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A winter in Yetinburg ch.12

Nyanon Mar 6th, 2015 (edited) 745 Never
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  1.         The sound of the television stirs me from my sleep. Some silly tune is coming from the speakers at a quiet volume, no doubt to allow me sleep. I try to keep my eyes closed but the unending worry returns. It's been three days. Four? My eyes open to look for a way to check the time, I'm not sure when I fell asleep in my own exhaustion. All that greets them is the dull glow of the fire cast on the wall, telling me I'm sleeping on the couch. I sit up with a yawn and attract the attention of the black haired kitsune child sitting in Sebastian's chair to watch the early morning cartoons. The heavy blanket on top of my body falls off onto my tails as Ulani gets up and heads into the kitchen.
  2.         "Mooooom!! She's awake!!" Ulani calls up the stairs. She gets a reply back from her two tailed mother before footsteps start coming down. Utagi appears into view wearing a t-shirt and jeans she must have brought with her, a sympathetic frown being directed at me again when our eyes meet.
  3.         "Alright, lets start breakfast sweetie. Just stay there Sonia, we'll do it." Utagi requests. I nod, doubting I'd do more than burn the food after the first morning I tried after Sebastian disappeared. I still stand up and search for something to occupy myself with as the pancake batter starts getting mixed by the mother and daughter, heading upstairs to have a shower and clean up. I can smell my own sweat after so many days not washing.
  4.         I forget to actually wash as I stand in the shower and let the hot water run over my head and front of my body. Where can Sebastian be? After he left that message he just vanished with his truck. The police are looking for him, but are more occupied with the 'mansion massacre' that topped off the recent murder spree someone had been up to. Did they attack him too? But he works at the morgue, not anywhere near the mansion. But he never arrived there, the police checked the security tapes. A calling voice snaps me from my thoughts, forcing me out of the shower to dry my hair and four tails off to get breakfast. The tails didn't get that wet due to how I was standing, making it thankfully easy.
  5.         I head down the stairs and to my spot at the table, Ulani bouncing beside me as the smell of chocolate chip pancakes and bacon fill the room. My tails aren't quite as active as hers are from the treat being served.
  6.         "I hope you eat more today. I know it's not as good as Catherine's cooking, but you need to keep up your strength. They'll find him, I know it. I get these feelings and they're always right." Utagi tries to console me, turning around to place the food on the table. She places a few pancakes on my plate, before putting some on Ulani's. Bacon is placed down next while I stare at the great smelling food. Somehow, despite my hunger, I don't think I can stomach it. Utagi frowns while taking her own seat and plating her own food, keeping her eyes on me.
  7.         "I'm not lying. It's like a passive magic I have had ever since I got my second tail."
  8.         "I... didn't think you were lying. I'm just..." I trail off, not wanting to repeat myself. I've been telling her the same thing for the few days she's come over. Catherine insisted she keep me company after I told her to stay on vacation. Utagi keeps frowning at me, only distracted by her daughter when she has to tell Ulani to not put too much syrup on her pancakes. I pick up the blueberry syrup to put on my own flapjacks to start my own meal. A car passes out front, making my ears perk up and a glimmer of hope appear. It passes by. I droop in my seat and resume eating.
  9.         "We'll be here as long as you need us. Right?" Utagi smiles at her daughter, the little fox having a full mouth. She has to swallow and wash it down with her milk before answering.
  10.         "Yeah! We'll make sure you're not lonely until Sebastian gets back!" Ulani exclaims, her cheery demeanor almost helping take away some of the doubt. We eat quietly after, though Ulani finishes first and puts her dirty dishes in the sink as quick as she can manage so the kitsune can give me a hug and run back into the living room. She's giving me a bit more space like I asked, thankfully. My food is finished and I put dishes in the sink last, Utagi taking care of the washing for me.
  11.         I hear a car outside and perk up. It's not passing. I rush to the front window to look outside, hopes getting cut down again when I see it's only a police cruiser pulling into the driveway. My ears drop again while my heart feels stabs of betrayal, any other hope gone when only the two officers get out. One a yeti, and the other an older wolf woman with grey fur. The pair walk up to the door, which I open without waiting for them to knock. The wolf is in front, sniffing a bit at me as discreetly as she can manage.
  12.         "Miss... Sonia, can you let us in?" The wolf officer asks. I nod and move to the side, letting the pair enter. I watch them and close the door, the yeti giving Ulani a friendly greeting to keep the kid occupied. The wolf turns once she sees Utagi, moving back away from the door of the kitchen. "Family over?"
  13.         "No, they're friends. Did you find anything out about Sebastian?" I ask with impatience, my tails twitching behind me. The wolf keeps scanning the room, though I don't know why.
  14.         "Maybe. Where were you at the time of his disappearance?" The wolf asks. I'm confused, since I answered the same question when I reported him missing. I sit down on the couch, wolf pacing the room on the other end of the coffee table.
  15.         "Like I said before, I was working at the soup kitchen until seven. When I got back he wasn't here." I answer, trying to bear with it. They're already turning a blind eye to my suspicious circumstances in the house and country.
  16.         "Can you confirm it?" The officer asks. I frown, before taking out my cellphone and calling work. After a short conversation with the owner of the soup kitchen I pass the phone to the officer, who speaks with the owner herself. When done, she hangs up and hands the phone back to me.
  17.         "Didn't you check that already?" I ask, a bit of my annoyance showing through. The wolf sighs and scratches at the back of her head of short hair.
  18.         "Sorry. That was to eliminate you as a suspect." The wolf admits, speaking with more concern in her voice. I sit up straight, feeling insulted and yet more confused. She speaks before I can protest. "We found traces of Sebastian's scent at the mansion where the mob was killed on that same night. There wasn't a body or any trace of his blood, but there is no sign of him on the grounds now. There were also traces of a scent somewhat similar to your own, so we had to eliminate you from suspicion. Especially after that incident back in December." She explains.
  19.         "A scent similar to my own?" I ask, not sure what it meant. I forget about it immediately. "Are you saying you can't find Sebastian?!"
  20.         "Relax!" The wolf nearly pleads as I stand up, "This means all of our investigative team, or at least a good portion of it, can find where he was taken! They left in his vehicle at least, since it wasn't anywhere on the grounds. Stay at home, and we'll take care of looking for him."
  21.         I sit down again, worry renewed in my mind as different possibilities swirl in my head. It nearly slips my mind what Sebastian was doing at that mansion in the first place.
  22.         "Why was Sebastian there?"
  23.         "We think he got taken in by the mob during his depression, and went in to tend to injuries done to their don. You don't know anything about it?" The officer asks, glancing to the side where the yeti starts speaking with Utagi behind Sebastian's chair, Ulani too focused on cartoons to notice.
  24.         "No, he worked a night job but I didn't think anything was suspicious about it. I had no idea he had any connection to those sort of people." I admit. "But I don't really care about that. Are you sure you can find him?"
  25.         The wolf sighs, looking a bit nervous about answering. "We're following what clues we have, but the person who took him was very clean. We'll do everything we can to find him." The officer explains, looking at the yeti and giving a short, sharp whistle to get her attention. "Alright, lets go. We still need to help look. Take care, and remember to obey curfew." The wolf instructs. I nod, though none of the meeting alleviates my worries. The pair hurry out of the house, their car pulling away to head down whatever patrol route they were taking.
  26.         With the pair gone I sit down on the couch again with my eyes looking down at one of the snack bowls on the coffee table. The visit hasn't helped my nerves. I feel Utagi reach around my shoulders from behind the couch to give me a comforting hug, trying to console me. She doesn't repeat anything she's said in the past few days and instead stands up to take the remote and look for a movie channel.
  27.         "Lets find something to take your mind off of it. You won't be able to help if you leave, someone has to stay here in case he comes back. If they find him they'll call here first. This is where you'll find out where he is the fastest." Utagi reasons, settling on a movie that she doesn't mind Ulani watching that might somehow distract my worries.
  28.         "I know, you keep saying that. I'm trying to bear with it." I mutter under my breath. Slender fingers pat my head before a cell phone I don't recognize rings behind me. She takes it into the other room to answer it. It takes a few minutes for her conversation to get finished and for her to hang the phone up, looking a bit troubled as she moves to the doorway of the kitchen. Looking at me and Ulani, some plot comes up in her head that seems to satisfy her conundrum.
  29.         "Sonia, when does Sarah get back from school? Three, right?"
  30.         The question catches me off guard a bit, but I look at Utagi and nod. "Yeah, usually about fifteen minutes after it gets let out. Why?" I inquire. Utagi just smiles back at me and approaches.
  31.         "I need to take my shift at the old folk's home tonight, so I need you and her to watch my Ulani. You wouldn't run off somewhere, leaving my precious daughter alone would you?" The black fox asks, though I'm guessing it's more of a rhetorical question. I just shake my head no. "Good. I'll write down some notes so you know what you're doing. It'll be easy, Ulani is usually a good girl. I won't need to leave till around four." Utagi explains. She pauses and moves around the chair to face Ulani, getting her daughter's attention. "If anything goes wrong, you call mommy right away. There is going to be a blizzard tonight, so if you need something big sis and Sarah will take care of it. Alright?"
  32.         Ulani nods, taking the hint of seriousness in the otherwise doting voice to heart. She gets her head rubbed before Utagi stands up and moves back to the couch, relaxing there for the time being beside me. I decide to try and whisper to her, curious about something.
  33.         "I thought you didn't trust me... what changed your mind?"
  34.         Utagi stares at the wall for a moment before a small sigh comes out of her. Turning to face me, she puts on a painful but nostalgic look. "Your scent was similar to one I smelled a while ago. Not a good scent, it was bloody and full of animosity. Yours is different. I was just being prejudiced before. Sorry."
  35.         "You don't need to apologize, I'd be suspicious too. I'll make sure nothing happens... well, that is bad happens to Ulani. Are you sure you can't just take her home?" I ask. Utagi shakes her head no.
  36.         "Husband got pulled into the search. He's a cop after all. And the babysitters can't stay out past curfew. I'll be spending the night at the home, and her father will be out helping all night. I'm asking you a big favor more than anything." Utagi chuckles, reaching forward to take one of the cookies from the bowl to nibble at.
  37.         "I don't mind, I guess. You're right after all. I need to stay put." I sigh. I'm not too pleased about it, I feel like I'm going to go crazy just waiting around. A car passes by, and my ears perk up again. My attention is drawn to it for the few seconds before it passes, crushing my spirit another time as I stare at the window. Utagi pats my back, comforting me just a little.
  38.         The hours that pass are painfully long, but without anything of note happening. I help Ulani with her homework after lunch, and we go back to watching movies that her mother is fine with after that is done. It would be cozy if I wasn't thinking about Sebastian the whole time, worrying.
  39.         Eventually Sarah arrives from school and relieves Utagi from her duty watching me. The mother fox gives her daughter a tight hug before moving out the door, a familiar gleam appearing in Sarah's eyes while looking at the little fox beside her. They run through the house with the brush in Sarah's hand, Ulani whining and asking for help while the teenage kikimora tries to get her prize. Eventually Sarah gives up and moves in on me, settling for brushing my four tails to pass the time before dinner-time arrives.
  40.         "See, Sonia likes it! I'm really good at brushing tails, right?" Sarah asks. I almost don't notice as I sit with my hands on my cheeks and stare into empty space, elbows on my knees. When I do I glance at Sarah I answer with a sigh.
  41.         "Not the best I've gotten. But I guess." I answer her, Ulani still keeping out of the room to avoid the mad brusher. She peers in at the television from the kitchen, perking up and retreating when Sarah stands up to begin dinner.
  42.         "Well, I guess I can get more practice later. I'm hungry, so everyone must be!" Sarah declares.
  43.         I pay little attention, Ulani creeping in and taking refuge on my lap. I adjust my position to hug her in a light hold, not minding so much as the smell of pork-chops wafts in from the kitchen. The little fox changes the channel to her cartoons again, giggling on my lap in a way that helps distract me from my worries.
  44.         "Hey, Ulani?" I ask, the two pointed ears twitching and tickling my cheeks as I speak to her. The fox tries to look up, just pushing up on my chin.
  45.         "Yeah?"
  46.         "What's your dad like?" I ask, trying to get my mind off things. Worrying was going to give me a migraine again if I kept doing it.
  47.         "Well, daddy's really big and likes to give me big hugs! He can't hug as tight as you can, but I get way up off the ground when he does it." Ulani giggles. "Mom calls him a big softie when it comes to me though. He likes to call me his little princess, and always gives me some of the good food off his plate!"
  48.         I smile just a bit, bringing a hand up to pet Ulani's head as my one arm keeps holding onto her. Her tail pats the couch beside me with a gentle motion while my fingers scratch behind her ears.
  49.         "He sounds nice. I'm a bit jealous of you, having such a nice father. Never met my own."
  50.         "Why didn't you know your dad? Did he go away?" Ulani asks. It surprises me how blunt she is, but at the moment it doesn't catch me too off guard.
  51.         "No. He died before I was born. My mother spoiled me but..." I trail off, frowning while I think about her. I squeeze Ulani with both arms, making her yelp a bit before I loosen up. "Sorry. My mom wasn't as good a person as I thought when I was growing up. Don't worry about it, alright?" I smile, hand stroking between the little black ears. Ulani nods, not quite getting it but mature enough to understand my tone.
  52.         "Would it be bad if your mom was around?"
  53.         "It would be the worst possible thing that could happen. But I lost her a long time ago, she won't find me again." I reply, sighing as I keep spoiling the child with attention with the hand on her head. "So don't worry about it, okay?"
  54.         "Okay." Ulani replies, stopping the questioning. We watch her show and before long Sarah calls us into the kitchen for dinner, Ulani jumping off first and scampering into the room to fill her over-sized appetite. I stand up and glance at the window again as the light dies off for the day, sighing before moving to the table for my own meal.
  55.         Things go quietly, and the scene returns to how it was before dinner started but with Sarah brushing my tails while Ulani stays on my lap. It helps soothe my nerves, though it forces the kikimora to tend to the fire as I can't stand up. Soon enough, it's Ulani's bedtime and I carry the already snoozing kid up to Sebastian and my own bed, ready to share it with her when I can actually get myself tired enough to do so. I tuck the fox in and give her a kiss on the forehead, getting a warm smile when I see one of her own appear.
  56.         The doorbell snaps me out of it, ears shifting towards the door as I hear Sarah call to ask me to get it. She must finally be getting to the dishes. I don't mind, and rush down the stairs and towards the door in a hurry. On the way, I spot a familiar looking truck parked outside among the growing storm. It makes me stop in my tracks, staring at it in disbelief. The doorbell sounds again, and I head for the door with my heart ready to jump out of my throat. With as much dexterity as my rushed hands can handle I unlock the locks and open the door, eyes going wide when I see Sebastian in the doorway.
  57.         But something is wrong. He's got a guilty, painful look on his face. Under the snow cap and scarf he is wearing I can make out bruises on his skin, and the scent of his own blood comes off him from under his thick clothing.
  58.         "I'm... sorry Sonia, I...-" He tries to speak, getting cut off. I can smell her as soon as her hand pushes him out of the doorway. Bloody red ears and fox fur appear into my line of sight, the yellow eyes lighting up with pure bliss when she sees me. Red hair tied back with an expensive looking hairpiece with braids running along the side of her head and through it. I can't move before the woman in her red mist valley style  dress steps in, a thick fur coat covering her up with her tails almost touching the floor under the back of the garment. She wraps her arms around me tight, not holding back as she pulls me into a close hold and my expression starts to break.
  59.         "It really is you! My beloved Sonia! You're alive and well after all! I feared you had perished!" Mother nearly cries in joy, her strong hold not bothering me as much as the realization. My mind reels with dread and instant fear, a tinge of betrayal coming to me as I look at Sebastian's face over my mother's shoulder. My expression is broken and full of dread, but finally my body gains it's control back. I push my mother off of me, face only showing fear to her.
  60.         "No! GET AWAY!! I don't NEED you here!! Why can't you just let me go!!" I scream, trying to push her out the doorway again. When I see Sebastian stumble and struggle to stay on his feet I move to catch him, able to feel how weak he is just from propping him up on his feet. I guide him inside as the door is closed and locked by mother, getting Sebastian to his chair before turning and glaring at the red fox. She stays a short distance away, giving me space despite her slight confusion.
  61.         "Is something wrong Sonia?" Sarah asks, peeking in from the kitchen and seeing my mother taking off the fur coat to place it on the back of the couch. She almost seems to sense the danger but doesn't move.
  62.         "Get upstairs Sarah..." I plead, not looking away from the red tailed kumiho appraising the situation in front of her. She's regained her composure after my rejection, and doesn't bother guarding the front door. Sarah moves away slowly, and heads towards the stairs. A sharp glare from my mother freezes her there, making sure she doesn't dare to move out of the kitchen.
  63.         "Nonsense. A guest has arrived in your home, will you not at least find me some tea? I would prefer something bitter, if you have it. Perhaps with caffeine, I will not be staying the night." Mother suggests to Sarah, it coming off as more of an order. I can hear the teenage kikimora setting about doing the task without a question asked, my mother taking a tour around the living room before resting herself on the couch, turned to face towards me and Sebastian, sitting in the chair behind me. He lets out a small groan, and I dare to look back to see his pained face while his hand holds onto his side. My gaze looks back at my mother, glaring with hatred that catches her off guard.
  64.         "What did you do to him?" I ask, managing not to trip on a word despite my nerves. She crosses her legs and leans back, making herself comfortable.
  65.         "Nothing that shall threaten his life in the near future. He insisted on being stubborn about not revealing where you were residing. Do not worry, I would not dream of stealing prey away from one of my own blood." She answers, "He is not a bad prize. Aged well and healthy, dowsed in booze to marinade for some years, and taken out to be stoked with tender flames. He'll make a fine premiere dinner for yourself."
  66.         The words hardly come off as compliments to me as I sit on the arm of Sebastian's chair, not able to stand up straight amidst the whirlwind of emotions going through my head at the moment. There is a long tense moment as my lounging mother watches me, and I stare back at her with a fearful lump in my throat. I finally manage to speak up despite it.
  67.         "I'm not going to hurt anyone. I don't have to anymore..." I mutter out. Mother stares at me, expression not changing as she waits for her drink and uses her tails as cushions. She looks towards the kitchen, speaking to Sarah again.
  68.         "Try to find something for me to partake in with my tea darling. I can smell the pork-chops, if there is any of that left over reheat it in a frying pan after dicing, adding whatever sauce they have here that may go with it. Serve it with toothpicks, if they have adequate supply." She instructs. I stay where I am, mother turning her gaze to me next. "We never did have a real talk about what we are, did we? You may wish to run from it again, but I doubt it will ease your mind to leave him behind."
  69.         I swallow, the scared frown staying on my face even as I hear the kettle begin to whistle. It's taken off the burner and replaced with a pan while the tea soaks into the water, the sound of cutting of meat coming from the other room.
  70.         "Why can't you leave me alone? I don't want to be a kumiho like you. I can live peacefully. Kotori is working on a pill that will take away the hunger, it won't..." I hesitate to speak further. Though her expression doesn't change, I can sense when mother wishes to speak. The air is thick and stifling. She adjusts her position, leaning her head on an arm she props up against the back of the couch.
  71.         "Do you really have a belief mere medicine can ease or eliminate this accursed affliction we have been born into? Such thoughts are folly, and tiresome foolishness." She sighs, sounding disappointed. With what I can't be certain. "Even in the case it does work, you announce the reality of our existence to the world. How else might you save the other kumiho who suffer through their miserable existence from their pain? Would this world accept our existence, and allow past sins committed out of necessity be forgotten? Not all of our kind have been as lucky as you, who has yet to truly shed blood from the human populace."
  72.         "I'm more eager to believe in 'mere medicine' than go around killing people. I don't know about anybody else, I'm just trying to live my own life! I don't even know any other kumiho!" I retort, the sound of sizzling meat starting before I hear Sarah walk into the room with the tea. The young kikimora is nervous, tray shaking as she sets it down on the coffee table for my mother. As she's about to move away a scowl from the adult fox stops her.
  73.         "Do pour me a cup. I know you are no servant, but have respect for your elders child." She instructs, though it again comes off as more of a command. Sarah crouches down to pour a shaky cup, some miracle keeping her from spilling it.
  74.         "S-so, you're Sonia's mom?" Sarah asks, feathers standing up when she sees my mother's eyes on her when she turns with the tea. Clawed hands take the tea and lift it with care, the sharp gaze not breaking.
  75.         "Do be quiet, child. Finish the tasks I give you and do no let yourself too far from my sight. I wish to converse with my daughter, and with no person else." She warns, this time actually meaning to sound threatening. Sarah is frozen, eyes wide as her feathers shake. Mother moves her eyes to signal her back to the kitchen, the kikimora scampering away to deal with the snack she was preparing for the 'guest'. Mother turns her gaze back on me, sipping her tea before dipping the bag to get more flavor into the steaming liquid.
  76.         "They will not trust you Sonia. Once the truth is out about what you are, and it is no longer in doubt, superstition will take over the ones with less sense. Do you think you will be able to live in peace, even without the hunger persistent in your mind? There will people to hound you, endangering the lives of yourself, and all around you. Do you expect things will get better if someone were to disappear while your presence was known?" Mother tries to reason with me. I already have tasted the accusation she speaks of, and any retort I have is left to choke my throat of words. She continues to speak when I give no reply. "And any child you were to have while here would be exposed to all of that negativity. It would surely not give her the happy life you imagine her to deserve. At least with my way, there is the illusion of a real life. I suppose you are so opposed to my ways due to not being exposed to them as a child. Perhaps that is why I am ready to debate this with you."
  77.         "Why do you think every kumiho needs to be like you? Why can't you just leave, and let me live my life? I know it won't be easy, with the prejudice. But if we don't go through it we won't ever be accepted!" I manage to choke out, holding onto the belief in desperation. "Kumiho won't NEED to hurt other people anymore!"
  78.         Mother sighs, watching as Sarah brings in the food that was requested on a plate with toothpicks stuck into the fried bits of meat. It gets set down on the table beside the tea, one being picked up and inspected by her sharp senses. It gets accepted into her mouth, sharp teeth sliding it off the pick and chewing it to savor the flavor. Sarah retreats to the kitchen, confused and scared as could be expected.
  79.         "I've heard my share of foul ends for our kind, dear. True, they were a darker time for all people back then. But so much more for us. Those that rejected what they were went insane, starved to death from their hunger, or they took their own lives after a tragedy. Those that attempt to chase that fairy tale ending of turning human are caught and punished for their impatience. We are not born with the desire to kill to survive. In a way, we're defects in the eyes of the world. Demonic energy could not erase this curse that we have found ourselves with. But learning to live with it has allowed me to survive. Nay, it would be more accurate to say that I have come to enjoy it. After so long, such a thing is inevitable." Mother drones on, the last comments making fear show on my face and a frown appear on her own. She takes another of the bits of meat, eating and savoring the flavor like the one before.
  80.         "Enjoying it is what makes you a monster." I scowl.
  81.         "We're all monsters, my Sonia. Every kumiho there is and will be." She responds.
  82.         "No. I'm a kumiho, but I'm not a monster. I have morals." My voice seethes out towards her, mother seeming to take it as a challenge.
  83.         "When I was but a mere child, not more than six years of age, I found in my path a small battleground. A clearing near quiet road where weeds grew from under-use. There lay two dozen soldiers from separate scouting groups, clad in naught but cloth and paper armor. They had fought to their last, or perhaps the survivors left. But I had been on the verge of dying. The bodies were rank, the searing sun had seen to ruin what value they had. But one young soldier clung to life in a painful haze. Do not ask me as to why they had made a human man fight in such useless combat, for I do not know. He would be dead by sundown with or without help, an arrow had pierced his chest. But if I waited, the meal might be denied to me and he would suffer further. Is not there mercy to culling the weakened prey on it's last steps? What do you think I did, my Sonia?" Mother asks, waiting with patient eyes for an answer. I'm stuck staring at her, conscious telling me the same thing that she wanted me to say. I didn't want to admit it. Somehow she knew.
  84.         "Later in life, during the plague times of the mist valley, I came upon an afflicted village. The infection was new there, and I knew I was immune already." She starts the next inquiry, sipping at her tea and putting a couple more of the pork bites in her mouth to savor before speaking again. "The resident healer was a hack and could not safeguard them. If the ill were not removed and burned, the whole village would become nothing but death to the last child. I offered them a deal to spare them. They hide in their temple and await the plague to pass, and I would take care of it for them. I burned a third of that village's people, and feasted on their lives. But I saved many more through that action. Am I mistaken in thinking of it as a mutually beneficial deed done?" Mother asks, waiting for my answer again.
  85.         "But what of the healer...?" I ask, mother just chuckling a bit in response.
  86.         "He was a deceiver, and perhaps the tastiest soul from that grand meal. Are you suggesting I should have kept him alive and well?"
  87.         "It wasn't necessary to kill him..." I scowl, more than I already am.
  88.         "Was it not? To leave him would allow false hope to reign in the now healthy village. The plague would not have been avoided as it was afterwards if they believed he would be able to apply my... techniques to the situation. If anything, I spared him a life a small part as accursed as our own." Mother counters, setting the empty teacup down and picking up the small plate of meat. I really don't have a way to counter that, and stay silent.
  89.         "Sonia. We are kumiho." Mother grabs my attention again, speaking in a voice she intends to be comforting. "This is how we have lived since the dawn of our kind and it shall not change until the last of us dies. Clinging to some silly fantasy that one may coexist among the prey is a wolf's delusion, when it has not been bred into a tamed dog. There will be no trust, no rallying around your cause. You are but one innocent, any other kumiho that is out there has bathed in innocent blood and cannot escape judgement. They may despise their own bodies, beg for forgiveness, maybe even be allowed pardon for some benefit kumiho may be able to provide for society. But being exposed leaves one vulnerable. Not many are as careful with the task as I have become. There will be those seeking vengeance, crying with outrage from their husband, lover, or child being torn open by a hungry beast. Existing as naught but a story, a legend, is the best way to avoid such things. Kumiho have survived to this day by being discreet or being hunted to their deaths. That is fact, my beloved Sonia."
  90.         "I don't want to accept that as fact. I want to live my own way!" I snap, standing up despite my mother's disappointed look. She sets the plate in her hands to the side and stands up to approach me, my body tensing up even as she remains calm. Her hands are are placed on my shoulders, keeping me still with a firm but gentle grasp.
  91.         "You are still but a child Sonia. But you are my child. I must set you on the correct path, for your own good. This man is worth risking your well being? The well being of your child? You have known him for but a very short time. Your thoughts are not straight and your actions will not bring you happiness." Mother insists. I can feel my anger starting to well up, but it is put on pause when I see her attention get drawn elsewhere.
  92.         Mother's ears shift around her head, her hands being taken off my shoulders. She moves over to the window and gazes out for a moment before closing the curtains tight. With whatever view of the blizzard she may not have liked gone, she turns around and moves with quiet footsteps towards the kitchen. I watch her with care, though none of her attention is paid to me or Sebastian. Sarah stays in a corner and out of her way as Mother looks out the kitchen windows, eyes staying cautious. A long tense moment passes before she looks up at the top of the stairs, eyes wide with her predatory pupils narrowed in on something. Someone. Mother takes slow steps up the wooden stairway towards her target, forcing me to move into the kitchen to keep her in sight. From the new vantage point I see who had gotten her attention.
  93.         Ulani is shaking in her pajamas while crouching at the top of the stairs. Her eyes are wide with fear, and her tail is hugging her body in some ill attempt to protect herself. The red-haired fox has no intention of that, and is more interested in the cellphone pressed against the side of Ulani's face. She takes it with care from the frightened child, moving it up to her ear to listen to anyone that may be on the other side as she walks back down to the kitchen. A scowl comes to her face. With keen awareness of what the new situation was, she spoke with purpose into the phone.
  94.         "The police stay back or I kill them. I'll give demands later."
  95.         With that said, Mother closes the phone and sets it on the kitchen table. Her face narrows with annoyance, tails shaking a bit with her irritation. Her focus turns to me, far sharper than they were before due to the urgency.
  96.         "It seems we have run out of time to debate far earlier than I had expected. I am afraid I shall need to force the issue so we may have a chance to escape from whatever these snow people call a crisis force." She sighs, approaching me. I back away, but stay between her and Sebastian when she enters the living room. I can read her movement, and he's a part of it now. "So, my beloved Sonia. You are going to kill this man here. How you do so I do not care, he is already dying. He shall not live if this situation were to drag to it's natural conclusion, it would take far too much time. Give him mercy and end what suffering he has yet to experience before it begins."
  97.         I freeze up. My body is stiff as I stand between mother and Sebastian. The moments seem to drag on for an eternity, and I see no way out. She's stronger, faster, and she taught me anything I knew about self defense. She's probably smarter too despite whatever is wrong with her mind.
  98.         I turn with scared eyes to Sebastian, who is saving his strength by resting and not speaking. Blood has stained through his sweater in several painful spots and fills the air with it's scent. Once I've turned towards him, mother wraps her arms around me in comfort. My hands shake as I raise them, not sure what I even want to do as I feel I have no choice in the matter even as my mind screams at me not to do it. Seeing my hesitation, Mother's hands overlap the back of my own and guide them towards Sebastian's suffering body. I almost don't fight it, but something in me keeps my spirit from giving in. It's a tense struggle as mother guides my claws to his throat, tears forming in my eyes.
  99.         "That's it... all you need to do is cut off the air. Slash it, or crush it. Both work." Mother speaks into my ear with her most soothing voice. My hands shake and tears run down my cheeks before I struggle against her, yelling as my claws tear out of her hands and fly across her face as I turn towards her. I pant and catch my breath, mother stepping back in shock with her face turned away from me.
  100.         My heartbeat almost stops as the air around mother changes. She turns her face back towards me, the long gashes left across it by my claws fading away over what must be no more than ten seconds. The yellow, glowing glare of her enraged eyes pierce straight through me and incite my adrenaline to flow free. As the wound fades from her face fully she finally speaks again in the coldest words I've heard come from her that chill more than the blizzard outside could ever manage.
  101.         "I see. I will have to kill this man myself and drag you with me by force. Do try to stay out of the way, my dear Sonia."
  102.         Sebastian forces himself up, getting around the chair the other way. Mother moves to get around me and after him, but I leap at her instead. As I tumble with her onto the ground, I realize my only advantage is that she does not wish to harm me. I dig my claws in and keep her from moving as long as I am able, but that amounts to no more than a few moments as she forces my arms off her with her greater strength. As Sebastian limps his way towards the back door, which is open due to Sarah fleeing the home with Ulani in her arms, Mother tosses me to the side with ease and dashes towards him. She uses a high kick to slam the door closed and knock him over, a pained cry coming out of his throat.
  103.         Back to my feet I rush for mother again, slashing at her face to try and get her eyes or at least hold her off. Her back is to the door and gives Sebastian nowhere to go as she avoids my frenzy with ease, attempting to get past me when the man stands and limps up the stairs instead. I have to dig my claws into her arm and pull her into a hold, hoping it combats her greater strength. She moves in a way I don't know, and pulls my claw out of her arm from behind her own back before throwing my over her shoulder, stunning me against the ground for the moment it takes for her to reach Sebastian at the summit of the steps.
  104.         As he lets out a bloody cry, his back impaled by her claws, I feel a fresh rush of urgency rush through me. I spring to my feet and use all the force I can muster to nearly leap up the stairs and tackle my mother another time. The force sends us both rolling into the wall in front of Sebastian as he is knocked over another time, but he recovers faster to desperately limp towards the bedroom. At this time I have a clue what he is going after, and dig my claws into my mother as the old wounds heal away. I open my mouth and clamp down with it as well, holding her tight when she stands. This hold is better, and restrains her for a longer time. Her body tenses as she tries to shake me off, arms pinned to her side with my jaw clamped onto her neck. After a few seconds, the force becomes too much and she frees her arms from me. My jaw is pried open with both her hands before I'm thrown down the stairs, tumbling to the bottom as she rushes the bedroom.
  105.         I panic, knowing what could happen in the few moments it would take me to reach her again. As I stand and head back up the stairs as fast as my body can take me, I hear the wooden door be smashed inwards. When I reach the stairs and turn towards the master bedroom, I hear a blood-curdling yell and see my mother driving her clawed hand into Sebastian's chest. And then I hear something louder. I see mother's right ear get blown off, blood flying off her face as she lets out her own scream and falls back. I see Sebastian's shotgun in his hands, a grazing shot having torn the deadly predator off him as my mother holds onto her right eye in agony.
  106.         I'm too far into my own adrenaline to stop. I run right into the room, yelling in rage as I grab onto my mother's tails and swing her around once. I send her flying through the glass of the window, shattering under the force of impact. Mother sails through the air and lands heavy in the snow outside, and I step towards the window to watch. I hope she is dead, she's been shot and fell two stories. She's bleeding heavily, and must be deaf from the noise.
  107.         But I see the red figure struggle to her feet. She's bleeding all over the snow and suffering, but is still alive. Having her bearings, mother casts one last look up towards me with a hand covering her ruined eye and a glare that demands vendetta with the one that works. With the brief moment gone, she turns in an attempt to escape into the woods but takes no more than a step before stopping. Something in the blizzard stops her. It takes a second, but I see it emerge among the blowing white snow.
  108.         A long form as hard as stone, or harder perhaps, rises from the white. The searchlight that turns on behind it illuminates the dark green scales, strong horns, and great draconian claws. It's tail is like a lamia, winding through the snow, but the cold hardly seems to bother this huge figure that dwarves the fox in front of it. A swat vest is worn over their torso, but seems merely for decoration as I realize just what is forcing my mother to freeze in place.
  109.         Mother attempts to get around it, leaping towards the left. The tail whips out of the snow and slams into her in midair, smashing her into the ground with audible impact that sends snow falling off of the roof. Mother lets out a cry of pain, choking on blood that she spits out while standing up again. The next attempt gets her smacked down by one of the wurm's claws, sending similar vibrations through the ground as the kumiho is prevented from retreating. The tail whips around, knocking around snow while attempting to catch mother in it's coils. Mother somehow manages to leap through an opening, clutching at her chest where there is surely broken bones.
  110.         As the blood red fox seems just about ready to escape, the crack of thunder just about deafens me. I have to blink to get my sight back, the close by flash of light making me see nothing but white while my eyes recover. Mother shakes and twitches on the blackened snow, but somehow forces herself up. Another lightning bolt drops right on top of her despite the trees nearby, not blinding me this time. I can almost make out the shadow flying in the blizzard above with ease, sparks of electricity crackling off the feathered wings. Mother stands still for a long moment, before tipping over into the snow. Tension flows out of me. I realize that it's over. The wurm's tail picks up her unconscious body, and I hear the front door be knocked inward by whoever is downstairs.
  111.         It's only the sound of Sebastian coughing and wheezing that snaps me away from my gaze at my mother. Reality snaps back to my mind, and I gasp while I turn to look at him. Sebastian is bleeding out, leaning his back against the bed with the shotgun set on the floor beside him as a pool of blood forms beneath his body. I rush to his side, tears forming anew while staring at his bloody face and at his fading eyes.
  112.         "Sonia-" He doesn't get more than the first word out before coughing up more blood, but he forces his hand onto my face. It's cold, and shakes against my skin. I don't say anything, though the urge in my mind screams at me to say anything I can before it's too late. "I don't know if I'll survive this... I think she's punctured a lung. Going into shock..." He wheezes for air, chocking on his own blood. I hear the paramedics being called up the stairs, but my body is frozen where it is.
  113.         "N-no, you'll make it Sebastian! You're strong! You'll s-survive this! I know it!" I plead and beg, face soaking itself in it's tears as I hold onto his hand as tight as I can with both of mine. I see him crack a smile, despite the state he is in. As the light in his eyes starts to fade away, he manages to utter some more words. Whether he had thought them up, or they were slipping out with the last of his spirit I don't know.
  114.         "Thank you Sonia..."
  124.         There is nothing but white. I feel as if I'm sitting, but I do not know where. Confusion and a haze sticks around my mind as I try to get my bearings. The pain of my body is gone, though I still feel my thick clothing on my weary muscles. I raise a hand to scratch at my beard, surprising myself when it feels real. It wakes me, and I sit up straight. I'm on some sort of bench one might find in a park, made of wood and somehow as comfortable as a dream. I feel my body, and any wounds that may be there are missing. I stand up and look around in a circle, not seeing any other landmarks in the empty landscape around me besides the bench. I almost have a thought of moving to see if I can find more, but a young man's voice snaps me away from it.
  125.         "I wouldn't wander. You'll get lost, and won't find your way where you're needed."
  126.         It startles me, and I turn to look at the source. On the other end of the bench is a man nearly as tall as I am, but with a thinner frame. He has a white suit on with a fancy watch and a gold tie underneath, and oddly his short hair is the same gold as Sonia's. I do not know why the connection is made in me as his blue eyes stare at me with a soft smile. I sit down, and try to recall what had been happening as I scratch at the black beard I have that contrasts with his clean cut face. He's remarkably handsome, but seems to have a soft-spoken and gentle air about him.
  127.         "Where is this place? Why am I here again?" I ask, my voice echoing unlike his own. I find it odd, but sit back where I was to avoid losing the seat. I do not know how it might escape but something makes me assume it would flee if it had the chance.
  128.         "It's sort of a waiting area. I'm just visiting you while you're here, it's the only chance I'll get." He answers, leaning back on the bench while keeping his good composure. "Though, I'm more interested in asking about Sonia."
  129.         I'm a bit confused, but see nothing to do but speak with him. The name returns memories of things that were happening, but all I recall was of time spent with her. It makes me smile without meaning to, which seems to please him.
  130.         "What do you want to know about her? I can't share every detail, she is my girlfriend." I chuckle, scratching at my beard again. It itches every so often, the only unpleasant sensation I've been having here.
  131.         "Of course not. I'm not interested in Sonia in that way." He laughs, dismissing the joke before asking his first question. "Tell me, what is she like? I do try and look at what she is doing, but it can be hard to find her at times. You can see how hard it is to see through this light."
  132.         I find the question odd. He's younger than me by a couple years, but speaks as if he were a parent asking a teacher how their child had been doing in school. I have to think for a minute before answering so I can give a good answer.
  133.         "She's like gold. Dangerous, but beautiful. Precious. But more than that. She's pure, and doesn't tarnish. She may be weak at times but shines brightly to make up for it. If there were a perfect girl, it may be her. How she'll become a woman will be interesting." I answer, smile sticking to my face. It seems to please the man.
  134.         "She hasn't been giving you too much trouble? If you're in this place, something had to have happened."
  135.         I feel a memory of pain, and see the sharp yellow eyes of the mother in my mind. It makes me flinch, but the feeling goes away after a moment. I sigh and try to word it right.
  136.         "A lot of it. But I couldn't just leave her there in the snow. She reminded me of my wife before she died. She clawed me, made me fear for my life, drained my bank account of ill-gotten gains, and still got into my heart. Her mother tried to dig that out. A bit too literally."
  137.         He sighs, his own smile disappearing in a bitter melancholy. Something about mentioning Yuhyeol has brought his spirits down, so I make a mental note to avoid it. Before I can ask, he speaks up again as a pleasant warmth starts coming from within me and spreading like warm syrup.
  138.         "What's your name? First and last, I want to know which name she'll take instead of... hers." He asks, looking at me with another charming smile. I look back, not sure what is going on but he seems to feel it's a bit more urgent to speak what he wishes to.
  139.         "Sebastian Lowell." I answer, before getting a question of my own. "What is your name?"
  140.         He chuckles, standing and approaching me. I stand up to meet him as he pats my arm, another strange gesture from someone younger and shorter than me.
  141.         "It doesn't matter. Go and make her happy. I won't forgive you if you make her sad, or give her another bittersweet goodbye."
  142.         I remember what happened fully at that moment, and feel a beating in my chest. I'm confused, but I see his right hand extended out towards me. I take it with a slow reflex, shaking his hand and holding as he gives his own bittersweet smile.
  143.         "I'm sorry I won't be able to give her away to you at her wedding. I'll just give you my blessing here, Sebastian Lowell. You'll be sure to raise a fine family with her. Goodbye, and good luck."
  144.         The world of white starts to fade away, the man standing in front of me going along with it. Things return to black as my senses fade away, and my mind goes blank.
  146.         A steady beeping greets my ears first. A heart monitor. My ears could pick the sound out anywhere. The smell of medicine and cleanliness swarms my awakening refractory glands as breath is drawn in before being pushed out, the warmth of blankets and the softness of the bed clashing with the feeling of something numb sticking into my arm along with many sensors warmed by my own skin. I groan and open my eyes, the light this time more natural and coming from the window that I've been placed beside in the sturdy hospital bed. It feels odd with my chest shaved, but something reminds me it's for efficiency. The room is quiet and closed, soundproofed from the rest of the hospital for my own sake. I make no attempt to sit up and get my senses back while I continue to rest as the first warmth of spring drifts in with the light onto my bed. It's not long before I hear the door open to disturb the peace and my gaze sees a yeti nurse bringing in a fresh IV for me. She changes it before checking on me, grinning wide and with delight when she notices I am awake. With excitement she walks out of the room again and makes sure to close the door behind her to fetch a doctor.
  147.         The doctor comes in with a pair of nurses and reclines the bed up at an angle for me before going through procedure, telling me a flurry of things that I can't quite grasp with my weary mind. I ask them to slow down and make it simple, and the doctor complies by rephrasing it all.
  148.         "You've nearly made a full recovery thanks to a new treatment measure that has been tested on you. We needed to quarantine you and the donor in order to get full details on the results, but so far it seems more effective at rapid healing than a mermaid blood transfusion."
  149.         I blink a few times, confused. "Donor? Do you mean for blood?" I inquire. The doctor nods, frowning a little bit before holding a form up for me. It's an emergency operation form notified by Professor Yamauchi, with the subject 'kumiho blood transfusion' in the subject line. It clicks what they mean now, and it makes me grin a bit.
  150.         "I see. Where is Sonia?" I ask. The doctor chuckles, before turning to the other bed in the room. I follow the gaze to see her in the bed beside mine, resting just as I had and deep in a nap with her four tails kept off to the side and spilling out from under her blanket.
  151.         "She had to give a whole lot to save you. That was three days ago, but she's still weak even with her own healing ability. Don't try and get out of bed or try anything, you both need plenty more bed rest and recovery before you can go walking around." The doctor warns. I look at her and nod, noticing a nurse puts a remote on my stand along with some hospital food to congratulate me on waking up. With everything said, they move to leave the pair of us to rest before I clear my throat. It gets their attention back onto me so I can speak.
  152.         "When I came in, there should have been something in my pocket. You still have that, right?"
  153.         The doctor nods and looks through the forms on her clipboard, finding the item in question. "Yes, a small ring box. I would wait until you are both better to spring that sort of surprise though." She frowns. My insistent stare breaks her down in seconds and makes the doctor sigh, handing the form to a nurse to set her out to fetch the item for me. "It shouldn't be too hard on her I guess. She's doing better than you anyways."
  154.         "Thanks. I appreciate it."
  155.         "Sure you don't want to pick a more romantic place to do that kind of thing?" The doctor asks, making me chuckle another time.
  156.         "What better time than after she's saved my life? I've already met her parents anyways."
  157.         The doctor gives me an odd look, but retreats away out of the room to leave me alone. I start to eat the specially made food with some grimace. It's not tasty, but it at least settles in my stomach like it's supposed to. By the time I'd done the nurse returns with the ring box and takes the empty tray away to let me sip at my water. With my free hand I flip open the box, a pair of gold rings sitting inside, carved and shined into an attractive shape with a gem embedded into the one measured for Sonia. I can make out the engraving on the inside, and examine them for a short time before closing the box and tucking it under my blanket for safe keeping.
  158.         I turn the television on first and find the news after a switching it away from the channel Sonia must have been watching. It's a short while before it gets back to the actual stories, repeating what I wanted to listen to as the smiling Kejerou reporter looks right into the camera, a mugshot of Yuhyeol being the first image put up. Her right ear is still mostly missing, and her eye on that side is hidden by thick medical padding as her sharp glare stares out of the still photograph.
  159.         "Our top story is still the sigh of relief Yetinburg is having after the criminal behind the month long mob related murder spree was detained by Yetinburg's crisis team at a residence in the suburbs. Though details are still not being released by police as the case is investigated, they have already adamant that they have caught the suspect behind the crimes. A kitsune going by the name Yuhyeol Aejong has been placed into a maximum security prison facility pending trial, due to the danger that has been presented by her unusual abilities. Curfew has been lifted and life is returning to normal for residents, though talk is still abuzz on the street about what really happened. The police received a tip from the mother of a child that was being babysat in the home in the time when she called upon awakening to a 'scary woman' in the home. The arrest took place after a short altercation, and the owner of the home sustained serious injuries from a violent attack by Aejong. Recent reports have told us he is making a full recovery at Yetinburg first hospital. The trial for Yuhyeol has no set date as of yet, but she has refused to speak with legal council thus far."
  160.         I start to tune the story out, satisfied with what I've heard already. I change the channel to something a bit more soothing so I can really relax, though my worries shift towards what home repair and medical costs will be. I can only hope some of it would be covered by something, but I had no official job. No job at all now that I think about it. It's a big relief knowing I'm free of butcher duty at the morgue and can get back to real medical work. I can't imagine it would be easy after all this passes. I'd need to go to the trial as a witness of the mob and testify about my relation with them. I try not to worry about it, and shift my focus to the program playing on television. Some sitcom featuring a butler trying to please his dragon mistress and the anubis head maid in a mansion, where a horde of mice-girls have gotten drunk in their wine cellar and eaten all their cheese before the dragon's party.
  161.         Time drifts by for some hours, the show shifting to several others of the same sort but different characters in different places. I hardly pay attention but grin at a few of the jokes, the plots keeping my time occupied.
  162.         It's only on the checkup just before dinner that Sonia shifts awake, a yawn escaping her sharp toothed mouth before she realizes the television is on. Her mind works a lot faster than mine and looks over towards me, sitting up easily without any restraints or tubes in her arms to worry about. I look back at her as her face lights up with pure joy and bliss. The kumiho bounds out of bed and runs right over, almost pouncing on top of me before her arms wrap around my body and squeeze with little restraint. I groan and pat her back to remind her to loosen the grip, thankful to be allowed to breath again afterwards. She pulls back and stares at my face, before pushing up against me to give me the biggest, happiest kiss I've felt in my life. I do my best to return it but can't match her excitement.
  163.         Eventually she pulls back again, tears of joy in her eyes. I chuckle back at her and grip the box below the blankets in one hand while we each wait for her to speak first.
  164.         "I-I... I'm so glad you're okay! I was so worried! You're not feeling too b-bad, are you?! If it hurts anywhere I can call a nurse! There aren't any scars, are there?" Sonia asks in a flurry, stopping in her tracks when I put my head on top of her head and rub. She pouts, but it melts into a warm smile of gratitude.
  165.         "I'm fine, thanks to you. I guess we're even on saving each other's lives now, huh?" I joke, getting a laugh out of Sonia. She's too happy to really mind poor jokes. She wipes the tears from her face as I worry about that smile getting stuck there. It wouldn't be so bad if it did. She moves my hand to her cheek and holds it there, her own on top of it while her other holds my wrist.
  166.         "Whatever. You helped get rid of my mother, so I owe you even more than that." Sonia sighs. I smile back at her, taking time to bask in this moment as the light of the sun shines in and seems to light up the hair on her head and the fur of her tails behind her. I clear my throat, and shift my free hand under the sheets.
  167.         "Well, there is something that I'd be interested in that would be more than enough to pay me back for my part." I begin, Sonia opening her eyes and looking at my own curiously. Seeing the motion of my hand, she watches as the box is taken out before they widen. "I know I should wait for some time more romantic, but this seems to be better. Sonia..."
  168.         She waits with quiet anticipation, knowing what the question will be as the box opens and I present the rings to her eyes. She releases my other hand from her cheek, but I keep it there anyways as her gaze shifts from the rings to my face.
  169.         "Will you marry me?"
  170.         "Yes! Yes, of course Sebastian!" She cries out, this time really leaping at me and onto the bed. I laugh as she kisses at my face and neck in her utter joy, hugging her tight against me as she keeps repeating the same one word.
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