POV: Sora (Our Vulpes Founder with a new daughter to protect)
Recap: Loral went to a chamber full of trillions upon trillions of spirits, filling a massive layer underneath the planet’s crust, rejuvenating her broken Core. Then we discovered the truth…
Loral’s true identity is Niomie, and she stole the name of one of the council members from her time. She’s terrified of the real Loral and begins panicking. All of her safety measures were easily countered, and Loral continued to tease the woman, poking at her with lilting words.
She went to the great hidden library for answers, but she seemed just behind Loral at every turn. Sora is to blame, it has to be her. Her interference had ruined everything she’d been building! It’s time to confront the girl and make her fix it; she had to fix it!
Now, we go to Sora … how will this confrontation turn out?
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Sora bit her lower lip, holding her depressed daughter; she blamed herself for what happened and tried to explain it, but after a bit, she gave up, asking for them to share it through magic.
The party sat around the gathering of chairs and couches, waiting to understand what new challenge awaited them. From what they’d already been told, it was pretty serious, and they only expected it to get worse.
It was a little shocking that Emilia learned to utilize her spiritual energy better, but Sora had to guide her through the process of letting down her spiritual defenses to allow them to read the information stored in her Core, and Jin walked her through putting it into a data ball of magical energy to give to everyone.
The process took several minutes, and Tola popped up shortly after Sora realized a strange shift in the magical energies around them.
Tola’s face was creased with worry. “Loral has locked the City Core with an emergency injunction … has something happened?”
Sora had already duplicated Emilia’s experience a few times at this point, giving it to Jin, Githa, Eyia, and Mary, but her heart was troubled with what her daughter had done; she didn’t blame her, but the actions could spell a lot of trouble.
If there’s anyone outside of the group I can give it to, it’s Tola … she might even know what this whole thing is about.
Creating the sphere, Sora sent it to Tola; the councilwoman hesitated before absorbing the experience, including the way Emilia felt and saw from her own personal experience.
Tola’s face paled, vision falling to the floor.
“Hmm?” Jin’s left eye narrowed suspiciously. “Don’t have anything to add?”
A chair appeared behind the blue-haired Vulpes, and she sat, still appearing to be stunned by the recount.
“Anything you could add might help,” Sora pressed, creating more for the others.
“I’m processing it…” Tola whispered. “Trying to process the implications.”
Sora finished giving everyone the memories, and the councilwoman still hadn’t spoken. Once finished, Sora asked the first question. “Did it do anything to Emilia, Githa?” Trying to use the Nekomata’s experience to sniff anything out.
“Mmh…” Githa’s feline eyes scanned her daughter with a deep frown. “Nothing that I can tell, but the important piece of that information you gave me would be to ask if she did anything to you.”
“Me?” Sora asked, glancing down at her chest.
“You’re referring to the end?” Jin asked with tight lips. “That caught my attention, too.”
Eyia offered her own analysis quickly after. “I noticed Emilia may have Founder energy for the creature to use, and the active use was required in what she did; however, Emilia did not have the correct spiritual signature to do what was demanded.
“Asgard functions in a similar manner; to me, it seems Sora has the highest seniority within the Realm’s Nexus with the current individuals inhabiting the Realm. It needed Emilia to open the way to the key, and Sora to turn the lock.”
Tola was hugging her stomach as if she were sick. “… She had direct access to the entire Realm … not just the City Core … she used the City Core as a pipeline to the Realm’s Nexus Core.”
Jin moaned. “Geez, and you said Loral isolated the City Core? Seems way behind the mark, in my opinion; everything’s already been set in motion. How’s that gonna help?”
“It won’t,” Githa sighed, stretching out in her cat form. “If it had access to that kind of power, then I couldn’t tell if she did anything to Sora, but I doubt it would be anything bad, or else the White Fox would have stepped in.”
“Right … right,” Tola smiled hopefully. “Things cannot have gone in the wrong direction with Inari not involving herself.”
A boisterous laugh shook Jin’s frame, almost rolling off the blue couch she sat on. “Y-You actually believe that? That’s hilarious! You’ve obviously never dealt with Founders in your life!”
“What … do you mean?” Tola asked, glancing at Sora, but she only shrugged.
Why are you looking at me? I have no clue why my aunt does what she does.
Eyia seemed to be trying to hold back a grin herself, and Githa was rolling around with Jin, causing the Vulpes attendants to eye them with concern.
“That was fairly funny,” Eyia noted with a light giggle. “You are conflating two important things, Tola; Sora and your own fate.”
Sora sighed, finally understanding where they were coming from. She pulled back her copper hair and found it a bit caught with Emilia’s, taking a moment to try to untangle them, she explained. “Oh … so, my aunt doesn’t care about you or even anyone in this Realm, to be honest. Her not interfering means that it’s nothing I can’t handle or won’t affect me, personally … well, or Emilia.”
“Hasn’t it, though?” Tola queried. “Emilia was harmed, to a degree.”
Mary played with her fingers. “I actually agree with you, in some regard, Tola.”
The others shifted to hear her opinion as she collected her thoughts. “Yes, Emilia did experience a lot of stress, but that has never forced Inari to intervene. In fact, she even allowed Sora to go through an extremely traumatic event, albeit when it was heavily recommended against,” she noted as an afterthought.
“The Spiritual Worm,” Wendy mumbled. “Ew…”
Mary nodded with a strained smile. “Inari sees things from a significantly different viewpoint than the rest of us. We might see something as cruel, but to her, it might be the greatest mercy.”
“Yeah, I’m not going to try and speculate why Inari didn’t intervene,” Nathan replied, showing a forced grin. “Although, I doubt Inari would get involved unless Sora or Emilia are in legit danger of actually dying.”
“In short, let me be completely honest,” Githa snickered, “this doesn’t look good for this Realm. The creature would have probably noticed Inari’s spiritual construct, and it seems smart enough, in my humble opinion, to know not to make an enemy of the Vulpes Founders.”
Ashley hummed softly, watching her kids playing blindfold hide and seek with their father. “One line really stuck with me…”
“What?” Sora asked. The sheer emotional distress Emilia felt was what made her heart pound.
“When Emilia asked about the Council,” she pursed her lips to the side, glancing up at Tola. “That response was pretty telling.”
She repeated the quote: “Those sultry pups? Juvenile fools that haven’t the faintest idea what they’re executing. I have no need of such dimwitted Vulpes that couldn’t tell a seal from an embargo.”
Jin smirked, lifting an eyebrow at Tola. “Some real vitriol in there, don’t you think? Hehe, honestly, it sounds like she knows you guys pretty well, and what’s that about a seal or embargo?”
“… I don’t know,” Tola mumbled. “Loral … isn’t even inside the Capital … Hallaway isn’t, either. I don’t know what’s happening … this has never occurred the entire thirty thousand years I have been alive.”
Githa shrugged. “Meh, that’s a grain of sand in the desert to Nilly. This Realm is far, far older than that.”
Tola’s mind appeared to be playing with some unsavory thoughts. “… There is some evidence that suggests Loral is much older than she is … Loral and Hallaway just returned. They’re in the … why … we need to go to the Council Room. Loral, Hallaway, and Phebe just sealed the Palace.”
“Afraid of something getting out?” Jin mused.
Tola gathered the magic around them. “We should explain what happened to the rest of the Council … too much is happening.”
Sora quickly interjected. “Let’s hold off first; let me do it if it’s necessary.”
They appeared in the room with their chairs and sofas, but there was a noticeable change. Hundreds of Vulpes and humans were being brought into the area.
The group glanced around, watching dozens upon dozens of confused individuals; some were far from decently dressed.
“What is the meaning of this?” Ella asked, purple tails waving around as she examined the mass entrance of so many Vulpes and humans. “Wasn’t it you, Loral, that told us not to bring humans or Vulpes into this holy chamber?”
“Shut-up!” Loral snapped, causing the newly arriving council members to lift an eyebrow.
“Huh?” Bethel’s bright orange tails went stiff, but the Indigo council member ignored them, heated eyes fixating right on her.
Pointing at Sora, Loral glared. “Sit,” she growled, moving to her seat while creating some kind of barrier between them and the hundreds of humans and Vulpes around the room.
Well, seems she thinks I’ve done something wrong…
She half expected Eyia and Jin to protest, but they were surprisingly calm while taking their spots, waiting for the councilwoman to explain her actions.
Everyone soon followed suit.
The calm facade the elderly Vulpes showed before had vanished. “What … did you do?” Loral demanded, slamming a closed fist against the table. “Why did you release that … monster?!”
All the other council members turned their furrowed foreheads to her.
“Monster?” Mofupsi repeated, yellow tails twisting around each other as a smile brightened her cheeks. “I’ve heard of monsters from my personal library.”
“Not now, Mofupsi!” Loral spat, making the youngest council member lean back with surprise.
“Why are you acting this way?” Ella queried. “We deserve to know what is happening and why you’ve forcefully brought every one of the Palace’s occupants here.”
“That’s what I’d like to know,” Bethel mumbled, gazing over at the Red Seat. “You’re awfully quiet for all the ruckus, Phebe, and what is this about a monster that the Founder released?”
“Loral’s freed,” Phebe mumbled, a sharp shiver running down her curved frame.
“Phebe!” Loral demanded, clearly trying to silence the dark red-haired Vulpes.
The statement caused a second wave of confusion, including Sora’s group, and Githa was the first to speak up. “Interesting … oh, how fun, and interesting!”
She was back in human form, seeming to have gathered more than enough energy to regain the transformation, and her sharp, toothy grin settled on Loral. “Sora releases a monster named Loral … the same name you have, Loral. Is that a coincidence?”
“Surely not,” Eyia stated in her matter-of-fact way. “It appears the other Vulpes are in the dark, excluding Phebe and Hallaway, which were not within the Palace walls with Loral.”
“How would you know that?” Loral growled, suddenly looking defensive.
Jin bypassed her question with a grin. “Well, we can’t keep going between monster Loral and councilwoman Loral; it’ll be confusing. Why don’t you help clarify the situation, Loral!” She snickered.
The Indigo Vulpes’ fingers pressed against the table as she shook with rage. “That doesn’t matter! What did you do, Sora?” She screamed, clearly panicking. Her gaze shot to Emilia. “Why does she suddenly have a spiritual defense now, too? What happened?”
Sora wasn’t as frightened as she thought she should be, squeezing Emilia’s hand under the table. “Take a breath, and we’ll figure it all out.” Sora calmly replied. “I’ll tell you everything that happened, but first, you must be honest with us. There was something trapped within the City Core … Phebe called it Loral. Who is she, and why are you freaking out?”
Tola nodded, setting her brow while glaring at the eldest member of the Council. “I agree. Who else is in favor?”
All of the ranking Vulpes’s gaze settled on Loral.
Ella’s cool violet eyes didn’t falter. “I second the motion.”
“Oh, me! Definitely me!” Mofupsi huffed.
“I agree,” Bethel replied.
Phebe and Hallaway didn’t follow.
The Red Seat looked stunned and frightened.
Hallaway seemed thoughtful and remorseful but kept her peace, creating a four vs. three decision that Sora figured rarely occurred, and it just so happened that the three eldest Vulpes on the Council had declined comment, drawing more attention to the trio.
“The vote is cast,” Tola evenly replied.
Loral’s fists were shaking, teeth grinding. “That’s not why I called this meeting.”
“Did you call it?” Ella pointed out, a slight wrinkle creasing her brow. “Things are done in order, but you have not followed the proper procedures within this gathering. I find it quite … perturbing.”
“Heh, not her freaking out?” Mofupsi chuckled. “I mean, this is a side I’ve never seen.”
Hallaway cleared her throat. “If I might, Loral … we cannot hide the past for much longer. I can explain what needs saying.”
“Hallaway…” Loral closed her eyes for a moment. “Fine … what is necessary; we need to act swiftly.”
The green-furred Vulpes glanced around with a soft sigh, vision moving between the hundreds of figures whispering beyond the white circular barrier. Some were glancing around at space as if panicking out, others whispered to one another, while some tried to block everything out, huddling on the ground with covered eyes, trembling in horror.
When she spoke, her gaze settled on Sora. “Loral’s real name is Niomie. Those spheres you see … there, in space with the different colors? We used to live on the Indigo planet in the back.”
The crease in Ella’s brow had turned into a full-on frown. “This was not mentioned in any of the volumes I have read from the past Violet Council member’s journals, and I have read them all.”
Hallaway took a long breath. “No … this planet we are on has been the home to our Realm’s Vulpes for nearly seven-hundred thousand years … it was the only sphere that was not tainted by the works of Loral.”
“Tainted how?” Sora pressed, eyeing the colorful globes that circled the planet.
She shifted uncomfortably in her green seat. “Niomie, Phebe, and I were on those spheres when the incident happened … much of what was once there has long since vanished after such a long period of time.”
“Hold-up,” Bethel mumbled, glare turning distrustful. “You are claiming to be nearly seven-hundred thousand years old? It is impossible.”
“That’s not the point,” Niomie growled. “We are in danger! Loral was the previous Indigo Seat, and her manipulations of the Realm’s Core would have led to the end of our entire existence. She was obsessed with immortality.”
Sora lifted an eyebrow. “Uh … it’s not all that hard, to be honest. Just become a Kitsune; my aunt grants immortality to her Vulpes.”
Ella, Tola, Bethel, and Mofupsi, looked stunned at the news, but Phebe and Hallaway weren’t that shocked.
“What does that have to do with the current situation you’ve thrust us into?” Niomie growled.
“No, I’m just saying,” Sora whispered. “If she really was all about that, then why didn’t she just look for my aunt?”
“I mean, I guess it’s a valid question,” Mofupsi murmured. “She really does that?”
“You … didn’t know?” Jin asked with a wry smirk at Niomie. “Seems your famed elders aren’t surprised at the news.”
“… I can’t speak to why she didn’t go down that route,” Niomie replied, barely restraining her temper. “I can only…”
“Yaawwwhmmh…” Everyone stiffened as a black outline of a nine-tailed Vulpes appeared in the center of the table, standing on top of it while cracking her neck, but no sounds came from the action. “You’re so boring, Niomie! Why don’t you…”
A wave of destructive energy put Sora, and everyone else on-guard as Niomie lashed out, annihilating the figure.
“What was…” Bethel stammered, rising to her feet, but the shape just rematerialized, causing the orange-tailed Vulpes’ words to catch in her throat.
“… So very, very disappointing,” Loral mumbled, shaking her head. “You already tried to rid yourself of me.”
Sora wasn’t so sure, though, analyzing the figure from a meter back, Emilia behind her with Kari, Jin, and Eyia defending.
Githa didn’t even flinch, watching the figure with a wide grin while balancing her chair on two legs. “Sillies! Can’t you tell it’s just an intelligent projection? It’s probably here to taunt you,” she giggled. “It’s what I’d do.”
Loral turned to look at the cat. “I enjoy Nekomata. I really do!”
“Hehe, good to know! So, what’s up?”
“Don’t speak to it,” Niomie gasped. “How are you…”
“Oh … foolish, foolish, little pup,” Loral groaned. “You haven’t even told them the juicy parts yet! How have you survived for so long? Hehe, with all my knowledge of magic, it would be impossible for me, much less your … damage. I will say, at least you learned one nasty little trick.”
“What do you want?” Eyia asked, glowing spear in hand.
“Oh, me?” Loral hummed thoughtfully. “Asgardians tended to be more direct, from my short experience with your people. Umm … what do I want? Nothing any of you could give me! No, I’m just here to do just as the insightful Nekomata signified. A word I found in Emilia’s human language seems quite appropriate. I’m a troll! Hehe…”
The shadows dispersed, leaving the council members utterly baffled.
“Yeah,” Githa snickered, “real dangerous!”
Niomie glared at her. “You don’t know her … she’s trying to steal a body to get free from the City Core; maybe she could take yours … maybe she already has.”
“Ooh, scary,” Githa grinned, legs striking the ground as she leaned forward. “Mmh?” Her head darted left and right. “I’m not sensing anything off with all those weak Vulpes outside.”
Sora’s brow knitted together. If she reached the Realm Core … did she actually start the process of becoming immortal, or is that a lie? If there’s anything that came from this reveal, I can’t trust Niomie, and the other council members seem to be thinking the same thing after being lied to for so long … I can’t even imagine what it might feel like.
“Tell us the rest of your story,” Sora replied, motioning for everyone to return to their seats, “but before that, could you make all of those people more comfortable … decent?”
Loral seemed resistant, but Hallaway complied, using her own magic to create sections for them to rest in, and continued where Loral left off.
“What I know is that because of Loral … the previous Indigo Seat, not Niomie … it resulted in the destruction of every major Seat’s planet, causing them to go insane. We’ve tried to repopulate the areas, but the level of magic there even outstrips this City’s ability to correct. The unstable Vulpes Founder Magic creates a chaotic field we’ve been unable to fix.
“These Palaces were supposed to last as long as this Realm existed … yet, whatever Loral’s actions caused, it created an area unfit for anything except desolation. We can view the place from this room … but we can never go there.”
How has she been in power so long with a temper like this? I suppose when you train Vulpes to be obedient with magical spells and institutions since birth … yeah, okay, I can see it now.
Jin eyed Eyia with a dubious frown. “That … doesn’t sit right with me.”
Eyia nodded, returning the expression. “Indeed. If the stability of a Realm’s Core is in jeopardy, then it will continue to expand, yet these areas have stayed constant, indicating it is by design, not a chaotic error within the weave of the Realm.”
“Exactly,” Githa mused, balancing on her chair again. “Did the three of you know that basic degree of Realm mechanics? Ooh .. no?” She teased, watching Hallaway and Phebe’s confused expressions.
Sora delivered the punch, though, noting the irregularities. “If you didn’t know that … something Jin knows at what … less than a century of years under her belt, and after seven-hundred thousand years … can you really say you know what’s happening within the Realm or even what Loral was doing?”
Ella’s narrowed vision shifted to the opposing three. “The Founder makes an excellent point, Hallaway, Phebe … Niomie. Is your understanding so juvenile?”
“Like you could possibly understand the magic I know!” Niomie shot back with a savage tone. “I am ten-times your senior in the weave!”
“Ten times … that’s it, after seven-hundred thousand years,” Githa whistled. “I kind of feel bad for you now.”
“What would you know about this Realm’s struggles … what I’ve had to do to keep our Vulpes population alive?”
“What does that mean?” Ella replied.
“Mmh,” Bethel folded her arms under her chest with clear dissatisfaction. “We’re learning many new things.”
“… No, this is exactly what Loral wants!” Niomie groaned. “I don’t have time to deal with all of your questions! We need to seal or kill her before she does something drastic!”
“Like?” Mofupsi asked.
“I … don’t know. It’s what we should be discussing!”
“A lot of things need discussing,” Tola replied, tone reaching a lower pitch with growing rage. “You were supposed to guide us to be your aides, pillars of the Realm … that is what we are to be, but instead, we have been lied to, and our seat’s authority taken advantage of. If you cannot provide me with evidence of Loral’s intentions to do harm, then I will leave until you have something to show me … I have a lot to think about regarding your position as the Chairman.”
Sora was a little surprised to hear the rising temper of the aged Vulpes around her, but then again, a council only functions as a unit so long as its members can trust one another, and that trust was now broken. She half wondered if this might actually be a plot by Loral, yet it was at the same time, it wasn’t something so easily mended or prevented. Niomie had broken their bond of trust in the established system.
“Agreed,” came the response from the other three council members.
Phebe’s fists were white. “I … my parents, everyone I knew turned on one another … Niomie managed to save me before it reached me … protected me with the Indigo Seat’s power … including Hallaway. If it wasn’t for her, I would have died … Loral caused that apocalypse.”
“So you say,” Jin returned with a careful tone. “Yet there is no proof that is the case. For all we know, she lied to both of you from the start … think about that, for a moment.”
“Who’s side are you on? Are you Loral? Did she take you over to seed sedition?”
Tola’s tone was cold. “No … you’re doing that all yourself … Niomie. Hallaway, Phebe … I will be conducting my own investigation with Sora and her friends’ aid if they offer it. If you wish to explain your sides of the story, then request a meeting. Until then, I put forward a motion to block all further influence of Council power.”
“You cannot!” Niomie spat, but before she could do anything foolish, Sora reached out to the City Core, and a translucent prison surrounded the three council members as Tola continued, the Indigo Seat screams unheard behind the shell.
Ella, Bethel, and Mofupsi’s scornful eyes glared at the imprisoned Vulpes. Hallaway seemed mournful that it came to this but resigned. Phebe seemed somewhat scared, analyzing the shell in front of her, while Niomie’s increasingly frail frame increased in rage as she shouted, slamming her fists against the barrier with protest.
Tola continued with a thankful nod to Sora, but her gut churned at the development.
A potentially dangerous Vulpes I had a hand in reviving from the dead is on the loose … a self-proclaimed troll and the Council that is in charge of protecting and guided this Realm is falling apart with one simple appearance. Well, to be fair, there were signs of cracks already forming, but this escalated really fast with her arrival.
“Who is in favor of sealing the Council’s powers from use until five council members can overturn the results?”
The Orange, Purple, and Yellow Seats all raised their voices. “I.”
Each of their accessories instantly began to glow before fading, and Sora recognized a seal being placed on each.
Was this the right decision? I mean, I suppose I could undo it whenever I want, but … I guess extremes are needed with things break apart this badly.
Tola turned to address her three other council members, basically just instated as the group’s current ranking senior. “We should split up and search for proper answers.”
“The Festival?” Mofupsi asked.
“Hmm … I’ve only ever questioned the way we do things in the depths of my heart,” Tola mumbled, vision returning to the fuming Indigo Seat, “however, now all I have are doubts. Ella, would you like the task of investigating the purpose of the ceremonies?”
Ella’s frown turned into a cute smile. “I’d love nothing more, but where should I start? I have found nothing within my library to indicate the reasons for such events.”
Sora could feel the next response coming as Tola turned her unsure gaze to her. “Sora … could you grant Ella access to Niomie’s side of the Palace?”
Niomie’s eyes bulged with anger, silently shouting her protest.
Wow … they’re really going to rely on me, but … is that right? I mean, I suppose if we really want answers, then that’d be the best place to start.
Her companions were each giving her similar looks, all wondering what was the right path forward. Githa seemed as carefree as always, but Eyia and Jin each appeared to have their own internal debates going on.
Figuring it might be the best path forward, she nodded. “I’ll do it for Ella, and … Mary, Ashley, umm, could you two join her? I have a plan to keep everyone safe.”
“Umm, yeah, sure,” Ashley replied, glancing at Mary as she nodded.
“It would be my pleasure to learn more about this Realm’s history, or whatever I might be able to discover.”
“Alright, then I’m going to make an edict of the City Core,” she stated with a huff, and everyone focused on her. “I hereby declare, if anyone, anything, or the creature we now know as Loral tries to harm anyone in any way that I would disapprove of, then they will be placed in whatever prison this Palace has, and only I can free them. I will also be made aware of the action.”
Niomie actually seemed somewhat relieved at the command, but she still was clearly against anything else. Granting permission to the individuals, Sora tried one more thing, asking the Core for a recount of the past, but was a little surprised to find the function to view the past blocked.
The Council’s authority can’t stop me … that’s been proven, which means … was this placed by someone in my family, or did Loral use my power’s own authority to block it?
“Hmm … okay, let’s get everyone back to their previous locations, but keep the Palace on lockdown. If you want to leave, get in contact with Tola, and she’ll let me know. I’ll hear your request directly,” she noted, giving Tola a slight frown.
The blue-tailed Vulpes gave her a bright smile. “Thank you, Sora … I almost feel free. I just want to know the truth.”
With that, Sora used the reactivated City Core to transport everyone back to their previous locations.
Even if Loral is stealing someone’s body … I’d disapprove of that, which means she’d be sent to prison. Right now, it’s the best I can think of, and Loral might not even be that bad. There’s just so much we don’t know.
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