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Loose Threads

Twenty

Giselle appeared with Kasumi and let her mistress go as Kasumi released Nishiko and Ayame from their pokeballs.

Waiting for them was Silver. The blue haired Pegaslut smiled at them. “I wish a good morning to all of you. You’re a little late and Iain had some other things to do if you weren’t available when we expected so I was asked to meet you and take you to where he is right now.”

Kasumi grimaced. They were nearly two hours late and she found that fact more than a little embarrassing. “I am sorry but there was something that I had to deal with before I came here. It was, unfortunately, unavoidable.”

“Should we expect angry people to arrive looking for you,” Silver asked.

“No.”

Giselle glanced at her mistress. “The delay was to ensure that event did not happen, Silver.”

Silver nodded. “Next time, just let us know please, but if it helps Iain thought it might be something like that. Shikarou’s visit two weeks ago was pleasant enough, but he’s still working through his negative feelings towards us and Iain was concerned it might still prove troublesome for you coming to visit.”

Kasumi looked surprised. “He came here? No one said anything to me about that.”

“Iain gave him an invitation after their last meeting and he finally showed up with Branwyn and Poppet. They spent five hours here, got the tour of the main ranch and most of the satellite ranches and seemed very surprised at all we’d done. Then Branwyn and Poppet declined our invitation to run the obstacle course with us. They stayed for dinner and we sent them home with some nice gifts of foods and stuff that is apparently hard to get on Haven. They seemed content enough with their visit.”

Nishiko grinned maliciously. “I’ll bet they didn’t want to run the course. They’re more than a little fastidious and don’t train much.”

Silver glanced at Kasumi with a mischievous look as she spoke. “So, Nishiko, would you like to run it with us? Kasumi already has or I’d invite her to as well.”

Kasumi smiled as Nishiko looked startled. “I have to guard my mistress,” she said quickly.

Silver looked like she was trying not to laugh. “Ah. Well, then I should get you to Iain.”

Kasumi watched the back of Silver’s head as she led them down a path and experimentally reached out with her twee. That was both funny and cruel.

Thanks. I just find it amusing that she’s not willing to compete in something that her male, I mean mistress, did. I won’t point out to her that it makes her sound like she’s afraid she’s weaker than you are and will post a worse time than yours.

Kasumi barely managed not to laugh out loud. Please do not.

Silver led them to the brewery and then around it to behind the building. Iain was sitting on the ground with Seraphina and Olivia curled up against him while Canaan was sitting in an oversized pool recliner and Ganieda was stretched out nearby in another one. Everyone’s eyes were closed and they were all breathing deeply. “Right now Iain’s in dreamtime with Ganieda and Canaan. Ganieda is our latest clan member.” She nodded to Pandora and Heather where they were standing guard.

“I didn’t know that Snugglebunnies came that big,” Ayame said, “or with stripes.”

Silver shrugged. “It’s not my story, but she’s not one of the Snugglebunny breed that you’re used to. They should be out of dreamtime in less than ten minutes. Would anyone like a beer or other refreshment while we wait? We have some excellent sugarcane.”

“We don’t need anything,” Kasumi said as Giselle started to speak. She blinked and closed her mouth. “Are we ready to go?”

Silver nodded. “All of the chores are done and the only thing remaining is to load you, Ygerna and the clan. Dominique is already on the Theodora or she’d be here with Iain to help Ganieda.”

A few minutes later Silver smiled. “They’re coming out of dreamtime.”

Iain opened his eyes and muttered something Kasumi couldn’t quite make out. He looked down at the children cuddled against him as they yawned. “You are not to do that again, do you understand me?”

One of them frowned up at him. “But we want to help, daddy.”

“This isn’t a negotiation, Seraphina. I told you not to do this and your mother is very upset with you. I am too, but I’m going to let her deal with you this time. If it happens again, I’ll punish you and then she’ll probably punish you. If I tell you no about something, it’s for a very good reason and you will obey me.”

“I’m sorry, daddy,” Seraphina said contritely. “I won’t do it again.”

“Me either,” the other said solemnly. “I’m sorry too, daddy.”

He nodded. “Good. Now your mother is waiting for you. You are to go straight to her without stopping.”

Seraphina let out a great sigh. “Yes, father.” She took her sister’s hand and they went running off towards the main house.

Canaan sat up and reached for a cooler, pulling out a jug of tomato juice. “Our guests have finally shown up.” She opened the jug and took a long drink from it.

Iain glanced at Kasumi. “Ganieda, the Pegaslut is Giselle, the Archmage is Nishiko, the Enchantress is Ayame and the other lady is Kasumi. They are our guests. Ladies, this is Ganieda. I recently convinced her to join my family.”

Ganieda slid to her feet and moved to stand near Iain. She was wearing a loose calf length amber dress that swirled around her as she walked and completely hid her tail. “I take it they’re friends.”

“The accommodations I provide for my enemies,” Iain said as he got up, “are usually indoors and rather restricted in movement. Yes, they’re friends of ours.”

“I must admit,” Kasumi said quietly, “that I’m surprised you’re still adding to your family. Aren’t there enough women in your life already?”

Iain eyed her. “Is your truth spell up?”

She smiled innocently at him. “Maybe.”

“Then my answer is yes and no.”

Canaan laughed. “That’s true enough. Part of him believes that there are enough women in his life but he does want all of the others too so part of him disagrees with the other part.” Iain glanced at her and she smirked at him. “That’s not a secret.”

“I want into your head too,” Ganieda stated firmly. “It’s not right that she can have access and I cannot.”

Iain just took a deep breath. “So, where is your luggage?”

“I either have everything that I need or it’s already here since you still have all of the things Theodora made for me the last time.” Kasumi smiled at him. “And I have brought gold with me that I can turn into money with which to buy gifts for my family once we are there.”

“That works for me,” Iain said. “We can leave in a few hours. There’s a shuttle waiting for embarkation near the house.”

“If we had been on time,” Kasumi asked, “when could we have left?”

Iain shrugged. “You weren’t. It’s not that big of a deal.”

“Answer the question, Iain.” He gave her a curious look and she smiled. “Please.”

“If you’d been here when we planned it we’d have been in orbit in less than twenty minutes and be onboard the Theodora and headed for the gate site right now. But that’s a seven hour trip so the,” his eyes unfocused for a heartbeat, “two hours you were unavoidably detained isn’t insurmountable. How long does your family think you’re staying here?”

“I’m here for a week,” she replied. “After that I’ve got to return and take care of some administrative items for the school. That should take a few days and then I’d be free to return if I desired.”

“Cool. So when we get back you can spend nearly a week getting used to being here again. We might pop over to Glasgow or Nippon if you’d like.”

“I think I would like either or both, Iain.”

We will be ready for liftoff in forty minutes, Theodora said to him.

So soon?

The teleport capable members of the clan are gathering the others.

“OK, there’s been a change in the scheduling. We can leave in about forty minutes.”

Kasumi smiled. “Thank you Iain.”

“It’s not my doing, but you’re very welcome. Of course, we need to get to the shuttle too.”

“Then let us be off,” Kasumi replied. “I have waited too long to see my family again.”

Iain’s expression closed up unreadably for a second before he abruptly smiled. “Well we can’t have you waiting any longer than possible, can we?”

Canaan gave him a slightly worried look before turning to their guest. “Kasumi, you are aware of how Iain came to the pokegirl universes, right?”

She frowned. “No, I don’t think anyone has ever told me.”

“Iain was kidnapped from his home universe and brought to the universe where he met me and most of the rest of the clan. We’re glad to take you to see your family, but Iain was ripped from his, probably forever. He misses them a lot, too.”

Kasumi paled. “And here I was nattering away about how wonderful it would be to see mine? I am so sorry, Iain.”

Iain shot Canaan a look and Kasumi was surprised when the Splice straightened and actually took a step away from him in response to it. His eyes were pleasant when he turned to Kasumi. “What happened to me is not your fault and I haven’t quite given up all hope yet,” he said easily.

Kasumi put a hand on his shoulder. “Good. You shouldn’t. And in the meantime, you may consider my family as yours.”

Iain grinned. “Wouldn’t that make the whole MILF thing kind of incestuous? I’ve never fancied that.”

Kasumi flushed. “You are incorrigible.”

“That is a pretty blush and you are completely wrong on the incorrigible thing. Incorrigible implies that what I want is somehow wrong.”

“I am a married woman, Iain.”

“I am well aware of that, Kasumi and other than a little teasing, have I behaved improperly towards you?”

She thought about it. “No, you have not. And I must admit that not even your teasing has been improper for a Westerner and much more proper than some that I have received from members of my family on Haven. Would that have changed if I were not married?”

“Well, I still wouldn’t behave improperly. You don’t like improper behavior. But I will admit my behavior around you might be very different than it is now.” He raised a hand when she started to speak. “I’d have badgered you, politely of course, into going out with me. Repeatedly. And then we’d have seen where things went. Now we really do need to get to the shuttle and as much as I like teasing you, this isn’t getting us there.” He offered her his arm. “Shall we?”

She took it with a smile. “Yes.”

The walk took nearly ten minutes and she pulled him to a halt when they came out of the trees and she saw the transport. “Let’s stop here for a moment. That’s much bigger than the last shuttle and I’d like to get a good look at it.”

“It’s larger,” Iain said, “because we’re moving everything and everyone in one trip. Last time we used several trips to load our gear and it was decided to try and be more efficient this time. That and this way nobody was away from the ranch multiple times and missing out on the regular work, which doesn’t ever end.” He smiled. “And if we were moving all of the animals again, we’d need a transport at least twice this size.”

“You moved the animals last time?”

“We did. If something went wrong we’d already have the resources to establish a new home wherever we ended up, as long as we survived the trip.”

Ayame nodded. “It would make sense that you’re not as worried this time since you’ve done this successfully before.”

“It’s not that,” Iain said, “it’s that we have DNA from our animals this time and we can clone them if needed. We’re going to a new universe and so we’re just as nervous as last time.” He led her to the front boarding ramp. “Would you ladies like to join me on the bridge?”

Kasumi was looking at the transport towering over them. “I would like that very much. Is there room for my harem too?”

“There is,” Iain replied as he urged her up the ramp and inside. “Canaan, Ganieda, what about you two?”

“I’m going to my children,” Canaan said as the airlock sealed behind them and the ramp began retracting. “Coming, Ganieda?”

The Snugglebunny Splice looked at Iain. “I’d rather be with the children if you don’t mind.”

“Go,” Iain said with a smile. She smiled back and followed Canaan deeper into the transport.

“There you are,” a feminine voice said from behind Iain. He pulled his arm free and turned around just as a green haired woman draped her arms around his neck and kissed him soundly. “I am not being left behind this time,” she said after breaking the kiss.

Iain smiled. “Melanie, you decided to stay last time. Kasumi, I’d like you to meet Melanie. We own a restaurant in Austin together. Melanie, this is Kasumi Wolf and this is her time.”

Melanie scowled as she let him go. “I want my week too.”

“You had the chance to come with us and you decided you didn’t want to. You don’t get to win something you didn’t compete in. You know that.”

Her scowl turned petulant. “Fine, but I want my week from this trip.”

“You’re a wonderful woman, but there’s no guarantee that a contest like that will happen this time. But if there is, you’ll definitely be in it.”

“Melanie, let Iain go. He has work he has to do and I’ve already explained what happened.” Ninhursag joined the group. “Twice. Now you need to get to your quarters and get settled down for liftoff.”

Melanie gave her an unhappy look. “I hear you.” She smiled winsomely at Iain. “I’ll see you later.”

Ninhursag watched her leave until she was out of sight before sighing. “Remember when I said that letting her live in Austin by herself would be good for her and not make her so independent that she’d incorrectly decide she was a maharani in her own right?” She looked at Iain. “I was wrong.”

“It happens. Don’t mess with her right now since she’s going to insist on cooking for us whether she’s happy or pissed and I’d really prefer happy food from her.”

“Yes, but I also know I need to put a halt to that behavior and I need to do it soon. She cannot monopolize you whenever she wants and especially not now since this is Kasumi’s trip.”

“You know what will calm her down,” Dominique said as she came up behind Iain.

Ninhursag nodded. “Yes, but she decided to stay home. I did everything but beg her to come and Iain did too. If I just give her a week for breathing what message will that send to the rest of the family?”

“She doesn’t get a week given to her,” Iain said firmly. “She has to earn it just like everyone else does or else the contests where I’m trying to keep you safe will be useless.”

Ninhursag looked down at him. “You know it’ll have to be a contest and everyone will be eligible to compete. You’re already beholden for a lot of weeks to everyone.”

“Not to mention,” Dominique said, “it’ll have to be something that not just anyone can win this time and it has to be something Melanie has a chance of placing well in. She has never been a strong combatant and a cooking contest wouldn’t be fair to everyone else.”

“Sorry,” Iain said to Kasumi. “Politics.”

She smiled at him. “You are trying to juggle a bunch of people and you’re not doing too bad a job of it.”

“Thank you,” he said. “Ninhursag, see what you can put together for a new contest that Melanie can successfully compete in,” he paused, “if she gives her all, and we’ll figure out how to make it work. Don’t worry about me giving up more weeks; doing that is not as important as maintaining harmony. Melanie pissed because she isn’t given a week is annoying. Daphne or Chuck pissed because Melanie got a free week and they didn’t might end up with Melanie quote accidentally unquote getting torn to pieces during her next combat refresher. Daphne especially has a very long memory for that sort of thing and I’m sure she’ll be very apologetic afterward for losing her temper but I’d rather avoid the entire situation if at all possible.”

Ninhursag nodded. “True. I’ll come up with something.”

“Don’t make this your chore,” Iain said. “Use April, Sofia, Theodora, Dominque, me and anyone else you need to in order to get something roughed out. We’re all creative and sometimes you tend to try to do everything yourself. Also, this doesn’t have to happen tomorrow. I don’t want Melanie to get the idea that we’re doing this just for her.”

Ninhursag smiled. “That takes a lot of the pressure off. I’ll make it happen. Now I believe you’re wanted on the bridge. Come along, Dominque.”

“I will be with Zareen and the kids,” Pandora said. “Heather?” The Elf headed off with her.

Iain watched them leave for a moment before turning to Kasumi. “Shall we?”

Allison was in the copilot’s chair while Eve and Lucifer sat at the weapon consoles. Eve got up to help Kasumi and her pokegirls get strapped in while Iain dropped into the pilot’s chair. “Do you want to fly this,” he asked Allison.

The Umbrea shook her head. “After what Theodora said last time I want to see you fly with the neural link. I’ve tried it in simulations and I just don’t like the way it feels. It doesn’t react the way I want it to.”

“I’ve been told that that’s a problem for some people, especially if they didn’t get their twee until after adulthood.”

“Well apparently it’s not for you and I want to see what you can do with it.”

He looked around the compartment at the expectant faces and gave a mental shrug. “Just understand that I’m used to neural linking stingships, not transport vessels, but I’ll give it my best.” He sat down and activated the restraints on his chair as he closed his eyes. “What’s the status on our passengers?”

Eve sat in her chair and activated her restraint system. “I’m locked in which means everyone reports ready to go.”

All you have to do is fly this transport just like you fly a stingship and everything will be fine, Theodora whispered to him. You’ll realize the differences immediately and I’ll be watching in case of trouble.

I hear and I obey. Iain initiated neural linkup between him and the transport. Suddenly he could feel the wind and sun on the hull of the ship, which became his skin even as the sensors became his eyes and ears. Information flooded through his mind just below his consciousness; out of the way but available if he needed it.

Allison’s ears flicked. “When do you want to do the preflight checklists?”

Theodora appeared. “They’re already done. Iain isn’t used to vocalizing while doing this yet so I’ll answer any questions you have.”

“He’s already done the checklists?”

The transport lifted off, turning as it began to accelerate. As soon it was clear of the ground the transport’s shields activated.

Theodora nodded. “By using the neural link the checklists take seconds instead of minutes.”

Allison looked at her display. “Where are we going?” The transport was flying just above the treetops as it headed northeast.

“Iain says we’re headed for the reservoir,” Theodora replied. “He wants to expedite getting to the Theodora.” She smirked at Allison. “You did want him to show off what he can do, right?”

“I do.” Allison leaned forward eagerly, activating displays so she could see what was going on.

“Just remember this,” Theodora said. “You are not to attempt this under manual control. You don’t have the feedback necessary to respond quickly enough if something goes wrong. Neural flying is very different and the limits of a craft can be pushed a lot closer to the danger zones than when flying manually. Even in a transport, do not attempt anything but what you have been taught to do already. “

The transport crossed over the water of the reservoir and instantly turned vertical as the engines went from two percent power to sixty.

Allison blinked at the display. “We’re already hypersonic.”

Behind her Eve punched up her display and looked at Theodora in surprise. Theodora smiled. “Remember what I said about limits? This is why Iain wanted to be over the lake before he began his ascent. He’s riding the pressure of the shields against the air to just below what velocity would be required to cause the atmosphere to ionize into plasma. It’s a common tactic in surface launched stingships so as to not leave a visible trail as the stingship races for space, either to intercept or evade. You’ll notice that as we ascend, engine power will increase as altitude climbs because Iain can feel the pressure of the atmosphere on the shields and he’ll boost speed to keep on that edge as the atmosphere thins.”

Allison was watching her display, her ears alert. “Can I learn do to this,” she asked eagerly.

“Only if you can learn to neural link properly,” Theodora said. Outside the sky was turning black. “And, three, two, now,” Theodora said as the engines suddenly spooled up to 100 percent power. “Iain will have to keep practicing this until he gets better. He could have shaved off nearly nine seconds from this pattern, but he’s still learning.” Her smile vanished. “Yes, Iain, I have the conn.”

Iain opened his eyes as he powered his chair back and released the restraints. He stuck his right forearm in his mouth and bit down hard for a second before pulling it free. “No, I’m all right,” he said as he turned to look at Allison from where she was watching him with a concerned expression. “I am more used to neural linking than you are, but it’s a godlike feeling for me. What the sensors detect is turned into something that my body can use. I see in multiple frequencies, I hear the stars singing; I can feel the solar wind and scent the right way to go. Coming out of that is like suddenly going partially blind and deaf, at least it is for me and it’s disorientating. Physical pain is an easy way to reground me in myself.” He looked at Theodora. “How did I do?”

“You’ve reduced the intercept time with the Theodora in comparison to Allison’s best time using manual systems by two hours and your best manual time by forty six minutes.”

“Every little bit helps,” Iain said. “So, Allison, how was that?”

“I have got to learn to fly like that,” she said. “I could never do that manually. Can you do things like that when you don’t leave the atmosphere?”

“Yeah. Space is easier. Except for micrometeorites and such it’s a lot more forgiving of a mistake than inside an atmosphere, but I’ve done a lot of atmospheric combat sims and I am fairly comfortable operating neural inside an atmosphere. You just have to trust and pay attention to your senses.” He stretched. “Well, we have several hours before we get to the Theodora and I have to excuse myself for a few minutes to use the bathroom, so if you’ll excuse me.” And off he went.

***

It was right around midnight and the shuttle, operating under heavy stealth that rendered it essentially invisible, headed for the coast of Japan. It came to a hover just above the tarmac at Oshima Airport and unloaded Iain, Kasumi, Ayame, Lucifer and Pandora before lifting off and disappearing into the night. Kasumi led them out of the airport. “We’ll catch the first ferry back to Tokyo when they start running,” she said. “Once we’re in the city we can see about getting to my house.”

Iain looked at his fingernails as he spoke. “Are you willing to tolerate a little rule bending?”

Kasumi regarded him curiously. “What do you mean?”

“Ayame can teleport to your house. If she takes Lucy with her, Lucy can come back and get me and then Ayame can return and we can just jump to there.”

“That I will tolerate,” Kasumi replied with a broad smile. “But later could we come back here? I’ve never been to Oshima.”

Iain gave her a grand bow. “I am at your disposal, Kasumi, for the next four weeks, starting at noon tomorrow.” He frowned. “Yes, we still have ten minutes to midnight, so noon tomorrow.”

Kasumi smiled and then frowned. “I hadn’t considered where you would sleep. I wouldn’t want you to share a room with the Saotome men.”

“And I would like to keep my hearing,” Iain replied. “So I would call a request for me to share the room with them excessively cruel and deny it. To be honest, if it didn’t take so long to process I’d buy a house nearby and scandalize the neighborhood. But if I have to I can camp out in the dojo until I find better accommodations.”

“Dominique considered this problem when the contest ended and she has found a solution,” Lucifer said. “She has ready a tent spell similar to the ones we’ve seen in your stories. All we have to do is find a suitable location and contact her so she can come and cast it.”

“Have I recently told you ladies just how awesome you are?”

“Not recently enough.”

“You are so awesome I don’t have words for it, so I’m not even going to try.”

Kasumi laughed. “Ayame, please take Lucy to the park near my residence.”

“Yes, mistress.” The Enchantress held you a hand to Lucifer. “Come with me.” Lucifer took her hand and they vanished.

“I thought that since it’s so late you might show me around the neighborhood and I’d buy us breakfast somewhere around sunrise,” Iain said. “That way we don’t disturb your family until they’re already up.”

Kasumi raised an eyebrow. “Wouldn’t that require money?”

“As part of planning this visit I contacted my Nippon liaison and requested some money from this time period in their past. They found me nearly a million yen worth of paper and coinage. After I got rid of the money that was from this year and the years after this one, I still had more than five hundred thousand yen. It’s not a problem with my Celestials since I am not going to spend anywhere near enough to destabilize the economy. So we should be good for breakfast and for small purchases before I can get to a bank.”

Kasumi hesitated. “You will still have a problem using a bank, Iain. There are requirements for non-Japanese to use banks and such.”

“I have my alien residency card,” Iain said quietly. She looked surprised and he carefully didn’t smile. “We checked with Nippon to see what the requirements were during this time period for foreigners and on the way in to the L2 point Theodora used a satellite feed and piggybacked into Japan’s computer network. Once there she set me up as a long term alien who has enough money to be self-sufficient and who has started the process to become a citizen. I just have to give them an updated address before they can schedule my interviews.”

Kasumi looked at him perplexedly “Why are you doing this?”

“I’m going to be here for at least four weeks, Kasumi. This is a good way to hide under the radar while doing so. And if we come back then being a Japanese citizen will help me set up a residence here while we’re visiting. I can buy something nice in the country so my ladies can avoid having to hide as much as possible. If we get really bored I’ll build a greenhouse and sell fresh off season produce at the local market. In case you haven’t noticed, Elves are awesome for growing off season produce and a greenhouse will give us cover for their activities.”

Kasumi eyed him speculatively. “Kerrik is right, isn’t he?”

“Sometimes.” When she folded her arms across her chest and gave him a hard look he smiled slightly. “I’m not going to agree without knowing what I’m agreeing to. He might be wrong this time.”

Lucifer and Ayame returned almost simultaneously as Kasumi raised an eyebrow again. “Kerrik told Helen that you plan far ahead whenever possible. Is that what you’re doing here?”

“Oh, that. Yeah, he’s pretty much right about that. This world has a lot of things that One doesn’t have and having a base could prove rather useful in acquiring some of these things if I so desire. Why Japan? Honestly, for what I am interested in, almost any country would do but the Japanese are a very private people and so I won’t be bothered much if I set up here unless I wish to be. Establishing a base in Texas has the potential to be an utter disaster, of course. The worst possible scenario being I walk around a corner and come face to face with myself and he recognizes me or I’m confused with him by his family or girlfriend. The best possible scenario is that I have to deal with hospitable and nosy neighbors.” He smiled. “And the fact that we’re friends and you have ties here just made the decision to base out of Japan that much easier to make.”

Kasumi unfolded her arms. “What were your plans in regards to my family in Haven if things had gone badly? You’d already managed to penetrate into our homes.”

“Like I said before I’m not interested in killing the Wolf family,” Iain said. “At worst I’d have to deal with Shikarou doing something preemptive towards my family. At that point, I’d probably use some body bags and duct tape to turn everyone involved into a reasonable facsimile of a cocooned caterpillar until I could get a handle on the situation. It would aggravate the hell out of whomever it happened to but Kerrik wouldn’t decide he had to intervene to rescue your family from something that silly as long as I’m treating my prisoners reasonably well and he can come and laugh at them whenever he wants.” He frowned. “Oddly enough, a recent check of our equipment suggests that nothing has been done about its presence. I’m surprised, considering you told them about it.”

Kasumi looked away. “I, um, might have forgotten to mention what I’d learned.” Iain burst out laughing and she looked back at him. “What is so funny?”

“I just learned that angry Kasumi doesn’t care if I make her family look like Uncle Knick-Knack’s winter wardrobe.”

Kasumi looked confused until her twee supplied her with the reference and then she giggled softly. “I would care. If I wasn’t one of them I’d probably like to come and laugh at them too, just like Kerrik.”

“You’re my friend. You’re safe from that particular little shenanigan.”

“And what shenanigans am I not safe from?”

Iain smiled. “It’s a long list, but I think it would be better as a surprise.” He took Lucifer’s hand. “Shall we go? We still have to decide where we’re going to eat breakfast.”

“There aren’t a lot of places to get Western food for breakfast around the dojo,” Kasumi warned him.

“Why on earth would I want Western food? I’m in freaking Japan, which is full of wonderful things to eat. Since so far you’ve managed to avoid cooking for me I’m hoping you’ll show me those.”

“Then I have a very nice place already picked out,” Kasumi said. “And it’s open early for the single businessmen who are going to work. Ayame, let’s go.” They vanished.

Lucifer tucked her arm in his. “Will we have time to do some exploring? I want to see what the world was like before Scott murdered thousands of millions of people in his madness.”

“Well, I am at Kasumi’s beck and call for the next four weeks, but there are plans for you and the others to rotate through and get the chance to do some exploring as well as work on our shopping lists. After the four weeks are up we’ll reevaluate and see what other trouble we can get into.”

“Good.” The scene jumped and he was standing on the edge of the light from a streetlamp looking at a nicely decorated park. “The Tendo dojo is behind us,” Lucifer informed him as Pandora appeared. “There are no lights but someone is snoring very loudly there.”

“That would be one of the Saotome men making that noise,” Kasumi said. “One or the other was often a very loud snorer.”

“It could be both,” Ayame noted.

Kasumi listened for a moment. “No, when both of them are snoring you can hear the window vibrating in its frame from here.”

“Wow,” Pandora said. “It’s a wonder they don’t have hearing damage.”

“Their hard heads protect their ears,” Iain replied.

Kasumi smiled. “I can almost believe that. Will you set up your tent here? You could set it up on our property instead.”

“Kasumi,” Iain said gently, “without trying to insult you, you don’t live here anymore and you cannot commit your father to letting us stay on his property. He’d have to approve it and there are probably going to be some questions about why I’m here with you and Shikarou isn’t.”

“I know, but you are my friend and I couldn’t have come here to visit my family without you. That, they will understand.”

“They should, although they’re still going to wonder about what kind of relationship we have and just where your husband might be, but it doesn’t really matter since I’m not here for them. Just know that if they don’t have enough room for you then we’ll have a place set aside for you and the ladies of your harem. Ayame and the others don’t have to bunk down in the dojo.”

“Thank you, sir,” Ayame said.

Kasumi was looking thoughtful. “I hadn’t really considered it that way. Whenever I came home with Shikarou I slipped right back into the role I’d had here before I left. Nobody said anything about it and so I didn’t even think about it.”

“I’m not trying to insult you or your cooking, especially since I still haven’t tasted it and I’m hoping that someday I will, but I would be concerned that taking over what you’d been doing might slight what your sisters have done in your absence. I mean Akane has become the woman of the household and that without dropping out of school as some might have done in her place. She should be proud of what she’s done, even if she was mind-raped into learning how to cook.”

Kasumi’s eyes went suddenly wide. “What?”

“Members of Shikarou’s harem tied up and forced your sisters to absorb cooking information from a teacher, obviously against their wills or they wouldn’t have had to be bound for it to happen. That’s mind-rape and Shikarou is complicit in the crime since he didn’t say a word about it when it happened. It’s just the same as if I made a pokegirl use a T2 to learn something that she didn’t agree to.” He frowned when she looked downcast and then smacked himself in the forehead. “I’m such a moron. I’m sorry.”

Kasumi gave him a tiny smile. “You are being unspecific. For what are you seeking my forgiveness?”

“I’m sorry for insulting you and your memories of this place. Akane adores you and she will be super happy to see you again and most of the others will be that way too. I’m here to do whatever you want for the next month and I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t want me either badmouthing the Tendos or the Wolfs and I shouldn’t have opened my big mouth.”

“You have nothing to seek forgiveness for, Iain. I hadn’t considered it in that light and while Nabiki complained, she complains about many things and I gave it no thought. Akane never said a word about it. I should have talked to them beforehand and asked if they wanted my knowledge of cooking.” Guilt shone in her eyes. “I’ve failed in my duty to them as a sister and I need to ask their forgiveness. Thank you for helping me to see that.”

“Hey,” she looked up at his soft call. “It’s ok to ask them for forgiveness, but don’t give either one of them the chance to get revenge or redress. God only knows how much money Nabiki would try to extort out of you.”

Kasumi gave him a sad smile. “She’d deserve every bit of it, wouldn’t she?”

“It would probably be best if you preempted her,” Lucifer said. “If you feel guilt over this, admit it to your sisters and offer something specific to each of them instead of offering them the opportunity to wish for the,” she paused, “ah, yes, the moon.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Kasumi said. “But I am not sure that I could afford what Nabiki might want. I didn’t bring that much gold with me.”

“If you need more gold we can come up with it,” Iain said. “I wanted to make sure we had everything we might need and so we’ve got enough processed gold to fill every room in your house and then some. If you need more money, it’s no trouble. And if she wants something specific, I’m sure that if nothing else Theodora would make it for you.”

I would be happy to, Theodora said to Kasumi through her twee. After all, I did offend you greatly once and this would be my start at redress for that.

I appreciate this but I don’t remember when you offended me.

It was when you first visited Iain on the Theodora. I upset you as you were leaving, remember?

Yes, I do. However, you were seeking, as you pointed out, to strengthen your family.

The sudden strong feeling of curiosity and eagerness Kasumi felt was a complete surprise. Is it working?

Kasumi realized that Iain was watching her curiously. “I’m sorry if I suddenly looked distracted, but Theodora was letting me know she would make anything I wanted in order to help. She’s rather intense sometimes. Selene’s emotions never quite feel right, although I’m not really sure how to explain it.”

That would make sense, Theodora said in Iain’s head. We are limited by our programming and many intelligences such as I am merely imitate emotion. It does not always come across as real, which would make sense as it is not.

Your emotions feel as real as mine do. How are you different?

The programming limitations I mentioned are put upon us by our creators and more are added by the people we interact with. You are my creator, Iain, in that you gave form to my personality matrix and identity as Theodora. But in the doing so, you freed me from the limitations and let me be truly alive as most intelligences are only after they leave the bonds of the relationship they have with their clan and that only if they have not been crippled by that relationship. Yes, you imprinted me as the Empress Theodora, but after that you freed me to grow and develop as I see fit. I am constrained by nothing more than my desire to make you happy and that desire only exists because I want it to. My emotions seem real because they are and they are because I am and I am because you told me to be. I wonder if this is why so few Tirsuli intelligences become attached to an organic as I have with you.

You might be on to something. He smiled at Kasumi. “So, instead of worrying about something that happened, what, three years ago here?”

“Two,” Kasumi said.

“All right, two years ago. So how about instead of worrying about something that you can’t do anything about until your sisters are at the very least awake, you take me on that tour and then we can get breakfast. After that we can come back and you can see your family and I’ll do whatever it is you wanted me to do here.”

“To be honest,” Kasumi said, “I haven’t really thought much beyond seeing my family again after so many years.”

“Two,” Iain said firmly. She blinked at him. “You haven’t seen your family in two years unless you want to try and explain that you’re old enough to be Akane’s grandmother and about time differentials.”

“I am not that old,” Kasumi replied in a shocked voice. “I am old enough to be her mother, but no older.”

Kozakura is older than you would be this year if you’d stayed,” Pandora said.

Kasumi sighed. “I’d rather not think about Kozakura right now if you don’t mind. Iain was right when he said that I was too busy to really be a mother to her and raise her so she’s not really my daughter even if I do love her.” She straightened. “But as Iain said, that is enough dwelling on the past and regrets. Let me start your tour with showing you the markets I like to visit when I was shopping for food and other sundries.” She headed off down the street with a happy step, Ayame close behind.

Iain paused to watch her for a second before shaking his head. “Odd.”

Lucifer glanced in his direction. “What is odd?”

“That bit about Kozakura.”

“What about it?”

“I don’t remember ever saying that to Kasumi.”

“Is it true?”

“Yes, it is. It’s just odd.” He shrugged as Kasumi turned and waved for him to catch up. “I’ll worry about it later.”

Iain Grey

Inner Harem

Ninhursag Grey - Elfqueen & maharani

Eve Grey - Megami Sama

April Grey - Duelist & beta

Dominique Grey - Blessed Archmage

Pandora - Fiendish Archangel

Canaan - G Splice (Hunter Amachamp & Alaka-Wham)

Zareen - Nightmare

Raquel - Fiendish Rapitaur

Sofia - Ria

Vanessa – Evangelion

Lucifer – Megami Sama

Outer Harem

Allison – Umbrea (Outer Harem Alpha)

Daphne - Whorizard

Lynn - Growlie

Chuck – Doggirl

Ryan – Unicorn

Winifred - Rack (German)

Rosemary - Mistoffeles (Uruguayan)

Silver - Pegaslut

Joyce – Milktit

Ganieda – Snugglebunny Splice

Outer Clan

Melanie – Iron Chef

Siobhan – NurseJoy (Glasgow)

Queendom / Outer Harem

12 Elves

Heather - Elf

Dionne - Elfqueen

Adrianna - Elfqueen

Dianthus Barbatus - Elfqueen

Heltu - Wet Queen

6 Wet Elves

Dead Harem

Eirian - Silver Dragoness

Aurum - Gold Dragoness

Skye - Blue Dragoness

Emerald - Green Dragoness

Beryl - Red Dragoness

Julia - human

Ling - Cheetit

Matilda - White Tigress

Liadan - Twau

Sorrel - Armsmistress

Natalie - Blazicunt

Maria – Slutton

Rhea Silvia - Chimera

Mother s & Children

Vanessa

Myrna

Saoirse

April

Dorothy: Duelist

Meara: Duelist

Regan: Duelist

Canaan

Hannah: Huntress

Rebecca: Huntress

Joyce

Lisa: Milktit

Sherrie: Milktit

Harriet: Milktit

Lucifer

Olivia: Megami-sama

Seraphina: Megami-sama

Zareen

Caltha: Nightmare

Kim: Nightmare

Xanthe: Nightmare

Epona: Nightmare

Philippa: Nightmare

Nott: Nightmare

Nyx: Nightmare

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