Sora leaned against the wall, everyone excluding Emilia following her example. Githa was somehow in cat form walking up the wall, and across the ceiling like a spider, everyone eyeing her with questioning looks as she licked her paws against the top corner.
Alice pursed her lips as she watched the mercurial cat, her brow furrowed as she glanced to her right, trying to take her mind off Githa’s odd behaviors. “Umm—do we, Liz? Can we give the extra bedding to her?”
“Eh, I mean—I don’t see why not?” Liz mumbled as she stared at Githa in wonder. “We don’t get very many guests out here; I think the last time we had to use them was twenty-eight years ago.”
“That’s right,” Alice looked up at the ceiling. “It was the Hundredth Year Appointment Ceremony when Mimi was renewed; there were a lot of Vulpes from the Capital that came for it. They didn’t all seem friendly to Mimi, though. I remember they went up to the Red Gate for something after it.”
Alice nodded, smiling as she forced her head away from Githa as she began playing with both her tails, green fire dancing at the tips. “I’ll go get them, Sora; how many should I get?”
“Thank you, and,” she looked at each person, “can I have a minute while you’re getting them?”
Mary hummed. “Ah, I get it. Yeah, we’ll go upstairs and help Liz and Alice get them.”
“Wait—what?” Aiden asked, eyebrow lifting.
Ashley jumped in. “Do you want us to bring them into one of the upstairs bedrooms or wait for you to finish before bringing them in to you?”
“Umm—one of the rooms upstairs would be great,” Sora nodded.
Most of the others seemed to understand she wanted to talk with Emilia alone after a moment’s thought and left with Liz leading the way, waving as they ascended the stairs. Following their exit, Sora took a deep breath, bunching her cheeks to the side as she looked at the closed bedroom door.
She’s awake, but does she want to see me right now? She heard everything I said to Fen and Jian … it did seem like she was pretty shocked by some of it. Heck, I shocked myself, but I did it for her. Should I tell her that? No, what if she feels guilty that I forced Fen to leave because of her, but … I can’t lie to her either.
Shooting a frustrated puff of air through her teeth, she scratched behind her left fox ear as it twitched with agitation, and her tails flicked with annoyance.
This is so … grah. No, deep breaths, she can freaking hear me fidgetting and sighing and puffing! Get ahold of yourself! If she asks, then … then I’ll think of something.
Swallowing down the lump in her throat, she walked to the door and knocked. “Hey, Emilia,” she softly called, cracking the door. “Can I come in?”
“I—I guess,” Emilia mumbled, the bed creaking as she shifted on it.
Opening the door, Sora blushed and quickly checked back to make sure no one was behind her. Darting in, she shut the door and turned around; throat slightly dry as she studied her daughter.
Emilia was lying sprawled out on a bed; legs stretched wide apart with her eight copper tails flicking back and forth as they rested against the baseboard. Her arms were spread, hair fanned out above her, and her head rested against a pillow.
Her red robes were loose, showing much more than Sora was anticipating. “Eh, hey, Emilia—could you cover up—please?”
What the crap … do I have those genetics?
A light sigh shot through Emilia’s lips as she lifted her head to stare down at her body. “Oh—I forgot … I guess there’s a reason we wear clothes in the first place.” She mumbled, shifting the robes around to better cover herself. “Isn’t it okay for girls to see each other, though … maybe I’m getting confused again?”
Sora winced, scratching the side of her head before pulling her hair back. “It’s—a bit complicated … kind of socially appropriate in certain circumstances—it depends on the girl.”
“I see,” Emilia said, arms crossing over her eyes before a light moan rumbled in her throat. “Why is it so complicated? I thought it was supposed to be simple and easy. I would serve you and do whatever you said, but—but it’s all so complicated … you called me your daughter—Inari called me her great-niece…”
“Yeah,” Sora puffed out her cheeks before letting it out and sitting on the bed beside her mattress. “I mean, maybe you could see me as a big sister or mom or something … I mean, I passed on my genetics, which kind of means more of a mom thing,” Sora mumbled, rubbing her thighs nervously as she stumbled down the rabbit hole.
“I’m supposed to teach you stuff, and help you understand the world … yeah, it’s a pretty new thing for me too. We could talk and stuff—I don’t know … so—have you thought about anything since you’ve been up here?”
Emilia rubbed her eyes before her arms dropped to her sides, bouncing lightly atop the bed. She lifted her tails, flicking them against each other as her vision shifted between each one. “Not really … my mind’s mostly blank, but—but all the stories I heard everyone talking about. I felt a little left out because—well … I don’t have any. All I have are flashes of your life and basic knowledge of the world—which apparently, social decency can slip my mind … that’s embarrassing to my memory, but I don’t really feel it.”
“Hmm,” Sora pulled her hair back as she laid on her side, facing her daughter. “That does sound pretty frustrating.”
“You know? Wait … that’s right, I’m an open book, right? So, why did you even ask what was on my mind?” She grumbled. “No spiritual defense—so anyone can just see how I feel … okay, that’s embarrassing and feels—violating? Yup, really violating … to just be completely open.”
Emilia clicked her tongue before breathing through her teeth, cheeks reddening. “Ah—so that’s the feeling … yeah, I want to keep myself covered.” She mumbled, repositioning her tails to close her thighs.
Sora smiled softly. Inari wasn’t kidding; she’s more of a growing teen than I thought. Worse, because much of her experience is fractured. She really is cute … just looking at her innocent Intelligence struggle to work through her limited experiences. She’s so confused, and here comes the dreaded question. I should have an answer since I can predict it, but I don’t!
“So—I didn’t know … that was the first time I’ve never heard you raise your voice. You were … were you really angry with Fen? I don’t know much about her—just a bit from your memories at the base. You were kind of annoyed with her, but—but the way you spoke to her was very different.”
Sora sighed, leaning back, she pulled a pillow down to press her head against it, ears twitching as she looked up at the ceiling. “I—do you want an honest answer?”
Emilia’s Intelligence momentarily flickered with uncertainty. “I don’t—I’d like it if you didn’t lie to me, but if you don’t want to tell me … I understand.”
“No, no—gah,” Sora breathed, rubbing her cheekbones. “Look, Emilia—don’t hold back with me, kay? I don’t want you to be scared to tell me what you’re feeling. If it’s really something I don’t want you to know, then I’ll tell you, but please—please don’t tell me you’re alright when you’re not.”
“I guess it’s hard to hide when your mom can read you like a book,” Emilia sighed. “I’d like to know because—that’s a side of you that I haven’t experienced. I don’t know why you did it, but—but I fear that it has something to do with me.” Her voice cracked.
The silence stretched as Sora mulled over how to phrase it; after a full minute of debate, she clicked her tongue. “Alright, well—I’ll just tell you straight then because I can’t think of a better way to put it. I told Fen to leave because I knew she’d be a terrible influence on you, potentially deadly—it was the first time I actually felt like I stepped into Inari’s shoes for a moment; I didn’t plan on doing it at first, but when I saw the emotions in her Core, I felt like I had to protect you from her.”
“See,” Emilia said, lifting to her side to glare at her. “See—you protect me, but—but I’m supposed to protect you!”
Sora chuckled. “You can’t even protect yourself from—wait, no, no—that came out wrong … it was meant as a joke…”
She glanced over at her daughter, wincing as tears appeared in her eyes. Her arms straightened, pressing against her thighs to stop the trembles that shot down them.
Trying to backtrack, Sora continued, “It’s something Wendy and I do … I’m sorry,” she groaned, running her hand through her copper hair to scratch her left ear.
“Again,” she sniffed, “you’re trying to—to protect me—my feelings. And—and you’re right—it really hurt, and—and I don’t exactly know why, and now I’m frustrated.”
“Hey,” Sora whispered, shifting to a sitting position across from her as Emilia rubbed her red cheeks. “That’s emotion … you haven’t really experienced it—oh, wow, you really haven’t experienced it, and it’s not something you can just give knowledge on.”
“How do I—do I make it stop?” She asked, beginning to hiccup.
Sora’s brow creased with concern as she got up and hugged her; Emilia’s body trembled, arms slowly closed around her as her hiccups increased. “You don’t make it stop. You just—let it out.”
Emilia’s chest convulsed against her as she cried, clinging to her. Sora maneuvered her tails to wrap around her daughter’s, pressing them against her body.
“Hey—yeah, it’s okay. Just let it out—cry until you can’t.”
After a few minutes, Emilia’s quakes slowly eased. Taking a few deep breaths, she sniffed, “I think—I’m okay.”
Sora squeezed her a moment before letting go and returning to her seat.
“I’m—I’m so sorry,” Emilia mumbled with horror as she looked at her.
A bit confused, she looked down before chuckling; her hair and clothes were wet with tears and snot. Taking a note from her aunt’s book, she opened her magic and desired Emilia’s puffy face and the stains on their clothes to be clean.
Emilia stiffened with shock as a light red glow surrounded them, eyes furrowed as she watched the stains and felt her wet and puffy cheeks cleaned up. “That—you used magic?”
Sora nodded brightly. “Yup, and I’ll teach you how to do it too, but I think we should take it one step at a time. I think we first need to get you used to emotions; we don’t want you to blast someone because you get angry or mess some spell up because of uncertain desires.” She giggled.
“What if they insult you, though?” Emilia asked.
She clicked her tongue. “Yeah—we’ll work on emotions first; if Eyia isn’t jumping at someone’s throat, and that can be a low bar, then please don’t act the same way. I like to talk things over first, and if it’s just an insult, then who cares.”
“I do…” Emilia mumbled.
Well … this might be tougher than I thought.
“I—I think that it’s generally fine for say … Fen to insult me. Oof, how do I explain this?”
She was silent for a moment before saying, “Fen can go ahead and make fun of me all she wants, for instance, but when she’s trying to manipulate me, and trap me into a corner to do what she wants against my will, then I have a problem with it. I can choose not to help her, just like she can choose not to help me, but we will have issues if she wants to force me to do something.”
Emilia tucked her lower lip under as she thought about her answer. “So—force is bad, you don’t have to help people, and talking is good?”
“Kind of,” Sora mumbled. “Being generally kind to people is good,” she hummed, support herself with her arms as she leaned back. “Respect should be earned, though, not given, it needs to be worth something, but being generally courteous to people is good. If they’re courteous to you, then be polite too.
“When I said that Fen would be a bad influence on you, I meant that she’d manipulate you into using your powers for her own benefit; what I saw was that once she found out that you couldn’t do magic like me—well, not even me, like Inari is what she wants, then she’d manipulate you to force me into doing something about it.
“I didn’t want to put you into that position, and so, I chose to chase her out. It was a pretty surreal situation for me, being able to connect different dots like that through her Core. To be honest, it’s pretty hard to do, but it kind of came naturally when I was focusing on how it would affect you.” She said with a thoughtful smile
Emilia’s confused blue eyes lifted to study her. “What do you mean, when you were focusing on me, it was easier?”
Sora’s eyes fell to the floor as her cheeks bunched to the side. “To be honest—I don’t know what I mean. It was more of an experience than me knowing what I was doing. The moment I looked into Fen’s Core and started pondering on how much I should tell her about you, I started connecting all these bad dots that she could, and would, if given the chance to use against you. I got a bit scared…”
“Scared,” Emilia whispered. “You were scared that—that she’d hurt me. I want—why can’t I protect you? Why do you keep protecting me? I want to help…” She mumbled, lips starting to tremble again as her throat constricted.
“Okay,” Sora smiled.
“You’re—welcoming my help? I’m not just a burden?”
“Sure, and no, you’re not a burden … I don’t see you that way at all! I’d love to have your help, but first, we’ve got to get you caught up. Now, I’m not being mean, but you know you can’t use magic, and I need to teach you.”
Sora could see that she didn’t like hearing it but reluctantly nodded. “It felt really natural that you’d teach me when Inari talked about it, but … it feels different now.”
“Yes, well—I think you also need to learn more about who you are first before you start learning a ton of magic.”
“But—but why?” Emilia’s head rose to stare at her. “I can’t help you if I don’t know magic.”
Sora shook her head. “Sure, you can. Magic isn’t everything, and Wendy or the others don’t have magic … yet, at least.” She added glancing at the wall with pursed lips before her vision returned to her daughter. “There are a lot of ways to be helpful. You should spend some time with the others, and I’m sure Eyia will train you up physically, soon enough.” She mumbled with dread. “Just—don’t push yourself; Eyia’s a bit—extreme.”
“You want me to—learn how to function better?”
She clicked her tongue. “Don’t make it sound so robotic! You need to experience life; don’t be tied down to me all the time—live a little, like a healthy Vulpes … I can’t believe I just said that … I need to live a little myself. Maybe we can live a little together; spend some time to learn who each other are, I mean—we’ve just met.” She giggled.
“I don’t—not to me,” Emilia groaned, falling back to the bed. “I feel like I’ve known you forever; I know the amazing things you’ve done, and followed along the struggles.”
A dull hum rumbled through Sora’s throat. “From what I see, you’ve only met most the good sides of me. My aunt was very picky about certain things; yes, it’s embarrassing that she gave you some knowledge about me getting drunk—my change was a bit … rushed,” she winced, “but you don’t know years of bullying, of loneliness, and loss.”
“Bullying, loneliness—loss?” Emilia straightened to look at her. “You—how could anyone bully you? When Fen tried, you completely shut her down.”
Sora’s smile turned sad as her eyes fell. “You only know the cool Vulpes Founder side of me; you don’t know the human side. My aunt gave you a lot of general knowledge about the Human Realm, but not what I experienced there. I can take you there; maybe I can show you a bit tonight—tell you some stories. I’ll take us on a trip back there, and we can explore a bit. I do have some of my own training things I need to sort out with Inari, but that shouldn’t take long.”
“You’ll—you want me to join you—to go back into the Human Realm—like what you did with Wendy and the others?”
“Did you like those stories?” Sora asked, looking up to smile at her daughter.
Emilia nodded, eyes sparkling. “Yeah, some of it was pretty sad, but a lot of it sounded really cool.”
“Cool,” Sora’s stomach rumbled as she laughed. “You really did get a lot of earth slang. Eyia had to learn those kinds of words from Jin. By the way, did you know that a week or two ago, Jin wanted to rip out my heart?”
“What?” Emilia’s face drained of color.
“Woah,” Sora giggled. “We worked through it, but yes, there are a lot of things you don’t know about me and the others. I think we need to take it slow and you need to learn more about us. To be honest, I have no clue what’s going to happen tomorrow, or the next day, or in a week from now, but I’m going to fight to keep you by my side, and that’s for sure. You don’t mind that, do you?”
Emilia quickly shook her head as her tails stiffened and her hair whipped around. “No! Not at all!” She said, swiftly combing her hair back. “I—I really want to!”
She really is like a star-struck teenager; she idolizes me, but that’s because you gave her only a small glimpse of my memories and mostly good ones! Yeah, I’m talking to you Auntie, but—I get it, if you gave her a ton of my memories, then she’d be basically a Core copy of me; you want her to expand in her own way … grow like a child. Thanks…
“Okay,” Sora sighed. “I’m going to go upstairs and make everyone some clothes, and that includes you.”
Emilia’s eyes seemed to sparkle. “You mean—clothes like Mary, Wendy, and you?”
Sora nodded, stretching out her arms. “Yup; I plan on making a lot of clothes from my own wardrobe and getting everyone’s size in the Outer Body Technique. You know, I have the Spiritual Impression of that woman from the resizing store … I could have her train me a bit about how to best form the sizes. Jin, Githa, and Eyia might be difficult since I’ll have to do a Visual Impression of them, but everyone else should be cake.” She muttered thoughtfully.
“I’d be happy with anything,” Emilia said, twitching ears and wagging tails revealing her excitement.
“How would you like to join me?” Sora asked. “You can get first pick of all the clothes; maybe I’ll see about pulling everyone in … if Inari lets me. I don’t know about Githa…”
Her smile dropped a little with a sigh as she heard Githa yell, “Rude!” From downstairs.
Figures, she’s listening … freaking Nekomata.
“Well, you are kind of mad at my aunt,” Sora said, glaring at the floor. “If she says it’s okay, then I’m fine with it, but it’s my freaking Core! Who knows what trouble you know how to cause in there; at least, I know Jin and Eyia won’t do anything shady.”
Githa huffed before curling up on the sofa she was sleeping on. She didn’t even try to deny that she wouldn’t do anything! What’s she even doing back downstairs? Everyone else is talking to Liz and Alice about the Human Realm upstairs.
“Anyways,” Sora took a deep breath. “Yeah, why don’t we go upstairs and meet everyone. I think it’ll be fun to get new clothes; of course, we have to make some nightwear and … some underwear for you.” She mumbled, eyes sliding down Emilia’s body.
She’s a freaking model, and what’s with those curves? I’m supposed to be the mom? How curved is mom and my other relatives … Inari’s probably hiding her own curves under that Kimono.
“My own…” Emilia took a deep breath, trying to ease the quakes of excitement rushing through her veins. “Can we do it now?”
“Yeah,” Sora giggled, getting to her feet. “Let’s go tell the others that it’s time for a fashion show!”
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