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Loose Threads

Twenty Three

Kasumi sat in the passenger seat of the minivan and watched Iain as he drove through the night. The rest of her family and the Saotomes were behind her and asleep. “Why did you offer to drive?”

“Soun looked exhausted,” Iain replied. “Nabiki and Akane don’t have licenses, and neither of the Saotome men does either. And you didn’t say anything about doing it.”

“I haven’t driven a vehicle in twenty years,” Kasumi said quietly.

“Then it’s a good thing you didn’t try to drive. April’s hobby is getting vehicles running and I was the only person with driving experience so I became her test driver until I could teach her how to drive. I still do test driving for her after she bent two steering columns when a couple of vehicles started behaving unpredictably and she panicked a tiny bit. A couple of other people learned too, but they just did it as a lark and just use it to lord over other pokegirls. Here, Theodora gave me a Japanese driving license and my twee reminds me to stay on the wrong side of the road if I forget.”

“You’re not tired?”

“I don’t get tired unless I want to,” he replied. “I sleep a couple of hours a day to stay sane and to cuddle with my ladies but otherwise I don’t sleep anymore. What about you?”

“I don’t sleep as much as I once did either. Kerrik told me that it was normal for us, although some kami actually sleep more than humans do.”

Iain nodded. “That’s my understanding too.”

They drove in silence for several minutes before she spoke again. “Can I change the things I want to do during my time with you?”

He glanced at her, his eyes gleaming in the light from the center console. “You can. The rules regarding unreasonable requests still apply and you can’t use changes to extend the time you’re allotted past the designated amount.”

“You have a lot of rules about this,” she noted with amusement.

“Pokegirls are consummate rules lawyers and are constantly trying to twist any rules to their benefit. I get a lot of practice thinking about how they might try to do that and how to stop it, especially since if they succeed it gets them points in the eternal battle for status and then everyone has to try and better whoever got an advantage.”

“In Haven they’d just be told no.”

“I want my family to stay innovative,” Iain said. “Creative thinking is a good way to encourage that and being a rules lawyer is a form of creative thinking even if it sometimes pisses off the people around the lawyer. Trying to outthink those lawyers keeps me creative.” He frowned down at the display board for a second before smiling slightly. “We have enough fuel to get back to the dojo so I don’t need to stop and fill up. Sorry, maths.” He looked at her again. “What changes to your plans did you want to make?”

“I originally wanted to spend all four weeks with my family. I care for them greatly, but I want to shorten that to two weeks. Then I want to spend a week traveling, but I didn’t bring the money for that.”

“That’s all right. Having me taking care of travel is part of the original agreement, so if necessary I’ll pay for it. Are you staying in Japan or traveling the world?”

“I’m putting together an itinerary, but it will be primarily outside of Japan.” She turned in the seat to look at him. “And it will be us, not me. I want you to travel with me.”

“Then I shall travel with you.”

“You’re not curious as to why I want you to travel with me?”

“I am very much curious about that, but under the rules I can’t ask since many complaints begin with the two words ‘why me’.”

“How much of the world have you seen?”

He smiled briefly. “Which world are you asking about? I didn’t travel much before I was kidnapped. I have seen parts of the other worlds I’ve been on but I’ve never been just a tourist on them. We were always going someplace for a specific reason and tourism was never that reason. Someday I’d like to visit places just to see them, but that may be some time in the future. Oh, and just for the record this is pretty much all I’ve seen of your home world.”

“You have been to Mars. What practical reason could you have for going there?”

“I wanted to look at the possibility of building a refuge on Mars if we needed one. Terraforming the planet would take centuries and that’s after the infrastructure was built, which would take more centuries. And Mars is pretty ugly. We made other plans in the end.”

“Why might you need a refuge somewhere?”

“Texas might get conquered by the leagues, a legendary might attack and then there are still an unknown number of asteroids that Scott might have aimed at Earth. Something else we considered was an environment for our children that had no feral pokegirls in it.”

“What did you finally decide to do?”

“If we have to evacuate we'll use our standby fallback and move into the Theodora. By the time we are in a position to outgrow that, Theodora is building a habitat we can use in addition to the ship if need be. Even if we don’t need to move into it, we’ll turn it into a breeding facility and genetic bank for the animals and plants of Earth. That's one of the reasons we're gathering so much DNA. As for the children, feral pokegirls are a fact of life and they need to grow up knowing how to deal with them.” He caught an expression of annoyance and regret on Kasumi’s face. “Did I say something wrong?”

“No.” She was silent for a few minutes. “I thought we were accomplishing a lot with what we have been doing on Haven. Your numbers are fewer, but you have done much more in less time.”

“It’s the Celestials.” She looked puzzled and he smiled. “I’m surrounded by women who want to save things. So, to keep my life quieter, we’re saving things.” His smile faded. “It’s certainly not me who cares. I’ve taken steps to ensure that my family will do well no matter what happens to the rest of humanity and I’m good with that.”

“Your pokegirl children will need humans to partner with.” She cocked her head. “That is unless you intend to be their tamer.”

“I am not having sex with my daughters,” Iain said sharply. Nabiki murmured in her sleep and he continued in a quieter voice. “We’ve been taking DNA samples of every corpse be they animal, pokegirl or human that we come across,” he replied smugly. “Not just in the old USA, but everywhere we put equipment. And anyone who gets treated by us gets their DNA recorded too. If the Earth is destroyed or overrun or if we get lost crossing universes, we can blend the DNA we have and grow humans for the clan as our numbers grow.”

“You really do try to plan for every eventuality, don’t you?”

“Not really.” Iain smiled. “I never planned on winning the lottery in my home world.”

“Ygerna warned me that you tend to make light of serious questions, especially if you can do so in a manner that makes you look absurd or unreliable.”

His smile vanished. “If I was too smart when I was growing up or at where I worked or with my friends, I got ridiculed at best and in a fight on bad days. I found out that if I was very smart and made fun of it while being smart, that they thought was funny and I was left alone. I can’t stop being smart and I got tired of fighting people, so I took the best choice and it became a habit. Do I plan for every eventuality? I have a family and children and a whole slew of people who will get killed if I don’t, so I certainly plan for everything I can think of. Do we need a habitat? If we do, we’ll have it and if we don’t it’ll get repurposed and be used for raising lions and stuff. But there are threats aplenty all around the world. There are the leagues, the feral pokegirls and bandits. In addition, the truth is that this world’s James Scott isn’t dead and until I stand over his broken corpse my family will always be in danger from him too.”

Kasumi paused when someone in the back of the van made a noise and waited until she was sure no one was waking up. “I have not ridiculed you. You have no reason to hide your intelligence from me.”

He glanced at her and changed lanes to let someone in a hurry drive past them. “Are you sure you want me to be smart around you?”

Kasumi gave him a slightly puzzled look. “That is what I just told you. I don't want you to hide your intelligence from me.”

Iain turned on the radio and set it to a soft music station that quietly filled the minivan with white noise. “Kasumi, I of all people can appreciate wanting to see family, especially since it’s been several years since you’ve seen them. But even if Shikarou wasn't willing to teach you how to cross dimensions and even if he doesn’t know how to adjust the temporal factor between them in order to set a specific date for the exit point, Kerrik certainly does. Magdalene taught Dominique how to first do it for us and she learned a lot of magic from her husband and the rest from her father. And since Kerrik feels that family is very important too, I am sure that he would be more than happy to arrange a visit like this with your family for you even if Shikarou is too busy to come along or to even open the gate for you. So why did you decide to use us to accomplish this and why does it seem to be that you do not want the rest of your family to know what you are doing?” Kasumi stared at him with suddenly wide eyes and he nodded. “My intelligence lets me tie apparently unrelated things together, remember? That, combined with the fact that I know things that it should be impossible for me to can make for some interesting and potentially uncomfortable conclusions. Under the rules of this visit please understand that you don’t have to answer that question, but if I’m allowed to be as smart as I am it is something that I have wondered about.”

Kasumi took a moment to consciously slow her suddenly racing heart as adrenaline had spiked in her system while he was talking. She considered his words as she did. “You said uncomfortable conclusions, not questions. Does that mean you have some suspicions as to the answer to the question you posed me?”

“You will find that very often I either have suspicions as to the answers to the questions I ask people or I already know the answer and am curious as to whether or not the other person does too or is willing to admit it either way. It is my nature to speculate on things, even if I don’t often share those speculations with others. But before you ask the next question, remember that you snapped at me in Glasgow about knowing you too well already.”

Kasumi was suddenly glad that it was night so as to hide her sudden blush. “I should apologize for my behavior then. Not long before, I had watched the video that Dominique wanted me to see and things in it were unsettling to say the least. I was unhappy about it and your perceptive question just irritated me more.”

Iain frowned. “Use a spell to make sure everyone else stays asleep, please.” He turned on the turn signal and pulled off the road.

Kasumi hastily cast a sleeping spell as people began to stir. “What is it?”

Iain pulled far enough off of the road to not be concerned about traffic and turned off all but the parking lights before undoing his seatbelt and opening his door. “Outside.” Kasumi joined him at the back of the van where Iain could keep an eye on the passengers and make sure none of them were awake and trying to eavesdrop. “What video are you talking about? What did Dominique do that made you upset with me?”

“Dominique gave me a recording of a video she made from her memories of a discussion you and she had on the Theodora.” Kasumi's eyes were intent on him. “This discussion was about what I needed and wanted and what you might be willing to do in regards to those needs and wants.”

Iain looked puzzled for a heartbeat but then even in the dim light of a streetlamp and the parking lights of the van she could see him turn bright red. “Oh, fuck.”

“Yes,” she said evenly, “that word did come up a couple of times, mostly from Dominique. You are correct, however, that I tend to find that particular word distasteful, especially when applied to me.”

“I'll keep that in mind,” Iain muttered. “What was she thinking?”

“Obviously she thought I needed to know the contents of that discussion,” Kasumi replied. “Was everything you said to her about me true?”

He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “As far as my suppositions about your motivations and intentions, it was exactly that, supposition. As far as what I would be willing to do for you, yes, it was true.”

“Your supposition was uncannily accurate.”

He shrugged. “That's what I do.”
“So may I ask my question?”

“You may if you want to.”

“Why do you think I wanted to see my family?”

He smiled. “Nice try to give me the answer in the question and distract me. I think you're here to see your family because you miss them, but I also think you're here to pick up the documents necessary to divorce Shikarou. It may be that you're still considering the decision and want the paperwork in case you decide to pull the trigger on it, but it could be that you've already decided to leave him and his family.”

“That is a very astute deduction.” She sighed. “It is also true. I no longer love my husband, if I truly ever did.” She met Iain's eyes. “And I asked him to tell me that he loved me and he said that he could not.”

“Because he can't lie,” Iain said.

“It is simpler than that,” she said in a voice filled with grief. “It is because he does not love me.” Anger flashed in her eyes. “He loves his pokegirls but not his once human and now kami wife!”

“Some,” Iain said quietly.

“What?”

“He loves some of his pokegirls.”

Kasumi frowned for a moment, her anger fading, and then made an amused noise. “That should not make me feel better, that I am in the company of some of his harem, but it does as it means I am not alone in that darkness.”

“Have you had the chance to pick up the paperwork?” She shook her head. “I'll get it tomorrow, if you'd like.”

“Thank you, Iain.”

“May I ask a couple of questions?”

She raised an eyebrow and then smiled slightly. “You are my friend, Iain, and you're trying to help me. Yes, you may.”

“Does he know what you're planning to do?”

“He knows I am unhappy for several reasons but if he is aware of what I intend he hasn't shown any indication of it. It could be that he doesn't think I'd actually do such a thing to him.” Her lips firmed. “I meant to us.”

Iain nodded. “What will you do if he refuses to sign the divorce?”

“Whether he divorces me or not, I am leaving him. Still he has no legitimate reason to refuse this. If he does, I will still consider myself divorced from him and his family.” She rubbed her face tiredly. “I cannot divorce the king and remain in the kingdom, so I will also resign my post as headmistress at the academy and leave the island.” Air hissed from her lungs in a long sigh. “I haven't said this out loud until now. It is both liberating and as painful as a knife being driven into my chest.”

“Have you told Ayame, Nishiko and Giselle?”

“I have been afraid to. What if they want to remain in Haven?”

Iain smiled at her. “I suspect they are more aware of the situation than you know, Kasumi. None of them are stupid and they have been with you for over twenty years. But you should formally inform them of your plans, especially if they swore any oaths to Shikarou or Haven.”

She looked surprised. “I hadn't considered that. I made them take no oaths to Haven, but what other might have forced them to do I cannot know.”

“Ygerna's people were only sworn to her, so it's possible that there won't be a problem,” Iain said. “If there is, we'll deal with it.”

“We?”

“You are my friend, Kasumi, and I'll help if you want me to.”

“After the discussion on the video, I was counting on that offer and I want your help.” She gave a sad laugh. “I have no real skills, you see. I kept a house and then I was headmistress of a magical school with servants who saw to all of my needs. My taming journey held no real hardships and I suspect I will be unable to survive on my own, even with my harem.” She motioned towards the van. “And I will under no circumstances move in with them. I love them but that will never be my home again.”

“And if you tried there's always Genma,” Iain said very quietly. “If you were so inclined I should just kill him now. If I do so and leave, then Ranma would have nobody to get killed by.”

“He would blame me,” Kasumi said, “and I have already decided that I will not live here. That was part of the reason I wanted to visit my family, to determine if this Japan could be my home. It cannot. I have become too foreign for this Japan.”

“You have a place with us if you want it.”

“I not only want it, Iain, I think I shall desperately need it.” She shook her head. “I am an adult who is old enough that I have a grown child and I have never been on my own. I wouldn't know what to do. My existence has been sheltered for my entire life and I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't find it pathetic.”

“I am sure that a strong and resourceful woman such as yourself with three other strong resourceful women would be successful no matter what, Kasumi, but I am more than happy to help if you'll let me.”

“I will not live on your charity, Iain. What shall I do to earn my keep?”

“Ygerna has purchased land adjoining to mine. My people and hers farm it and she receives part of the money for the crops for her upkeep. Of the rest a portion goes towards the clan for helping her people and the remainder goes to pay for the land itself. She's almost purchased the land from me. You could have something similar. If you're not interested in that, well I could use a teacher in regular magic.”

“I will not be headmistress again.”

He chuckled. “That's good. I don't have a school. I'd be your student, with a few restrictions.”

She frowned. “What are these restrictions?”

“You'd have to be willing to consider dating your student.”

“I would be divorced at that point, Iain. You would not want a divorced woman.”

“I'm not Japanese or Nipponese, Kasumi and to me being divorced means your marriage didn't work out and doesn't attach any stigma to you. And do you remember the whole MILF thing? Being divorced won't make you any less hot. It just means you might be willing to go out with me. Just understand that if you refuse it will not change our friendship and you will still be welcome in my home.”

“And if we do date and it doesn't work out?”

“You are already inside my bubble. Whether we are together or not you will always be taken care of, you'd just be an outlander living among us, just like Monica and her family are.”

“You dated Monica?”

“No. She's interesting and we're sort of friends but I'm not her type. I think she's in some kind of intermittent relationship with a retired tamer in Shield, but her primary focus is her immediate family and the children. If it wasn't for Michael she'd have probably moved into Shield or something.”

“What is special about Michael?”

“There is a program on the world I came here from in the Blue League to store the DNA from tamers when they take the tamer exam buy removing the DNA from white blood cells. If a tamer dies before he or she can have kids, that DNA is used to fertilize the eggs of pokewomen who have no tamers and who volunteer for the program. In some cases, the DNA is instead put into an egg that has had all DNA removed in order to make as close to a clone as possible with the procedure. You with me so far?”

“I am. I take it Michael is a product of this program?”

“He and James both are. James is the child of that world's Jamie Wolf. Michael is my clone and therefore sort of my son. The Blue League was hoping they'd have a pet Iain Grey that they could use for their own nefarious ends.” Kasumi gaped at him and he nodded. “That's why Monica and her family are included in family events. It's also why Poppet is visiting James, as she considers him her grandson by proxy. Jamie isn't quite sure how to feel about that.”

“I knew none of this.”

“Your family is pretty heavily compartmented sometimes and you have isolated yourself over the years to try and keep out of harem politics.” He smiled slightly. “That's not going to work with us, by the bye.”

“It won't?”

“Nope. Clan and family outings are exactly that, clan and family. Unless you're on duty, if you're even associated with us we will expect you to attend and if you don't someone will show up to drag you off to have fun. We give at least two weeks warning before one and you will be expected to adjust your schedule to accommodate us. We also play rugby together, but if you're not interested in competing in that, it'll be understood.”

“Ygerna does this too?”

“She doesn't play rugby, but she's involved with our get-togethers. She has a lot of fun with them, depending on the theme. It's a good time for her bodyguards to relax and have some fun too.”

“Are you sleeping with them?”

Iain shook his head. “I'm not. Ygerna and I are not lovers either, although she's broadly hinted that will change during her weeks with me. As for her bodyguard, what happens to them will be negotiated out later. Ygerna already knows my opinion, which is that if they want to avoid sleeping with me, I'm cool with it but the rules are that makes them outer clan and that could be a problem. If they do want to sleep with me they have to talk to her first, then they have to talk to me if she and they work out something agreeable. And then we have to work something out. Contrary to myth, I do not have sex with every willing woman nor do I force unwilling women to my bed.” He gave her a mirthless smile. “I'm a monster all right, but I'm not that kind of a monster.” He frowned suddenly and then smiled with real humor. “It's funny that you're a kami and yet you are far more human than I have ever been.” He shook his head when she started to say something. “We need to get your family to their home and you safely inside the wards. There are other Japanese spirit folk around and they've been curious about your presence. It is entirely possible that one or more of them has been following us all day.”

“What wards are you talking about?”

“We put up wards to keep roaming spirit folk from entering your family's property when we arrived,” he said. “There aren't that many spirit folk left around Tokyo and a fertile female was quickly noticed by some of them. They've been trying to investigate your presence and to see if you'd be easy prey for them. We captured one and explained to him that you were off limits before releasing him to give the others our message. It's been quieter since but they're around and at least some of them are undoubtedly trying to figure out how to get around us.”

“Why didn't you tell me about this,” she asked as they got back into the minivan.

“I am telling you,” he said, “even though it's likely to disturb your time with your family, which I am trying to avoid. Answer me this question, Kasumi. Are you a killer?”

“I have killed,” she said slowly.

“Can you kill someone trying to rape you?”

“I can.”

“Can you capture someone who would rape or kill you if they could and kill them after they are your prisoner?”

“You don't kill prisoners,” she said firmly.

“That's why I didn't want to tell you. The one we captured was warned that after that they'd be killed if they tried to pursue you. He knew we were serious. He would have known you weren't and he would have tried to exploit what he felt was a weakness. If nothing else most spirit folk only respect strength and an agreement with someone weaker is only to be kept as long as the stronger sees fit to.” He looked over at her as he started the van’s engine. “For some reason there aren't many female spirit folk around the Tokyo area. Males who haven't bothered to contact you have already started contesting amongst themselves for the right to breed you. Not the right to court you, the right to breed you.”

“So they're oni.”

“Oni and kami are definitions humans use,” Iain pulled out into traffic, “and are primarily based on perceived intent. If they were trying to catch and breed a human woman they'd be oni. Since you're spirit folk too, the humans wouldn't call it anything except good riddance.” He glanced at her as he got up to speed and merged into the flow of vehicles. “The amusing thing for me is that spirit folk adopted the names but for them it's more about appearance. Attractive ones are kami and ugly ones are oni. What they haven't noticed is that they use human definitions, probably because the kami have worshippers whose desires and wishes affect the spirits being worshipped. The definitions eventually become self-fulfilling as if you're told you're oni often enough eventually you buy into it and start acting like one.”

“And you know all of this because you're a writer?”

He shrugged. “As far as I am aware, spirit folk aren't big into being interviewed, so I had to sit down and think about things without having to worry about anyone popping up with a research paper proving me wrong.”

“You told Dominique that my family and the Saotome family both have spirit blood from our ancestors.” He nodded. “You also said that is why I was drawn to him. Why is it that my sisters weren't also drawn to him the way I was?”

“They were, just not to the extent that you were since you were older than they are and physically more mature. Akane is already engaged to Ranma, who also has a spirit folk heritage, while Nabiki was drawn to him but she is fairly content with her situation and wasn't looking for a mate. You were unhappy and you wanted a mate for children.”

Kasumi shook her head slowly. “I certainly didn't find that, did I?”

“To his credit, Shikarou thinks like his mother and most Japanese deities tend to be portrayed as having had children and not looking to have more. He has children from his previous kami marriage.”

“So Kozakura was conceived so I would be content,” Kasumi asked bitterly, “and not because he wanted children with me?”

Iain glanced behind him. “When does your sleep spell wear off?”

“When I want it to,” she snapped. “I am actively maintaining it. Answer my question.”

“I am beginning to think it's me,” he said.

Her eyes narrowed. “What?”

“These sudden mood swings of yours. You don't seem to do this to anyone else, so I'm beginning to think it's me and not necessarily you.” Her face froze and he smirked. “You're trying not to smile.”

A tiny smile appeared and vanished. “You can be an extraordinarily frustrating man, Iain Grey. Yes, this is your fault.”

“Did it ever occur to you that one of the reasons I'm not excited about answering some of your questions is because I like you and I know you'll be upset with the answers? If I didn't give a shit about your emotions and I knew you wouldn't take your anger out on me, why would I hesitate? A little dissention among the Wolf family ranks could be useful and, from a distance, really funny.”

“I need to know the answers or I wouldn't ask the question,” she said.

“Yes.”

She blinked. “Yes?”

“I'm answering your question. Yes, Shikarou got you pregnant so you'd stop bothering him. Then you screwed up by acting like most female kami that he knew and appearing to favor your hobbies over your child and let governesses raise Kozakura. That made him decide he'd done all he needed to in that direction until you recently started talking with him about another child.”

Kasumi sat upright in shock. “How did you know about that? Is your equipment keeping surveillance on my family?”

“No, I don't have anything like that installed. First, I don't care what you're talking about in Haven and second Bellona has security sweep for bugs on a regular basis. When you visited me on the Theodora and I first called you a MILF you had a discussion with Theodora while leaving. While I wasn't aware of what she was doing and I'd have told her not to do it, she did and afterwards she told me about it. She was goading you into asking Shikarou for another child. The really bad mood you were in when you arrived with Poppet and then went to Glasgow with us suggested you had and he'd said no just like we thought he would.” She was still staring at him and he gave her a faint smile. “See what you get when you tell me to be openly smart? The illusions, the games are what outlanders normally see. I'm seldom just me with them.”

“Is this the way you are with your other clanswomen?”

“Some. Others are uncomfortable around it so I'm not. The gallows humor is real no matter whether I'm being smart or normal, so it's around all the time. But this is what Sanctuary hoped to leash and failed. I've met three other authors and intelligence, often hidden, is the first sign that we are not like the people we walk with. The growing magical abilities and other strangeness is probably a side effect of that raw intelligence.” He eyed her for a second. “Did you do that intentionally?”

“What?”

“You said 'your other clanswomen', letting me think you already consider yourself a Grey.” He turned on the turn signal and slowed to make a turn.

“How do you know the way to the dojo?”

“I have an eidetic memory and paid attention to the route when we left. After I fell asleep my twee tracked velocity, acceleration and time against a map and plotted courses that I used to figure out the way back.”

“I didn't do that intentionally but I really have no choice but to petition to join your clan.”

“You are my friend, Kasumi. That means you have a great many choices available. If you want to find a nice Japanese or Nipponese man to marry, I'd help you. If you want to get the skills you need so you can survive on your own, although I suspect you'd do better than you think even today, I'll help you get them. And if you want to join my clan, I'll help you do that too.” The humor faded from his eyes. “If you wanted to make your marriage work with Shikarou and still have more children with him, I'd try to help you do that as well.”

“I have tried to save my marriage with Shikarou. I cannot and have him and me be happy at the same time. That decision is made. Now, I asked you a question earlier and you refused to answer it. I want to ask it again, now that you know that I intend to divorce my husband. What am I to you, Iain Grey? What would you want from an unmarried Kasumi Tendo?”

“I could ask you the same questions.”

“The serious study of magic is not for the impulsive, Iain. I am a serious student of magic and I am trying to determine the answer to those very questions by learning more about you and your family. However, right now it is more important that I learn about you.” She smiled slightly. “Unfortunately, time is short and I have to be more direct than I am comfortable with. Please answer my questions.”

“You are still married and so all you can be right now is my friend. As for what I would want from an unmarried Kasumi Tendo, who just happens to be the same woman sitting in that chair, I believe I told Nabiki I wanted at least fourteen children. That sounds like a good place to start.”

“That is a large number of children.”

“I am willing to be reasonable. Since we're both relatively immortal I suppose we can spread those fourteen out over the first decade or so.”

“That would require at least a couple of multiple births,” she pointed out with a chuckle.

He flashed her a quick smile. “It would, but I think you're good for it.”

“And at the same time you will be having children with your other women?”

He nodded. “I can't be just with you, but if you intended to insist on that you and I wouldn't be having this discussion as I would not be the man for you.”

“Will you neglect me for them?”

“I certainly don't intend to neglect anyone for anyone else. If you ever think I am, let me know immediately. But I am going to insist that we see if we can love each other before anything happens. The last thing I want for you is to leave a loveless relationship where you're not happy and end up in another one with anyone, much less me.”

“You need to be careful who you allow to become your friend if this is what you are willing to do for them.”

“I am very selective about who I befriend.”

“And yet you have invited both Ygerna and me into your life, Iain.”

He shrugged. “I haven't started expressing regrets about either action, have I?”

“No, I guess you have not. Are you going to expect the same condition from me that you have with Ygerna in that any child I bear will be yours no matter who the sire is?”

“If we marry, then yes. As long as you are my wife, Kasumi, they will be our children.”

“I have been faithful to my husband throughout our marriage. You don’t expect me to be the same way with you?” She sounded more curious than upset, but that edge he’d heard before was there.

“I expect that if we marry we will be married until we die, Kasumi. I cannot be exclusive to you and I cannot demand that you be exclusive to me. If you choose to be only with me and our family, I will not complain. But if you do decide to be exclusive to me and then later change your mind, I won’t protest,” he smiled slightly, “out loud where you can hear it.”

She chuckled softly. “At least you are honest about wanting me to lie only with you.”

“No, I also want you to keep taking care of your women and, if you choose, you will possibly experiment with some of the other members of your new family if they and you are mutually interested in each other.”

She looked surprised and then nodded. “I will keep that in mind. If we marry, should I expect the low level dislike that I have always had from some of Shikarou’s harem?”

“I certainly hope not, and if you do we will try to address it together, but individuals sometimes don’t like each other. I did discuss this with my command staff and they have sounded out the rest of the clan and nobody said the phrase ‘over my dead body’. Since you’re not a pokegirl the rules are a little different for you, even if I don’t think they should be.”

“Is this the institutionalized belief that they are less than non pokegirls appearing?”

He nodded. “It is.”

“I cannot do much for the adults except live my life as I will,” she said quietly, “but I will do my utmost to ensure that our children, all of our children grow up as equals to each other and anyone else they should meet.”

He grinned. “Now, now, our children will be inherently superior to any outlander.”

She grinned back. “Then so shall I raise them.” Her gaze swept their surroundings as he turned onto a smaller street. “We are almost to the dojo. I should break my spell, but honestly I have enjoyed the quiet.”

“You still have your room on the Theodora.”

“Please do not tempt me, Iain. Ayame and Giselle are doing an excellent job of that already.”

“Not Nishiko?”

“Nishiko merely states that I will be better off on the ship.” She paused. “Frequently.”

“Well, I’m glad they’re united in their correct assessment that things are better with us. Two weeks and then you can move back on board.”

“I will count the minutes.”

***

Akane opened the door and smiled. “Good morning, Mr. Grey.”

“Good morning, Ms. Tendo.”

“Please, call me Akane.”

Iain smiled warmly at her. “I will only do that if you agree to and then actually call me Iain. The title of Mr. Grey belongs to my father and, as far as I am concerned, it always will.”

She tried not to laugh. “My father will insist that I call you Mr. Grey.”

“Then you may, but only when he’s in a position to overhear us. Fair enough?”

She did laugh that time. “Yes, Iain, come inside.”

He put his shoes with the others. “It’s funny, we’re Westerners but we don’t normally wear shoes in the house either. We don’t keep them next to the door, but we do take them off as soon as we can. Perhaps there is hope for us yet.”

Akane smiled again. “Kasumi is upstairs. If you’ll go out to the porch, I’ll let her know you’re here.”

“Actually, I’m here to see your father.”

She looked puzzled. “What for?” She blinked. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t pry. I’ll let him know you are here.”

“Actually, Akane, I prefer if you pry, since I’m not completely sure what’s going on. And hopefully you can help, so I have a question for you first.” She paused. “Your father really wants me to dress up and impersonate Shikarou for someone. Do you know why?”

She scowled suddenly. “He shouldn’t do that!”

Iain put a hand on her arm as she started to stomp away. “Let me deal with it please. Your father is too used to ignoring you when you’re yelling. Do you know why he’d want me to do this? If it’s a reason that will help your family, I will, because I like you.”

She blushed faintly. “The money Shikarou gave us is running low and he hopes to find a patron for the kami to give him money to keep up the shrine. Part of it traditionally goes to the person doing the upkeep and I keep refusing to increase my father’s allowance. I don’t begrudge him some money to play with, but he acts like our money is infinite and we had a lot of repairs to do. I let him have what I can since he is my father, but sometimes it is difficult.”

“Then you already know about the pocket money.”

She smiled thinly. “I can count. I always get extra so what he takes doesn’t interfere with the shopping. It’s what Kasumi would do.”

“Did I hear my name,” Kasumi said with a smile as she joined them. “Iain, are you flirting with my sister?”

Akane turned bright red as Iain chuckled. “Stop teasing Akane, Kasumi.”

“I’ll let father know,” Akane started to rush off.

Get the bank account number, Iain said over his twee to Kasumi.

“Akane.” The youngest Tendo looked over her shoulder. “I will tell father that Iain is here. I want you to go upstairs and write down the bank account number for me. After Iain gets done talking with father I have an errand to run with him and you’ll need to come along with the bank account number.” She nodded when Akane looked surprised. “Yes, you will miss some of school, but I’ve brought some money to put in the account and I don’t want father to find out about it. I need someone with access to the account and that is either you or him. Bring your books and we will take you to school afterward.”

“I’ll be right back.” Akane scampered down the hall and up the stairs.

“There is money to deposit,” Kasumi asked quietly, “or did I go too far with the story?”

“Pandora is waiting outside. She’ll have the money by the time we leave.”

“You still need guards?”

“No, she’s out there to keep me from killing your father and Genma in case they piss me off.” He smiled thinly when she gave him a startled look. “It would simplify things a great deal if I could do it in an untraceable manner. After all, your father is likely to suffer a very expensive sudden illness when he discovers you’re divorcing the family kami and still another one if you join the inner clan and marry me.”

Kasumi shivered at the complete lack of emotion in his eyes. “Please do not do that. I still love my father and his death at your hands would break my heart.”

Iain shook his head slightly and she relaxed to see the normal amusement lurking in his eyes again. “And with a single sentence from you his life is safe from me until you say otherwise. Please let him know I’m here to see him and that I’m here as a Western spirit folk.”

“I will.” As soon as she was out of sight, Kasumi paused for a moment and muttered softly before continuing. She found her father on the porch with Saotome. “Father, Mr. Grey is here to see you. I believe it is about your request for him to impersonate Shikarou.” She gave her father a stern look. “Please be careful what you ask him for, father. His people are very precise in their bargaining, so please don’t ask for too much. I would hate to have to tell my husband that you insulted his image.”

“I would never do that, my dear Kasumi,” Soun said hastily. “I assure you it is but a minor matter that I didn’t feel it necessary to try and get your husband to have to come here to deal with.”

“I am very glad to hear that, father. Will you meet Mr. Grey here?”

“No, I will meet with him inside the dojo. Bring us tea there, if you will.”

“Yes, father.”

“Oh, and let Rnama and Akane know we are not to be disturbed before they go to school.”

“I will, father.” Kasumi returned to where Iain was waiting. “He will meet you in the dojo.” She glanced back at the porch. “I can’t believe he lied to me and said this was a minor matter.”

“It may actually be minor but if he thinks it is important then your spell will pick up on it.” Iain grinned. “And I can hear him protesting now that he can’t believe his daughter is using truth detecting spells on him.”

Kasumi fought not to smile but lost the fight and chuckled softly as she did so. “I suppose that would be true.”

“Should I just expect you to have one up all of the time?”

She blushed. “It’s become a habit and one I suppose I should try to stop. I understand that you don’t like people to be rude.”

“It’s only rude when you do it to me.” He sighed. “And you’re not the only one in the family who does that sort of thing routinely. I just need to figure out how to do an undetectable lie spell of my own.”

She blinked. “Now that would be rude.”

“I think I am going to have to disagree with that. Now if you’ll make the tea I can take it in with me.” She frowned and he smirked. “Like I couldn’t guess he ordered you to make us tea.”

Akane came down the stairs and ran to them. “I have the bank book,” she said quietly. “If you put money into the account I’ll need to update it and Kasumi can bring it home and keep it until I get back from school.”

Iain smiled broadly. “See, smart and pretty, just like you.”

Akane turned bright red and Kasumi waggled a finger at Iain. “Stop teasing my sister.”

“I am only stating what I see but if it embarrasses you, Akane, I apologize.”

She stayed red but looked him bravely in the eyes. “Thank you, Mr. I mean Iain.” She bobbed her head to them both. “Now I need to make sure Ranma is ready to go to school. When should I meet you?”

“Iain has to meet with father but if he isn’t done when you have to go to school, I’ll go with you and we’ll stop someplace and wait for him,” Kasumi said. “He has been guarding the money for me.”

“Are you really a Western spirit person?”

Iain nodded. “They’re called Sidhe and they are in their own way just as powerful as some kami. In fact, they were at war with the kami for a time and no side was able to get an advantage so the war ended. Sidhe and kami aren’t friends for the most part, but they’re not enemies anymore either.”

Akane suddenly surprised him with a formal bow as her blush began to fade. “Thank you for helping Kasumi to visit us again, Iain, and thank you for the other help you are giving us. Should I add your name to my family shrine beside Shikarou’s?”

Iain managed to keep his sudden horror at the thought off of his face. “No, that’s not necessary. The worship of the Sidhe ended a long time ago and if I were to be worshiped by anyone it could lead to some uncomfortable questions being asked. Besides, the worship of the Sidhe was very different from the worship of the kami. I do appreciate you asking, however.”

“Then I need to finish getting ready for school.” She headed away at a trot.

Kasumi eyed him curiously. “You were not lying. How is the worship of the Sidhe different?”

“They’re much more involved. Fertility rituals, for example, often involved lots of the participants having sex or at least the high priest and priestess doing so. And while human sacrifice was rare, it did happen.”

“I’m glad that you didn’t explain this to Akane, then. She is not ready for that kind of discussion.”

Iain frowned. “She needs to be.”

“What do you mean?”

“She is going to be married eventually and sexually her fiancé is just as innocent as she is. Someone needs to have an idea of how to make things happen and to ensure they’re enjoyable.” He rubbed his eyes. “She’s an outlander though and I’m not sure how that could be accomplished without causing trouble. I guess it’s not important.”

“You think it is?”

“No, I am a little surprised you don’t think it is. She’s not in my bubble, remember?” He looked around. “And that means I should be on my way to the dojo. Am I taking the tea with me?”

“I’ll bring it in a few minutes,” Kasumi replied.

Iain found Soun and Genma in the dojo and sat down across from them. “Good morning, Mr. Tendo, Mr. Saotome.”

“Mr. Grey,” Soun replied. “Good morning.” He looked expectantly at the door. “Kasumi should be bringing tea along soon.”

“I saw her making it in the kitchen,” Iain replied. “Do we need to wait for the tea or may we begin the negotiations now?” He didn’t give Soun a chance to answer. “You wish for me to impersonate Shikarou Wolf for someone. What is it that you expect me to do during this impersonation?”

“You will merely have to appear,” Soun said slowly, “answer a few questions and perform some magic.”

Kasumi came in with the tea and stopped in the doorway. “Father, here is the tea you asked for.” She put the tea down and started to leave.

Iain held up a hand. “I believe Kasumi should stay.” She halted and gave him a surprised look.

Soun looked surprised. “Why?”

“I am sure that Shikarou and Kerrik will find out about this meeting. I see no reason for them to receive a distorted account of it and Kasumi will function quite well as a messenger if she hears the discussion instead of being told about it afterwards.”

“I don’t see where that is important,” Soun said. “We will not tell him.”

“I am Kerrik’s student and he will undoubtedly ask me how my visit with his daughter in law’s family went,” Iain said. “If I lie to him or omit something important like this he will probably know immediately and, if he doesn’t, he will find out in due course. Either Kasumi stays or this meeting is over and I will not impersonate Shikarou for you.”

Soun glared at him for a moment. “Kasumi, sit down and serve the tea.”

“Yes, father.” She didn’t look at Iain as she sat. What are you doing?

I’m trying to keep everyone out of trouble and still help the people who are important to you. Iain began speaking as Kasumi settled down and began pouring tea. “I know Shikarou, although we are not friends, and I know his father, Kerrik Wolf. Neither would be happy to be sitting here and being told that they would be required to perform like some kind of family pet. Shikarou would be unhappy at the concept, which would be bad enough. But Kerrik doesn’t get upset. He does, however, tend to make messy examples out of people who request such mundane performances. As I am making sure that one or both of them will hear about what you will have me do, I, of course, want to make sure that any displeasure from either of them does not fall on my head and instead lands where it belongs. So, gentlemen, I am going to insist on a few details before I am willing to put my neck on the chopping block for you.” He smiled slightly. “You could just ask me for money. As Soun guessed, I do have access to some amount of it. And patrons, outside of the government itself, are notoriously fickle unless they are very convinced of the legitimacy of the client. They often require convincing on a regular basis and you have no kami actually living here to perform such feats.”

“That would not be right,” Soun protested. “I cannot just accept charity.”

“But you’re asking this patron to give you money. How is that different from asking me for money?”

“We did not ask him for anything,” Genma spoke for the first time. “He understands the value of the shrine and offered to aid us in its upkeep.”

“He offered nothing,” Iain said. “He instead expects a show from a kami and he’s willing to pay for it. A true devotee would merely offer money for the upkeep without regard for reward. I actually run some charities and I am well aware of the differences between the two. What is it that he will want? Shikarou is a kami of passage through death and of fertility. Should I kill everyone in the room or impregnate a bunch of women? If so they should probably bring their own women for me to impregnate. Virgins are especially prized.”

Kasumi put his tea down in front of him and spoke in a low voice. “Please do not make me laugh here.”

He nodded slightly. “I’m working on a solution,” he muttered. Then he spoke in his normal voice. “If you had considered it after my arrival, you would have realized that there is a very simple solution to this, Mr. Tendo.”

Soun had been looking more and more distraught as Iain had spoken and he gave Iain a gloomy look. “And what is that, Mr. Grey?”

“Inform this potential patron of the truth, which is that kami are proud and that if he cannot accept the glory of the shrine as it is, then perhaps patronage of one is not something that he should be doing. After that, ask me to become the patron of the shrine.”

Genma choked on his tea. “You cannot be the patron. A patron gives money regularly and you do not live here.”

“He is correct,” Soun said sadly. “If you give me a lot of money then Akane will certainly find out about it and take it from me.”

Iain laughed softly. “Mr. Tendo, kami are the ones who tend to live in the past, not me. I am fully aware of what a bank is and how to set up an endowment that will pay a certain amount over time to the caretaker of the shrine.”

Kasumi looked surprised but kept quiet as Soun spoke. “Why would you do that?”

“I will admit that I do not worship Shikarou,” Iain began. “However, I am his father’s student. Respect is very important for kami and he will understand that I do this out of respect for him and for him taking the time to impart to me what knowledge he will. As long as you keep up the shrine, you will continue to be remunerated for the expense and time involved. I have business at the bank today and I can start the process of establishing the endowment at that time, if you would like. As I understand it, Kasumi will be here for at least another week and a half so a great deal can be done now and I can return to finish the process when necessary.”

“We have a deal!” Soun almost shouted it.

“Good,” Iain said. “Now, since you have agreed to this without further negotiation, there is one little detail. Making a deal with a Sidhe means you have to keep to the bargain. I don’t care if you hire someone else to take care of the shrine for you, the ultimate responsibility for the shrine’s upkeep falls on you as part of our agreement and that will be true for the rest of your life. If the shrine is not taken care of properly I will find out about it and I will not be happy. At that point I will return and take appropriate steps.” He looked into Soun’s eyes and the older man froze. “Those steps will include negotiating with Akane to provide adequate upkeep for the shrine for at that point you will very likely be dead. Kami can be placated. I am not a kami. You do not break a bargain with a Sidhe. Remember that.” He looked at Genma. “And as you sit there with him, I will hold you responsible too if the shrine is neglected.” He smiled warmly. “But I know that Mr. Tendo wouldn’t dare put your life in that kind of jeopardy. You and he are almost brothers.” He turned back to Soun. “I will consult with some authorities on the subject and determine what a suitable stipend for your part in this is. Rest assured, however, that I do not intend to have you subsist on a pittance while maintaining the shrine. I did not agree to this bargain just to make you break it so I could take your life. That would be rude and I don’t like rudeness. If I intended to kill you, I would simply do so.”

“That is good to hear,” Soun said slowly.

Iain nodded as if that was a perfectly reasonable answer. “Kasumi, will Shikarou be satisfied with this agreement?”

She seemed to consider his question for a long moment before nodding. “He will. He will appreciate your ensuring that his shrine is properly cared for and will also appreciate your making sure that my family is intimately involved in the process. On his behalf, I would express our gratitude for your magnanimous gesture. You may rest assured that you will not have to correct any errors on the part of my father in regards to this matter. If he fails in this trust Shikarou will probably kill him before you can become involved.”

Iain nodded. “Is there any further business you wish to have with me at this time,” he asked Soun in a pleasant voice.

“No,” Soun replied.

“Relax, Mr. Tendo.” Iain smiled warmly at him. “You will find your remuneration will be very satisfactory indeed and the funds for the shrine’s upkeep will also be more than adequate. Like I said, I have no intention of doing this just to cause trouble. That would ruin the gesture and the effect I’m hoping it will have on my teacher. I just had to warn you about what would happen if you broke our agreement. Not to mention it would destroy my friendship with Kasumi. If it weren’t for her I wouldn’t be getting involved at all since it was her suggestion.”

Soun took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I see,” he said in a calmer voice. “I am very grateful for what you have done.”

Iain rose smoothly to his feet. “I am aware of how the world works, Mr. Tendo. How about when you get your first payment you buy me a drink? And then Mr. Saotome can buy me a drink. And then I will buy both of you a drink.”

“Yes,” Soun said. “That would be an excellent idea.”

“Good. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go to the bank to set up your funds.” He nodded to them both and left as Kasumi started cleaning up.

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

Ganieda – Snugglebunny Splice

Heather - Elf

Dianthus Barbatus - Elfqueen

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

Outer Clan

Melanie – Iron Chef

Siobhan – NurseJoy (Glasgow)

Queendom / Outer Harem

12 Elves

Dionne - Elfqueen

Adrianna - 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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