B3 — 47. Neurosis … Lost Order

Mimi’s POV (Head Supervisor over the area)

Every time I write about Mimi my heart goes out to the poor thing.  T_T


Mimi took a deep breath as she lay in bed; she hadn’t felt this sore since her first few years serving in the wheat fields.  She’d never been sick before, but it wasn’t as bad as she’d seen some of the children get in one of the towns near the Capital on her journey to become a Head Supervisor.

Her stomach was acting up a bit, and she hadn’t been able to sleep much, but she recognized the onset symptoms.  It had been proven by several cases, if the afflicted person relaxed for a few hours, they’d be able to return to work, and the issues would likely fade.

It had started the night before, after meeting with Grailen, the human male that had brought her news about Fen’s vision.  Her mind couldn’t seem to leave it be, and it had kept her up most the night.

Rubbing her stomach underneath her squirrel-fur blanket, she shifted slightly, groaning softly.  I know it’ll be alright; the Council told me to just prepare … but something just seems off.  The manner Grailen spoke … the fervor, passion, and relief of being able to share it with me. It appeared so close to the feelings I received from my vision.

The vision … a goddess more beautiful than any of the council members, even to those that had seen them with their own eyes.  What must she have looked like? No, no, no! I mustn’t think about it…

A light cough left her lips, causing her to scoot to the edge of her bed to drink a cup of water Gurakuqi had left that morning.  The image of her assistant flashed across her mind as she entered the room that morning; a touch of guilt brushed against her heart with the concern that had crossed the Vulpes’ face.

Gurakuqi takes such good care of me; it would have been so much harder to do this job without her … I’m fortunate to have such a wonderful assistant.

Putting the wooden cup to her mouth, she released a short breath of relief as the cool liquid swished around her mouth and down her throat.  Clearing her throat, she set the cup down beside the clay jug as it caught her focus.

Clay containers were relatively rare in the town since the wooden ones had proven to be more durable; however, she hadn’t found anything that compared to the taste of the food at the Capital with their silverware and crystal containers.  A soft sigh escaped her dry lips.

The Capital was so straight forward, beautiful, large … why did the meeting with Sora bring back those memories?  The training I received … the wonders I witnessed. I was so overwhelmed, but it felt so incredible … completely different than this.  Maybe that’s the connection; I need to remember how great the Council really is.

Settling back into her blankets, she shifted her tails around underneath the covers; it had always been difficult for her to fall asleep without her legs and tails being straight.  Grailen’s story quickly overshadowed the warm memories.

How can I reconcile with his … almost blasphemous story?  I had a vision … sent from the Council themselves. The peace and joy I felt were real … so real, yet … with how Grailen described Kolim’s vision, mine was nowhere near as clear.  How can the recount be more detailed than the real vision I experienced?

Not only that, but Fen illuminated the minds of hundreds, putting their worries at ease and giving them hope in the rise of a new system—a system under Sora.  He didn’t even know what that meant, but … just the sights of what she’d shown his friend was enough to convince him; he didn’t see it, yet he’s more sure of it than I am of my…

Her toes curled as she felt a pulse of fatigue course through her muscles, and another light cough rippled through her body.  Trying to loosen herself up a little, she yawned. Rubbing the back of her left hand against the roof of her mouth, she pulled back a lock that had come loose from the bun she’d tied her hair into the night before.

None of the humans that saw Fen’s vision renounced it; in fact, with every telling, they said it became more real.  That doesn’t make sense … how does that happen? He said it was learning the grand truth … he didn’t even know what that meant but believed it completely.  That’s it, though … what’s the truth?

Then there’s this vision of terrifying circumstances … something they called war…

Her body quaked again at the recollection of how the man had explained it.  She’d never considered such horrors were possible.

If something like that happened, then surely the Council would strike down anyone foolish enough to enact such things.  They’d … they’d what? I don’t know, send the Inquisition?

An itch appeared at the base of her left ear, causing her to carefully scratch it as not to break or damage her bun.

It’s never happened, so far as I can remember or was told.  Nothing like that has ever happened in the Vulpes Realm. We’ve always lived just as we do, serving the Council, year after year.

Her brow furrowed at the thought, and her left hand pressed against her chest, fingers sliding over her cotton nightgown.

Why does that not bring me joy to think about?  I’ve always enjoyed serving the Council … then why do I suddenly feel empty?  No, it’s just my imagination, the sickness—it’s affecting my body.

A dull pain appeared behind her right eye and nose, causing another groan to vibrate her throat, and her stomach gave a slight involuntary heave.  Her throat constricted, arms tightening around her abdomen, but it passed swiftly.

Why am I sick!  I’ve never been sick.  Head Supervisors never get sick.

A depressed sigh escaped her lips, mind unable to rest as it worked back to the problem.

I thought they’d do something about Sora.  I even was … I was determined to force her out of the town; it felt like the only option … people weren’t allowed to go into the Holy Sanctum, much less come through it.

I suppose that was an act of force that is like the war Grailen described … I didn’t recognize it.  The Council didn’t strike me down or come to our aid; no, it was Sora that had stopped Eyia from using force on me.

A sharp shiver ran across her skin, body prickling with the memory of the biting chill that had radiated from the creature; her eyes squeezed shut as she pulled her blankets closer, memory flashing back to those glowing cold irises.

If … if war feels like that, then—then I want no part in it.  It was like I was back with the Inquisitors. No, the Council is pleased with me; I have nothing to fear.

When I ask for guidance, they told me to continue my work; all is well.  All is well … but all is not well … humans and Vulpes under my charge are turning their backs on the Council … my authority.  What if they decide not to participate in the harvest? Can they do that?

An episode a bit more persistent than the last struck her body; breathing heavily, she wiped at the corners of her eyes.

Tears?  I’ve rarely cried … usually in times of joy when meeting the Council, not because of pain or sickness…

Taking another few sips of water, she tried to settle down and clear her mind, but the questions kept bubbling up.

What can I do if that happens?  If the harvest falls behind schedule, and I tell them we must work harder and … and they refuse … what?  What do I do? What if I tried to use force … like what Sora did, but if she’s the one that’s intervening … what more can I do?  I have no power … how … I should … the Council gave me power here, but—but I don’t have real power?

She barely completed the thought when her heart burned; toes curling, she pressed her arms against her chest, coughing violently.  Tensing her knees together, she shivered under her blankets, breathing heavily. It was getting worse.

Tears dripped down her cheeks, staining her pillow, but not from the light pain her body felt; the turmoil contaminating her mind was growing.

I can’t even function today … is the Council punishing me?  Is this for my doubt? She said—she said to be at peace, but I’m not—I’m not … why am I not at peace?  The Council told me to let the darkness clouding my heart to be gone, then why is it still here? Why am I sick?  Why do I doubt? Why … why … why… 

Her inner turmoil was interrupted by a light knock at the door; she hadn’t heard anyone enter the hallway, much less the building with her ringing ears.

Mimi’s ears twitched several times; swallowing and rubbing at her eyes with her pillow sheet, she composed herself.  Taking a deep breath, she cleared her throat, releasing a short cough before saying, “Yes—come in.”

Olivia entered the room, closing the door behind her.  When she turned around, Mimi noticed a sharp change in her demeanor; Olivia was usually one of the most composed Vulpes she had as a supporting manager, helping to govern the different sections of the harvest, but now she was clearly perturbed.

The gray-furred, three-tailed Vulpes’ black-tipped ears pulled back, tails stiffening behind her as the Crop Supervisor studied her superior’s appearance.  “Lady—Mimi … I have never seen a Head Supervisor look so … frail.”

Mimi knew the implication; Head Supervisors were supposed to be the image of strength for their community.  It was for this reason that she’d chosen to temporarily seclude herself from public display. Sickness was seen as a rare thing, especially for the older Vulpes; only the young had such troubles.

“My Lady—what should I do?”  She pleaded, hurrying to her side; the strain in the woman’s voice was unfamiliar to Mimi’s ears.

Breathing heavily, Mimi tried to swallow but found no liquid to process the command.  Pushing the blankets back, she reached for the clay jug. Lifting it caused her to frown, it was surprisingly lighter than she’d expected.  Pouring out the remaining liquid, it only filled a quarter of the wooden cup.

Setting it down, she took a drink from the cup; the cool liquid helped soothe Mimi’s parched and burning throat before responding.  “I could use some more water.”

Nodding, Olivia quickly moved to comply, leaving the room to refill the vessel; it didn’t take her long to return.  She swiftly refilled the cup before setting the jug beside it, waiting for further instruction.

“Thank you, Olivia,” Mimi said with a reassuring smile.  Settling back into bed, she stared up at the ceiling, working around her tongue.

After a moment’s silence, Olivia glanced at the bowel and rag beside the cup.  “Lady Gurakuqi seemed … troubled when I met with her.”

Mimi tried to smile at Olivia, but she was unsure how well she accomplished it.  “If Gurakuqi is not with you, then you managed to find Sora?”

Olivia’s lips pursed, and her ears twitched nervously.  “Yes … Sora was going to—open the Red Gate for Ashley’s family to enter.”

Mimi stiffened as a pulse of pain shot through her body.  “S-she’s—why didn’t—didn’t Sora tell me? Gurakuqi … she knows she can’t … why?”  Her muscles grew weaker the more Olivia explained

“Lady Gurakuqi … she was—concerned about Sora’s actions…”  After a moment’s hesitation, her ears drooped further, “Lady Gurakuqi went with them to meet Ashley’s family—beyond the Red Gate.”

Mimi’s body went numb.  “What?” She asked, unable to comprehend Olivia’s statement.

“Lady Gurakuqi—chose to go beyond the Red Gate,” Olivia repeated, her face reflecting the horror and uncertainty Mimi felt.

The sounds of the noises outside filtered into Mimi’s mind, mixing with the light ringing in her ears as she tried working through Olivia’s words.

No … Gurakuqi wouldn’t do that.  She knows she’s not … she can’t … there’s no possible way she’d…

For some reason, her body felt like clay.  Her arms shook as she repositioned herself against the headboard, a dull throbbing appearing behind her eyes.  “Gurakuqi…” was all she could say before her stomach heaved. Olivia responded quickly, grabbing the partially full wooden water basin and holding it in front of her.

Mimi expelled the liquid in her stomach, mixed with what she’d eaten the day before, holding her abdomen.  Twenty seconds passed before she’d emptied its contents.

“W-why—why didn’t you tell me before?”  She gasped, grabbing the rag off the bedside counter to wipe her mouth.  “How long ago?”

Olivia swallowed, arms barely managing to keep the bowl steady as she returned it to the table.  “I—I wasn’t sure—I almost didn’t believe she’d do it…”

“How long?”  Mimi demanded.

Olivia’s dull yellow eyes dropped to her knees as her palms pressed against her thighs.  “They should already be at the Holy Sanctum.”

Mimi was speechless.  “She—she’s not—not permitted to enter—to even enter the Holy Sanctum.”

“Yes—but it was not my place to question her authority,” Olivia whispered.  “I believe—she did it with the best intentions; she knew that you would need to report it to the Council.”

Mimi’s four tails squirmed a little under her butt as she shifted back down to the bed, feeling a sudden wave of exhaustion.  “If only—if only I hadn’t gotten sick,” Mimi whimpered, trying to hold back her tears as her nose burned.

Olivia’s vision didn’t leave her legs.  “I-is there anything more I can do?”

The Head Supervisor closed her eyes.  “I don’t know, Olivia … I just—I don’t know.”

The woman cleared her throat.  “Lady Mimi—I’ve never seen black rings under someone’s eyes, and the color of your face seems so … so white, yet there are patches of red.  Your voice, and the way you cough … what should I do?” She asked in a helpless tone.

Mimi took in a slow breath of air, trying to help ease her turbulent stomach and sore muscles before opening her eyes to stare up at the ceiling.  She couldn’t help but feel that this was all her fault.

“Gurakuqi has lived to be of service to me.  She must believe that this was the only way to help me figure out a path forward.  I don’t even know what the consequences will be … I must report it … although, normally…”

“Normally?”

“No, nothing,” Mimi whispered, falling silent.

The Guardian should take care of intruders, but … but something happened … the Guardian didn’t stop Sora, or couldn’t … just like I couldn’t.  She can control people’s bodies. Could the Guardian be held in place—frozen this entire time?

What about Gurakuqi?  The Council will hear of this … I must report it, but must I?

Her mind went blank as a fire coursed through her veins, causing her to gasp.  Following the heat, her chest convulsed, causing her to cough vehemently. Her eyes rolled back, and she passed out.

* * * * * * * * * * *

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Mimi groaned; she felt so weak, and the next thing she experienced was a cold, wet sensation.  Opening her eyes, she hissed as the light blinded her. A dull voice filtered passed her befuddled mind.

“Lady Mimi?  Lady Mimi? Are you okay?”

Olivia’s concerned face slowly became clear; she was leaning over her, dabbing at her forehead with a wet rag.

“O-Olivia?  W-what happened?”  She asked, bringing her hands up to rub her eyes.  She didn’t feel rested in the least.

“Y-you cried out and—and collapsed.”

“How—long?”  She groaned.

“Not long, but—but I was worried.”

Her mind slowly returned to her previous thoughts as it cleared, trying to convince herself that it was the right thing to do.

I must tell the Council … it’s expected of me.  No one has broken the law since … no one has … I was never taught what would happen if it is done.  I’m just expected to report it, but surely … is this the only way?

“My Lady,” Olivia asked, showing reservation.  “What is to become of The Harvest? We were ahead of schedule before, but I am hearing … I think here’s opposition to The Festival.  It is just whispers, and no one will tell me what this new Night’s End Festival is, which troubles me.”

Mimi’s brow furrowed; the information was diverting her thoughts.  “Night’s End Festival? I—have not heard of this. Who was it that spoke of this festival?”

“Jalina and Lumia, during the morning preparations for their district’s planning session.”

“Both of,” Mimi cut off, coughing a few times before taking the cup of water from Olivia.  Drinking a few sips, she cleared her throat. “They’re both field workers … Jalina does operate one of the Story Buildings after the daily tasks, but that is the extent of their authority, and Lumia is even younger than many humans in town.”

“Yes, which is why I was confused—and that they’d refuse to explain it to me.  I had not heard of this festival, and from what I could hear of their conversation, they were talking as if their daily tasks were too burdensome to be accomplished.  It was as if they had other instructions to fulfill that were more important than their supervisor’s.”

Mimi fell silent, pulling her blankets up a little higher; she felt so vulnerable and scared.

What is this?  Why are all these new things happening?  Why here? Why in my district? It’s not fair … nothing like this has ever happened … why me?  I’m sick, Gurakuqi has broken the law, and now this Night’s End Festival? What does that even mean?

She’d never experienced this form of sickness before, and it was escalating.  Her stomach was having a hard time holding water, her bones felt as if they were on fire, and she had little to no energy.  Every strained cough or movement sent a jolt of pain throughout her nerves.

It was becoming too much for her; tears began sliding down Mimi’s cheeks as she cried, pulling her blanket over her head.  It hurt to cry, but she couldn’t stop.

“Lady Mimi?”  Olivia tentatively asked.  “I—I have rarely seen tears … usually only when there is a physical injury in the field or—or the pups when they are born.”

Mimi slid her hand up, sniffing as she rubbed at her wet cheeks.  “Yes … I—I have never felt—pain like I am experiencing … Olivia—the questions—the burning in my chest—my head—eyes—legs—arms—everywhere hurts.”  Her chest convulsed, sending more torment to rack her body.

“Can—anything be done?”  Olivia whispered.

Mimi shook her head under her sheets, hugging her body.  She whimpered and moaned for several minutes until the episode passed.  Olivia seemed at an utter loss with how to help.

Once her body was under control, Mimi took a stuttering breath as she pulled back her covers.  Her blurry eyes made out Olivia, and she was a little shocked to see tears running down the woman’s own cheeks.  “O-Olivia?”

The Vulpes sniffed, shaking her head.  “I—I feel a pain in—in my chest, too … tingles—I feel them shooting down my tails and—and up to my ears.  I-I’m sorry…”

Pressing her fingers against her tired eyes, Mimi shook her head.  “No—there’s nothing to be sorry about … c-could you go—find Sora. They know a lot more—about these things.  And—and there’s so much I need to know … hopefully, Gurakuqi didn’t enter the Holy Sanctum.”

Olivia quickly rose to her feet, rubbing at her cheeks with her left sleeve.  “Yes—Head Supervisor. Oh, I have also heard talk that the two-tailed, black-furred Vulpes, Fen, she left the boundaries of the town last night and has not reappeared.”  Performing a quick bow, she said, “I will return as swiftly as I can.”

The woman left the room at a near run, shutting the door behind her; Mimi turned over, staring at the opposite wall.  A throbbing sensation pulsed down her ears to her tails, causing her to tense again; the episode lasted for a time before easing back.  The pain didn’t completely fade this time, making her release a long moan to alleviate some of the tension.

Fen left?  Why? Sora said they’d stay and talk to me today.  She said she would … she must, then. I suppose she didn’t indicate the others wouldn’t leave.  Why is this so confusing? Fen gives a vision and discusses a new festival before leaving in the night?  Wait, does that have something to do with the Night’s End Festival?

A low groan vibrated in her throat as a barb seemed to impale into her lower spine, blacking out the thoughts.  She was losing the ability to even flick a tail with how fatigued her muscles were becoming, but at the same time, she was too tired to sleep; so, she fearfully waited for the next incident, going over the same questions on repeat without coming to a conclusion.

Mimi didn’t have to wait long; her ears twitched as she heard the front door of the meeting hall swing open with a bang, and someone rushed up the stairs.

With some effort, she swapped sides, waiting for the person.  The door was thrown open, revealing a panting Olivia, hair a mess as sweat dripped down her brow.

“What is it?”  Mimi asked.

“T-there—there’s,” Olivia gasped, throat dry.  “A Herald—just arrived—flying beast,” she gasped.  “An Inspector—tomorrow—arriving…”

Mimi’s mind went blank, eyes widening; pain came, but she fought past it.  “A-an—Inspector?” She mumbled.

No, no, no … why now?  No—of course, now! But no—no, that’s not right.  Why an Inspector and not a Guardian? Inspectors are to check the progress and bring back the festival records for the past seven years.  They’re four-tailed, and given equal authority to the Head Supervisor over the area, but—but we had an Inspector four years ago. It doesn’t make sense.  Flying beast…

Her eyebrows furrowed, and she found the strength to sit up.  “You’re sure? How did you—hear of this?” She asked, having to battle her stomach for a moment as it tried to eject more water.

Olivia took several deep breaths, holding her left hand against her chest as she reflected the Head Supervisor’s confused expression.  “It must be an Inspector—they’re the only ones that visit us.”

Mimi bit her lower lip for a moment, tingles shooting down her spine to the tips of her tails.  “You mentioned a flying creature. What did—the messenger look like—dress—tails?”

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The normally extremely dignified Vulpes in front of her seemed utterly caught-off.  “I—umm—she had three black tails and wore a blue dress with red crosses on the sleeves.  I directed the Herald to stay at … Mimi?”

Mimi’s already pale face turned ashen, and a lump dropped down her throat as she slid back under her covers.  “The Inquisition…” She whispered.

Olivia mouthed the word with a furrowed brow.  “I—have not heard of that word before.”

A shiver ran down Mimi’s spine and tails as her blood turned cold; she’d never expected to see the face of another Inquisitor since the Head Supervisor Induction Ceremony.

The woman at the doorway straightened as she watched Mimi bite her thumbnail, eyes wide with worry.  “Lady Mimi—what is an Inquisition?”

Mimi rubbed the back of her left hand before latching onto her wrist, body tense as she tried to sink further into her bed.  “O-of course not … they’re—I—I’ve only met one—Inquisitor Setaka.”

She swallowed reflexively as the Vulpes’ immaculate image popped into her mind.  “The Inquisition is a group given authority by the Council to discover the truth about individuals…”

“Truth—what truth?”  Olivia asked, straightening her hair as she walked into the room.  “How do they differ from the Inspectors that go over our paperwork?”

“Because they—they’re called to root out possible distrust in—in the Council,” Mimi coughed, feeling a strange cold-heat at the back of her neck.  “I—I can’t say more, but—it won’t be a four-tailed Vulpes that comes tomorrow … it will be a seven.”

Olivia’s body stiffened.  “I—have never seen anyone more than four … besides the Council.”

Mimi’s mind had turned inward, legs shaking underneath her blankets.  I—I’m doubting … I was told to be at ease, though.  Why send an Inquisitor? Is that why I should be at ease?  Erase my doubts because they know? They’re aware of my situation?  Is the Inquisitor going to take over my position temporarily?

What if she looks into my heart and sees … I don’t want to doubt … I can’t help myself … please, please, help me … I don’t want to doubt.

More tears fell down her cheeks as she began to hiccup, each jolt sending a wave of pain through her body, but she couldn’t stop, and her blurry eyes wandered, trying to find a solution.

What do I do?  A Head Supervisor—I’m supposed to be the leader—I’m supposed to be strong … how did this happen?  Why is everything wrong? How do I fix it? I don’t know how to fix it? Help … help … please, help me!  I’m not a bad Vulpes … I’m good! I do what I’m supposed to! I’m a good Head Supervisor! It’s not supposed to be like this!  Please…

She only partially heard Olivia’s concerned voice for an unknown period of time before it faded; she’d left at some point, but Mimi was too consumed with the nightmarish thoughts of her weaknesses and failings to fully notice.

All she could think about was that the outside world was not okay and that it should be something different than what it is; she should be something different than what she was.


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