1.Sora Moore (Our Null-Void Vulpes Founder!)
We finally met Nephesh and Eyia is in a panic because her moment of weakness caused the collapse of the Realm’s defenses by asking it to replicate the Island Dimension she’d grown up on, allowing Nephesh’s release and other entities to storm the gates such as Kari’s uncles! Inari’s in the house, though, so how will our Kitsune Goddess handle the resurrection of her family?!
We’ve waited a LONG time to get to this point! Let’s go!
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Rafael Bazua, Katie May Mackenzie, Hristiyan Delisyarov, DP, Dantalia, Thomas Borrmann, Kyle Markman, John Haywood, and my other Patrons!
Nephesh’s sinister smirk faded into mist as the figure vanished before Sora’s eyes, departing with an amused chuckle. “I look forward to your horror and despair upon seeing the results, Inari—drown in your ignorance and hubris.”
Sora gripped her left elbow, gut tightening while scanning the mass of darkness surrounding her; there wasn’t a chance she could find him in the chaotic metaphysical nightmare disrupting her faculties. “Well, isn’t he nice—wait, what about Kari?”
Her aunt’s leering countenance soon softened, eyes turning somber as the aged, wary woman came to the surface. “Charming, indeed … She will be protected. The Realm has quarantined the Fenris Brothers and their opponent in a locked space as part of its secondary safety measures.”
Inari’s guarded, illuminated orange irises put a shiver through Sora’s frame. “Sora, as to what is to come, I cannot tell you exactly how this will play out, given the scope. How do you feel?”
Reassured of Kari’s safety, Sora’s mind withdrew. She knows exactly how I feel, which means she’s asking for my sake, huh?
Reaching back to pull around her thick, flaming white locks, Sora sucked in a long breath before streaming it out. She traced the inner circle of the chakram keeping her ponytail in place, searching her emotions. “How do I feel? Hmm … It’s complicated, I guess—uncomfortable with all this stuff so close,” she muttered, eyes darting to the imperceivable force beside them—it was almost like an entity unto itself.
“Not exactly what I was asking.” Her aunt’s lips curved ever so slightly as her gaze wandered over her figure and makeshift red dress; Sora knew she was trying to break the ice and tense atmosphere, which she could appreciate. “My, my, my, Sora … I see you’ve filled out.”
“Not what you were asking, huh?” Sora spread out her arms, glancing down and twisting her hips in the air. “Heh, yeah, well, I was cute before but really a toothpick … Mmh, although…”
Her silvery irises rose to study her aunt’s side; Inari’s hands were hidden behind her back, and the two floating spiritual spheres continued to circle around her, pulling her attention. “To be honest, I’ve never felt better … freer, I suppose. I always had this hesitation before you awoke my father’s side, but it all feels so … pointless. If I want something, I need to go after it.”
Inari’s nine tails lowered to her side, wrapping around her front to curve back into the air. “In short, your father’s race is far more reckless than Vulpes, which isn’t terrible, and it isn’t as if your Vulpes side has vanished, nor the human parts you developed over your sixteen years on Earth. You are a mix of the three that gives a blended perspective and motivation.”
Her fingers unclasped to stroke her white tails, following the curve, and Sora got the distinct impression her aunt was nervous—the question was whether it was to elicit a specific response or not—Inari’s games made Sora smile.
The shift in focus helped to ease the resonating twitches running down Sora’s chakram; the nightmarish force of her grandmother’s creation frightened her in a way she couldn’t explain as a Vulpes—it was toxic in a way that made her edges dull—she wanted to run away.
Crossing her legs in the empty space, Sora folded her hands in her lap and guided her three flaming tails around. “What is it you really wish to know, Aunt Inari, and how much time do we actually have?”
Her aunt’s chest rose and fell in a tense manner before nodding and closing her eyes. “Mmh, not enough, yet more than is required.”
Vision opening, Inari mirrored Sora’s posture, serene cadence returning. “Rather than what you are thinking, Sora, I’d like for you to describe what you feel about your future—how you feel about yourself as opposed to how you feel in general.”
“Feelings,” Sora whispered, focus falling to her lap and perfect fingernails. “I’ll need to think about that.”
The rhythm of her own Vulpes natural aura began to bloom as her aunt enhanced the soothing waves; it acted as a shield for both of them, yet Sora herself didn’t have the faintest idea how to manipulate it in her current state.
“Take your time, dear,” Inari patiently replied.
Sora rubbed her left thumb against her right, pressing her fingernail against her skin and gently sliding it back and forth. She’s creating a safe place using my own energy—so it really isn’t gone but just out of my reach as I am.
The tightness in her breast eased, and she smiled at her aunt. “How do I feel about my future? It’s no different than the way you’re making me feel now … gratified.”
Sora’s gaze moved to the swirling, chilling discord beside them. “I can’t fathom what this is—in fact, I want to run away from it, but overall … I think things will work out.”
A shiver ran down Inari’s body, goosebumps showing for a moment on her lower arms. “What a relief…”
Sora’s brow furrowed, head tilting to the left as her aunt pressed a hand against her chest and sighed. “Does … this have something to do with how I changed?”
Inari nodded, giving her a pleasant smile. “In part … What of your mother?”
Confused at the questions, Sora hummed. “My mom … I don’t know why,” she whispered, focusing on the light shining through the hole she’d made in the shell above them, “but I’ve forgiven her … Can you tell me why?”
Her aunt’s joy rose with every exchange they made. “Unfortunately, I cannot, Sora. You will understand in time, but it is not something told—it is experienced.”
Sora nodded. “Mmh, yeah, okay, I can get that.”
Inari crossed her legs the opposite way. “What I can tell you is when you were unlocking your father’s side, you ascended to higher dimensions—beyond your mother and I … into the realm of your grandmother. I cannot tell you what happened there, yet I suspect Nilly and Gloria had a hand in greeting you.”
Surprisingly, the words rang true in Sora’s rings. She reached back to stroke the inner edge, lips lifting slightly in curiosity. “I … get the feeling I kind of like Nilly … I’m a little sad, too … like I want to protect her.”
“Protect … Nilly?” Inari repeated, seemingly trying to wrap her head around the statement. “I do find such an emotion puzzling, considering what I know of the cat. In any case, we should move on at this point.”
Sora turned to the darkness around them. “What about Nephesh—is he watching us?”
Her aunt’s smirk returned while studying a particular empty space. “He is occupied in a very complex ritual that is requiring his full attention—although he has set up traps in case I try to interfere—we have split our space to allow each other to work in peace.”
Inari’s ivory eyebrows lowered. “Truth be told, there are some complications I am sure that will arise, given the limited time I was given to prepare such a powerful weave of magic. However, if you are confident in progressing forward, it is all I need to have faith in what I must do … You give me courage, Sora. Thank you.”
Sora giggled, causing her tails to twist and press against her lap. “You’re welcome. I feel happy to finally be of use to you after everything you’ve done for me, Aunt Inari. If you want to know what is in my Core … I’m certain I have a purpose in life, and I can fulfill it … I have a family to protect and grow with.”
A tear came to Inari’s eyes that she let fall. “Grow we shall—you have gone through yet another change, my darling little niece, but it will only prove to strengthen your independence and personal bonds. It will be confusing to navigate this new road, I’m sure.”
A soft smile moved Sora’s eyes. “I’m not alone, Aunt Inari. Even if I’m confused and learning about my new powers, I can always count on you to have our family’s best interests in mind.”
“You do not know what that means to me…” Clearing her throat, Inari used her sleeve to dab at her wet cheeks and eyes. “It’s time to begin.”
Sora’s inner peace hit a speed bump as Loral teleported in beside them, Fen and Jian behind her.
“Lady Inari,” Loral bowed her head, Fen and Jian doing the same, but Sora didn’t miss the raven-haired girl’s nervous gaze momentarily fixate on her three tails and changed appearance. “I have done everything I believe that was necessary … Although, I did not expect for you to make a direct appearance. We are sure to succeed!”
Unable to restrain herself, Sora’s sheathed emotions pulled out a dagger. “What are they doing here?” she asked, glaring at Fen and Jian. “Fen is only trouble.”
Fen flinched. “I-I can change,” she whispered, twin tails pressing against her left leg. “We’ve been helping.”
Jian cleared his deep voice. “Fen, it’s best not to talk.”
“I’m just saying,” she mumbled, shoulders trembling a bit; she couldn’t even look at Inari or her, which Sora took as her trying to be docile. “I know I caused some trouble for you—I just don’t get why I was thrown away…”
A sharp pulse from her chakram sent a wave of furious disruptive Null-Void energy at her contrasting tone and words. “Some trouble? You tried to emotionally scar me by having people kill themselves in my name—you’re disgusting.”
Judging by Jian’s tightening lips and regretful expression, she figured he, being the smarter one, had tried to talk her out of it—tragically, Fen had some unspoken hold over him through some kind of seal.
Loral didn’t appear to be that surprised by the information as her emotionless eyes shifted to Sora. “I don’t care what she did before; she was the only one available that could aid me in preparing the way for your family’s resurrection.”
“Mhm!” Fen softly replied, nodding her head up and down while still avoiding eye contact. “I was just mad—I’m a Vulpes, too … a Húli Jīng; it’s in my nature! I—I try…”
“Fen…” Jian groaned, reaching over to put a hand on her head to silence her.
Her aunt took everyone’s attention. “What Fen did was atrocious, Sora, and to blame it purely on your nature and shirking all responsibility is a part of the reason I rejected you.”
The two-tailed Vulpes’s muscles locked up, ears lying flat against her head.
“That being said,” Inari sighed, “Fen enacted a task Loral required that no one else was suited for, and we have been given this time for that very reason … To make a long story short, I will reward you for your actions Fen … However, there must also be consequences for your previous actions—responsibility must be taken for progress to be made.”
Fen’s hopeful eyes lifted only to become vacant, imagining what Inari meant by that statement.
Loral tucked in her bottom lip, focusing on the 2nd Generation Founder. “Lady Inari, is there anything I have missed? Should we not start immediately?”
Her aunt’s orange irises didn’t move from Sora. “At this time, we need a few ingredients to complete this revival, which is why I’ve gathered every scrap of lingering spiritual force I could of your aunts. I will not lie to you, my niece … You will not like what we must do to accomplish our dream.”
Steeling herself, Sora took a long breath and nodded. “I haven’t liked a lot of things I’ve had to do—things I’ve had to look past and allow. What else must I sacrifice?”
Inari lifted her left and snapped her fingers—visual mirages of Mary, Ashley, Nathan, Aiden, Jin, Eyia, Wendy, Emilia, and Kari materialized around her. “It is less about sacrifice this time and more about understanding the risks involved.”
Lips pulling in, Sora unfolded her legs and changed positions midair to stand and turn herself to look at each of their smiling faces—Aiden and Kari did have a nice smile when unburdened by the weight of their past. “What does this have to do with my friends?”
“I … am also lost as to why they are necessary,” Loral muttered, shifting her focus to the white-haired Vulpes Founder. “Lady Inari, is not the nightmare and unique energy inside that consists of your sisters and mother enough?”
Inari crossed her arms under her bust. “It is not … The reason Nephesh was so confident in our failure is that the nature of my mother’s nightmare—while it hosts transcendent power, it is nefarious by design.”
Drawing their focus to the chaos, Inari’s vision narrowed. “Much like cooking with dangerous ingredients to create a captivating and unique dish to sample, a ritual of this composition would lead to horrific, twisted abominations of my sisters and mother that would be everything my mother feared—cold, hateful, and set on the destruction of one another—a possible outcome of a life without Primordial influence to center our negative emotions on.”
Sora and Loral’s faces drained of color; Fen hugged herself in terror at the prospect of 2nd Generation Founders just as temperamental and foul-natured as herself, perhaps worse.
A quake ran down the former council member’s frame. “I … would have brought about the Realm’s destruction by my own hands?”
“That won’t happen, though. Right?” Sora urgently asked. “I don’t feel like that will happen—I don’t want that to happen!”
Inari slowly shook her head. “If there is corruption, then there needs to be a counterbalance. Do not doubt the strength of the bonds forged by those close to you … You are not alone, as you said. It is not just me, but your mother’s own ties to our sisters and matriarch.
“The danger comes from the level of magic and the path that my sister’s residual spiritual energy must take. They will pass through the metaphysical bond representing the bond that all of us share across our lives—human bonds are potent because of their short lives, which grants an urgency and strength many other creatures do not share.”
Sora could see the path of where this was heading. “If anything messes up while they’re traveling through those bonds … what happens?”
Loral’s tails quivered a bit. “They’d be cut—memories, emotions, even spiritual ties you’ve built will become void—even Lady Inari and your mother would not be spared the repercussions—is that what you are suggesting?”
Inari solemnly nodded. “Every one of us is in danger during this ritual—except my niece.”
“Why not me?” Sora asked, fingers tightening into fists at her side.
“Because you are not entirely a spiritual entity anymore. Everything in Existence is comprised of a spiritual substance of some kind … Your father’s side may have utilized an artificial spirit, yet his unknown source of being is coating every aspect of your Vulpes spiritual fibers while seeking to bond. I cannot be certain but am fairly confident you would receive no harm.”
Sora’s silver eyes settled on Wendy, her oldest friend—still a human. “I can’t force them to go through it without warning them of the risks … Wait, is this what you asked of Mary, Ashley, and Nathan when we unlocked their Cores?”
Inari nodded. “They promptly agreed without hesitation before I locked that portion of their memories away so as to not influence your path to this point.” She smiled at the three images of the humans. “They’re good people.”
Vision falling to the darkness below, Sora hummed. “They might have accepted it, but the others haven’t … Can you bring them here so they can answer for themselves?”
Inari waved her hand, causing the mirages to vanish. “Sora … some of these people will be leaving you soon; their paths are going in a splintered direction—not all, but as you can likely guess, Mary, Nathan, and Ashely. Fen and Jian will be going down their own paths, as well.”
Happy Kari and Wendy weren’t named in the departing parties, Sora glanced between the three humans she’d grown fond of. She couldn’t care less about Fen and Jian. “I figured it would come … They have their own lives to live.”
Fen’s wide eyes were still refusing to make contact with them; obviously, she was concerned about her own well-being.
“Lady Inari,” Loral cleared her throat, sounding anxious, “we’re running out of time.”
A chuckle shook Inari’s chest. “Oh, Loral, we have plenty to accomplish what is needed—yet not enough to do everything I want, which is an important distinction.”
Loral’s brow furrowed, vision downcast at the rebuttal. “I … apologize.”
It was a different side of the confident and snarky Vulpes she’d met before.
Inari’s focus moved to the woman for the first time. “Keep your head up, Loral; you have done an excellent job, considering your age, skill, and knowledge. I am impressed with your performance, which shows how well my mother’s educational system was developed before this dimension’s collapse under Niomie … Just keep in mind, patience is the key to baking.”
“Right,” she replied, confidence returning to her face.
Feeling a little better about their path, Sora found it a bit funny her all-powerful aunt was talking about cooking.
Taking a deep breath, she grasped her hands at her front. “What are we going to do?”
A simple smile brightened Inari’s face. “Have faith. We all must be sure of its success, which is why I needed your reassurance, my adorable little niece … Nephesh laid seeds of doubt within me that you dispelled.
“I may not have the total recipe, but you have supported me in ways you and I are totally unaware—he-he-he, isn’t that amazing? I can feel my heart pounding!” she giggled, fingers pressing against her left breast. “Are you prepared?”
Knowing there was little she could do other than take the blind step forward and trust in herself and others, Sora reached back and adjusted her chakram, stroking two rings to ease her pulsating metal. “As ready as I’ll ever be!”
Inari’s orange irises slid to Fen. “All you desire—the path laid in gold and blood awaits you, Fen. Jian’s freedom hangs in the balance. Do you believe?”
“I do! If you are involved, Lady Inari,” Fen urgently replied, stumbling over her words, “I know nothing can stop this ritual’s success and—and I can be free, too!”
Sora didn’t know the context of her reply and didn’t care; all that was on her mind was the path ahead.
Inari smiled impishly while holding up her hand and revealing a glistening pearl the size of an acorn—unimaginable, feral power pulsed within that were like teeth around Sora’s throat, forcing the air to lock in her lungs—if the Fenris Brothers and Primordial above them were combined it wouldn’t even equate to a fifth of the frenzied force within.
“Your grandmother’s nightmare is the raw power unbridled and unrestrained that cannot be altered nor purified by anything less than that which is on equivalent standing, and Gong-Gong by no means comes close to my mother’s glory—for Seiōbo or Nari, yes, but our mother is far too strong and would devour Gong-Gong’s spiritual center.”
The mythical artifact vanished in light; Fen and Jian weren’t even looking, eyes closed while fervently muttering some kind of prayer to Inari.
Her aunt’s calm, trusting vision settled on Sora. “I thought I’d require Gong-Gong’s bead for this, but now that I am here, I know it is not strong enough … Fortunately, Sora has filled in for my failings in some manner. I go forward with faith.”
A thankful smile moved the beautiful Vulpes’s eyes. “You truly have been the binding force to reunite and uplift our family, Sora. Now, let’s see what your friends have to say.”
Mary, Ashley, Nathan, Jin, Eyia, Wendy, Kari, Aiden, and Emilia appeared in the places Inari created their illusions, glancing around in confusion.
Jin floated back in an instant, yellow eyes darting to Inari. “Woah! Yo, uh … heh, Inari … Give a Dragon a warning next time, huh? What’s … that?!” she asked, hissing as Eyia and her retreated further to the right.
“Sister?” Eyia asked, eyes wide and still looking upset at her actions that caused the breakdown of the City Core. “I am—What is required of me?”
Mary, Ashley, and Nathan passively glanced around, trying to pick up the pieces, and before anyone could say anything else, everyone watched Inari float over and slip around a stunned Emilia’s back while pulling her into a firm hug. “My little Emilia … You’re so precious!”
“A-Aunt I-Inari?” Emilia stammered, eyes practically spinning. “W-What’s going on—Mom? Mom, what’s … Aunt Inari?! Mom?!”
Sora gave her panicking daughter a forced smile and wave. “Hey, honey! Umm, yeah … As you can see, I’ve … kind of changed a little bit. I’m totally fine!”
“Woah…” Wendy’s mouth dropped open, unable to move in the darkness. “Sora, you look like a total babe … You’re like a fire goddess? Are you a fire goddess?”
“Seems reasonable,” Nathan chuckled.
Ashley lifted an eyebrow. “Cool? Umm … How long are we going to be, Inari?”
Mary shrugged. “Sure. I wouldn’t doubt it. Oh, I need to get back, Inari! These Vulpes are the most thirsty savage ladies I’ve ever seen! My goodness, the psychological issues in these women are—I fear for that boy!”
Inari giggled, pulling away to Emilia’s side while her nine fluffy tails closed around her opposite side to bring her closer. “No need to fret; you are all beyond the Realm’s sphere of time. This is a space unto itself within the pocket Existence my mother created. In the grand scheme of things, it is as if you’ve never even left.”
A grin spread across Mary’s excited face. “That’s—I want to know how that even works! I love it! Umm, later, of course—umm, you needed us?”
Gesturing to the Sora, Inari used her other arm to wrap around Emilia’s shoulder, pulling her in; the girl may have been confused, but delight swiftly took its place as she wrapped her own arms around Inari’s core, snuggling against the side of her breast. “It’s time to aid Sora in her most desperate hour.”
Tears came to Ashley’s eyes. “We—is it time … We’re going to help Sora regain her family? Oh, I can’t wait! Can we start? I want to meet your sisters!”
Eyia was instantly on board. “Anything you need, Sister! Please, do not hesitate to request it of me!” she urgently said, moving forward to stand in front of her. “I wish to correct my mistake!”
“Mistake?” Jin muttered, lifting an eyebrow at the emotion now circling the group and discovering Fen and Jian to her right. “Okay … Cool, I guess, but, eh … Inari, why do I need to be here?”
Sora sighed, rolling her eyes at how frantic Eyia was after her blunder; the Valkyrie’s tight fists were pressed against her bust in agony at the very thought of Sora hating her.
“Eyia…” She closed in and hugged her, talking in her ear; the girl’s face was flushed with dread. “Hey, you’re my friend, okay? You don’t need to worry about all of that stuff—I know it wasn’t on purpose.”
Liquid touched Sora’s neck. “I … I could not answer your question, though, Sister … I made a grave mistake, and I cannot comply with your request—I have failed you—put you in harm’s way! It is unforgivable!”
Inari’s lips fell a little when shifting to Eyia, but she addressed Jin. “I believe a Dragon such as yourself should understand the reasons quite clearly.”
A low growl rumbled in Jin’s throat as she appraised the ancient Vulpes before releasing a stream of air through her nose. “Whatever … I guess if it’s for Sora, but … What of Gong-Gong?”
Inari’s smile moved to Jin. “I’ll speak to you about Gong-Gong in private after our success.”
Jin’s eyes drew in, lips parting in disbelief, likely not expecting anything close to that response. “In private … Okay, you have my attention. What are we doing?”
“As to when we start,” Inari whispered, squeezing Emilia’s shoulder, “Sora?”
Pulling away from Eyia to brush back her unbound blonde locks, Sora let her forehead fall against her friend’s; the Valkyrie undid her braid after they left, which was likely a sign of shame for her. “Hey, I know you’re hurt and disappointed in yourself, Eyia, but I’ve let it go … Can you forgive yourself?”
Eyia’s jaw tightened, averting her eyes. “I … Do not understand you, Sister…”
Sora shook her head in exasperation and pulled her head into her bosom. “Heh, I shouldn’t expect anything less from you, Eyia—you’re just so loyal and put such high expectations on yourself—even if it’s raining, you’d rather make it snow. Can you listen for a minute, and then we can tackle this?”
The Valkyrie took in a shuddering breath and pulled away, trying to compose herself. “Of course! What do you require of me? I will do it without fail.”
Why’s everyone so troublesome! Wait … Kari?
She caught Kari’s gaze on Eyia, but instead of contempt or anger, there was a hint of concern; it might have been for how Eyia was making her feel, yet it may have been connected to the bond Sora shared with Kari herself—Kari was actually somewhat similar to Eyia in the self-blame and torment game.
Aiden was beside her, silently following the conversations; she could see the determination building in his face and could guess what was on his mind—he’d do anything to try and counter the bits of bad luck his presence had in everyone’s lives.
Releasing a heavy puff of air, she released it in an audible torrent. Maybe I’m the dark star in everyone’s life instead of him … Bah, it doesn’t matter. No matter what we do, I’ll be there for my friends … I shouldn’t put my expectations on them, though.
“This could be dangerous; if it goes wrong, you could forget everything about the people you love the most—the bonds you share with people could be irreversibly damaged…”
She trailed off as Nathan burst into laughter. “Sora! Sora! How could any of us turn you down when you’re in need? How many times have you saved us now?”
“Speak for yourself,” Jin muttered, glaring at Inari before returning her focus to the nightmare that was being separated by Sora’s Vulpes aura. “I’m up for helpin’ Sora, but I ain’t gonna die for her.”
“No, I get it,” Sora smiled, catching Eyia’s worried blue eyes, “and it’s fine. Aunt Inari, could you…”
“Aye,” Jin grunted, scratching the back of her neck. “I didn’t say I wouldn’t do it, geez—I’m just sayin’. I’ve got some stuff to talk about with Inari anyway, so let’s get this over with.”
Aiden nodded, adding a smile that must have been hard for him. “I like the idea of helping you, and I trust your aunt; she’s helped Nathan—I just don’t see her trying to hurt you … I admire that,” he whispered. “Umm, thank you, Inari, again—for allowing me to talk to Alva again.”
“It wasn’t your last encounter,” she smoothly replied, making Aiden’s vision fall in thought. “Well, is there anyone in objection?”
Kari gave Sora a hopeful smile and thumbs up. “Let’s make your dream come true.”
Ashley clapped her hands. “Congratulations, Sora! I know this is a big moment for you.”
“Wonderful.” Inari floated away from Emilia, fingertips lingering on her back as she moved to the center of their large circle. “We do need to address a few more things … Wendy?”
The stunned brown-haired girl gave a start, jogged out of her thoughts. “Y-Yes?”
“Everyone is in sync for this ritual but Emilia and you.”
Emilia’s eight tails twisted around one another at being called out. “W-What? Me?!”
Inari clasped her hands behind her back with an understanding smile. “Yes, Emilia. Can the two of you honestly tell us your true feelings about what we are about to do? It is imperative that you are truthful, even if it hurts or is embarrassing.”
Wendy ran both of her hands through her hair. “Mmgh! Really? What … feelings, exactly?” she muttered, nervous brown eyes darting to Sora.
“Whatever negative emotions you have that have festered within your Core as of late.”
Another groan rolled through the girl’s throat. “Gah … Fine … Okay…”
“What’s going on, Wendy?” Sora asked, feeling like she knew the answer.
Wendy jabbed an accusatory finger at Kari. “Look … Okay, I’m jealous—I just got my friend back, lost my mother, and everything I know—Sora’s my only ground to stand on, and I feel like I’m being left behind … Gah! I’m petty and insufferable!” she growled. “I know I am! I can’t help it, though!”
She crossed her arms, continuing her rant as Sora’s gut tightened, knowing Emilia had similar feelings. “I know! I know! Kari’s this magical wolf girl that can do all this stuff with you, and I can’t—I want to, though … I just—I thought unlocking my Core would help me get closer to you, but everything’s going so fast, and I’m just—I’m stuck behind. I know it’s not your fault, too—it just sucks, and I can’t stop feeling this way!”
Emilia slowly nodded, not being nearly as forward as Wendy while fidgeting with her dress front. “Umm—yeah, I just don’t … know you, Mom,” she muttered, trembling as the words left her mouth. “I mean, look at you—you changed so much—so fast, and I know we spent a little time together, but—every time you go away and come back, it’s like you’re leaving me out of so much of your life … I just want to be with you, Mom.”
Sora’s shoulders drooped a little, floating forward to hug her teary-eyed daughter. “I was rough on my mom for not being with me … Here I am leaving you in the cold.” Emilia’s arms squeezed as hard as possible as she returned the embrace. “Things will change … I promise.”
Inari’s soft tone pulled everyone’s gaze. “More than you all know … Wendy, Sora can make you stronger now—and Emilia, your mother will require your help more than ever. Do you wish for that future?”
“I’d give everything—not that I have much left,” Wendy said with a forced laugh. “Please, I just want my friend again.”
Kari refused to make eye contact; instead, focusing on the darkness. Sora knew she was stronger now and could read between the lines but couldn’t help shovel a bit of internal torment on herself at Wendy’s struggle.
Emilia’s fingernails compressed against Sora’s back. “Mhm! I love you, Mom … I want to be with you.”
“Excellent,” Inari chimed. “We are ready to begin. To become one to offer rebirth to those departed—atonement.”
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