B3 — 30. Dinner Time Pt. 1

During my normal times that I write ATM I’ve been a bit busy with work, so, I haven’t been able to dedicate some of the time I wanted.  Still, the chapters are of an average length, but I wanted to make this chapter a bit longer.  This chapter is still 5.5k words.

I’m releasing it a bit late because I’ve been working a bit of overtime and needed to further flush out chapter 31 for the Patrons.


Sora took a deep breath as she looked back through the door.  “So—Fen’s coming back. Let’s save everything for dinner; we can discuss it then.”

Alice finished cutting some purplish fruit and set her knife down.  “It’s almost done.” She glanced at Liz before her eyes returned to Sora.  “Would you like us to, umm—go?”

“What?  No,” Sora said with a bright smile.  “You cooked such a massive dinner for us; it’s only proper that you join in.”

“Aren’t you worried about us hearing—I don’t know, something you don’t want us to know or something?  The Town Council usually has everyone leave when they discuss important things.”

Ashley hummed thoughtfully as she took several pieces of meat off the table and set them on plates before moving them to the square table; there were already massive stacks of different types of meats atop several plates.  “Are you sure, Sora? We are sharing our plans; what do you think, Eyia, Jin?”

Jin pulled her long black hair over her shoulders before folding her arms and leaning against one of the shelves.  “I don’t personally have a problem with them joining. I can’t think of much that they haven’t heard that would be of concern.  We’ve already discussed what was needed in private.”

“I agree,” Eyia moved beside Liz, making her stiffen.  She sniffed the soup with a soft smile. “We have received much hospitality from this town; we should not disrespect their goodwill by barring them from the feast that they have prepared with their own hands.

“They not only grew, but hunted, harvested, stored, and offered this great bounty to our health; I am most grateful.”  She turned to Liz, making her swallow nervously, tails wrapped around each other. “May we help contribute?”

It took a moment for Liz to get the words out.  “Eh—I guess, umm—you can gather some tables and set the dishes that are prepared.”

Eyia nodded, turning to Jin.  “Friend, let us participate.”

“Ugh,” Jin sighed, scratched behind her left ear.  “I guess…”

They both set to work, moving out of the kitchen to link tables.

Sora walked around them to stand across from Wendy; she’d been pretty silent as she continued cutting vegetables next to Alice.  “I’m worried, she whispered.”

“About?”  Wendy set the knife down to look up at her.  “Are you worried about Mimi, Emilia, or your aunt?  There’s a lot to be worried about.”

Sora’s ear twitched as Alice tried to ignore them, moving a little further away.  “Yeah—there really is a lot to be worried about, but—right now, Fen.”

Wendy’s eyes fell to the table with a low moan.  “The she-devil fox herself. Can she hear us?”

She shook her head.  “I don’t know; I don’t know how sharp my senses are compared to normal Vulpes.  Maybe if she’s focusing on this area, but I kind of doubt it; I bet she’s mostly self-absorbed and thinking about how boring this place is or something.”

A slight smirk curved Wendy’s lips.  “Harsh; you’ve really changed, Sora.”  She sighed before her eyes lifted to study her.  “Probably true, though. She will be pretty upset with Emilia, right?  I don’t know Fen that well, but I get the feeling that something about Emilia will set her off.”

Ashley finished putting the last piece of meat on a plate and moved to join them after sliding her finger against the magical conduit to turn off the grill; the fire instantly died.  “I heard something about Fen.” She said with a grimace.

Sora nodded.  “I don’t know how to handle it; Fen’s a loose cannon.  I don’t know why she’s staying with us; what’s her end goal?”

“For someone like Fen?”  Ashley hummed. “I haven’t known her long, but my guess, survival.  If she leaves, then she’s on her own, and it’s clear that you have a lot of weight here.”

“I don’t know,” Sora mumbled, playing with one of her locks of hair.  “You should have heard her when we were in the showers back in that base—there’s something about her that puts me on edge.”

“Besides her attitude?”  Wendy giggled. “She’s just like Brianna, right?  She’s just jumping into the popular crowd and trying to get attention?”

“Attention,” Ashley shook her head.  “I don’t know about that. She’s got plenty of attention from Jian, and she could get all the attention she wants from guys; no, there’s something deeper, like survival.  There could be more, but it won’t do any good fixating on it. We have enough problems as it is.”

“That’s true,” Sora trailed off.

Ashley folded her arms against the table, looking left at her.  “My advice, don’t worry about Fen too much. If she causes a scene, then we deal with it then but loosen up a little.  You’ve been worrying about Bathin, us, and who knows how many other things? Now you have Emilia to worry about … and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing.  No, you’ve just earned a good break.”

Sora stretched, releasing a light yawn as she folded down her fox-ears.  “I know, but I can’t help it—maybe tonight. We can all talk about what’s on our minds at dinner; Mary should have some fun things to talk about.”  She said with a wink at Wendy.

Wendy’s small smile fell.  “Huh? What about me, huh? I met Gloria and saw your mom; I’d like to see her top that!”

Sucking on her lower lip, Sora nodded with a low hum.  “Yeah … that was pretty crazy.”

“Gloria and your mom?”  Ashley questioned.

“I’ll tell you at dinner,” Wendy said with an excited grin.  “I want to hear about what happened to you too!”

Ashley’s eyes seemed to withdraw as a sad smile lifted her cheeks.  “Yeah…”

Sora sighed as Wendy looked at Ashley in confusion.  “Alright, let’s get everything out to the table. Fen’s just about back, and I also hear a rainstorm coming on.”

The three of them broke off to get things ready for dinner.  It didn’t take them long to get everything set up.

Fen hates being weaker than I am; the whole reason she went to my aunt was to get power, which she was denied … well, it’s more complicated than that, but that’s the result.  I doubt she sees it any other way. Her white tail should have the means to initiate her Core advancement, but she just hasn’t met the conditions.

If she hears about Emilia, though … she’ll definitely be jealous, but … why am I even worrying about it?  It’s not like she can really do anything about it. She’s selfish, hot-tempered, and the way she treated Luna and Rayla … I’d rather not give her power if that’s how she’ll use it.

Fen walked through the door, eyes instantly darting to the food being set atop the table.  A broad smile lifted her bored expression. “Ah, now this looks like a meal!”

Sora’s lips bunched to the side as she caught sight of her; her energy was noticeably less than what she left with.  What’s she been using her Spiritual Energy for?  What should I expect, probably messing with a few guys, but she’s used a whole lot…

Her thoughts shifted as her and Wendy’s focus moved to Jian; Mary was descending the staircase, looking around with interest.  Jian’s passive expression brightened into a smile; Sora didn’t even know his facial muscles could work like that.

“I haven’t seen a feast like this since…”  Just as quickly as it came, his expression dropped, and his sentence cut off.

“Yeah, yeah,” Fen muttered.  “What’s that purple-fruity-mashed-thing?”  She asked, walking by Sora without even a glance to dip her finger in and take a sample.  “Hmm—sweet,” she said with a pleasant tone.

Sora rolled her eyes.  What did I expect?

Her tail bristled as a cold gust of air shot out from the kitchen doorway, causing Fen, Alice, Wendy, Jian, Ashley, and, Mary to freeze.  Eyia’s voice was cold steel. “Eat another bite of that food before the host, and I will cut your finger off.”

Everyone stiffly turned toward her, Fen nervously laughing it off.  “You—you can’t be serious?”

Eyia’s glowing blue irises seemed to emit a blue fire, but it was Jin that responded, scooting around her with a large plate of meat stacked on a platter.  “Does it look like she’s playing to you, little fox? Eyia comes from a place of strict customs regarding hospitality.

“Alice and Liz have been slaving away to prepare these meals with their own hands for over an hour, not using some third party as a proxy.  They are given the right to the first fruits of their labor; the only reason you still have a finger is that it’s clear you were unaware of that Asgardian custom.  Count your blessings.” She giggled.

Fen quickly hid her hand behind her back, retreating behind Jian.  “That’s ludicrous! It’s not like we’re in Asgard!”

Jin sat the platter down beside several other dishes, lips twisting into a dark smirk as she turned to face Jin.  “Yet you are in the presence of an Asgardian that will take part in this meal. There’s a reason why I haven’t been helping myself yet, and even Githa is respecting Asgardian customs; though,” she frowned as she looked at the resting cat, stretched out across the top of a couch, “she didn’t follow custom with that cart earlier and she’s fairly full at the moment.”

Githa groaned, claws stretching out as she stretched.  “You can’t blame me … I was starving; there are exceptions!  I’m not uncivilized,” she grumbled.

“She is not wrong,” Eyia stated.  “However, this is a different case entirely; Alice and Liz are not the only ones hosting us, but the entire village.  Alice and Liz are their proxies. We are guests in their home and land that they have welcomed us into, and provided safety, substance, and lodging; we will not disrespect that by being ungrateful.  I will not stand for it.”

Sora’s body relaxed as she thought about Eyia’s words.  She’s right; these Vulpes live a very simple life that seems fueled with service.  They could see us as a sword hanging over their necks, but at the same time, they have been nothing but courteous and accommodating.  Liz and Ashley don’t know how we line up within their knowledge of the hierarchy, which is why they’ve been nervous. They know almost nothing about the current situation too but are doing their best to give us a good meal.  We need to show them that we are not a threat and are willing to respect them.

She smiled.  “Thank you for reminding us, Eyia.”  She turned to the frozen pink-furred two-tailed Vulpes.  “Alice, I am very thankful for the work that you and Liz have done.”

“It—it was required of us,” Alice muttered nervously.

Eyia’s ominous aura faded as she returned to setting drinks atop the table with Jin.  Sora glanced back at Fen, still hiding behind Jian while glaring at Eyia.

“Yes, I understand that,” Sora smiled thankfully.  “I know you’ve been nervous around us, but please, please treat us as equals, not like how you treat Mimi or the other Town Council members.”

“Is that … okay?”  Liz asked as she exited the kitchen with a jug of some kind of juice.  “I mean—Olivia told us to serve you.”

Mary sighed as she walked further into the room to look between the different dishes.  “I agree with Sora and Eyia; we are your guests, Liz, Ashley, we want to get to know you better and learn about the history of your town.  Is that permitted?”

Sora almost missed Mary’s subtle message.  She’s right!  We can’t learn about the Vulpes Capital without worrying about something happening, but what about learning this town’s history?

“Umm,” Alice looked down at the floor with a furrowed brow.  “I don’t know a whole lot, but I can tell you what I know.”

Ashley stepped in.  “It’s fine if you can’t say.  We’re just curious.”

“But,” everyone turned toward Liz; her ears were pulled back as she looked down, deep in thought.  “I just—I don’t know how to treat you as equals. What if I displease you with a question?”

Fen snickered.  “Then, I’ll…” She cut off as everyone turned toward her with a deep frown, causing her to duck back behind Jian.

“That won’t happen,” Sora said with a reassuring smile.  “Even if you do offend us, it doesn’t mean we’ll tell Olivia or attack you.  Like Jin said, we’re your guests. We need to be on our best behavior, not you.”

“Okay,” Liz mumbled.  “We can try to do as you ask.”

Sora smiled at the nervous shifts of the fox before she darted out of the way for Eyia to return with more plates.  Turning to Alice, she said, “Please don’t be nervous around us.”

“I think,” Alice cleared her throat.  “I think we just need a little time.” She mumbled, returning to the kitchen herself.

Sora’s lips pursed as she thought about her problems with Fen, glancing at the disgruntled woman.

There’s no way Fen will risk angering Eyia; if both Githa and Jin are willing to follow Asgardian customs, then there’s no way she can challenge them.  The desire to keep her fingers far outweighs her desire to start eating early.

It was the right move, to be honest.  I suppose that’s what Inari meant when she said I need to cultivate my own inner Shadow.  No one can say no without aggression … you can’t stand up for yourself without bringing the possibility of force to the table or, else there’s no weight to your words.  

There’s no way Fen would have listened to me; she doesn’t respect anyone but herself.  She didn’t even listen to me before … she just stole a piece of bread when she thought we weren’t looking, but even if I was, she knew I wouldn’t do anything about it.  Eyia, though … she doesn’t play around with her words; if she says she’ll do something, she does it.

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The image of Eyia moving like a phantom toward Mimi popped into her head, massive sword milliseconds from severing the woman’s hand.

Maybe I need to be a little more demanding, but wait a minute … Inari said I needed to add more chaos into my life.  Aggression is a part of that but also breaking away from structure. I could be overthinking it; it’s not everything I need to be more chaotic toward, but I need to play to my desires more.

There must be something different about the custom with eating when Eyia and Jin were at my place; they just started eating as the carts came through, but I have no idea how it was different.  Whatever … this is hurting my brain.

She helped the others finish setting the food across three long tables they’d pulled up; there were more tables spaced out in a large square for everyone to sit around and face each other.  Everyone turned toward Eyia as everything finished, Aiden walking back through the door shortly after they completed the preparations.

The humans sat side by side with Sora to the left of Wendy.  Eyia was beside her with Jin, the two pink-furred Vulpes, followed by an empty seat, Jian, Fen, and another empty chair before getting back to Nathan to complete the square.  Githa had opted to stay out of this meal, choosing to laze on a sofa; Sora couldn’t blame her with how much magic she’d supposedly eaten.

Eyia smiled at the twins as Aiden walked in.  “This is a special feast; is there anything you would like to say, Alice, Liz?”

Aiden tried not to interrupt as he took the empty seat next to Fen; shooting a questioning glance at her tense posture.

Liz’s tails tightened around each other, poking out of a section cut out of the chair back.  “Umm,” both Vulpes looked down at their plates.

Sora’s focus momentarily shifted to the last empty seat; she could hear the soft patter of rain as the storm fell over the town.  What’s going on with Kari?  Is she not coming back?

After a moment, Alice said, “I’ve heard some of you talk as if you don’t like the Council … I don’t know why you wouldn’t like our gods, but it is thanks to them that we have food and protection to eat this meal.”

There was a moment of silence as they thought on Ashley’s words.  Mary was the first to clear her throat. “Yes, Alice, we are cautious of the Council for many of our own reasons, but that does not mean we cannot be grateful for the meal in front of us.  We thank you, and the Council for whatever role they played in the production of this meal.”

Sora resisted a hum.  That was actually a pretty good way to phrase it.  If they did help in making this in any way, then we can be grateful for the contribution, even if we don’t like how things are looking in the realm.  It’s not really our business in any case.

Liz shifted a little in her seat to look at Alice before looking around at the soft approving smiles of most the other occupants.  Jin seemed as neutral as Jian on the subject, and she could tell Nathan’s smile was forced, but Aiden seemed to really like Mary’s statement while Eyia was beaming.  Fen was noticeably indifferent as she eyed several dishes.

“I agree,” Sora said.  “What I’m really grateful to, is Mimi, the twins, Luna and Rayla, and I can’t forget you two.  None of this would have been possible if it hadn’t been for your service … I certainly don’t know how to cook.”  She giggled, trying to ease the tension.

The concept seemed utterly foreign to Liz as she lost a lot of her nervousness.  “Wait, really? How did you survive then?”

“Well,” Fen huffed, making everyone level their eyes at her, but she didn’t seem to notice as she continued to eye a large platter of meat.  “Obviously, the princess has never had to struggle a day in her life.”

“That’s not true!”  Wendy spoke up, voice a little heated.  “Sora’s struggled for a long time; you don’t know the first thing about her life; so stop trying to bully her and everyone else.”

Fen’s eyes widened as she looked over at the human that had called her out.  “Huh? If you think this is bullying, then you’ve led a rather comfy life yourself.”  She smirked.

Eyia’s words sent a shiver down everyone’s spine.  “We are not being gracious guests.”

“Hey, hey,” Aiden muttered.  “What’s going on with the tension?  Can we please just get along and eat this wonderful looking meal?”  He glanced between everyone. “These people don’t know much about conflict, ease up.”

Alice swallowed, looking down at her plate.  “I apologize; I’m just a little curious … I just wanted to know why you don’t like the Council.”  She finished by plucking out a small triangular fruit and popping it into her mouth. Swallowing, she mumbled, “You can eat.”

Fen’s hands were like lightning as she pushed back her seat to stand, piling food on her plate; the others were much slower at filling their dishes, glancing at the discouraged foxes.

Sora sat back, rubbing the back of her neck.  “Alice, you have nothing to apologize for; I was raised in a place where everyone did all of my cooking.  That being said, we have a lot to discuss guys; go ahead and eat, though. I think I can start. So … where do I begin?”

She looked to her left at the table with Liz and Alice on it; they were slowly filling their plate, ears slightly drooped as they looked at the food on their wooden dish.

“Liz, Alice,” their heads lifted to look at her.  “I think you two deserve a bit of an explanation; we just barged into your lives, and you have no idea what’s happening.  So, let me introduce myself again.

“My name is Sora, and I’m known as a Vulpes Founder on the other side of the gate.  A Founder is like a Goddess or the originator of Vulpes; now, I don’t know how your creation legends go, but on the other side of the gate, all Vulpes kind of came about because of my grandmother … well, as far as I know.”

Fen seemed to be ignoring her as she focused on her food, mumbling something unintelligible under her breath.

Liz hummed as she cut up a few pieces of meat.  “I’ve—never thought about it before; I just assumed the Council did it, but—but no one’s ever told me a story about it.”

Jin chuckled as she picked up large chunks of meat and tore them apart with her teeth; swallowing a mouthful, she glanced left at the foxes, using the back of her hand to keep her hair out of the way.  “There’s no question; the Founders founded your race. Exactly how is a bit murky, but that’s to be expected; it even predates humanity.”

“Actually,” Sora said with a light smile, “my aunt told me how it happened.”

Everyone paused; Fen seemed to lock in place, seemingly just catching notice of the topic, and Githa appeared in the middle of the tables sitting on a chair that had come from nowhere.  “Storytime!” She purred with excitement.

“Do you not even know, Githa?”  Sora asked, lifting an eyebrow.

She shook her head frantically, thick shoulder-length white hair whipping around.  “No, no! Nilly never told me; she never tells stories…” She groaned.

Glad the tense atmosphere was clearing up, Sora recited the short tale her aunt had told her.  “From what my aunt said,” she turned to Alice and Liz, “my aunt’s the second oldest Vulpes, next to my grandma that was the first Vulpes.”

Settling back in her chair, she continued, “My aunt said that Vulpes used to be normal foxes; they had no magical potential.  However, when my grandma became the first fox to use magic, wherever that was—not Earth since she helped create the Human Realm universe, but anyway, she mixed a seed from the Magical Plane into a few Vulpes; that was the beginning of the first non-Founder Vulpes.

“My grandma taught them the foundation of how to utilize their magic, and then they had children and taught them.  Over the ages of mutation, you get the current Vulpes races that we currently have.”

Fen hummed darkly, setting her chopsticks back down on her plate.  “I mean, it’s kind of assumed Inari made us, but … you have a grandmother?  Inari’s not the oldest?”

Sora shook her head, chewing some vegetables before answering.  “Nope, my aunt’s not the oldest, and I had two other aunts.”

“Seriously?”  Jin muttered. “There were four second-generation Founders?”

“Inari was born to a litter of four,” Fen mumbled, ears twitching sporadically.  “What—where are they?”

“Hmm,” Eyia lifted sad eyes to her.  “Had, sister? What happened to your family?”

She looked down at her plate with a soft sigh.  Eyia’s lost a lot of her own family; she was even exiled because of her mother-in-law … I don’t even know if that’s right?  Was she Frigg Eyia’s mother-in-law? “Umm—Inari said my other aunts’ names were Seiōbo and Nari; in order of age, it went my aunt Inari, then Seiōbo, then Nari, and finally my mother.

“They were,” she felt her chest flutter as the image of her aunt’s pain and anger filled face filled her mind.  “They were—murdered—apparently it was all orchestrated by the first-generation Founder of the Tanuki, Tsukuyomi.  He was involved in the death of my aunt Nari, Seiōbo, and my grandmother.”

Fen’s brow furrowed.  “I’ve never heard of this Tsukuyomi; I’ve heard of the human legends behind the name, but not its connection to Tanuki or Founders.”

“Yeah,” Aiden said between bites.  “I’ve never heard of him either; Alva, Kari’s mother, talked about a few Founders, but I haven’t heard about a Tanuki Founder.”

“Wait,” Jin shifted a little in her chair to get a better look at her.  “You mentioned your aunt Nari to me; that’s your aunt that was killed by Gong-Gong.  I remember you saying something about a Tsukuyomi, but you didn’t elaborate.”

Both Liz and Alice looked utterly lost in the conversation, and Nathan, Mary, and Ashley weren’t faring any better.

“Let’s backtrack a little,” Sora sighed, shifting her tails to a better position; she heard a bed creak upstairs.

I guess Emilia’s listening.

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“So, Founders—I guess I should start there.  Founders are like the gods of their respective races.  Fenrir for the Wolves, my grandmother for the Vulpes, and Gloria for the Fairies.”

Wendy cut in.  “Met her, by the way—freaking gorgeous…”

Everyone’s vision shot to her with question, but Sora quickly brought it back.  “Yes, Wendy did, and we can talk about that later, but first, let’s get a base going or else this is going to be a long night…”

Gathering her thoughts, she continued.  “Founders are the first beings, at least that I know of, that could use magic or were just super strong; just about no other being can match a Founder’s power that’s around the same age.”

She paused for a moment.  Should I talk about The Harald of Sakura?  No, she confuses me too … just stick with what I know.

“As I said, my grandmother Foundered all Vulpes magic.  She had four daughters; Inari, Seiōbo, Nari, and Mia, my mother.  They are known as second-generation Founders. For reasons I’m not fully aware of, the Founder of the Tanuki—they’re like raccoon monsters, hated our family.  He orchestrated the deaths of my grandmother, and two of my aunts.”

Ashley hummed darkly.  “I can’t imagine Inari taking that lightly, and there’s a reason no one here knows about this Tanuki Founder.”

“Pfft,” Jin took a quick sip of some juice; Sora took the opportunity to sip at her own cup of the sweet liquid.

“I’ll say; Inari killed the second-generation Founder of the Dragons, Gong-Gong, stole his power, and I’m guessing she utilized it to somehow kill Tsukuyomi.  The Dragons aren’t quick to forgive, either; we’re born with a hatred for Kitsune through our bloodline since we share certain knowledge through generations.”

Mary clicked her tongue as she pushed a soft breath through her teeth.  “That sounds terrible, but I suppose it does have its perks.”

Jin shrugged.  “Doesn’t really bother me that much; it’s not like it overrides my own decision making, but it does play an early factor in Dragon life.”

“What else,” Fen asked, clearly very interested in Vulpes history.

“Yeah, go on, go on!”  Githa cheered.

“Okay,” Sora muttered, finishing the piece of meat she was chewing.  This tastes a bit like pork, but it has kind of a beef aftertaste … odd.

“Jin’s right; Gong-Gong was the one that caused the big flood you read about in the bible, but apparently his sister fixed it … somehow.  Anyways, he was hurt from that, and my aunt killed him to gain the power to kill Tsukuyomi, and get revenge for Gong-Gong’s part in killing my aunt Nari.”

“Damn, this is getting complicated,” Nathan muttered, finishing a biscuit.

“Well, that’s about it for that tale … I think I got a little sidetracked, though.  That’s the story of how my aunts died, and then you have me, a third-generation Founder Vulpes.  Going back to magic, though … my grandmother planted that seed into the first Vulpes and then that brings us to today’s Vulpes, but apparently, every generation of Vulpes gets weaker.”

“Wait, hold up,” Fen mumbled.  “Why?”

I knew she’d be interested in that part, but should I really say that?  I mean, I guess it is important for the Vulpes in this realm to know. Tonight I should ask Inari to teach me how to heal their Spiritual Networks.

Ugh, that could come with its own problems, though.  I don’t have limitless energy to just throw around at every single Vulpes in this town … Inari did use a massive amount of my energy with Emilia, as well.  Is this why she said she used more than was intended?

She snapped out of her mind as she noticed everyone waiting patiently, eating their food in silence.  Clearing her throat, she said, “How do I explain it? I guess, the biggest take away from what my aunt explained to me was that this realm’s Vulpes would ultimately be the end result of all Vulpes.  Vulpes will forget how to utilize their magic and at some point lose magic entirely.”

Fen’s teeth locked as her fingers closed into a fist, hands shaking.  “That’s not acceptable! That will happen to me? Why do I deserve to lose my magic?”

Sora’s lips pursed and she picked between her teeth with her tongue for a moment.  “Fen—it’s not really about what you deserve, but—just something that will naturally happen.  The Vulpes of this realm seem to have long forgotten how to utilize their failing magic; they use this other source that’s coming up from within the planet.  They may have some cool enchantments based on this energy around us, but they’re all really simple, and that’s coming from me; I just learned how to use magic like—last week?”

“But you’re a Founder,” Fen growled, “and what do you mean, it’s not about what I deserve?  Inari could fix it, couldn’t she? She’s done it to the Kitsune, right?”

“Eh,” Sora took a deep breath through her teeth.  “I guess you could say that; my aunt told me that she was the one that discovered how to unlock the potential power within Vulpes.  I don’t know exactly how, but I’m certain Kitsune aren’t in the same danger of losing their magic as other Vulpes. It probably has to do with unlocking their Core, but I also think there’s a bit more to it after … my aunt just does really complex stuff.”

“So—if you don’t meet Inari’s rules, then your line loses all connections to magic.  That’s…” She trailed off with a deep growl before stabbing one of the fruits with an extended nail and popping it in her mouth.  

I can’t believe I kind of feel bad for her, but she’d hurt people with those powers, which would reflect on Inari or me.  Wait … that’s true with Emilia and me now … what she does affects my image. How will she take this? I mean, I don’t know how to be a mother…

“Um,” Sora’s internal conflict was put on hold as she looked at Alice.  “I’ve been listening, and—I think I understand what you’re saying. What do you mean by magic, though?  We create the fires in the houses and enchant things that need them, but the power we use is the Council’s power, not our own.  Are—are you saying we have powers of our own that we can use?”

Eyia glanced down at the wooden floor beside Githa with a low growl.  “If that power really is the Council’s, then it is vast indeed.”

Githa shook her head.  “No, no, no! I said it’s not theirs!  No way!”

“You’re sure,” Jin asked.

“Mhm!  There’s no possible way that that energy comes from a group; it’s too distinct, and it isn’t mixed.

She studied the energy flowing around and through her with a slight frown.  It is pretty potent … it’s sustaining everything, so it has to be.  What could it be? Is that why the Council wants to keep anything about the Capital a secret?

“You say that,” Liz mumbled, “but—I can’t believe you.”

Mary quickly cut in.  “And you don’t have to, Liz, Alice, and we’re very new to this place.  Even Githa could be wrong.”

“Not likely,” Githa snickered.

Sora groaned, rubbing her eyes.  “Alright, let’s swap to some brighter news.  Why don’t we talk about what we have planned for the future, and you guys can share what happened during your Core awakening.”  She said, looking at each of the humans.

Fen stiffened again.  “Core—awakening? Is that what’s so different about their Spiritual Networks?  You can do that, Sora?”

I can’t believe I just blurted that out … knowing she’d ask something about that.  I even tried steering away from it! The cat’s out, and eventually, she’ll learn about Emilia.  It might as well be here; she’s going to be so bitter, but who cares. I’m beginning to get fed-up with her victim game, anyways.


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