POV: Sora (the daughter of Mia; Inari’s niece; Fox 3rd Gen Founder)
Recap: Sora found Kari and upon request from the Intelligent Construct of Inari inside Kari, Sora brought Kari into her Core. Sekhmet, The Herald of Sakura, has suddenly appeared without warning, putting everyone on edge.
Sora glanced back at her aunt’s two constructs as they sighed, and the one next to her said, “Very well, I’ve seen enough. Let us fuse.”
The two constructs shimmered before vanishing, and her aunt appeared beside her, orange irises slits as she glared down at the floor, hands behind her back.
Kari’s growl brought everyone’s focus on her. “Okay, can we get this over with? Whatever you all have scheming is too complicated for me. Cut past all the crap and just give it to us straight.”
Sekhmet chuckled while tilting her head, long blonde locks shifting against her shoulders. “My, Alva, your daughter reminds me of your father.”
“Yes, I could see the truth in that,” Alva chuckled softly before turning her amber irises on Sora. “I understand that you have much on your mind, Sora, and so does my daughter. She’s been fuming for a bit now.”
“Fuming?” Kari glared at Sekhmet. “More like fighting a migraine, and now there’s even more crap to deal with.”
“Right, right,” Sekhmet’s lush hum drew everyone’s eyes. “Sora, why don’t you conjure a chair for Kari and yourself so that we may sit. There are many important events to identify.”
Inari smoothly sat in her own chair that appeared behind her, seamlessly folding her long white tails across her lap. “Is that right? Tell me, Sekhmet, why have you revealed yourself in this form? I have not seen you like this in … oh, over three-hundred thousand years, I believe.”
Sora took a long breath before sitting down in her own chair, creating a duplicate for Kari and Alva. “Why is my life so convoluted?” She muttered.
Sekhmet unfolded her paper fan, hiding her lips. “That would have to do with your mother. She so wished to have a child, and you are reaping the history of your family.”
Her purple irises shifted to Inari, left ankle swishing back and forth in the air while the others took their seats. “Yes, Inari, since this is the only physical form that I can manifest, it is rare to see it. Therefore, you know just how important this is to me.”
“Oh?” Inari smirked, eyes narrowing. “Why are you so interested in my niece? You wouldn’t tell me before, but I have leverage now, and information is not cheap.”
Sora’s green irises moved back to the blonde-haired woman, or at least, she was in the form of a woman.
Kari just took a deep breath before settling into her seat, folding her arms and closing her eyes while leaning into the side of her chair. Sora knew her irritated face, and she was getting to her limit; she was reaching her own.
Sekhmet’s eyes never left her aunt. “Have you not already spoken with Mia? What can I do if she has not revealed that information?”
Kari growled impatiently. “Get on with it! You’re all millions of years old; is it impossible to say what’s on your mind in a few seconds and be done with it?”
The purple-eyed woman’s red lips revealed a pout as her fan dropped, and her irises shifted to Alva. “Your daughter takes the fun out of everything, Alva.”
“Hello,” Kari snarled, leaning forward. “I’m right here; you can talk to me if you have something to say!”
Alva chuckled, but her amber eyes were slits. “I agree with my daughter and Inari. It is by your own design that information has a price, and there is much Sora and Kari wish to discuss themselves.”
“Perfect!” Sekhmet’s fan snapped shut. “Then, while the little pups play, we can have a real discussion.”
“No,” Sora flatly rejected the proposal, tired of all the cloak and dagger; yet, she knew that if she were in a more playful mood, then this would interest her. “I know, Sekhmet,” she sighed.
“Know?” She replied innocently.
Sora scratched the side of her ears as they twitched with irritation. “I know all of my problems seem trivial to you, maybe not even worth noticing. You’ve seen all the possibilities, and my aunt, and Kari’s mom both have seen it, too. You also know that I’d likely say this and are just playing this little drama.”
“Right?” Kari muttered.
“My head is spinning, right now,” Sora groaned, pulling her long copper hair around before leaning against the side of her chair. “I won’t pretend to know what it’s like to be millions upon millions of years old because I’m not. I’m sixteen, aunt Inari … what were you all doing when you were sixteen years old?”
The three powerful beings’ vision fell to the white floor in front of them, small reminiscent smiles on their lips, but they didn’t speak in the short gap she left, and so she continued.
“As I said … you three already know that I’m going to say this, which means everything before this was all some grand game of puppeteering while you each tried to plan numberless moves ahead. I’m not like that, and I doubt any of you were at my age.
“I know this chess game you’re playing is important … I do, but for once,” Sora closed her green irises before taking a calming breath, “just for this once, can we look at my problems and come up with some solutions?”
“I’d love that,” Alva said with a soft tone, crossing her legs while giving her a patient look.
Inari pulled her own long white hair around to her front, combing through it with a reserved smile. “Yes, Sora. I know you’ve had it rough.”
Sekhmet shrugged weakly before giggling. “Honestly, you’re using that word, Inari? I wouldn’t necessarily call it rough, but I suppose that comes with experience.”
“Why are you so rude, huh?” Kari growled. “You want me to hate you?”
“I’m more of a practicalist, my little wolf,” Sekhmet replied. “I’m not entirely concerned with what might be and more focused on taking steps to get to where I want to be.”
“That’s a good start,” Sora replied, opening her eyes to pet her two long copper furred tails. “My goals three weeks ago were very clear. I wanted to get out from under Kari’s heel.”
Kari’s legs tightened, and she rubbed her left arm, vision falling to the floor. “Sorry,” she whispered.
Sora smiled compassionately. “I understand, now, Kari, and I get it. I’m just saying that was my ultimate goal in life. I wanted to be free from letting fear run every thought in my mind, and in just three weeks … it feels like months. There were some funky time stretches, but in reality, back at school, less than three weeks have passed … give me some time to process that.”
She went silent, and to her relief, no one interrupted her; the ensuing silence felt like a refreshing bath as she let it soak around her. “As I said, I get it, this is important, and I want to know about this stuff, too, but there’s too many things happening for me to follow. I need to resolve some things before moving into something new, or my head’s going to explode.
“I just learned I was a Vulpes, and not days after, my dad was ripped out of my grasp … I’m worried about him … really worried.” She paused, heart aching while thinking back on her aunt’s words. Information isn’t cheap … that’s the biggest thing I want to know.
Turning her green irises back to Sekhmet, she asked, “I know my aunt wants to know about why you’re involved in my life, and I want to, too, but … I’m bouncing around so much, but there’s just so much pressing in on me … my aunt probably spoke about this to make me think this way in the first place…”
Inari’s smile fell a little as she sat back, folding her hands on her tails. “Go ahead, dear. No need to hold back.”
“Sometimes,” Sora whispered, “I feel like everything you guys do … Gloria, you, Sekhmet, Nilly, even my mom … I suppose Stephanie and Ron are in that boat, too … everything you do isn’t really about me. It’s all about some future me or event, and I’m just a puppet you’re all playing to get there.”
Alva sighed, looking up at the light in the sky. “You’re not entirely wrong about that, Sora. It’s something we must constantly remind ourselves … well, at least I do. Sekhmet has never been too concerned about such concepts. Primordials consider but rarely internalize the actions of others; although, you’re not entirely a Primordial anymore.”
Sekhmet’s smirk grew. “Who was it that started our age-old war in the first place?”
“It’s more complicated than that,” Inari growled.
“Perhaps,” Sckmet mused, lifting her fan to her lips again. “If I hadn’t turned against the other factions, then do you think you’d be sitting here now, Inari, enjoying the presence of your…”
“Too much,” Sora interrupted. “Too much … maybe I started it, to begin with, I don’t know.” She ran her hands through her hair, fingers tickling her ears. “Anyways, my biggest worry right now is my father. I’m sure,” she stated while glancing around at the goddesses around her, “with all your combined wisdom and knowledge, you can put my mind at ease with that? You are all basically using my Core as a meeting spot … pay your rent.”
Sekhmet giggled with Alva and her aunt.
“Rent?” Sekhmet whispered. “How funny, but I understand your comparison.”
“As for me,” Alva sighed regretfully. “I’m afraid I have no input upon that subject. I could list possible suspects, but that is about it.”
“What about my mom?” Sora asked, turning to her aunt. “You said that you and my mom were looking for him.”
“Your aunt knows nothing about it,” Sekhmet stated in a smug tone.
Inari’s eyes narrowed. “You must have an idea, then, but I assumed as much since you’ve been spying on my niece for quite a long time.”
“Not as long as you imagine,” Sekhmet said. “Although, that’s a story for another time,” she mused, vision returning to Sora. “Yes, I know what happened to your father.”
Sora felt the heat rising in her chest. I hate all this dancing around! I love it when I’m the one doing it, but this is just annoying. “You tell me everything you know about him, and then we’ll tell you about … whatever it is you wanted to know.”
“Nilly and Frankenstein,” Kari whispered in a low tone, and from Sora’s connection with her, knew that she was remembering bitter memories of bullying her; she didn’t want to interrupt the current direction of the conversation, but also didn’t want her to focus on her past actions too much.
“Right, thank you, Kari. I’m glad you’re around to keep my head straight.” She chuckled. Kari swallowed a lump in her throat before giving her a weak smile, but both their actions moved back to The Herald.
“Oh, but that is extremely pricey news, my little Founders,” Sekhmet hummed, snapping her fan shut before setting it on her chair’s armrest. “The knowledge you seek will not be easily swallowed, and I’m frankly,” she paused, giving Inari a quick smirk before returning her purple irises to Sora, “I’m unconvinced what you have to offer is of equivalent value.”
For the first time, Sora noticed her aunt’s tails stiffen, and her orange irises shot to the side, glaring into the darkness.
“What?” Sora quickly asked. “I don’t get it, and I want to! Why is information about my dad even more costly than whatever concerned you about Nilly and Frankenstein?”
Inari’s ears twitched, which was the first Sora had seen before she sniffed. “It’s a power move. Sekhmet follows a set value system that she created long ago, and it’s one of the reasons she’s been able to keep a stable neutral position among all Factions. She offers information with information returned in currency.”
“It is a rather unbalanced system,” Alva muttered. “Basically, she shares other people’s secrets for more secrets in return. Her network only grows stronger with every deal struck, and you must trust her to weigh it properly within the framework.”
“That’s dirty,” Kari stated, shifting in her chair again.
“I am equal to everyone the same,” Sekhmet shrugged. “So, Inari, you know my process, and now know a fraction of what I might have on your nieces’ father. With this case particularly, as you are aware, I am the best source you have on the matter.”
“Fine,” Inari sighed bitterly, taking a moment to collect herself while Sora waited with bated breath, hoping it would be enough to sway The Herald to finally give her some answers. “You know much about Nilly … likely more than even most of the Second Generation Founders.”
Her aunt’s irritated orange irises moved to study Sora. “Frankenstein sat beside Kari and had a conversation with us, but something to note is that he did this outside The Herald’s notice. That means that he knew she’d do this; Sekhmet is a string in his own game, being pulled along by his fingers herself.”
“Yes, quite the bothersome fellow,” Sekhmet whispered with a hint of distaste.
“He can be vexing,” Inari hummed, “but not as rebarbative as you.”
Sekhmet smirked. “Ever the one with words, just like your mother.”
Inari ignored her comment. “It’s essential to keep that in mind, Sora. It might be vitally important once all the possible dots start connecting. Alva and I were able to seal the memories away in Kari’s Core, so Sekhmet would need to ask us about it.
“So, in short, Frankenstein is worried about Nilly.”
“Worried?” Sekhmet’s vision narrowed. “How so?”
Alva spoke up. “Nilly was able to recognize and slip into Frankenstein’s distortion. It appears as if he miscalculated the time she’d breach the phenomenon, and was interrupted before he could give us the bulk of his message.
“The part that concerned him was Nilly’s behavior; personally, I couldn’t see anything different in her attitude, but Frankenstein seems to think that she’s now taking things seriously, and that changed after she became a Nekomata. His final words were his worries of her seal reaching a specific point.”
“There you have it,” Inari stated with a drawn-out sigh. “What is the value?”
Sekhmet’s smile had dropped significantly as she listened, and she didn’t immediately reply to Inari’s question. The purple-eyed woman sat her folded hands across the folds of her black dress, seemingly brooding on some heavy thoughts.
After a time of silence, she softly bit her lower lip before smiling up at them. “Well, that was rather … unexpected news.” Sekhmet’s eyes fell again. “Quite unforeseen … I’m left with more questions. Perhaps … no … the possibility is … hmm…”
“Well?” Kari interrupted. “You got what you wanted.”
Sekhmet’s smile returned. “Indeed, I have, and I am weighing the price.”
“And what is your appraisal?” Inari asked bluntly.
“High,” Sekhmet muttered. “Very high … so, in fairness,” her purple irises moved to Sora, “I’ll answer your question, Sora. It was precisely; you tell me everything you know about him; namely, I tell you everything I know about your father. Correct?”
Sora’s gripped her hands, shifting nervously to face The Herald. “Yes!”
“Such a broad question … do you wish me to spend thousands of years discussing this topic?”
A lump formed in Sora’s throat. “T-Thousands … how? Isn’t my dad…”
“Human?” Sekhmet chuckled. “No, he is not.” Sora’s mind blanked as she continued, not knowing how to respond. “Frankenstein is involved, of course, and I must be careful with how I respond to your question, little Founder.
“Your father is something else entirely, and your aunt suspected this from your first meeting. You are not a full Founder or Vulpes, which is one of the many reasons why there was such a vicious backlash. There is a reason why Frankenstein visited you the day before your change. Frank, the man that gave you those extra clothes.
“The intricacies of those days and the oversight of so many powerful creatures is all thanks to that little Son of Homā; that includes your father’s extended stay and time of return. Causality is a frightening thing.”
“My father,” Sora mumbled, feeling numb. “What about my father?”
“He left on his own accord, accompanied by … old friends. You see, when he died, and yes, he died. The shell Frankenstein had made him ceased to contain your father’s true essence, and he needed to make a quick escape. Otherwise, he might have destroyed you along with so many others he cares about.”
“You haven’t told me what he is … what I am,” Sora said, voice quivering.
“I have not,” Sekhmet giggled, “because it does not fit the price given. I can tell you that your father loves you, but he is coming to terms with things he has never experienced before. Everything he knew was locked away before he met your mother, and he himself did not plan this … it was your mother. Vulpes are such tricky creatures.”
“I don’t understand,” Sora whispered. “I don’t … my mom tricked my dad?”
Sekhmet shrugged while licking her lips. “Who can truly say if your mother felt anything for your father. I can do nothing but tell you what I know. Emotions are powerful things, and the memories your father had while a human must have confused him greatly when the shell was fractured. I had the pleasure of welcoming him back.”
“You knew him before, then?” Inari said, eyes leveling with Sekhmet.
“Of course, every Primordial knew him before we crossed paths with the Founders; this is the payment made in full.”
“That one statement,” Alva hummed darkly. “Just how important was that information Frankenstein gave us?”
“Price for price,” Sekhmet stated before the space around her seemed to fracture, and she distorted before vanishing.Sora’s thighs pressed against each other as she squeezed the back of her hand. My dad’s not human … I’m not a full Founder … not a full Vulpes. No wonder I look different than normal Vulpes … I don’t fully take after my mom. Then … what am I? What am I? Why is my life so messed up?
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