POV: Emilia (Sora’s daughter just wants a little attention!)
Recap: Emilia, no!!!!! She’s been sucked into the shadow realm! There’s some insane creature that’s trying to get our little girl! She needs protection!!
Sora and everyone that can help her have been locked out by the barrier or knocked unconscious. Emilia’s on her own, but she’s just at a 12-year-old mindstate! Give the girl a break!
I want to thank my patrons for continuing to support me:
Kyle Hirshson, Hayden Rayborn, Nicholas, Kilimandaros, Ikatere, Foo, and my other Patrons!
The shock was so great Emilia couldn’t even cry; she watched the cackling undead creatures with a plummeting depression that took all the energy out of her. A swirling black hurricane began to swirl in the sky, revealing pulsating darkness that radiated suffocating malevolent intent.
A smirk pulled the dead Vulpes child’s lips to the opposite side. “Is that all you’ll do? Sit on your butt with your tails fallen limply around your legs? Of course, you will! Haha, you’re such a little pup.”
Emilia’s arms felt like lead, ears pulled back in stunned silence.
I ruined everything … everything’s my fault.
“How did this happen?” She whimpered, emotions catching up with reality; a pressure was slowly compressing her entire being. “I … I just wanted to save my Mom.”
The child in front of her amusedly clicked her tongue. “Oh, how naive you are!”
Emilia’s eyes widened as the girl huffed with a light smile, cocking her head and snapping her fingers; in the blink of an eye, the apocalyptic world faded away with the intimidating pressure, replaced by a vivid and brilliant city that showed a grandness she’d never dreamt.
Her head darted left and right, watching the undead, blood, and gore be replaced by smiling crowds of Vulpes and humans, frozen in time. The cackling faded into a distant memory as the undead creature’s horrifying appearance turned into a smiling, bright-eyed Vulpes child, and the contorted figure holding her mother became a pretty, black-haired woman with five puffy tails.
Emilia apprehensively lifted her gaze to see the hurricane-like clouds disperse, revealing a bright red sky with no visible light source, and a gentle breeze rolled through the busy time-stopped square, blowing her copper hair in her face.
“… How … an illusion? What’s real?” She cried.
The girl crossed her right leg behind her left, hiding her hands at her back while giving her a cute laugh. “That’s a more complicated question than I care to explain. Hmm?”
However, the girl’s and Emilia’s focus returned to the heavens as an eerie, unfamiliar sound put her muscles on edge, and the red glow rippled with black patches before returning to normal.
“Oh, shut up; I’ll do whatever I want,” the girl snarled, flicking back her hair. Her smile returned while studying Emilia again, “After all, I’m awake! Well … maybe, probably not, but that’s okay!”
“… I don’t understand … anything!” Emilia cried, tears finally gathering in her eyes as feelings of guilt, stupidity, and hopelessness welled within her.
“Oh, Darling,” the girl giggled, “don’t state the obvious!” Extending a finger, she motioned for her. “Okay, follow me! Hmm, hmm, hmmmh, hmm-hmm-hmmm, life comes and goes, rises and falls. We’re going to the day of eternal suffering, sanctuary’s end, a life fulfilled…”
Emilia’s mind and heart were conflicted as she watched the Vulpes woman carrying her mother follow the child, face giving the impression she was kind and motherly.
I don’t know what is real! Someone help me!
The girl paused after taking several steps, glancing back with a slight frown. “C’mon, c’mon! I’ve got from eternity to eternity, but that’s no excuse to drag your feet.”
“W-What are you?” Emilia tentatively asked.
The girl shook her head with a wry smile. “We’ve already been over this, my little pup. It’s not my fault if you weren’t listening.”
Grasping at straws, Emilia continued. “… What do I call you?”
“Hmm…” The child’s head cocked to the side thoughtfully. “What do you call me? I haven’t been asked that question for … have I ever … hmm…”
The air in Emilia’s lungs was paralyzed as the girl’s gray hair bobbed back and forth with her head’s motions while debating how to answer. After an undetermined amount of time, her expression brightened, causing Emilia to flinch.
“… Call me Lulu! That is the name of this child. Huh … I expected the question but didn’t have an immediate answer … how absurd!” She giggled. “Okay, come, come! We have much to do.”
Butterflies swarmed in Emilia’s stomach as gravity seemed to reverse, lifting her off the ground before pulling her to Lulu’s side. She gasped, biting her tongue from the shock.
Lulu shook her head with an amused smile. “My, you’re so slow! Your mother would be much quicker.”
At the casual comment, Emilia felt her jaw tighten, and upon straightening her legs, the force gently sat her down, causing her fluttering dress to settle.
“See, standing isn’t that hard,” Lulu rolled her eyes with a smirk. “Now, follow me.”
Emilia glanced over at her mother’s sleeping form in the adult Vulpes’ arms, finding the grit in her belly again. “… Umm … you said taking her off would wake her up.”
Lulu giggled in response. “I lied.”
A dirty glare creased Emilia’s face. “… That’s so mean.”
“Oh, the mind of a child,” Lulu lilted. “No wonder your mother fears so much for you; if she left you on your own, you’d kill yourself in a day. Hehe. No, perhaps an afternoon.”
“That’s not true,” Emilia growled, finding the girl much less threatening after the change, which caused her mind to linger on the thought. “… Wait … you’re tricking me again!”
“Just because something looks like a trick doesn’t mean it is,” Lulu stated, giving her a side-long grin. “Is not reality just a trick of the mind; the conceptual visage of an imaginary dream projected into an experience? What is the meaning of meanings but the self-inserted ego of your frail existence upon the fabric of delusional interactional perception?”
“…” Emilia’s brain had stopped working in the first half of the question.
“… The fact you’re having a difficult time dissecting that response shows the level of intelligence you have to work with,” Lulu stated with a depressed sigh, guiding them around the maze of humans and Vulpes.
“I’m not stupid!”
“No?” Lulu asked with chirping laughter. “Says the child that did exactly what she was told with so little resistance or forethought. I repeat myself; you wouldn’t last a day in this society.”
Emilia leered at the girl; she knew whatever this thing was, it was impossible for her to beat it, and she wasn’t sure what was real in this world she’d entered. Lulu’s innocent features contrasted the way she spoke, which jarred Emilia’s perception of the experience, and her presence was making it difficult to keep track of the twists and turns they made through the city.
“… Is … Is my Mom really here?”
“Do you even have a mother?” Lulu countered with a questioning hum.
“Grr … can you please answer me without a question? Are you evil or not?”
“Hmm?” Lulu stopped in her tracks, giving her a sad smile. “Honestly, Dearie, the fact you asked that question disappoints me.”
Emilia’s muscles tightened as the world flashed around her, showing the horrors that lay underneath the facade, and the pulsating, unnatural sound returned with deafening clarity, causing her to fold down her ears and trembling on the ground, trying to block out the sights and sounds. A sickening force began closing in around her, sinking into her skin.
As quickly as it started, the world returned to its shining brilliance with Lulu’s lilting laughter. “There is no righteousness or evil in existence, only action, and consequence. The ego’s response to those reactions is the interpreter that marks the delusion. One’s view of an action taken slides between white and black effortlessly upon their understanding of a circumstance, which flits to and fro with subjective experience and perception.
“Am I evil? I’d say so. Am I good? Absolutely. What say you?”
“… You’re just confusing,” Emilia groaned, rubbing her shoulders while trying to ease her pumping heart.
“What is evil but just relative degrees of good? Is saving one life over three worth more than three vs. one, and who is the arbiter of such a decision to condemn an individual for such an action? Is killing one man to save another noble, and what of an idea that can lead to the slaughter of millions? Would you stand on the court to take responsibility for such an action, and is that sentence good or evil, to condemn a creature to destruction or punishment? Is judgment both good and evil at the same time? Are not all actions evil and good in some regard?”
Emilia’s head was spinning; she had no idea how to answer her question or if she should in the first place. “What … why are you doing this to me?” She cried, folding down her ears out of frustration and helplessness.
“Hmm? What is it that you wish for?” Lulu questioned with an impish grin, directing her to continue onward.
“For all of this to be over!” She growled, tails hanging weakly while following the disguised monster.
Lulu didn’t respond, but her lips fell slightly. “Incorrect. What is it you wish for, Emilia Moore?”
A lump dropped down her throat as her last name left Lulu’s lips. “Umm … I … I want to learn how to control…”
“Wrong,” Lulu harshly interjected, making Emilia step back, but the creature continued on. “What is it you wish?”
Her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth, she searched her heart for the answer. “… Uh, I wish for … I want my mom to love me,” she mumbled, tears stinging her eyes as the emotions swept through her chest.
“You don’t think she does?”
Emilia couldn’t answer, ears and tails drooping weakly, fur trailing across the ground, but Lulu responded for her.
“You want her undivided attention, and to you, she has more important things on her mind than her child … meaning?”
“… I’m not important enough…” Emilia mumbled, lip trembling as they walked through the city.
“Is that evil?”
“Is that good?”
“I … I don’t know…”
Lulu’s smirking eyes shot to the corner of her vision as Emilia tried to fight the stunning pain in her heart. “And you asked if I’m evil or good without even knowing the slightest concept? A child, indeed.”
Emilia sniffed, gripping her left arm; she couldn’t help how she felt deep down, and the creature had dug up everything she’d buried below. “… What do you want from us?”
“Hehe, Dear. You’ve already given me what I want. The question is … what do you want from me?”
“… I…” She was about to say to leave this place but hesitated from Lulu’s previous interjections causing her to doubt that response.
“Hmm?” Lulu mused.
Emilia gave a start as the environment changed, and what was worse, she didn’t know when it happened; they could have entered the massive hallways that could provide ample room for over a hundred Vulpes, walking side by side.
The walls were like various shades of jasper with a solid floor that appeared to be a diamond, reflecting the multiple colors of gemstones, crafted into huge, strange designs, shining brilliant rays of light below.
“… When did we get … where are we?”
Lulu smiled at their surroundings, following the curved edges of the grand hallway that stretched on for what seemed forever. “The Pathway to Transcendence … well, that’s what we called it.”
“We?” Emilia whispered, tears drying up as the overwhelming sight impressed upon her. Every so often, she saw beams of light shoot from the diamonds to the gems above, changing their color to form new patterns.
“You’re changing the subject,” Lulu snickered. “What do you want from me?”
“… I don’t know … I really don’t know,” she groaned, glancing over at her mother’s sleeping form. “Umm … I want your help?”
“With?” Lulu slowly replied.
“… I don’t want to be a burden to my mother … but I want her to spend time with me.”
Lulu didn’t respond, causing Emilia to swallow the lump that formed in her throat as the silence pressed in on her, and she noticed there wasn’t an echo in the dazzling passage.
The girl’s voice was soft. “That wasn’t a request.”
Emilia’s lips pulled in as she thought about the things Lulu had said.. “… You said … you’d teach me a lesson? Are you teaching me how to … what are you teaching me?” She asked, giving the smiling girl a perplexed stare.
“… You can’t disappoint me if I leave you anything short of expectancy. What is happening around us?”
The rapid change in atmosphere was really off-putting, but Emilia stared at the walls, floor, and changing ceiling; now that she wasn’t wholly focused on the fake Vulpes child, she could sense a faint air of familiarity in the air that calmed her heart.
… There’s … this is Vulpes Founder magic.
A humming vibration passed through her entire body as another burst of light shot to the ceiling nearby, and the energies flowed through her mind, body, and spirit. The strength of the magic around her was so vast that it was like she was staring at a single drop of water in an endless ocean of power.
“Call to it,” Lulu prompted.
Emilia reached out, and a sharp beam bent from its intended course, flowing around her hand and arm, spiraling before shooting into the ceiling on its intended path. The tingling it left was energizing.
“… It’s like water brushing against my skin.” Her lips parted as a dog appeared nearby, barking and wagging its tail merrily before vanishing into the light; Inari had given her the memories Sora had of one particular dog, and she’d wanted to see one of her own. “What…”
Lulu slowed to a stop, kneeling down before the dog reappeared, running to sit in front of her. Emilia was dumbfounded as the girl began petting the happy looking creature. “Dream, illusion, manifestation … desires are shown in the Pathway to Transcendence if you allow the energy to filter through you.”
“… Why are we here?” Emilia asked, pounding heart, prompting her forward to not miss the opportunity to pet the dog; his fur was silky, making her smile.
The deceptive Vulpes child’s eyes softened. “To fulfill my and your wish. We will stay here for a time … reach out to the energy, play with it, and learn its design.”
Emilia didn’t know what else she could do but comply; within the strange space, it was easy to mold magic, and after a short time, she had learned to distinguish between her own Vulpes Founder energy and the force around her.
“… I can feel it! It’s…” She reached out her energy like she’d felt her mother do in the council chamber; a shock flooded her spirit upon interacting with the power around her, and a network so vast that it made her feel like a speck of dust in the universe opened up to her. She had been attached to something infinite, and the experience jolted her out of the system.
“W-What was that?” She gasped, finding herself on the ground.
Lulu giggled; she’d been watching her the entire time. “You touched a pipeline leading to the Reality Core of this dimension, but that is my lesson complete!
“Emilia Moore, you now have basic control over your spiritual force, which means you are no longer a threat to yourself, and in the process of touching that pipeline, you’ve jumpstarted your Core’s defensive field. Meaning, you are no longer helpless, needing the pampering care of your mother. Conflicted?”
To Emilia’s surprise, Lulu’s question dug at her chest. “… I, umm … I am, a little.”
It felt so wrong being totally honest with this seemingly nefarious creature, but she couldn’t deny it.
Lulu smirked. “As expected. Now, we are ready for my wish.”
The dread in Emilia’s stomach returned. “Which is?”
An amused tilt shifted Lulu’s gray hair as her pale brown irises moved to stare down the hallway. “A simple act. Follow me.”
Emilia took a few steps forward as they began to talk again before slowing to a halt. “Umm … what is it?”
Lulu came to a stop, turning to give her a challenging smile. “Does it matter? You wouldn’t understand it even if I tried to explain, nor the significance of the action. The simple matter is that you would not pass up the opportunity. If you wish to return with your mother, alive, well, and utterly unharmed, then you will do as I say. Have I not been most accommodating?”
Her lips tucked under, vision falling to the floor as she pressed her arm against her chest, dress creasing with the act. “… So, I really didn’t have a choice?”
“Oh, there is always a choice!” Lulu giggled. “It’s just that the consequences of those various actions will not bring about the reaction you desire. The course that will is the one ahead.”
“… You lied to me before, though…” Emilia mumbled, ears pulling back as the weight of this decision pressed in on her.
“C-Can’t I just wish for my mom and me to go back?” Emilia asked with hope, but upon reaching out, she found an ominous force blocking her connection, creating a barrier between her and the field of energy surrounding her.
“Oh, Dearie,” Lulu mused, smile turning sinister, “I’m afraid that won’t be possible. Even if you tried, I can tell you with certainty that the attempt would kill you both with your untrained hands. Your mother is far more talented than you, it pains me to say, and even she is unable to utilize such magic without the system’s aid. Now, hurry up!”
The fright in Emilia’s gut returned as the force lifted her off the ground, and in a blink, they were standing in mid-air, floating in front of what she could only assume was a mass of magic. There was a weave inside of it, but it was boundless, infinitely more intricate than the bed; she couldn’t even begin to visualize it, and even trying left her dizzy.
“No, no, Dearie,” Lulu giggled, pulling her to the left side while moving to her mother’s side. “One small mistake, and you could wipe out millions of Vulpes in this Realm.”
“W-What about the … The Council?” Emilia mumbled, mind fuzzy with everything that was happening around her as flashes of light danced across her vision.
“… 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.
“No, what I need is for you to take my hand,” she mumbled, grasping her mother’s tails before unfolding her fingers, offering them to her, “and then, you’ll direct your magic forward. Don’t worry about where.”
Emilia knew this was a bad idea but couldn’t think of any other way out of it. “W-What if I just throw my magic at it?”
Lulu laughed, fingers retreating to press against her chest. “I do not care for the damage you might inflict, but you will not be able to handle the consequences of such an action, and I wonder how your mother would see you after such devastation? Can you imagine?”
A low moan left Emilia’s lips as she closed her eyes, trying not to get wrapped up in the insane weaves of Founder Magic flowing around her. She thought about teleporting again, but the doubt Lulu had planted in her mind was too powerful.
“Please … I just don’t want my mom to hate me,” she cried, tentatively taking Lulu’s hand before releasing her magic.
“Oh, Dearie, on the contrary, I’m sure she will be more than thankful in time…”
Dirty, muck-like energy flowed through her entire being, folding and reshaping her magic into something shockingly beautiful before pressing it against a specific location. It touched, and the light flared.
Emilia blinked squealed as a rush of air threw back her hair, and she stumbled across something soft before tripping and falling atop something cushiony. Opening her eyes, she found herself lying atop Kari’s chest; the Fenris Wolf groaned but didn’t wake.
Turning around with shock, she watched her mother follow, crashing against her thighs.
“What? Are … this isn’t an…”
Emilia’s tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth as a shadowy form of an adult nine-tailed Vulpes exited the barrier, flexing her wispy fingers.
“I asked you before … what really is reality? Although, I suppose with your finite understanding … yes, you are back where you were, and I … well, that will suffice.
“Thank you, Emilia Moore! You have made the correct decision, at least, by my calculations, but … we will see in time. After all, I suffer from visions of things that were written, and you cannot fathom the pain of inhabiting my mind, hehe. I am not lying, though, Emilia … thank you.”
She couldn’t tell if the creature was smiling by the black, inky figure, but it was in her lovely voice, and she whispered, “Until I am complete, I bid you farewell,” before melding back into the barrier.
Emilia jumped as Kari, her mother, Githa, and Wendy began to stir, moaning softly while waking.
“A parting gift,” whispered a ghostly voice around the space. “I’d be careful of that dimwitted Council, if I were you … the plots behind the scene pass far into antiquity.”
Her mother’s green eyes opened sleepily. “… Mmh … ugh, I feel weird … did you say something, Emilia?”
“Mom!” Emilia cried, body beginning to quake as she latched onto Sora, crying into her hair.
“Huh?! Hey, hey, what’s wrong?” Sora mumbled, hugging her back.
Kari cleared her throat, wiping away the drool on her chin. “What’s up?”
Githa stretched out with a long moan, large feline frame twisting and turning; the motions caused Wendy to release a light scream as she was shoved off the bed, falling outside the shield.
“Mmh,” Githa opened her eyes to glance around. “Why do I feel like … hmm? I guess Founder beds are pretty cozy…”
“It was Lulu,” Emilia cried, drawing their attention.
“Lulu?” Sora asked, glancing at Kari’s confused expression.
“The … the dark thing … the blood and…”
Sora’s body tensed upon hearing the string of words. “What happened? Did it hurt you?” She asked, pulling away to examine her spiritually. “… What in … your spiritual defenses … they’re healed? How did … no, what did it do to you? Are you okay?!”
Wendy popped back in with a slightly annoyed look on her red face. “Hey! Githa, what’s the … what’s up?”
Kari’s brow set, glaring at the black barrier while Emilia cried. “… I don’t sense any danger?”
Githa prowled forward, vision narrowing. “Shut up and let the child explain … she’s gone through significant spiritual change since I went to sleep.”
Emilia retold everything that happened; her mother had her stop after a minute to allow the others in to listen, leaving the Vulpes attendants in utter confusion. She could sense the angst in her mother’s voice and the emotional energy leaving her body with her sharpened senses, making her feel a little better with the warm sensations filling her.
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