A Tail’s Misfortune — Chapter Fifty-Eight: The Image Behind The Eye

POV: Sora (the daughter of Mia; Inari’s niece; Fox 3rd Gen Founder)

Recap: Sora dropped off Emilia to the safety of the others while she goes to find Kari to gather everyone. After her encounter with Shadow, she’s feeling like a new Vulpes!

The cool breeze ambled through the town, gently pulling at Sora’s hair while she wandered the cobblestone streets at a swift pace.  Her eyes drifted as she followed Kari’s scent, doing her best to keep her senses sharp for danger, but still allowing herself to catch the beauty of the landscape she passed.

A rope tugged at her heart as she glanced between the houses, streets, and people moving along their chores; the scene reminded her of Italy when her dad had sent for her to join him on a mini-vacation when he was doing some consulting in the country.

She’d been just about to turn thirteen at the time, just before Kari started bullying her, and she had a blast with her father.  Even then, she’d only seen him for a couple of weeks out of the year, and she relished every minute of it.

Tingles shot down her spine and tail, and she released a quick sigh.  Dad will be okay … I mean, goddesses are looking for him.  Yet … if Inari and my mom still haven’t found him, then how bad is that?  Didn’t they say on that one detective show that if they aren’t found in a certain amount of time, then it’s likely you’ll never see them again?

Her tongue slid over her lips before she bit the inside of her cheeks, lightly nibbling on it.  No, it won’t do any good worrying about it … I need to focus on fixing the situation we’re in.  Get everyone together and come up with a real plan this time, even if that means going to the Capital ourselves.  We need to first take care of our problems before even thinking about fixing someone…

Sora’s green irises widened as she was pulled out of her mind by enthusiastic voices, ears stiffening and shifting to her left.  Following the noise, she saw two single-tailed Vulpes running toward her; one had gray fur while the other had a dirty brown tint.

The one that had brown fur stopped a few feet away, showing slightly crooked teeth as she smiled.  “Lady Sora!  My name is Joana”  She bowed, causing Sora’s legs to tense, and the woman next to her followed her example.

“My name is Penal,” the gray furred Vulpes added.

Penal?  It sounds so close to Pannel … who would name someone like that?

“Okay,” Sora mumbled, forcing a smile; she noticed that they were getting a lot of attention from the surrounding humans and Vulpes.  “Umm … what can I do for you, Penal, Joana?”

“We just wanted to meet the High Goddess Sora, daughter of the High Goddess Mia, and niece to the High Goddess Inari!”

Ho-boy, umm … what’s going on?  Do you have any ideas, High Goddess?

Her aunt’s chuckle unnerved her.  “They’re fans.  Why that is and how they discovered your origins and our family is what you should focus on.”

Thanks for pointing out the obvious…

“Anytime, dear!”

Both women held their closed fists close to their chests, pressing in their white dresses as their tails swished back and forth; they appeared to be waiting for something.

“Umm … can I help you?”  Sora hesitantly asked.

“Oh, yes, please!”  Penal said with a deep sigh of relief.

Joana bowed again before responding, but her tail was still going wild.  “Yes, High Goddess; we seek your blessing as we return to the fields!”

“My … blessing,” Sora slowly repeated.  “Uh-huh … eh, is there anything in particular that you were expecting as a blessing?”

“Anything,” Penal smiled with tears gathering in her eyes.  “We’ve heard so much about the High Goddesses!  We wish to follow you forever—if you would have such lowly Vulpes as us,” she asked with a hopeful tone that bordered on desperate.

Sora’s ears twitched, causing the two women’s brows to crease with concern, and she heard whispers around the area.

“She’s a High Goddess?”

“What is a High Goddess?”

“Are they more powerful than The Council?”

“Perhaps … The Council are just Goddesses, not High Goddesses.”

“What is a High Goddess doing here?”

“I don’t know.”

“Is she not going to bless them?”

“It looks like she might be a little annoyed.”

“Should Penal and Joana be even speaking to a High Goddess?”

“Oh, you’re right.”

“How improper.”

Licking her lips, Sora clasped her hands together at her front before reinforcing her smile.  “If you could give me a moment, Penal and Joana.  I need to meditate on this.”

“Oh, of course,” Joana said with a deep bow, and Penal followed her action.

“Yes, if we have been rude, then please let us know.”

“No, no,” Sora assured.  “It’s no trouble.  I just need a moment.”

Closing her eyes, Sora entered The Outer Body Technique to find her aunt waiting in an armchair, clearly amused by her expression.

“What in the heck is this about?”  Sora asked with a heavy sigh, summoning a chair of her own.  “Two Vulpes come running up, asking for my blessing, and now it’s looking like they’ll be socially shunned for it!  It’s crazy … just—just out of nowhere.”

Her aunt just giggled, lips curved slightly as she watched her.

“What—am I missing something?  I just … I don’t want to be some goddess that people flock to!”

“Why?”  Inari asked with a soft tone, arms lying atop her long white tails.  “There are many people that have power fantasies about just an occasion.”

“I don’t want power,” Sora growled, scratching her left fox ear with agitation.  “I just want to be left alone, but somehow I always stick out … wait, it’s because I’m a Founder, isn’t it?”

Inari gave her a weak shrug.  “In part.”

“Oh, my … is there anything…”   She paused, a smile brightening her cheeks.  “I can just make myself invisible!”

“That’s only a temporary fix, dear,” Inari chuckled.  “Eventually, you’ll need to reveal yourself, and people will worship you even if you’re not around.”

Sora went silent, sucking on her lower lip while thinking about her aunt’s words.

People will worship me even if I’m not around … crap, she’s right.  There are a ton of gods that I’ve never heard of, though, or that were lost in history.  Those ones all wanted to be fawned over in the first place, though.  I don’t want that at all.

Glancing up at her aunt’s cheeks, Sora glared at the three thin marks resembling whiskers, releasing a low growl.  “Okay, but I’m not like all those other gods in history … how do I stop it, then?”

Her aunt sighed before unfolding her legs and rising to her feet; her nine long tails smoothly fanned to her back and taking on the appearance of a single thick tail while walking to the edge of the circle to stare off into the blackness.

“You’re being a bit hasty in your judgment, dear.  Some people are born with power, Sora, be that money, influence, or the real ability to shape existence to their will, and there will be those that admire or resent you for that.  As I explained, equity is not a product of reality.

“Everyone has something that you do not; jealousy and envy will follow you wherever you go, but so will admiration and hope.  Your dad made a lot of money, and people looked at him differently because of it; some wished to learn how to achieve the same while others cried out for a piece in the pot without lifting a finger.

“Do you think I wish to be worshiped by numberless creatures spanning time and realms?  No, I share the same sympathies as you, my dear niece, but it is what I’ve had to grow accustomed to over millions of years.

“People will bug you, and yes, even cause you to hate them; it is the price of those with power to be self-conscious because if you do not, then you open yourself up to potential harm.”

“I get that,” Sora mumbled, leaning back in her chair.  “The whole Spidey Speech, with great power comes great responsibility.”

Inari giggled, turning around to stare at her with a knowing look in her orange eyes.  “Not necessarily.  That’s a statement that puts the burden of responsibility on one party alone; it is not your duty to tell people how to live, and many gods don’t, but the weak come on their hands and knees all the same.

“Look at Gong-Gong for an example.  It is not a requirement for those in power to take liability, but it is good advice.  There are rules even Founders are bound by, and that is cause and effect.  There is always someone with more power, and if you tread recklessly, then that will cause a chain reaction that will come back to bite you in the tail.”

Sora’s green eyes slid down to her tail, lying across her lap, and her aunt’s words made it twitch.  She’s totally still upset with my choice.  “Yeah … I don’t like things latching onto my tail, but does this connect back to my current problem?  I just don’t want people looking at me like some golden ticket.”

Inari folded her hands behind her back, sliding them under her long hair.  “But of course, any good discussion will address multiple things at the same time and extend far into the future.  

“You will have a massive following of devout creatures looking for your help and guidance; it’s a reality, dear, and people create their own gods to fill that niche if none appeal to them.

“To some, that’s greed, envy, and jealousy; the poor and weak will often reach out to the rich and strong, shirking their responsibilities to demand others carry their miserable little lives for them.  They do not wish others to tell them how to live but have no issue telling those that have achieved success on how to govern their wealth.  The hypocrisy is overwhelming.”

Sora’s brow creased, and she pulled her feet up, leaning against the side of the armchair.  “Don’t you offer advice and help to others, though?”

Her aunt smirked.  “Come, now, Sora.  I create gatherings for others to seek me out; I do not tell those with power or money how they should live their lives but offer an opportunity for those that seek my advice to come.  I give people a platform by which they can state their case, but I am not some charity for those too feeble and weak-willed to take advantage of me.  My help requires something in return.”

“Like with Fen, I guess,” Sora whispered.  “You gave her the chance to follow your advice, right?  That’s what the white tail was for … it was a condition.”

“Everything has a sacrifice that must be paid by someone,” Inari replied, head tilting to look up at the light above them.  “Nothing is free in this world, and it is by your own whim that others can take part in your bounty.

“If you do not wish to give something up, then don’t.  There are only three methods anyone can use to get something from you, force, negotiation, and begging; worship generally falls into the begging party, but not always.  There is a reason most religions that survive the ages have a strong emphasis on sacrifice.”

Sora ran her hands through her long copper hair, pulling it over her shoulder while thinking back on some of the things Inari had said in the past.  “If I give them a blessing, then I’m sacrificing my energy to them.  There’s no trade, it’s just a parasitic relationship, and they’re not giving up anything to get it.”

“You could see it that way,” Inari agreed.

“I don’t want to keep giving and giving,” she sighed.  “I learned how bad things could get with Mimi, and while I still think I’d do it … it can’t be for nothing.  I have my own issues to deal with … every time I try to do something for someone, more problems fall on my plate.”

“Mhh,” Inari mused, turning to face her.  “People are often very greedy and only think about themselves.  They don’t believe that the rich or powerful have their own struggles, just as much as the poor and weak.

“Everyone has their issues they are trying to overcome, and you cannot compare them so easily.  You have not walked in their shoes, and they have not done the same for you, yet, people judge, and they will judge you.  It’s a part of the brain that was developed as a process of survival.”

Sora stared down at her lap, thinking back to the humans and Vulpes around her, and how they all came up with their own reasons for her reservations in granting Penal and Joana’s desire.  “Damned if I do and damned if I don’t,” she muttered.

“Such is the curse of life,” Inari chuckled.

“If I blessed them, then I’d get a ton of people wanting more … it’d become endless.  Unless—unless they had to sacrifice to get it.  So, some people will see me as a cruel Goddess because I require something?”

“Aren’t there already people that have such notions in the Human Realm?”  Inari mused.  “Winners and losers, workers and beggars, and everything in between.  Do people hate giving things up?  Would they rather party and have someone else take the risk for them?”

“Yeah … a load of people.”  Sora swallowed the lump that formed in her throat.  “I just hate having power.”

“As I said, it’s a curse,” Inari whispered.  “However, it also comes with many blessings.  Yet, for someone like Diogenes, being poor and living with nothing was the goal of life.  Don’t rely on your own philosophy or mine, but take it in from all sources, and mold something unique that you can live with.

“There is a price to a set of beliefs, and that is social structure; few will have the same morals as you, and because of that, there will be conflict.  If you are too rigid, then you will be left alone, yet too lax, and you lose your identity and are a puppet to those with stronger wills than your own.  Choose carefully, my little niece, and first find out if you need to make these decisions this moment.

“People’s lives change on a grand scale by even a simple decision made in the present as that one event ripples out into existence to haunt you forevermore.  That is how Aiden’s ability functions, and look at the effect such power has had on beings such as myself.”

Sora released a frustrated groan, scratching her arm with irritation.  “Man, every time I talk with you, it’s either so intense that I feel like the world’s ending or utterly silly!”

“Reality reflects that statement; we must make time for fun, but consequences are always knocking with an ax at the door, and if you don’t resolve those issues that come calling, then they’ll break through eventually.  If you are not prepared, the result isn’t pretty, and those with experience or wisdom foresee it.”

Closing her eyes, Sora blocked out everything to think about her circumstance.  I don’t really even know how to bless these women.  I could look into their Cores to figure it out, but I’ve tried to keep my distance from invading people’s privacy … I guess I’ll follow your advice.

Releasing the Outer Body Technique, Sora gave both women a smile, knowing a very short time had passed.  “If you could follow me, then I’d like to speak with you for a moment; I’ll give us some privacy.”  She said, glancing back at the crowd before waving at them and spinning a web of invisibility around them.

Joana and Penal watched the groups of Vulpes and humans around them with wide eyes as the onlookers started mumbling about them vanishing.

“W-We are not worthy!”  Joana stammered, brown hair obscuring her face as she bowed even lower, and Penal couldn’t even seem to find her tongue.

“So,” Sora chuckled nervously.  “Can you please tell me who told you I was a Goddess?  Oh, and please don’t bow to me.”

Joana swallowed, rising hesitantly before pulling back her hair.  “Umm—it was your—your great Herald.”

“Uh-huh,” Sora’s vision narrowed.  “My great … Herald,” she muttered, focus sliding to Penal as she straightened, anxiously taming her own hair.  “This Herald is the two-tailed Vulpes named Fen, correct?”

“Yes, my Lady,” Joana said, bowing again.

“No, no more bowing,” Sora said, causing both women to freeze in confusion.  “Umm … what did she tell you?”

Both Vulpes looked at each other with concern before saying, “We were not a part of the first supper with the great Herald, but we heard about The Inner Brotherhood.”

Sora’s jaw set.  Fen!  What in the … why the crap are you causing me problems?  No, this is just like you!  Shadow was right; I’ve been too soft.  Another issue to add to the lake that’s building up.

“A-Are you angry with us?”  Penal asked with worry.

Joana’s legs locked, pressing together as she forced a hard lump down her throat.  “We’re—we didn’t mean to draw your wrath.”

Trying to erase the anger on her face, Sora took a deep breath before letting it out.  “No, it’s not you.  I’m not here to be a substitute Goddess for the Vulpes Council, and Fen’s just causing me a ton of…”

She trailed off as both Penal, and Joana looked at each other with bright-eyed understanding, and Joana nodded fervently.  “Yes, we totally understand, Lady Sora!”

“We will not let you down, and we are so thankful for your blessing!”  Penal replied with another swift bow before they both ran off, leaving Sora slack-jawed.

What was that?

“They seemed like nice girls.”

No, really, what was that?  I didn’t bless them … like at all.  I told them that I couldn’t.

She washed away the illusion surrounding the two and noticed a few humans and single-tailed Vulpes run after them with similar bright looks on their faces as they appeared.

Something’s not right with all this.  What did Fen do to them?  I didn’t sense any of her charms or magic on them.

“No, and she wouldn’t have the strength or knowledge to cause a drastic change in someone’s personality.”

Then what did she do?

“I’d say this calls for some investigation, but will it trump your original goal?”

Sucking on her lower lip, Sora shook her head.  No, no, I have enough things distracting me right now.  First, I’ll get Kari; then I’ll go get Aiden and Nathan.  We need to get everyone back together and figure a way out of this mess.

“I look forward to it!”

It must be great knowing most things about the future…

“A curse, really,” Inari whispered.  “Knowing exactly how things will change if I so much as mutter a single word … such small things can destroy someone’s life.”

Sora pursed her lips and breathed out a long sigh before continuing on her journey, keeping her illusions active to not draw attention.  The new issue was people trying to run her over, well, to her it seemed that way, but she knew they couldn’t see her.

She dodged around carts and groups of Vulpes as they went along their daily lives, following Kari’s scent.  It led her to a rock where she’d spent some time, and it was here that she paused.

A lump dropped down her throat as she sniffed the air.  Nilly … why do I smell Nilly?

“Yes … why is Nilly here with Kari?”  Her aunt’s tone was disconcerting.

Sora glanced around at the groups of people milling about, carrying baskets and hauling carts, acting as if there wasn’t an issue in the world while a First Generation Founder had stood in this place not an hour earlier.

You can’t tell me you didn’t see this coming?

“I did not,” her aunt whispered with a serious tone.  “This is not supposed to happen.  If you could hurry, dear.  It would be prudent to catch up to Kari and discover Nilly’s purpose in visiting her.  Something doesn’t smell right here … Kari was terrified of something; you should be able to sense it.”

Now that her aunt pointed it out, she could; the hormones that lingered in the air were of fear.  Sliding her teeth over her lips, Sora licked them before taking off her flats and breaking into a run.

She followed Kari’s trail out of town and into the grove, zig-zagging through trees.

What was she doing?  No, wait … there’s another scent we’re following.  It smells like a human man, and there are a few others with him.

“That isn’t nearly as important as Nilly’s arrival and disappearance.  She did not have a scent trail but simply appeared out of nowhere before vanishing shortly after, and there was another person there … someone you don’t have the expertise to detect.  Something’s gone wrong.”

What?  Who was it, The Herald of Sakura?  She’s supposed to be here, right?

“I doubt even she could have been a part of that conversation with Kari.  Things are about to get really complicated.”

No … please, no more complications.  Sora groaned, wind throwing back her hair as her bare feet pressed into the compact dirt, propelling herself along Kari’s path.

“I wish I could tell you otherwise, but this is a serious miscalculation on my part.  I missed something … something important, and it could have been in the works for ages.”

Dreading what was to come, Sora followed Kari’s scent to a large building and hopped up the sides of the alley to the roof.  She was here for a while … she only left a little bit ago.

She jumped back down to the road, running down two streets until she spotted her target.  “Kari!”

Kari turned, brow furrowed as she squinted at her.  “Sora?”  She muttered.  “Why are you so … you’re using illusions to make yourself invisible?”

“Oh, sorry!”  Sora chuckled, breathing out a few puffs of air to ease her pumping heart.  “Umm, what’s going on?”  She glanced around her at a group of three men as they laughed, walking into a large building that appeared to have carts inside.  “Is that the group you’ve been following?”

Kari’s cheeks puffed to the side as she scratched her shoulder-length black hair.  “I guess you could say … jeez, fine, I’ll tell her,” she growled.

Sora bit her lower lip for a second at the flash of annoyance that spread across Kari’s face.  “Tell me what?”

“Yeah, sorry, but your aunt says she needs you to bring us into the Outer Body Technique.  Somethin’ about it being real important.”

You were right…

“If you could hurry, Sora; every second counts.”

Taking another deep breath, Sora closed her eyes and tried to synchronize with Kari, guiding her into her Core.  When they appeared, Sora was a little taken-aback by who she found in her Core.

There were two of her aunt, a new woman, and Kari, all standing around her bright inner circle.

“Umm … who’s that?”  Sora nervously asked, looking at the beautiful woman clothed in wolf pelts standing beside Kari.  She was wearing a pleasant smile and held her hands at her front; she was slightly taller than the already six-foot-tall Fenris Wolf beside her.

“Well,” the woman nudged Kari with her shoulder.  “Aren’t you going to introduce me?”

“Yeah, eh, Sora,” Kari muttered with a slight blush.  “This is my mom, Alva.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you!  Your aunt has told me so much about you.”  Alva said with a bright tone.

Sora decided to call the Inari beside her Aunt One and the Inari beside Alva Aunt Two.

Aunt One shot a glare at Aunt Two, making Sora swallow; she’d rarely seen that expression on Inari’s face.  “What happened?”

“It is something that I’d rather merge with you to explain.”

“That comes with many risks; I do not know if you have been tampered with.”

“Indeed, but it is the only way for you to proceed, which is not ideal.  I understand your reluctance with the knowledge you currently possess; this does seem quite suspicious.”

“It is needed,” Alva stated, amber eyes becoming serious as she shifted to stare at her aunt.

It was at this point that things started to become more tense as Alva and both her aunts shifted to look at her, eyes widening, and after a second, she realized they weren’t looking at her.

Sora turned around, lips becoming dry; there was someone new in her Core, and this was someone she couldn’t easily forget.  A woman was sitting in a comfortable armchair that had belonged to the hotel lobby back in Miami Beach.

The elegantly designed parasol and closed paper fan were in the same position as the first time she’d seen the woman.  Her thin fingers wrapped in black silk gloves with strange designs still held a newspaper, yet this one’s symbols were different, showing a foreign language.

She wore the same black slit dress and mob cap with a large black bow tied around the crown; her bleach blonde hair was tied into several locks with thin black ribbons, and her waist had the black non-reflecting belt she’d seen before.  Her dress was layered, folding around her curved form to display her hourglass figure.

The woman crossed her legs in the opposite direction, drawing Sora’s focus to her bare feet, clothed in black four-inch ankle criss cross-strap stilettos.  Even inside her Core, the woman appeared to be cut out of reality and pasted back.

A light smile touched the woman’s full lips, and she proceeded to neatly fold the article before setting it on her lap.  Her features still gave her the impression of someone in their late twenties to early thirties.

“Sekhmet,” both her aunts muttered, eyes like daggers.

The woman’s head rose slightly, purple irises sweeping the group as both her aunts fell silent, waiting for the intruder to speak.

Sekhmet brought her paper fan up to the left corner of her lips with a mischievous grin as her amused purple eyes surveyed them.  “Oh, dear, I did not mean to intrude; that was such an entertaining conversation, Inari.  The little banter between your two constructs was fun to listen to, but I must say that this little conversation you’re about to have has more than piqued my interest.”

She glanced between her aunt’s constructs with a light hum.  “I’m sure Alva and your counterpart were well aware that I’d make an appearance.”

Sora feels cold chills run down her spine as the information clicked in her head.  “Y-You’re the Herald of Sakura?”

The Herald’s focus flicked to her.  “That, I am.  It’s my pleasure to finally speak with you, Sora.  You might say I have a bit of a history with your family.  Now, why don’t we skip past all this nonsense and get down to business?

“I make it my profession to know what is happening on the board, but this has me questioning many events.  Why did Frankenstein and Nilly show up here, and to you, dear Kari?  I’m usually up-to-date on such details, but this is … concerning.  Oh, and let’s all get along; I know we’ve had our differences in the past.”


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A Tail’s Misfortune — Chapter Fifty-Six: The Inner Brotherhood
A Tail’s Misfortune — Chapter Fifty-Nine: Revelation