POV: Sora (the daughter of Mia; Inari’s niece; Fox 3rd Gen Founder)
Recap: Trying to unwind from all the stress she’s under, Sora took a step back, poking and prodding at Kari until she embarrassed her enough to show her wolf tail and ears. Surprisingly, beneath all that guilt, self-hate, and bitterness is a cute wolf-girl, crying to be set free! Well, our little Vulpes was there to answer that call! Now, we get down to decision making!
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Sora and Kari slowly returned to the house where everyone waited; along the way, they picked up Aiden and Nathan’s scents following the street back toward the building. Feeling a little brighter about her situation, Sora teased Kari with subtle comments as they continued. Wrapped inside her magic, they were invisible to any onlookers.
She took the short moment of peace she found to breathe in the fruit-scented clean air, let the wind blow back her copper hair, and allowed the bustle of the town to wash over her. This would be a relaxing place to visit … boring to stay, but a good area for unwinding. Well, that would be true if it wasn’t for all the drama we brought, and I can hear mutters spreading about me and Emilia.
Kari kept her quick pace, and Sora knew she could hear the gossip; the townsfolk had few hot topics to discuss. Sora’s lips lifted while staring at Kari’s wolf-ears, and her smile only grew as they twitched. She totally knows I’m looking, but doesn’t want to give me the satisfaction of annoying her. We’ve changed so much…
Making it back to the house, they quickly entered; she was relieved to see that none of the local residents were present. Everyone was sitting down, seemingly waiting for her. Okay, here we go.
She spoke while closing the door, drawing everyone’s eyes that couldn’t sense her coming. “Okay, now that we’re finally all back together, there are some pretty pressing things I need to discuss.”
“Are we finally getting down to business?” Jin asked, eyes closed while she laid back on a couch.
“Kari?” Aiden whispered, eyes moving from her tail to her ears and hair.
His lack of a blush and seeming bewilderment instead of awe annoyed Sora, but she pressed on regardless while moving to take a seat to address each of them. “Okay, Nathan, Mary, Ashley, Brandon, your kids, and my daughter upstairs, Jin, Githa, and Eyia. Each of you has taken a role in my life, and I just want to recognize that real fast.”
Githa was curled up on the back of Eyia’s couch, breathing deeply as if sleeping. Eyia paid the cat no mind while readjusting her position. “I am concerned greatly with the information Mary returned with.”
Sora held up her hand as each of them began to form questions, and they died down. “Each of you has something to say, I know.” She paused, eyes shifting to give each of them a warm smile. “First, can you tell me how Emilia is doing?”
Ashley quickly responded, scooting closer to her husband to rest against his left shoulder. “Jin took her upstairs to sleep with the children; she hasn’t woken up yet.”
“It’s only a matter of time,” Jin shrugged.
“Indeed,” Eyia smiled reassuringly. “She has stabilized spiritually; give her another hour or so, and I am confident that she will join us.”
Sora took a deep breath before letting it go. “That’s good to know.”
Aiden leaned forward, clasping his fingers together while supporting his chin with his thumbs. “You seem really stressed, Sora. I mean, yeah, I know you’re probably worried about your daughter, but there’s more to it, right?”
“Yes … where do I begin?”
Her tail bristled slightly as Wendy glared at Kari. “What’s up with her? Why’s she acting all shy?” Wendy crossed her legs, bobbing them up and down while giving the Fenris Wolf a heated glare, which prompted Eyia to direct her own cold stare at Kari.
Before Kari could respond, Sora moaned softly. Wendy and Eyia focused returned to her as Sora leaned back, smoothing her hair to the side. “Let’s clear the air a bit; I’ve known some of you for less than a week, but that week feels like a lifetime for me. I can’t count the number of rugs pulled out from under me!”
She chuckled weakly and took a deep breath. Ever since I went through that soul strengthening with Wendy, she’s been getting a lot bolder. It’s good, but at the same time, it’s also throwing heat Kari’s way. Sure, she deserves it to a certain extent, but Wendy’s going to get Kari killed if she slips with Eyia.
“I get it, Wendy, I do … let me explain everything I can, so wait a moment,” she held up a finger as Eyia and Jin opened their mouths. “Just wait a minute, c’mon, and don’t interrupt me until I finish. I want to get everything out there so we can all discuss it. Everyone cool?”
Her green irises shifted to each individual, getting a quick nod of confirmation before moving to the next. Wendy was the only person that seemed frustrated, and she didn’t turn her narrowed eyes away from Kari, but muttered, “Fine…”
“Okay … I’m going to quickly explain what I can; I’ll tell you my thoughts, and then I’d like your opinions. Sound reasonable?” Again, she waited for confirmation.
“I look forward to it,” Mary quickly replied, giving Wendy a stern look. “Please continue.”
Wendy huffed, sitting back with her arms crossed while glaring down at her knee. Everyone else settled into their chairs, lips falling into brooding frowns as she spoke, and even if Githa appeared to be sleeping, Sora had no doubt she was listening.
Sora moved between her experience with Mimi, her Shadow, the attitude sweeping the town, Fen’s plan, and a select few pieces of her conversation with The Herald. She left out much of the things she’d learned about her family, keeping it vague, while completely removing Frank and Nilly from the story, and Sora was a little surprised that she didn’t smell either of them on Kari after a worrying thought passed her mind during the explanation.
Nathan rubbed his neck, speaking first once she finished. “It’s like we’re all cursed,” he muttered. “I’m not saying you did that,” he quickly started with a weak smile, “but bad things just keep happening on rapid-fire.”
“It is concerning,” Ashley said, brow furrowing as she glanced back at the stairs leading to the second floor. “It’s only been a day since we’ve arrived, and already it feels like things are falling apart.”
Ignoring both comments, Aiden addressed Kari, stiff as a board. “Alva … she’s alive?” His voice was hoarse, fingers white as they trembled in his lap; he was more than a little shaken. “What does that mean? Did Eric…”
Kari’s brow set, and she regained some of her confidence. “No … my mom’s dead. She made an Intelligent Construct as Inari did for Sora.”
“Not like my aunt, though,” Sora interjected. “It’s like I said, she couldn’t complete it, and there appear to be things missing from her given memories; my aunt repaired what she could.”
“But she’s there … you can talk to her?” He pressed, eyes refusing to meet Kari’s as they darted across the floor as if searching for something he’d lost. “She’s still here, in a way. Will she talk to me?”
“Chill,” Nathan huffed, reaching over to put a hand on his left shoulder. “Calm down, man. You need a little air?”
“No … no, it’s just … it’s a lot to take in,” Aiden whispered, cupping his face while taking a shuddering breath. “I thought … three years, and I thought…”
Mary rose to join Aiden on his opposite side, rubbing his back as she sat. “It’s alright,” she soothed. “Give it some time.”
“I just … I can’t…” A few tears fell down his cheeks, and he rubbed them away.
Sora was a little taken aback; she didn’t expect this news to hit Aiden so hard, and the swirling rage, sadness, happiness, and hope that shot out of his Spiritual Network took her by surprise. He’s starting to hide his Spiritual Network more … I can’t understand his inner emotions that clearly anymore. Is he becoming more guarded?
Mary smiled over at him. “You can’t put it into words.”
He shook his head. “I can’t …Alva’s … here still.”
Does he think of Alva like his mother? I suppose Alva did say his mother gave him up for her freedom. Did he even know his mom at all?
Sora’s focus moved to the other members. Wendy was still pouting, glaring at her knee while shifting her jaw with irritation. Jin looked bored with the emotional outbursts, eyes closed while relaxing against the couch; she might have even been trying to perform The Outer Body Technique, by the calming of her aura. Eyia was unreadable as she observed everyone, and Githa kept sleeping. Brandon and Ashley were snuggled against each other, seemingly pondering a few of the things she’d said.
Kari scratched her left ear as they twitched, and she swallowed a lump in her throat. “I know it’s a lot to take in,” she whispered, pulling her legs up against the side of her armchair. “She wants to speak to you when we’re done.”
All Aiden could do was nod, throat constricting as he hid his face.
“Alright,” Sora said, bringing everyone’s attention back to her. “The pressing issue is the Vulpes Council. It’s only a matter of time before that representative gets here, and the messenger that was sent ahead will most definitely tell her about us.”
Her nose twisted as she glared at the wooden planks. “I wasn’t thinking and didn’t wrap us in illusions, which could have saved us the headache.”
“No use worrying over spilled milk,” Mary hummed. “What are we going to do now that our presence has been discovered?”
“Fight,” Eyia responded. “If there is a threat, we must silence it; however, we would need to kill the entire town, which is unacceptable. This means that our option is to confront the Vulpes with this winged beast directly.”
“Control the narrative,” Ashley spoke softly. “Mimi isn’t in a state to take on visitors; she’ll be out of commission for a while.”
“Which is a real issue,” Mary whispered, giving Aiden a reassuring smile before returning to her seat. “Mimi is the Vulpes Council’s representative here, and our presence has caused real harm to this community. I assume it will not be taken lightly.”
“What else were we supposed to do?” Wendy asked.
Nathan shook his head. “It doesn’t matter,” he sighed. “It’s not about our intention, but the results, and we’ve even been meddling with the magic they have in place here. No offense,” he chuckled, giving Sora a weak smile, “but dispelling some of their spells seems like almost a declaration of war, now that I think about it.”
“Got that right,” Jin growled. “It’s a delicate situation, politically, though.” Silence followed as Jin took the conversation. “This Realm is old … very old, and we’ve already discovered some strange mechanics within it.
“The Vulpes Magic running it isn’t suitable for just this Council, and from what Eyia told me of the mural, I think the Council are stewards of this place. It was likely set up by one of your aunts, to be honest, Sora.”
“My aunts … but they died,” she paused. “I’m not exactly sure when, but a long, long time ago.”
Jin shrugged. “Founder magic can last a very long time, and who knows what this place was even created for … this energy around us isn’t natural … not at all,” she mumbled, opening her yellow eyes to stare up at the ceiling. “If it were me, then I’d go to the capital as soon as possible.”
“That seems pretty risky,” Ashley chuckled nervously, fingers tightening on her husband’s knee. “What if they attack us?”
Eyia’s cool voice was calculating as she studied Sora. “They will not; it is as my friend says, the politics are in our favor. Yes, we have caused a disturbance, but few creatures wish to draw the attention of Founders. It is only a small chance this Council does not know of Inari or Mia. My sister will have the protection of her family name.”
“What about the rest of us?” Wendy asked, now looking concerned as she glanced between Sora and Eyia. “I’d rather not die after I just started living.”
“No one is going to die,” Sora sighed, lips pursing for a moment. “It’s not like we’ve killed anyone … in fact, it was either them or someone else that killed Miyabe.” The silence stretched for several seconds as Sora debated Jin’s suggestion. “It might be our best option.”
Her vision lifted to Eyia. “I don’t want to force myself on this Realm, and this has only been a temporary place for us to rest until we catch our breath. If Sköll and Hati are on their way, then that barrier outside won’t last long. It may have been able to keep out Bathin and that other Vulpes, but old Second Generation Founders … I can only guess it’s something my aunt put in place to buy us some time.”
Sora turned a glare to Kari, knowing she must be feeling guilty about the situation. “No, you’re not the issue, they are.”
“I didn’t say anything,” Kari mumbled, hands pressed against her stomach.
“You didn’t have to.” Sora grinned at her before turning her gaze to Wendy. “And I get it, Wendy, I do, but you’re going to have to deal with the fact that I’m friends with Kari now, too, and that doesn’t mean anything’s changed between us.”
Wendy tucked her bottom lip under, swallowing nervously, but she nodded after a moment. “Yeah … okay.”
“The drama,” Githa yawned. “I’m tryin’ to sleep,” she growled.
“Then you should go upstairs,” Sora chuckled. “I know you’ve been listening.”
“To the interesting bits,” Githa sighed, flipping over to her belly to stretch while in cat form, claws digging into the couch; Sora refrained from calling out the cat that could swallow her in one bite. “We should go to Asgard if you’re worried about the Fenris brothers,” she purred.
Everyone went silent, turning to stare at the white cat as she began licking her stomach.
“Some survived?” Eyia asked.
“Of course, silly,” Githa giggled. “It’s a cycle, you know, a big eternal circle. Some gods live, most die, and the ones that live, build it back up for it to fall again. They have no love for the Fenris brothers and have the means to keep them out.”
“Okay, well, there’s an option,” Sora’s smile fell as Eyia gripped her wrist, glancing down at the floor with worry. “What’s wrong?”
“Her step-mother,” Jin said with a loud sigh while scooting up to rest her back against the armrest.
The conversation she’d heard between Eyia’s dad and her when she was young came back to mind. “Oh … I didn’t mean … I’m sorry, Eyia. I don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable.”
“What’s up?” Mary asked, looking between Jin and her. “What’s the matter with Eyia’s step-mother?”
Jin chuckled with amusement. “Let’s just say the Asgardian family tree is … complicated.”
“It really is!” Githa laughed. “Odin was a funny guy.”
“Not the words I’d use,” Jin smirked.
“Jin … please do not speak about my father in such a way; he was an honorable warrior that did everything within his power to save his people,” Eyia whispered.
“Funny, really!” Githa repeated.
“Okay,” Jin held up her hands defensively. “I got my opinion, and you got yours,” she sniffed. “I won’t say anything further.”
“If we must,” Eyia paused. “I will bear the consequences of returning from my exile.”
“Consequences?” Sora asked. “What do you mean; you were just a girl? What your dad said … you were just a girl, and that was forever ago. It’s not like you wished to be born as Odin and Freyja’s daughter.”
“That’s not the issue,” Jin chuckled. “Anyways, that’s another topic altogether. So, we need to address this Council issue head-on, but what’s your plan with this cult you said Fen’s making? Knew we should have killed the Vulpes,” she mumbled. “Lost opportunities.”
Sora let the comment go, but her gut told her that she did need to do more to stop Fen’s betrayal. She felt a bit guilty about how she handled it, even if she had the best of intentions for Emilia’s safety. “I’m going to go find the leaders and compel them to tell me exactly what they intend to do, and then deal with it. I’m not that concerned about the cult; Fen’s plan was too complicated, to begin with.”
“Typical Vulpes tactics,” Jin chuckled.
Kari and Aiden drew Sora’s gaze; they seemed to be in a world of their own, and Nathan quickly took Sora’s focus.
“Still, it’s a pretty ingenious and crafty method to bypass your defensive senses like that. It’s something to keep in mind for the future.”
“Yeah, I’ve noted it,” Sora muttered. “Alright … the only other thing left to address here, I think, is how to handle The Council. If I left everyone here and went myself?”
“I will come with you,” Eyia stated flatly.
“Yeah,” Jin huffed. “Don’t be tryin’ to sideline me when things start getting interesting!”
“Everyone else?” Sora asked.
“No,” Kari’s voice sounded distant and reserved. “I’d like to join you.”
“Me, too!” Wendy quickly added, shooting a glare at the Fenris Wolf.
Mary nodded with a forced smile. “I’m scared, but yes, I’d like to experience this Vulpes Capital that we’ve been hearing about.”
“I go where Sora goes,” Githa replied.
Nathan, Aiden, Ashley, and Brandon were silent as they thought on the question, and Sora realized Ashey’s husband hadn’t contributed at all.
“Brandon?” Sora asked.
“Hmm?” He gave a start as everyone turned their gaze to him.
“What do you think?” Sora pressed.
“My family,” he mumbled. “I don’t want to put my kids in danger, but if you’re not around … then, I fear they’re in greater danger. I know it’s selfish and wrong of me to rely so heavily on a sixteen-year-old girl to protect my family, but … I don’t have a choice.” He turned away with shame. “If you leave, then I have to ask to bring my family, which puts you at risk, too … I know it’s not fair.”
Ashley nodded, sucking on her lip as he spoke. Once he finished, she squeezed his thigh. “Yeah, I agree. Really, thank you for everything you’ve done, Sora. You saved me, brought my family back together, and … words can’t express how I feel, but I know you can sense it,” she smiled.
Sora smiled warmly at the pair. “I don’t regret it, and what about you, Nathan?”
“Well, mmh,” he folded his arms while taking a deep breath. “I’m thinking about Emilia … will you take her with you?”
A long puff of air left Sora’s lungs. “It’s a good question. I think she needs me, to be honest. She needs guidance, and I know it’s only been a day, but that seems to be pretty long recently. Will it make me vulnerable? Yes, my aunt talked to me about it before, and also gave me the solution.”
“Oh?” Mary asked. “What was Inari’s advice?”
Sora’s smile fell a little as she looked down at her tails. “Get stronger.”
Eyia, Githa, and Jin burst out laughing, which silenced everyone.
“The great fox!” Githa snickered.
“That’s rich!” Jin wheezed. “I like your aunt more and more … hmm,” her mirth slowly died. “Which would concern my mother greatly,” she mused.
“Mother?” Sora asked. “I just realized I don’t know really anything about you, Jin, but that you’re from the Tibetan Plateau.”
Jin shrugged. “Not important. So, we’re all going, then?”
“Umm, I didn’t ask Aiden?” She mumbled, glancing over at him.
When he didn’t respond, Jin yelled, “Bird-boy!”
He jumped. “Huh?”
“What are you going to do?” Sora asked. “Are you going to the Vulpes Capital with us?”
A lump dropped down his throat. “I … don’t know yet. I’m just sorting through some thoughts.”
Everyone frowned, glancing at one another, but Sora felt like she understood. “Umm … could you and I have a talk, Aiden?”
“In private? What about?”
Sora licked her lips. “Uh, I have a few things I’d like to run by you, and I think it would be best if we had some air while talking about them.”
“Am I in trouble for something?” He asked, brow creasing.
“No, not at all,” Sora giggled. “You’re always thinking about the negative side. C’mon,” she got to her feet. “Let’s take a walk, and everyone else,” she gave them a bright grin, “thanks for sticking with me.”
Aiden’s frown deepened. “Why is it just me you want to talk to?”
Sora made her way to the door, flicking her tails to the left while looking back to give him a wink. “Going on a walk with a pretty girl; isn’t that the dream? C’mon, I’ll tell you when you follow.”
His lips pursed before he glanced at the others, all giving him different looks. He sighed, got to his feet, and followed, rubbing his arm before closing the door on their way out.
The townsfolk were still going about their daily business, and she manipulated the light around them to make sure they weren’t bothered. “Oh, and watch out for people; I made us invisible.”
Aiden didn’t respond, glaring at the floor while keeping pace.
Oh, c’mon! He didn’t even respond to my jab. He really is a depressed bird, but … I suppose I can’t judge him. I felt the same way when Kari was my nightmare … but he’s his own nightmare.
After they’d walked a street down, dodging Vulpes, carts, and humans alike, Sora flipped around to smile at him. “I wanted to talk to you about your ability.”
Aiden’s lowered brows dropped further. “My ability? Are you saying it’s a problem? I can’t control it.”
“I’m smiling, see? Smiling!” She stated with slow emphasis while pointing at her cheeks. “I’m not going to rip you apart…”
“Okay … I’ll bite,” he breathed a few times before running his hand through his hair. “What about my ability?”
“I want to use it to help everyone.”
“Okay?” He muttered, nose twisting as he glared at the floor.
Sora didn’t respond, lips becoming tight while she held her hands behind her back.
After a bit, Aiden looked up. “Anything else?” He asked dryly.
“Geez,” Sora tilted her head, bunching her cheeks to the side. “I know you’re thinking, oh, Sora’s just like all the others, trying to use me to her advantage. Right?”
“You said it,” Aiden grunted.
“You’re partially right!”
Aiden flicked his nose with his fingernail, teeth grinding slightly. “What’s the other part?”
“I want to be your friend. Do you get it?”
“Yes, you do!” Sora moaned with exasperation, flipping around to look ahead. “I bet there’s a happy part of you in there somewhere. No, I know there is! I felt it myself, so you can’t deny it.”
He released a low chuckle. “That’s news to me; I’m just trying to survive.”
“Aren’t we all, and wouldn’t it be easier with friends?”
“The whole friendship speech?”
Sora shrugged, giving him a backward smirk. “Hey, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it! You could use some friends, and I don’t think you’re a bad guy. Why don’t we start there? It’s not like I can force you to help me get out of the mess I’m in, but I can offer a hand.”
“A mutually beneficial relationship?” He scoffed. “Is that it? You’re just trying to seduce me into using my powers for your own desires … just like everyone else.”
“You can look at it however you like, but if I really wanted to seduce you, then I can think of plenty of other ways to do it; I am a Vulpes Founder,” she winked, making him blush. “Friends usually are mutually beneficial … well, the good ones.”
He cleared his throat, trying not to look at her tails as they swung behind her. “I’ll think about it.”
“Sounds good. Oh, by the way, you should tell me about your time in the field with Nathan!”
“Why? It’s boring,” he mumbled. “You’d think it was a waste of time.”
“Let me decide that!” Sora huffed. “I have an idea; you lead and tell me all about your day. You listened to mine, so it’s only fair.”
“You really want to hear it?”
“Only the boring parts?” Sora giggled.
“Well … alright.”
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