1. Sora Moore (Our Vulpes Founder with a new daughter to protect)
Recap: We learned about Niki, the little Vulpes child Sora saved from certain death. She even got a name! Sora’s doing what she can to be nice and make people angry; the cute little fox! Now, we’re heading to the big boss of this area … a male Vulpes! Oh, no. How will this turn out?
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Sora’s eyes narrowed while watching Lissiri manipulate the raw magical energies in their surroundings to open the posh doors of the Level’s Boss, which seemed far too thick and large for a normal person to operate on a day-to-day basis.
Upon entering, the passageway shut, dimming the bright exterior light and introducing an interior that focused on drawing the eye to various trophies and artwork around the exquisite interior.
However, Sora’s gaze went from the paintings and sculptures of ages past to a small fox with a cinnamon coat that was sitting in the middle of the room, which promptly turned into a cute boy, his hair matching the color of his single tail.
Sora was a little taken aback by the adorable smile he gave her, and the outfit he wore was something unique, compared to all the women she’d seen across the various layers.
He had a tight black cloth undershirt that showed off his slim upper chest and a dark velvet overcoat. The black and white striped scarf matched his bracers and sash while his pants were made of the same material as his undershirt. His sandals showed off his well-maintained toenails and delicate feet.
“Greetings, Lady Sora, Lady Kari, and Lady Eyia,” he chimed with a glowing tone.
Bubbling laughter caused Kari’s chest to quake as she doubled over, gripping her stomach. “T-This is the—the Lord of this Level?!”
Eyia lifted a questioning blonde eyebrow. “I was expecting a figure similar to the previous ruler…”
“W-What?!” the boy gasped, hands tightened around his frame as he took a step back. “N-No!”
Lissiri’s continence darkened, directing a glare at the laughing Fenris Wolf. “How ins…” She took a controlled breath before her fake smile returned. “You would be wrong … This is Zeri; he acts as Lord Keizer’s personal attendant.”
Zeri’s forced smile softened as he recomposed himself, large fox ears giving a cute twitch at Kari’s assumption. “That is correct! I have been asked to direct you three lovely ladies into a meeting room to await his Lord’s arrival—he’s fairly busy speaking to the other Level Lords at the moment.”
A small smile brightened Sora’s lips as Niki gasped, “Wow … it’s a boy—Sora, it’s a boy…”
Veiling the child’s mind with her magic, she forced the emotionally exhausted girl to drift into sleep. “I’ll wake you up when your sister arrives, but until then … rest.”
She couldn’t even mumble a question as the fox drifted into her dreams.
Sora turned back to the cute boy; he looked like the hot Japanese teens she saw across Instagram—just with fox ears, cinnamon brown hair, and a tail. “So … where are we going?”
“Right … Right…” he whispered, giving their five-tailed guide a thoughtful hum. “Is … there anything else, Lady Lissiri? I can take care of their needs from here.”
Lissiri had a swirl of hidden emotions raging below the surface of her cool demeanor, but she managed to keep her voice even. “Lady Sora has invited me to witness the healing of a two-tailed Vulpes from the 7th Level that will be joining us shortly.”
“Oh,” his countenance fell, sadness radiating from him. “I do hate to see the injuries some of the Vulpes that come to the 5th Level receive, but the Lord makes them better. I was unaware that two-tailed Vulpes could utilize healing magic,” he said with a thankful grin at Sora.
“Seeing others having their scars healed is such a wonderful feeling, and they’re always smiling at the end! Ahem, excuse my slothful behavior,” he chuckled, scratching the back of his neck. “Please, right this way!” he chimed, ushering their group to follow him up the fancy gold and white staircase.
Kari was the first to comply, watching his weaving fluffy tail with a slight smirk, probably still laughing at the reaction she got from the two Vulpes. “I thought only four to five-tailed Vulpes were allowed on the 5th Level.”
Eyia nodded, arms folded across her front while glancing at the works of art they passed along the brightly lit 2nd-floor hallway. “It is a little strange.”
“Is that right?” Zeri questioned, turning to give them an innocent look. “I’m not that acquainted with what happens on any of the other levels, so I couldn’t say.”
“Humph … Hard to believe that,” Kari mumbled, amber irises shifting to Sora.
She’d been more focused on Lissiri than the boy, but his Core was practically inviting someone to invade it, showing his purity; she hadn’t sensed a less defended Vulpes since Luna and Rayla, the twins they met upon entering the Realm’s entrance.
Zeri was somewhat unique compared to the other Vulpes in the Realm, and far more controlled in his transformation, even having the skill to bring his clothes into his change. He was also the most pure-hearted and innocent boy she’d ever seen, considering his open Core; he was completely sheltered from what happened around him, which was a bit confusing to her.
On the other hand, the five-tailed Nogitsune reaction was anything but clean; lust burned in her heart upon her first glimpse of the boy when they entered the manor—it was a wonder she hadn’t already lept on the unsuspecting teen and stripped him bare.
The 5th Level was nothing like the 6th and 7th, and the more she looked into the libidinous Vulpes’s heart, the more questions she had—it was as if Lissiri had trekked three days through a blazing desert and Zeri was a pristine oasis—the depths of thirst was unreal, using the healing of Niki’s sister to allow her to spend more time with this boy.
Lissiri was supposed to leave us at the door … I was manipulated … But for something like this?! That’s a little ridiculous. Something’s way wrong with Level 5 if the women are this bad … And the poor guy doesn’t even realize it.
Kari rolled her eyes upon catching onto what Sora was focusing on, but Eyia didn’t appear to be drawn to their line of thinking, her blue irises shifting between the works of art.
I should probably take a note from her book, though—I need to be smarter with the upcoming fights … Things will only get harder from here.
Passing through several corridors, Sora was beginning to wonder how far away a room they could use was—there were dozens of doors Zeri led them past, but eventually, they made it to a large room, filled with strange clothes from long ago, shown off by realistic mannequins.
Paintings adorned the walls, and a picture that moved between various scenes from before the fall of the other planets showed groups of laughing Vulpes, humans, and other creatures Sora didn’t recognize eating with one another—everything spoke of luxury.
Not a single couch was in the room, instead armchairs were the item of choice, each having a place for them to extend their tail through the back.
She sat the sleeping child on the chair to her right, Kari and Eyia taking the opposite seats. Directing a smile at Zeri as he adjusted his posture on the chair opposite her, Sora asked, “How long will Lord Keizer be?”
His fingers tightened across his lap, clearly nervous by his smile. “I cannot say, Lady Sora. The Lord directed me to entertain the new guests until he arrived.”
A smirk creased Kari’s eyes. “Oh … And how are you going to keep us company? Sora, what are you getting from him?”
Lissiri tried to hide a mild glare but couldn’t hold back for long. “… Surely, there must be something the three of you wish to know which could pass the time?”
Sora leaned back, tails shifting to the left and right as her gaze moved between the two Vulpes; Lissiri was sitting properly, but the twist to her nose was not directed at Kari—the heat in her mind was on Lord Keizer … The woman hated the overlord of the area.
Thinking back on what she knew so far, Sora refrained from sighing; this house alone was at least ten times larger than the shared, multi-leveled homes she’d seen along their path here. Keizer had taken the most prominent place in the entire level, and that wasn’t all.
Eyia changed the attitude on a dime. “Hmm … How old are you, Zeri? You seem to be fairly young, and are there more male Vulpes on this level?”
He laughed, trying to shake off the tension slowly, compressing the room. “Umm … I was told by the Lord that I am 18 years old. We have a celebration each year, which is so fun! Everyone joins in, and we play games and have a wonderful time.”
Sora couldn’t help her heart thump at the purity in the boy’s innocent smile and emotions; he truly thought of everything here as a paradise, friends all around him, yet he had no clue what the women wanted to do to him—Lissiri’s eyes were bordering on madness for a split second before she managed to hide it.
“I’m the only other male Vulpes on the 5th Level; heh, sometimes I feel a little lonely, but there’s always people around that offer to help me with Lord Kizer’s tasks.” he turned to give the five-tailed Nogitsune a warm grin. “Thank you for all the hard work, Lissiri; the Lord loved the stew we made together two days ago.”
“Y-Yeah,” she said, muscles tight. “We’ll have to do it again—maybe tonight!” Her thumping heart was practically pleading to be noticed by the boy.
“Aww … I’d love that, but I promised Malinda, Rimina, and Emika tonight.”
“Right…” Her expression was understanding—murder was in her Core.
Sora was beginning to get what was so different about the 5th Level than the previous two … deprive women of the very existence of men for over three hundred years, and then give them a single, innocent boy’s adoring attention that you had to share with thousands of other girls—it spelled disaster, but they couldn’t ruin him—there was also the Lord to contend with.
The blistering lust was choking, and the negative emotions it bred undoubtedly would produce a potent wave that could be collected.
She could see why the boy was kept somewhat distant from the raving female desires of the Vulpes women, prowling, deceiving, and kneecapping each other to get even a single moment with the teenage boy—these were all 300 to 400-year-old women, pining after the affection of an 18-year-old boy.
He was another reminder of what they could see but couldn’t have on the 5th Level, prompting the masses to shoot further. It was a devious scheme to motivate the Vulpes to advance and contend with one another, causing dark thoughts to twist Sora’s mind at her Shadow’s surfacing influence.
Keizer, Keizer, Keizer … trying to wave this innocent, defenseless, single-tailed, cute little male Vulpes in front of me as a taunt before swooping in … Is it revenge for what I did to Kestirva? “Mmh…” Maybe … But this can backfire spectacularly!
Kari gave her a questioning look at the hidden smirk that crossed her eyes, but Sora spoke her question aloud. “Zeri … tell me more about yourself.”
“Hoh…” Zeri took a deep, forced breath before letting it out. “Heh, what should I say? I, umm … I do a lot of errands for the Lord around the city … delivering messages, spending time with the other ladies, and sometimes, when Lord Keizer is in a good mood, he’ll let me go out and watch them practice their magic! It’s so fun—everyone’s just so happy,” he whispered with a small, adorable smile.
Kari looked a bit conflicted; it was funny to her that he was so naive, but at the same time, he was so cute and sincere that she couldn’t laugh at him—he genuinely enjoyed spending time with the women—if only he knew the fever that boiled within the thirsty masses that surrounded him.
Eyia couldn’t hide her smile, expression saying, ‘he’s precious!’
The electric pulse thumping through Lissiris’s veins was intoxicating to Sora’s sharp emotional sense—infecting her a little and raising her blood pressure. She had to admit … Zeri certainly was an entrancing boy; if nothing else, his purity was blinding.
“Mhm…” Sora responded, Shadow pulling her further into the darkness.
“Were you born here?” Eyia asked.
Zeri shook his head. “No, Lord Keizer brought me here when I was very young—all I know are the wonderful Vulpes here in the 5th Level…” His smile fell a little, rubbing his arm as his ears drooped. “It’s always so sad when … when they go—after the festival—but … we get new Ladies that I get to make memories with, and the others are going to a better place.”
“You know that, huh?” Kari mumbled, her arms folded tightly under her breasts. “How can you be sure?”
“Lord Keizer told me that!” he quickly replied with complete trust. “I know … the lower-levels can be a bit harsher than we have it here—so, I’m happy to see the Ladies that make it here,” he said with a sad smile.
Sora’s own heart thumped a little—he really was something special in a world so cruel—it was no wonder the women that had gone through hundreds of years of torment clung to his precious soul. However, without Keizer’s protection, they’d rip and devour this poor boy beyond repair.
By the tightness of Lissiri’s thighs and arms as Zeri talked about each Vulpes by name, listing off the things they’d done recently; cooking appeared to be a favorite of his, spending time with the women to select ingredients from the Main Square when it was teleported in, and preparing the dishes together. It was obviously a treat provided by Keizer for those Vulpes that pleased him—personal time with Zeri.
“… Oh, and there’s this new recipe that the Lord taught me that I wanted to try! You three will be the first to try it out; I hope it’ll be good,” he laughed.
Ignoring the subtle murderous gaze Lissiri sent her, Sora giggled. “I look forward to it! By the way, were there any other male Vulpes here before you?”
Lissiri shifted uncomfortably at her question, pulling her focus. “Mmh … Yes, there were … Two since I’ve been on the 5th Level.”
“Yes, there were some before me,” Zeri confirmed. “After I gain my second tail, like the male Vulpes before me, I’ll be able to go to the 4th Level! It’s exciting, and … Well,” his cheer settled a bit, “I’m kind of torn, really…”
Ah … graduating from innocent pets to … something … probably much worse. Vulpes rise from literal hell in Level 7 to a somewhat more peaceful place with food, shelter … rules in Level 6. Then, in Level 5, their first introduction to the opposite sex, which Vulpes naturally crave—that opposing spiritual energy.
The thought randomly came to her—she’d never been taught it, but the answer seemed obvious once it entered her mind. In fact, maybe that connection changed in male Vulpes as they gained their second tail, which was why they were moved out.
“Mmh,” Eyia nodded. “Since you will need to leave the friends you have made here?”
Zeri’s eyes widened, tears gathering in them as he stared at the Valkyrie. “What … was that word?”
“Friends?” Kari asked, causing Lissiri’s eyes to fall to the carpet in confusion.
“… F-Friends … I’ve never heard of such a beautiful word…” he whispered, hand pressing against his breast. “Friends…”
He trailed off as the door opened; Sora hadn’t heard anyone outside, and Lord Keizer made his appearance. Keizer wore a white robe and sash, in a similar design to Zeri’s, and by his gray fur, his mother was likely a Kumiho. He was handsome, but after seeing Nephesh in Loral’s vision, it didn’t take long for Sora to think ‘Meh’—Zeri was in another category than the other two.
Keizer frowned, seemingly knowing Lissiri was present and not happy about it.
She instantly rose into a bow, promptly explaining without prompt—the woman was really milking Sora’s offer. “Lord Keizer, Lady Sora has invited me to witness a healing weave she is going to perform.”
Zeri smoothly followed her reverent example; Sora, Kari, and Eyia made no attempt to placate the man’s ego, silently watching the exchange.
Keizer’s left eye lifted with a half-smile, golden eyes turning to Sora. “Healing, you say … It is not commonplace among five-tailed Vulpes … Unheard of in two-tailed. Although, from the powers I’ve seen you perform in the 6th Trial, I would not doubt it.”
He smoothly took the seat beside Zeri, causing the other two to mirror his action; however, he showed Sora something new—his nine tails phased through the chair, settling into the outlet. “You are quite the enigma, Sora—a fascinating and darling mystery.
“She’s not an object to put on a pedestal for everyone to gawk at,” Kari grunted, leaning against the side of her chair with a sharp glare.
Kari’s defensive words caused several pieces to snap into place for Sora that she hadn’t considered.—the Fenris Wolf wasn’t wrong to address the comment. This man is a collector … Zeri is unique … Everything in this manor is … The three of us are, too.
Keizer laughed, dismissively waving his hand, and Zeri chuckled, clearly thinking it was a joke. “A pedestal for all to see? Hmm … it hasn’t crossed my mind, but … it’s not a bad idea, my black-haired girl … My, you do have the finest locks I’ve ever seen.”
Kari’s arms unlatched to close around her thick mane, draped over her shoulders. “I’m not for sale, either!”
“I’m sure,” he whispered, and a small, wicked smile moved his lips before shifting his focus back to Sora. “If you are going to perform a healing weave, then the new Vulpes to my area that is being led to my palace must be the one in question—the others are not moving this way. Yet … the injuries upon the girl are something fierce—not something even the 4th Level Vulpes would be able to restore.”
“No…” Zeri mumbled in horror. “Lord, surely your powers are sufficient.”
Sora folded her fingers together, lips mirroring the man across from her. “Of course, he could, but I will demonstrate that I am no ordinary two-tailed Vulpes … I am a Founder, and you will learn what that means.”
“Indeed, they shall,” Eyia chuckled. “Although, my sister’s earlier demonstration should have been a feat worthy of praise!”
Keizer’s lower lips pulled in a little with an interested grin. “… It certainly wet my appetite … I look forward to more.”
Sora could sense him dissecting and examining her spiritual defenses, causing her skin to prickle with his searching gaze as he spoke.
“Your barriers are quite strong—potentially rivaling a young eight-tailed Vulpes I once knew, and … Hmm … Something is chilling, deep inside you—warning those that would inquire further … The energy you release … truly unique—pure … refined … holy would even be used to describe it. The strength within is … staggering,” he wet his lips. “I get the feeling that even you do not know how to tap into it … Intriguing…”
“Again,” Kari growled, ears pulled back in a threatening manner, “Sora isn’t an object you can just take!”
“… Don’t you enjoy bets, Sora Moore?” he asked, ignoring Kari’s remark. “I bet regularly with the Vulpes in the Tower … And the manner you demonstrated against Kestirva … it put a flame in my chest. Surely, you know what I mean?”
Eyia’s silent frown flipped into a proud grin. “I am always looking for a challenge!”
“In time,” he chuckled, giving her a wary glance, obviously sensing the power she was withholding.
Sora was rather enjoying how things were playing out, though—it was exactly how she imagined this meeting would go, and she embraced it.
The gleam in Keizer’s gaze as he leaned forward was much like Bathin’s as the Lord asked, “Sora … Are you willing to put forward a bet? Stay in the 5th Level—service under me.”
“On this next Trial?” Sora asked, noticing Zeri’s questioning glance between them and Lissiri’s worry, likely concerned her continued presence would pull the boy’s attention away.
Kari snorted. “Right … look, pal, Sora’s not going to be your slave!”
A secretive smile moved Sora’s lips as she leaned forward, holding her hand up to stop Kari’s outburst, drawing her confused amber irises. However, before she could continue, Niki’s sister came stumbling in with the four-tailed Vulpes behind her; Sora planned for the timing, having heard the pair coming.
Half-delirious from blood loss, the girl stumbled forward, seeing Niki sleeping peacefully in the seat next to Sora. “S-Sister…”
She grunted as the four-tailed Vulpes leaped forward to slam her to the carpeted stone floor. “H-Hey! Show some respect for the Lord!”
Niki’s sister cried out, jaw locking as she caught herself with her right elbow, gripping her left, bloody stump as tears streamed down her face. They appeared to have found more cloth to wrap around what was left of her left hand and half-cut second tail to not drip crimson across the Lord’s manor.
The Lord leered across the room at the panting and sweating two-tailed Vulpes, and Zeri turned sheet white, fainting on the spot upon seeing the state of the woman.
Lissiri’s heart thumped with hope as she jumped to her feet to stabilize the boy before he fell, but Lord Keizer practically teleported to Zeri’s side before the woman even had a chance to touch him. “He … is not accustomed to such sights…” Keizer mumbled, transporting him away. “I will send him back to his room to…”
Sora’s focus was on the dying woman, sobbing on the floor; Kari instantly jumped to her feet, and Sora was scared she was going to take the four-tailed Vulpes’s head off by the glare she was giving the assailant, likely having flashbacks of Eric killing Lori.
Eyia’s cool blue eyes appraised the situation without much emotion, knowing Sora would handle it; her gaze was leveled on the nine-tailed Vulpes rather than the girl on the floor.
“S-Sister … Please, let me see my sister…” she wept, unable to break free from the much stronger Vulpes’s grip on top of her; that all changed as Sora’s magic exploded around the room, drawing everyone’s attention.
Instead of forcing the woman to the ground, the four-tailed Nogistune swapped stances to caringly lift the one-armed Vulpes into her arms, fully aware of her actions as Sora wordlessly hijacked her willpower.
Still needing to play her persona, Sora gave Keizer a smug smirk as she positioned her two tails over the stunned woman. “Are you watching? I won’t repeat it,” she stated, bright blue light surrounding her tails before transferring to Niki’s sister.
The light filled the missing parts, materializing into perfect matches, healing every other scar and wound on her body. “Stupid girls—waiting even a moment before seeking me out. If they had waited any longer, I would have been forced to bring her back to life, which would have been mildly annoying … This is True Vulpes Magic … the purest form it can possibly take.”
Her actions forced Keizer’s explanation to trail off and pulled Lissiri’s disbelieving eyes.
Sending an awakening pulse to her sister, Niki slowly awoke as Sora had the terrified four-tailed Vulpes set the healed child on her feet.
“S-Sister?!” Niki cried, noticing the stunned woman as she dropped to her knees, looking at her renewed hand. “Sister!”
The woman fell back as the small fox tackled her in a fit of tears. “S-Sora said she’d heal you! Thank you! Thank you, Sora!”
“Proof of my power,” Sora chuckled, waving her hand.
Lissiri was speechless, but Keizer’s questioning gaze burned with fire moments into the scene. “… Remarkable … I’ve never even considered … The type of weave … No, I could never even … that purity is a necessary component. It’s impossible … unique…”
Sora’s leer showed her pride, acting as if she’d utterly forgotten about the two reunited sisters while her Core burned with joy. “I am the only 3rd Generation Founding Vulpes in existence … You like bets? I have no issue betting my freedom, Keizer, and I won’t even participate in this next contest—Eyia will stand in for every Vulpes that came through the 6th Gate.”
Keizer’s thrill fell a bit, calculating eyes darting to the Valkyrie as she rose with a confident smile.
“I’ll take the challenge, Sister; you have nothing to fear!”
“Hmm…” The man folded his arms, studying the blonde warrior. “Your defenses are solid—without a doubt … In fact, your unique spirit is too unfamiliar for me to fully gauge—trying to see through that mirror-like wall is … difficult.”
Sora had no clue what he was talking about, but a dark smile soon lifted his handsome face. “… Interesting … I’m curious to know what terms you have for me,” he pushed, sharp gaze returning to Sora.
Quickly catching on, Kari snorted. “Oh … You’re not going to live that open … Not confident, huh?”
“Heh … I am not as naive as Kestirva, my lovely—I like to know what is on the line.”
“Simple,” Sora replied, a challenge in her tone. “… You want my freedom? I take the boy—my freedom versus the 18-year-old male Vulpes you keep locked up in this city.”
His smile didn’t falter, but a glare appeared as he studied her. “Perhaps showing him was a mistake … It certainly would be a worthy bet—a serious one … Agreed. After all, without true stakes, what is a bet worth?”
Lissiri fell to her knees in shock and horror. “L-Lord … Please, reconsider … H-He cannot leave us…”
Her reaction told just how much sway a single boy could have on a sexually deprived host of women, starved of male attention—he was their drug.
“He-he-he…” Keizer knelt down, staring directly into the woman’s trembling eyes. “That isn’t up to me, Dear … if you wish to keep Zeri inside the 5th Level, you must succeed … Isn’t it the perfect incentive for you all? Ah … How about a reward.”
He rose to his feet, tails pointing at their target. “Whoever kills this creature known as Eyia … Will have an entire day to spend with Zeri.”
Obsessive impulses shot across the woman’s tense muscles, an unhealthy bud blooming inside her Core—Sora was shocked drool wasn’t dripping out of her gaping lips as the daydream flashed across her mind.
In an instant, her face hardened, murder in them while turning to the Valkyrie. “… I will spread the word, Lord Keizer…”
She didn’t waste a moment, leaving at a swift pace with the terrified four-tailed Vulpes, giving Sora fearful glances as she retreated.
Sora smiled after her, having complete faith in Eyia’s abilities; the real question wasn’t if they’d win the boy, but what she’d do with him after he’d fallen under her influence.
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