Okay, now I wasn’t planning this, TBH, but after reviewing the power system and what I have in-place for ATM’s universe, mixed with Sora’s unique case … I realized what had inadvertently happened and that Inari would be smart and perceptive enough to catch onto it. Facepalm Author
Sora and Emilia followed Eyia into the kitchen; she took a quick look around the space. The floor changed from wood to stone a few feet into the large area. To her right were extended four-row shelves filled with different types of utensils.
On the first layer were several metal pots and pans; the second had many cooking items, such as hard shell crackers, massive spoons, tongs, dippers, chorks, and claws; on the third sat containers with knives and cut pieces of wood that seemed for the purpose of chopsticks, and finally on the fourth were wooden cups, bowels, and plates.
In front of them, along the left wall, ran a massive grill with fire controls similar to the upstairs shower on the front that acted like an operation panel. A few metal pipes were above each station that led to the wall; Sora sensed a weak wind spell placed on them that sucked the smoke out to the side of the building.
There were two firepits and a Masonry oven closer to the corner of the wall; no kindling seemed to be required as a spell fueled the fire below each item. She was a little shocked to find two colossal pots of steaming soup on the firepits; grilling meat was spread across the whole grill, and a few dozen sticks of bread were being baked in the oven.
Can we even eat all of that? She got a visual flashback of the feast Eyia and Jin had ordered from her hotel kitchens; it seemed forever ago. Yeah, sadly … this is probably not even enough; plus, we have more people with us.
A thick rectangular wooden island was placed in the center of the room; it had the center cut out for people to enter with a single small entrance to get in and out near the back wall. The polished dark brown wood gleamed in the orange light of the heatless overhead infernos.
Alice was at the center of the island, cutting strange vegetables, fruits, cheeses, bread, and meat; Wendy moved to help her as they entered, and Ashley stationed herself at the grill, cutting the meat to check the inner color. Each type of food was given their own section on the table to avoid cross-contamination, and the prepared food was being placed on plates and in bowls along the part of the island nearest the door.
On the opposite side of the room was a large dishwashing sink with taps that provided water; the pipes were enchanted with water magic that could be activated by another sliding bar control panel at its base, and a drying rack to the right side of the station already showed signs of use.
One of the most mysterious objects in the room was the large glass and wood cabinet that took up the entire right wall. The polished dark brown wood glistened with the flickering light and glass sheets revealed what each section held.
Sora could sense the magic involved was simple, but the number of enchantments was staggering with four large control panels that seemed to control the three sections. There was an ingredients section, frozen section, cold section, and heated section.
In the ingredients section, it seemed like there were glass containers of sugar, flour, salt, and a host of other base products Sora could only guess at; then in the frozen, there were meats and a small ice section, and fruits and vegetables in the chilled section. It looked like there were already prepared dishes waiting to be served in the heated section, each in their own uniquely heated chamber to keep a particular temperature.
“How fascinating,” Jin muttered as she studied the cabinet with Eyia.
Emilia was looking at the ample space with wide-eyed wonder. “So, this is the type of kitchen I grew up with?”
Alice and Liz froze, eyes locked on Emilia.
“Umm—what…” Alice muttered, but Liz’s question was quicker; her hand seemed to be locked in mid-spin as she stirred one of the large pots of soup.
“Sora—can we ask a question?”
She could read their Spiritual Networks with ease, but let them ask their question anyways. “Of course; please, don’t feel awkward about talking to us—even if we have more tails than you. Just treat us like you would an equal.” She smiled. “We don’t know your customs, but we’re not offended by you talking to us like normal people.”
Both their ears twitched nervously, tails low to the ground. “If you insist,” Liz mumbled. “So—wasn’t that eight-tails purple-furred? How did she get the same color of fur as you, and I’ve only seen robes like hers worn by the Council’s escorts too…” She finished in almost a whisper.
Alice nodded, returning to cutting her items with Wendy as she listened to the conversation with interest.
Sora moved a little further back from Emilia’s right side and looked up at her new follower, indicating that she could speak for herself.
“Eh,” Emilia’s ears tilted back shyly as her tails bunched. “Hello, Liz, Alice, my name is Emilia. Where do I start … I lost my memory, but I used to serve the red council member. I—don’t know how much I should say on the matter,” she glanced at Sora with concern, “but—I don’t follow her any longer. I’ve chosen to follow Sora, and she healed me.
“I used to be extremely sick—broken, and Sora put me back together. She provided me with her own fragmented knowledge and gave me my life back. I owe her everything I am.”
Sora’s cheeks flushed at Emilia’s confession; her hands twisted behind her back, and she tried to hide them with her tails, ears twitching self-consciously. “It was really my aunt,” she mumbled.
Emilia shook her head earnestly, copper hair swinging wildly. “How many people would have looked at me and just said, oh, that’s sad, and not thought for a second on how to actually help me. You didn’t just think about it—you acted on it and found a way. That—it’s really amazing,” she mumbled, looking down at the ground.
“Wait,” Ashley tapped her knife against the grill a few times as everyone looked at her. “Sora, explain to me again what Inari did? You provided Emilia with your own fragmented knowledge; so, does that mean that you kind of shared your Intelligence with her?”
Sora’s cheeks pressed to the right as she stared down at the ground. “Ermm, I—from what I know … I resonated with her Core—ahg, how do I describe it? My aunt used my magic—out of all the crazy things I’ve witnessed her do with magic; from going to space to changing your Cores … everything … this takes the cake. It’s like me trying to explain like—the twentieth dimension … that I don’t even know exists because it’s that crazy and complicated.
“As best I could tell from what she told me—I resonated with Emilia’s Core, and that changed the very nature of it … I guess you could say she’s the closest thing to a Founder a Vulpes can come?”
“So,” Ashley bit the tip of her tongue lightly before licking her lips. “Does that mean—you’re basically Emilia’s mom now?”
Sora’s blood ran cold, and a shiver ran down her spine to the tips of her tails. “Huh?” Both she and Emilia squeaked.
“Well, think about it,” Ashley hummed. “I thought about it when Inari was explaining Intelligences and mentioned Spiritual biology. If there’s Spiritual biology—she discussed organs and specific energy—so, women giving birth to a human is kind of like the Cores of both parents brushing against each other and forming something new that’s a small part of both parents.
“It’s not just the physical biology side, but the Spirit and Intelligence side, as well.” She flipped two pieces of meat. “If that’s the case, then as it appears, you’ve changed the very biological structure of Emilia—in all categories. Therefore, you’re basically her mother since Inari used your biology as a catalyst.”
“Woah,” Wendy muttered, knife suspended over an onion. “Should I say congratulations?” Her eyes popped. “She could get you something on Mother’s Day!”
“Wait, wait, wait—back up,” Sora stammered. “So,” she paused, mind going blank.
“Actually,” Jin hummed, studying Emilia. “I can see it on a spiritual level, and obviously, parts of her physical biology have changed. I think your dad’s eyes were that same shade,” she muttered.
“Indeed,” Eyia moved closer to examine Emilia’s eyes, causing her to lean back a little; Emilia seemed to be paralyzed as Sora felt the spiraling questions swimming around her mind through her unguarded Spiritual Network. “Yes, she does have the same eyes as your father.”
“I—don’t know how to handle this…” Sora muttered, shifting to look up at Emilia. “Umm—so,” she clicked her tongue. “I’ll be right back…”
Closing her eyes, she entered the Outer Body Technique; her aunt was waiting in the center of the bright overhead light, charming smile beaming.
“It’s not true, right?” Sora’s voice quivered.
“Unconditionally true,” her aunt giggled. “I loved your reaction.”
“Of sorts; a bit complicated, but true,” Inari crossed her legs. Her foot swayed back and forth with her tails; she could almost feel the jubilation blazing off her aunt’s aura.
Sora shook her head. “Wait—you said she was more like a Kitsune … they aren’t your children?”
“No—my Kitsune are not like Emilia,” her aunt hummed. “Let’s examine what happened in the simplest terms.
“First, the full reconstruction of a Vulpes Core requires a vast amount of knowledge in all forms of Vulpes biology; as Ashley stated, Intelligence, Spirit, and Physical biology are needed, in addition to much, much more—which I so happen to possess.
“The second, perfect atonement, full resonance of Cores, which is normally near impossible to achieve, yet because of unorthodox circumstances, was accomplished.
“Third, your own transformation and Core DNA provided a means that your mother and I cannot copy; there are many cosmically sophisticated reasons for this that you wouldn’t understand in the slightest at this time. I could explain it in a rudimentary manner, but that is something I leave to your father or mother.
“That’s it … yes, you could say that Emilia is your daughter, for all intents and purposes. Congratulations, though you did not carry her in your body, she is the spirit of your spirit and flesh of your flesh.”
“But—but,” Sora’s body felt heavy as she slumped to the ground; her hair bunched around her, tails lying at her feet. She couldn’t finish the sentence as emotions welled up within her. Emilia … she’s my daughter … that’s seven-hundred and eighty-nine years old … she’s almost fifty times older than me.
Her aunt’s comforting voice tickled Sora’s ears. “Perhaps in spiritual years, but not in experience. She’s like an infatuated sixteen-year-old girl, and you’re her idol. She may look in her twenties, but her mind does not reflect it; she is vastly less experienced than you, my dear, and helping her will help you become your own woman.”
“I—don’t think I’m ready for that—how can I be a mom? I’ve never even met my mom.” Sora whispered; a searing anvil compressing her chest. “Can’t—can’t you raise her?”
“Sora,” Inari’s tone turned hard. “Think about the consequences of that decision; if anyone were to understand her feelings, it would be you. Think about how she would feel.”
Guilt pierced her heart as she hugged herself, curling into a ball as the scenario played out in her mind. The scene appeared next to her as her brain spun into an abyss.
“My—mom…” Emilia whispered.
“Umm—Emilia, you should go live with your … it feels so strange saying it, but—you should go live with Inari.”
She watched Emilia’s bare feet shift back as she curled inward, staring down at the ground. “I—please let me stay with you…” She pled, voice cracking.
“I just—I can’t—I’m not ready to be a mom…”
“If,” her tails fell limp by Sora’s face, and her tone became numb. “If—if that’s what you want … I’ll go.”
The emotions swirling within her Core were like claws ripping her apart from the inside out. She gave everything to me from the very start. She’s done nothing but defend me … given me everything she is, and I reward her by shoving her off to someone else. She’d feel like I don’t love her, she’s a disappointment … she wouldn’t even feel used … there’s something wrong with her, not me.
She began to quake as tears slid down her cheeks. After everything, I went through with Wendy … I wanted to be … I’m just like Jane. I’d abandon her … after she just told everyone that I saved her. That memory would scar her … she’s defective … left to fall … she’d feel unlovable. I’m the one positive thing she has in her whole life … I’d break her.
Every ounce of the cynical, jaded, faithless, disappointed, and disillusioned feelings about her own mother crushed her psyche; the denial, anger, bargaining, and depression that haunted her transferred onto her own daughter.
“I can’t do that to my own daughter…” Sora’s throat caught as she cried.
Her aunt appeared beside her, lifting her into her arms. “Dear—you haven’t abandoned her, and your hesitation is understandable, but yes, you must understand the consequences. A mother’s void is not so easily filled; it’s like a severed spinal cord seeking what is no longer connected, constantly struggling in vain.”
“What should I do?” Sora sobbed.
Her aunt’s arms pulled her in tighter. “Hug her—love her like you want to be loved. Unconditional love … will she mess up? Yes, but you must grow up quickly, my little niece. You have people depending upon you. Will it be easy? No, but you are not alone.”
She stayed in her aunt’s arms for what seemed an eternity. Sniffing back her tears, Sora rubbed at her cheeks. She took a deep breath as Inari set her down. Blinking a few times, she wiped below her left eye as it itched. “You said she’d die, though? If she’s my daughter, can’t she live forever like me?”
Inari gestured for her to take a seat as an elegant chair appeared behind them both; they sat, and her aunt breathed deeply. “There’s a reason why I waited for you to discover this truth for yourself; if I were to tell you this information and you acted like this in front of your daughter … you can imagine the wreckage.”
Sora looked down at her hands, fingers twisted together as she swallowed, guilt hitting her chest again. “Thank you … I’m so blessed to have such a perfect aunt…”
Her aunt’s smile softened. “The simple things and subtleties will always be the same; the pain in a widow’s heart will never fade away, and it’s the same for all of us. I don’t mind the rain that will undoubtedly fall upon our family, but let her hands be the one you hold to your face. I am just a shape in the shadow of grates, but she can be a choir of saints sent to ease your heart. Think about that, Sora…”
A tear fell down her aunt’s cheek. “In your life, you will see an infinite landscape of souls fade away; some will grow old with no homes; some will die in an empty and cold house with no hope. You will experience an endless expanse of goodbyes, but if there is one thing you cannot let fade, it is your child, because that will break you, and your heart will become black.
“Live to make her proud,” her aunt’s chest fluttered, “because she’s so proud of you. That being said, we all hurt a little sometimes, and that’s alright; this world is cruel, and you must not shelter her too much from that, but you must never let her face something she cannot. Help her slay the monsters, not be eaten by them—you help her, and I will help you.” She finished with a teary smile. “Honestly—emotions,” she giggled, waving at her red face.
Sora returned the smile, taking a deep breath to calm herself. “I’m a mother…”
“Yes, mother one-o-one complete,” Inari giggled, wiping a tear from her cheek to stare at it. “The answer to your previous question; Emilia is going through her own transformation, it’s similar to your change, but at a much slower rate. The more she exercises her powers, the more her Founder blood will manifest.”
Her aunt winked. “To think you’d beat me to motherhood—what a failure I am, but how elated I am to experience this with you. She is not quite a Founder yet, but a Tenko undergoing a metamorphosis into a Founder. The second in all Founder history, including you.”
“Wow,” Sora mumbled. “My own daughter—I can teach her like I use magic then … I think I can do that! Wait … if she got my dad’s eyes then, did my mom have green eyes?”
Inari huffed. “Didn’t you notice in the scene I showed you?” Her mother’s small fox form appeared in front of her, and sure enough, her irises reflected her striking green eyes.
Sora’s throat caught as she saw her mother in fox form. “Wow…”
The image faded, pulling Sora’s focus back to her aunt. “Emilia may have more initial power than you, but she will not grow at the same rate. I suspect that you will far outstrip your daughter in the short-term, but you will both even out once she completes her transformation.”
She took a deep breath before letting it out. “Okay … will she go through a rebellious phase?” Her face creased with concern. “How do I handle that?”
Her aunt smirked. “Only the future will tell.”
“Ugh—I don’t like that answer..”
“In any case,” Inari folded her fingers atop her tails “Why don’t we officially meet the newest member of our family; if you could give me control of your magic, I will prompt Emilia back into your Core.”
Rubbing her arms, she shifted a little in her chair to better position her tails. “Okay…”
Inari’s power enveloped them, cleaning up their red and puffy appearance before she felt a small thread reach out of her Spiritual Network; shortly after, Emilia was guided back into her Core through her great-aunt’s gentle prods.
Emilia appeared to her right, Core turbulent as a hurricane. Her fingers twisted her left arm as she shifted uncomfortably, and her ears twitched, tone flustered. “Sora … what’s going on?”
Sighing deeply, Sora gestured to a duplicate chair she created behind her. “Please—take a seat, and I’ll explain … just give me a second to find the words.”
Her daughter glanced back at the chair, tails twisting into a single knot as they shifted to allow her to sit. It was apparent that her muscles were tight, and questions flooded her mind as she waited for answers.
Sora glanced at her aunt, and she gave her an encouraging smile. “Right … so—I just found out—just now—you are basically my daughter.”
“What—how?” Her voice cracked, legs twisting to press against the lip of her chair. Her aunt took over as she shot out pleading eyes.
“Honestly,” she sighed as Emilia looked to her. “Hello, my great-niece; yes, I am your great-auntie Inari,” her smile was warm.
“When I used your mother’s energy to rebuild your Core, there were a certain number of things that occurred that astonished even me. A new path opened that was utterly unknown to me and I lept on it with ferocity; it did use much more of your mother’s energy than I intended, but it was well worth the future trouble. I was so elated that I had to restrain myself from calling a Founder’s celebration immediately; I almost threw all future schemes, growth opportunities, and your grandmother’s will to the wind and kept you both to myself.”
“I wish you would,” Sora muttered, avoiding eye contact.
Inari chuckled. “Yes, well, eons of discipline scantily managed to keep my jubilee immured. Now, I will tell you what I told your mother; you are not a full-blooded Founder, yet; I gave you the knowledge of your mother’s transformation to help you understand that you are going through a similar metamorphosis.”
Sora almost choked. “Huh? You gave her what? The party, and—and everything?”
“Enough,” Inari said mischievously.
You freaking fox! That’s so embarrassing!
“I know!” She said in her mind with glee.
It took everything Sora had to regain her composure. You’re so … aggh! Aggh … Grrhh…
Her smile widened with pleasure. “Making noises in your head won’t make it go away.”
A low rumble vibrated her throat as she glared at her aunt; she coughed as a tickle ran down the back of her mouth.
“Are you okay?” Emilia’s face twisted with concern.
Clearing her throat, she nodded. “Yeah—no problem,” she gasped.
Inari smiled innocently. “You’re both such treats; so, Emilia, your metamorphosis will take much longer than your mother’s, but she will help you learn how to achieve your birthright. This could not have been accomplished without your pure-hearted dedication in your previous life. I am proud to welcome you to the family.”
Emilia pulled back her hair, fingers pressing against her scalp. “Can you—I need a minute to process this…” The silence stretched for several minutes, making Sora’s ears twitch. “Why—why didn’t you tell me all of this when—why didn’t you tell me this with the information you gave me to start with?”
“I have my reasons,” Inari stated without explanation.
“I have … Sora’s my mom,” Emilia’s throat caught as she looked up at her, tears in her eyes. “I don’t know—how to feel about this…”
Well, jeez … stab me, why don’t you.
“Come now, Sora; You know that’s not what she means.”
“That’s completely understandable,” Inari nodded. “I suggest you go upstairs, lie down in one of the beds, and sort it out.”
“Sora, read her Core.”
She straightened, looking into her daughter’s Core; the uncertainty she found dug at her heart. “Emilia…”
Her vision lifted to her newly discovered mother, searching for answers.
Sora sucked on her lower lip for a moment before forcing a smile. “I know this is a lot to take in … it’s a lot for me too, but—but I’ll always be here for you. I don’t know anything about being a mother, but whatever you decide or what to talk about—I’m here for you, and I want to learn more about you … my daughter.”
She looked down, a tear falling down her cheek. “Thanks … yeah, I think I need some time to—to process this…”
“Alright, that’s it, let her leave, and you can end the technique. Just take it one step at a time.”
Thanks for guiding me through this … I have a daughter…
She ended the Outer Body Technique; opening her eyes, she watched Emilia’s ears pull back as she stared at her. She couldn’t help the image of her dad springing to mind as she looked into her daughter’s large blue eyes; she started to notice the small changes in her facial structure that differed from the first time she’d seen the woman as a lock of copper hair fell out of place. After what seemed an eternity with an awkward silence spread across the scene, Emilia turned and slowly walked upstairs.
“Eh—where’s she going?” Wendy muttered, scratching the top of her head with her free hand. “Oh—crap! I need to wash my hands again … I just touched my hair with onion fingers…” She grumbled, walking around the table toward the sink.
“I felt something happen to Emilia,” Ashley whispered. “It’s like … she was consumed by fire?”
“The Outer Body Technique that Sora knows,” Jin hummed with a slight frown. “Her Core’s really conflicted right now, but not in a bad way—she’s just really confused.”
Eyia nodded, lips pursed with concern. “Is there anything we can do, sister?”
Sora shook her head before swallowing a mouth full of saliva. “No … it’s just a lot to take in; I talked with my aunt, and it’s official … she’s my daughter.”
“I’ll—just accept that she’s your daughter and leave it at that…” Liz muttered, and Ashley nodded, returning to her task as she tried distracting her mind from the chaotic information she’d just heard.
Wendy ran her hands under the water with a low hum. “That’s so wild…”
Sora’s lips creased as she heard Fen and Jian’s voices closing in on the building. Crap … how’s Fen going to handle this? She’s already so jealous of me … now I just make someone a Founder … I made someone my daughter. Ugh…
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