A Tail’s Misfortune — V4 – Chapter Eight: Trial By Fire

POV: Emilia (Sora’s daughter just wants a little attention!)

Recap: Sora, Jin, Eyia, and our important wolf girl, Kari, went to the bath and had a nice relaxing time … at least, some people did!  Haha!  Kari just got poked and prodded by our impish fox, trying to get her to loosen up more.  A small tidal wave might have been involved >.> with some Vulpes attendants that wet the pool on sight!

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Emilia moaned while stretching out her eight long tails, instinctively moving them to the side while pulling the sheet over her head.  After a moment, she yawned, opening her eyes.

A smile curved her mouth upon seeing her mother’s sleeping face across from her, left ear folded against the long pillow they shared.  Snuggling a bit closer, Emilia tried her best to suppress a giggle upon shifting her mother’s two puffy tails on top of her side.

Closing her eyes, she breathed deeply, relishing the soft natural fragrance that surrounded her mother.  A few other scents mixed with it told Emilia Sora had recently taken a bath, and after a moment, she noticed the same smell on Kari, likely not far away by her strong musk.

The realization put a pout on Emilia’s lips.

I can’t believe they let me sleep!  Geez … I want to soak with them, too.

She couldn’t recall a time when her mother had a more peaceful expression as the one she had in front of her, chest slowly rising and falling while puffing hot air against Emilia’s neck.

Emilia relaxed her head against the pillow, adjusting her hair to enjoy the experience a little longer.  She couldn’t help but take one more peek at her mother, smiling before closing her eyes again.

She knew her existence was probably really strange for her mother, even if she didn’t fully understand precisely why, and ever since she was born, all she’d seen on her mother’s face was stress; even when she was smiling, she sensed it.

So, being able to see a genuinely peaceful look upon her sleeping form made Emilia’s stomach flutter with happiness.  She didn’t like the stress, but at the same time, she knew some of her actions had caused some of it, and she didn’t know exactly how to make it right.

Her smile faded while thinking about the meeting they had with the Vulpes Council.  Everything had turned out okay from how everyone acted, but it all troubled her.  That strange world that she’d seen was so foreign and frightening; she’d never seen a demolished city, and how something so big could have collapsed was beyond her.

Plus, there was that presence she felt.  The emotions were heavy, hot, and dark, making her shiver inside the warm blankets; a hidden shadow lingered in that overwhelming place.

Her arm reflexively slid under her mom’s side, other hand wrapping around her top to snuggle closer into her mother’s protective presence as the memories of the skeletons, blood, and the savagery of the place assaulted her mind.

How could anyone do that?

The emotions lingering in that space were nothing like she’d felt before, and it scared her.

Shifting her weight, she pulled Sora on top of her, feeling her weight press comfortingly against her chest; her mother wasn’t as heavy as she thought, but just having her mother nearby helped curb the thoughts beating in her mind.

Emilia’s hands tightened around Sora’s limp body, head tilted to the side, against her upper chest, and the weighted down sheets lifted a bit while Emilia wrapped her tails around them, trying to block out the world.

Everyone relies on Mom so much … can I help take some of that off her shoulders?

She smiled, brushing back her mother’s thick copper hair.

I’m just so stupid, though … I don’t know how to help, and when I do, I cause problems.  Mom’s so busy … who can help me learn how to help her?  Only Aunt Inari can do that besides Mom, but she’s doing things for Mom right now … no, maybe I’m just selfish…

Sighing, she pulled down the sheet to stare at the ceiling, eyes widening as a black box surrounded them.  “Huh?”

She quickly pulled the sheet back over her head as if it would protect her.

What’s going on?  We’re in a big black box … umm, are we in a cage … please don’t say we’re trapped.  Mom’s already dealing with so much, and now this?  No, no, no … I can solve this!

The sheets slowly fell, stopping at her nose while Emilia glared at the impenetrable space around them.  “Mmh…”

Carefully shifting her mother a little against her chest and managing her hair, Emilia tightened her stomach, using her muscles to lift her torso up a little to see who was around them.  Her fingers tightened around the bunched sheets upon spotting a massive sleeping Snow Leopard lying just below her feet, purring while snuggled next to Wendy.

Emilia pulled the covering back over her head, slowly lying down.

Calm down, calm down … that’s just Githa, but … why’s she in that big form and not her cute little cat … was she that big before?  No, don’t be a wimp!

Taking a deep breath, she pulled the sheets back, but all she saw was an impenetrable prison surrounding them and the presence she felt inside that city circling the dark energy.  She knew it probably wasn’t happening, but to her eyes, it looked like the shadows were falling around her, the walls closing in to compress them.

I’m not afraid … I’m not afraid … I’m not!

Her mind played on the darkness; she’d never seen something so black that her naturally gifted eyes couldn’t penetrate, and all she saw were monsters outside, waiting with salivating teeth, just waiting for her to blink to fall upon everyone inside.

I’m not afraid … I can’t be … is this real?  I know there’s something there … I know there is, but … but…

Emilia’s wide eyes darted to the edge of the nearest wall; it wasn’t moving, meaning even if her mind told her it was closing in, it was all in her head.

A lump dropped down her throat, and she could feel her heart beating like a drum; it baffled her a bit that her mother hadn’t woken up yet.  Still, what if this was all in her head, and she woke her up for nothing?  She didn’t want to look stupid or act like a scared child.

Steeling herself, Emilia took a deep breath to calm down, moving her mother to the side, and after situating Sora, she scooted back against the large headboard, glancing around.

If there is something nearby that wants to hurt us, wouldn’t it have attacked us already?  No, maybe this is a barrier that’s keeping us safe … maybe, but why do I feel this pressure against my chest, then … something isn’t right.

Her mint green irises moved to Kari, but all she saw was a puffy mess of crazy thick black hair, flared out in sharp clumps that were surprisingly uniform among the bunches of locks.

Discreetly crawling over Sora as not to wake her, Emilia pulled back the sheets to get a good look at the Fenris Wolf.

Emilia’s lips tightened upon revealing a less than flattering expression on Kari’s sleeping face; the girl’s mouth was open, wet drool staining the bottom sheet as she breathed deeply, body sprawled across the bed as if she owned the thing, and her large bushy tail sat curled around her barefoot.

Kari’s baggy T-shirt was half-fallen off her shoulders, showing part of her light-weight blue bra; the strap had fallen around her bicep.

Debating between her options while glancing around at the dark space, she sighed, choosing the Fenris Wolf over disturbing her mother’s sleep, just in case this was all a false alarm.

“Kari,” she whispered, gently nudging her.  “Kari…”

A low growl rumbled through Kari’s throat, and she shifted a little, shirt bunching higher to show her bare upper thighs as she turned her back to her.

“Kari!”  Emilia hissed, shaking her shoulder, but still, she didn’t rise.

Emilia’s eight tails stiffened upon sensing a strange pulse of energy radiating from the bed.  Backing up a little, she took a deep breath, staring down at the comfy mattress, doing her best to focus on the magic surrounding her.  She followed the magic like her mother had directed her back at the council chamber.

It was more difficult than sensing emotion, but after a few growls of frustration, she smiled, finally tuning into the wavelength.  The bed was definitely magic-infused, but that was really all she could tell; it didn’t seem threatening or harmful; in fact, it gave her a somewhat positive sensation.

What’s going on?  Is the bed just making sure everyone gets a good sleep … I mean, I guess I kind of passed out the moment I laid down, and they must have gone to bed later. 

Kneeling down beside Kari, Emilia brushed her copper bangs out of the way with a low groan, staring around at the boxed-in space while rubbing her arms.  It wasn’t as scary as it had been, but there was something still giving her the creeps.

Tossing the sheets back over Kari, she stepped over her to get to the edge of the bed, staring at the impenetrable wall, and with her spiritual perception still fairly sharp after honing in on the mattress, she noticed something strange.

Emilia’s lips pursed, glancing back at the imprint under the sheets that was Kari; her eight tails hovered a foot above her head, making sure not to smother the marshmallow that confused her.

Her memories made her believe Kari and Sora weren’t the best of friends, but to her, they seemed closer than her mother was to Wendy, who had known her most of her life.  Yet, Kari was super defensive about defending her mother, and the teasing vibes she felt from her mother only confused her, but Kari was really nice to her.

Her attention returned to the spot that caught her eye; a strange pulse occasionally shot from the wall, traveling through the mattress.  It didn’t have to go far, and the bizarre force wasn’t powerful.

Closing her eyes, she grew more curious, trying to zero-in on the phenomenon, and to her delight, the more she directed her concentration to the space between the mattress and wall, the clearer the weaves of magic became.

After a minute’s study, Emilia could distinguish a clear layered weave of tiny threads that rippled and broke apart, linking with nearby patterns, shifting the waves.  It was only a small area, but it was more complex than anything she’d come across; the tiny space was more expansive than the entire ravaged city.

The fluctuations mesmerized her, and she had no clue why they didn’t stay the same, continually breaking up to form new cohesive designs before detaching and creating something entirely different.

It was then that she watched the foreign force from the black wall enter the area, stretching through several patterns to link them in a certain way to force a reversal.  Emilia’s head tilted to the side, watching the weaves return to previous designs, and the process repeated.

“Hmm…”  Glancing back at her mother and the others, she tentatively returned her gaze to the wall with a worried frown.

It doesn’t feel harmful, but what’s beyond it…

Her eyes widened as the dark box became transparent, showing Eyia, Jin, Mary, Ashley’s kids, Liz, Alice, and the boys, all standing around a table while three new six-tailed Vulpes set the table full of food.

“Oh…”  She smiled, finding the same black boxes surrounding other beds around the big room.  Only two of them were transparent from what she could see, and no one seemed worried while preparing to eat.  They didn’t give any indication that they could see inside their box, but she had no clue how the thing worked.

Feeling a little sheepish, Emilia glanced over her appearance.

Yeah … I should change clothes.  I can’t believe I slept in my old stuff!  Ugh … you’re not supposed to do that…

She reached forward to exit, hand pressing against the wall; the world stretched, her arm seeming to compress on its sides.  Suddenly, she was inside a pitch-black place.

“Oh … how strange you are…”  Said a feminine, soft, melodic voice.

“Huh?”  Utterly baffled, Emilia kept her arm stationary.

Fingers closing, Emilia slowly pulled her hands back, pressing her fists against her chest while turning in a circle; the darkness was everywhere.

“Where am I?”  Emilia’s voice cracked as her throat constricted.

The world opened up like a nightmare, darkness peeling back to reveal bloodied corpses and a ruined city, trapped in time.

“I think it’s time that I emerge…”

Emilia took a step back, tripping as one of the deformed Vulpes children turned her head, dead brown eyes blinking, leaving the frozen blood upon the floor while lifting herself to sit cross-legged in front of her, revealing a crooked smile that was missing several teeth.

“Hello, Emilia.”

Crawling back, Emilia’s back met a broken chunk of wall with more gored and mangled bodies surrounding her, but only the Vulpes child moved, cocking her head with a broad smile.

“You’re an estrangement like me!”

“W-Where are we … what … what are you?”

The girl laughed, high-pitched and child-like, continuing for more than a minute.  Emilia’s stomach churned, but her limbs were paralyzed, leaving her helpless as she stared at the happy face of a clearly dead Vulpes girl.

“I’ve meant to see what the reason is … demonstrate all of the anguish I feel through the ones that I vanquished … hahaha!  The frustration keeps taking away from this vague little concept called patience, I’ll teach you … my brain had mistakenly left in me.”

“W-What?  I … what are you saying?”  Emilia squeaked, tucking into a ball as her tails wrapped around each other, pressing tightly against her shins.

“Lapping and lapping and lapping and lapping around you with such repetition!”  She laughed.  “Concealing your fate with a message … the Omen is not shy of a menace.”

Swallowing the dry lump in her throat, Emilia glanced around, not sensing anything particularly aggressive from the girl, despite the oppressive atmosphere.  “I don’t … I don’t understand … you’re not going to hurt me?”

The child tilted her neck the opposite way, causing several cracks that made Emilia wince.  “‘Cause I am the hated but lacking hatred, or any emotion, commotion, or chatter, Emilia the Estrangement.”

Emilia’s jaws snapped together as a quake fluctuated through the entire world, shaking everything as if the planet itself was growling, and the girl’s voice entered her mind.

“Shhh … now my afflictions, I suffer from visions of things that were written.  I’ll teach you a lesson, you wouldn’t … you shouldn’t … you couldn’t last seconds inside of it … there’s no imitating my brain; you can’t fathom the pain of inhabiting my mind, hehe, but my disposition is meaningless, even if I know the sequences.”

Emilia flinched as cracks and pops echoed across the silent space; the dead quivered.

“I’ve studied the meaning of meanings, and I’ve been meaning to see what the reason is … to demonstrate, but wait … I mean … hahaha … I just brought it back … back for a second, for just a few seconds.  The misfit, I continue to leave my surroundings as lifeless as the place I live.”

Each head slowly tilted to stare at her, wide grins spreading across their broken faces, and numberless voices spoke over each other.  “G-Guest?  F-Friend?  L-Life?  G-Give back?  M-Misery?  Hahaha!”

“Stop … please, stop…”

Emilia buried her head in her arms, covering her vision with her tails while crying; a new wave of oppressive emotions swirled above, and the voice continued.  An icy rush pressed against her frame, seeping into her veins.

“I brought death, and then I made a promise to myself … I’ve been certainly working with certainty … I did it, I admit, I did it, all while knowing the side-effects!  I’m never concerned if you eat, if you breathe, if you die, so please, don’t take it personally, I’m out of your reach … if there’s a problem, you probably don’t want a problem with me, releasing the misery of the obscene.”

“Stop … please, stop…”

“Haha!  No stranger to weakness … hurting deservedly anyone who irks you … I’m out of the question!  Understand that I’m not obligated to respond if I am not interested … I stay inside but emerge for emergency … you can’t disappoint me if I leave you anything short of expectancy … … not that it matters, don’t be mad … straight from the depths, what else would you expect from me … who am I?”

Emilia’s mind went wild as she fell forward, screaming while tumbling across the floor.

A soft, strong hand lifted her up.  “What is it, Little One?”

The blurry face of an alert Eyia came into focus, and Emilia cried out, latching onto her neck.  “H-Help!”

A flurry of cold wind expelled around them as Eyia’s right arm tightened around her, and their feet left the ground as the Valkyrie jumped back, landing near the door to the room.

Jin was soon by their side, yellow eyes narrowed as she stared at the black box.  “What happened?”

“Emilia?”  Nathan questioned, just getting to his feet.

“T-The thing … the thing in the city!  It…”  Utterly lost with how to explain it, she broke back into tears, crying into Eyia’s shoulder.

Jin growled lowly, jaw working around while staring between her and the barrier.

A few other questions were thrown out, but Jin held up her hand, silencing them as a sharp burst of spiritual pressure released from her body.  “One second … I don’t sense anything wrong, but … something definitely happened.  Emilia … I’m going to do something Sora probably won’t like … are you fine with me reading your Core?”

Eyia’s lips tightened, but after a moment, she nodded.  “If there is a threat, then we must be aware of it.  It will not hurt.”

Just wanting help, Emilia nodded, still unable to speak as her chest heaved.

An uncomfortable pressure enclosed her; it didn’t last long before Jin’s jaw tightened, glancing toward the box.  “Well … shit.”

“What?”  Ashley asked, everyone already on their feet and her children close to tears just hearing Emilia’s cries.

Eyia’s hand tightened around her.  “The creature inside the Core connected with Emilia.”

“Everything’s connected to the Core here,” Jin mumbled.  “How did you find something so small that led you to it?”

“It has only gone after Vulpes Founders,” Eyia noted.

“I know, I know,” Jin growled as everyone closed the distance to listen.  “There must be an attachment to their energy, or … the access they have in the system opens up a path for it to escape.  It’s clearly partly insane…”

“Like Dothead,” Eyia whispered, but her tone held daggers.

“Yeah … just like that mad dwarf,” Jin replied.  “There’s no way to tell what it’s saying is real or fantasy, warning or threat…”

“The bed…”

“I know, Eyia,” Jin growled, “but what can we do?  That barrier could keep out nearly anyone we’ve ever met!  Shit … how would we even dismantle it?  That bed is designed to survive more than a million years … there’s no way you or I could curb that record.”

One of the six-tailed tenants stepped forward.  “Umm … Mistress Jin, uh … is there a problem?  Should I get Councilor Tola?”

“… I don’t know … let me think,” Jin replied, walking forward to run her hand across the barrier.  “Dammit, Sora … why would you reject everyone but those inside?”

Emilia slowly stopped crying, but the experience still kept fixating in her mind; it was no different than really being there, and for all she knew, she had been transported to a whole new world.

“Umm, Friend,” Eyia whispered questioningly.  “It is the last option, but … Emilia could drag them out.  It is not the best choice, but do we have an alternative?”

Emilia stiffened, but Eyia’s words struck her heart.

Go in again … what if … no, but Mom … what if I can’t come back from that place…

Eyia released her as Emilia pushed away, dropping to her knees and heaving; a small remnant of what remained of yesterday’s meal exploded from her mouth, spraying across the carpet as she coughed and sputtered.

“Emilia!”

Mary and Ashley rushed to her side, rubbing her back as she coughed and cried.

“Hey, it’s okay, it’s okay…”  Ashley mumbled, trying to manage her messy hair that had caught a portion of the waste.

Her body began to shake.  “I … it was so cold … what is it … what is it?”

Jin walked over to her with Eyia by her side; everyone else was still trying to catch up.

“I don’t know,” Jin whispered, “but both Eyia and I believe it’s forcing your mother and everyone else in there into a deep sleep, corrupting the bed’s original use … it’s the reason it was so surprised you were able to escape its effects.”

“Indeed, Emilia!”  Eyia said with praise.  “If it were not for your efforts, then we would not have known something was wrong for a very long time.”

“Not just that,” Jin muttered, “but we’d have no way of helping … Emilia, your mom needs you to rescue her.  Can you do that?”

Emilia’s abdomen tightened again as she closed her fists against the floor.

Mom needs me to rescue her … I need to rescue Mom … but … am I strong enough?  I have to be!  I can’t be scared, but…

The misery that washed over her numbed her mind, causing her to dry heave, but after a moment of comforting from Ashley and Mary, her heart was sparking with resolve.  “I’ll try…”  She squeaked, still fighting for the courage.  “No, I have to … I can do it!”

“Attagirl,” Jin chuckled, helping her up with a concerned Mary and Ashley.

“You go with our confidence!”  Eyia stated with a proud smile, resting her hand on her shoulder.  “It will be something to tell around the fire on a cold night, your first real battle!”

 “Right … yeah,” Emilia took a deep breath, bolstering herself while brushing back her hair and cleaning her mouth.  She did her best to ignore the gross liquid that stuck to her hand as she wiped it on her front.  “I just need to pull them out, right … they’ll wake up?”

Jin gave her a solemn nod.  “That’s the plan.”

“Okay, yeah … I can do that … I can do that…”  She mumbled, hesitantly stepping toward the ominous black box with her instincts screaming at her to run.

I can’t run … I have to save Mom!  I can do it!

Closing her eyes, Emilia tentatively reached forward, touching the dark energy; she tensed, but her hand passed right through.

Blinking a few times, she had to remind herself that it was the moment when she let her guard down before that everything went wrong.

Emilia steeled herself and went for her mother first, passing onto the bed.  Reaching her mother, she pulled back the sheets and lifted her up, but a shuddering thought suddenly crossed her mind, making her mouth go dry.

Just a little … what if it’s just waiting for both of us to enter?

Her eyes widened, head slowly turning to stare at the wall, not four feet away.

“Shhh…”  The soft, feminine voice returned, but she wasn’t sure if it was her imagination or not.

A shiver ran down her spine to her eight tails, making her quiver just remembering the dead Vulpes girl’s bloodied and missing-toothed grin.

Deciding the others could pull her out if she got her mother to the edge, Emilia worked on the task, and sure enough, Sora was swiftly pulled through, but Emilia didn’t follow; dark thoughts swirled in her mind as her image of the girl’s laughing voice echoed in her mind, giving her goosebumps.

What if all of that was an illusion and … no, that can’t be true.  I’m overthinking it!  Why would it try to deceive me into bringing Mom to … could I have really messed up … no, please be … please…

Emilia closed her eyes and jumped through, landing on the soft carpet.  Peeking open an eye, she saw the smiling faces of all their friends, and a relieving sigh left her lips.  Her mother was held in Eyia’s protective arms, and Jin walked over with a smile.

“You can’t disappoint me if I leave you anything short of expectancy.  Haha!”

Emilia’s eyes widened as the surroundings melded into darkness, revealing the ravaged city, and each of her friends turned into cackling corpses.

Eyia transformed into a Vulpes with two broken tails, three others cut at various lengths, arms twisted several times, holding her mother.  The dead Vulpes’ head was pressed against her shoulder blades, showing a contorted, broken neck.

The little Vulpes girl’s head tilted to the side with a sharp snap as the cold emotion of dread and misery seeped into her veins, making her body quiver.

Emilia’s legs gave out.  “No…”

“I told you I’d teach you a lesson.  Hehehehe…”

Countless corpses began popping and cracking as laughter filled the cold world, and a fathomless swirl of energy collapsed on top of her.


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A Tail’s Misfortune — V4 – Chapter Seven: Finishing An Eventful Day