The party celebrating Avalanche’s release from the military was a wild one if nothing else. Everyone from the unit and the family were in attendance as well as the few members of the military they were on good terms with. Despite having lost Tam on the operation from the previous week it was a time to look forward to the future and their complete freedom. But two from the unit didn’t seem to be quite as happy as the others.

Arianna and Zianna were trying their best to enjoy the party. Being free of the military was a dream come true for most of them but there was an issue that needed to be addressed, telling Marco about their sister. Realistically they wouldn’t be able to keep Croma in her ball forever. Sooner or later she would go feral and it wouldn’t look good if that happened before they talked to Marco. But until then a good time had never really come up to tell him about it. Between everything that happened the night she gave herself up and all the things that were thrown on top of Marco afterwards they didn’t think he was going to be able to deal with her too.

Everyone laughed when Marco took Henrietta’s drink and told her no more alcohol until she gave birth. Kelly had eyed her military cap and seriously considered setting it on fire just for the hell of it but decided against it for the moment. The Duelist heaved a sigh and looked at the three empty spots in the room. Leona’s custom chair at the far end of the bar was kept clean and in the same position as the last time she’d used it. Alexis on the other hand had a leather armchair next to the fireplace where she would sit and read. Tam hadn’t been around long enough to have an established seat and didn’t drink much alcohol either. She would just take an empty seat when available and relax with the rest of the unit.

Marco could sense the sadness coming off of his fiancé and slid an arm around her side. “I remember them too love. Alexis, Leona, Tam… damn girl saved my life.”

Kelly let her head rest against his chest and sighed again. “I wish I could have saved them both, Tam and Leona.”

“Not Alex?” He asked with a confused look.

“Alexis died how she wanted to, I wouldn’t take that from her. Tam was too young to know what she wanted out of life and Leona… she always wanted to return to Blue. Not to stay, just to revisit her home.”

Henrietta sat her glass of juice down and nodded. “Andzral was afraid of Alexis by the end of their fight… but she liked her too. If what she said is to be believed then she killed Alex to keep from having to fight her again… under less optimal circumstances. It was the same thing with me except I forced her into a field of my choosing.”

“About that…” Marco started in a warning tone. “If you weren’t pregnant I think Isabella would be trying to call you into The Pit. She was pretty mad about you tricking her like that.”

“I never actually tricked her, I just never expressly mentioned what I needed the equipment for. Now I may have manipulated her a little bit but nothing worse than you’ve done to anyone else in the harem or unit.” Marco chuckled nervously but it honestly wasn’t anything the ladies of Avalanche or the Harem weren’t already aware of. “If she really wants to go a round or two then we can do that but I think a regular apology should do the trick. Bella!”

The Mecha Musume stumbled a little as she walked over to where the leaders were sitting and leaned on the edge of the booth. “The fuuuck you want frooom me?” She slurred drunkenly. “Youuuuu uuused me…”

Henrietta shook her head and was about to order the girl away but remember that none of them really had to listen to anything anyone said anymore. Being free pokégirls meant just that, they were free to make their own decisions and didn’t have to answer to anyone. “Yeah, I used your expertise to contain an enemy that’s responsible for killing two of our family member and almost taking out the Colonel as well. I’m sorry if you didn’t quite understand my intentions but I won’t apologize for doing what it took to bring an end to her.”

“Doing what it takes huh? I remember getting a lecture about saying things like that.” Marco laughed to himself then placed his hand on Isabella’s lower back. “I can understand why you’re upset and quite honestly if I had been in the right frame of mind then you’d be mad at me too. But if it weren’t for you and your equipment that last operation could have gone a whole lot differently… and by differently I mean we probably wouldn’t be having the conversation.”

“I suuuuupoooose you haave a point there Colonel.” Isabella replied with a hiccup.

Renae began to usher the girl away as Mina glanced at him. “So, do we still have to call you colonel? I mean you’re not in the military anymore so you don’t have a rank.”

Marco looked up at the ceiling in thought for a moment. “You guys are free to call me whatever you like as long as it isn’t master. By now I figured you were used to referring to me by title so I never really took notice of it. If you want to refer to me as just Marco or Readman now I wouldn’t be upset. For simplicity sake we can keep the same ranking structure at we had before. We’re still Avalanche and we’re still a family.”

“I’ll drink to that!” Isabella yelled one last time before falling over.

“I know she’s had enough…”

~~~~~

The party had begun to calm down early in the evening and most had vacated the building. By 0200 everyone had gone to bed and all was quiet. Marco had decided to stay at the office for the time being then reclaim his belongings from his apartment in the morning. Though Henrietta and Kelly were cuddled up next to him nature was calling and he had to get up. Having relived himself his next stop was the kitchen, there had been so much going on that even with the party he hadn’t eaten much.

As he scrounged through the fridge the somewhat heavy thud of footsteps could be heard approaching from down the hall. Considering the sound he figured it was either Arianna or Zianna coming for a midnight snack.

“Readman…”

Every alarm in Marco’s head went off all at once from the unrecognized voice. He did recognize the head that poked up from the top of the fridge door and instantly went on the attack, throwing the door all the way open to hit the Cerberass with it then slamming it closed and following up with a front kick that sent her against the wall. Without thinking he grabbed the biggest knife he could and lunged forward but was quickly taken by the waist and pulled back. Croma stumbled back to her feet and shook her head for a moment before glaring back at him, but when Zianna stepped in her way she relaxed.

Arianna was trying to contain a flailing Marco and took a stab to the leg before she could get the knife out of his hands. “Colonel, Colonel it’s alright, calm down.”

Slowly Marco began to relax and take stock of the situation. “What the fuck is going on here?!” He growled in anger as he shook free of her grasp. “Someone had better start talking.”

“We’re sorry, we were looking for a good time to try and explain this to you. She was hungry and we didn’t expect you to be up at this time.”

“You’re explaining this situation, I want to know why she’s here!”

Marco’s yelling had woken up some of the unit and his emotional response to the situation had the delta bonded members out of bed too. Soon everyone was up and in the kitchen, all eyes locked on the Cerberass. An impromptu meeting was started and everyone filed into the Ops Con room to take as seat and hear what she had to say.

Croma tried to put on a brave face but she could tell that most of them weren’t too thrilled about her presence. All the same, none of them had weapons on her and she had her sisters at her side so things could have been worse. In the time it had taken to get everyone organized Marco had managed to calm down and now sat in his chair looking her up and down.

“Ok, Croma is it? Explain why you’re here.”

The Cerberass took a breath. “I left my Mistress to be with my family… it really is as simple as that. Angelical was pretty upset about my leaving but gave me my pokéball just in case my sisters attacked me first.”

“Ok, I can see how that could be a concern, given how I reacted to seeing you and all.” His gaze then passed Arianna and Zianna. “You two on the other hand, you’ve had ample opportunity to inform me of this. Do you have any idea what could have happened to her if she were discovered while the investigators were around?”

The War Hound’s eyes shot to the ground. “That was actually one of the reasons we were keeping her a secret. If the brass didn’t kill her outright then they would be trying to extract information from her. Given how pissed they were about Gerard and how much they dislike us I wouldn’t be surprised if we never saw her again.”

“So that’s it, you just wanted to be with your sisters?” He asked with no lack of skepticism. “I’m not saying that they’re not important to you, it’s obvious they are. What I’m asking is should I be expecting a visit from Angelica in the near future?”

“No,” she said quickly as she shook her head. “The Mistress made a deal with the actual boss, she wanted to be let free from the organization after that last fight. If Gerard is dead like you say then she is out of Team Rocket.”

Marco sat and thought for a moment. “Everybody leave the room.” The others did as commanded and started to file out, Croma began to leave as well but a shake of his head caused her to stay where she stood. “Take a seat.”

The Cerberass nodded and took a seat midway down the table, when she looked up again Marco’s eyes were glowing and he was staring directly at here. “Ye… yes sir?”

“I want the truth, Angelica, why did she decide to help me? There were more than enough chances for her to kill me and no one be any wiser, so why stick her neck out?”

Croma knew full well about Marco’s Aura Sight and that there was no getting around it even for being a dark type. “She likes you, liked you, I’m honestly not sure on where she is with that now. But as much as she would deny it she had a thing for you, ever since the first time we crossed paths. The others were kinda skeptical concerning you but after Sevon returned safely that more or less sealed the deal for them as well.”

“But she still came after me.”

“You were military sir, how many times have you been stuck following orders you didn’t agree with? After reading your file she knew what to expect from you and yours, even if we had killed you that first night there was no hope of controlling the forces you command. Finding out that killing you would guarantee we never got our hands on Avalanche was just the icing on the cake as far as she was concerned.” Croma laughed before turning serious again. “But after that business with your family… we didn’t know what to expect from you after that. Angelica warned Andzral and the others but her warning fell on deaf ears.”

“Given my response to things after that she was right to be worried. I was fitting every single one of you for toe tags and planned on doing whatever it took to get them tied.” Marco took a breath and settled back into his chair. After Henrietta set him straight he had plenty of time to reflect on the things he’d done. She and the others were right about the path he was heading down and stopping him before he really got started. “You all let something out that you shouldn’t have.”

“The Mistress understood that far better than anyone else. When Madam Delilah informed us about what happened to Quinn Angelica had been planning on trying to contact you, she reevaluated that decision on the spot… what… what happened to Quinn?” Croma asked as her curiosity got the better of her.

Marco shifted in his seat slightly and began to get up. “Delilah didn’t tell you?” Croma swallowed hard as he made his way closer to her. “I let Quinn in, she became family. We trained together, talked, had meals, made love. She was hurt, damaged; considering what we know about Campbell I’m not surprised.” He let his hand rest on Croma’s shoulder then slid it up to start massaging her neck. “But then she betrayed me, sold out her partner and got her captured which lead to my family being attacked.” As he continued to talk his grip tightened. “When we confronted her she tried to run, then she gave up and confessed. She didn’t know the consequences of her actions and was truly sorry, and I forgave her… gave her a hug and a final kiss… then strangled the life out of her with my own two hands.” By now his grip had tightened to the point it was actually giving the Cerberass reason to panic. “So I’m warning you right now, Quinn killed what little bit of trust I had, if I get the slightest hint that you’re up to something you’ll be dealt with before your sisters get the chance to plead your case.” Finally he let her go and began to move towards the door only to stop for a brief moment. “Understood?”

It took a moment for Croma to get herself back under control before nodding. “Yes sir, I understand completely…”

Marco looked back as he opened the door. “I sure hope so.” Arianna and Zianna were at the front and looked past him to see her still rubbing her neck slightly then turned their attention back to him. “What? Find her a place to sleep for the evening and we’ll get everything else sorted out tomorrow morning.”

As Marco walked away the two sisters entered the room. Arianna could tell he’d done something to shake the Cerberass. “What happened?”

“Nothing…” Croma said with a pause. “Just coming to an understanding.”

~~~~~

Everyone was quiet around the breakfast table the next morning. Though her sisters assured the Cerberass that everything would be ok she couldn’t help but notice the tension in the air, not that any of them could help it. The higher ranking members of Avalanche didn’t seem to be concerned about her presence and that made her feel a bit better, just figuring that the others would warm up to her eventually.

After swallowing what she’d been chewing she let out a sigh and glanced at Marco. “So… when are you going to tame me?” Everyone at the table was startled. Not so much by the question but by their leader’s reaction. It had never occurred to them that someone could shoot eggs out of their nose.

Taking a moment to compose himself, stop choking, and blow his nose he wiped his eyes and coughed again. “What?”

“Tame me, I mean it needs to be done eventually Master.” She explained with a broad smile.

“First of all, never call me master, I don’t like the implications it has. Secondly since when am I your tamer?”

“Well if things were explained to me correctly that means Avalanche has been cut loose from the military. That would mean that everyone sitting at the table is a free pokégirl and not part of your harem, which is good since you would be horrendously over the limit for the Indigo League. Ari and Zi weren’t sure if the same applies to those who were actually in your harem but either way I don’t fall into that category. For all intents and purposes I belong to you, if you don’t want me to call you master then that’s fine but I still need you to see to my… needs on occasion.”

Marco looked to Henrietta who replied with a shrug. “What can I say, she’s right. As far as the law would be concerned she belongs to you and you would have to make sure she’s tamed.” Marco started to reply but she stopped him before he could. “Besides, it will be a good way for you two to try and understand each other better.”

Mina quickly nodded in agreement. “For the sake of our family we owe Croma a fair chance at acceptance. No one here’s forgotten about Quinn and the bad example she set but this isn’t just some random pokégirl that wandered in off the street…”

“You’re right,” Kelly cut her off. “She isn’t just some random pokégirl that wandered in off the street, she was our enemy. Remember that and that there are two empty seats, seats that our dead family members use to have. Remember that if it weren’t for her and Angelica Chris and Ariel wouldn’t have been captured, we wouldn’t have had to fight and lose other members of the military in Cerulesbian.”

“Ugh… I don’t think that’s the best argument to make Major.” Isabella groaned as she continued to suffer the after effects of the huge amount of alcohol she consumed the previous night. “Chris said that Croma and Angelica never intended to hurt them or even keep them there, it was just to draw us out. And Angelica had the chance to kill Guile, Julia, and Lily but didn’t. Not to mention that despite the things that happened it all ended with us being out of the military and Ahhhhh!”

Isabella’s explanation was cut short by Kelly’s high pitched whistle compounding on her headache. “I get your point. I’m not saying we should turn her into the military for questioning and I’m not questioning her reasons for being here, all I’m saying is that it’s understandable if our trust is hard to come by.”

“I understand that too Major.” Croma nodded. “I’ll openly admit to being a party to some horrible things… and almost doing worse things too. The Colonel and my Mistr… Angelica danced back and forth with each other on how to handle an enemy they wanted nothing to do with and given everything that happened I appreciate the fact that I’m even sitting here having this conversation at all. If there was additional information I could give you I would… just not against Angelica, she’s suffered more than anyone else.”

“We know…” Marco said in a gentle tone. Between what they learned from Sevon and the information they gathered from the research facility he knew almost everything the was to know about Angelica Oran.

“What?”

“We know everything about what happened with her, even the things she may not be aware of herself. My service to the military is done and so is any reason I have to hold a grudge against her. Things between you and I are going to be tense for a while and you’re going to have to work out any issues with the others with them personally. But everyone sitting here’s been given a second chance to be something more than what they were, myself included. Everything I’ve done, the people I’ve lost, it wouldn’t mean anything if I stopped believing in second chances.”

Chesra smiled and nodded. “That was one of the original founding principles for Avalanche, to give pokégirls a second chance at life, to be greater than what those who looked down on them thought they could be.” She paused for a moment as she looked around the table. “Most of us here were dealt bad hands as far as life was concerned but Master gave us all a second chance. Thieves, exiles, the tortured, the abandoned, the unloved, the unwanted, and the just plain unfortunate all coming together to do something great for the world.”

“I understand… I wish I could have been a part of that.” Croma sighed. “Alas I was with an organization that thought of us as nothing more than property. Angelica was different but still stuck under their thumb. If ever the need arises for you to do something great I would like the chance to be a part of it.”

Marco sat back in his chair. “Though our service to the military is done our job isn’t. This league… the world is still a shitty place for pokégirls. I may not be able to change the world all on my own but giving a few things a much needed kick in the rear could possible help move things along. As a part of my harem you’ll be part of that too.”

“That makes me feel better… now about that taming?”

_____

“And that’s the Vault, you’ll need an access card to enter and there really isn’t anything in there that would interest you.” Emaline explained as she continued her guided tour of the building. Arianna and Zianna had offered to do the tour but their plans got derailed by the higher-ups calling them into the office to bitch them out some more. That left the Cerberass to her own devices and the Firemaiden wanted to make the girl feel welcome.

“What’s in there?” Croma asked as she stared at the large metal door.

“It’s where we keep a lot of our secured items; weapons, ammo, evo materials, and pretty much anything that we shouldn’t have immediate access to for one reason or another. It’s a pokégirl resistance vault with phase and teleport jammers. I mean, you get enough girls together and they’ll just pick the damn thing up and carry it away but they wouldn’t get far.”

“Noted.”

“In the event of an emergency the Colonel, the Major, the Betas, and Isabella all have access cards that can let them in immediately. Your card will send a signal to your team leader or the Major and they’ll grant or deny your access remotely, otherwise it filters to whoever is in charge of the vault for the week.”

“That’s a fairly efficient system. But if you all are supposed to be like a giant family then why limit everyone’s access?”

The FireMaiden stopped to think for a few seconds as she came up with a reasonable answer. “Well we we’re military as you know so certain levels of oversight needed to be maintained. In reality that rule wasn’t too strictly enforced until one of our members flipped shit and evolved into a… shall we say, less than useful breed.”

Less than useful you say, you’re quite lucky we don’t have performance reviews anymore.” Chesra said with a smile as she rounded the corner. Both sisters were following behind her and neither of them appeared to be all that happy. “While it was an error in judgment on my part I’d like to think things worked out for the best.”

“So you heard that…” Emaline chuckled nervously. “Of course I meant no disrespect Ma’am.”

“I know, and the majority of it was true. Which is why I’ll let the ‘flipping shit’ comment go too. What are you doing?”

“Giving Croma here a tour of the facility, going over some of the ground rules, pretty much just trying to make her feel welcome. You two look like you’ve had better days.”

“I hate it when he yells…” Arianna sighed. “It doesn’t happen often but all the same, it feels like it shoots right into my core.”

“Tell me about it, he’s never yelled directly at me before. It was a new experience and I can honestly say I don’t care much for it.” Zianna grumbled.

Croma looked at the ground. “I’m sorry I got you both into trouble. If it really is that much of a hassle then I suppose I could leave.”

Chesra chuckled and ran her keycard to enter the vault. “You three have nothing to worry about. He’s already calmed down and is currently working on some teambuilding exercises to start including you in the group.” The group could hear the sound of the mechanisms shifting around as the door unlocked then a slight hiss as the pressure for the room equalized. “Of course eventually you’ll be doing combat with other members of the unit as well. There may be mixed feelings on both sides about fighting but that doesn’t matter. Arianna and I head up the combat drills and neither one of us will tolerate any half-assing when it comes to combat.”

“If you did then you wouldn’t have caused Team Rocket so many problems. There were horror stories going around from those who had contact with you and managed to survive… it was a low number of eye witness accounts but compelling all the same. That’s neither here nor there really, I’ll always put my best foot forward.”

“See, she’s already way more agreeable than you Ari. Your sis use to throw the biggest fits when she first started, undisciplined know it all. It was no wonder that you always got along with Mina.” Chesra quipped as the door opened the rest of the way. “You don’t use any specific weapons do you Croma?”

“No. I was trained in a number of fighting styles by Grand Mistress Cleo but not much involving weapons.”

“A Grand Mistress you say, now there’s someone I would have loved to test my skills against. In any case, if you come across a weapon you’d like to learn how to use I’d be happy to teach you.”

“Thank you.”

~~~~~

Later in the afternoon

The day had been going rather slowly for the Cerberass but well none the less. Though she ate breakfast with everyone she didn’t get the chance to properly introduce herself to them individually until later. While the majority of the unit and harem were friendly enough she could still sense some tension around some of the members. There were two in particular though that she wanted to talk to, if for no other reason than to clear the air between them. Ashley and Ariel we’re a little shocked at Croma’s desire to seek them out and now all three girls sat in the bar area silently looking back and forth at each other.

“So… how are you adjusting?” Ashley asked as she sipped at her juice.

“Fine, fine… still trying to get my bearings.” Croma sighed back.

Ariel had been around long enough to know when someone wanted to get something off their chest and figured it was better to not waste time. “Will you stop pussyfooting around, you called us here so say what you’ve got to say.”

“Ok, straight to the point I guess. I wanted to make sure things were ok… if you two were ok with me.”

Ashely scratched her head for a second. “I… I guess. But why are you just asking us specifically?”

“Because you two are the only ones I actually fought. I was thinking there may still be some ill will regarding me because of things that happened. Fighting alongside Evan that night and helping kidnap Chris… I just figured they may be things that were hard to let go of.”

“Under different circumstances you’d be right. If Marco or Chris didn’t make it out of those situations we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now; Kelly, Henrietta, Chesra, Carrie, all of them would have wanted a piece of those responsible… and I would have been right beside them.”

Ariel nodded in agreement. “The same goes for me as well. I know you and Angelica never had a true intention to harm us but if something had happened to Chris I don’t think I would have been able to forgive you.”

“I understand.” Croma nodded.

“But as far as things are concerned right now, I don’t have a problem with you.” Ashley stated. “What’s past is past, everyone that’s important to the three of us is fine and that means things are good between you and me, Ariel?” The Lawfoxx nodded again and held up her glass as Ashley did. Croma quickly followed suit and the three of them toasted before taking a drink. “The one you really need to worry about is Kelly. She can’t be pretty spiteful and very vengeful, whether she knows she’s doing it or not.”

The door from the outside opened as Arianna and Zianna entered the room. Both Ashley and Ariel finished their drinks and put them in the sink before starting on their way out. “Thanks again, and I’ll be sure to remember what you said, and thanks for the warning.”

The two electric types nodded and left Croma’s sister took seats. Zianna watched the two of them leave then looked back to Croma. “What was that about?”

“Just clearing the air between us. Things happened, we’ve fought in the past and I wanted to make sure things were good.”

“I figured that part, I was more so talking about the warning. What warning, about who?”

“They we’re warning me about Kelly… a lot of that going around really. Don’t call her short, don’t mention the fact that she looks very young, don’t be offended if she hates me for a while. Sounds like she has a lot of issues.”

“No more than anyone else living here.” Arianna chuckled before turning somber. “We really missed you, whatever happened to mom?”

Croma took a long drink before pouring another from the bottle. “She didn’t make it out that night… she told us all to run but I went back. She was trying to fight them off but I got captured and distracted her. That’s when they closed in and killed her.”

While both sisters were upset to hear about their mother’s death it also didn’t come as much of a surprise either. Until Arianna saw her sister face to face she’d thought she was dead as well. “Mom always was a tough one. What happened to you after that?”

“I was sold to a ranch. Spent a couple of years there since I was still a kit at the time. Eventually I got picked up by a tamer, he was a nice kid, was with him for a while before he ran into Angelica. She accidently killed him and took me for herself while the rest of the harem got sent to other members of Team Rocket. What about you two?”

“Ari and I managed to stay alive in the wilderness for who knows how long. I guess we got careless one day while hunting and ran across the military, of course we were captured. The ones who got us didn’t have a need for us, we had pretty bad attitudes at the time, so they gave us to some training program they thought was going to flop. How wrong they turned out to be.” Zianna explained as she went behind the bar. “I guess you can figure out the rest for yourself.”

“It’s more or less self-explanatory. I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up Ari’s scent off Evan.” Croma smiled and chuckled. “I didn’t expect you to attack me like that, sooner or later I’ll have to see how good you are.”

“Trust me, that time is quickly approaching.”

_____

The Following Morning, Avalanche Training Field

Carrie hit the ground but was quick to roll back on to her feet in anticipation for the next attack. Bernadette lunged forward with her rapier and clashed against the armguard before pulling back to strike again. The two of them had been going at it for nearly ten minutes and the battle was getting more and more intense. The Piratit’s sword play was better than Carrie’s but the Mistress made up for it with her unpredictable abilities as well as her base line stats. Carrie flipped backwards to gain some distance then ignited her blade in Hell Fire before charging again. Bernadette parried with her sword breaker then had to retreat when the flames burner her arm.

Seeing the pain on her opponent’s face Carrie decided to press the advantage. The chains on her armguard unwound with a snap then lashed out at Piratit, leaving a faint scar on her cheek. Not to be taken down without a fight Bernadette managed to stab her rapier though one of the chain links and then into the ground before summoning another sword to her hand and slashing Carrie across the stomach. The Mistress took a few steps back then swung her blade, releasing a wall of flames. Both girls knew time was running out and clashed in a flurry of blows.

“Time!” Chesra called as she blew her whistle. “Judges?” Henrietta, Jean, and Isabella checked their score cards one last time then raised Bernadette’s flag. “It was a close one but Bernie landed more hits before time ran out. Still, that was well fought by you both.” Chesra praised.

“I shouldn’t have held back. More liberal use of my psychic powers and I would have won.” Carrie laughed as she dusted herself off.

“We both know that. But you decided to fight on my terms for the most part. Your sword play could use a little work but you’re still pretty good.” Bernadette replied cheerfully, though still gripping her arm.

“Thanks, after you get healed we’ll go for a drink.”

“Yeah yeah, you two can bond later. We have time for one more match. Croma think you can handle one more?” Henrietta yelled towards the group.

The Cerberass chugged the last of her recovery drink and stood up full of energy. “Oh yeah!”

“Good to hear. Now let’s find you an opponent. How about…”

“I got this one.” Announced Kelly, standing up and tightening her gloves with a stern look.

The enthusiasm of the Cerberass died down a little as the duelist starred at her. Croma’s gaze shot to Chesra who’s only response was to shrug. “I guess the final match is Croma against Kelly. Master, any special limitation?”

Marco sighed and shifted the ice pack on his knee. “Nope, they’re gonna have it out sooner or later, may as well get it done now.”

“As you command. The following will be an anything goes match, first one to be recalled loses, no time limit.”

Croma glanced at Zianna. “Anything special I should know?”

“Don’t let the Major’s stature fool you, between her training and her rings she’s far stronger than you would think. Add to that her magical abilities and you’re going to be in for quite the fight.”

“Just great.”

The two girls took position in the circle and waited for Chesra to start the match. Croma knew the Duelist was one to be feared but wondered just how much power she really possessed. Kelly on the other hand just wanted to make sure the Cerberass knew who was in charge. Chesra blew the whistle and both girls launched towards each other. Croma’s start was an aggressive one, throwing punches and kicks in an attempt to keep the smaller girl on her guard.

Kelly had watch her opponents other matches and decided to take things slow in the beginning, staying on her toes and avoiding hits. After a particularly quick string of attacks the Duelist swept to the inside of a kick and jammed her elbow into the Cerberass’s thigh before spinning inward and tripping her. While falling back Croma forced her hands out and unleashed a wave a dark energy to force the Duelist back. Kelly hit the ground the rolled back to her feet just in time to dodge a fire ball heading her way.

“Not bad, what else you got?” Kelly asked, summoning a deck of cards to her hand.

“Not too sure, I just make it up as I go along. What are those for?”

“Now that all depends on what I need at the time.”

Dark energy formed around Croma’s hands and feet but what was more concerning for the Duelist was the small sphere of darkness that began to envelope Cerberass. “Hope you have something to deal with this.”

Kelly grit her teeth and prepared to defend herself. Once the sphere enveloped Croma completely she went on the attack, peppering the Duelist with blows. While Kelly had learned how to fight in the dark long ago this was different and far more difficult. Most dark types would make the sphere large enough that once in close proximity their opponent wouldn’t be able to see anything. Croma’s sphere was big enough to cover her body and an addition foot of space to account for her limbs moving. For Kelly that meant things would go from light to dark in a flash before she got hit and she wouldn’t have time to adjust.

After one particularly nasty combo Kelly hit the ground several feet away and growled in frustration. “Ok, time to step things up.” Two cards flashed into her hand then vanished in a flash of light. Moments later water began to pour up from the various holes in the ground before bordering off and then forming a ring around her. “Hope you don’t mind the water.”

The sphere around the Cerberass shrunk in and disappeared. “That’s cool, my feet were getting a little hot but that’s not going to do a thing to slow me down.” Croma chided, kicking her feet back and forth in the newly formed pool.

“You underestimate me…” Kelly growled as she crossed her arms. “While I’ll admit you’re pretty good you may want to step it up.” Without warning Croma shot forward to punch but stopped when Kelly didn’t even look like she would try to defend herself. “Go ahead, try it.”

Dark energy coated the hands of the Cerberass and lunged to strike. Just as the hit was about to connect the water surged from around Kelly and pushed Croma’s hand back. She was only surprised for a moment then redoubled her efforts, attacking in a flurry, but try as she might she land a single blow. The combination of cards was making Kelly practically immune to physical damage.

“Ok… that’s pretty damn irritating. But let’s see just what it can handle!”

Dark energy pulsed around Croma as she focused her powers but Kelly didn’t appear to be worried. Without warning Dark Spears shot from the ground and lurched towards the Duelist but got repelled by jets of water before making contact. Next was the Dark Bomb attack but it proved to be just as effective as the spears when a dome of water encased the explosion. The Dark energy dissipated from around Croma and the water around her began to boil as she ignited.

Henrietta shrugged and shook her head. “I really hate that particular combo.”

“You’re telling me, there’s a small number of attacks that can actually get through, and that’s if you’re a magic type. Ashley could probably still electrocute her but Kelly wouldn’t use it against someone with electric abilities.” Replied Jean. “I mean I could get through it with a few abilities but that’s more so just messing with her head than anything else.”

“Yeah, I have a skill or two to get around it as well… huh, looks like Croma just got an idea.” Henrietta mumbled.

Isabella scratched her head and looked at her power scanner. “I sure hope so because she appears to be powering down.”

Back on the field Croma had let her abilities cool down. Even at the distance she was away from the other she was still able to pick up on the conversation the judges were having and thought back to the talks she’d had with the others. “Hey, I heard you were going to marry Marco.”

“Yep, what of it?”

“Oh nothing, just curious as to how you brow beat him into that?”

Marco’s vision shifted to his Aura Sight and he could see Kelly’s threat flame shooting up. ‘Oh shit…’

“Well let’s be honest with ourselves, you really don’t have much to offer… body wise I mean.” Croma could see a twitch in Kelly’s eyes and knew she was on the right track. “Kinda makes me wonder what he sees in you. I mean he doesn’t strike me as the type that’s into the underage and I would wager that I’m better than you in bed.” She laughed.

“I’m gonna walk over there and knock your teeth down your throat!” Kelly snapped.

“What, I’m just saying… I mean you don’t even have what it takes to actually fight me, how am I to believe you could satisfy someone like him?”

Kelly dismissed her cards in a fit of anger and pulled her knife from behind her back. Croma didn’t have time to revel in the fact that she managed to trick the Duelist into disabling her defensive abilities. The smaller girl was on the full blown offensive, lunging angrily and swiping with the blade, intent on drawing blood. Now that the water was gone the field was turned to one giant mud pit as the two girls thrashed around.

Glancing blows had been landed by both girls, each leaving shallow and deep cuts on one another. But as good as Kelly was she had let her emotions get the better of her and was getting punished for it by Croma’s physical strength and reach advantage. Finally the Cerberass found an opening and attacked with full force. The Fire Ball attack hit the Duelist square in the chest causing her to stumble and fall back and before she could recover Croma was on top of her biting down into her shoulder with a Crunch attack. Kelly’s blade fell from her hand as claws tore into her other shoulder but she never screamed out.

Marco let to fight go on for only a few more seconds before recalling the Duelist making his way over to Croma. She was still on the ground panting to catch her breath but took the offered hand to help get her back on her feet. “Good fight.”

“Tha… thanks… I won but… she’s a hell of a lot tougher than she looks.”

He favored her with a grin before placing a hand on top of her head. “You did win, I’ll give you that. But do you think you’d be able to beat her consistently?”

“I managed to win this round, I should be able to do it again.”

“Don’t get ahead of yourself sister.” Arianna grumble. “What you said and your outsider status got you that victory. I’d be careful for now, you crossed a line most of us won’t dare to approach and it may cost you in the future.”

Croma swallowed nervously as her gaze passed between her sister and Marco, she could help but notice the odd look he gave her. Suddenly he started to laugh and she felt at ease. “What?”

“It’s nothing, she and I have plans for tonight so she should be in a good mood come tomorrow. If you’re going to apologize then I recommend you do it then.” Marco laughed again.

“Should I apologize?”

“Do you really want an Alpha pissed off at you?”

_____

Cerulesbian City, Cerulesbian Royal: Restaurant, 2200

The prestigious Cerulesbian Royal Hotel was seen as one of the classiest establishments in the Indigo League mainland. Between the five-star hotel, three five-star restaurants, and several other recreational attractions it was the place to be for well off tourist or anyone who wanted to splurge without heading to the islands. Fortunately Marco had called for reservations well ahead of time, as seating in any of the restaurants could be difficult to obtain.

That evening found Kelly and Marco seated in a small booth in the corner of the restaurant. It wasn’t often that she got to dine at such a place and pulled up all the stops in an attempt to look nice. While she felt slightly awkward in the short black dress and heels she’d picked out it didn’t stop a few people from gawking was she walked through the room. Naturally the Duelist was still fuming from her earlier loss at the hands of Croma but she was trying her best not to let it ruin her evening.

Marco on the other hand just sat there with the same smile he always had. “How ya feelin slugger?”

“You know damn well how I’m feeling, can’t believe I let her get the better of me like that.”

“Neither can I, considering how you know better.” He chuckled, taking a sip of his cocktail. “You know how much I love you so there’s no reason to let yourself get riled up by something someone else says.”

Kelly let out a sigh and rubbed her temples. “I know I know, it’s just that, she doesn’t even know me… us. What gives her the right to talk on our relationship, and then saying she’s better than me in bed… the fucking nerve.”

“She wanted to win the fight, a fight that she had no business winning by all standard reasoning. I’m not saying it was right but it was effective. But that’s neither here nor there, tonight is about us, about the future.”

“You’re right as always, what are we going to do now that we’re out from under the military’s thumb?”

Sitting back, he looked up towards the ceiling to think. “We have enough in the reserves to survive for a good while, not to mention the income from the honey ranch. But just sitting around doing nothing isn’t good.”

“What about the idea of starting up a gym?”

“It’s still a possibility, though that would put us back under direct government oversight. Besides our group isn’t exactly cut out for sport fighting.”

“Anything we do would end up with some kind of ties to the government, just one of the inevitable truths. We could get into the private contractor business.”

“Maybe, but you’re still talking in the sense of the unified collective. I’m thinking about what you personally would like to do?”

“Me personally? I’d like to be a teacher, maybe go back to my old school as one of the pokégirl instructors. Walking into class in the morning, being greeted by smiling faces and the chant of hello Mrs. Kelly.” Kelly explained in a far off voice.

Marco laughed nervously and scratched the side of his leg. “Mrs. Kelly, not Mrs. Readman? Don’t tell me you’re reconsidering being my wife.”

“Of course not you jerk, even if I’ll be sharing you with the others nothing would make me happier than being Mrs. Readman.”

“Good to know.” Without warning he slid out of the booth and dropped down to one knee before taking her hand. “It’s been a long time… you’ve been my subordinate, my Alpha, my friend, my first, and my lover. I haven’t always been the best guy and we’ve had our share of arguments, but through the worst of it you were always by my side. We’ve had a ton of adventures so far and I’m looking forward to a bunch more…” Reaching into his pocket he pulled out a small velvet box and opened the lid to reveal a small golden ring with an infinity symbol made out of diamonds. “Clarissa Kelly Tanner, will you marry me?”

Kelly just sat there dumbfounded as more and more of the patrons stared at them. Naturally the women were holding their breath waiting for her response while men who weren’t married could feel their evening taking a turn. Finally Kelly took a breath and nodded. “Of course I’ll marry you.” Leaving her seat she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him with barely contained passion. They broke apart and she bit back tears as he slid the ring onto her finger. There was a sudden rush coursing through her body and she immediately knew the ring was heavily enchanted. “What does this ring do?”

“You mean aside from making you my wife?” He laughed as he helped her back into her seat. “It quintuples all of your base abilities and works in conjunction with the ones you already have.”

“… Damn, it must have taken a while to make.”

Marco sighed and looked down at the table. “I had it commissioned after we got back together… after I went off the deep end… I’d hurt you more than anyone else and I was truly sorry. It was done a few weeks ago but I couldn’t find the right time to propose. Losing Alexis, Henrietta being pregnant, there was always something coming up… but not anymore.”

“I understand.” Kelly nodded before giving him a sly look. “So… you planning on proposing to any of the others too?”

“Ah, ah, tonight is about us, you don’t get to worry about the others.”

“I’ll take that as a yes and dismiss it for now. And since I’m not worry about the others I’ll assume we’ll be staying here tonight?”

“Already booked us a room.”

Reaching across the table she gently took his hand and pressed it against the side of her face. “I love you.”

“Love you too.”

Alpha- Kelly- Duelist

Delta

Echo

Indigo

Beta- Chesra- Archangel

Beta- Henrietta- Charred Ghostrider

Beta- Mina- Kunoichi

Arianna- War Hound

Field Beta- Selena- Caphoochie

Zianna- Wolf Queen

Kim- Bombshell

Rebecca- Smokey

Renae- Ice Empress

Nikki- SexSlash

Lily- Belle Awesome

Isabella- Mecha Musume

Emaline- Fire Maiden

Alexis- Cherub- KIA

Tam- Catgirl- KIA

Ilene- Imp

Leona- Lamia- KIA

Harem

Chesra- Co-Alpha

Henrietta- Co-Alpha

Carrie- Mistress (M)

Ashley- Ria

Jean- Kyubi

Bernadette- Piratit

Croma- Cerberass

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