner.
Placing her hands on the woman's shoulders Itori placed their foreheads together gently. She shared the sensations of peace, contentness, hope and optimism that she herself had been enjoying. The angry rictus that she was facing quickly became peaceful, albeit saddened and forlorn. "Just like everyone else you will find someone who will never abandon you. It may not be today but I assure you there is enough time for you to find that person. Until then the best you can do is do your best every day. It might be difficult at times but the payoff in the end will be worth it."
The woman stuttered, blushed, then weakly nodded her head. The kitsune let go and stepped back, then walked back towards Kenna and gave her a smile and a nod. "Just someone who needed some encouragement."
As they walked past Itori handed the woman some chocolates as well, not as much as the thief but at least enough that the would-be ambusher couldn't say that she hadn't received any chocolate on valentine's day. Despite the delays the two mages were quickly approaching the shop where they would deliver the chocolate, after which this entire situation should come at an end. Well, not that it had been terribly unpleasant though.
One thing she was most-definitely certain of was the fact that she hadn't expected the kitsune to take hold of her hand in turn, the same way she had done earlier. The stoic fox could've done many a things to surprise her, but this by far was the most impacting gesture she could've shown the demoness. Honestly, after all those things the two had been through they'd crafted quite the particular bond between one another; which had gone from enmity and cautiousness towards their true roots to a full-fledged camaraderie. Yet during all those times she'd never seen Itori get flustered, or even attempt to do anything remotely physical that did not fit in an overly-static form of politeness… up until now. Today had been full of surprises, and the demoness was curious as to what more the rest of the day would have in store for her. Or rather, what other things hid behind that stoic front of Itori’s. Kenna could try and put together what exactly the kitsune was aiming for with grabbing hold of her hand, but aside from the slender fingers brushing against her skin making her feel funny, she did not react off in any type of way. To fluster the demoness one would need more than just the holding of hands… like a certain type of furniture, for example, which she had surprisingly turned embarrassed about whenever being mentioned after her semi-drunken night with Masha quite a while back.
Fate however deemed it proper that Itori asked her to sit tight and wait for her right in front of a furniture shop. And with her thoughts all to herself in the basking sunlight did her mind work overdrive, in a way she did not wish to be thinking… or at least not in broad daylight, or in public. Okay, mostly not in public. By the time Itori returned the demoness had changed her pale complexion for one sporting rosy cheeks, that definitely worsened when she came into view, and thus also became part of the demoness’ foiled mind. Oh how dignified she was; demonic royalty with the perverted mind of a seasoned sailor stuck at sea for over a year. Her gaze quickly averted itself to look at whatever was nearby and did not make her thoughts go south, and shook her head upon hearing Itori say she’d just given someone some encouragement. ”No thanks I don't need any more of encouragement for this…” she muttered softly, having her gaze pinned everywhere but another face as to hide the blush that’d spread across her face like a wildfire.
Safe to say that blush did not fade until they reached the shop, their final destination of this sudden delivery request. Both mages made their way inside without little more issues, and after having been relinquished of their burden and rings, were actually returned to them soon after as reward. The rings now casual and undone of their incantations, only held a special commemorative chocolate piece within their spacial compartments. Kenna, still slightly on guard about the ring, decided not to wear it again and tucked it away in the folds of her clothing, in a small pocket hidden from even a more trained pair of prying eyes. They wouldn't catch her wearing that thing again anytime soon… although she wondered… could they still hold the connection both women had shared earlier? The demoness closed her eyes and tried anew, and to her surprise found that not much had changed from their linked situation only moments ago. Was the effect more lasting than it was supposed to be? Curiously she turned to look at Itori, who's gaze she'd tried to avoid in every way possible as to hide her embarrassed face up until their arrival here. ”Uhm, Itori… what do you think we should do now? Or rather, what would you like to do now we're off duty? We still got quite some time left on our hands… and truth be told, I'd like to tinker with this connection a bit more. Call me curious about it.” Kenna said, covering her eyes from the fierce midday sun. They now stood in front of the shop they'd delivered the chocolates to, deciding in their next step to take.
Itori was somewhat disappointed that she didn't get more of a reaction from Kenna when she took the demoness's hand. Of course that wasn't entirely unexpected: while Itori had been caught off guard by the bond the rings had inflicted on the both of them Kenna wasn't being distracted or unbalanced by anything. The best Itori could really have hoped for was surprise.
That said she noticed immediately that when she returned from pacifying the hater that something or someone had actually gotten through to Kenna. That it had happened while Itori was busy and that it didn't appear to have involved any audial components meant that the kitsune had some trouble figuring out the details. It was only after she joined their hands once more that she felt the emotions and surface thoughts that Kenna's mind was emitting. This energetic and driven person was embarrassed by... tables? Of all the things to get funny ideas from... It became a bit easier to understand when she also caught a glimpse of a certain event which had taken place on a table. Itori herself didn't show any outwards reaction to this discovery, instead just leading the way to the shop so they could finish up the delivery.
That they were given the rings as a reward for the job was a mild surprise, but Itori accepted it with gratitude nonetheless. The chocolate they were given wasn't something she could eat without purifying herself of the substance immediately after, so it was nice to also receive something which wasn't essentially poison for her kind. While kitsune didn't have it quite as bad as most quadruped canines and vulpines it still wasn't something they had evolved to safely digest. If it wasn't for the fact that she had magic to heal and cure herself she would have refused that portion of the reward entirely.
Feeling a light mental probing from Kenna Itori blinked, then did the same as the demoness. Strange... According to the shopkeeper the ring no longer had that kind of effect on the wearer, but they were still linked. Maybe the magic just needed a while to deteriorate... She had assumed that the link was actually inside of the rings, which would be the easiest way to create an effect which could be easily applied or removed simply by either putting on the rings or taking them off. However as she studied the ring it became clear that this wasn't the case. Whoever designed these rings had actually used an enchantment which would inflict the link on the wearers. Or at least, that's the best she could make out of this situation, even though that was kind of silly and indicated a lack of foresight.
Putting the ring away she also shielded her eyes from the sun. They'd finished the job with relative haste so the day was still in full swing. In fact it felt even warmer than before. Itori's white tails were slowly swaying from side to side behind her when she looked back at Kenna, answering the demoness gaze. It looked like her friend had already somewhat recovered from that episode back then... It would be smartest to go back to the guild and take care of the corruption...
But somehow Itori wanted to see Kenna flustered again. Maybe because she felt she hadn't really done a good job being the trickster. Maybe because usually the princess was too strongwilled to let herself be caught off balance. Maybe because when this particular demon blushed it was quite adorable.
Maybe Itori was just feeling like having a little bit of fun.
"I do agree that this connection between the two of us is a curious thing. I would not fault you for wanting to study it further." She hid her hands inside her wide sleeves as she folded them in front of herself. She was idly looking around at the scenery as she offered her suggestion, her tails still swaying behind her as if to convey some of the joy Itori was experiencing on such a bright day.
"However there is no need to be standing around in the open like this. As you noted we have plenty of time, so I suggest we head back and find a café or an inn. Someplace where they still have a table open."
Without any change in tone or expression Itori's voice seemed to linger just a little bit longer on the word table than necessary. At the same time as she said it Kenna would also feel one of the kitsune's tails brush against her leg, but should she turn around to stare at it they'd still be moving like before. The way they were moving from side to side the silken-furred limbs occasionally strayed close to the demoness... Maybe it was just a coincidence?
"Once we have a table to ourselves we can take our time investigating this connection between the two of us. I must admit that ever since it began I have been feeling warm inside."
Itori's sudden suggestive suggestion caught the demoness completely off guard. An invitation for drinks wasn't quite out of the ordinary, but she hadn't quite suspected the kitsune to propose such a thing when having so adamantly offered to return to the guild to take care of her corruption not too long ago. In all honesty, Kenna was a whole lot of confused with this new revelation of Itori today; so many little quirks she had come to learn about today… and those were the ones she got to know without the spiritual connection. And it seemed as if Itori had found out about some of Kenna's own quirks as well, or at least had taken note of them through her abilities. Which brought her to the specific part that actually got the demoness to flush red in embarrassment. The way she mentioned the table, albeit regular, sounded like her voice lingered just that tad bit longer on the word than it should’ve. Was this an invitation to an ulterior motive? Or was it just a trick of the mind, meant to offset her? Or perhaps it was just all in her mind, and did the kitsune have no hidden motives regarding the proposition.
But what if? Kenna couldn't help but ponder on the matter, which had just been a simple question. Did Itori have a hunch at what had happened back then? Or rather, did she know? And how? Had she seen it? Had she been there that particular night, in the inn, when the demoness had thrown caution to the wind and just went along with the flow of things? Well, it wasn't that she and Masha had been, uh, subtle about their flirting when it happened. Someone could have definitely seen things, but she had been certain nobody had been near when they entered Gäetirhöll through the portal… Wait. No. It couldn't be. Did… did Itori actually pick up some of the memories of that moment when taking hold of her hand earlier…? That very moment where a furniture shop had flickered thoughts she hoped had been buried, when Kenna'd been too busy trying to contain her thoughts in proper manner to take note of other things. ”Oh god did she see that too?” she panicked, when realising her thoughts had strayed to some rather impure thoughts of the kitsune as well when she'd returned again during said train of perverted thoughts. The demonic heir wished to crawl underneath a rock at this very moment, when the realisation hit that the kitsune might’ve been witness to her not so prude fantasies half an hour ago. If her face had been flushed before than it had by now reached a new level of embarrassment, reducing her ability to speak to a mere stuttering mutter, no actual proper words leaving her lips. She silenced and stared at the ground with such intensity that it might’ve gotten embarrassed as well. If all that hadn't been enough already, the sudden feeling of a soft tail brushing past her leg made her tense up, but when she looked neither of Itori's tails seemed near her leg at all. At least not when she was watching.
The demoness, now flustered and entirely out of her regular doing, tried her best to recollect her calm, or rather her cool, yet found herself stuck thinking and overthinking Itori's words to a subatomic level. Was the white-haired kitsune toying with her; pulling her leg; was she seriously insinuating something, or was there actually nothing to it at all? Kenna didn’t know, but she sure as hell wanted to find out. If only to give her mind some rest. Although she loved teasing, being teased was one of her weak spots, as she easily fell for it. ”I, uhm, don't know, er… I mean, eh… urghhhh” The demoness stopped herself from making things any more awkward with a deep, groaning sigh and facepalmed. ”Yes please. I think I'm gonna need that drink now…” she mumbled from within the palms of her hands, mentally encouraging the fiasco that’d become her confidence. In her mind she'd gone from hero to zero in no-time flat, and she had this gut feeling telling her she wasn't even halfway there yet.
Kenna's confusion at Itori suddenly being willing to waste time was actually a good question. Anyone who wasn't inside of Itori's mind would have asked the same question. Itori herself had a good explanation though: the link meant that she had the opportunity to study the corruption a bit further. Whether it was because her friend was a demon herself or not the corruption wasn't spreading, which meant that while early removal would be preferable it wasn't an absolute must.
That said she wasn't planning to waste too much time on this. As much fun as she might be having playing with the demoness she still wanted to get rid of that corruption. Her plan for now was to make a couple more moves to completely set Kenna off balance before suggesting they return to the guild hall for the procedure. The tricky part was to make that a subtle transition: while switching directions would result in someone being confused and unable to comprehend the situation if you were too clumsy at it they'd just decide that you were making no sense at all and escape from the web of contradicting ideas.
Looking at Kenna it was clear that for now the demoness was fully consumed by what the kitsune had said. Raising one arm Itori hid a smile behind her wide sleeve, one ear twitching as she listened to the mumbling and the stuttering. While she had a good idea of what was going through her friend's head she had a way of making sure everything was going according to her little game...
"Is everything all right Kenna? You appear a little red in the face." Moving smoothly as if practiced Itori stepped in front of the other woman, leaning forward a little so she could look her in the eyes from up close while placing her hand on the fire mage's forehead to measure her temperature. The vermilion eyes with the oval pupils looked straight into Kenna's with concern and concentration... from a couple of inches away.
With this move Itori had a plausible excuse for taking a look into Kenna's thoughts and feelings. And as she suspected it was filled with a kind of harmless panic and embarrassment. Memories and thoughts tumbling over one another as her companion and partner was trying to figure out how much Itori knew and how she would deal with that kind of thing. She really was overstepping her boundaries here by peeking into Kenna's mind so blatantly...
Actually as she thought about this she began to feel guilty. While she didn't often indulge herself like this she shouldn't be ignoring Kenna's privacy. She'd let herself get pulled along by the atmosphere, but that was hardly an excuse. She'd lived many years and was aware of just how important it was for people to be safe inside their own heads. When everything else was invaded or compromised it was your own thoughts were you could be yourself without worrying about being judged. And now she was purposefully goading Kenna into thinking about things she didn't want others to know about just to satisfy her own desire to see how effective her teasing and playing was. She'd always thought that the other fox spirits had been too dismissive of the concerns of others but now she was proving herself to be just the same as them.
It was too late to completely abandon her act without it becoming suspicious. Still, she could guide it into a healthier direction.
"It might be better if we return to the guild hall. I thought that we might explore the city for a bit longer, but if you are coming down with a fever rest would be better." She pulled her hand back and straightened up a bit. "I could try to heal it here and now but with the corruption inside of you I am hesitant to use the simplistic kind of curative magic. While there does not appear to be any risk of the corruption spreading it could interfere with any other magic. The sooner we get rid of that the less likely that something unexpected happens." She was a bit disappointed, but mostly at herself for letting herself get carried away. Not that she didn't want to play. But she had to establish boundaries for herself.
Taking a look into the thoughts and feelings of others was something you reserved for cases of necessity and people you were very close to. And with the latter you really needed permission.
Too close. The kitsune's face was way too close for the demoness to properly calm down or even remotedly relax, adding to the already ridiculous heat she was currently exerting. It had been embarrasment at first heating up her facial features, but now she found herself thrown off by a combination of sly words and her own thoughts, she felt her grip upon containing her inner fire lessen. Said fire was part of Kenna's demonic heritage, as well as part of a seal put upon her being when she was but a newborn; her connection with the element of fire itself. Usually she surpressed it, for the aura would become unbearable to other humans in her vicinity if she did not. It first starts as a fever; her skin intaking the heat of the fire and letting it course through her veins, yet the warmth never exits the vessel. If she releases the control a bit more it turns into an actual aura, slowly oushed through her pores to become a source of heat that's still pleasant to be around in cold environments. But what lies beyond… no. She hadn't tried that yet. Or at least not near mortals. With Jigoku however, her dragon mentor and benefactor, she could release all of it, as it posed no threat to the fire dragon in any way. In fact he found it rather amusing that she had this ability, but made her swear to always keep it hidden. And she had, safe for two moments. And both moments had been when her emotions had been out of whack. One where her lust had taken over and she'd undone the power keeping her demon form hidden, automatically activating the fiery essence with it. The other when she'd undone it in a fit of rage, and later on the need to protect Itori from the biting cold during the events in River Village. If Jigoku ever found out about this, he'd call her undisciplined at best…
But going over the events, and the fact the fire essence now too was slowly escaping her grasp as Itori touched her forehead, Kenna wondered. Why was it that she couldn't control it properly? With Masha the alcohol had been the source of her debauchery, but now… she hadn't had a drop of alcohol within her system, so why was she feeling so… strange? Flustered. There seemed to be something more to it than ‘just’ embarrasment. Something she couldn't quite put her finger on. But it rose another question ti the demoness’ mind. Perhaps she should tell the white-haired Kitsune about her true heritage as well… she trusted her beyond belief, and through the things they'd been through Kenna knew the kitsune wouldn't react out of proportion. Or at least, she hoped. She really did. As she dared look into those fascinating vermillion eyes once more, she found a sense of guilt running through them, which brought the demoness’ thoughts straight down to earth as the kitsune relayed the touch of her forehead. A sensation of worry overcame her, cramping through her stomach, settling the feeling as her eyes remained, keenly watching Itori as she moved away. Once again she was acting rather off for her being, and once again it worried the demonic heir more than she would've thought it would.
When Itori suggested going back to the guild to rest if she was coming down with a fever, she protested at first, wanting to tell her the heat wasn't a fever at all, unbeknownst to her that the kitsune knew very well it wasn't a fever. “No it's not…” Kenna silenced and let a brief pauze go between her words, thinking over the rest she said before she finished the sentence. ”You're right. Let's go back, just the two of us… and let's try putting an end to this corruption within me.” The Sabertooth Ace smiled gently, touching the kitsune's arm for a brief moment as the other tore a rift through space and time to reveal Yggdrasil's inner architecture from within it. Gesturing Itori to follow her with a nod of her head, Kenna put a first step through the portal, and looked back over her shoulder, making eye-contact with her fellow teammate. Her hand extended towards the tailed woman, waiting for her to accept it, and once she did, would pull her through the rift, whispering a soft ”I'm sorry.” to the Kitsune without further explanation than just those two words of apology. Once through the portal the giant halls of Yggdrasil's inner rings would rise around them; a massive hallway circling upwards like a stairless staircase, and holding the doors to several of the guild's sleeping quarters carved within its side. Among one of them was hers.
She casually walked over to the door and performed a sealing on its surface, using it as a makeshift lock rather than just turning a key. Opening the door halfway, the demon heir turned around again and looked at the white-haired kitsune for a short moment. ”If you don't mind, I'd like the cleansing to happen in the vicinity of my own room… just in case something were to go wrong that we can take the right countermeasures straight away. But before we get that started… is there anything specific you have need of for the ritual?” Kenna awaited the woman's reply. If she indeed needed something the white-haired maiden would mention she'd be in her room until everything was in order, if not, she'd open the door some more to let Itori in. The room was more spacious than one would suggest, but dressed rather soberly; a large queen-sized bed tucked far away unto the side of the wall, a desk, closet and a moderate bookshelf. Further down the room became more vibrant, with five pillars in a circular formation holding a heightened platform one could access by a small four-step pair of stairs in between the pillars. If one were to look well beyond it, they could see a glimpse of what looked like a proper-sized, built-in hot water spring; which was just as surprising to be there as the window across her bed, actually showing the outside realm that Yggdrasil remained in. ”Right over there,” Kenna pointed at the area on the heightened platform in between the pillars. ”I’d like to do the cleansing there. There should be enough space to manoeuvre properly, and if need be, perform seals within the array of pillars. I don't know what will happen but I want for things to be safe… for you to be safe.” The demoness said, taking off her overcoat and hanging it over her arm as she faced the kitsune. ”So from this point on, I'm all yours. How would you like to go about it?” She questioned.
Even as she was chastising herself for not respecting Kenna's privacy Itori noticed that the demoness was becoming hotter, literally. It looked like teasing a fire demon too much had some unintended side effects. Not that the kitsune was terribly surprised: she'd experienced Kenna's heat before when they were helping out during Christmas. More than that even though she shouldn't have done so looking into Kenna's mind and soul meant she knew exactly which buttons she had to press to get a reaction from her friend and companion, so everything was going according to plan if it wasn't for the fact that the plan had rapidly shifted once Itori had realized just what she was doing.
Because of Kenna behaving as Itori expected her to behave the seven-tailed fox didn't pay as much attention to the way that she herself was being observed, occupied with thoughts of how she was supposed to deal with this revelation of how carefree she had become with rather important matters and how she was to make up for that. Helping Kenna get rid of the corruption wasn't adequate compensation: she wanted to do that regardless of whether she owned the demoness anything.
Her ears twitched as she heard the fire mage at first object to returning to the guild. While under normal circumstances she might have gone with the flow and agreed with sticking around a bit longer right now she really wanted to do what was right, even if it wasn't fun for either of them. It could be that she was letting guilt dictate her actions too much, but it was better than just ignoring the realization and proceeding as she had been planning beforehand. "The sooner we remove that taint from inside of you the better it will be." She affirmed with a nod when the demoness also changed her mind. It looked like the new approach had worked and they could now get working on what was actually important.
Play could come afterwards, even if Itori had to be more strict with herself. Although she wondered why Kenna emphasized the two of them... there wasn't anyone else involved in the scenario was there?
She gave a gentle smile back when she felt the hand touching her arm, then watched the world rift form which would lead them back to the guild. She silently took the offered hand, although when she suddenly received an apology she couldn't help but blink in confusion. Together with the earlier phrase the kitsune suddenly realized that there were currently thoughts running through Kenna's head that she couldn't figure out. Usually when she'd been digging through someone's soul it took a bit longer before they matured beyond her predictions.
While Itori had a good idea of where every member of Sabertooth had their personal chambers in the tree (the giant stone fortress had very few soft materials and even less air currents, so sound travelled far and wide) she obediently followed Kenna as the demoness showed the way to her room. As Kenna explained her reasoning Itori nodded, her tails now idly swaying from side to side behind her as she had clasped her hands together and hidden them inside her sleeves, her behaviour now more in line with what most people would expect from her. "I trust your judgement on what countermeasures you think are necessary for your specific case, although I shall be placing some security measures of my own. However I already have all the reagents I need to make this procedure a success." After all Itori wasn't a human who had to rely on complicated rituals with components and spirit contracts to successfully meddle with the spirits.
She nodded in thanks as her friend allowed her inside of the room, stepping through the doorway and glancing around while her ears also swivelled. It had some similarities to her own room in the straightforward nature of all the furniture. However it was also distinctly different: while this room didn't have a lot of furniture all the furniture was of good quality, not to mention the raised plateau with the pillars or the room. Itori's room would have left most people wondering whether it belonged to a servant or, even worse, whether it was even meant for someone to live in.
Oh, and a hot spring. Itori definitely didn't have one of those.
"Either aces receive some intriguing benefits in their rooms or I was not informed of the type of interior design that was available for the common member of the guild." Itori said this with a mild smile on her face to indicate that she wasn't completely serious. Even if she had been told that she could have something like a hot spring she would most likely have ended up saying no anyway. She didn't have much interest in making her room hospitable. It was just a play she stayed if she didn't have anywhere else to be.
"Understood. I will work with the utmost care of course, although honestly I do not believe there is much risk of me suffering severe harm." It might not be a pleasant experience, but it would be very difficult for that corruption inside of her friend to do something nasty to the kitsune. At the next line she blinked and stared for a second or so before her shoulders relaxed and she just began to explain. "Well, first of all I will need direct skin contact. Under normal circumstances clothing would not be an issue but this time around we have to do this thoroughly." She then pointed at her own head and chest. "The heart forms the core of both the body and the soul, and the brain is the seat of the mind which controls both. If I touch you in those places I can get inside you very quickly." With a twist of her arm her cursed prayer beads slid down her arm, her fingers hooking them with a motion which spoke of experience. "As you are aware these beads weaken souls and spirits upon contact. Normally this would be harmful but I am very skilful at using these beads so instead you should be feeling weak in the knees once I get started. Combining the effect of these beads with the weak link we still have from those rings means I will be able to easily slide in and clean you out." Making the cursed beads disappear inside her sleeve she traced a circle around the raised plateau and the pillars. "I will also create a spirit shrine, which will help keep your soul stable and healthy after I use the beads and will also improve recovery once the corruption has been removed. On your part you will not have to do much other than not pull away, not resist my penetration of your innermost depths and try to stay in control when I start removing the corruption. Most likely the corruption itself will fight back to some extent, so this will be an intense experience for the both of us." She looked straight at Kenna. "While I may not be worthy of it I will have to ask you to trust me to do this."
”It all depends on how far your imagination can go, really.” The demoness noted to Itori's mentioning of possible privileges, having seen the smile playing on the kitsune's lips as the discarding of most of the seriousness. ”And truth be told… it was already like this when I occupied the room.” She gave a sheepish grin and closed the door behind them, listening her mention that she wasn't quite worried about the corruption affecting her, unlike it was doing with Kenna. Kenna on the other hand wasn't really content with just that thought, and opted to explain in a bit more detail where her worry came from. “But the thing is… I'm not really afraid of what the corruption will do to you, but rather the harm I might bring upon you through it if it affects my mind… Imai nearly got hurt because of it. I just end up not being myself, unable to control my body when it falls prey to the darkness and bloodthirst…” she gave the kitsune a serious look. The guilt she'd felt back when she'd attacked her younger brother in a violent fit still hadn't been forgotten. That feeling of helplessness. She could feel what she was doing, but couldn't react to it, like she was merely a bystander watching her body move before her. She sighed softly. “I'd much rather take the burnt than anyone else around me. So if push were to come to shove… KO me immediately. If that wouldn't work, seal the room.”
A brief pauze fell between the two, until Kenna pulled things onward again by stating she was all Itori's. The kitsune seemed perplexed for the briefest of moments, but pulled herself together almost immediately and started explaining what exactly she needed her to do. This time it was Kenna’s turn to be thrown asunder by the suddenness of the ritual Itori proposed. “So no clothes… is it fine if I just-” she silenced and blushed upon hearing the remainder of Itori’s words. ”That's a special way to put it, but I understand that’s-” The next volley of uncensored words, with double meaning to them, silenced the demoness yet again, her blushing intensifying to a deep red. “W-wording…” she nearly whispered, staring at the red coat resting on her arms as she tried to hush her thoughts. “You sure got a way with words, Itori… but I understand. And I'll make sure to tend to your wishes and needs for this matter in whichever way I possibly can, to the best of my abilities.” she glanced up into the kitsune's vermillion eyes once more and then averted hers again, fidgeting with her hands underneath the coat. Things certainly didn't get any better when her eyes lingered upon the beads. Her fiery aura, throughout their conversation, had been radiating flaring heat in short bursts whenever the demoness had been flustered by Itori’s words, but now she had managed to settle her thoughts for an overall embarrassment, was radiating a pleasant warmth at a constant pace.
When the white-haired spirit fox had finally ended her speech, the demonic heir had been left a bit helpless, trying to keep herself from diverting her thoughts. She was nervous now the time was at hand for the corruption to be tackled and taken care of, but Kenna felt a flicker of disbelief and even anger when Itori mentioned her perhaps not being worthy of the demoness’ trust. She sharply reared her head, made eye-contact, but somehow found her anger fading away as soon as she did. “Don’t ever say you're not worthy. I trust you, Itori… maybe even more than you'd probably think possible. So I'll entrust my body and my innermost sanctum to your capable hands.” And with that the white-haired demoness turned around, walking over to her desk and putting the coat over the chair accompanying it, her back still turned towards the kitsune. Carefully, yet with swift hands her fingers unbuttoned the tight tunic, making it come undone, and having it hang loosely upon her shoulders for a short few seconds. She inhaled deeply, as if trying to muster a bit more courage into her being, and let it slide off her shoulders. Kenna caught the piece of garment before it could touch the ground and laid it on top of the desk; her upper body now bare, the skirt she wore underneath said tunic the only thing still hugging her body.
Her hair was still tucked into a long ponytail, allowing a perfect view of her uncovered back. In the middle, high between her shoulder blades, was a rather large cursed tattoo, unearthly in appearance that emanated a curious aura. But soon enough the tattoo was covered again by her silvery white hair, which she'd undone, letting it hang loose upon her back. The demoness took her overcoat again and threw it over her shoulders, waiting a moment before turning around again towards the kitsune. The overcoat was covering most of her exposed body, safe for her cleavage, that nearly edged towards the middle of her breasts, betraying she was in fact not wearing anything underneath her cover. ”Will… will this do?” The demoness asked shyly, having a bad case of the prudes. She'd wait for a reply before returning to Itori’s side again, softly taking hold of her hand and bringing it up to her chest, placing it exactly where her heart could be felt the best. Kenna smiled gently, albeit blushing heavily, her voice just as gentle as the look in her eyes. ”I know you don't like doing it like this, but… you can look inside of me. Whenever. Dig as deep as you need to to get your answers if there's something you need to know. Want to know. I give you permission to do so. Especially now, if things were to get violent when you're inside of me. Pull out and finish it.”
Under normal circumstances Itori was quite observant. One of the effects of having lived a long time without having to fear senility or loss of youthful vigour was that you became quite good at observing the world around you and noticing those small things that someone with less experience or energy might not pick up on. However now that she was preparing such an important ritual Itori's mind was otherwise occupied with as result that she failed to notice just how her words could be interpreted differently if someone had the mindset for it.
It took Kenna getting increasingly embarrassed and finally pointing out her phrasing that had the kitsune stare before her cheeks turned red and she coughed. "Ah... I mean..." She cast her gaze down at the ground and took a deep breath before looking the demoness in the eyes again, clearly rather embarrassed when she realized just what she had been doing. "I apologize for that. I guess in my desire to make this the best experience possible for you my mouth ran ahead of me." And one point for remaining completely oblivious.
However when Kenna showed irritation at the way Itori cast herself down the kitsune suppressed a sigh. Of course she wasn't the type to always speak that lowly of herself, but her recent realization that she was in fact capable of ignoring someone's privacy if it amused her. But she didn't want to explain that to Kenna until after the ritual was completed: from the way her friend was responding she didn't think she would suddenly be rejected, but it was still better to explain and apologize in full once the immediate threat had been dealt with. "I will explain later." Was all she said. Pondering the other warning she had been given about the possibility of Kenna losing control of herself if the corruption erupted inside of her the kitsune frowned, then placed her hand on the hilt of her white sword. "If you are truly concerned that you might lose control and ravish me I do have another precaution, but it will mean surrendering the last vestige of control to me."
As Kenna began to remove her clothes for the upcoming ritual the five-tailed vixen stepped onto the raised plateau. Inspecting the pillars she then closed her eyes and placed her hands together. As the fire demon removed her clothes she would find that her vision momentarily doubled, and then returned to normal... or not. It was like she was seeing double except the two different pictures were directly overlapping one another. One was the normal view, the other... was lacking in distinct shapes but was filled with auras. Itori had crafted a spirit shrine that covered the room, making both physical and spiritual fully visible as the two realms were brought together.
When she finished that task Itori looked at Kenna, noticing the cursed tattoo before it was covered up by that long silver-white hair. While this wasn't the time or place for that it was difficult to deny that the demoness had quite the nice body even if everything below the waist was still covered up. In response to Kenna's question the vulpine siren nodded. "You have exposed everything needed for me to get to work, so it should be fine." She gave a gentle smile in an attempt to comfort and encourage Kenna, aware that this wasn't exactly the kind of situation where anyone would feel comfortable. When Kenna joined her and guided the fox's hand to her chest Itori couldn't help but chuckle softly before her expression turned serious again. "I am doing this for you, so I have no complaints against doing it in whatever way you like best. Just as long as it works out. I will make sure to finish it no matter what happens, but there are two things that need to be done first."
She slowly grabbed the hilt of her sword with her free hand and partially pulled it out of its sheath, the pure white metal gleaming faintly. In this shrine where spirit and body were merged it looked even sharper than usual, as if it could sever anything. "You will have to show me your true form, that of your demonic self. I do not know exactly how your human form works but the less barriers I have to penetrate to get to your core the more pleasant it will be for the both of us. The second thing... You said that you were concerned about losing control. If you let me cut your skin on your hands and feet I can use it to form chains that will put you entirely at my mercy. That way I would be able to use everything in my ability to get the desired result from your depths while you will not have to worry about turning the tables on me."
She'd wait for Kenna to turn into her true self before she proceeded to the next step. With careful motions she brought the sharp edge of her blade along the princess's palms and feet, the skin opening in clean cuts from which blood flowed forth before the kitsune quickly sealed the wounds with her healing magic. The only thing needed was for her blade to have cut her friend: the wounds themselves were of no use. Although in the shrine it was visible how the blood was more than just a physical liquid: the red substance was filled with life force, absolutely bursting with it.
With the wounds healed Itori then moved her own hand across the flat of the blade before dragging the metal over the surface of four of the five pillars that surrounded them, the only untouched pillar being directly behind the spiritualist. Upon contact with the pillars ethereal chains shot out of Kenna's hands and feet. Like snakes lashing out towards prey they shot towards the four touched pillars, wrapping around them and pulling themselves taut until the demoness was forced to stand with spread legs and her arms up in the air. Under normal circumstances these chains would only prevent the soul from moving further away, but with some extra time to prepare combined with the spirit shrine causing spirit and body to overlap she was able to achieve a much stronger effect.
"I apologize for the discomfort. I do not actually use this method often, but I hope it does not bother you too much. Now at least you can relax as I get to work."
Putting her sword back in its scabbard Itori brought up her hand and lightly brushed her cursed prayer beads against Kenna's forehead. The demoness would feel a moment of nausea and drowsiness before she was pulled back into a state of clarity, although she'd also feel as if something had been drained from her and she had been made more vulnerable in the process.
"Now I shall begin. Please open your mind and stay calm. And try to match your voice to mine."
Finally all the preparations were complete and Itori could get to the real task. Behind her her five tails were brimming with silver light in the shrine's supernatural boundaries. In fact Itori's entire form had a silvery quality to it. Stepping forward she placed one hand against Kenna's chest, where she could feel the heartbeat of her fiery friend, and she placed her own forehead against that of the demoness, carefully not to let the horns get in the way. Vermilion eyes stared into red eyes before suddenly the tied up, partially undressed and totally exposed heir to the demon throne would feel Itori's being slide into her through that weak link left behind behind the marriage contract. A link which quickly widened to allow for the kitsune's essence to pour through and flow deep inside of her, mingling with her own.
A soft hum, little more than a whisper, filled the air. The souls of the two mages resonated with that humming, Itori using the sound as a way to increase their synchronization so the penetrated fire mage wouldn't fight back reflexively and instinctively. Neither body nor spirit responded well to foreign substances, so the easiest method was to convince both that the invading substance wasn't foreign.
The blush on her cheeks had never been as clear as it was now upon the kitsune's face. Seeing it once was already an accomplishment on its own, but seeing it happen twice, and on the same day on top of that… that was a blessing. With Itori's embarrassment clear as day once she realised how ambiguous her comments had been, Kenna couldn't help but find it endearing. Losing control of her stoicism suited the kitsune, and for a moment Kenna wondered how many others had managed to see this side of her. But when she mentioned being unworthy if her trust, the demoness showed her discontent at the statement almost immediately, to which she was told Itori would explain it later. ”That better be a damn good explanation if you want me to even remotely believe that.” The demoness whispered underneath her breath, not quite content with the postponing reply. But as it was, she couldn't really do much about it, so accepted it for the time being.
When Itori's hand slid unto the hilt of her sword, her face adorned with a frowning, seemingly thinking expression, Kenna's attention pinned itself upon her friend. She had a precaution to Kenna's supposed corrupted outbreak, much to the demoness’ surprise. She nodded in understanding, and turned away to undress herself. Midway stripping herself of her top clothing the surrounding area suddenly blurred before returning to normal, leaving the demonic heir to blink and look around her. Things became more apparent and clear once she'd finished her own wardrobal preparations and returned to the kitsune's side; a spiritual shrine had been erected that covered the entire room. Seeing the vague forms across their physical counterparts brought a sense of nostalgia to tingle within her chest, allowing a smile to cross her lips for a short moment. Oh how she missed being able to tap into her Etherborn powers… but perhaps soon, if this ritual were to be successful, she could be working towards regaining that power once more. And that thought, combined with the reassuring smile Itori gave her, was enough of a non-verbal pep-up talk to get her back in gear. She wouldn't back down from this one.
The spiritual shrine was only step one of the few necessary to start the precaution she'd mentioned earlier. The plan was to cut her hands and feet once she'd undone her human-like form for what she actually was, through which chains would keep her from going rampant if the corruption were to strike. Although showing her true appearance, her demon form, wasn't an issue, the cutting of her hands and feet were… not quite up her alley. Even though she often wielded swords herself when on missions, being stabbed and sliced by them had happened more frequently than it should've been… She'd taken spears through the chest, rusty blades that'd cut her to neigh-lethal conditions… not to mention the trauma from her past. Although the demoness had gotten over that, it still left her silent for a while, pondering. But even then, she'd already made up her mind. For the sake of keeping herself, and even more importantly the vixen, safe, she was more than willing to put that discomfort aside.
Kenna nodded, undoing the façade that was her mortal form. Her irises tore open, spreading a more vivid crimson to color her eyes while her pupils elongated and grew to resemble those of a feline predator. On her forehead two small flames erupted, climbing their way up to reveal two slender yet long horns sporting 8 inch in length. The horns were dark in color, yet were riddled with sharp, fiery veins, as if the fire within her was running through it. Now a full demon, Kenna blinked to look around her, finding the soul realm now visible to her utmost attracting. Her own aura looked like it had a red glow surrounding it, which intrigued the demoness even further. But she couldn't dawdle on it for too long, not now. The demoness inhaled deeply and bared her palms to the kitsune, who's sharp blade easily cut through her skin, opening small wounds which blood immediately welled up from. Yet they were healed just as easily as they were inflicted, the only proof of them having been there the red mark of the dried-up blood and the quickly-fading throbbing pain. Only when Itori dragged her blade across the pillars did the actual event unfold before her.
The chains shot out of her healed cuts like slithering snakes, each vigorously lunging towards a separate pillar the spiritualist had touched with her blade. Ethereal chains shot out surprisingly forcibly, but didn't allow the demoness to even stumble as they pulled themselves taut around them. Kenna found herself with her limbs outstretched towards each of the four marked pillars, and blushed heavily after recovering from the initial shock. Not knowing what to expect, she couldn't quite tell that this had been among any of her possible thoughts… not to mention that the way she was now chained, albeit effective, was rather suggestive too. She was told to relax, but quite frankly she doubted she could when being in this particular situation. When the vixen's beads were brushed across her forehead she could feel herself stumble, the chains providing some comfort in the fact that they unyieldingly kept her upright during the moment of nausea and drowsiness that overcame her. It faded, but her mind remained slightly dazed when clarity overcame her again. Kenna couldn't quite put her finger on the exact feeling, but it was strange… she could think clearly, yet it felt like some kind of haze still faintly lingered. Even when Itori placed her hand upon her chest and her forehead against the demoness' did the sensation not fade. The spiritual fox's touch felt chilly upon her burning body, forcing a surprised gasp from her lips. Just as quickly she hushed herself again, knowing talking or any type of unnecessary banter was out of the question.
“Match your voice with mine.” It was a request she did not expect, nor one she could actually fulfill when Itori's soul reached out and started invading hers. It felt strange, most-definitely not comfortable, but not painful either. Short shockwaves rang through her body as Itori dug deeper, and a gasp arose as a jolt of pain shot through her heart, at the exact moment she tried to resist. Kenna tried pulling on the chains but they didn't budge any further than back and forth, wanting the strange sensation to disappear. Now. She didn't want this after all. This wasn't what she thought it would be. A sense of panic slowly crept upon her, as the more restless she became the more pain seeped through. Cringing she closed her eyes and clenched her hands around the ethereal chains; they felt surprisingly real within her palms. A soft grunt slipped from her lips. ”I don't… like-” she managed to usher before another jolt of pain forced her to silence. She had relax. Maybe… the kitsune's words had been blunt enough about it. But how could she relax with this feeling inside of her? The demoness gritted her teeth as her eyes opened again, squinted in cheer discomfort as they gazed upon the kitsune.
It was only then that the soft humming of her voice resonated through her mind. As if she had been deaf to notice that it had been there all this time, strumming a wordless song. And as she focused, she saw how their souls danced softly upon the tunes, like a boat dancing upon the waves… in sync and at peace with one another. She got swallowed by the humming the more she focused on it, and with it she felt the feeling lessen, the pain breaking into bearable vibrations. Her expression softened greatly as she allowed the sensation to dig deeper, far further than her original intent. Kenna was willingly giving in to the sudden peacefulness that overcame her once her being pinpointed that it was Itori and not something strange. Her mind knew, but that did not make it less estranged to foreign things trying to invade things they shouldn't. With the knowledge it was someone she knew and trusted, the entire thing became more bearable.
Or so she thought.
It happened fast. Too fast. The white-haired maiden's heart suddenly missed a few beats and cramped up, releasing an icy shockwave through her entire body reach to the very tip of her toes. Her breathing grew ragged and laboured almost instantly, as if she was having trouble breathing altogether. The demoness’ eyes grew wide as her pupils shrunk to mere dots within her crimson irises, panic gradually taking a hold of the deep red eyes. Kenna's body started shaking softly, and her grip upon the chains tightened as the sensation from within her came knocking. To the kitsune it would feel like she'd hit a solid wall. Something she couldn't see past no matter how much she tried; a darkness the light couldn't penetrate. Something was trying to push her back out. ”Not now…” Kenna managed to whisper as she felt the corruption stirring within her, from deep within a part of her she couldn't access even if she wanted to. How could it happen so soon? She hadn't been angry, overcome with emotion or caught in the madness of excitement over a physical battle to have it trigger, so what had done so? Was it Itori? The spirit shrine? Or was it merely a random moment in time in which the corruption wished to surface, without the need of triggers?
The corruption started spreading ever so slowly, allowing Kenna to retain her consciousness as she suddenly started tugging at her chains. She resisted it. She could feel it crawl underneath her skin like bugs, through her veins as an essence of unwanted affinity. The demoness bared her teeth and growled. ”Get. it. out.” Her voice lingered on the last word, as if it was a laborious word to speak, and her eyes sought for the kitsune's. Searching for strength and courage. There was no anger present in her eyes, only panic, bordering a scared expression. ”Hurry.” Kenna said, nearly begging her as the corruption started spreading bit by bit, shreds parted from the original corrupted miasma and fluttered up her body. And wherever they settled her skin started showing black veins and darker skin, like bruises.
Itori had the sneaking suspicion that Kenna liked it when the kitsune got flustered. However that wasn't what was important right now. What was important was that she performed her task of getting rid of the corruption dutifully and thoroughly. Embarrassment and excuses could come later, when the demoness was no longer suffering from the taint that had infested her insides and was threatening to slowly spread through her body whenever she tried to use her natural magic rather than that of the dragon who had given her his lifeforce.
"You will understand once I explain." That was the only answer she could really give when her fiery friend voiced her doubts about Itori being able to give a sufficient explanation to justify the claim of being unworthy of trust.
When Kenna shed her human facade and showed her true demonic self Itori had to admit that aside from being necessary for this procedure to work it was also a delight to look at the demon heiress without the disguise. While her appearance didn't differ overmuch those subtle details managed to enhance and emphasize all her good points. The curves, the pale skin, the flowing long hair... And now those crimson eyes, so alike to Itori's own. The kitsune wasn't going to voice this out loud when they were busy, but she did like looking at Kenna: even her aura was attractive, something which the vixen never could have imagined thinking about a demon's soul in the past.
Given that inflicting pain was just an unwanted side effect to creating the bindings Itori performed the cuts with utmost care and quick healing to minimize it, and when she bound the fire demon to the pillars with ethereal chains she tried to keep the tension from being uncomfortable. Of course it had to be pulled taut to prevent Kenna from moving in ways that could get in the way of the cleansing but she didn't have to feel like her limbs were slowly being torn off.
She could feel the demon's soul resisting her entry. She could feel the pain coursing through Kenna as the kitsune's ancient spirit flowed into her through the weak link, a link that was now enhanced and widened so it could act as a bridge between their souls. She could hear her friend try to object, feel her try to fight the bonds and the intrusion, but now that things had gotten this far she couldn't allow her treasured companion to put a stop to this. This was the best opportunity they were going to get, and with some hope Kenna would recover from the initial shock. Even if she didn't... the five-tailed kitsune would choose being despised for forcing her friend to endure this suffering over letting that corruption remain inside of her.
The soul was formed by the person, and the person was formed by the soul. There were many factors, and age was one of them. Age had a subtle effect, subtle but reaching deep and affecting the entire soul. Rather than causing a distinct shift or change an aged soul had an elaborate texture to it. Young souls were raw and fierce, emotions blossoming like fireworks and overwhelming everything else for as long as their passion lasted. For the aged soul emotions were still strong but flowed like water. There was a depth to it, a sense of layers upon layers. In the same way that the bark of a young tree was smooth and the bark of an old tree was filled with countless cracks and lines, so too did the soul carry the marks left by the passage of time.
The point was that Itori's soul was a very old one. As it flowed into Kenna's soul the demoness would feel that age: countless memories hidden just outside of reach, emotions that were as deep as the ocean and which mingled and separated. At the same time Itori's soul had an elegance and soothing sensation to it: while she was marked by the passage of time those marks weren't scars, they were the result of a master woodworker spending years turning a simple piece of wood into art. While the intrusion would feel painful in itself Itori's soul had a soothing sensation to it to help counterbalance that pain and aid in overcoming it. While her concern was abundant and filled most of her surface thoughts there was simultaneously concentration and determination, and those thoughts that Kenna could feel were measured and controlled. Itori had thousands of years of experience to rely upon, all her decisions originated from a level of wisdom and self-awareness which most humans most likely couldn't even grasp, much less equal.
At first her infiltration went relatively smoothly regardless of Kenna's discomfort, and soon the fire mage had calmed down and Itori had an easier time going deeper inside. But then she could feel the corruption begin to stir at the same time as the afflicted demoness began to cramp up and shiver, struggling against her bindings. The corruption was reacting to the intrusion, which meant that Kenna would now have to endure as her soul became a battlefield between the kitsune's soul and the corruption buried deep within.
Feeling the barrier trying to push her out of Kenna's mind and heart Itori pushed back, her ancient soul refusing to budge as it spread further and touched every part of her friend that wasn't hidden away behind the darkness. Now that the process had begun in earnest every time she found a mote of corruption she enveloped it with her own soul and purified it, repeating this process until the heiress's essence and true self was essentially divided into two halves: the half that was dominated and hidden behind the corruption, and the purified part which was completely unified with the spiritualist's essence. Thoughts, emotions, feelings and memories were shared between the two of them. Most of those would barely register as there was simply too much information to hold onto all of it at the same time, but Kenna would get a sense of what it was like to live that long, millennia of travelling through the world and experiencing many things. She would also feel that Itori held a deep affection for the demoness, and at the same time a wariness towards the corruption which ran almost as deep. The kitsune wasn't allowing herself to fail here.
Once the barrier was the only thing left to attack Itori would share her feelings of remorse with Kenna to make it clear that she wanted to apologize for what came next. And then she attacked. Her essence pressed against that wall of corruption, her light began to try and burn through that darkness. She attempted to engulf the tainted ward and purify it, letting her own blessed nature erode the curse that had taken root deep inside of her friend. And this wasn't a single attack: it was a continuous assault, waves upon waves as Itori's magic was drawn from her mana well and she cleansed every part of Kenna that she could reach.
In the physical world the chains would keep Kenna from moving away as Itori firmly kept her forehead pressed against that of her pale-skinned friend and her hand on the frantically beating heart. Her vermilion eyes were unwavering as they stared into crimson eyes. Even as she began to burn away at the corruption inside of Kenna with her purifying magic she also began to cast healing magic to try and counteract the effect it had on the half-naked physical body.
The pain that overcame Kenna when both forces clashed inside of her was overwhelming. Her entire body was shaking with every movement of either Itori's soul or the corrupted miasma as they pushed and pulled at her own essence, fighting to claim it as their own. And with every victory of the miasma, the pain worsened. With every loss of it, the pain became soothing, and she could sense how a strange feeling of warmth fell over her. It kept on going, over and over again was she subjected to the pain that felt like a thousand knives attacking her being. All until it came to a standstill; her soul divided equally between the corruption and the spiritualist's essence. A breather she needed all too badly. The demoness would've slumped if the chains had let her do so, but they did not, leaving the only proof of her exhaustion the increased leaning of her forehead against that of the kitsune. She felt tired and closed her eyes during the moment of solace gifted to her, drowning in the emotions and memories both now shared with one another.
Itori’s memories were grand and bountiful, too much to properly process or look into. But the flashes she saw took her focus away from the painful battle within her, as she came to see shreds of the vixen she had yet to learn of. The interest she showed in it however was unquenchable; the more that was revealed through said flashes the more she came to know how Itori had felt during it all. During those millenia of travelling and traversing the world, the wisdom she'd acquired, all the things she'd experienced. It left her even more in awe than she already was. Kenna truly admired her tailed friend, maybe even beyond the point one could admire ‘just’ a friend, but it was the way it was. And with the ritual in full swing she could only be more grateful for having the kitsune around her. That she was the one in whom's hands she put her own life into...the demon heiress hadn't put that much trust into someone ever since Mashyuu. Imai too held a type of trust, but it was of an entirely different category than this one. This was… more wholesome… more… she had no words for it, but it was something she'd been lacking for far too long. So when she felt the deep affection directed towards her person, Kenna fell silent for a moment. The wariness that ran just as deep registered too, but its impact withered in front of the other feeling. She wasn't the only one sharing those specific set of emotions. Affection. It all made sense that now. A smile unconsciously snuck unto her lips… maybe. Maybe she was allowed to feel like that again after all.
The princess didn't know what to show herself regarding memories. Some she rather wished to tell herself, but she figured at this point she couldn't quite hide what she'd gone through. Bits and pieces showed snippets of her life now, and the life she had before this one, still heavily entangled with her current life. The red line running throughout both lives however wasn't a happy one, instead riddled with loss, anger and sadness. An overwhelming amount of sadness. She was about to fall for the thoughts when a strong feeling of remorse pulled her back to the surface. Itori was sorry… for something she felt tearing through her the very next moment. Itori turned on the offensive, attacking the corruption without any pity. Her eyes opened wide in shock as the pain tore through her, her body suddenly arching and pressing against Itori's palm, her mouth contorted in an inaudible cry of pain. Tears welled up in her eyes but lingered at the edge, blurring the sight of those vermillion eyes so similar to her own. Kenna felt how the kitsune was winning ground quickly, but at the same time felt something stirring from deep within her heart… something that frightened her. Frightened enough to resort to an act she knew she shouldn't do; fight the kitsune by holding the corruption at bay. To buy time.
Of all the memories she could've shown at that point, Kenna forced a single one forth, one that would hopefully extend enough knowledge to the spiritualist to deal with this corruption. How it affected her. And where to find its core. The vague sight of underground ruins in an illuminated cave; a large stone tablet with cracks, indicating something had been embedded in it ages ago, but had been taken from its stone clutches. She could make out two figures, that became clearer quickly; Imai, and Kenna still in her raven-haired disguise. The scene unfolded in Kenna showing Imai her true form, as a demon, and with it the feelings of fear and worry could be felt ever so strongly as they surged from her memory into her friend's soul essence. The fear of showing her true self and being shunned for it. The reason why she never showed her demon form in public, but always kept the form hidden underneath a more human-like façade. The scene suddenly shifted to Kenna wielding fire within her palms, and the feelings of bloodlust and the need to cause violence protruding said memories. It showed how she started attacking Imai without remorse, how she no longer was being her regular self, the inability to control herself. Itori would feel how the sensation the corrupted miasma radiated was riddling these thoughts.
Then the memories and feelings blurred, reappearing again in a dark void, a stellar night sky above them. This one however was more vivid; as if the kitsune was being there during that very moment herself. Kenna, in her demon form, was stuck in a heavy conversation with an exact copy of herself, be they slightly different. Where Kenna exerted no aura in this form, her eyes still remained golden instead of crimson. The copy imbued with corruption flared with dark flames, their eyes, the white included, drained in blood red color. Although the things they said were muted, Kenna's memories provided a recap of what was actually happening; the copy, dubbed Nemesis, was the face behind the corruption. Or rather, the corruption itself. Trying to make it clear to the demoness that it was her potential. The power she could obtain if she just gave in to the corruption… at least, if she was willing to pay the price for it. Her sanity. Kenna's refusal angered Nemesis, but the memories showed how she threw herself at the corrupted body with her father's sword in hand. Only if she managed to defeat it would the corruption digress and fall into a slumber. Purifying it as it was now would never fully undo the corruption… in order to do so the kitsune would have to fight it, defeat it, and then destroy it.
At this point, when the memory faded, did the demoness lose her grip on the corruption as well, allowing it to burst loose and mingle with the eerie feeling that had been stirring within her heart. A grave mistake she'd let happen. She could feel how the ethereal chains suddenly started burning upon her skin as her aura changed from its fiery vibrant color to a darkened, almost black variant. It started flickering and expanding like a fire receiving extra fuel, turning up the heat slowly but steadily as both her grip and consciousness started fading. Dark blobs started separating themselves from the main aura, like sludge dripping from a ceiling they fell down unto the ground only to be absorbed again into her body by the insatiable hole that had awakened; her destroyed manapool. A pained groan escaped the demoness’ lips as she tried to hang on for Itori to cleanse her, but the miasma kept on growing. Stronger, faster, the black veins reappearing as soon as they were healed by the kitsune's magic, all until the miasma burst through her back like two black wings, veined with green leylines. One could make out skulls within them, and a large being with a strong, intimidating presence. It moved away from the wings to reveal itself, and if Itori has paid attention she could make out who exactly it was before her.
Nemesis had taken “physical” form, still connected to Kenna through the miasma, the corrupted being stepped forth through Kenna, with the intent of separating the kitsune from her barely-conscious host. Nemesis grinned, the multi-layered voice hauty. ”So you think this alone is enough to stop me, fox? Maybe I should give you a taste of what exactly I can do… and how foolish you were to even think of ‘cleansing’ me.” The darkness fueled the miasmic copy even more, and Nemesis snickered. ”Or maybe I should thank you for having her feel all of that pain again? After all it's she herself who's fueling my power… so fighting me means hurting her. You ready for that?” Nemesis’ eerie grin grew wider as her hand reached out to take the kitsune by her throat, in a strong grip, the darkness ready to try and overtake her whole.
The truth was that Itori would rather not share her memories this excessively. Aside from the fact that she held memories gathered through millennia, and that her perfect memory meant she remembered every single detail, there was also the fact that being naked was nothing next to someone getting to look into your life like this. Drawings or writings, even visions didn't give the other person as direct an access to the lifetime which made you the person you were today. And it wasn't that she had anything against Kenna. In fact Kenna was one of the people she trusted the most not to abuse what she was being given. It was just that anyone who valued their individuality would have some hesitance to being scrutinized on this level.
However there was no way around it. This corruption was buried too deep, was too strong and had spread its tendrils throughout too large a portion of her friend's self. If the situation wasn't so dire she could have made use of a more careful method, one which didn't expose her self to Kenna and didn't expose Kenna's self to her. But in this scenario that wouldn't have worked. Only the most aggressive, the most thorough and the most powerful purification method might stand a chance, which meant going straight into the demoness's being with everything she had and erasing the corruption as if she was ripping it out with her bare hands.
In her memories the landscape slowly shifted over the years. Even thousands of years were not enough to watch mountains get formed from nothing (not counting that time with the volcano), but rivers changed course, forests appeared and disappeared, desolated lands were turned into human habitats. And the empires and kingdoms, building themselves tall and proud before eventually they faded away. Sometimes they appeared abruptly as an unusually talented specimen from one of the sentient species set out to build a legend. Sometimes it was gradual, as a group of people prospered and kept slowly expanding their reach until they found that there was no other group in the area who could compete with them any longer. But just like that they could also disappear abruptly. Revolts, invasions, disasters... And even those might be considered better than the alternative, watching everything slowly fade back into obscurity as those who remembered the magnificence lost their power, their influence and their control over the flow of the world.
Few bastions of sentient life could even claim to have been powerful for more than a handful of centuries. Having seen that for herself Itori did not despair, but she did have a wholly different perspective on how the world worked. Nearly everything was temporary, to either be enjoyed or suffered through for as long as it lasted before the world changed.
However what was important here were the memories that Kenna was showing her. Even as she attempted to destroy the corruption she felt it get pushed away by her friend as instead she was given visions. While she couldn't say that this was a good idea she believed that the fiery and passionate mage had a good reason to take this action, so rather than fight against it Itori would do her best to bolster Kenna while she watched those scenes she was meant to watch. Scenes which showed a different sort of tragedy than to watch everything fade away (although Itori didn't think that being old was much of a curse. Sure, everything eventually disappeared, but you got to enjoy so many different things as well).
She saw how Kenna revealed her true self to Imai, and how the corruption caused her to lose control. She saw how her friend was afraid of showing her true self because of the idea that she might be shunned for it, as Itori herself had nearly done because of her dislike for demons. She felt how bloodlust filled her friend, an uncontrollable desire to bring suffering and destruction upon her surroundings. The kind of instinct one would expect from a demon, even if in Kenna's case it was wholly unwanted. Of course Itori was aware that demons were rarely the fortunate ones: the ones she'd known of before she learned that there were different types were little more than twisted, tormented and corrupted spirits. They spread malice not because it truly was what they desired, but because true happiness had been denied to them. A desire to share their suffering, a desire to fill that hole inside of them by taking everything, a desire to deny that happiness was real so they wouldn't have to feel like they were the only cursed ones in the world.
But it was still worse to see that for Kenna she was constantly living in fear of the corruption taking over. How she had managed to hide it that well was beyond the five-tailed fox. She hadn't given her friend enough credit in how good she was at putting up a brave front. Maybe she wasn't always worrying about this, but it must always have been there in the back of her mind.
The only thing she could do in response to seeing these memories was to live up to Kenna's expectations and get rid of this spectre that haunted her.
The next vision, the one much more vibrant and real, gave Itori even more insight on the situation. The corruption was strong enough to actually have a form of sentience. It was able to talk to the heiress, seduce her to the side of malice and insanity with promises of power. More than mere corruption this was the touch of an evil spirit, trying to drag Kenna down with it or even consume her whole and take everything she was for itself. It was good to see that even back then the fire mage had no intention of giving in, but it emphasized how vital it was that Itori did not fail here.
The problem was that she felt like she was beginning to get pushed back. Kenna had managed to create some space through force of will, but it looked like doing so together with making sure the kitsune got to see those two memories had drained her of everything she had. With the demoness no longer being able to resist the corruption it rose up from the depths relentlessly. Itori pushed back with everything she had, but without Kenna also resisting the corruption it took everything she had not to get pushed out of the soul of her beloved partner. She could see how the body she had chained up so carefully was falling to the corruption as well, until said corruption rose up in its own form, taunting Itori and trying to forcefully push her away.
Feeling the miasma, the entity named Nemesis, try to get in between her and Kenna Itori's hand began to glow, a ghostly light that forced the miasma to shape itself around her arm without actually touching it. The same counted for the rest of Itori's body as she felt the corruption now attempting to infiltrate her being as well, all the while taunting her. "The correct path is often... the one that hurts the most." She spoke slowly and carefully as she tried to not be completely pushed back. Feeling the hand gripping her throat she closed her eyes. The cleansing light that was supposed to hold Nemesis at bay wasn't strong enough, so the hand filled with evil intent began to deprive Itori of breath and consciousness. Still Itori didn't budge, her entire being pushing back against Nemesis with all her might, trying to keep it from consuming Kenna in her entirety.
"But... what you do not know... is that... as vile as you are... you are still... just a... short-lived mote... of malice."
At this point Itori didn't actually have the breath left to speak, but why bother with vocal cords when you could cause subtle alterations in reality? Nemesis looked a tad confused by that statement before she sneered, her fingers digging into Itori's skin with more force. "It's true that you're older, but that doesn't seem to be helping you much right now. Instead it just makes it more embarassing that you'll be dying here like this... or maybe becoming nothing more than a twisted shadow of who you used to be."
"You... misunderstand..." Nemesis blinked. Itori looked like she wasn't faring too well: her face was pale and even as she used illusions to speak it sounded strained, as if she was having difficulty focusing (not surprising given her brain was suffering from lack of oxygen). "Even... if you killed... me... you would... not last as long... as you might think. Most things... do not... But that said... I will not... be killed... or turned by you... My age... makes me aware of the fact... that it is important... to not let the malice... gain any ground... if it can ever be avoided... The fight... may be eternal... but it should never... be abandoned..."
Even as Itori practically gasped out these words using nothing more than her mind the glow that surrounded her became stronger. The hand that was crushing her windpipe began to smoke, Nemesis had to strain to keep applying pressure. Itori's eyes were open, the vermilion orbs gazing at Nemesis with a steel will. "I suppose if this is not enough to get rid of you I must use every last reserve."
The miasmous entity was now smoking all over. The spirit shrine that Itori had set up might be benevolent to herself and her allies, but it didn't take kindly to such a dense concentration of malice and corruption. And it was only getting stronger, Itori's aura spreading as the connection with the spirit realm only became stronger. Visages of people who had been here in ages past, protectors of Yggdrasil of ancient times, began to flicker in and out of existence. A soul left an imprint on where they'd been as surely as a foot left a mark in the snow it stepped in. These were the vestiges of those souls who had lived in Yggdrasil long before the current residents had taken over, so faint that only those who reached deeply into the spiritual reality could find them.
The vixen's entire form became ethereal, her shape shifting so it was difficult to tell whether she was a woman with vulpine tails or a spirit fox in earnest. Nemesis stopped trying to reach for Itori as instead she attempted to guard herself, but the purifying spirit shrine quickly evaporated her body, faster than it could be regenerated by the suffering she was feeding on. Struggling and grunting from effort and discomfort the miasma turned into nothingness. Kenna's darkened aura was washed clean, the black veins spreading across her body retreated back into her body. And Itori dove back into the core of her beloved, towards the core of that corruption she was driving back as quickly as she was chasing after it.
It was that same vision of that night sky, with the stars flickering and shining ever so far above. It was the vision Kenna had shown Itori where she'd argued with the corruption and defied it, striking at it even though she knew it couldn't be so easily defeated.
Nemesis was hissing in frustration, feeling how she was being pushed back into Kenna's depths despite her attempts at claiming the demoness's body for her own. The fox on the outside was using a lot more power than before, with no explanation of where it was coming from.
"Tsk! I guess I'll have to rely on the fact that she can't destroy my core without harming the dear princess as well."
"Is it safe of me to assume that with you saying that you are lacking any method of turning the tides at this point?"
Whipping her head around Nemesis stared at the spirit fox who was now seated underneat the starry sky, the many tails like ghostly flames as they were spread out behind her. "W-wait, what? How did you do that!?" Outrage and disbelief fought for dominance in her voice. "You had trouble entering her soul without hurting her before! How can you enter this depth as if you're just strolling in!?"
"Kitsune are by nature good at entering places they are not supposed to reach. I believe it is because like foxes we are by nature not always respectful of boundaries and the concept of property. But I digress. The point is that us kitsune are tricky beings." She spirit fox turned into Itori's normal appearance, except... "Including entering dreams and souls."
"I don't care about that! Hold on for a moment!" Nemesis was clearly not amused at the moment even as she counted Itori's tails. There was no mistaking it. "Seven? You only had five tails before!"
Itori nodded, her expression calm as if nothing was out of the ordinary. "Indeed. I do not know the cause for this, but unlike my kin it seems like my tails do not automatically multiply as time passes. Instead I slowly become stronger and then, when the time is right and I push myself beyond the limits, that accumulated power allows more tails to form. It is a curious phenomenon and I wish I could figure out the why." Seven white tails were spread out behind her as she looked straight at Nemesis. "But while it might not yet be at the divine level of a nine-tails, seven tails are more than enough for me to enter Kenna without harming her... and reaching this place, your true self and your core." She glanced around. "I assume that it looks like this because I have pushed us into a dreamlike representation of what lays deep inside of Kenna, and this was an important moment for her as she faced you and defied you."
"You're being remarkably talkative, you know that?" Having regained her composure Nemesis gave Itori a wicked smile. "You think that you can do as you like now that you're in here?"
"The fact that I managed to enter this realm without you noticing at first speaks volumes in that regard. I would apologize for speaking the truth, were it not for the fact that you deserve no kindness." As Itori spoke the dream holding Kenna's core began to subtly change. A song filled the air, soft but persistent and steadily growing stronger. The stars in the sky shone like diamonds, a soft breeze travelled across the wildlands. "You are a coward, a weakling and frankly your attempts at trickery are naught but what one would expect of a novice. Your core is in here, so your taunting outside was nothing more than that of a weak-hearted king presuming himself fit to spit upon peasants from his ivory tower. The moment I reached this place where you thought yourself safe you immediately became emotional, because suddenly your delusions of invincibility had been pierced. And now you yet again try to brag and boast, asserting yourself as the one in control even as with every passing second this realm stops being yours."
Snarling Nemesis summoned great black flames, misshapen and cruel as they smashed down upon the kitsune as if to crush her even before turning her into dust. Before they reached her however the tongues of twisted fire were twisted further, dispersing into a stream of butterflies that passed into the distance as Itori spoke again. "More than Kenna you are a demon. You are nothing more than malice, attempting to drag down everything else in existence because there is nothing else for you. There is no joy, no sorrow, no experience and no learning. You are pitiable, and it is time for you to disappear so Kenna can once again develop into who she wants to be without having to fear your presence inside of her."
Dashing forward Nemesis struck out towards Itori, who drew her sword and blocked the claw covered in darkness. Taking a step forward she suddenly applied enough strength to force Nemesis backwards, the sentient corruption stumbling and trying to regain her balance even as Itori placed her hands together. "I noticed that upon being purified you did not disappear, so I pushed all that is you into this dream. Inside this dream you will cease to be, purged as is my task, my duty and my desire."
"You think I'll be gone just like that! You really have your head up in your own aaaa-AAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!" Nemesis's defiant shout turned into a cry, shuddering and trembling as she couldn't move a step forward despite her best attempts. All the darkness had been gathered into her form: the starry night sky was now a picture of beauty, the black heavens like a blanket spreading out to cover the world while the stars sung the songs of a million worlds. Itori's seven tails looked like they were made of solid white essence rather than fur, their spread causing them to look like rays of white originating from Itori herself. That same white, soft light began to form around Nemesis, swirling like dancing spirits before it enveloped her completely. Nemesis's cry became fainter and fainter as if coming from a great distance that was yet becoming greater, until finally there was nothing left of her and the light disappeared as well, leaving only the dreamworld and Itori standing there with head bowed and hands pressed together as if in prayer.
When Nemesis rose from within her, taking physical form through the corruption now leaking from her being, Kenna could only watch. As relieving as it felt to have most of the corruption out of her system through this way, this was exactly the thing she'd been fearing the most. Perhaps even more than she did when losing control of herself. Nemesis’ manifestation in the material world was a first, even for the demoness, and she figured it was her lack of stamina that was to blame for it. She was truly exhausted from holding the miasma at bay so Itori could watch the past unfold; how to find its weak points and defeat it. Yet now she was forced to look upon the events unfolding before her, where she was unable to lift but a mere finger as Nemesis confronted the spiritualist. And it tore her apart. Kenna was too numb to feel the pain, and through the cracks of her consciousness and squinted eyes she was so desperately fighting to keep opened, she could only see how it grabbed the vixen by her throat. Anger roared through her veins, but she was too weak to fuel it further. ”I-Itori…” she managed to get across her lips, though it was barely loud enough to hear as is.
Weakly she tugged at her chains, which was more of her flaunting than anything else. The chains moved only partially, barely enough to make a noise, before Kenna hung back into her confinements like a rag doll. How she wanted to be able to rise and stand by her, fighting alongside one another to subdue Nemesis. Yet the tailed fox persevered against the dark embodiment, feeling how much effort she put in pushing the darkness back so it could not overtake her. If she still had the power to do so, she would've cried bitter tears at the thought, would've tried to get across that the kitsune should choose her own life above hers. But she couldn't. That last whispering was all she had left within her. And as her consciousness was fading, light making way for void, did something illuminate her being. Warmth coursed through her along with Itori's essence, ever so soothing… the next moment she lost herself to the void, her body entirely done for.
Yet when her eyes opened again she did not find herself within the void she'd been expecting. Instead Kenna found herself among the endless darkness; the starry sky above it. And she knew. However the shock of finding Itori alongside Nemesis in this particular mental part of her mind was surprising. Even more so when she noticed how the kitsune’s tailed had multiplied, now counting seven tails among them. Kenna faltered for a moment, then tried moving forward, failing to do so. Even in this dream world did the chains not relinquish their grip upon the demoness, yet they allowed her to move about minimally, floating around her like weightless strings in an underwater world. They did not feel heavy or burdening, but they kept her away from Itori as she faced Nemesis. Fear captured her heart again as she watched, unable to help or even lift a finger towards them. Subjected to her own fears yet again, she had to watch helplessly how the corruption would once again hurt those she loved. Kenna felt disgusted at her powerlessness. How she could merely watch and not act upon the threat she'd created. She hated it. Even calling out was something she couldn't do, as her voice denied service; muted. Chained. Condemned to a fate of suffering as her violent tendencies came to life within Nemesis…
Words of song filled the void with music, the night sky reacting to it with even more illuminating essence than before. The song seemed to resonate from within the fox, or so Kenna thought as she gazed upon her. Her eyes following every single movement she made. Nemesis attacked with blasts of corrupted fire, but all dispersed into beams of butterflies as Itori let her voice reign over it. Intently she listened, surprisingly in awe of what was happening in front of her, and held her breath as they clashed again, a darkened claw similar to her own Tsume spell, all being held at bay by the spiritualist's sword. Having felt it first-hand Kenna knew better than to think of it as a regular blade, knowing the power it held was far beyond her imagination. The corruption incarnate seemed to be stuck in her offence, unable to budge the seven-tailed fox in her full luminescent glory. The tails, like beams of pure white essence were mesmerizing, and for a moment made the demoness forget she was watching a battle of life and death; the princess only had eyes for the mysterious beauty radiating off the kitsune. At some point she even forgot to breathe, inhaling deeply when Nemesis got engulfed by the light, disappearing with a final cry of agony. Only Itori was left in the void as the light disappeared, but the demoness had little time to let it be like that. Her heart was beating a mile a minute, like crazy as everything dawned upon her. She was free. Freed from the corruption having held her in its grasp for so long… And she cared little for it. All she cared for was the one who'd made it all possible, and how she was fairing.
”ITORI!!!” Kenna nearly shouted, rushing over to the tailed woman, almost jumping at her as her arms wrapped around her neck in a tight hug. Her arms held her even tighter, as if to confirm she was truly there in front of her, and unharmed. The demoness’ head buried itself into the nape of her neck, as she whispered softly, her voice too emotional to speak any louder. ”I'm so glad you're okay! If anything had happened to you I… I don't…” she nearly choked on her own words as her emotions got the better of her, a few tears managing to escape the confinements of her eyes and ran down her cheek. It was no surprise that if harm had befallen her dearest friend she wouldn't have forgiven herself for it. Never. This moment alone showed her that she had to become stronger. Strong enough to protect herself and those she cared for so much, those she dared to even love. ”I'm so sorry…” she muttered against the kitsune's neck, her hot breath against her pale skin. It took her quite a few moments before she lessened her grip and let go, reluctantly, yet her hands found their way up to cup her face. Kenna smiled, a mixture of happiness and guilt visible within her crimson eyes. ”I'm so sorry I had to put you through this… but I can't thank you enough for what you've done. I'll be forever grateful and... in your debt.” She hesitated for only a moment, as if in a daze, her eyes met the vermillion ones to fall into a moment of sudden chaos in her mind, trying to place everything... And to choose the path that pulled her unto it. The demoness pulled the seven-tailed vixen towards her, kissing her lips in a short yet heated moment. Her own lips lingered for moments on hers, then moved away gracefully afterwards; unlike other times however, she did not avert her gaze at all. Finally she was starting to place those jittery feelings within her.
Time passed in the mental chamber, until the demoness slowly noted that she had to think of her physical body. ”We can stay here for a bit longer to talk, but I doubt my body will be able to once we get back out… the toll was far heavier than I'd expected.” she said, feeling how her spiritual form was starting to fade. A short smile passed her lips. ”Guess it's about time I wake up again. God knows how much time has passed out there.” Kenna grinned, grasping the kitsune's hands as she passed her by for a gentle caress. She held them softly and looked at Itori, allowing them to slide through her fingers as the remainder of her spiritual body faded back to the material world. ”I'll be waiting for you… Itori” The princess’ voice was filled with a type of affection she hadn't used in ages. She left with a funny feeling sparked within her. A happy one that lingered even when her mind surfaced again in the consciousness of her exhausted body, still slumped within the chains. At this point she knew that if she were to be released of their support she'd stumble forward and fall, heading straight for the floor.
As Itori had stated the world she and Nemesis had resided in before the corruption's ultimate demise was essentially a dreamworld inside Kenna, a metaphorical representation of the demoness's mind and soul centred on where the sentient malice was located which Itori had given shape based on the strongest memory Kenna had of that taint which had been plaguing her for so long. Things being that way it meant that in a way this was also Kenna's dream so the heiress was the world itself and an observer.
The confusing and paradoxical details aside, as Itori was purging Nemesis completely she knew that Kenna was possibly watching. Possibly because as dreams go the one dreaming is not always in a position to be fully aware of it or remember the details. her stating that she had finished the task she had set out to do had been in case Kenna was actually in the position to consciously observe, or otherwise in the hope that her friend at least received the message subconsciously before the kitsune affirmed it in the real world once she stopped mucking about in this dreamworld and got back to making sure the half-naked demon's physical self was all right.
What she hadn't been expecting was for Kenna to actually materialize inside the dream and jump at her. The materialization wasn't entirely unexpected, but the jumping definitely brought the seven-tailed fox off guard before she recovered in time to catch her beloved partner and avoid being bowled over. Shortly after which she felt strong arms nearly choke her, which wasn't necessarily a pressing issue given that inside a dream breathing wasn't always mandatory but still wasn't the most comfortable of sensations. That said she didn't immediately comment on it, instead hugging Kenna back and patting her in an attempt to calm her down and assert that the kitsune was actually doing fine. Although she wasn't sure whether to smile or frown when it was made clear just how worried the recently-cleansed dreamer had been for the spiritualist's safety.
"I appreciate the concern Kenna, but I truly am all right. While this was certainly not an easy task I did not offer to aid you without an idea of what I was getting into."
As Kenna calmed down and once again reiterated how glad she was that Itori hadn't suffered any lasting harm from the experience the kitsune did actually smile, her vermilion eyes gentle as she stared into those of her partner. "Put me through this? I was the one who offered to help you out, and I did so without expecting anything in return. I did this because I wanted to help you out Kenna, not because I was forced into it. In that same vein you do not have to worry about debt. Such a thing only holds value between those who would not voluntarily help one another out, and I believe we are well past that stage, if we ever were there to begin with."
The kiss came as something of a surprise, but at the same time not. After all, before the ritual had taken a more dramatic turn Kenna and Itori had been exchanging a lot of thoughts, feelings and memories. In a way they now knew one another as if they'd known each other for years. Which was why it only took a small moment before the kitsune reciprocated the kiss, her seven tails curling around the demoness as she tasted those passionate lips. Afterwards she met Kenna's gaze calmly but also affectionately, her tails remaining in their position around the demoness so the fiery mage was almost literally surrounded by Itori's affection and warmth.
"I had not anticipated that the corruption would force itself into the external world as it did, so I must concur that it would be best if we gave you the opportunity to rest. We can talk more after you have recovered." That said Itori wasn't planning to leave Kenna's side for as long as it took for the demoness to recover. It was very bad form to put someone in a state where they couldn't get out of bed and then not stick around until they could actually get out of bed. Even if putting them in that state was for their own good.
Watching the heiress's dream self fade away as she slowly returned to the land of the awake the vixen nodded and held her hands for as long as they remained in this dreamworld. "I will be out there with you shortly Kenna." Once her beloved had disappeared Itori looked around over the starlit field for several seconds, then closed her eyes and listened intensely. Not a single sound of discord or false notes. The corruption truly had been removed. It was a beautiful scenery, but Kenna needed her out in the external world. Changing back into a proper spirit fox she darted into the air, then somehow moved out of the dream using a method which looked a lot like stepping forward. Out in the external world, where physical and spiritual were still combined due to the spirit shrine, Itori opened her eyes and quickly got to work. Her throat had already healed so she could breathe easily. The next step was to send some energy into Kenna's body so at least she wouldn't be screaming from the agony of having the corruption force itself through her veins even as it was being burned away. The third step was to remove the chains with a swift motion, and the fourth step happened simultaneously as she wrapped her arms around the princess to help her stay upright for now.
"I suspect you were wanting to celebrate once you were free from the corruption, but given the circumstances you will have to settle for being able to sleep soundly. I could replenish your energy reserves so you could move about as if you were well rested, but quite often the best way to deal with exhaustion is the natural way, albeit with a little bit of help here and there."
Unless Kenna had any objections to make the kitsune would quickly get the demoness over to her bed.
Returning to the consciousness of her own body was a strange thing she couldn't quite put into words. In regular situations it'd feel like waking up after a deep slumber, not realising one had fallen asleep, whereas for Kenna it felt like she'd been slammed into a wall and just bounced back from it. The shock of returning lasted for only a feeble second before the fatigue and exhaustion started dominating her mind and body again, every single inch of her body unable to keep itself upright. Weakly she let her gaze wander around her, seeing how the shrine Itori had erected still stood tall within the pillars. The chains too were still taut, and probably the only thing keeping her from collapsing unto the floor. She was fairly certain that none of her muscles could bear the weight of her body at this point, every single ounce of power had been sapped from her being during the purification ritual, and she was actually surprised that her mind was able to remain awake despite it all. But like her heart, she knew it was merely waiting. Waiting for Itori to reappear again from the depths of her mind… a blush crept upon her cheeks as she was reminded of the sudden kiss she'd planted upon the kitsune's lips. But fate didn't give her much time to linger on it, as the numbness in her body disappeared and made way for stinging pain; the pain of the last corruption being overtaken by the kitsune's light within her veins. It burnt, and Kenna found herself falling into a nigh-crippling sensation of pain yet again.
Yet before the first scream could force itself across her lips a hand touched her frame; it felt warm, soft and exerted a feeling immediately putting her at ease. And with it, the demoness could feel how the sensation ran through her body, filling her veins until all the worst pain had been swapped with a soothing warmth… she knew who this was. Softly Kenna pushed into the palm, wanting to feel more of it when it suddenly disappeared, just as suddenly as the chains keeping her upright. The demoness stumbled forward, expecting a free-fall to the floor, but found herself supported by a pair of arms wrapped around her tightly, keeping her upright. Her heartbeat took it up a notch, a mixture of happiness due to Itori being back, and nervousness due to being so close to her. Kenna had no will to fight it, and if she had to be completely honest, she wouldn't even if she could. Had she had to strength to wrap her own arms around the spiritual fox she would’ve, but the demoness knew she lacked the power to even do that. All she could usher was a smile, reflected within the tired eyes that gazed up at the kitsune, a soft, longing “hi” whispered at her.
When Itori said she could help her with the fatigue, but that it was for the best if she just slept it off, Kenna nodded weakly and leant back down against the kitsune's chest, her words ever so silent. ”That's… right… just… sleeping…” she muttered, fighting to keep her eyes opened. Objection was the last thing on her mind when she was scooped up by the kitsune, who showed a lot more physical strength than the demoness had anticipated, or even expected. As she was being carried over to her bed, did the demoness’ mind wonder. Her every thought was meant and spent on Itori as she felt her heartbeat against her skin, disregarding that the kitsune could sneak a peek if she so much as wanted to. She wanted to know more about Itori, more than just through flashbacks of memories she probably wasn't supposed to see, but told by the kitsune herself. Shared. After today she’d seen even more sides of the white-haired vixen that had been kept from her than ever before, and it had intrigued her. Far more than they should've. An interest towards her sparked even further than it had been in the past. They'd met in the most unlikely of ways, pointing swords at one another. Started becoming friendly towards one another as time passed, and their trust for one another grew solid as they went out on official missions together. And with today's events added to it, the demoness honestly didn't know anymore…
What had been planted with the beginning of that trust had started blooming, and it scared the demoness. Years prior she wouldn't have expected seeing herself feeling like this again… yearning for something she had convinced herself was not meant for her; love. Kenna did not want to believe that hers was a dreary path, figuring that with Itori's lifespan she too had had to say goodbye to many a loved ones. But perhaps the difference there was that unlike Itori, none of her loved ones had met a natural death. It was that which scared her. Love again, when the chance was high that death was lingering around the corner to take it from her once more? She'd rather stay along if that were the case, even at the expense of her own happiness. But at this point, Kenna could no longer ignore her feelings for the kitsune… especially not after having felt the same affection from Itori. She wanted to do more to her than just kiss, and most-likely would have given it a shot weren't it for the current situation and her lack of stamina. Instead it had left her to think. And thinking, in her case, was not a good thing.
The soft fluff of her bed pulled her focus back towards reality, where Itori had laid her down to get some rest. Kenna had been too tired to undo her demonic form, and even more so to move herself any further to get comfortable. At this point just laying down with the freedom of her arms and legs was comfortable enough, so that didn't matter much. Her fight against staying awake had become harder, her eyelids heavy upon her eyes, and her mind slowly slipping back into the unconsciousness of the world of sleep. Her hand found its way towards the kitsune's sleeve and her fingers grasped for it, holding on for dear life. ”Don’t go…” she said, her eyes begging. She was losing her fight to stay awake. Even if she couldn't make up her mind just yet about what to do with her feelings for her dearest friend, she did know one thing; when she would wake again, she wanted to see Itori with her. Moments later Kenna’s crimson eyes fell shut, giving in to the accumulated fatigue. Her fingers never let go of Itori's sleeve.
As Itori had expected the ritual had completely drained Kenna's reserves, to the point she could feel the lack of energy in the demoness's muscles the moment she wrapped her arms around the princess. It wasn't surprising, given what had just transpired: an ancient curse which had buried itself deep within Kenna had been purged absolutely despite its attempts at taking over the demoness and consuming her body. That wasn't the kind of thing you just shrugged off, no matter how tough you were.
On the other hand it looked like otherwise the fire mage was in good condition: exhaustion aside there weren't any signs of lasting damage, and mentally she also was sound. Itori smiled back at her, a soft smile as she stroked the lustrous white hair that flowed all the way to Kenna's waist. "Hello." It was a little thing, a single word exchanged between the two of them, but the kitsune was aware that it signified a lot more. That the two of them were once more in the external realm, able to greet each other calmly, was the final confirmation needed that the corruption had been removed for good. And beyond that it was a way of indirectly affirming each other's affection, in a way that nobody but the two of them would have been able to realize.
Itori wasn't very vocal about her own thoughts and feelings. She didn't think of herself as some emotionless stoical person: she smiled and laughed and grieved and showed all kinds of emotions. However on a certain level those were always only the surface layer emotions. The deeper feelings were buried deep within, ancient and complex beyond what most people would be able to perceive or perhaps even understand. She could be with someone for their entire lifespan, supporting them through all challenges and hardships and sharing in their joys, and at the end when their spirit departed for the afterlife they'd admit that on some level they still didn't know who Itori was on the inside. She didn't know if that was an inevitable side effect of living for such a long time or if that was just her personality, to simultaneously be open and friendly while at the same time entering and leaving people's lives like a ghost.
But this time around those hidden thoughts had been found. It had been accidental, unintentional, but during the ritual just like Itori had been able to sense Kenna's thoughts and feelings the reverse was also true, even if near the end Itori had figured out how to hide her thoughts once more. And in those depths there was the feeling of affection the kitsune held for her beloved friend. She was sure that Kenna had come across that sensation, the same way that the seven-tailed fox had sensed Kenna's affection. Unless the both of them were willing to pretend for the rest of their lives there was little use hiding that awareness, and the fact that the two of them were strongly attracted to one another.
Today wasn't the correct day to talk about it, as the demoness needed to rest, but Itori knew that they would have to talk about how to proceed from this point on. Neither of them bothered to hide their affection at this point, so she had a good idea of how things would proceed... well, maybe that was a concern for another time. The kitsune hadn't been the one whose body and soul had turned into a battleground, but despite her tough exterior she'd also gone through a lot today. Rest might be beneficial for the both of them.
She was aware that she could have gazed upon Kenna's body right now if she wished, but the kitsune was nothing if not dedicated to taking care of Kenna's well-being. So rather than letting her own desires dictate her actions she carefully put her beloved in bed and made sure she was comfortable. As beautiful as the white-haired demoness was right now wasn't the time for that either.
Feeling her sleeve be pulled upon Itori gave Kenna a confused look, then when the princess begged her to stay she smiled and sat down next to the bed. "You do not have to worry about that Kenna. I shall remain for as long as you need me." She deftly freed her sleeve from Kenna's hold, but then interwove her own fingers with those of the fiery maiden. Holding the purified beauty's hand she sat there silently, vermilion eyes gentle as they watched over Kenna while she drifted off to sleep. Itori herself would stay awake, waiting and guarding. She contemplated stepping inside the princess's dreams, but decided that at least for tonight it would be better if Kenna was alone with whatever dreams she was going to have.