POV: Loral (The Indigo Council Member; the big boss of the council that lead the discussion)
Note: Next chapter we return to Sora.
Recap: Our poor floofy Emilia has had it rough D= Lulu, our undead horrific monster of a creature, has forced our innocent girl with the mind of a 12-year-old to use her family connection to the Realm to mess with the Realm Core … basically giving her the power to warp reality itself while holding her mother hostage.
Lulu seems absolutely insane, but smart insane … the worst kind. What effect will this have?
We go to Loral to discover the damages … but what secrets is our purple-furred councilwoman hiding?
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After dismissing everyone to their own sections of the city, Loral teleported out of the council chamber, appearing inside one of the numerous advanced training rooms within the tower. Her deep, ultramarine blue eyes dully scanned the pure white rectangular room, fingers slowly curling into fists at her side as her anger bubbled to the surface.
… Why now? Why did the first Vulpes construct a loophole so incredibly dangerous!
A magically constructed image of Sora appeared in front of her; Loral lashed out with a vicious atomic assault, tearing the fake creation apart at a microscopic level, but the action didn’t help the nervous itch pulsing through her skin.
“… She’s only a stupid pup,” Loral growled through locked teeth, silently instructing the room to craft another figure of the brat before annihilating it again. “A pup!” She yelled, finally working herself up enough to scream.
It took four more destroyed models before Loral was able to calm the heat in her chest, glaring at Sora’s latest double; it had been so long since she’d felt out of control. “… A pup with ties to unimaginable beings in her shadow,” she whispered with a spiteful tone, moving forward to walk around the copy.
Her greatest fear was her aunt showing up to take everything away from her and ruin everything she’d tried to accomplish over eons. Loral just needed a little more time, but from what she’d gathered from Sora, the pup currently didn’t have near the capability to understand her design.
Even worse, she feared a being as omnipotent as Inari might find it so laughable that her efforts were meaningless; she’d endured such ridicule in the past from Vulpes far more talented and learned than herself, but it would be something else entirely from a Founder. Still, she’d been the one to come out on top of those studied Vulpes, crawling from the bottom, and this would be no different.
Loral took a moment to calm her racing heart; Sora’s little tantrum had ruined weeks of her recovery. Her body and spirit were draining rapidly from her outburst, mixed with forcefully being cut-off from directly influencing her spiritual energy.
She looked over every inch of the Third Generation Founder; Emilia appeared next to her with a desire. Loral sensed a mysterious force within the Vulpes Sora had claimed to be her daughter.
The entire notion of a two-tailed Vulpes being the mother of an eight-tailed Vulpes should have made her laugh; however, the sheer impossibility and outright ridiculousness of the statement made her boil inside.
Sora thinks she can lie to my face because she’s a Founder, and so blatantly? They’re hiding something important about her … Emilia…
The womanly figure of the copper-colored eight-tailed Vulpes perplexed Loral; in all appearances, they did resemble each other, yet Emilia would more than likely be the mother by most estimations.
Yet, unlike many of the younger council members, she was not so inept with her abilities; no, she’d been ceaselessly striving to improve for eons, and all that training told her Emilia was something meaningful.
Loral had intended to push the topic forward until she could examine every inch of the eight-tailed Vulpes for the irregular waves hidden beneath Sora’s attempted cloak. The veil was shockingly proficient, which put her on guard, and managed to obscure her vision from seeing that far without detection, but not enough to fool her.
It was true, Emilia did produce remarkably similar Founder spiritual waves as Sora, but there was something else leaking out, unchecked, and whatever it was made her shiver.
The sensation was new, and that piqued her interest; on the other hand, Sora’s strong spiritual presence was precisely what she’d expect from a Founder, and from everything she’d read about Mia, it was no wonder the living flame she represented was so evident.
Emilia had a piece of that wild force, incredibly dense magic that defied logic at both girls’ presumed age, which was the most perplexing part. Sora made perfect sense; in fact, so much so that it made her fear how powerful she’d become in a few years, much less a millennium. Emilia, not so much.
The eight-tailed Vulpes had no spiritual defenses; if it wasn’t for Sora, then she’d be an absolute open book, which tantalized and frustrated Loral to no end. There was a hidden gem inside that open vault that she knew would answer many of the questions she’d had, and the countless ages of hopelessly slamming her head against a wall might be over.
Releasing a loud sigh, she waved her hands to deactivate the training room; it simulated their strengths but used the City Core to represent that power, which wouldn’t help her delve into the secrets they held.
She rotated her shoulders, feeling the soreness increase as her produced spiritual energy was pulled back into her damaged Core, feeding the all-consuming void within that sapped her strength.
Utilizing the City Core, she teleported to the Indigo Section’s Main Office.
Loral had developed many habits throughout the Vulpes Realm ages, and so much time had passed that she no longer felt the need to keep track of it. Using the city’s energy instead of her own had become a natural action; if she used her own, then it would only drain her quicker, forcing her to recover; she couldn’t imagine something compelling her to use her own unless she’d become upset, of course.
Her stern demeanor had returned as two of her closest attendants stood ready in the room, Nobura and Polinaru. Both nine-tailed Vulpes had been through vigorous training to expand their spiritual Cores and been aided by many of the magical enhancements she’d learned throughout the ages, showing on their tails, but she hardly paid them any mind while proceeding to her chair.
The two were utterly silent, moving into action to deliver the best food the assigned cooks could create, but Loral bypassed the items that were neatly placed on her tidy desk. Her mind was too preoccupied to consider such trivial things.
She summoned several pieces of paper from thin air, planning out and documenting her orders to the six other city sections; there would need to be a change in this year’s proceedings and festivals.
Loral gave the dark blue, gold, and white themed massive door a blank stare, retreating inward while plotting the future events that would undoubtedly unfold. She could predict much of what might occur based on how Sora’s group reacted.
Folding her fingers together, Loral closed her eyes, resting her forehead against the back of her left hand; she knew her attendants would be able to sense the tension she felt from just these simple actions, but it wasn’t of much consequence because of their station.
Based on what had to be modified within each district, Mofupsi would be the most resistant as the youngest member. She hadn’t quite learned the manner in which things were conducted yet, but unfortunately, it was to be expected with the Yellow Section, so she made a note for Hallaway to keep an eye on her.
Finishing the many pages of instructions within minutes, she sent each pile to the appropriate council member; most of them would likely do what she planned, handing it off to her two attendants.
They emotionlessly moved to complete their tasks, and Loral called another Vulpes to prepare her for the expected recovery session. After losing control of her spiritual energy and using it to lash out at the training room dummy of Sora, she needed to heal.
Once her long indigo hair was pulled into a braided bun, she teleported to the Slumbering Pool.
Loral glanced around the grand, endless hall of spiritual liquid that stretched out underneath the planet’s crust; there were only a few areas left that were above the utterly still ocean.
The multi-hued glow of the liquid sparkled against the platinum ceiling. There was only one area within sight that one could stand, and the stairs behind her rose to the bottom floors of the tower. She’d sealed off all but Phebe and Hallaway’s entrances; none of the other council members knew of the location.
Using her magic, she unraveled her clothes, removing them while folding the articles in the air. Stepping into the comfortable resting tub she’d crafted for this very purpose, she lowered it into the liquid, submerging most of her body as the elixir slowly filled the vessel.
Countless resting spirits flowed over her naked body, forcing a sigh of relief to ease past her lips.
She had no real idea why the area existed, but it had been called the Slumbering Pool since before she was born. However, the size of the ocean had increased dramatically over the eons, which only made her more secure about her recovery method.
Her presence within the charged liquid didn’t actually harm the spirits, but the residual energy they discharged aided in restoring her lost stamina, providing temporary relief to her damaged Core and a protective film that would prove to ward off any adverse side effects for several days to come.
Loral’s eyes closed, head lulling to the side while she soaked in the rays of past Vulpes that had lived through the ages, and she could feel the warmth they held filling her heart. It hadn’t always been so, but as the pool increased, so did the pleasure she received from it.
The simple life of the Vulpes and humans living throughout most of the realm over countless millennia helped to mitigate much of the unpleasant residual spirits, which had been planned to a certain degree.
Her troubled mind melted like butter before the flow of positive energy flooding her spiritual network, and allowing her to drift into a welcoming slumber.
A sharp shudder cascaded through Loral’s entire being, causing the spirit pool around her to slosh violently as she clawed for the edge of the tub in a panic; warning wards were flaring inside her body.
“… What … no, no, no, no … how…”
The spiritual liquid fell off her skin without resistance, leaving her body dry while scrambling out of the pool with her strength renewed.
No, no, no … it’s impossible…
Not even bothering with her garments, she teleported to one of her control rooms. She’d learned to craft these areas not long ago, but it had been a source of pride for her.
She entered the dark, hidden room within her section of the tower in a whirl of emotion, reaching for the prepared spells with a pleading heart.
“… You can’t disappoint me if I leave you anything short of expectancy, but … oh, I am so disappointed with myself.”
The council woman’s entire body froze; her trembling left hand was inches away from the wall, infused with the most complicated weaves of magic she’d been triumphantly able to manage over the ages. It would lock a specific area of the City Core into a vice, but she was afraid it was too late; it should have activated automatically, to begin with.
This haunting, crestfallen voice was nothing like the peppy Vulpes she remembered, and the dread that twisted her stomach gave her cramps.
“… No!” Loral screamed, hand lurching forward to activate the spell, but a whimper escaped her throat, ears pulling back as the weaves collapsed like ash between her fingers.
“… So, very, very disappointed,” the womanly voice continued. “To think I had such hope that you might manage to actually learn something new is quite the blow to myself, I must say, you little talentless pup, and I endeavored to help you so tirelessly that it breaks my heart … if I had one, of course. Hehe.
“Hmm? You’re still stuck on that question? Dearie, the length of time I have been in slumber astonishes even me, yet this … pathetic little child’s weave is the best you’ve been able to accomplish in that time? At least you’ve concluded the other four hidden traps you’ve set have already been utterly dealt with … oh, wait, it’s five. How silly of me,” she giggled. “No, I just wanted to give you a little bit of hope. Is that cruel? Hmm … my, I feel different.”
Loral’s eyes were defocused, tears leaking out as she tried to consider anything that might help her in this unfolding nightmare, and the indigo bracelet flared to life, sending a fathomless amount of destructive force from the Core, aiming the energy around them to smash into the figure she knew was to her back.
Taking a shuddering breath, she turned in trepidation to find no figure there as the concentrated swirl of compressed Founder magic dissipated. She’s…
“Gone?” The voice returned to her left, and Loral saw the black form of the nine-tailed Vulpes emerge from nothingness, head tilting in a manner that made Loral weep.
The woman released a bitter hum. “Please, Niomie, you couldn’t possibly be this stupid after all the eons that have passed? Oh, dear, and calling yourself Loral … how … prideful.
“I know! Why don’t we play a little game; I was far too nice before, I think, letting you talk and explore your ridiculous notions. Allow me to think for you,” the figure lilted, sitting in a black chair that appeared at her back, shadowy tails fanning out at her lap. “All the little thoughts, looking for answers in that tiny brain of yours.
“First,” she held up a finger, “Sora must have let me out, right? The stupid girl! Well, no, again, quite the failing imagination you hold.
“Second, how did she even know about me? Again, the ignorant stain of your existence knows no bounds. Why wouldn’t Founders construct numberless safeguards and countermeasures to those same safeguards to prevent something disastrous from happening? Your shortsightedness certainly is an anomaly within nature, considering your current position.
“Third … the forces you dabbled with in the past and present go far beyond anything you can remotely hope to comprehend, but let’s skip by this whole ruse because I could continue on to antiquity with the atrocious mistakes you’ve made, and I haven’t even been lucid for more than an hour to categorize your failings within the duty you’re supposed to uphold.”
Niomie hadn’t been called by her birth name for what seemed an eternity, and yet, in the face of this imposing figure that opposed her, she still couldn’t move; her heart was palpitating against her ribs, but no answers came as she stared into the void black face in front of her.
She couldn’t look away, but the image of the kind, indigo-furred Vulpes of her memories was colliding with the fractured thing before her.
“… Here’s what you’re going to do,” the real Loral said matter-of-factly. “You’re going to discover I have minimal powers within the City Core at the moment, which will prompt you to teleport to your office…”
The pieces fit into place, making Niomie’s fingernails dig into her palms as the former Indigo Councilwoman laid out the future, and even though she was following her chortling prompts, she knew there wasn’t a better answer.
Her identity was dashed, and the true Loral’s voice moved to her mind as she changed locations to her office.
“You will activate the Council’s Temporary Sealing Authority on the City Core during an emergency that, and this is important, you believe will cut off much of the supportive networks I can use, or at the very least stop me from leaving the immediate system.
“Good. Now that I’m locked within the system, a temporary measure. There will be time to plan another means to imprison me … or is all of that useless? What could I want, playfully talking to you like old-times … working through my issues with how things are governed, and yes, I did notice you took a few points of my theories into the experimental phase with, may I say … lilliputian success, but that’s understandable.”
She went silent, prompting Niomie to smash her fists on the table, screaming, ““What do you want, Loral!”” The voice echoed her at the same time.
“Oh, Dearie, I’m just messing with you.” Loral giggled, appearing before her. “Really, I have no other reason to be here … unless I might have some ulterior motive, but how could you possibly decipher that,” she mused. “I think I’ll … hehe. It’s been fun catching up on events.”
Niomie’s tight jaw hurt from the pressure as the darkness dispersed, leaving her alone in the oppressive, muted atmosphere.
… How is it possible?
She still couldn’t wrap her head around it; Loral was supposed to be dead. The seal was just a safety precaution to trap her remaining essence, but that shouldn’t have had the ability to manifest into an operational Intelligence. At least, not according to what she knew about the topic.
The doubt running through her brain was what terrified her the most; all thoughts about Sora and Emilia had vanished from her mind. She teleported to the Grand Source of Knowledge with her own power since the Core was cut off from all use, arriving at the northern Hidden City, long abandoned and concealed from all but Phebe, Hallaway, and her.
She scanned the endless rows of wisdom that had been recorded in volumes and scrolls since before antiquity, long before she was born.
Phebe and Hallaway sent her puzzled requests, being the first to realize she’d locked down the City’s Core with the highest emergency protocols, but she ignored them, looking for answers. To initiate a full quarantine, she’d need the help of three council members.
With the desires fueling the request, a scroll was pulled from a distant location, and to save time, she teleported to it. The cylinder object unfurled upon a nearby table, still filled with reports, research, and study material from nameless parties long forgotten.
The scroll was from a time reaching far into the past, potentially at the realm’s conception or predating it by the strange historical markings that she’d only half-learned.
Scanning the content, she found what Loral had pointed her to. “… When a spark of life touches the compressed essence of a deceased soul, the residual elements can ignite a partial rebirth if a Founder’s spiritual force is supplied after recently giving birth … this life form is not the same, but a mixture of unstable Intelligent compounds that were fused together with the life-giving force involved.”
… Emilia must be Sora’s daughter, and she’s been born recently. This was … how could this be an accident? Is it an accident, or … no, it can’t be … someone must have planned for this to happen! Inari … could it be her? How can I even combat Loral … I don’t even know what she really is … what her goal could possibly be? Revenge?
No, I need to do more research … I need to find a way to kill her … for good this time! There must be a way! I can’t deal with anything until she’s handled.
Niomie spent the next several minutes searching for answers; Hallaway soon discovered her location, appearing at her side. Her green hair was done in an elegant braid.
“Loral, why aren’t you … you’re naked, and … have you been crying? Your eyes are…”
“Loral … Loral’s back!” Niomie whimpered, feeling more desperate by the second as she continued to hit dead ends. Many of the books the library sent were so complicated that she couldn’t understand the solution they offered.
Hallaway froze in place. “N-No, you … she died while…”
“I know! I know! It’s that stupid Founder!” Niomie screamed, throwing the book to the side. “She’s ruining everything!”
Hallaway watched her with a concerned frown, but she wouldn’t understand; the Green Seat had only been a baby when those events occurred. All she knew was the rebuilding process that happened after.
“… Why can’t I understand any of this? Why couldn’t the Founders and everyone else make these things easier to understand?” She yelled, tossing another book away that spoke about the spiritual matrix medium dissolution process that involved words and phrases she couldn’t even begin to comprehend.
Hallaway slowly moved to the book, picking it up to stare at its contents. “… We simply must find other volumes to help us understand the connecting links that are difficult to grasp. Maybe Phebe could join us?”
“No … she wouldn’t get half those words,” Niomie moaned. “She’s never been interested in learning from here … it’s all first-hand experience with her, and that’ll just destroy everything if she’s allowed to tinker with the City Core.”
The green-haired Vulpes sat the book on the table with a depressed hum. “… What does Loral want?”
Niomie gave her an incredulous smile. “… You’re asking me? She’s not even Loral anymore, which is even more terrifying! I don’t know … I don’t.”
“Does it act like Loral?” Hallaway calmly queried, browsing through a few of the books and scrolls Niomie had gathered.
“… A little,” she admitted, mind flashing back to the playful Vulpes. “Loral was … very different the last few … the days before the event.” She couldn’t bear to say her part in that day and had never told the two remaining Vulpes on that world what really happened.
“Hmm … do you think she means any of us harm? Does she wish to take back her seat?”
“No, I doubt that,” Niomie grunted, “she doesn’t even have a … body … she doesn’t even have a body.”
The horrifying pieces were linking in Niomie’s brain.
She doesn’t want to leave the City Core because … leaving would kill her. She needs a body … a host, and that means…
“… Oh, no…”
“Niomie … you’re scaring me,” Hallaway mumbled. “What is it?”
“… She was distracting me the whole time … to keep me from realizing … to send me here.”
Not wanting to go alone, Niomie latched onto Hallaway’s arm, allowing her entry into her side of the tower while teleporting them to the attendance hall and forcefully transported every one of her attendants to the location, using a chunk of her own spiritual energy.
Gasps of shock were heard around the room as hundreds of Vulpes and humans glanced around in confusion before settling on her naked body. Hallaway quickly summoned one of her own robes around her frame, but Niomie couldn’t be bothered paying it any mind as she searched through her connections to each of those in attendance.
Only those that had a personal marker, given by her could enter the tower, yet every one of her people was in attendance, and she couldn’t sense any abnormalities in them.
No … no, if it’s not here, then … it doesn’t have to be me; no, I was on-guard after she … it’s another game!
“Hallaway,” Niomie whispered with a pale face as her stamina continued to plummet after using it so often, “call everyone … everyone to the Council Room. Lockdown the tower … we need to…”
Without waiting for a response, she called upon Phebe, moving to the room, again with her own power since she’d sealed-off all contact with the City Core, but she feared the two Founders could bypass such a weak lock if they could counter the full council’s authority on a matter.
Phebe appeared in the room; space expanded around them on all sides.
“What are you…” Phebe’s haughty glare furrowed as Niomie cut her off.
“Help me to seal the tower off; three council members can force a temporary quarantine!”
“… Why?” Phebe asked, anger fading upon seeing her panic.
“Grr … just do it!”
Hallaway and Phebe frowned but followed her prompt; their jewelry glowed, sending the request to the City Core’s direct link above them. The entire tower was sealed upon their request, meaning the other council members would be arriving shortly with questions, and before that happened, Niomie explained.
“Loral is back, and she’s stolen someone’s body … one of the attendants. She’s trying to leave, and if she does … there’s no telling where she’ll be!”
Phebe’s mouth opened, but before she could ask her question, the others began to show up; Tola wore a grave look upon arriving with Sora’s group, and Niomie managed to regain her cold demeanor.
I can at least handle this much … what do I say, though…
She’d been acting on pure instinct, knowing that if she hesitated for a moment, then Loral would have been even further ahead of her.
How much can I say to get them to do what I want? The others are easy enough, but … no, they must have already met Loral! I need to know what they did; it’s all their fault!
Niomie glared at Sora while moving to her chair. “… Sit,” she growled. “We have a lot to discuss.”
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