Mimi’s POV (4 Tailed Vulpes; Head Supervisor of the area)
Next week we’re back to Sora, and we’re getting to a big event that’s been in the works since the beginning of Volume 1.
Mimi took a long breath as she scratched at her scalp, careful not to pull on her bun; she’d sent all the head district supervisors away, needing time to think. Gurakuqi, Luna, and Rayla were the only ones that had remained, Oliva seeing the monsters to one of their best Transplanter lodgings.
Rayla and Luna sat across the table, fidgeting in their seats, tails held close to their chests as they stared down at the polished wood. Gurakuqi was to her left; she could tell her gray-colored three-tailed assistant was filled with questions, but she kept her silence, waiting for Mimi to speak.
Mimi gently massaged her left ear after a few seconds; she’d just heard the last Vulpes in the capitol leave by her command. Her head was pounding as her yellow irises settled on her assistant. “I don’t know how to respond to them.” She whispered, vision sliding to her folded hands across the table.
“Is there no instruction from The Council?” Gurakuqi asked.
Mimi slowly shook her head. “No, and that’s troubling. This has never been an issue … non-Vulpes entering—coming here. There were stories about a few Vulpes coming here in the capital, but they were stories of disdain, and they were always rejected by The Council, forced to leave.”
“They have Vulpes among them. Can’t we just ask them to leave?”
Mimi’s face creased into a scowl as her eyes lifted to the twins. “Let’s put that topic on hold for now. Luna, Rayla, tell me everything about this group.”
Rayla’s throat constricted before swallowing with difficulty, tail stiff. “I—umm—we were—we were just cleaning—like Master Korina showed us. We didn’t do anything she didn’t tell us to!”
“We didn’t—not even close—not to the light at the back.” Luna squeaked.
“It was that cat, the Nekomata,” Rayla mumbled. “She—she just showed up.”
Gurakuqi hummed at her response. “How did you know what a cat or a Nekomata is, Rayla? I do not know these words. You know what type of monster it is, how?”
Mimi waved her hand dismissively. “That’s not an issue, Gurakuqi.”
“I see—if you say so,” she replied, pursing her lips to the side with question, but Mimi didn’t give her the answer.
There are cats in the capital, and there are stories about Nekomata circling a few stories. I heard them while there, so, naturally, two kids would quickly pick up on them when receiving their training to become Gatekeepers. It wasn’t the Nekomata that opened the Red Gate, though, it was Sora, the Vulpes … a Founder.
It’s like they were speaking an entirely different language at times; there were words they used that I don’t know. Is this a test for me? It couldn’t be a test for the town; they wouldn’t have a clue how to handle this situation. It all falls on me. What’s the answer? Where’s The Guardian? There’s supposed to be a guardian at each gate, hidden from view.
I don’t understand! If The Guardian allowed them to make it to the town, then are they permitted by The Council? Did they kill The Guardian … never mind them being stronger than me … if they can kill a guardian. What do I do?
I’m afraid … so afraid. This must be a test for me, but for what purpose? Are Rayla and Luna a part of it? Could they be under instruction from one of the Masters or even a member of The Council? We’ve never had a problem with the festivals, so why now, so close to the harvest?
None of it makes sense … none of it. Sora, sister to Eyia … few Vulpes outside of the capital know what sisters mean. Few understand the strength of lineage and aren’t taught it … I’m not even supposed to know it, I just heard a few words between seven-tails in the capital, but these new monsters seem more knowledgeable than me about so many topics. I couldn’t keep up.
Sora’s supposed to be a Founder, a Goddess, on equal power to The Council, but they made it appear that she’s of even greater status. It’s blasphemy, but—but I can’t help but believe them. She has two tails—two tails, and she completely overwhelmed me with ease and did it to save our lives from the blonde one she called sister. I don’t understand.
Her vision returned to Gurakuqi as she bit her lower lip, ears twitching nervously; she wanted to ask a question, but was trying to restrain herself to give her time to think. Luna and Rayla didn’t seem to be faring any better with their folded ears.
Mimi sighed, flicking her tails with agitation. “Let’s listen to the full story from Rayla and Luna. Once they leave, we can talk in private.”
Following her decision, the woman nodded, turning her yellow eyes back to the stiff twins. “Well, girls, tell us everything.”
“W-what do you want to know?” Luna choked under their gaze.
“Everything,” Mimi responded. “Whatever you saw them do and say; tell me everything.”
The two girls stumbled over their words as they explained everything they recalled, and after thirty minutes of questioning them, Mimi had everything they could remember. Nodding with an irritated sigh, Mimi sent them back to their assigned rooms to rest, assuring them they were not to blame. She waited until they’d left the building before collapsing against the table, arms trembling.
“My Lady,” Gurakuqi gasped, rising to her feet. “What’s wrong—are you in pain?”
“This is madness,” Mimi choked, coughing as she stared down at her quaking fingers. “The Red Gate changing colors when she touched it … the Nekomata eating a cart by turning it to flame … seeing the sickness in Vulpes and humans alike … the simple command of her voice as the power to paralyze every one of us. The Guardian has not intervened or even confront them on their way here.
“A being strong enough to destroy everything … destroy all of reality, and if we anger her by harming this Founder, then we could doom—be the cause for the destruction of everything. Madness … utter madness, yet—yet I can’t help but believe some of it. To have the power to ascend beyond the gate, to bring things not of this world through, and to command the respect of every one of those creatures.”
Tears began falling down her eyes, voice shaking. “I—I don’t know what to do. All I see is darkness; there’s nothing … nothing I can see—no way to proceed. It’s only by—by their grace that we can even put up this farce.”
Gurakuqi seemed completely lost. “I—I don’t understand, m-my Lady, you aren’t acting like yourself. What is madness, and what sickness?”
“I—I’m sorry,” Mimi sniffed, but it was hard to get these foreign emotions out of her body; she’d never felt so lost. The pressure against her chest was unlike anything she’d ever experienced; she was suffocating. “I don’t know—I have no clue how to—to proceed. The Veil didn’t stop them; The Red Gate didn’t stop them; The Guardian didn’t stop them; The Council hasn’t shown up … everything falls on me to protect my area—and I don’t know how…”
“G-Guardian? What Guardian?” Gurakuqi asked, moving to her side, hesitating to take any further action, but wanting to be close in case she needed her.
Sniffing back the snot that threatened to leave her nose, Mimi shook her head. “She’s supposed—supposed to be there … in case—if anything comes in, but—but she didn’t stop them. Does that mean The Council approves them? If that’s right, then why aren’t they here? Why isn’t The Guardian escorting them?
“Did they kill The Guardian? If that’s true, then—then what do we do? What hope do we have? At the same time, Luna and Rayla—they didn’t see any fights or anyone try to stop them. If they could dispose of The Guardian without them even noticing or showing any signs of battle … I just—I can’t—I can’t imagine it. I’ve seen it—seen them,” she choked, feeling pain strike her mind.
* * *
The next thing Mimi saw was the ceiling; she blinked a few times, feeling the weight of something press against her chest. She looked down, clearing her dry throat; she was in bed. Looking to her right, she found Gurakuqi pressed against her bed, leaning against the side on her knees. She seemed asleep.
Biting her lower lip, she scooted up to support her back against the headboard. She rubbed her left temple, body feeling weak. What happened? Her tails twitched underneath the covers; the shift in the fabric caused Gurakuqi to stir.
She looked up at her, brows creased with concern; her eyes focused as she pulled back her long gray hair. “My Lady … are—are you alright?” She asked, tentatively rising to her feet.
“What—happened?” Mimi mumbled, glancing around her room. The lights were dim, and nothing seemed out of place. Her room wasn’t that large, but had a closet for her multi-colored dresses; one of her pleasures at being an Area Supervisor was her ability to get colorful dresses.
“You collapsed, you were talking about The Guardian, and then—then you just fell to the ground. I—I managed to catch you, and I brought you to your room.”
“I see,” Mimi whispered. “So, we’re still in the town’s capitol building.”
“Are you feeling well?”
“Yeah,” Mimi mumbled. “Yeah, nothing’s wrong.”
I messed-up … this proves The Council is watching. The Guardians are not public knowledge; it is a secret kept by the Supervisors, and we were told not to reveal specific information. If that’s the case, then Sora’s group must be welcome, but they don’t know anything about this world. They bring up so many questions.
“Umm—Lady Mimi,” Gurakqui cleared her throat, drawing her attention.
“There’s—there’s some—things I should tell you.” She nervously mumbled, shifting uncomfortably.
She’s usually fairly composed…
Her tails wrapped around each other as her ears twitched. “Do you remember the black-furred Vulpes that was with the group?”
“The two-tailed one with the disrespectful mouth? Yes, I recall her.”
Gurakqui sucked her lower lip for a moment, scratching her left arm nervously. “She told—I was told that she told a story to a group of Vulpes—in the Single-Tail District—and some humans.”
“What’s wrong with that? I understand that we do not have many stories that cycle around that district beyond daily work recounts, but how bad can it be?”
“They won’t—I don’t know—because they won’t say.”
Mimi’s brow creased at her response. “They don’t recall the story?”
“No—they won’t tell me what it is.”
Her tongue pressed against her teeth as she worked through her assistant’s response. “They—won’t tell you … that’s impossible; they must obey the chain of command.”
“Yes, but—they said that they aren’t supposed to tell it to the supervisors … one of the humans that heard the story from a Vulpes has come forward. I had him wait downstairs—however, he’s hesitant to speak to me—I told him that you’d see him personally.”
This has never happened … refusing information to Gurakqui is like refusing me. What kind of story did this Vulpes spread that goes beyond my authority? Is this a part of The Council’s plan? They must know, but why give these new people more power than me? What am I supposed to do with this information? Should I not hear it? How can I know if it’s acceptable or not … what is acceptable?
Swallowing the lump in her throat, Mimi’s ears twitched as she nodded, pulling back her blankets to rise, tails shifting to the side. “Very well, I’ll go meet with him in a bit.”
“That’s not all…” She trailed off.
“What else?” Mimi asked with dread, sitting on her bedside as she looked up at her assistant.
“The beast—I mean, the girl that was at the window—Kari, I believe. She—she ran off to the forest and returned; she’s separated from the other group, and it appears as if she plans to sleep in the fourth Transplanter lodging in the Upper Two-Tailed District. I received word that Holonie and Braelyn are with her inside. The others aren’t sure how to proceed.”
A low groan left Mimi’s throat as she scratched her neck. “Anything else?”
“Yes, Fen left the main group’s building, and it appears she was unhappy. The other male … his name started with an A—the one with blonde hair…”
“I know which you speak of,” Mimi stated. “What of him?”
“He went out and spoke to two human men. They said he spoke about many things they did not understand, but found it pleasant.”
“Did any others leave?”
Gurakqui shook her head. “No, not that I am aware of, and the blonde one returned after a short while.”
Mimi sucked on her lower lip; several seconds passed and, she took in a deep breath before letting it out in a slow stream. “You have done well, Gurakqui.” She whispered, rising to her feet to walk to the closet side mirror. “Give me a moment alone.”
Gurakqui bowed respectfully before leaving the room, closing the door behind her.
Mimi studied her reflection for a moment; her dress was creased, bun partially broken, and she looked sickly. Her eyes defocused, body numb. Taking a deep breath, she walked back to her bed and knelt at its side, clasping her hands.
Council, please help me know what path to take. My path is so uncertain, and I have not been taught how to respond to this doubt. How should I react? Please, wash away this fear inside me. Restore my faith in you … please … I don’t want these questions in my mind. Please … please have mercy on me. If this is a test, then guide me to the right path to take.
Only silence followed her plea, so she continued her prayer.
I don’t wish to test your patience, but … but is this the next stage of my progression? I remember the joys of the capital, and the wonders still brighten my dreams. If this is the trial I must go through to return to such a wondrous place, then I will bear it, but … please let me know this is your will.
No answer came. She licked her lips, a few tears falling down her cheeks as her elbows pressed against her sides, fingers tightly intertwined.
I remember the trials each of you gave me, but none of them were like this. Being able to see each of you from afar was so glorious, but now this Founder has come, claiming to be a goddess … one above all of you, and—and I’m weak … how can I know if this is true? Your guardian is silent, the gate is useless, and they bring questions I cannot answer. Give me insight … I beseech your guidance.
Her lips began to tremble as stillness followed, swirling murky water in her mind. She waited a full minute, crying for comfort, but none came. Her tight muscles clenched as the silhouette of Sora seemed to hang over her head, making her thin arms tremble.
A bright radiance exploded in her mind’s eye as it broke past the darkness threatening to swallow her; the voice that spoke was like honey. “Mimi, my child, what darkens your heart?”
Her misery turned to joy as her tears increased, head pressing further into her mattress. M-my Goddess! I—to which member of The Council do I have the honor of speaking with?
“One or all, it matters not; to speak to one is to speak to all. Now, my child, what darkens your heart?”
Y-yes—there—there are intruders from beyond the Red Gate … The Guardian has not shown herself. I don’t understand what I am to do. Please, tell me what to do.
“You must do what you have always done; follow my decree.” The voice responded, making Mimi’s eyes tighten.
I—I don’t understand. I have not received any instructions on what to do if intruders enter my area—or if any come through the Red Gate.
“All will be addressed; complete our decree.” The voice stated without hesitation.
“The decree you have been assigned.”
Understanding burned in Mimi’s chest, causing a wave of relief to wash over her. My assigned decree … you appointed me to run this area, to prepare for the festivals. What about the others?
“Only follow what you have been assigned, nothing more.”
Mimi swallowed, feeling prickles shoot down her spine to the tips of her tails as the serene voice inspired hope within her.
If that is your will, then I will follow it.
“Very good, my child; I will speak to you during the festival. Be at peace, and let this darkness be lifted from your heart.”
Yes, my Goddess. Your attention humbles me.
She released a sharp breath, realizing she held air in her lungs as the sensation left her body; the presence was gone. A small smile lit her cheeks as she dabbed at her eyes with her dress’ long sleeves. “My child,” Mimi whispered.
They know my name … they know me. How stupid can I be? Of course, The Council knows about this incident. I just need to remember my duty. It’s to prepare and make sure the festivals function properly.
Heart strengthened, Mimi got to her feet and went to the closet, extracting a red long-sleeve dress. She undressed, placing the garment on a hanger within the washing section, and used the small bucket nearby to wash away her sweat before donning her new dress. Using the instruments on the desk beside her mirror to brush out her black hair, she examined herself in the mirror with a bright smile before going outside, greeting Gurakqui.
“You’re looking—a lot better, my Lady.”
Mimi nodded, smile turning soft as she looked down at the ground, hand pressing against her chest, creasing the red fabric. “Yes, I received guidance from The Council.”
“I see,” Gurakqui said with a soft breath, releasing her stress. “You were praying, and The Council answered. I’d expect no less from you, my Lady.”
“I’ll see this human, and after that, we will prepare for bed. Much is to be done before the Harvest Festival.”
“You were told to put all our focus on the harvest?”
“Just as is our duty, we needn’t worry about anything more. If Sora and the others wish to join, then it might make the process go faster. We might be able to finish sooner than scheduled.” She with a hopeful tone.
Gurakqui chuckled. “What would we do if that happened? We’ve rarely ever been ahead of schedule.”
“It has happened in the past,” Mimi replied, following her assistant as she guided her to the room she’d left the human to wait in. She noted her three gray tails were swaying familiarly; Gurakqui was happy. “We may have a day of rest, and I am permitted to tell one of a few stories told in the capital as a reward, distributing it among the supervisors.”
The woman’s ears twitched as she looked back, eyes wide with anticipation. “The others would be overjoyed to hear a story from the capital.”
Mimi giggled. “Yes, the history told in the capital is … magical.”
Both Vulpes entered the room with high spirits, Gurakqui opening the door for her. The human quickly rose to his feet, bowing at their entrance. He was a muscular man in his mid-thirties with dark brown hair.
Mimi spoke first. “Hello, if I’m not mistaken, your name is Grailen, correct?”
“Y-yes, Head Area Supervisor,” he responded, head lowering further.
Taking the seat that her assistant offered, Mimi folded her hands in her lap as she addressed him. “I hear that Fen has been spreading a story, and the others are unwilling to tell my assistant of it. I was made aware that you even refused to speak to Head Assistant Gurakqui. Is this true?”
Grailen cleared his throat, licking his lips. “Yes—well, it’s—it’s a sensitive matter, my Lady.”
Mimi’s lips curved into a slight frown. “Very well, I will take it in confidence then; you may get some sleep, Gurakqui, we will meet with the other supervisors in the morning as usual. Please spread the word.”
Gurakqui nodded respectfully and left without a word, closing the door.
He cut off as Mimi held up a finger. “Wait a moment; I will let you know when she is beyond hearing your words.”
“I—I see,” the man stated, breathing a heavy sigh. “Thank you, my Lady.”
After Gurakqui moved outside the building, Mimi’s smile lifted. “Very well, go on.”
“You see—I would normally have no issues speaking about this with the esteemed chosen, but—but the story—if it’s true, then we must keep it in confidence.”
“If that is the case, then why speak to me about it?” Mimi asked, folding her legs as her brow creased, noting the man’s hesitation.
“You—you’re the representative of The Council in this area … personally chosen—if anyone knows about this, then it is you.”
“Go on,” Mimi urged. “What story has Fen been telling?”
Grailen nodded, looking as if her words had lifted a heavy weight. “I heard the tale from Kolim that saw it first hand. He was told that it was only for the words of the lower tailed Vulpes and humans.”
“Saw?” Mimi asked, legs tensing. “I thought it was a story?”
“Yes, but Fen, the forerunner of the Founders, an apostle, showed them a vision of Her Holiness, Inari. He described her as a Goddess of the highest rank, even the Vulpes and humans that have witnessed The Council in person during the festivals were awestruck by Her Holiness’ presence. Not only that, but we’ve been graced by her niece, Sora, a Founder, and she will bring deliverance to all who serve her and her apostles.”
Mimi’s peace was shattered as if a pane of glass fell before a landslide. “What—do you mean—a vision? This apostle, Fen, can bestow visions upon—upon others?”
“Yes,” Grailen said with a sparkle in his eyes. “The way Kolim described it … he couldn’t help but cry, just remembering Her Holiness’ magnificence … Her radiance.”
“E-even The Council?”
“Yes, yes! He said that even the glory of The Council was—he said it was like a candle to the sun in the sky … absolutely blinding. He couldn’t even describe it; he said that comparison was—it felt like blasphemy to his lips … no words could describe the image in his mind and what he’d seen with his own eyes.”
“T-thank you,” Mimi stammered over the word. “You may,” she paused, body numb, “you may go rest … we have much to do … tomorrow.”
Grailen seemed lost in thought, nodding absently. “Thank you for hearing me, Head Supervisor Mimi! I am sure great things are to come. We have been blessed!” He quickly left, a wondrous smile on his cheeks as he shut the door behind him, but all Mimi could feel were the cold unknown shadows compressing her.
Fen—a two-tailed—has the power to instill visions upon hundreds … hundreds of humans and Vulpes … instantly discounting The Council’s glory as no more than a candle to this Inari? Blasphemy to even compare the two … I—but I received a vision of … but—but it wasn’t clear. Her voice, but … but not an image. What would that vision look like? I’ve never seen anything more radiant than The Council…
A few simple words, but they tore at Mimi’s heart as the walls around her heart quaked, and monsters pressed in; void entered her mind, a creeping abyss that threatened to swallow her. She couldn’t shake the knowledge; there was a being stronger than all The Council, and Fen could show that as if it was a fact to the people under her care. She didn’t want to believe it, but the doubt slashed at her faith, licked in her blood as her bones broke under each questioning blow.
Is there a deeper truth I cannot know? This mythical Goddess that looms unseen … a forerunner … one that’s coming? Madness … utter madness and they believe it … truly believe it.
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