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Loose Threads

Twenty One

“I have changed my mind,” Kasumi said as they walked back towards the Tendo dojo. “I want to wait until the children are off to school before I approach the house. That way they won’t try to miss school so as to see me when I arrive.” She glanced at him. “What do you think of that decision?”

“I think it’s logical,” Iain replied. “I also know that for the next four weeks your wish is pretty much my command and so what I think about it isn’t really important. However it’s something that I might do as well, although my sisters are both out of school.”

“Are they married?”

“They weren’t when I was kidnapped. They did have boyfriends though.” He grimaced. “Let me correct that. One of them has a boyfriend. The other has a soul sucking woman beating drug pushing male she swears she loves or I’d have already killed his dumb ass. Sanctuary would have had to kidnap me from prison at that point.”

“Was there a woman in your life?”

“Not at the time the kidnapping happened. I had recently dumped my girlfriend because she thought that certain rules in our relationship should only apply to me.” He smiled slightly. “And boy was she pissed when I did.”

“May I ask what those rules were?”

“She got to have an open relationship and I didn’t. I, being the selfish person she’s always said I was, didn’t think that was equitable. She thought I was just supposed to support her while she was busy with other men.” His lips spread in an evil smile. “She had a screaming meltdown when I booted her out of my house. It was awesome to watch.”

“If she insulted you when she said you were selfish before, why did you tolerate her in your life?”

“My choices of feminine companionship at the time were much more proscribed than they are now.” Iain glanced at Pandora and Lucifer. “In that regard, coming here was a godsend. Granted I went from an empty cup to a cup that runneth over big time, but I’d rather be here with people that love me than back there with my old girlfriend who thought I was a stable meal ticket and a good place to stay.” He shook his head. “But I think that’s enough about my sucky past.”

“I’m interested in learning about you, Iain, and I know that your pokegirls are interested in that too.”

“There really was not a whole lot to me before I came to the pokegirl universe. I was born and raised in Texas. After I graduated from high school I went to university and then into the US Navy. The Navy wasn’t something I wanted to do as a career and after I got out I moved back to Texas to be close to my family; both of my sisters claimed to desperately need my help and because I had a job waiting for me. Both of my parents and all of my grandparents are dead and other than my sisters I have no family outside of the clan. The reason I was kidnapped was because instead of wasting my free time partying, I wasted it writing stories about pokegirls.” He smiled amusedly. “I have always claimed that there were voices in my head and I had to write to get them to be quiet. The voices were real; I just made them sound like a bad joke when I accidentally mentioned their existence. I always thought it was an overactive imagination and now I’ve discovered that I was fortunately very wrong about that.”

“This way.” Kasumi turned into the park and led him to a bench close enough to her house that it could be observed but far enough inside the park that it was hard to see people sitting on it from the dojo. “We can wait here.” She turned to him as he sat down next to her. “Are the voices quiet now that you are here?”

With his perception Iain could see that their guards were all watching the conversation with curiosity. “No,” he admitted quietly, “they’re not. Sometimes they’re louder than they have ever been.”

Kasumi inclined her head gracefully. “How do you manage with them now?”

“When I have some free time, I write by dictating the stories to Theodora, who archives them for me in the clan database.”

Pandora’s head snapped around. “Why didn’t we know about this?”

“They’re not pokegirl stories,” Iain replied. “You can read them if you want, just ask Theodora to send them to you. Most of them are in one particular universe and if we ever end up there we may not leave orbit for the surface until we have a foolproof way to detect the antagonist race in those stories.” Pandora gave him a confused look and he smiled. “They’re parasitic, part of a non-telepathic hive community and almost microscopic and when they possess their host they have access to all of the host’s memories so they can pretend to be that person until they’re in a position to strike.”

“That does sound like a reasonable plan,” Lucifer said.

“I’m glad you agree.” His head came around when a female yelled from somewhere inside the dojo, her words indistinct at this distance. “Would that be Akane?”

“That is her voice,” Kasumi said. “And the time suggests they should be leaving very soon unless they want to be late. Nabiki has more than likely already gone to school so she can spend time with her friends before school starts.” A young woman and a young man carrying book bags ran out of the house, turned right and continued on down the street until they went out of sight. “At least she wasn’t yelling at him this morning,” Kasumi noted quietly.

Minutes stretched by while Kasumi watched the house until Iain patted her on the knee. She gave him a questioning look and he smiled. “If I ever manage to make it back home I’ll probably do something a lot like this too. I’d be as nervous as hell, like you are now.”

“You are not supposed to know me that well, Iain,” Kasumi chided gently.

“It’s not that he knows you,” Lucifer said. “Anyone who has spent so much time away from home like you have would be nervous at this point. I’d have a lot of questions whirling through my mind. What has changed? Will I be welcome there? Is Genma still living there? Has my father remarried? All of these questions would be running through my mind and I suspect they’re running through yours. Some of my daughters just walk in the door without considering what might have changed in the decades since we last saw each other but others are more like you and me and worry about it, if only a little bit.”

Kasumi blinked and looked at Pandora, who nodded. “It’s true.”

“They’re right, mistress,” Ayame said quietly.

“Yes, they are.” Kasumi rose and offered her hand to Iain. “I’d like you to come with me.” He took the hand and let her help him stand. “You said I could have a hug whenever I wanted one. May I have one before we do this?”

Iain wrapped her up in his arms. “Of course you can.”

She rested against him for a moment. “Is there some magic at play that makes this feel so reassuring?”

“It is something special about Iain,” Lucifer said. “It’s not magical but it is something innate to him. April theorizes it’s another aspect of his charm ability, but I have watched closely as he does this and there’s no magic involved. All we know is that when he holds someone that he likes, for the time that they’re held everything is going to be right. We also draw strength from him.”

“I feel it,” Kasumi said quietly. She looked up at Iain. “Thank you.” He just smiled and bobbed his head once before releasing her. “You’ll stay with me for this?”

His voice was solemn. “I will.” He looked back at Pandora and Lucifer. “Ladies, can I ask you to guard from a distance so we don’t freak her father out more than he’s already likely to?”

“Just stay in my line of sight,” Pandora replied.

Lucifer gave the Archangel a quick glance. “I will watch through my bond, Iain. If you feel in distress I will come.”

“Thanks, ladies.” He turned to Kasumi. “Let’s do this.”

As they approached the house a tall, slender Japanese man came outside and began sweeping leaves from the front porch. Kasumi gave a big smile and stepped forward. “Father!”

He looked up and for a second looked confused. Then he grinned. “Kasumi!” He looked through Iain and past his daughter. “Where is our kami?”

Kasumi chuckled. “Shikarou didn’t come with me this time. This is Iain Grey and he arranged for me to be able to visit for a while. Iain, this is my father, Tendo Soun.”

Iain knew better than to try and bow as Soun turned curious eyes on him. “Tendo-sama, it is my pleasure to meet you. I have heard many wonderful things of the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts and I understand you are one of its two illustrious masters.”

Soun looked him up and down. “Are you a kami?”

“No, sir, I am not.”

“You’re a Westerner. Would you be willing to pretend to be a kami for me?”

“Father! Iain is my friend and I won’t have you treat him this way!”

Soun glanced at her and dropped his voice. “We’ll discuss this later.” He turned to Kasumi. “Welcome back, my daughter. Where is my granddaughter? Is she talking yet?”

Surprise appeared on Kasumi’s face and vanished almost instantly. “Kozakura is healthy and happy, father, but she couldn’t come this trip. She’s staying with Shikarou.”

He nodded. “Good. So why are you here?”

“I wanted to see my family again. It has been too long.” Kasumi glanced at Iain. I had again forgotten my family knew I was pregnant during my last visit, which was a year ago for him. Kozakura is an adult. What do I tell him?

All you should have to do is keep it vague and truthful as you just did and everything should be fine. Do you want me to distract him?

How could you do that?

“Tendo-sama,” Iain said easily into the pause in the conversation, “as I have said, I have heard of your school. My teacher has told me that a true martial artist is willing to study any style and I was hopeful that you might be willing to give me some lessons while Kasumi is visiting. I would, of course, be willing to pay for them.”

Soun looked curious. “Who is your master and what school are you a student of?”

“My master is named Kerrik Wolf and he teaches the Tsukkiken School. He is the father of Shikarou and therefore he is Kasumi’s father in law. He is also kami, like his son.”

“So you know Shikarou too? Are you his friend as well?”

“Sir, Shikarou is a hard kami to be friends with. He and I know each other and we are currently exploring our mutual interests to see if friendship is something that we want.”

“What is his father like?”

“Sir, Kerrik is an ancient and powerful kami. For the most part he is uninterested in the affairs of mortal men and, honestly, is to their benefit.”

“How is it that you are his student if he has little to do with mortals?”

“Sir, I am not exactly a mortal man and he knows this.”

“So you are not a kami? What are you then?”

“If you were to do the research, you would find that there are beings as powerful as kami or oni in Western legends. Many of them look indistinguishable from men if they wish to. But, sir, I am here merely to accompany Kasumi. I should say no more on the matter.”

“Would you be willing to say you were kami for some people I know,” Soun asked eagerly.

Kasumi started to protest again but stopped when Iain gave a tiny shake of his head. “Sir, I believe we were going to discuss this later. Now, we have had a long trip and I wonder if it would be so bold as to ask for something to drink.” He reached out to Pandora and Lucifer. I’m going to have to go inside. I’m giving you access to my vision through my twee. Monitor and respond if you think I need you to. Have Dominique set up the tent in the park for now.

We will, Pandora replied.

“Where are my manners,” Soun said. “Please, come inside. Kasumi will get us something to drink while we talk.” He gestured them in and shut the door.

Iain gave a mental wince and reached out to Kasumi. Crap. Sorry. I just wanted to get him off of the subject of Kozakura. I did not intend to turn you into our tavern wench.

And you did that well, Iain. Thank you. As for being your servant, I am used to it here. I will let Akane cook, but I will do these little things for my family still. “Would you like nihonshu, father?”

Soun blinked and smiled widely. “That would be excellent, Kasumi. Akane seldom lets me have any.”

“And why is that, father?”

“Did I hear we were getting nihonshu?” A burly bald man almost darted from down the hall.

“Hello, Saotome-san.”

“Kasumi! You look well, girl.” He peered at Iain through his glasses. “Who are you?”

Soun smiled. “This is Grey-san and he may be able to help us out with our little problem, Saotome. He even knows Shikarou.”

What will you do if they want you to kill another oni like Shikarou did? Lucifer sounded more curious than worried.

I’ll get some pom-poms and cheer while you ladies destroy it.

Kasumi made an odd noise and Iain glanced at her. She was obviously trying hard not to laugh out loud. Is there a problem?

Her eyes twinkled as she looked up at him. It’s just the image of you with pom-poms and wearing a cheerleader’s outfit is very funny. Lucifer was including me so I wouldn’t protest. Do not let my father convince you to do anything too outlandish.

Don’t worry. If it’s something we can’t do, I’ll tell him no and he’ll be sad.

Kasumi suddenly giggled. Her father glanced at her and then ignored her.

Soon he was seated on the porch facing Soun and Genma. “So, what is it that you want me to do for you?”

Genma was staring at Iain. “You do not look like a kami. Show me your powers.”

“As I explained to Tendo-sama, I am from the west and therefore am not a kami. As for a demonstration of my powers,” he pointed a fist at Genma and his black and silver sword slid out of his hand, the point stopping just in front of Genma’s suddenly wide eyes before it retracted back into his hand, “will that suffice or do I need to actually split your skull open?”

“That will do nicely,” Soun said as Genma went almost completely white. “We built a shrine to the family kami some time ago.”

“Roughly two years,” Iain commented.

Soun blinked. “Yes, just as Kasumi told you, around two years ago.”

Kasumi came in with a tray of nihonshu bottles and cups. “I didn’t tell Iain anything about that. He knows things, father. It’s one of his powers.”

“Really? What does he know about me,” Soun asked. Both he and Genma looked expectantly at him. Kasumi had been leaving but paused to watch from where she was standing just outside of the vision of her father and Saotome.

Iain really could have used Canaan or Ganeida and their telepathy right now, but they were still on the Theodora and waiting for Dominique to establish the tent. So he took a guess, but not really much of one considering the two men in front of him. “Akane has put you on an allowance to protect the money you got from Kasumi’s marriage to Shikarou,” Iain said. “She has done it because her mother would have done the same thing. And she is not letting you get drunk before you go out so you don’t lose it all, which is why you said she seldom lets you have any nihonshu. But it’s not enough and you’ve been stealing Akane’s pocket money so you have more to spend.” Soun went pale as Iain continued. “You don’t think she’s realized what you’re doing and you hope it’ll continue forever, but you forget that she is nearly as smart as Kasumi is and will eventually figure out why her accounts are not balancing.”

“It isn’t stealing,” Genma snapped. “It is his money.”

Iain raised an eyebrow. “He put Akane in charge of the money and he didn't think to make sure he had an allowance he thought was acceptable. Tendo-sama has three choices now. He can accept what has happened, he can take the money away from Akane and do the job himself or he can take the money away from Akane and give it to Nabiki to take care of.”

“Not Nabiki,” Soun whispered.

“I didn't think you'd want to do that,” Iain said. “But if you take the money back yourself, you'll have to take care of the bills, give money to Akane for shopping and Nabiki will be constantly trying to wheedle money out of you for her purposes. You have one other thing you can try, which is to approach Akane as an adult dealing with an adult and ask her to increase your allowance. I'd suggest having some kind of justification for it and you wanting to just get shit faced isn't going to be a good one.”

“What is shit faced,” Soun asked.

“It means really drunk.” Iain shook his head. “But we're getting off of the subject. You want me to do something for you. What is it?”

The two men exchanged looks before Soun poured him a cup of wine. “Nihonshu?”

“Thank you.” Iain wondered what their game was but took the cup as Genma poured himself and Soun a cup.

Genma handed a cup to Soun and looked at Iain. “Kampai!” He drained his cup and looked at Iain expectantly.

Iain glanced at Kasumi where she still was not quite hiding and tossed back the contents of the cup. He saw the flash of worry on her face and ignored it as he turned back to the two men as it burned its way down his throat. “Whoa, that's strong.”

Genma refilled his cup and his own. “You drink nihonshu like a man should,” he said with a grin.

Soun raised his cup of nihonshu. “Kampai!” He swallowed the contents of his cup and smiled when Iain followed suit. “We will drink and then we will talk.”

You know, Kasumi heard his voice in her head. I have recently been spending time in Nippon, as the guest of various people who want things from me. I know that nihonshu is really strong compared to Western wines and that it is meant to be sipped and I know that for some reason these two seem to want to get me drunk, probably so I'll agree to whatever they want. Unfortunately for them, as part of what I have been learning to do, I made myself immune to most toxins some time ago and alcohol is a toxin. I sometimes miss being able to get a buzz, but they'd have a better chance winning a staring contest with me than in trying to get me drunk before they pass out.

Genma refilled Iain and Soun's cups. Before he could move, Iain raised his cup. “Slainte mhaith,” and gulped down his nihonshu. When he got two puzzled looks he smiled. “It means to your health. Now drink, you two.” They smiled and emptied their cups.

I don't know what they want either, but be careful, Kasumi said back to him. I will tell them that I cannot find any more nihonshu when that is gone. There isn't really much in any case, I don't think Akane has been buying it for some time.

Thank you for that, Iain replied. I can't get drunk on this but it is some pretty cheap wine and the taste definitely proves it.

The drinking continued until the bottles were empty. Iain pretended to become buzzed as time passed. Soun and Genma were old hands at this and held their liquor well. Finally Soun leaned forward, his hands on his knees. “Grey-san, I need your help. I have a potential patron who is very wealthy and very powerful and he wants to meet the kami who saved Tokyo.”

Iain frowned. “What kami saved Tokyo?”

“Shikarou did,” Soun said. “He saved the city when he destroyed the oni.”

“I don't think he would characterize Tokyo as having been in danger from that particular monster unless its young had hatched by the thousands, but for the sake of this discussion I won't argue the point. I take it you want me to pretend to be Shikarou for this potential patron.” He gestured at himself. “I am a Westerner and I don't look anything like him.”

“A kami can look however it wants,” Genma said. “Everyone knows that.”

“I have some clothes that you can wear,” Soun explained, “and I have a wig that will help make you look more like him.”

Iain glanced into the doorway again at Kasumi, who had sat down so she could listen to the conversation. Right now she looked like she was considering strangling someone, probably her father. “How is Kasumi going to like me masquerading as her husband? Out of the three people here who are not me, she is the one who is important to me.”

“I will make sure you get those lessons you wanted,” Soun said. “My very own daughter, who is the heir to the style and the dojo, will teach you herself.”

“Why do you wish more money,” Iain asked.

“The money Shikaoru gave us was very nice,” Soun said, “but it won't last forever. In fact, most of it is already gone. This patron would give us a stipend to make sure the shrine is kept up properly. Whatever isn't needed for the shrine would, of course, go to the upkeep of the shrine's caretakers.”

“Would this money go to Akane to take care of or to you,” Iain asked.

“My good friend Saotome and I would take care of the shrine,” Soun said. “My daughters have too many other responsibilities for me to wish to add this burden to them as well.”

“You're just being a good father,” Iain said without a trace of sarcasm.

` “That is correct.”

When Iain glanced into the hallway again, Kasumi was gone. “And what is this patron likely to desire from your kami?”

“I believe that all he desires is to see a small demonstration of the kami's power,” Soun said.

“You do realize that Shikarou is a kami of death,” Iain's voice was quiet. “Do you wish me to therefore kill everyone else in the room?”

“No,” Soun said hastily. “All we need is your presence and maybe a small demonstration of power to prove you’re a kami.”

He is right, Kasumi said through her twee. I found the account ledgers in Akane's room. Akane has spent most of the money wisely to make repairs and some upgrades to the home and property, such as a much larger water heater for the Saotome's, but nearly three quarters of it is gone. A lot of it went to repair termite damage in the dojo.

“I'll do it,” Iain said, “one time. If you try to get repeat performances out of me, I am going to be unhappy.”

“One time should be acceptable,” Soun's voice was heavy with relief.

Iain got smoothly to his feet. “We will talk again in a few days to plan out what is supposed to happen during this appearance of the family kami. In the meantime, if you will excuse me?” Where are you, Kasumi?

I'm in the kitchen.

Iain stopped and picked up the tray of cups and empty bottles. “I'll get this to the kitchen.” Kasumi was standing at the table when he came in. “Are you all right?”

He loaded the stuff from the tray into the sink as she spoke thoughtfully. “If things are like this I wonder what happened to them during the twenty years that I was ignoring their existence.”

“Hey, since Shikarou never taught you how to open gates you were kind of dependent on his goodwill to get here and he kept himself and you too busy to visit. I should also point out that those years will not exist for these people. You've erased that future for them by arriving now and so their new future will be different.”

“What if this patron doesn't work out?”

“It doesn't matter,” Iain said. Her head came around and he could see in her eyes that she desperately wanted to believe him. “What is overhead that belongs to me?”

Kasumi frowned. “I take it you're talking about the Theodora?”

“Yes. And what is the Theodora?”

“She's a spaceship.”

Iain nodded. “That's right. You're not one of us and you don't know the important details. The Theodora is a processor spaceship. She catches asteroids and other space things and reduces them to their constituents in order to build the nice things she gives us. You have access to Akane's ledgers which have, presumably, the account numbers or some other account identifier. I have access to almost unlimited amounts of valuable minerals. Even if this patron does work out we'll make arrangements for a large deposit or possibly regular deposits from an anonymous source to be made to the family accounts since Soun has already said the patronage money will be going to him and, I suspect, not from him to Akane. I presume that the worst of the outlays have been done and the rest will be mainly regular bills, paying for university for Akane, Ranma and Nabiki if they decide to go to university and pass their entrance exams and such, right?”

“That should be true,” Kasumi said. “The house, the school and the grounds were suffering for years without any real maintenance and I believe Akane has taken care of everything she knows about.”

“Then we'll have the property surveyed for anything else that might need repaired and get it done or at least started before you leave.”

She turned abruptly to face him. “Why are you helping? I know about you and your vaunted bubble. April warned me about it. You can't care about my family. You don't even know them other than what I have told you. What does doing this do for you?”

“Look, if you don't want me to help, I won't,” Iain said in a placating tone. “I'm just offering.”

“Iain Grey,” Kasumi said as she advanced on him, forcing him back against the wall. “I want you to answer my question.”

He checked around him and gritted his teeth when he realized he was trapped between the stove and a shelf full of utensils. “It doesn't do anything for me, Kasumi,” he said quietly. “You are inside my bubble and my friend. I'm helping them because of that. It's for you.”

“This isn't for that contest, is it?”

“No. You haven't asked me to do anything like this and the rules are pretty vague on whether or not I'd have to even if you did,” Iain replied. “I like you and you'll be happier if your family is taken care of because they're incredibly important to you.”

“They are important to you because I am important to you.” He nodded slowly. “And how am I important to you?”

“You're my friend, Kasumi.”

“And what does that mean? What is Kasumi Wolf to you, Iain? No more evasions, no more flirtations, just answer the question. What am I to you?”

“Kasumi?” Soun’s voice floated down the hallway. “Can we get some tea?”

“You do not move,” Kasumi hissed at Iain. In a normal tone she called back. “Of course, father. It will be just a few minutes.”

Do you need rescued? It was Pandora.

No, I don't think I'm in physical danger from Kasumi. Do you?

I'm not sure. What are you going to tell her?

I'll tell her as little as possible. “Where is Ayame?”

“I told her to go to Lucifer and Pandora for the time being,” Kasumi said calmly as she made a pot of tea and put together a snack tray for her father. “Are your women coming to rescue you from me?”

“I don't think I'm in that kind of danger from you.”

“You are hoping to distract me, aren't you?”

“I will admit that would be nice. I’m also not sure it’s going to be possible.”

“Are you afraid of me?”

“Not at the moment.” She looked back at him and he smiled. “You are a kami and they can be as dangerous as a powerful pokegirl.”

“You are in no danger from me.”

“What happens if I move?”

She smiled suddenly. “I think it might be best if you didn't move.”

“Are you sure you want to have a discussion here about how you're roughly the same age as your father? Genma is currently sneaking down the hall towards the kitchen.”

Kasumi's eyes narrowed. “Sometimes I think Shikarou should have let him taste the soup Happosai made for Akane. Please stay in the kitchen until I return.” Her face went placid and she picked up the tray and hurried from the kitchen, her skirt swirling around her calves. “Saotome-san, is there something I can help you with?”

Iain ignored the muttered excuses Genma spouted as Kasumi herded him back to the porch where he'd met with Soun and Genma. When she returned he was still standing where she'd left him. She raised an eyebrow and he smiled slightly. “I figured it would be safer if I stayed here.”

She grabbed his hand. “Come with me.” She led him through the house and out the back into the garden. Letting go of his hand, she crouched and sprang up onto the first floor roof. She turned and looked down at him. “Come up here so we can talk undisturbed.”

Iain gave her an odd look, sighed, crouched and jumped, catching the edge of the roof and then pulling himself up over the edge before rolling to his feet in front of her. “In case you've forgotten, I'm not a kami or even partly one and I can't jump like one just yet.”

“You seldom show your limits, Iain. How am I to know where they lie?”

“You're not supposed to,” he replied. “Why are we here?”

“Come with me.” She led him onto the roof of the dojo proper before sitting down just below the ridge of the roof. “Please sit down.” He sat down next to her. She glanced at him. “I had a question. Will you answer it?”

“What are you to me?” He was silent long enough that she turned to face him. Finally he gave a small shake of his head. “No, I won't answer it. It really doesn't matter because what you might be to me is overshadowed by the fact that you're married and your marriage will always come first.”

“What if I wasn't married to Shikarou?”

“You are and I am not going to speculate on what if.”

“I thought this was my month and you would do anything that I wanted that wasn't unreasonable. Is speculation unreasonable?”

Iain rubbed the back of his neck and suddenly tense muscles. “You're serious. Of course you are. Fuck.”

“I don't ask this question merely to torment you. I am curious.”

“Have you heard the Western saying about curiosity killing cats?”

“You are avoiding the question.”

He gave her a hard look. “You know, sometimes it would be a lot easier if I were attracted to stupid women.”

“So you find me attractive.”

He scowled. “Yes, I find you attractive. I find both your physicality and your personality attractive.” He slumped back against the rooftop. “I’ve already admitted that if you were single I would be interested in going out with you.”

“Don't you have enough women in your life? And there is also Ygerna.”

“You asked and I answered. As for my ladies, the reason Ygerna is part of my life right now is because they want the clan to grow and get stronger. If they were dead set against Ygerna, she and I wouldn't be courting. They would feel something similar about me and you. You bring strong blood and magic and a lot of knowledge that is unique with your experience as a teacher at a school of formal magic. All of that is to be appreciated on a practical level and my ladies are outstanding at practical thinking.”

“What about Ygerna and her presence in your life?”

“She isn't a part of my family yet and so I have to overlook what she might feel about this. OK, I'm supposed to but I don't. However, she's not opposed to you. She is also very smart and I'm sure that she recognizes my interest in you. If she were against your presence around me, she'd have found a way to let me know about it, probably by just telling me about how she felt in regards to the situation. But she also knows I won't act on it. I had a girlfriend who thought it was cool to fuck around on me with strangers. It's not, at least not for me. It hurt like hell. I would never help a married woman fuck around on her husband. On top of that, no matter what Shikarou does, you don't think you're in an open marriage.”

“You are right. I married Shikarou with the understanding that it was a marriage between him and me. He was married to some of his harem, and I knew that and accepted it as part of being married to him. His behavior towards women who are not part of our family was not something I was aware of until later, and I will admit it has been a source of tension.” She was silent for a bit. “Are you faithful to your women?”

“In an odd way I am,” he finally said. “I am not having sex with women who are outside the clan or who are not being added to the clan in the process of having sex with me. I guess in that regard I am doing the best that I can.”

“But do you want to have sex with every woman you meet?”

“No, the stories about me are exaggerating that a bit. I'm not interested in having sex with women who aren't interesting to me no matter what they look like, who they are or just how available they might be. Even if they are interesting, I don’t go having sex with women who aren’t family or becoming family.”

“What are your criteria?”

“Nobody is sure, not even me. I just know.” He sat up. “Are you going to question me all day on your first day at your old home?”

“You really don't like this, do you?”

“I'm not completely sure what your motives are,” Iain replied. “Is this just curiosity?”

“You're my friend and I want to know more about you,” she said. “We are going to be here for a month; shouldn't I know that you're safe to be around my sisters?”

“Remember how I said they weren't hot?” She nodded. “That means they're not interesting. Besides, Akane takes being engaged just as seriously as you would. In her mind, she and Ranma are already married, just she doesn't have to put up with his snoring in her bed yet.”

Kasumi blinked and giggled. “True.”

“And Nabiki, well, I'm sure she has some good characteristics considering how she handled things after Akane was murdered, but she's a serious gold digger and would cause so many problems in my family it's not funny. And she's not ever going to be a good mother. She'll need nannies to take care of any children.”

Kasumi looked sad. “Even with the knowledge she got from me?”

“Being a good mother is more than knowing how to do it. Nabiki doesn't have the desire to take care of a child, so she will do the bare minimum if she has to. Kuno would be a good husband for her. He's shallow, easily distracted and rich, leaving her to have the kind of life she wants.”

“What about Akane?”

“She will be a good mother, if she can figure out how to explain the Anything Goes Style of Reproductive Sex to Ranma without either dying of shame or killing him during it.”

Kasumi burst out laughing. Once she had it under control she gave Iain an amused smile. “If necessary, I will help her to find a way.”

“Ranma's mother may be able to help too. She managed to get Genma to figure it out.”

Kasumi's smile vanished into a scowl. “That pervert already knew, probably from Happosai. I sometimes worry about my sisters with him around.”

“Don't.” She frowned at him. “Akane considers Ranma her husband, remember? She'd cream Genma if he tried anything. And Nabiki knows full well that Genma cannot afford the price she'd charge him for her virginity and what it might cost her in terms of future relationships even if he could. More importantly, if he forced her he knows he'd have to strangle her to death afterwards to keep her from reporting the rape to everyone she could find. She does not have the mentality of a victim.” He gave her an apologetic smile. “Young Kasumi did. She would have been quiet about it to protect her family and her father.”

She was quiet for a long time. “My twee says I still do, to an extent.” She looked up at him. “But you knew that already, didn't you?”

“It's why you're hiding the truth from your family, Kasumi. You are not a twenty one year old and a new mother. You're over forty and a decent mage as well as a supernatural being who, among other things, is physically strong enough to rip Saotome limb from limb if you wanted to. With your magic you could make him terrified of you but instead of doing anything like that, you met him in the hallway with a vapid smile and a tray of food for him and your father even when you suspected he was coming down to sneak a look at you.” He smirked at her. “The sad thing is he has no idea about how I view friendship and what my rules of engagement are in regards to you and I’m not going to tell him.”

“I don't understand.”

“You are my guest, just like you were in Glasgow. I haven't renegotiated the ROEs with you and they're simple. I get involved from the beginning. As far as I am concerned, if Genma sets one toe out of line in regards to you I will kill him without a second thought.”

“I can't let you do that,” Kasumi protested.

“You can't stop me and none of your pokegirls will because they'll all be wishing it was them carving him into ribbons. And since your father's opinion doesn't mean anything to me, what he might want is immaterial too.”

“What about Ranma?”

“More than likely I'd have to have to kill him too, but he's way outside my bubble and he is not like you. He’s tougher than his father but I can kill him. And if I can’t kill him I can have him killed.”

“Iain, it would break Akane's heart if you killed Ranma and you would have to if you harmed his father.”

Iain's voice was hard. “Then you'd better grow a spine about Genma.”

Kasumi's eyes went wide. “What?”

“Your wellbeing is the only thing keeping Genma Saotome alive. I suggest you scare the shit out of him the next time he even looks crossways at you because if I catch him peeping in your bedroom or the bath or doing anything else I think is untoward, he is dead just as soon as I can get close enough to kill him. He doesn't get a warning and he doesn't get a second chance. All he gets is an electrical or fire typed arrow in his heart that will burn it to a piece of charcoal.” He smiled a predator's smile that sent a shiver up Kasumi's spine. “And I'd enjoy doing him. But if you slap him down hard the next chance you get and apologize for setting him on fire or sending him to the doctor with an elbow strike to the chest that cracked several ribs because he surprised you, you'll get away with it with only a lecture from your father and I won't get to kill him. But he'll remember and he'll be a little afraid of you for the rest of your visit.”

“I have to hurt Saotome to save his life from you?”

His smile was normal and she felt herself relax. “I'm pretty sure there's some irony in there.” He reached out and took her hand, squeezing it gently. “You're not a killer, Kasumi, no matter whether you are human or kami. You are a nurturer and a gentle soul. It took Happosai murdering your entire family to enrage you enough to try and kill him and you pulled the blow so Shikarou had to finish him. Fortunately on this trip, you don't need to be a killer because I am. I can kill without hesitation and I can kill people outside my bubble without remorse. I just have to be careful not to feed that part of me too many lives because I could easily become someone who wants to kill and wouldn't even bother to find a semi-plausible reason to do so. I'd just kill.”

“You regretted killing that little girl.”

“So you've heard about that. I regretted having to kill her. I did not regret putting a bullet in her brain. Eve shouldn't have been trying to rescue someone and if she hadn't I wouldn't have been put into a situation where a little girl was going to die no matter what anyone did and I got to decide how and when. I should never have had to make that decision but the decision itself was simplicity. I could kill her immediately or one of my women would have had to destroy her when she became a Zombabe child and whoever had to do it would have agonized over it in a way that I can comprehend without ever understanding. To keep my ladies from feeling a pain that I don't, I killed her. Canaan is much the same as I am about these things and I am learning that Ganieda may be that way too.” Iain realized he was still holding her hand and let her go. “Sorry, I know the Japanese aren't big into casual touching.”

“This conversation is anything but casual, Iain.” She looked around the rooftop and back at him. “Are you making me confront Saotome? Is this for my own good or something?”

“No. I’m not your therapist.”

“You'll just kill him if he tries anything with me.”

“Yes, and I will without hesitation or delay.”

“Is asking you not to do this unreasonable?”

“It is. Even if it wasn't, someone in my family would kill him for you.”

She was silent for a few minutes. “I am glad that it is unreasonable to ask you not to kill him,” she said softly. “If not for that, I fear you would be right and I would allow him things I should not. To save his life I will stand up to him.”

“It’s amusing,” Iain said, “that part of me is happy that you’re going to do this because the first time is the hardest and you need to learn to do this and part of me really wishes you’d let him touch you once so I can kill him. While it’s not good, I guess, that I want to kill someone and he’ll do nicely, at least I still want a reasonable justification before I do kill.” He glanced at her and realized she was watching him curiously. “Sorry, I’m woolgathering.”

Dominique appeared on the rooftop in front of him and wobbled on the suddenly uneven surface. “Whoa.” She waved her arms for a second to get her balance on the sloped roof. “That’s better. The tent is ready.”

Iain nodded to her and looked at Kasumi. “Do you have more questions for me?”

“Yes, but they can wait.”

“Then I’ll take Iain and come back for you,” Dominique told Kasumi.

“Me?”

“If you stay with us or visit you’ll want to know how the tent works.” She took Iain’s hand and vanished, returning a few seconds later. “Why are you asking him these questions? You know most of the answers from the video I gave you.”

Kasumi stood, smoothing down her skirt. “I do, but I want to hear what he has to say to me about me, not what he says to you about me.”

“He’ll never speak as frankly to you as he will to me.” Dominique held out her hand and Kasumi took it.

“I know but what he will not say is important too. It shows me his character.”

“True.” The Archmage looked into her eyes. “You asked Iain what you mean to him. I ask you what he means to you.”

“That is what I am trying to determine.”

“We’re teleporting.” The scene shifted around them. “I think you’ll like the tent. It’s got all of the creature comforts of home.” She let Kasumi go.

Kasumi turned to see Lucifer trotting after Seraphina and Olivia as they raced for the swings. “How are they here?”

“Let me show you,” Dominique led her into the tent. It was a single chamber, tall enough for Ninhursag to enter with only slight bending, and ended in a solid looking door. Dominique opened it with a flourish. “From here we step through a hyperspace doorway that I built that opens up into a rotunda on the Theodora.”

Kasumi stepped through with her and looked around in amazement as she recognized where they were. “I thought these doors had to take months to prepare before casting the final spells.”

“Iain found a shortcut that takes minutes.” Dominique made a face. “The first time he did it, he drew the door in crayon on my wall. Later we figured out a regular spell for the same result, which is good because I still can’t draw a functional door.”

“And yet I understand that he cannot do offensive magic.”

The redheaded Archmage nodded. “Yeah, it’s odd. I’d wonder if he wasn’t a pacifist and had given himself a mental block about it, but Iain is not a pacifist.”

“Where is Iain?”

“He’s back in the park. We wanted you to know that your girls can sleep here if there’s not room for them at your father’s place. You can too, if you’d prefer.”

“Thank you. I will certainly speak to them about it.”

“Then let’s get you back to Earth.” Dominique led her back into the tent. “Theodora is wired into the tent so she is available here. The tent itself will withstand a violent typhoon without being blown over and free water cannot enter through the tent flap.”

“This is not what I am used to,” Kasumi said. “Shikarou’s tent was self-sufficient.”

“Only to a point,” Dominique said. “There are some serious potential drawbacks to his kind of tent, which is why after seeing what Eve knew, I went this route. Not only is this design more stable and much safer, it lets us access all the clan members and resources in orbit.”

“How is Shikarou’s design not safe?”

“I know how to add and remove rooms from his design. If someone is in a section that’s removed, they die. I also know how to do it to a tent I’m not inside of and I can do it from very far away.”

Kasumi looked surprised. “Shikarou never taught us that.”

“He may not know. It’s something I figured out while working with Eve on this project. Iain makes me ask a lot more ‘what if’ questions that the Awareness may not be able to answer until we test and determine the truth. We loaded sections with animals and removed them to test.”

“What happened to the animals?”

“They weren’t there when we recreated the sections.” Dominique shrugged. “The current theory is that they’re either rendered down to their constituent atoms and a lot of energy and that energy gets distributed throughout hyperspace or they are lost through a hyperspace rift into a random universe in a random time and a random place. Either way, we decided it wasn’t safe enough to use.”

“I can see why,” Kasumi murmured as they left the tent and stepped into the park. “I’ll have to see your research for inclusion into that portion of our syllabus.”

Dominique led her around the tent to where Iain was standing under the shade of a tree and having a quiet conversation with April. The Duelist was referring to a hologram hovering in front of them. “Everything is ready to begin,” she told him. “Will you be alright here?”

“There aren’t pokegirls here other than people we know. I should be fine as long as I don’t involve myself in the problems that swirl around Akane and Ranma.”

April looked at Kasumi but her words were for him. “And if Kasumi asks you to, you won’t have much choice. Your guard stays and so does Ganieda and Canaan. They’re both psychics and Ganieda hasn’t had time to be incorporated into how we do things. She’ll be better with you.”

“I’m not going to argue it with you,” Iain said. “I can’t defeat Ranma without using magic so I’d have to kill him and hopefully Pandora can keep me from having to do that.”

“OK, that takes care of you. Now I just have to survive working with Ygerna.” She made a face, nodded at Kasumi and vanished.

“What is going on,” Kasumi asked.

“We’re going to be here for at least a month so we have some errands we’re going to run while I’m waiting on you hand and foot,” Iain said. “Did Dominique point out that we have at least one hot tub on the Theodora so you can still have me as your cabana boy?”

“No, she left that part out,” Kasumi looked thoughtful. “Maybe we will explore that later.”

“OK. What’s the plan now? I hope it involves staying away from your home until your sisters and Ranma get back. Soun and Genma will just use you as their servant otherwise.”

“What do you suggest?”

“We might go to the high school and get the shopping list from Akane if you want or we can hit a bank and get that cash you wanted for gifts.”

“I’d like to do that.”

“Then we have a plan.” He looked around and smiled. “Wow, that’s pretty good.”

Kasumi blinked when part of the trunk of the tree next to him seemed to shimmer and Dianthus appeared as her camouflage faded away. “Thank you, master,” she said amusedly. “I’m summoning Heather. She’s not as good at hiding in plain sight as I am but I will train her until she is.”

“That’s easy to believe.” He looked at Dominique. “So my guards are Pandora, Heather, Barb, Canaan and Ganieda. Are you also on the roster?”

She shook her head. “Nope. I’m working with Skye doing some of the scouting. We leave tonight and shouldn’t be back for at least a week.”

“You are working with one of the liches,” Kasumi sounded surprised. “How can you?”

“For an undead totally evil monster, she’s not that bad,” Dominique said. “And Iain asked and she said that she would work with me.” She looked at Iain. “She understands that if she lets me get killed Iain will send her straight to hell.” Iain just smiled. “If you need me I’ll be at the advance base.” She vanished.

“Advance base?”

Iain nodded. “They’re setting up on some empty atoll Theodora located for this so we don’t have the entire clan living in the park. If I don’t keep them busy while we’re here they’re likely to disturb you and me and that wouldn’t be right. So we made plans for things to do to keep pokegirls who are used to working long days busy while I’m here with you.” “So, Oshima?”

“What?”

“We need something to do until your sisters and Ranma come home and if we stick around you’ll play maid to your father, so I thought we’d go back to Oshima since you wanted to visit it, hit a bank and then do some touristy things. Barring that, we could wander around Tokyo and do the same thing. I’ve been in Tokyo in Nippon and it would be interesting to see the city as it’s supposed to be, without damage from pokegirls and with all of the people rushing around living out their lives without the fear of feral attacks.”

“Tokyo, I think,” Kasumi said. “I have to get used to having a lot of people around again and that would be an excellent way to begin the process of that. I do want to visit Oshima, but it has mainly baths and the mountain for tourists.” She nodded to Ayame as the Enchantress joined them.

“Well, then, let’s go.”

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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