B3 — 20. Tearful Reunion Pt. 3

A slight shift was made in Inari’s design, and they appeared in a new location; they stood in a void, blackness all around them.  No matter where Sora looked, there was nothing. “What’s going on?”

With another tweak, Sora watched the illusion of a giant planet take shape below them.  It was massive, showing three moons that circled it, red, blue, and green. Large space crafts moved between the moons with many smaller ships breaking away from them or docking.  Space stations appeared across the planet’s orbit, large bridges linking them to the surface.

“This is the planet that used to be here; the tale of this place is a rather sad one, from my perspective.  Why don’t we go to the surface and turn back the clock a little.”

They were suddenly standing on the water; in front of them was a massive city, layered with multiple levels that showed many forms of advanced technology.  A transparent shield pushing back the ocean stood to their left, space crafts shooting in and out of the sea. Large black obelisks shot red and blue energy into the sky at random; the scenery was magnificent.

“This is right out of a sci-fi film…”  Rick breathed with wonder. Mary stood in stunned awe, unable to respond.

“How did all of this disappear?”  Sora whispered, watching a massive blue bird-like snake shoot out of the ocean to fly into the sky.

“Through greed … fear,” Inari said with a sad tone.  “Poor Qebhet … and after all the blessings they received from her hand.”

Sora watched the serpent fly across the sky, shimmering wings radiating the glow of the yellow sun above.  “Is Qebhet a goddess?” 

“Yes,” Inari changed their location; they now stood in the air, in front of the massive creature as it approached them.  “She used to be a very wounded and scary little snake that cowered before Anubis’ boot. He took pity upon her and over several millennia, nurtured her to unlock her Cores, eventually becoming a minor goddess.”

The sound of loud horns sounded all around them as the city’s lights darkened, making Qebhet turn.  She hovered in place as giant rainbow jets of water shot up, taking the image of the city-sized serpent.  The liquid form moved into the atmosphere, taking small human-like figures on her back. Similar scenes of the winged-snake spawned out of the water, showing thousands of events.

“A celebration.  Qebhet is known for several things on earth that connect to her true image.  She was called the Celestial Serpent, Purifier of the Dead, the Celestial Nile or the Milky Way, and connected to both daylight and darkness.  She was linked to Ma’at or eternal harmony and truth, and protected the humans on their journey across the stars to this planet; a gift bestowed upon her by Anubis.  She was the Benevolent Goddess of Cool and Refreshing Water … a very nice child that loved nothing more than to aid those given to her care.”

Rick hummed darkly as he watched the massive draconic visage before them let out a soft melodic cry that radiated joy as she dove back into the shimmering water.  “Given your tone … I assume something tragic happened?”

Inari’s vision shifted to the city as the scenery altered, showing three more even larger cities, beams of light shooting back and forth between them in a dazzling display of beauty.

“Humans advance, however, normally, they never reach a stage such as this.  The harmony and peace that Qebhet brings and inspired kept the human dogmatic nature at bay, but eventually, their pride in their own philosophical and scientific learning got the better of them.  They could now travel the stars, what need did they have for some god? They had built these great wonders, discovered powerful sources of energy, and means to convert all forms of radiation into power.”

Sora looked out at the mass of advanced technology with a furrowed brow.  “So, they thought they achieved this all on their own? Without the help of Qebhet?”

“Not at first, first they wanted to improve Qebhet.  They wished to upgrade her, but she refused such a notion; she knew they could do nothing to advance her with petty technology, but that decision sparked spite in some.  What could Qebhet know of the glories of science? She was merely a god, a minor one at that.”

Mary shook her head as she watched the cities continue to grow.  “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

“Pride,” Inari stated.  “At their Core, they are not so innocent as to rely on the excuse of good intentions.  Most of human woe is caused by people’s self-importance. Human happiness was never something they could achieve on a global scale without aid; their airs of importance are the credentials of their impotence.  It’s ironic when you get to the heart of the matter. There will always be a human to abuse the rest, and they blindly believe the fanciful language of their peers, asking them to sign away their freedoms for the social good.”

“I’m a little shocked,” Mary muttered.  “Those are pretty harsh words, but it’s not like I can disagree … humanity is capable of terrible evils.”

“Indeed, but as I discussed before, they are capable of great good.  It is important to differentiate between self-interest and self-importance as well.  The want for something is not evil, nor is seeking a better life for one’s self. One must be in a good position to help provide a better life for others and that doesn’t come from nothing.

“Humans can enshrine and foster rationality and self-interest, enlightened greed, if you will.  Those two key virtues we all must consciously adopt and practice if we’re to pursue and attain life and love, health and wealth, adventure and inspiration.  Practiced in society, these virtues produce not only material-economic abundance but the aesthetic values seen in the arts and entertainment that strikes the heart and provides the means to develop such tastes.

“However, will that good or any human system lead to lasting harmony?  No. Not without an absolute incorruptible ruler, and there are no humans that can govern with a pure-heart and correct moral standing.

“Even human gods have been corrupted by their blindness.  We’ve talked at some length about this, but Qebhet was no human with pride, but a simple snake that had been granted a great gift.  She took her duties seriously, and tried her best to bring harmony, but eventually, they conspired against her.

“They built a massive weapon, harnessing their own sun.  Can you imagine the irony in that? They gathered their people and took to the skies.  Qebhet had sensed the discord in their Cores but did not fully understand the intent of the human heart, after all, she was but a snake.  So, what happened? They fired, destroyed their god given home to purge themselves of this benevolent snake that wanted nothing more than to help bring harmony to those given to her care.”

Rick breathed a long sigh as he watched the blast of energy engulf the planet.  “She was killed then?”

“Heh,” Inari smirked.  “It’s much harder to kill a god than that, even a minor deity.  Her physical form was destroyed, and she was left in her spiritual state, wounded, but able to recover given a considerable amount of time.

“I cannot say the same for these humans though; with Qebhet’s influence gone, they soon became quite warful, such as humans are, and they used the technology that she helped them to obtain to wage genocide against each other’s tribal splits.  They were on all political fronts, dividing into tribes, much like how your world is beginning to turn. They created an artificial intelligence, and one man hacked it; he had the best intentions, he was going to shut it down and stop the war.  Instead, he flipped the safety protocols and wiped out every last human.

“Now, this is but a remnant of a prideful human colony, destroying many more worlds and life as its soulless programming follows its directives.  Consume and build. With its radiation absorption technology, it spreads across the stars and converts all energy to the Core, awaiting the time they meet life to destroy it.”

“You’ve known about this … for how long?”  Mary asked, watching the massive ships move from star to star and planet to planet, stripping everything to use as raw materials.

“Since the beginning; long before they were even close to turning on the little snake.”

“So, you could have stopped it?”  Rick asked.

Inari glared at the ships.  “Of course, but why should I get involved?  I will not subject my own will upon things that do not concern me.  Humans follow the same corrupt cycle, time, and time again, I have seen this stage played out.

“I help those that ask and are willing to pay the sacrifice; I am not so kind as to save every helpless or misguided bird that falls at my feet.  The proud wish gods would agree with them, and are not interested in changing their asinine and short-lived opinions to agree with the gods. Am I saying that I have not learned anything from humanity, Rick?”

Rick shook his head with a heavy breath.  “No, you’re not saying that.”

“No, I have learned a great deal from humanity.  The perspective of their short lives gives much insight; however, they are far from the purity of Qebhet.  I hold no love for humanity, but I do not despise them as a whole; I judge the individual based on the actions and philosophies they follow.  I can accomplish that because I am powerful. I do not hide who I am behind a mask, what need have I for pretense? What you see is what I am.  That being said, I have no doubt there are beings greater than Founders and that are far above me.”

“Really?  Quite honestly, I couldn’t imagine anything above you.”  Mary stated, every word sincere.

Sora scratched her left fox ear.  “Everything’s so complicated … so, you have faith in a higher being?  Even higher than Grandma?”

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Inari’s distasteful tone dispersed as she addressed her.  “Yes, Sora. I live as if there are. That is the most logical decision a person can make.  You don’t necessarily have to believe there is someone or something, but just the possibility, believe that and live a life that you won’t regret if that were the case.  Not belief in fear, but the truth that you lived in a way that if you were to meet such a powerful being that you could stand on your own two feet and own every mistake, just as Rick and Mary have done with me.”

Rick and Mary’s emotions reflected the shock on their faces.  “You mean…”

“I would not take anyone,” Inari winked.  “Yes, Mary’s feats impress me, but I look far deeper than a few weeks or years.  I see the threads of fate, time itself. That does not mean things are predetermined; again, it is more complicated than that.”

Sora hummed softly.  “It always is … I still feel terrible for Qebhet though.  Like … all that effort, so much time—she sacrificed and tried her best to provide for them, and they murdered her.  Wait … you said she wasn’t dead?”

Inari’s orange eyes moved to examine her, face unreadable.  “What are you asking?”

“Well—if I can, I’d like to help her.”

Her aunt’s eyes narrowed slightly.  “Why?”

She pulled down her ears.  “Ack, can it ever be simple?  I just feel like it—no, didn’t think so.”  She looked down at the darkness, playing with her first tail.  “Umm—I feel bad; I mean, you knew it would make me feel bad, and I’d ask this, right?  So, this must be another learning lesson…” She puffed out a deep breath. “I don’t know her, I don’t owe her anything, but I sympathize with her circumstances.  I don’t think I’d die trying, but if I can help, then I’d like to.”

Her aunt’s lips turned to a soft smile.  “Sora, explain this phrase, check yourself before you wreck yourself.”

“Eh—well, to like, back off?”

Mary ran a hand through her hair with a light chuckle.  “I think I understand, Inari. It’s a bit more complicated than that.  Basically, it means: Take a step back and examine your actions, because you are in a potentially dangerous or sticky situation that could get bad very easily; often in a harmful manner.  Correct?”

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“Right on the head,” Inari giggled.  “You are quite the treat. Sora, I’m not saying you shouldn’t get involved, but what I am saying is think before you act.  Remember back to my lectures, ponder the circumstances and consequences. In essence, don’t act rashly.”

Sora nodded.  “I kind of get what Mary was saying,” she mumbled.  “I feel like a baby…”

Mary chuckled with her aunt, making her self-conscious.  “What … oh, yeah,” her face began to flush as she read Mary’s thoughts.  “I am a child compared to both of you … can I die? I always look like an idiot…”  She whimpered, trying to hide her face.

“No, darling,” her aunt laughed.  “You’re my pride and joy; you do not understand the significance of that statement, my little niece.”

She breathed deeply, trying to calm her nerves.  “Okay, check myself … I don’t even know? I don’t know if I could help her; I don’t know if she’d attack me; I don’t know if she’s even still there … I don’t know anything…”

She stiffened as her aunt appeared in front of her, foreheads touching.  Sora’s ears twitched with shock as their tips touched. “Hey,” she winked, “I’m messing with you.  Yes, it’s an important thing to consider, but I can’t help teasing my adorable little niece. So, you want to help the poor little snake?  Then we shall.”

Unable to restrain herself as the positive emotions filled her, Sora hugged her aunt as tightly as she could.  “Thank you.”

Inari stroked her hair, rubbing her back.  “Of course,” as Sora was about to pull away, her aunt pulled tighter.  “Just a little more…” Taking a deep breath, she rubbed her cheek against her ears.  “You’re so adorable!” She squealed.

“Alright!”  Pulling away, she turned her around.  “Right in front of us; close your eyes and feel for a spiritual network, but don’t look for something small, like a human.  This network is massive, think the size of a city.”

Sora pulled back, studying the space, and there it was, a dormant power that was hidden until she began her search.  Opening her eyes, Sora looked at the slumbering spiritual serpent in front of them. “Has, has she been here—the whole time?”

“Much, we have moved a few locations, but I’ve kept us close.”  Inari winked.

“What do I do?”

“Reach out, don’t try to penetrate her spiritual network, you are far from bypassing the defenses of a minor goddess.  All you need do is wrap her with your raw magic, just surround her with a light shell.”

Sora followed her instructions and couldn’t help but twitch as the massive serpent sturred.  “She—she’s waking up.”

“Where?”  Both Rick and Mary questioned, following her gaze.

Inari squeezed her shoulder.  “Give her a moment. She’s utilizing your magic to form another corporal body.  The blast she received didn’t harm her spirit, her own emotional backlash did; she couldn’t believe they’d turn on her, the sorrow ate at her Core, and her spirit entered a form of hibernation to protect itself.”

Mary and Rick gasped as the city-sized serpent seemed to appear out of nowhere.  Qebhet opened her ocean green eyes, the size of a supermarket. She looked down at them, tongue sliding through her lips.  “Oh—my most humble apologies, Lady Inari. To be in thy esteemed presence when I am in such a wretched state.” Her voice was soft, humble, pretty.

A bright blue glow surrounded her body, and suddenly the figure was gone, replaced by a small girl that looked no older than eight.  She had long light blue hair, bright ocean green reptilian eyes, and soft features; wearing a blue dress, she dropped into a low curtsy.  “To be graced by thee, and to be in the presence of a Third Generation Founder of the Vulpes. I have missed much in my sorrows.”

“Qebhet,” Inari whispered, bending to stroke the girl’s hair.  “I was always fond of you. There is no need for your pretense.”

Sora was a little shocked to see the little snake-girl began to shake, tears leaking out of her eyes as she buried her face in her aunt’s shoulder.  “I—gave them everything…” Inari stroked her hair soothingly, letting her release all the ages of loneliness and sorrow.

I see, she doesn’t have the same nature as humans … she genuinely is confused.  She doesn’t hate them, she sorrows for their deaths, even though they rejected her.  A goddess, comforting another goddess.

The little snake goddess in front of them babbled unintelligible words as her aunt held her; after a few minutes, her aunt released her, and the girl hiccuped, whipping at her cheeks.  “I—I am—am—ashamed … after—after my lord—he entrusted me…”

“Hush,” Inari whispered.  “You have nothing to be ashamed of.  Anubis would have been proud; you did everything within your power.  It was their wicked choice that caused this misery and heartache within you.  Do not eat their sins, for they will pay their own prideful debts. You have had time to grieve these long ages, and now it is time for you to rest from your burden.  I have an offer that you may decline. Do not accept, simply because I ask it of you.

“That being said, I have a place for you in a realm, filled with Vulpes.  You will have oversight, and will perform the same task that Anubis gave you, to protect and guide as a mother watches over her chicks.  Now that your master and charges are gone, will you find purpose with me?”

Qebhet took a deep breath before her soft, puffy face shown with resolve.  “Of course, my lady!”

“Wonderful,” Inari pulling her into a tight embrace.  “Welcome to the family, Qebhet. Now,” she rose, glaring at the blackness surrounding them.  “We will not let this vineyard sow corruption any further.”

Sora felt a tiny portion of her power used; it was almost insignificant compared to what Inari had been utilizing.  “As I said, technology has its limits and is quite weak; disrupt the core functions of the three primary servers and, boom.  An entire destructive empire that swallows entire galaxies, now rendered dead in an instant, weak.”    

She turned back to Sora; Qebhet quickly moving to her side, standing at attention.  My aunt really is something.  “Now, Sora, I think we are finished with this discussion.  Are you three satisfied with the results?”

Sora rubbed her eyes.  A little confused, but I’m sure these are things I’ll come back to in time…  “Yeah, it was crazy, but yeah.  Umm—by the way,” she bent down to Qebhet’s level, holding out her hand.  “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Qebhet. I hope we meet again someday.”

Qebhet took her palm with both hands, bowing her head.  “Yes, Lady Sora, I thank thee for waking me and bringing Lady Inari to comfort me in my time of need.  I will never forget the kindness in thy heart.”

She smiled at both Rick and Mary as they nodded, feeling their mirrored emotions radiating thankfulness.  Glancing at her aunt’s beaming face, Sora asked, “So—are you going to teleport Mary to your Shrine or does that come later?”

“Later, dear.  I have already communicated the details to her.”

“Oh—okay,” Sora whispered.  “I’m just—I mean, I’ve grown kind of used to her being around … I’d like to say goodbye when you go.”

“Of course,” Mary smiled before turning to her husband.  “I’ll see you in time.” They kissed, and everything faded out.

I can’t believe I actually went there, but it kind of came out, and with the Alien theme came the poor little snake goddess … kawaii

Next week is Ashley’s POV and then Nathan’s.  I was not expecting some of the directions these took.

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