A Tail’s Misfortune — Chapter Forty-Nine: Shattered Image

Change In POV:  Emilia (Sora’s Daughter; Former Guardian of the Red Gate; Intelligence Scrubbed)

Your first look into the mind of Sora’s daughter (even though she’s over seven hundred years old spiritually … she’s now got the mind of a teenager and even less experiences).

Emilia sighed as she leaned back against the couch, pulling her hair behind its back before studying her red dress front.  Mary, Alice, Jin, and Githa sat in armchairs and sofas surrounding her; Liz had gone back upstairs to sleep more while Wendy was going to the bathroom.

Both Nathan and Aiden had cleaned up the dishes, saying Alice and Ashley cooked, so it was only right that they should clean up.  She could hear them talking about Nathan’s life as a cop in the other room.

Glancing between the four women, Emilia cleared her throat.  “So … what are we going to do today?”

Jin shrugged, still in her nightgown; her eyes were closed as she laid on a couch with a cotton cover.  “I just plan to take it easy, maybe check out more of the town later if I get bored. The Human Realm had so many interesting things to pass the time.”

“I find this place most entertaining and interesting,” Mary chimed in.  “I mean, it’s a lot better than being a slave to Eric … and a little overwhelming.  After resting my mind, I’ve been pondering on some of the things Inari talked to us about yesterday.  They’re quite fascinating to think about, and it’ll take some time for me to process.”

What things?  Why does everyone else get to spend time with my great aunt and mom … she’s always so busy with everyone else.  When do I get my turn…

“Okay,” Emilia mumbled, pawing the wooden planks with her toes, “I get that, but I mean, what are we going to do later.  I want to do something … help.”

Mary giggled.  “Your thighs, dear.  You should keep them pressed together.”

“Oh … right,” Emilia whispered, blushing as she followed the prompt.

Why do I keep forgetting?  What if I’m doing other inappropriate things?  Would they tell me? I don’t like this feeling!  Mom said she’d teach me these things … but when?

Githa moaned, clearly disconnected from the conversation as she stretched across the spine of the couch Jin was lying on.

Alice fidgeted a little, rubbing her knees.  “I get what you’re saying, Emilia. I’m a little lost, too.  Cooking with Ashley was really fun, and we talked about so many things, but now I’m kind of restless.  I don’t know how Liz can just sleep; I’ve never seen her like that before.”

“Hmm,” Mary cupped her chin and crossed her legs.  “It is fascinating to see the differences in you both now that Sora removed your seals or whatever magic was controlling you.  I suspect that Liz is likely just processing her feelings in her own way, by isolating herself to think. I doubt she’ll actually sleep, but there’s always the possibility that she honestly doesn’t care.

“I have very little understanding of Vulpes nature and her personality.  Heck, she doesn’t understand her own personality yet. You mentioned before that you don’t want to work in the fields today, right?”

Should I ask what a nature is, or would it make me look like an idiot?

Alice nodded, ears twitching a little.  “I even feel a little … it’s hard to even describe it … it’s kind of like I feel bad about feeling that way.”

Even Alice seems to know what she’s talking about…

“Don’t worry about it,” Jin huffed.  “If you don’t feel like it, then don’t.”

Mary crossed her arms, bunching her lips to the side for a moment as Alice’s ears lowered further, and her tails drooped.  “It’s not that easy, Jin … at least with my experience with humans. You can’t tell someone not to feel something … it’s biological … perhaps even spiritual for all I know.

“It’s like telling someone not to feel bad after stealing something, even if it’s for them to survive; we’re built a certain way.  Why we feel ethical obligations and develop different desires has been debated in the Psychological and Philosophical community since inception.”

Emilia sank a little in her chair, eight tails still across her lap as she looked down at the floor, feeling inadequate to contribute to the conversation as Mary continued.

“It’s hard to even think about putting together a model to understand Vulpes behaviors.  They differ from humans, but that would be natural considering they have different sustainable needs and at varying levels.

“There’s also the problem that apparently each Vulpes has different abilities as groups … I’d need to study each type of Vulpes.  Each of their cultures seems to be different … Fen was quite the piece of work while Sora is utterly different.”

Oh … what?  What kind of abilities?  No … everyone knows what she’s talking about … it’s just me … again!

Emilia’s ears perked up as her name was spoken.  “I don’t know how you acted before … well, whatever Sora did to help … what did Sora do?”

Jin yawned, stretching out her arms in front of her.  “Her name was Miyabe—before her Core was shattered. I doubt Sora was the one to actually repair it … I don’t have a clue how you’d do that.  It was definitely Inari.”

“What does that mean, though?”  Mary pressed.

“Eh—hmm … well, to put it simply, she died.”  Emilia could help but tense at the dragon’s casual statement; her elbows pressed against her ribs as her fingers gripped her thighs.

I died … why does everyone talk about me like I’m not right here?  I know I used to be someone else, but you don’t have to rub it in…

“Miyabe was a frightened little fox that had no clue how to handle us entering the Realm.  She was a guardian…” She paused as Nathan and Aiden exited the kitchen, laughing as the man spoke.

“Yeah, he opened the meat locker, and—and an avalanche of the stolen chicken buried him!”

Aiden winced with a grin on his face.  “How? He couldn’t just step out of the way, and it was all frozen chicken?”

“Yeah!  We all watched him freeze in place and just let it happen … and that’s how the noobie got the nickname Cluck Little.”

They turned to face the women, features bright; their eyes were quick to focus on Jin’s body, vision sliding down her nightgown before diverting their focus.  “So,” Nathan said, addressing Mary with a curious grin. “Aiden and I were thinking about heading out to help the town with the harvest. Any objections?”

Jin pumped her fist into the air.  “Go get ‘em, tiger! Anyways, you still want to know about Miyabe, Mary?”

Emilia cleared her throat, feeling a little awkward with the current conversation.  “Umm, I was thinking about exploring the town a little. So—umm, I’ll just go for a little walk.”

“Cool,” Jin said, releasing another yawn.  “I think Githa’s got the right idea; I’m gonna lay here and recover.  I still need to get some energy back.” She mumbled, shifting her back to the group as she settled into the couch.

Mary’s lips became a line as she eyed her before sliding to Emilia.  “I—don’t know if,” her apprehension flipped in an instant. She smiled.  “Okay, I’ll join you.”

Everyone but the two couch potatoes focused on Emilia as she rose, pulling down the hem of her dress a bit.  She felt a little uneasy with how snuggly it fit her. Mom really made these things form fitting … maybe a little too well.

Adding a strained smile, Emilia played with her hands behind her back, fanning out her tails so no one would notice.  “Umm—you don’t have to. You can still talk to Jin.”

Mary’s smile fell a little as her vision moved to the small Korean girl with her back toward them, breathing softly on the couch.  “I think Jin has other priorities.”

Alice’s ears shot straight up; likely alarmed everyone was leaving.  “What—should I do, then?”

Nathan scratched the back of his head.  “Eh—you can come help us if you like. You know who we need to talk to, right?  To tell us how we can help? Oh—I don’t agree with them being controlled!”

He glanced at Aiden as he nodded, raising his hands defensively, “Yeah—no, I know what it’s like to be a slave … I just—everyone needs to eat, right?  We don’t want to just mooch off you guys without contributing.”

Alice’s ears drooped a little, and Mary responded before she could reply.  “I think Alice might be better off spending some time with Wendy or coming with us.  I know Wendy will be surprised if she comes down and finds everyone gone. Would you like to come with us?”

“I’d like that, but you’re right, what about Wendy?”

“I’m sure Jin can let her know we’re going on a walk.”

Jin gave them a thumbs-up, before snuggling further into the couch; the movements made Githa groan a little, flipping to her other side.

Emilia tried to mask her displeasure by walking around her chair to lean against the back.  “Great—can we leave now?”

Just invite yourselves, why don’t you … why can’t I go off alone?  Do you not trust me or something? Just because I don’t know a lot of stuff doesn’t mean I’m an idiot…

“Sure.  Are you ready, Alice?”

“I suppose,” she whispered, quickly getting to her feet.

“Right, well—I guess we’ll ask around,” Nathan muttered.

They all walked to the door, and Nathan held it open for them; they waved each other off, parting ways.

The streets were becoming crowded with Vulpes going about their daily routines, and they were causing quite the stir.  Everyone parted to let them by, eyeing them up and down as they passed; Emilia was more than a little uncomfortable, but she quickly understood why.  Every human and Vulpes wore simple gray wool clothing, while they were wearing some extremely bright colored and exotically designed dresses.

She cleared her throat, glancing left at Mary and Alice; the other Vulpes seemed just as self-conscious as herself, but Mary didn’t seem perturbed in the least.  The human woman was smiling brightly while taking in the sights.

They wandered the streets for a few minutes in silence; Emilia focused on her black flats, they felt strange against her feet, but her mother wore them.  After a time, she licked her lips nervously before asking, “Mary?”


“How do you—why am I nervous people are staring at us?”

Mari smiled as her eyes slid down her body, and she released a soft sigh.  “There are probably many reasons. Behaviors are a lot more complex than most people tend to realize, and it’s rarely boiled down to a single thing.  However, if I were to take a guess, it’s because you’re not used to the attention.”

“I guess … they just stare, though.  Why don’t they talk to us?”

“Can you blame them?”  Mary whispered, glancing around at the Vulpes and humans.  “Alice already mentioned that they’re compelled to their tasks.  You’ve been doing the same thing for over a century, right, Alice?”

At her nod, but mumbled.  “Her tails…”

“What was that?”  Mary asked.

Taking a deep breath, Alice glanced back at Emilia’s eight copper-colored tails, weaving behind her.  “Mimi’s is the highest tail count we’ve seen in this town … besides The Vulpes Council.”

Yeah … all hail the eight-tailed loser that knows nothing about her power!  Geez, why didn’t Aunt Inari give me just a little bit to work with? I’m so useless!  I want to help…

“Ah, okay—yeah, that makes a lot of sense,” Mary whispered.  “I hadn’t thought of that, but the tail-count plays a major part in Vulpes hierarchy.”  After a moment’s thought, Mary continued from her previous question. “Right, then when something new happens, it catches their interest, and with the addition of your tails and their color … you’re prime topic material.  

“We are outsiders, which is a big deal.  Why is that, Alice? Not that we come from beyond the gate, but why are visitors, in general, a big deal?”

Alice cleared her throat, rubbing her left arm as her pinkish-fur tails intertwined, eyes still focused on Emilia’s white-tipped tails.  “Umm—we don’t get many Transplanters traveling through this far away from the Capital … never humans, unless they’re coming to stay as replacement residents.”

Mary stopped, rising to her tippy-toes to look across the street; both Alice and Emilia slowed, following her gaze.  Suddenly she grinned and started waving. “Rayla, Luna! Hey!”

Two twin Vulpes looked around in confusion before centering on them; it was the first time Emilia had seen children.  She knew what they were, but she didn’t expect them to look so small and frail.

 They both smiled as they caught sight of Mary, waving back as they dashed around stalled groups of humans and Vulpes to meet up with them.

As they came up, Mary giggled, kneeling to their level.  “Now, before I get confused, which one of you is Rayla and which one is Luna?”

“Can’t you tell?  I’m Rayla,” the Vulpes to her right huffed.

“Luna!”  The girl to her left cheered, raising her hand.  “What are you doing … wow,” she mumbled, nudging her sister before whispering.  “Rayla! Look at her tails!”

Both twin’s brown irises moved to Emilia with wonder and respect; they both straightened before bowing slightly to her.  “Umm—we are—I’m Rayla, my Lady.”

“Luna, my Lady.”

“Girls, girls,” Mary giggled, patting them on the head before rubbing their ears.  “No need for that. Emilia is Sora’s daughter.”

Their expression went from pleasure to shock back to delight as Mary continued to scratch their ears.  “W-What—how?” Rayla asked, ducking her head a little and turning to direct Mary’s fingers.

“Sora only has—two tails…”  Luna mumbled, tail rising as Mary hit a particular spot.

“It’s complicated,” Emilia said with a forced chuckle.

Am I her daughter, though … she’s barely even talked to me at all.  Is she embarrassed of me? It feels that way sometimes when she looks at me … like I’m a disappointment.  Why, though? What am I doing wrong? No, no … mom can’t feel that way … she’s just so perfect…

Emilia took a deep breath, trying to hide her emotional struggle; getting down to their level, she took care with how she bent her legs as not to expose herself.  “It’s nice to meet you, Rayla, Luna.”

Alice moved around Emilia, hidden behind her long tails.  “It’s been a few months since I last saw you two,” she said with a bright smile.

“Lady Alice!”  Luna said with a slight bow, and Rayla quickly followed.

The pink-furred Vulpes shook her head.  “I’m with Mary and Emilia; there’s no need to bow…”

She paused, and Emilia heard a sharp flapping sound, causing her ears to twitch; she had the knowledge of birds but had only listened to the soft chirps around the town.  Whatever made this noise was much bigger. Looking up, she watched a shadow flash along the wall across from them.

The Vulpes around the area searched the sky to see a massive creature flying toward the middle of town.  It moved so swiftly that she hardly got a good look at it. With its enormous wingspan, four clawed feet, and a sharp beak-like face, it terrified her.  “What is that?” Emilia gasped.

“A bæcú’yá,” Luna whispered, ears lying flat against her head with her sister’s.

Rayla’s eyes shot in a specific direction.  “Why would a bæcú’yá be here, going to the middle of town … away from the Capital?”

“A what?”  Mary asked.  “Wait … that’s from the Capital?”

Luna swallowed a hard lump.  “When we … oh, we’re not supposed to say more about them.  That’s what Inquisitor Bitaer said…”

“Yeah, shh!”  Rayla said, nudging her sister.  “We can’t say stuff about the Capital or…”

Emilia’s tails bristled as she heard a horrifyingly loud squawk from the direction they’d been looking.

Mary smiled at the two.  “Don’t worry, girls, you don’t have to say anything.  Why don’t you two run off to do your duties.”

“Umm—okay,” Luna said, but she didn’t move; her eyes were still fastened on Emilia’s tails.

“C’mon!”  Rayla huffed.  “We need to get more rags.”

“I know, but—but—umm—Lady Emilia … how do you get so many tails?”

“Luna, that’s so rude!”  Rayla huffed, flicking her left ear.


“Hey,” Mary said, glaring at Luna’s twin.  “That’s not nice; don’t do that to your sister.  It’s an honest question.”

Rayla’s ears drooped as she looked over at Alice.  “But—but we’re—we’re not supposed to ask. It’s rude to ask about Vulpes tails.  Isn’t that right, Lady Alice?”

Alice nodded.  “That’s what we’re taught … but it’s different with Emilia and Mary.  You don’t have to worry about being rude to them.”

“Really?”  Rayla asked, tone flipping in an instant.  “Oh, okay, so—what’s up with tails, then?”

Three of Emilia’s tails twisted around each other as she glanced over at Mary.  “I—I don’t really know … my mom hasn’t really taught me much, yet…”

“You don’t know … even when you have eight tails?”  Rayla questioned.

Luna hummed with a furrowed brow.  “Maybe no one knows, and it’s a secret?”

“I guess,” Rayla said with pursed lips.  “I mean, she said she doesn’t know, so I guess she doesn’t.”

“Oh,” Luna’s eyes widened as she tugged on her sister’s dress.  “The rags, Rayla!”

“I told you!”

They both ran off, bickering with sighs of exasperation.

Emilia got up, glancing around nervously at the eyes that followed them.“Umm—should we go back?  Maybe my mom’s finished with Ashley.”

Mary folded her arms as she got back to her feet, glaring in the direction the bird had flown from.  “I think—it might be good for me to get some more information about these new guests, but yeah, I think you can head back with Alice.”

Wait … she thinks it’s too dangerous for me!  I’m not useless! I can do things. She’s right, maybe this is important, and I can tell mom about it … maybe then she’ll teach me.

Before Alice could respond, Emilia shook her head.  “No, I want to come, too!”

Mary looked a little taken aback.  “You’re sure? I mean, this could be a little dangerous.  If someone from the Capital sees an eight-tailed Vulpes, then it’s bound to raise questions.”

“Then—then I’ll stay out of sight!  I’ll hide in the crowd. I just—I want to go.”

The woman’s lips became a concerned line.  “Mmmh … I still don’t think…” She released a sigh as Emilia boldly broke away and walked toward the center of town.  “I think this is probably a mistake, Emilia,” Mary muttered, jogging a little to catch up to her. “It could cause trouble for your mom.”

“I want to check it out so I can tell her,” Emilia explained, a little exasperated that the woman didn’t understand her.

Mary ran a hand through her hair.  “It’s not like I can really stop you,” she whispered.  “Let’s stay out of sight. We’ll look for the bird and maybe ask a few questions about what’s happening with the people around the area.”

Alice and Mary had to powerwalk to keep up with her.  Why does everyone treat me like I can’t do anything?  I can’t go out alone. I can’t speak for myself. I can’t check out things that mom might need to know about.  I know I’m pretty young, but mom is too, and she helps people all the time … so can I! 

They walked in silence for a few minutes.

After turning down a few alleys and streets, Alice cleared her throat.  “Umm, this isn’t the way to the Town Center.”

Emilia’s face turned red.  “I—I don’t really know the way … I was just going the same direction the bird was going in.”  Her tone lowered. “Maybe I’d know if people taught me…”

“What was that?”  Mary asked.

A short sigh left Emilia’s lips as she ran her fingers through her hair.  “Nothing…”

“I’ll lead the way,” Alice whispered, glancing at her questioningly.  Her ears twitched a bit as she bit her lower lip. Turning around, they made their way back the way they came, and after a few more minutes, made it into the Town Square.

The bird was on top of a three-story building, staring down at the Vulpes that hurried about their business under its scrutiny.  There was a saddle and harness attached to the creature’s back, indicating someone had ridden it here.

“Do you see anyone new?”  Emilia asked, searching for anyone with higher than three tails.

Mary hummed darkly, scanning the crowds.  “It’s already been ten or twelve minutes. They might have already gone inside the building.”

Alice shook her head.  “No … no one I don’t recognize … wait, is that—Sora?”

Their attention shot to a blur as two figures raced up the steps to the Town Hall.

“Lady Gurakuqi’s with her,” Alice mumbled.  “Something must have happened.”

“Do you see Ashley or her family?”  Mary asked, head darting around to look back the way they’d run.

Emilia searched, but couldn’t find anyone she recognized.  “No … umm, let me listen. I think I can hear them if I concentrate.”

“Really?  I can’t hear that far,” Alice said, eyebrows raised.

Closing her eyes, Emilia tried to filter through the noises, trying to locate her mother’s voice.  “Got it! I can hear her…” Her face drained of color.

“What?”  Mary asked.

“Mimi … she sounds like she’s dying, and—and I don’t think my mom’s healing magic is helping.”

Alice put her hand over her mouth.  “No … The Head Supervisor can’t die … they never die … they go back to the Capital after their service is complete.”

“My mom’s trying…”

Emilia’s body reacted on its own; the moment she heard her mother’s screams, she ran inside.  Sprinting up the steps, she followed the disturbing sounds of her mother’s voice. Throwing open the door, she froze; her mother was thrashing against the bed, hugging herself.

Her throat went dry as her blue irises moved from the bloodstained and torn bed to her mother’s ripped dress and flesh.  Her claws ripped the fabric apart, bit into the footboard, and cut into her sides. Both Mimi and Gurakuqi were cowering at the headboard; there were cuts and gashes across their chests and faces, blood dripping down their front.

“Mom…”  Emilia squeaked.

This can’t be happening … my mom’s strong … she can’t be hurt … she can’t die … she’s a Founder … Aunt Inari is with her … why… I just got my mom … how do I help … tell me how… 

She began to hyperventilate, tears gathering in her eyes; locked in a mental loop, she watched her mother writhe, feeling powerless.


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A Tail’s Misfortune — Chapter Forty-Eight: The Worm
A Tail’s Misfortune — Chapter Fifty: Cause And Effect