POV: Sora (our Vulpes Founder)
Recap: Our adorable little Emi got a nickname, and she even asked Kari to call her by the pet name! Oh, we also discovered Kari is her nickname, too! Kari’s full name is Katharine (cute!).
There was some debate with what Sora’s grandmother’s tail color is (everyone’s seeing different colors). Eyia and Jin talking about their mysterious past, both girl’s meeting with Parvati having something to do with being tricked with chairs?
Tola gave them some pointers on how to conduct themselves at the meeting … and all of it fell apart. We got to meet each of the seven Vulpes Council Members and they seem far from united. Loral seems to be the big bad boss that holds an iron fist (don’t think a lot of the Council members like her).
Well … after Loral pushed Sora to examine Emilia’s Core, she went full nuclear option, utterly shutting down EVERYONE’S ability to sense spiritual energy, period, within the confines of the palace. By birthright, she has the authority to overrule their powers.
Now, how will they take having their authority stripped from their hands?
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Sora took a deep breath as everyone stared at her, still processing what she did and might do next. “Okay,” she muttered, keeping her focus on Loral. “So, umm…”
She paused as Loral’s composure seemed under stress of breaking, and the councilwoman spoke up, voice strained. “This is—a good opportunity to test The Council’s collective rights after you change something with the City Core.”
Wow, don’t sound so freaked out … I mean, it’s only blocking our senses; it’s not like I’m killing anyone—but doesn’t it look like she’s older than before … wow, yeah. Maybe…
Jin, Eyia, Kari, Githa, and the others watched the council members with slight curiosity as Loral directed their attention.
“Oh,” Hallaway chuckled nervously. “Yes, yes—that would certainly be something to determine; it’s not often a Founder comes to our Realm, after all.” She cleared her throat, “But, umm—how do you propose we direct our artifacts without the ability to sense the flow of magic?”
“She’s not wrong,” Phebe mumbled, giving their senior a quizzical look. “You should know…”
Loral’s fingers began to tremble while pressing against the water-like crystal table, and a lump dropped down her throat. “I—you just need to direct your focus … the artifacts will respond—even without us being aware.”
Well, shoot … I’ve really shaken her up—even the other council members are questioning her.
She licked her lips, vision shifting between each colored Vulpes. “Umm—if you promise not to mention our Cores again, then I’ll try to reverse it.”
If I can … I can’t sense anything either, but they don’t know that. This is really their fault, to begin with. I don’t know why they’re so fascinated by Emilia, but it’s kind of creepy. It’s like Loral’s a salivating predator waiting to pounce on my daughter … oof, is that how Dad felt when strangers would come up to us in public saying how cute I was? I liked it when I was little, but … yeah, just don’t do that.
The other members looked at Loral with furrowed brows, clearly, fine with the proposal, but Loral hesitated.
“I—think we should first try this … quickly, focus your desire to revoke the previous command.”
Sora was a little dubious about the old Vulpes’ motives, and the others appeared more distrustful of Loral by the minute. However, they all watched in silent fascination as a glowing string of colorful energy moved from each brooch worn by the council, rising to the globe above.
Wait, are we in the City Core? This is like, the brain of the computer in the city?
Each one touched the sphere, changing its hue until it shone like a rainbow; it brightened, making everyone tense. Out of the corner of her eye, Sora saw Loral’s eyes light up with hope.
The glow faded, and nothing happened.
“Well, that was anticlimactic,” Jin chuckled. “You feel anything, Eyia?”
“I do not; my senses are still blocked.”
“No—there must have been a mistake,” Loral mumbled, her shoulders sagging. “Again!”
The other council members looked doubtful but tried it one more time.
The result was the same.
Loral looked devastated. “No…”
Ella cleared her throat, small frame shifting in her seat as she leaned forward. “Loral, it seems Lady Sora holds higher authority than The Council. Wouldn’t it be prudent to move forward with that knowledge?”
“Like I said,” Sora sighed, running her left hand through her hair. “I’m not here to start a fight, but I said no one will be invading anyone’s Core, and I mean it. I’ll cooperate with you as best I can, but I will not negotiate that stance.”
She noticed Mary and Ashley smiling at her, indicating that they were pleased with her firm stance on the topic while putting the ball back in their court.
“I find that acceptable,” Hallaway replied, vision shifting to Phebe.
Tola cleared her throat, hands still shaking in her lap. “I agree. I believe we may be able to learn much from Lady Sora’s stay.”
Ella smiled in her direction. “Most certainly; this is most opportune. I would love to hear more about the Founders.”
“I want to know what kind of combat skills you have,” Mofupsi replied with a thoughtful hum. “What kind of powers do Founders have that we don’t?”
Bethel nodded curtly, not speaking, and leaving Loral the only council member to add her voice to the decision.
Man, I know I’m strongarming them into this, and some of them must have bitter tastes in their mouth, but—well, most of it is coming from Loral herself. I guess it would be pretty devastating to realize all the power and knowledge you’ve built just got trumped by some sixteen-year-old Founder.
Loral’s voice wasn’t the only thing that had aged considerably since Sora had cut her off from her ability to sense supernatural forces. “I—accept that condition.”
“Perfect,” Sora chimed, looking up at the sphere, she sent the desire, and Spiritual Energy bloomed around them as the ban was lifted.
It took everyone a moment to reorient themselves, causing a long silence to pass as they breathed a sigh of relief.
Loral was the first to speak, somehow reversing some of her rapid aging. “We will take a thirty-minute break to—cool our heads.”
Without even receiving a response, she left, followed by the others, as they returned to their city sections to collect their thoughts. Mofupsi gave her an unsure hum before being the last to leave.
Sora’s focus shot to Jin as she lifted her hand and swirled it around in the circle, and directed her fingers to her ears. The crystal understood her request, glowing upon her command; the space was now protected from eavesdropping.
Jin grinned. “Isn’t that convenient?”
“I agree,” Eyia giggled. “I now understand why Inari was so confident in your ability to survive this ordeal. Although,” her full lips fell into a frown, “doesn’t this feel too easy? I would enjoy more of a challenge to push my limits.”
Sora refrained from slumping against the table. No, Eyia! Please, don’t make it any harder! I’m done…
“Where do you suppose they ran off in such a hurry?” Nathan mused.
“Ah, right,” Jin grinned. “That’s what I was going to say; what do you bet they’re off scheming something?”
“I would wager my life on it,” Eyia stated, tone chilling.
“Well,” Ashley chuckled, “I don’t know if I’d go that far, Eyia, but the direction they were going with that was definitely trying to bully Sora into allowing them to probe Emilia’s Core.”
“Like I’d let that happen,” Kari growled, making Sora’s chest swell with pride.
Wendy nodded. “I don’t like that, uh—the indigo one. I think that’s the color? Talk about a royal…” She caught herself, glancing over at Emilia.
Sora’s daughter looked nervous and confused, listening to the conversations that she likely only partially followed.
Kari jumped back in. “I smelled the fear on most of them; Loral’s the alpha alright, but Hallaway and Phebe look like the next contenders.”
Jin popped her tongue. “Oh, sharp!” Her vision shifted momentarily to Tola, still trying to calm her shaking hands. “I should have guessed you’d pick up on pack behavior. Yeah, I agree; those passive-aggressive moves Hallaway made me smirk.”
Mary rubbed under her left eye with a low groan. “There’s so much wrong here.”
They all turned their attention to the psychiatrist.
Sora was the voice of the group. “What do you mean?”
Sagging in her seat, Mary folded her hands in her lap, studying Lora’s empty seat. “When they first arrived, Mofupsi was the first to declare an outrage, but Loral quickly shut her up, telling her to wait for the rest of the group. At first glance, you might think nothing of it, but taking into consideration Tola’s explanation, and what we’ve come to expect from this Realm … it struck me as—out of character.”
Jin and Eyia’s smiles fell, staring at the smooth table while pondering her words, but she continued on before they could offer their own thoughts. The rest followed along, except Githa, who was napping in her cat form atop the table.
“Strict totalitarian measures govern this society; customs that are ingrained in their very biology, yet Mofupsi spoke out of turn, and to a superior by age and rank within The Council. To the point where she had to be reminded of the fact in a roundabout way by Loral.”
“Good point,” Ashley sucked in her lower lip, but Sora had her own thoughts.
“Umm—so,” everyone turned their attention to her, “if I understand your point—does that mean that some of those genetic restrictions that are on the populous are removed upon becoming a member of The Council?”
“Why don’t we ask the source,” Mary offered, turning her focus to Tola.
The blue-furred Vulpes rubbed her left shoulder, closing her eyes while trying to relax. “I’m afraid there is a bit of a misconception. Once entering The Capital, Vulpes behavior changes. I assume that the method of control you are talking about is lifted upon living in these walls, to a certain degree. All Vulpes change upon their first time coming here.”
Kari’s lips had stayed in a brooding frown for most of their time in the mythical room. “Luna and Rayla were a bit odd compared to the other Vulpes around the town, and they were supposed to have come here, right?”
“Yes,” Tola confirmed, regaining her previous composure. “There are many—commonplace behaviors in The Capital that are not so … let’s say prevalent, outside.”
“Such as?” Eyia asked with an innocent expression.
“Sex, Eyia,” Jin giggled. “She’s talking about sex, and many other actions, I assume.” The Dragon gave Tola an amused look. “Let me get this straight; you’re saying the reason why knowledge about The Capital is restricted to the outside world is that there’s violence, liars, thieves, lascivious behaviors, and all manner of depravity that could harm the status quo. Slaves much?”
Sora and Wendy’s eyes became saucers, vision shooting to Emilia; the girl looked extremely confused. “Umm—Mom, what is she talking about?”
“Seriously?” Wendy hissed.
Eyia and Kari seemed somewhat lost with their reactions, but after a second, Kari had an oh face in place.
A forced giggle left Sora’s throat. “Uh—Emilia, you don’t know what—eh, you don’t know what sex is?”
Emilia shook her head, cheeks turning pink as everyone looked at her; the mixed looks on people’s faces made her blush deepen. “N-No … what—umm, why don’t I know? Should I know what sex is—and umm, what’s l-lascivious behaviors … depravity?” She stumbled through the words.
Oh, son of a … Aunt Inari! She didn’t respond. How could you not give her that! No wonder she didn’t even think about closing her legs … for real?
It was crystal clear in her mind; Inari, her impish faced aunt, cackling while planning the eventual event of her being forced to teach her daughter about the birds and the bees.
Mary dismissively waved her hand. “We can discuss that later, Emilia.”
Sora’s eyes shot a thank you at her former psychiatrist; she was saved for a bit longer.
Tola was oblivious to the event; she couldn’t meet anyone’s eyes. “I—haven’t heard it described that way before, Jin—when you put it like that … it does sound quite negative. There is a contrast to life inside versus outside…”
“Negative…” Emilia whispered, cheeks still flushed as she tried to puzzle through the words.
“You keep saying that,” Ashley hummed with a deep frown, “but why is this way?”
“It is—just how it always has been,” Tola weakly replied.
Wendy was giving her an encouraging expression, not paying attention to the conversation at all.
Geez, how am I supposed to approach this? I mean, Dad never even talked with me … I knew a long time ago, and Emilia looks in her twenties, yet … oh, no … she’s still so young, but look at her body! Ugh … I can’t just shelter her, though, but … mmh…
“Mmh,” Mary stretched out, breasts pressing against her dress as she arched her back with a soft yawn. “Alright, okay, so—you’re saying that this is one reason you’ve been questioning the narrative. You are thinking that there’s something not quite right with what’s happening around you, and that’s why you’ve changed this district over the last thirty-thousand years?”
“It’s as you say,” Tola mumbled, hands twisting around each other. “I have been troubled for quite a long time about how this Realm operates, but I learned very early on not to question it aloud. Privately, I’ve studied and pondered, but had no one to consult with.”
“You know,” Jin sucked on her lip for a moment, “Inari probably set it up somehow—what do you think Eyia?”
Sora had no clue where this leap was coming from. What did my aunt set up?
Eyia didn’t answer right away, intense blue eyes staring at the fidgeting blue Vulpes. “It is likely.”
“Ah,” Mary nodded, puffing out a breath. “You think Inari manipulated things to allow us to meet Tola instead of the other Vulpes? How, though?”
“Yeah, I’m lost on that one,” Nathan mumbled. “Didn’t she come because she felt a strange shift in…”
“In the Realm,” Aiden replied, speaking for the first time since entering. “I don’t doubt it, though … maybe I was manipulating Sora into influencing Inari that used her powers to direct me…”
“Okay,” Ashley chuckled, “let’s not go down that rabbit hole! We could point fingers at any number of Founders or Primordials at this point, but it won’t really do us any good, right?”
“I suppose not,” Jin sighed. “I just like to know who’s in the background; it helps me sleep at night.”
“Huh?” Sora lifted an eyebrow. “You?”
“What? Well, yeah—I worry about things, too, ya know? Depending on who’s pulling strings around the world you’re in, you can determine if this will become more challenging or easier.”
“I enjoy the challenge,” Eyia promptly stated.
“Yeah, I know,” Jin replied, glaring at the Valkyrie. “We didn’t have to race Mermaids on the way to Miami—seriously, sometimes that competitive edge of yours is just ridiculous.”
Eyia’s lips turned smug as she turned away. “You are just mad; I won.”
Jin’s cheeks flushed. “I wasn’t even trying! You were all, let’s race the Mermaids, and somehow I got roped into it.”
“You even tried to fly.”
“You didn’t have to create a miniature blizzard to blow me back! You’re so petty.”
“Tactics, my friend, tactics.”
“You never stated the rules!”
Sora found the recount interesting enough to keep listening without interruption. The others seemed just as content to let it continue; it wasn’t often they heard the two speak about past experiences.
Eyia gave her an incredulous look. “It was simple—win.”
“Well, okay—next time, I’ll blow you out of the water.”
“Then, I will fly.”
“That wasn’t what I—mmh,” she broke off, clearly frustrated while giving the Valkyrie a forced chuckle. “You know what? Okay, fine. Pick the next match—go on, and we’ll see if I, a powerful Dragon, can beat you, a blockhead of a Valkyrie!”
“What kind of insult is that?” Eyia giggled. “I do not have a block head; it is quite oval.”
Jin sucked in a sharp breath of air.
“However,” Eyia hummed with a sly smile, “I will take any challenge you set; must I remind you of the expert golfing contest? How many victories did I have?”
“That—doesn’t count!” Jin seethed. “You know I’m not good with tools.”
Sora just wanted Eyia to respond with, and who’s the blockhead? But she knew the Valkyrie didn’t understand the concept, and perhaps Jin had done that on purpose since she’d figured out how the translation system worked.
However, the Valkyrie’s retort hit hard enough. “A lack of discipline and motor skills, my friend; you should have been practicing with me, not lazing around like a Dragon.”
“You … mmh, Eyia! I…” A guttural growl started reverberating the air, causing Sora’s hair to stand on end.
Woah, woah, hold up! Are they actually going to fight right here? How did this even come up?
Everyone else seemed to have the same reaction; well, except for Githa, who was now awake, cheering them on while jumping up and down on the table.
“Yeah! Go get her, Jin! Make that Asgardian pay; I’m in your corner!”
“She will need it.” Eyia gave her a smug grin, folding her arms under her chest as if she’d already won.
Wait, I guess she kind of has won the provoke game … actually, does she know what blockhead means? I understood it. Maybe she was feigning ignorance to get under Jin’s skin? Dang, she is good!
The Dragon released one more frustrated moan before slumping back in her seat. “Whatever … tomorrow, got it? I’ll have something planned.”
“Typical Dragon,” Eyia sighed, appearing truly depressed. “Putting it off for the morning.”
“Tch,” Jin turned away. “Freakin’ battle crazed Valkyrie … can’t enjoy a single day of rest.”
“Who wishes to be soft?” Eyia returned with a smirk.
Okay, Eyia … hold on, what’s going on with them all of a sudden?
“Umm,” Sora interjected, making everyone’s eyes snap her way. “Hey, Eyia—eh, what do you think—well, no, umm—my powers! Why do you think I couldn’t use this system until we got here?”
“Isn’t that obvious?” Kari mumbled, giving her a questioning look.
Seriously? Sora shot a glare at her. Geez, what’s up with people right now?
“No … why do you think…”
Eyia quickly responded, giving Kari a deep frown. “My Sister has asked a good question, and I doubt your answers are satisfactory.”
Githa licked her lips, glancing between them with a curious expression, and out of the corner of her eyes, Sora thought she saw someone sitting in Hallaway’s seat. Upon closer inspection, there was nothing, but a soft giggle echoed in her mind.
Everyone paused, glancing around at each other.
“Did—anyone else hear that, or am I going crazy?” Wendy asked, glancing around.
Eyia was on guard, already on her feet as her sharp eyes darted around the space.
Jin was close behind. “No, there was definitely something…”
Their focus shifted to Tola as she gasped, fingers shooting to the brooch holding her bound hair together; it was starting to fade. “My artifact,” she whispered, “it was—I didn’t even notice it activated for a moment.”
Kari’s nose twisted. “Did you—cast a spell on us?”
Sora, Eyia, Jin, and Githa slowly shook their heads.
“Umm—I don’t think so,” Sora mumbled. “I didn’t sense any magic being used.”
Githa nodded. “Mhm, mhm! None for me, too, but that was pretty funny! Haha!”
Vision downcast as Eyia and Jin began throwing out theories, one solution came to Sora’s mind.
“Hold on … let me see if I can make the City Core tell us what it was?”
“Oh, smart!” Wendy grinned. “Yeah, that’s awesome; we have like a massive supercomputer linked to your brain!”
A forced smile touched Sora’s lips, the image popping up in her head. “Well, not exactly like that.”
“Mom, can I try?” Emilia asked, eyes bright with anticipation.
Her mood instantly plummeted, visions of the possible disaster that might follow leaping into her mind. “Yeah, umm, probably not.”
“Why?” She asked, looking crestfallen.
“Well,” Sora glanced around at the group, noting their relieved expressions, quickly hid from her daughter as she looked for support. “First, let’s work on not creating Fox Fire in our sleep, and then we can move on to some more advanced stuff.”
“Wait, I did what?” Emilia asked, eyes widening.
Wendy popped into the conversation. “Yeah, Emi, uh—you kind of did, and your mom had to put it out.”
“Oh?” Was all Emilia could say, puppy-dog eyes appearing as her vision fell to her lap, and soon after, tears started falling down her cheeks.
Wha … oh, crap—yeah. She gave Wendy a strained smile, telling her that was a bad move. She’s totally embarrassed that came out in front of everyone.
“Hey,” Sora reached over, and Emilia quickly scooted over to enter her embrace. “Why don’t we do it together, huh? You can follow my magic as I do it.”
“How?” She sniffed, ignoring Wendy’s concerned look.
“Umm—well, let’s see … here, close your eyes, take my hand … there, now do you feel my Spiritual Energy?”
“It’s—it’s so warm,” Emilia whispered, sniffing before giggling. “It tickles.”
Tola and the humans watched in fascination, and Kari gave her a curious smile.
“Now that you mention it,” Kari whispered, “your energy does kind of tickle.”
Sora’s focus in rubbing her spiritual force across Emilia’s internal network faltered a little as Wendy, Nathan, Mary, and Ashley muttered to each other.
“Wait, that’s right!”
“Man, brings back memories…”
“It did tickle at first,” Ashley confirmed, “but then it was warm and…”
Emilia breathed in, nose clearly a bit clogged, yet she still whispered, “What’s that smell? It’s so soft … gentle.”
“A smell—that’s a sensation?” Tola questioned.
Githa hummed with interest, appearing in front of them with wide eyes. “Oh—that’s rare! I’ve only heard Nilly talk about Spiritual Energy like that!”
“That right,” Sora mumbled. “Anyway, are you still following me, Emi?”
“Mhm! I love you,” she cried, fingers tightening.
“I love you, too,” Sora smiled. “Okay, now do you feel my energy rising?”
“Y-Yeah … it’s so pretty—it’s going to the big ball of…”
Emilia jerked back, eyes flying open as she cried, “W-What is that?”
Everyone went on edge, and Sora tried to release the magical thread containing her desire for it to reveal what had occurred to them, but the energy from the sphere reached out to link with her. They touched, and the globe released a blinding light, causing everyone to panic, ducking under the table; Eyia throwing up her frosty barrier.
At that moment, Sora couldn’t tell what happened; a feminine, soft, melodic voice released a hum. The presence was connected with her Core, slipping past all of her defenses with ease.
“Oh, it’s been so long since I last woke up! Mmh, and who might you be? Ah, your daughter … maybe? Is that … hmm. So cute and innocent! Wait, do I know you? No, no, but—you seem so familiar. I know me; I think … I must know you! But, mmh, no—no, I don’t. Hmm. Are you me?”
She didn’t know how long the weird female talked; the space connecting with her seemed timeless but too quick for her to even blink. It wasn’t black but void of all feeling.
“Aww, not so soon … looks like the gates are closing, but come back again, Sora! Maybe I can take control of your body to explore a bit; I’ve been so lonely. Wait … how am I lonely in a dream? Is it a dream? Am I a dream?”
The girl gasped. “I’m a thing … of things. Not a dream … ooh! Hmm, fun, fun! Wouldn’t that be fun? I could show you all sorts of little secrets; oh, appalling, awful secrets. Think about it, Sweetie! Bye!”
The strange, ageless space that she’d been brought to, or maybe had been brought to her, locked, shoving her out, but then again, maybe she threw it out.
She blinked, not a tenth of a second had gone by.
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