B5 — 17. Week 3; Living As If Cast Away

PoV:

1. Sora Moore (Our Null-Void Fox Mom!)

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Helping Emilia get ready for bed after Tola, Kari, Jin, and Eyia left, Sora giggled at how perplexed Nari and Seiōbo were.  They followed them, Sora guiding her daughter to the bathroom to brush their teeth and do other nighttime activities without magic.

To her amusement, she watched a tired Emilia explain to the two Vulpes hanging in the background that not using magic for everything made things last longer and allowed her to postpone bed a little to spend more time with Sora—she didn’t even try to hide it.

Nari and Seiōbo thought it was a bit silly but still joined them, accepting the nightgowns the girl proudly showed she could make as a teaser for the morning.  Naturally, Emilia chose black silk for Seiōbo and gold for Nari.

When it came time to snuggle into bed, Sora grinned, seeing her daughter’s big eyes looking up at her; knowing what she wanted, she cleared her throat to draw her aunts’ attention.

“Would you mind if Emilia slept with the two of you tonight?  She likes cuddling in her fox form at night, and it’s been a while since she’s seen you.”

Nari jumped forward to hug Emilia, floating them both in the air with a big grin and making the girl’s tails stiffen with delight.  “Yes!  I’ll be kidnapping your daughter… mmh-hmm-hmm-hmm!”

“Mom!”  Emilia playfully cried out as loose silk spun from Nari’s tickling magic.  “Save me, Mom!”

Watching her daughter get carried off to the guest bedroom in the blonde’s arms, Sora waved her goodnight.  “Oh, no!  Whatever shall I do…  I suppose I must battle through the monsters to save you in the morning.”

“Fight hard, Mom!  I’m cheering for you!”

Nari cackled like a witch, shifting slightly to nibble on Emilia’s ear.  “I’m the evil aunt who has come to whisk you away to my tower!”

“A-Aunt Nari—heh!  That tickles!”

Disappearing down the hallway with Nari teasing the girl and making her cry out about how wicked she was, Seiōbo stood close by Sora, chortling with her hands behind her back.

“Hmm-hmm…  Emilia is so much more excitable than you were as a child.”

“Really?”  Sora asked, putting away Emilia’s nighttime items before moving to the kitchen and front room to clean up.  “I thought I was pretty hyper…  Heh, my caretakers would probably disagree with you.”

“Mmh…  In a different manner,” Seiōbo whispered, half-turned to gaze through the walls at Nari and Emilia.  “You were always very independent and mature as you grew; for her age, Emi is very dependent compared to you… even if we compare your eight-year-old self to her.”

Feeling her aunt’s barrier preventing Emilia from hearing their conversation, Sora’s smile fell a tad.  “I suppose…  It was only my dad and me, and he always worked, so…”

“Hmm… but aren’t you doing something similar?  I suspect all of the loneliness you experienced growing up may have had an effect on Emilia, and in the manner my sister split her off from you—in essence, she is a branch of you and your past desires.”

A soft puff of air passed through Sora’s lips as she washed off the soaking dishes, Emilia calling down, “Aunt Seiōbo!  C’mon—help save me from the evil witch!”

“Mua-ha-ha-ha!  You’ll never get away from these claws, Little Emi!”

“N-Not my sides—hahaha!  Help, Aunt Seiōbo!”

Her vision remained on the dishes in her hand.  “Emilia isn’t just a copy of me, though; she’s her own Intelligence and person.”

“Indeed,” Seiōbo stated, head tilting to an understanding smile.  “It is good to be aware that your daughter has many of your own insecurities that have been enhanced by a far more stress-inducing environment.  We both saw how she reacted when I arrived; she is gifted, but all of this cultivated magic she’s exercising can cause a backlash if her emotions are allowed to run wild.”

“Hmm…  Thanks for the warning, Aunt Seiōbo.”

“Aunt S-Seiōbo—Aunt Nari is using my tails as a pillow, hehe—help!”

“Naturally, and I would expect you to actually have to fight off monsters in a little morning game of Save the Princess tomorrow.”

“Heh, I look forward to it,” Sora muttered, giving her a small smile as the four-tailed Vulpes waved and vanished to enter the snuggle battle.

It didn’t take too long for Sora to finish the light clean-up, and instead of heading to the bed, she exited out of the front door to float to the roof.  Settling on an incline on the tiled roof, she positioned her hair around her front and leaned back to see the entire expansive city sky with her chakram rather than sight.

Emilia didn’t last too much longer, swiftly losing steam after the emotion-filled day, and the three snuggled together as foxes to sleep.

Sora wasn’t particularly tired, and by this point, she’d learned a meditative state that more or less allowed her to simulate sleep whenever she wanted.  It wasn’t quite like the Outer Body Technique since she couldn’t train in it, but it did give her the chance to sleep with her daughter when she needed it.

“Hmm…”

The bright spheres of the other planets acted like moons, three currently visible to shine yellow, red, and blue beams onto the city in the clear night.  A gentle wind pulled at her hair and made Sora lose herself in the experiences that had shaped her over the past sixteen weeks of her life.

Seiōbo wasn’t wrong; she had been relatively independent growing up, but it wasn’t by choice, and the centuries-old, vastly experienced higher-dimensional Vulpes, clearly wanted her to ponder on the topic by bringing it up when she had a night free to herself.

This is the first night in three weeks Emilia hasn’t slept with me…  Am I the one being a bit too needy?  She’s not above spending the night with Nari and Seiōbo, yet Emi certainly does search for attention.

It’s as if Emi believes that if she doesn’t produce sweets or do something extraordinary, no one will come to visit her…  Everyone always comes over to our place, but what if we start having a day in the week she spends the night with Luna and Rayla?  They’re fairly independent girls, for being twins, and could help Emi branch out a bit.

Her lips tightened at Emilia spending more than twenty-four hours away from her and on her own with kids near her own age, chest hurting a bit; closing out the world, she released the stress in a long sigh.

Mmh…  I suppose Seiōbo was hinting at something.  Emilia is gaining a lot of experience with White, but she needs to spread her wings and find a path without guidance… to be her own girl.

“Ugrmgm…”

“Figured it out?”

Sora’s emerald eyes opened to drift to her aunt, the woman spontaneously appearing beside her in a way totally foreign to her.  “I guess…  Do you really think it’s time for her to start exploring, though?  She only has a month of real experiences—Intelligent Construct?”

“Hmm-hmm…  A linked Magical Construct to my Astral Form.”

“Huh…  So you are asleep?”

“I am, and heh, Emi is quite warm, lying on top of Nari and me.  As to your previous question, your daughter shares many of your experiences—perhaps not in the purest sense—which is why she should be allowed to take knowledge and turn it into her own instinct.”

“Hmm… I never expected to be scared to let her spend an extended time away from me, but I find myself worrying that something bad might happen to her.”

Catching Seiōbo’s amused smirk, Sora rolled her eyes.  “I know…  In a 12th-dimensional Realm that I’ve already tasked to safeguard her from harm, where gods are keeping the peace, crime is, well, non-existent…  I’m being irrational.”

Seiōbo breathed in and shook her head.  “Haaa…  Sora, you’re being a new mother who hasn’t even gone through her daughter’s toddler phase.  You never pictured raising your first child in this way, and you’re having to adapt so fast—I’m still adapting as an aunt.”

A smile came to her at Seiōbo’s reassurance.  “I suppose so.  It’s been nice… having someone always there to welcome me home and be so happy to see me.”

“Something you’ve never experienced?”

“Not like Emi…  I did have the hotel staff, but it’s not the same.  Heh… I know that’s not going to change, which is why I feel a little stupid, fearing it might.  It would be nice to let her spend a whole day with the twins and have them work out days for sleepovers.”

Seiōbo leaned back to join her, her tails spread out between her legs to shift her nightgown slightly.  “So, how have the last twelve weeks been?”

“Fast!  Hehe… so fast…”

“It really can feel like that sometimes…  Years have gone by for Nari and I.”

“Really?”

“Mhm.  Nari has loved every minute of it; she’s never really had a chance to get out of the unified Realm of the Founders… or had the freedom to cause so much mischief with so little oversight.”

“Hehe.  Been rough?”

“Ugh… you have no idea.  I look away for a minute, and she’s seducing some bachelor to become his world.  She’s had a few flings, which has been nice for her to burn off stress… I just need to make sure she doesn’t go too far or cause a connection that will damage this universe’s timeline.”

“Oof…  She can do that just by having relationships?”

“Such is the effect of a singular entity on a universe.  Nari’s growing with the experiences, but… haaa…  One of the things this new Nari hasn’t experienced that the sister I knew did, was heartbreak, and she won’t find it on this level.”

“Is that important?”

“To develop a healthy relationship?  Yes.  To understand the depth love can reach, one must know what one could lose and the pain that comes with that.  Of course, such emotions aren’t only found in a break-up, but that is one example.”

“Tola?”

“Heh…  Well, the rise and fall of that slow dance is like the sea.  It is a different circumstance for Nari, who is as confident as you can get in her ability to attract and keep a mate.  Humm…  It’s something I need to help my sister with… not something you should be concerned about,” she muttered, running her fingers through her silky hair.  “Although…  When do you suppose romance will enter your life?”

“Ha!  I know I’m a Vulpes, but I’m totally focused on Emilia and bringing our family back together before anything like that.”

“Aww, c’mon, Sora,” Seiōbo snickered, leaning to the side to give her a smirk.

“What?”

“If you hold that part of your heart closed now, it will only grow tighter as time goes on…  I know all too well.”

“Sure, I get that…  It’s just… no one has really met that criteria… hasn’t really made my heart beat like that.  I mean, there was that time with Aiden, but I was, heh, a very hormonal Vulpes at that time!  You know, Kari actually thought I wanted to date her due to my teasing…

“Ugh, I didn’t want to make her feel awkward, but I guess no one’s ever acted like that around her or saw her as a girl.  Mmgm…  Aiden has Liz, which is awesome, and by no means do I see him like that now.”

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Her aunt shifted to gaze up at the celestial objects above them.  “I’m not talking about Aiden, and Kari is trying to understand herself and others.  I won’t pretend to know how long romance will take you because… yes, you are a Vulpes, yet you are also something else, and it shows in your personality.”

“Does it?”

“Heh, do you act the same since unlocking your father’s side?”

Pondering the question, she bunched her lips to the side; it was an interesting thing to ask herself.  “I’m not… too different?  I guess I have tempered out more from my chaotic heart as a Vulpes.  Hmm…  I thought that was more the balancing of my two halves, though?

“I’m not saying that peace you’ve found is a product of your father’s side or not; I’m simply looking to understand many things myself in our changing future.”

Sora smiled as her aunt created a perfect image of her father in his younger days, when she was a child.  “Hmm…  Watching your father through these last few years—the manner in which humans live in general—has made me ponder many things I wouldn’t have even considered before my resurrection.”

A smirk lifted Sora’s lips.  “Aunt Seiōbo…  Are you telling me you are falling for my father?  Is that why you’re talking about romance?”

“I wouldn’t say that,” she muttered, and for the first time, a light blush touched the woman’s cheeks.  “I believe it is more curiosity that I feel than that sort of intrigue…  What did my sister see in him that so captivated her?  I can follow his path through time to the point Mia placed him in this universe, and the moments they shared in their courtship…”

“Ooh, you naughty fox!” Sora snickered, watching the human version of her mother meet with her father in the air to begin dancing.  “Spying on your sister’s dates, and Nari’s the one we should be concerned about?”

“Funny…  No, it does mesmerize me how… different my little sister is with him.  Mia is shy… reserved… cute, even…  Hmm, and then, at times, she purposefully infuriates him… teases him… tries to push him away…”

Smile softening, Sora watched her parents laugh and talk soundlessly in the air in their slow waltz as Seiōbo unveiled the moment in time.  “How much time did you really spend watching me grow up compared to following my parents?”

“… Both are essential to understanding our family’s new life.”

“Mhm.  So, your questions were trying to better understand my father by getting a better grasp on how his side affects me?”

“One component.”

“Hehe.  A major component!”

“Haaa…  It certainly is.  If I am being honest, I feel a tad jealous following my sister’s past in this universe with him.”

“Why?”

“She found something our mother spoke to us about that I am only beginning to understand…”

“Which is?”

“Something that fills in that rift all Intelligences feel in their soul…  I can see it in her radiance in every rise and fall they take, and I never expected to see that…  Sora, I am a terrible woman.”

Sitting up and drawing her knees up to her chest, Sora focused on her vulnerable aunt, something she hadn’t seen when the Vulpes came to give her advice.  “Why?”

Seiōbo followed her example, rubbing her knees and watching her lifting and falling tails.  “I… did not grow into the person I expected to be… bitter… vengeful…”

“Aunt Seiōbo?”  Sora whispered, floating over to put an arm around her back as pained tears came to her aunt’s eyes.  “What can I do?”

“Sora…  I’m afraid of myself… this monster lurking in my breast that I never saw until I stood face to face with it.  Why…  Why do I feel so envious and resentful when I see my sisters’ happiness?  I don’t like it…  I hate myself for it, and the only solution I can come up with is to find my own, yet…”

“It’s not so simple,” Sora nodded, holding her aunt close as Seiōbo rested her head against her shoulder.  “You want to be alone and have people around you at the same time…”

“Yeah…”  Seiōbo cleared the lump in her throat.  “Knowledge is far from comfort…  I want to know you, yet I can’t help but be pulled to my sister, and watching her makes me feel left behind… cast away for something better.  I told you…  I’m a terrible, envious woman who only sucks the happiness of those closest to me.”

Kissing her forehead, Sora pulled back her bangs to see the quiet tears falling down her aunt’s face, and she doubted it was really Nari’s addiction to chocolate that pulled the pair back.  “I’m here for you, Aunt Seiōbo…  I don’t know how to fix that hole you feel inside, but if it grows too much, don’t hesitate to visit Emi and me…  We’ll give you all the love we can.”

“Even a wretched, resentful woman like me?”

“Even a wretched, resentful woman like you.”

“Humph…  You do remind me a bit of Ine…  I could never open up to her, though…  Not to my perfect older sister.”

Sora knew Seiōbo likely knew Inari had so many scars and issues she shouldered alone but didn’t want to think herself weaker than the impossibly strong image of her shining older sister, and now seeing how her littlest sister matured was breaking her in two.

“Aunt Seiōbo…  Do you feel like you cast away your sisters?”

“… I probably did…  Worse…”

“Hmm…  I’m a lot younger than you, Aunt Seiōbo, and I won’t pretend to know exactly what you’re going through, but Aunt Inari taught me to not put others on a pedestal.  One of the primary things she was so concerned about teaching me was to not allow resentment to fester.  Do you mind looking into my memories and pulling those out?  If you can’t ask your sister for advice, maybe you could have it through me.”

“You think it would help?”

“Heh… that you’re asking tells me you’re afraid it might.  If you could go back and tell yourself anything, what would it be?”

“Mmh…  I would… I would tell myself to not let Inari be the shining star that blinded me.”

“Would getting advice from her be a good step, even if by proxy?”  Sora softly asked, speaking the words that came naturally from her heart.

Her aunt’s hesitant magic carefully wove around her, and Sora opened her defenses to leave herself exposed to the weave; the strong presence of the glorious white fox appeared before them, and connected to Seiōbo, she could feel the longing to be just like her brilliant big sister.

Liquid fell down the quivering woman in Sora’s arms as she listened to her sister speak.  “I have stored up perceived grievances across the span of our relationship…  A monster given form… devouring everything around me…  I became so bitter I didn’t recognize myself.  How do I avoid it, Inari…  How…  I don’t need to imagine the worst-case…  Ine, I saw it…  How do I fix myself?”

Feeling tears coming to her own eyes, Sora swallowed the lump in her throat.  “Aunt Seiōbo…  You’re doing it now…  You’re doing something you would never do because of that fear, but now you need to see the hope… that you can change.  I think…”

“Sora…”  Her aunt’s wet eyes showed true terror.  “I can’t…  I can’t face my Shadow like you.  I can’t…  Not that thing…”

Hugging her tighter, Sora tried to give her courage through their link.  “You’re so much stronger than me, Aunt Seiōbo…”

“Magically—in power—not in strength of will…  I’m so weak, Sora…  I’m not like my sisters.”

“No, Aunt Seiōbo… You’re you, and you’re beautiful!  You gave me great advice for my daughter and have been nothing but a total, heh, broodish sweetheart since I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know you!  It wasn’t easy for me… my Shadow beat me up!  She was vile and terrifying and overbearing, but… she was just trying to protect me—protect us—and me casting her away only made the problem worse.”

“Mine is so much worse, Sora…  I don’t even want to look at that part of me…”

“You have to, Aunt Seiōbo…  If you want to overcome this pain and suffering…  Heh, as your big sister said…  Perfection is a terrible idea… because it stops you from becoming who you could be; if you’re proud of what you are, you can’t let that burn in the Phoenix’s flames and integrate the unknown and dangerous elements of your shadow…

“You’re caring, loving, and a role model for my daughter!  You’re the medium between the yin and yang…  Hehe, I think this is how you’re going to grow into the woman you want to become, Aunt Seiōbo…  To unlock your Core, you are the thing that transforms,” she repeated, recalling her aunt speaking those exact words.

“You’re the woman that voluntarily confronts the chaos within yourself and transforms, and you know we’ll always be here to catch you if you fall… because we’re family, Aunt Seiōbo…  I love you, and you’ll always have a home with Emi and me.”

Seiōbo buried her face into her chest, tears leaking from her eyes as she cried, and Sora wrapped her tails around her while pulling her closer, liquid falling down her own cheeks while experiencing her aunt’s emotions through their link.

“We’ll never cast you away, Aunt Seiōbo…  Never doubt that.”

Sitting under the illuminated sky in the quiet night of the Vulpes city, Sora held the self-tormented woman, sharing in her suffering and anguish until she released her misery.

As the night progressed, she spent it with her afflicted aunt, listening to her frustrations toward her sisters and self; some of it was silly, and others she could see why it might have hurt the solitary Vulpes.

Mia was always rebellious, vulgar, and independent, choosing to be more by herself than be with her sisters, which startled Sora, considering the awkward woman she’d recently met.

Nari was either a raving hellstorm of trouble, or the sweetest thing everyone adored; she could do no wrong and always relied on Seiōbo to bail her out of trouble.

Inari was always the golden beacon of Vulpes, shining like a star in the heavens to cast such a shadow that Seiōbo never felt capable of equaling; year after year, she was left alone for Nari to receive all the attention, Mia to distance herself, and Inari to overshadow her.

Left alone when she didn’t want to be, Seiōbo only grew more isolated in her tight ball of negative emotion, pinned between her mother’s advice, which mirrored the things Inari preached to the younger Founders.  She refused to go down the path her sister advocated—she could be her own star—and that was only left to fester.

Fear and self-doubt were the true reason, and no one’s voice could reach her—until her own shook Seiōbo to the Core—coming face to face with some horrific future version of herself.

Listening to her aunt’s stories, Sora could see pieces of her own life under Kari’s shadow reflected in it, yet this went on for centuries, which broke her heart.  It was a prison of her own pride, but that didn’t stop the pain and empathy Sora felt.

They talked until the sun illuminated the horizon, and Sora found a renewed desire to help her daughter bloom rather than go down the same path as her family; perhaps there was a bigger plan her grandmother could see, but to Sora, she believed they should use the mistakes of the past to correct the actions of the future.

Hugging her aunt as it neared the time Emilia would awaken, Sora’s heart felt warm as they pulled apart.  “You’re going to make peace with your Shadow?”

A smile brighter than she’d ever seen in her aunt’s eyes gave her hope for a positive outcome; they’d gone over things she’d never talked to anyone about, including her own mother.

“Compromise, as you said…  I was not aware of this type of inner struggle.  Hehe, you have taught me something, my adorable little Niece.”

“Well, we pass down what we learn.  I look forward to hearing the tale about you meeting your Shadow.  Heh, mine was pretty intense.”

“It was!  I’m sure mine will be as well, but…  I know you will be there to help me if I stumble, and I am here for you.”

Embracing again, Sora hopped down to enter through the front door as Seiōbo’s Magical Astral Construct faded away; taking a deep breath, she prepared to go to battle to rescue her daughter from her totally evil aunt, and a grin split her lips as the girl stirred.

“Mmgm…  So warm…  Oh!  Oh!  Aunt Nari!  You need to lock me in a tower!”

“Ugmrm…  I’m still sleepy, Emi…”

“You can’t be sleepy!  You’re the wicked aunt!”

“Hmm-hmm… she has a point, Nari.”

“Yawwwmmgm…”  Smacking her lips and spreading out, Nari gave a low groan.  “Okay, I’m awake now!  A big tower?”

“The biggest!”

“Okay!”

“Nari… not too big.”

“Hehe!”

Nightgown swapping to her radiant red dress, Sora molded her hair around with a giggle as she carefully folded her daughter’s precious, custom-made nightwear on a table and waited for them to prepare.

Today’s going to be a great day.


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