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Loose Threads

Thirty One

The door to his office opened. “Here are the FERs for the report to Garret. I hate having to print these out for him. I feel silly burning paper for something that we already have in an electronic format.”

Iain had looked up when the door opened and watched the annoyed woman silently as she waved a sheaf of papers in her hand. “He has his foibles as do we all, Amanda. In your case, it’s not knocking and not saying hello when we meet for the first time in the day, which, by the way, might set a bad example for the children. Hello, Amanda.”

Sergeant Sawicki’s cheeks burned a dull crimson. “Good morning, LT. I’m sorry about my bad habit.”

“I’ve gotten used to it; it’s just funny to hear you slamming someone else’s bad habits while indulging in your own.” He gestured at a wooden box on the edge of his desk. “Put the Feral Encounter Reports in there and then have a seat.”

She did, leaning back in the chair and crossing her legs. “Is there a problem, sir?”

Iain regarded her for a moment while he tried to organize his thoughts. Having received her twee when she and her harem had decided to join the outer clan, it had been slowly turning the clock backwards on her physical age. In frustration at the two tone hair she’d been growing where the grey she’d earned had been replaced by the chestnut she’d had in her youth, Amanda had buzzed her hair and now it was just getting long enough for her to have to brush out of her eyes when the wind caught it wrong. She had a strong, square face and would never be called beautiful but her personality was well worth knowing. “Yes there is, but it doesn’t have to do with you or the Company. I have some off the record instructions for the Rangers and the details are strictly in the need to know category.”

Amanda leaned forward eagerly. “This should be interesting. What are they?”

“Starting next month, Shield is off limits to any Rangers not already living there,” Iain said quietly. “There’s going to be a bit of excitement in the town soon and during it Texas laws are likely to be shattered, much less bent or broken.”

Amanda’s smile had vanished. “What’s going on inside the Sisterhood, sir?”

“This is between you and me,” Iain said. He wouldn’t have told her anything, but she’d already been vetted and she was a retired colonel in the Sisterhood. “Lucifer is going to have to purge some Celestial Alliance elements from the Sisterhood we’ve discovered are trying to take it from her.”

Sawicki whistled softly. “That is going to be a bloodbath. The Eldest Sister takes oaths as seriously as you do. She is not going to want to show leniency to anyone who has violated theirs to her.”

“It probably will be as messy as you suspect and my family will be helping her.”

“I didn’t expect you wouldn’t,” Amanda said with amusement. Her face became serious. “I’d like to formally request reactivation for me and the rest of the Sisterhood members in the Rangers.”

Iain frowned. “What?”

“My oath allows Lucifer to reactivate me if needed. It is part of the oath we swear when we leave boot camp and become part of the Sisterhood. You’ve only got two Ranger teams who don’t have Sisterhood members in them. We upheld the law when we were in the Sisterhood and I know we’d like to help her uphold the law again during this rebellion.”

Iain reached out through is bond and Lucifer appeared in the room. She smiled warmly at Sawicki. “Colonel, while I appreciate the offer I would not deprive Texas of the constabulary that it needs more than ever at this time.”

“Take them.” Lucifer turned to look at Iain as he smiled. “You need them and the Sisterhood is critical to Texas. They’re a deterrent against Indigo and we both know it. If Garret has a problem with that, he can yell at me right before I bounce my badge off of his head as I quit. I’ll keep them in the Rangers in the meantime and if I need someone for a mission we’ll work it out. There is one condition, though.”

Amanda scowled at him. “You don’t give the Eldest Sister conditions!”

Lucifer waved her down. “What is it, Iain?”

“I have two Ranger teams that don’t have former Sisterhood people in them. You have to take them too.”

Amanda frowned. “Why? I figured you’d want them to stop up holes while we’re busy.”

“Colonel Sawicki raises a valid point, Iain. Why should I take them during a time when if I do as you request I am already going to leave you very short handed?”

“Because every Ranger team has at least one Officer Jenny in it, we’re not that busy and they’ll just sit around and bitch about not being included if you don’t and I will be too busy to have time to listen to them bitching and so they’ll just get madder and madder about it before going off halfcocked to help anyway. Oath them so they’ll know and can enforce Sisterhood law but if you leave them with me I’ll tickle you until you cry.”

Lucifer involuntarily took a half step away from him. Then she turned to an astonished looking Sawicki. “You heard the dire threats that my male just made towards me. I fear I have no choice but to accede to his demands and oath the other two Ranger teams into my service if they will join.”

Amanda was staring at her. “Yes, Eldest Sister,” she finally got out in an odd voice. “They will join us, I can assure you of that.”

“Then you should expect to receive formal notice of your reactivation in the Sisterhood tomorrow morning. Bring the two Ranger teams that need inducted to our home after lunch and I will swear them into my service.” She looked at Iain. “And I will see you later.” She vanished.

“I am not a member of the Sisterhood and I am sometimes a dick so I can give conditions to anyone I want. They’re free to refuse them, but that’s what adults do.”

“I shouldn’t have said anything,” Amanda admitted wryly. “You two care for each other very much.”

“We do,” Iain said. “I know what it was like on the world we came to here from, but Lucifer is not a pokegirl to me. She is a woman, as wonderful, mysterious and frustrating as any woman can be.” He smiled grimly. “And, law be damned if it gets in the way, but I will kill anyone who tries to turn her into a pokegirl again. That’s why Prometheus exists and why we’re squaring off against the leagues and our other enemies.” His smile went from grim to predatory. “And that includes the Celestial Alliance.”

“I was married once,” Amanda said as she got up. “He was a good man but it didn’t last, mainly because at first he didn’t understand the Sisterhood was my first love and then when he realized the truth he couldn’t stand being second to it. You know that and you accept it about Lucifer. Once I get done being old I may have to look and see if there are others like you out there.”

“They’re out there,” Iain said. “We turn up in the damnedest places, though.”

She smiled. “I’ll bet you do. Can I inform the rest of the Rangers about what’s coming?”

“The ones who are here, yes, and the ones in the field you trust to keep their mouths shut. As for the rest, call them back to the Company HQ first.”

“What about Captain Garret?”

“I’ll give him his reports and he’ll be happy for a month or so. After that, I’ll deal with him if I have to. To make it look better I’ll withhold everyone’s paycheck during the time you’re active duty with the Sisterhood so nobody can claim theft. If anyone needs money, send them to me and I’ll take care of them.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“I didn’t want to be a Ranger, Amanda, but I am one and I’m their lieutenant. These people are my responsibility and I take care of my people.”

“That’s why I became clan, sir. Will there be anything else?”

“Give them hell, Amanda.”

“I intend to, sir.” She turned and headed for the door.

***

Kasumi sat curled up in the shade of a tree and watched as Ganieda slowly cast her spell. A globe of brilliant white light appeared floating in the air in front of her. “As you can see,” the Snugglebunny Splice said as she dismissed the light, “the spell is very simple and if you pay attention you should be able to cast this with minimal instruction, which you have just received. Now you do it.”

Kasumi would have preferred to do this indoors and under controlled conditions, but Ganieda had disagreed and she was the one teaching. According to the Pendragon Bramage and the Vale Enchantress that composed parts of her being, the best place for this kind of instruction was in the real world where minor distractions had to be dealt with from the beginning by the student.

“I’ll give it a try,” Iain said.

Ganieda smirked at him. “Yoda was right when he said there is no try.”

Iain groaned. “Those movies are going to haunt me forever, aren’t they?”

“They’re probably not. There aren’t that many good one liners in them. The Yoda quote, what Kenobi said when he was killed and ‘it’s a trap’ are all I really liked.” She stepped back and folded her arms. “Now cast the light spell.”

Iain slowly worked through the spell and a globe of bright maroon light appeared, hovering near him. “There you go.” Ganieda was looking at the light with a bemused expression and Iain sighed. “What did I do wrong?”

“Your light is red.”

“It’s actually maroon. Is that a problem?”

“It is supposed to be white.”

“I felt that inherent in the spell is the choice of what color the light should be, so I chose maroon.” Ganieda was now watching him with a slightly perplexed expression and he grimaced. “Will you tell me what the fuck I did wrong?”

“What you did isn’t exactly wrong but it is unexpected. You are right that color selection is inherent in the spell but you shouldn’t have been able to know that at this point in your development.”

“It’s probably because I’ve been working with balls of light and energy since I started studying truewizardry.”

Her ears flicked. “Show me.”

Iain dismissed the red globe. Suddenly he was surrounded by balls of light in varying colors. Some stayed their original color while others changed color at various rates of speed and some changed intensity from almost nonexistent to blinding. Then they all disappeared. “Like that.”

She nodded. “That’s interesting. What else can you do?”

“That’s like asking me to tell me everything I know. It’s almost impossible to answer. Could you be a little more specific than asking me to describe everything I can do using magic?”

Ganieda’s ears flicked. “What else can you do with the light globes that you create with your magic?”

“I can make them move around and I can anchor them in relation to an object.”

“Can you also anchor them to people?”

He smiled. “For the purposes of this, a person is just another object.”

Ganieda’s teeth gleamed in her quick grin. “That is an excellent observation and one that is quite correct. Kasumi, may I use you as a test subject?”

“Am I to be the target of one of Iain’s spells?”

“You are.”

Kasumi got to her feet and walked towards Iain. “You do realize that this is more advanced than I would expect from a beginning student, even Iain.”

“I agree, but the question is this: Is Iain truly a beginning student?”

“I can see where you might argue that his training in another style of magic would suggest that he is not, but from what I understand he is just a beginner in what we teach.” She frowned as she stopped in front of Iain. “I know his magic has its own name. Perhaps we need a name for the one we use too.”

Giselle had been watching the unfolding events. “Mistress, perhaps I should be the target of his spell.”

“Then you couldn’t guard me,” Kasumi noted. “We had this discussion nearly two decades ago, Giselle.”

“Yes, mistress, but those students weren’t Iain. They were not any potential threat.”

“I think I just got a compliment of sorts,” Iain said.

“In regards to your Giselle’s perception of your lethality I believe you did,” Ganieda said.

“He will not hurt our mistress,” Ayame said confidently. “I know he won’t,” she offered in a smug voice.

“Mistress,” Giselle said in a tone that suggested she was holding onto the shreds of her temper, “later may I request that I be delta bonded to Iain for a day?”

Nishiko snickered softly and flushed a dull crimson when Kasumi turned to look at her. “I’m sorry mistress.”

“Since I presume you are sorry that I heard your laughter, I have to ask what is amusing, Nishiko?”

“I would request it too, mistress, if I dared. We tire of Ayame reminding us that she knows Iain better than we do.”

“I see.” Kasumi chuckled as she turned back to Iain. “Would you help to return equanimity to my harem?”

“If you don’t mind, I’d be glad to.”

“I believe whether or not I mind has become inconsequential in this instance,” she said. “However that discussion is for later. Ganieda, what would you have Iain do?”

The Snugglebunny Splice looked at her student. “Iain, use the spell to create a light and see if you can anchor it to Kasumi.”

Iain nodded and began casting the light spell. Kasumi frowned when she realized a bright light was behind her and twisted to see. A small globe hung about half a meter above her right shoulder. As she turned, it moved with her shoulder. She looked at Iain. “Why put it there?”

“It’s not shining on your face but it’s high enough that you still get full coverage in front of you so you can use it as a work or reading light.”

“How long will it last?”

“I don’t know. It’s Ganieda’s spell and I just learned it. Wait just a second.” He cast the light spell twice more in quick succession, creating lights hanging in front of him. As Kasumi and Ganieda watched curiously, Iain touched one with a fingertip. It vanished. Then he waited a full minute before touching the second light, which also vanished. He looked thoughtful for a few seconds. “I’d estimate about two hours.”

“That’s right,” Ganieda said. “How did you determine that?”

“The spell places energy in the lights and the spell then uses that energy like a flashlight uses batteries to maintain the light. The two lights I just made were created at almost the same time. Then I used my ability to absorb magic and measured the difference in energy between the two lights. After that it was simple algebra.”

“How long do the lights you make with your truewizardry last,” Ganieda asked.

“That depends. I can do the same thing your spell did but I can vary the amount of energy I store in a light so it’ll last however long I want it to. However, I can also create lights that draw power from the ambient magic in the environment and so last forever. I can also create a light on an object that slowly consumes the object to power the light, making it last for millennia or longer.”

Kasumi and Ganieda exchanged a look before the Splice nodded. “There is an advanced spell that will create a light that lasts essentially forever.” She smiled slightly. “Estimating your progress is going to be difficult unless I can trust you not to cheat with your other magic.”

“I won’t. I want to learn formal magic and the only way I can is by actually learning it. It’ll help my truewizardry, you see.”

Kasumi’s voice was curious. “How will it do that?”

“One of the things about truewizardry is that the more I understand, the more efficiently I can use my power and the more things I can do with it. If I didn’t understand about how matter and energy are different states of the same thing, making a light spell that used that process couldn’t be possible. I do, so I can. That’s why I’m so interested in how pokegirl techniques work, especially since I figured out how to mimic some pokegirl abilities with my magic.”

“I didn’t know that,” Kasumi said.

“I think we’re both going to find that we are just scratching the surface on what we know about what Iain can do with magic,” Ganieda said. “But as we have not been here long, that is only logical. What pokegirl techniques can you reproduce?”

“I can create Hell Fire and Heavenly Fire,” Iain said. “I can also use energy blades.”

Ganieda looked surprised. “Show me.”

Iain held out his hand and a thread thin line of multicolored light sprang from it. “Hell and Heavenly Fire I learned because the concept fascinated me and I was surrounded by Celestial girls. This I learned when I didn’t have an axe to cut some wood and got frustrated by it. It’s not sword shaped like most energy blades because it’s a tool more than a weapon for me.” He smirked as it vanished. “It means I don’t have to worry about carrying an axe or a machete. I still need a knife because cleaning an animal or skinning it requires more skill and more than just something that cuts without resistance.” He shrugged. “Although eventually I suspect I’ll be able to do either with nothing more than magic. I will learn how to, but I like knives and I like the feel of a knife as I use it. As for other techniques, I’m working on them. The problem is that your formal magic spells use the spell to channel magic in a predictable pattern. My magic is much more freeform and therefore I have to pay a lot more attention to what I’m doing or things will either not work at all or work improperly. So the going is slow.” He frowned. “Oh and I can access the Celestial Awareness or whatever it is that some pokegirl breeds use to do things, mostly for information.” He frowned. “I suppose even the technical specs are still just information, so I’d like to retract the word mostly.”

Ganieda nodded. “Show me what you call Hell and Heavenly Fire.”

“Very well.” Iain raised his open hand and black fire erupted above his palm. He held it for several seconds and then it flared and vanished. A second later more flame erupted into existence, this one colored gold with flickering bluish tips.

“I have seen several variants of Heavenly Fire,” Ganieda murmured. “The golden color is common but I have never seen it with blue before. Can you explain why?”

“I boosted the temperature when I was running some tests on it and the tips went blue. I liked it so here it is.” The flames vanished. “I’ve never used it on anyone, but after freaking a little the first time she saw it Eve reassured me that it was true Heavenly Fire.”

“What you’ve shown us so far today is interesting,” Ganieda said. “And although I know we still have some time available, I want to end the lesson today. I thank you for giving up two hours of your study time three days a week to work with me.”

“That time is so I can do what I think is important,” Iain said, “and not what other people think is important for me. Magic is important. If I don’t master my magic, bad things will happen and I think your lessons will help.”

“I think they will too. Now, I’ll see you tomorrow at the same time and I’ve notified your guards that you are free now.”

Iain smiled. “They won’t have much to do. I still have the rest of my study time and I’m headed for the Theodora and my lab. I will see you later, ladies.” He turned and jogged towards the house.

“Kasumi, I think I would like to formally request that you help me with him,” Ganieda said once he was out of sight. “I suspect he is going to be one of the precocious ones. If we can’t keep ahead of him he may decide he can’t learn much from these lessons and end them.”

“Considering that your minimum instruction was supposed to make him fail at least once so you could correct him, I think that your assessment could be correct.” Kasumi returned to her spot under the tree. “Do you think he told us everything that he can do?”

“I doubt it, but I don’t think it’s because he’s deliberately trying to hide things from us.” Ganieda’s ears flicked. “I don’t think he’s trying to hide everything from us. I suspect there are things he will not be forthcoming about.”

“I believe you are correct.” Kasumi looked thoughtful for a moment. “If we are going to keep his attention then we will need to discover what he feels he should be getting from these lessons and then ensure he slowly attains these goals while we continue his education in formal magic.”

“So you noticed he had a name for our magical style as well.” Ganieda nodded. “And it makes our style sound superior to his, with it now being informal. I wonder if it was a deliberate move on his part.”

“The answer to that lies within another question and its answer,” Kasumi said quietly. When Ganieda looked curiously at her she smiled. “We know Iain is working very hard to keep several steps ahead of those he considers his current or future prospective foes. The question that extends this line of thinking is he also trying to keep several steps ahead of us?”

Ganieda’s ears flicked. “Which leads to yet two more questions if he is, those being is it because he feels that some of us could be future prospective foes and if so, why?”

***

Ganieda appeared and let Iain go as Eve and Vanessa appeared nearby. A few seconds later Giselle arrived by teleport with Kasumi, closely followed by Nishiko and Ayame.

Kasumi looked around. They’d arrived on the other side of the street from the property Iain owned in Nerima. She suddenly smiled. “This is the garden I remember. Even the bench is the same, although it is badly overgrown.”

“It is,” Iain waved a hand around them. “It’s been abandoned like everything else in the area for a while but I intend to fix it up. I brought Ninhursag here and she’s already making plans for it.”

Kasumi’s smile faded. “She is?”

“After Yuko joined us she approached me about purchasing the properties surrounding the one she was protecting. She thought it would help to ensure our privacy and we could later sell what we didn’t intend to use when the property values eventually rose again. I agreed and bought everything that was available, including the park and the land all around it. I figured we’d expand the park and maybe put in some fruit trees.”

Eve frowned. “This is my first trip here in the daytime and the area looks pretty quiet. Won’t the presence of an orchard like that draw ferals?”

“I’d think it would too,” Kasumi said.

“I think Yuko is hoping you’re right and she can get in some hunting. Legally we can sell what we catch to the Nipponese government but I think she just wants to fight.”

Vanessa chuckled. “She sounds like a pokegirl.”

Giselle looked aghast. “That is the mistress’ grandmother! You should not say such things about her.”

“My behavior can be considered like that of a pokegirl often enough that I’m an honorary one,” Iain noted amusedly. “A lot of spirit folk like to test themselves against foes too. No insult was intended so just take a deep breath and calm down.” He waved at the property. “As you can see, Yuko has been busy getting repairs done.”

“I see the wall has been completely repaired and there’s a new gate,” Kasumi noted as she moved forward to join Iain. The old wall had been replaced with a new three meter tall one made of stone. “The part of the house that I can see doesn’t look like anything has changed though.”

“I wanted to get the wall done first so the place looked occupied and to give us some privacy when we came here.” He headed across the street and for the gate, stopping to ring the bell once he was in front of it. “We could go inside, but Yuko doesn’t know everyone here and I want to err on the side of caution with her for a while.”

“That is wise,” a voice said from above. Kasumi looked up to see Yuko standing on top of the wall. The kami was wearing a black and gray hakama that looked almost new. She hopped down to land easily next to her. “Good morning, granddaughter. I am glad you came to visit.”

“It’s nice to see you again, grandmother.” Kasumi smiled at her.

“Why is it wise,” Eve asked.

“This is Eve and this is Vanessa, and they are both clan,” Iain interrupted. “Ladies, this is Yuko.”

“I have had too many visitors recently and my patience with mortals is ending,” Yuko said to Eve.

“Outlanders,” Vanessa said. Yuko looked at her curiously and she smiled. “We, which is a term which now also includes you, are clan. Everyone else, be they mortal or spirit folk who are not clan, are outlanders to us.”

Rows of sharp teeth gleamed in Yuko’s smile. “I will remember that. Are the people of my clan superior to the outlanders?”

“Obviously,” Vanessa said.

“Good.” She looked at Iain, her smile fading. “Why are you here? The surveyor was here yesterday to examine the house so that repairs could begin, but there were no unexpected problems with what he found.”

“I’m surprised you could get the work done this quickly,” Kasumi murmured.

Yuko’s smile returned. “Our clan is wealthy and I have been allowed to use some of that wealth to ensure that the repairs are important to the craftsmen involved.”

“You mentioned visitors,” Iain said as he opened the gate. “Who were they?”

The kami’s smile vanished. “It turns out that you were, again, correct.”

Eve chuckled at the annoyance in Yuko’s voice. “You should get used to it. Iain has so far been right far more than he has been wrong in important things.”

“Hush,” Iain said. “What was I right about?”

“A unit of soldiers came to call a few days ago,” Yuko said as they entered through the gate. “They were polite enough to ring the bell instead of merely entering as the thieves did. They were looking for a powerful feral pokegirl that had been seen in this area. The description they had was of me. I showed them the identity card that you gave me and they went away without any further trouble.”

He nodded. “I’m glad it kept them from attacking you.”

She scowled. “I should not need your protection.”

Iain glanced at Kasumi. “Of course you don’t. I did not give you that card to protect you.”

Yuko looked puzzled. “You did not?”

“No, it was the easiest way to protect all of the soldiers and police from you. I didn’t want you to have to kill a bunch of them before they realized you were too dangerous to try and capture or kill.”

Her scowl returned. “You said earlier that they would eventually capture me.”

“And they would. I never said they’d defeat you in combat. I figured they’d catch you asleep or somehow otherwise off guard and take you prisoner.”

“I see.” Yuko’s scowl vanished. “You are correct. They would have to take me by surprise to capture me.”

Iain smiled. “And now that they know you’re clan and since the Nipponese government likes us, you shouldn’t be bothered by them.”

The house was unchanged from when Kasumi had seen it before. “When will the repairs to the house begin?”

Yuko cocked her head. “I was told that the surveyor’s construction team would begin repairs to the interior of the building in less than a moon. He believed that by beginning on the inside and working outwards he would be able to preserve more of the original construction and keep the building stable when he has to repair the exterior.” She looked at Iain. “He did warn me that he would have charge us more than his original quote due to additional problems that he found as well as the modifications that you requested. I have a piece of paper inside with his new estimate.”

“How much more is it,” Eve asked.

“I cannot read,” Yuko said. “And his words were about numbers and percentages. I know little about math.”

Eve looked at Iain and back at her. “Does this surveyor know you cannot read?”

“He does. I had no choice but to tell him when he presented me with his first piece of paper.”

“I think you need to invite him back so I can make sure he isn’t trying to cheat us after I read his paper and the original quote.” Eve looked at Iain. “She needs to learn to read.”

“I’m not disagreeing with you but we’re a little overextended as it is right now and Yuko doesn’t want to come to Texas.”

Eve frowned. “Theodora, what do you think?”

Theodora’s hologram appeared, making Yuko jump. “Both quotes were high in my estimate, but the surveyor did find additional problems and Iain is asking for the house to be partially renovated with electricity and running water as well as a modern bath. The change in price is an additional forty percent but I don’t have a firm grasp on the Nipponese economy and in any case it is hard to put a value on what is almost all hand work with what was promised to be premium wood and done in a timely fashion.”

Yuko had put herself between Iain and Theodora, her hand on her sword. “There is a ghost, here? I don’t feel any ghosts.”

“I am not a ghost. I am a product of technology and I am clan,” Theodora said to her. “And I have been watching you to keep you safe, sister, even as you watch this land to keep it safe.”

Yuko looked surprised. “You are no ghost?”

“I am alive as much as you are or as Iain is.” She turned to Iain. “I’d like to put some drones here so I can talk to Yuko.”

“How about instead I come back in a few days and hide some projectors around so you can have some coverage? I’m not excited about Nippon finding out we have really advanced technology that we won’t share.”

“You’re not selling them technology,” Theodora pointed out. “We are selling them information. If they want technology they can go to Shikarou or Kerrik.”

“For the moment, I think I’m going to insist that there be no drones here. Later that will change when the children start spending time in Nippon.”

She nodded. “If she’ll allow it, can I use her pokedex to talk to her?”

“If she’ll allow it I wouldn’t try to interfere with that and you know it.”

“I do, but Yuko didn’t until now.” Can I put weapon emplacements here to help protect my new sister?

No. But there’s this huge ocean thing a few minutes flight away. Hide some combat drones there and use them if you have to keep her safe.

He could feel her amusement over their bond. Crafty. I’ll do just that. Will she get a twee?

When she understands what one is and can make an informed decision about it, yes.

Iain rubbed his eyes. “Anyway, we’re here for your help, Yuko.”

Theodora vanished as Yuko opened the door to the house and stepped aside to let them enter. “How may I help you?”

The interior was dilapidated but it hadn’t gotten worse since the last time Iain had seen it. He waved a hand towards Kasumi as he removed his shoes. “She’s the one who can explain it a lot better than I probably can.”

Eve looked at his feet doubtfully. “Considering everything about this place, aren’t you afraid of splinters from this floor?”

“The first thing I did was have it smoothed for us,” Iain said, “even though I was pretty sure that some parts of it, if not the whole thing, would have to be replaced. Since that may take a while and Yuko does live here and it’s not so bad that we couldn’t stay a few days if we wanted to, I had the floor smoothed to get rid of any rough spots.” He headed off. “Let’s get a fire going in the stove so we can have tea.”

“Eve and I are staying,” Ganieda said to Vanessa. “He’s yours.” Vanessa nodded and hurried after their charge.

Yuko looked curiously at Kasumi. “Granddaughter, I would do almost anything for you. How can I help you?”

Kasumi paused for a moment to organize her thoughts. “According to Iain, I have kami blood from both my mother and my father, although it wasn’t enough for me to be a kami until Shikarou awakened it. When I first met Shikarou, there was something about him that drew me to him. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I was willing to do what was necessary to get him to marry me. Iain says it is because Shikarou also has kami blood and that although I wasn’t a kami at the time some part of me knew what he was and it attracted me to him. Do you know anything about this?”

Yuko nodded. “The blood of the spirit folk calls to us, especially if one is ready to find a mate and have children. If your father has spirit folk blood then your mother Mizuho would have been drawn to him and him to her. It is likely why she chose to mate with him. As you and this mixed blood had a daughter, you were ready for children and he was the best possible mate available.”

“That leaves me with a mystery,” Kasumi said.

“What is that, child?”

“Iain is human.”

Yuko smiled. “I noticed. It seems to be his only major flaw. He would make a good kami.” Her smile faded. “Or perhaps he would be oni. He has a dark heart.”

“The mystery is that I am drawn to Iain just as I was to Shikarou. I do not know why and Iain does not either.”

Yuko frowned. “I see. That is quite a mystery. I hadn’t looked that closely at him as I am cursed to be barren.” Her frown faded. “However, when he returns I will examine him and see if there is something about him that might draw a kami’s attention.”

“Is that going to involve him taking off his clothes,” Eve asked.

“It shouldn’t,” Kasumi said. “I hadn’t seen Iain nude then and I was still attracted to him.”

Eve nodded and then frowned. “Then? When did you see him nude? You haven’t gone swimming with us yet.”

Kasumi turned bright red. “I do not wish to explain. I must talk with Iain about it first.”

“I have no desire to see him without clothes,” Yuko said firmly. “Fortunately that is not necessary for this.”

Kasumi stared for a second at her grandmother, her blush fading and then glanced at Eve. She just lied to us.

Yes, she did, Eve replied. And, more importantly, she lied about wanting to see Iain nude. She is not a pokegirl, however and does not need sex from him and I am not sure she truly wants it from him either.

At this point she is merely curious, Ganieda said to both of them. She has not had sex in many decades and so does not miss it as much as she might. I’d look deeper but I picked that up in a casual scan because I’m trying to stay out of the minds around me if they’re clan. She glanced at Kasumi. You might want to stake your claim to him firmly and soon, though.

“Here he comes,” Eve said.

Iain carried the tray out and put it down as Yuko sat and regarded him curiously. “You are the clan leader. Why do you fetch and carry like a peasant?”

He glanced at her as he sat back and Vanessa started serving tea. “I don’t feel I’m intrinsically superior to people just because of who I am.”

Kasumi smiled. “Then why do you feel you’re superior to a lot of people?”

“I’m better than they are,” he said with a quick grin, “but it’s not just because I was born superior to them. I had to work at it too. Did you explain to Yuko what the reason we are here is?”

“I did.”

He nodded and looked at Yuko expectantly, “so, wise and beneficent kami, can you explain why she’s attracted to me.”

“I am not sure. Are you attracted to my granddaughter?”

“I am. I have been for a while.”

She took the offered tea and sat back on her heels. “Are you attracted to my granddaughter for some reason that you cannot comprehend, one that is in addition to fact that she is superior to most other females?”

Eve’s eyes narrowed. “What?”

“She is of my bloodline and we are descended from Toyotama-Hime, who is the daughter of Watatsumi who was created by Izanagi. We are true kami and few have more powerful or purer blood than our line, even down to my granddaughter’s generation. Watatsumi is the equal of Amaterasu in power and majesty, only he has no interest in the world above the waves.”

Iain frowned. “I’m not sure,” he finally said slowly. “I don’t think I am attracted for some reason I can’t comprehend, but I know that she is definitely the best woman from the Shikarou Wolf family line for us and I have thought that ever since we first met.”

Vanessa looked curiously at Yuko. “Can you contact Watatsumi?”

She blinked. “Perhaps. I know a way that might work, but why would I do so?”

“If he is the equal of Amaterasu, could he not remove her curse from you?”

“He could,” Yuko said without hesitation, “but there would be a great price for it and I doubt that after I paid it I would be able to be here and with the clan.”

“Then we won’t try to approach him,” Iain said. “And that’s settled. Yuko is one of us and she’s not going to become someone’s slave. We’ll find another way to lift her curse.”

“I am grateful that you want me to stay.” Yuko sipped at her tea and looked thoughtful. “I must taste you. Come here.”

Iain gulped down his tea and put the empty cup back on the tray before getting up and moving around to stand in front of Yuko. “What do I do?”

She handed the cup to Vanessa and got to her feet. “Give me your arm.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Should I remove it at the shoulder or the elbow? If I remove it at the wrist it’s technically not my arm I’m giving you.”

Yuko chuckled. “I like your attitude. You will make an excellent grandson when you mate with Kasumi. As to your question, I require enough of your blood to drink.”

Ganieda’s ears went flat. “How much do you need from him?”

Yuko’s smile was cold but not cruel. “I will not take enough to weaken him, I assure all of you.”

Iain held out his arm. “Are you going to bite me? I ask because your teeth are way too much like a shark’s for me to think you can only take a little blood if you do.”

She smiled amusedly at him. “I have the beautiful teeth of my grandfather, but I do appreciate your attempt to flatter me.” Then she produced a small knife from somewhere inside her clothes. “And I will use this to open the vein in your wrist.”

“Very well.”

With an almost delicate motion she slit his wrist and fastened her mouth to the wound before the blood could do more than well up. As soon as she pulled back, Eve healed the injury while Yuko swirled the blood around in her mouth and swallowed. “I can feel the power in your blood,” she said. “And while it is completely human, you are very strong and that strength will bring strength to Kasumi’s children. I approve of your union.”

“When we unite, that’ll be awesome.” Iain wiped off his wrist on his jeans. “Does the power in my blood explain Kasumi’s attraction to me?”

“It does not.” She frowned. “There is something else I can try. With your permission, I would trace your aura.”

“Why do you need my permission?”

“Tracing another’s aura is done cautiously and with permission because it could be either perceived as an attack or as an attempt see if an individual is worthy as a mate. The aura is a reflection of the spirit and the self cannot be hidden if the aura is known. Tracing one could easily be seen as an intimate act and I desire no intimacy with you.” A curious expression appeared on her face and she turned to look at Kasumi. “I do feel the attraction you described, granddaughter. It is faint but growing stronger.” She looked at Iain. “Will you give your permission?”

Iain frowned and looked at Eve. After a long moment she gave a jerky nod and he turned back to Yuko. “I give my permission this one time for you to trace my aura.”

“Well said,” she replied with approval in her voice. “Hold your arms at your sides and remain still.” Iain did so and she clasped her hands together before closing her eyes and bending her head over her hands. Slowly, a golden glow appeared around her hands. She lifted her head and, with her eyes still shut, reached out, her hands stopping a handful of centimeters from Iain’s skin. She stepped closer and began slowly circling around him as her hands moved through the air around him, always keeping that distance from him. Abruptly she gasped and stepped away from him, the glow around her hands dying as her eyes opened. “I have never encountered this before.”

“I get that sometimes,” Iain said with a smile. When she didn’t smile back he frowned. “What is it?”

“I tasted your blood. You are human but your aura is not. It is impossible for a mere human to have the aura you do.”

“What do you see,” Eve asked. When there was no answer, she clapped her hands together sharply. “Yuko!” The kami’s head jerked around to look at her. “Tell us what you saw.”

Yuko went back to watching Iain. “He has the aura and the spirit of a powerful doragon. It reminds me of the spirit of Watatsumi.”

Iain blinked. Doragon was Nipponese for a dragon from Western mythology and quite distinct from Chinese or Nipponese dragons. “How could that be?”

“It cannot,” Yuko said, “and yet it is.”
“I am really getting tired of the word impossible being linked to me,” Iain growled softly, “and especially when that word is linked to things that aren’t under my control.”

“How is that you hide so well,” Yuko asked.

“I don’t understand.”

“The aura shows the true self. You are a doragon and yet your blood tastes only like human. Kasumi and I are of the blood of Watatsumi and so our auras would show the influence of the tatsu that our spirits hold. Our blood tastes of that influence and even when she was not aware of being my granddaughter, her blood would have shown the truth to any who knew how to taste it and what to taste for.”

“I am not a dragon,” Iain said firmly. “My parents were human and I am too.”

Theodora appeared. “He is telling the truth. His latest genetic workup was two weeks ago and he was unchanged from his initial genetic workup I did of him when we first met and well within the variances for being completely human.”

Yuko frowned. Finally she nodded. “Were you blessed by a god? That is the only other thing I can think of that would give you the aura of a doragon without being one.”

“I’m pretty sure no god has blessed me.”

“You would probably know,” she said. “This would be a blessing from a powerful god. Amaterasu could not bless you this way, although Watatsumi and Izanagi could. They would want you to know of this blessing so you could be properly grateful for what is to happen to you.”

Vanessa’s head came around. “What do you mean by that?”

“The spirit is reflected in the body. A strong spirit gives a man a strong body and a weak spirit gives a man a weak body. If a strong spirit is weakened by a curse, the body will weaken too. His aura is that of a doragon. That means his spirit is that of a doragon and that means that his body will become that of a doragon as the spirit influences it. It is a very wonderful blessing and I would request that you wait to have children with Kasumi until you are a doragon.”

Iain stared at her for several seconds before speaking. “I’m going to become a dragon?”

Yuko shook her head. “I am of the blood of the tatsu. You will not become a tatsu. You will become a doragon. While powerful, they are not tatsu.”

Iain’s mouth thinned and then, suddenly, he shrugged. “OK. I’m not going to become an Eastern dragon. I’m going to become a Western dragon.”

“That is what I said.”

“When?”

“I do not know.” She frowned for a moment before nodding briskly. “I see. You do not want to wait before having children with Kasumi. You are right. Do not wait. Impregnate her now.”

“Grandmother!” Kasumi was staring at Yuko in shock. Then she shook her head violently once and gave a slight smile as she turned to Iain. “I don’t think she understands that you might not see your upcoming transformation as an event to be celebrated.”

Yuko’s face was a study in confusion. “Why would he not? I would celebrate becoming a full tatsu.” She smiled hungrily. “I would visit ruin and destruction on those of my foes that still survive today and they would be powerless to stop me.”

“While I can appreciate raining death down on someone while they can’t fight back as much as the next sociopath, and I don’t want to insult Yuko, but I think I want a second opinion.”

Vanessa frowned at him and then her eyes widened in comprehension. “Kerrik.” She got up and walked around to stand next to him. “He is a mage and a kami.”

“Yeah and he undoubtedly knows more about this than I do. Maybe he’s seen something like this before.”

Yuko looked from Vanessa to Iain. “Who is Kerrik?”

“He’s my instructor for part of my magic lessons and another kami hybrid with Sidhe blood too.”

“Why talk to him then?”

“He knows a lot about magic and should be able to verify what you told me. It’s not that I don’t believe you,” he said hastily, “it’s that I do and I hope he’ll say you’re wrong and give me some hope.”

“You should be happy. I would like to be a full tatsu. Even a full doragon would be more powerful than I am.”

“Happy isn’t how I think I’d describe how I feel, but I’ll keep that in mind.” He looked at Vanessa. “Let’s go. Eve, I’d like you and Ganieda to follow.” Vanessa took his hand and they vanished.

Kasumi stood as Iain and Vanessa left. “I would like to come as well, if you will permit it.” She sighed and turned to Eve and Ganieda. “My request still stands. You can give me permission to go with him.”

“Why,” Eve asked bluntly.

“If what my grandmother says is true, this will affect my children. It will affect all of our children by him except the parthenogenic ones.” She glanced at Ganieda. “And, considering what we are learning about his magic, perhaps even they will be affected by this.”

Eve exchanged a long look with the Snugglebunny Splice before turning her attention back to Kasumi. “You said it would affect your children, not that it might. Have you made some decisions that you haven’t yet shared?” She smiled slightly. “When is the wedding?”

Kasumi’s cheeks turned pink but she didn’t look away. “As soon as I can convince Iain that he wants to do this and then we speak to my father and then my family. It will be that day if I can arrange it.”

“Do you love him,” Ganieda asked.

“Eve can ask that of me. You cannot. Delta bonded you may be, lovers you might be, but loves you are not.”

“Do you love him,” Eve asked as Ganieda scowled darkly.

“I love my father and my mother and my sisters,” Kasumi said. “Iain is in a category of his own, one that no one else has ever been in. I look forward to seeing him, the time we spend together is never enough and I miss him when he is not around.”

Eve didn’t look away from her. “Ganieda, go and join Iain.” When the Splice hesitated, Eve’s eyes narrowed. “This is wives business and you are inner harem only as of yet.”

“He will love me some day,” Ganieda snarled.

“Be that as it may, today it is not true and you are not a wife.” Ganieda cursed in Arabic and vanished. Eve smiled at the look of shock on Kasumi’s face. “We are pokegirls and sometimes it is all about rank. Even in the inner harem there are distinctions and the tiniest of those may sometimes be paramount. It can be love, marriage, giving him children and even the number of children in a litter; they all can mean changes in rank to us.”

“Where do I stand in all of this?”

Eve’s smile warmed and her eyes sparkled. “That is a very good question. You are not a pokegirl but you will eventually be a wife. However that is then. Now you are clan and you are a friend. And even though you are a kami you are one of my sisters. Now join us or not as you will, I must go. We usually arrive at Kerrik’s near the fruit trees.” She disappeared.

Giselle took Kasumi’s hand. “Mistress?”

“Wait.” She turned to Yuko. “I will try to come back as soon as I can, grandmother.”

“Good.”

Kasumi smiled pleasantly at her, but there was steel in the smile. “Just understand something, grandmother. Iain is mine. I will be his only kami.”

“He cannot give me children, child,” Yuko said dismissively. “I have little use for males otherwise.”

“As Eve said, grandmother, that is today. I know Iain and if you wish that curse removed, then removed it will be. It may take a while, but he will succeed and you will be fertile. He will still be mine alone then.”

Yuko seemed amused and nodded. “All things change, child. Someday I may be fertile again and someday you may not wish him only to yourself.”

“And if that day comes I will share him with you,” Kasumi said. “But until that day if it comes, if you touch him I will hurt you. I shared Shikarou against my will. I will not share Iain.”

“He already has others,” Yuko pointed out. She seemed curious more than anything else.

“He has pokegirls and one other who is not. Pokegirls need him and so I share him with them, for they are my sisters and I deny them nothing that they need. The other is my friend and without her I would not have Iain to keep to myself. And she is not kami.”

“If I decide I desire him, I will ask if you still wish to keep him to yourself. If you decide you do wish to share him, you will tell me first.”

“Thank you, grandmother.” She looked at Giselle. “Now we can go.”

***

It was dark and the moon peeked out from between clouds overhead as Iain looked at the lemon tree and smiled at how the branches were bending under the weight of its fruit. “Every time I have been here that thing is fruiting. I take it Autumn has a thing for lemons.”

Misery stepped out of the darkness. “She does, but it’s really for Kerrik. She thinks lemons are his favorite fruit. What brings you here tonight, Iain?”

“Crap, I forgot the time difference. It’s not quite seven in the morning in Nippon.”

“And it’s almost ten at night here. Do I need to disturb Raven?”

Iain frowned. “Why would you have to disturb Raven? I was hoping to have a word with Kerrik.”

“Who do you think he’s fucking tonight?”

Iain grimaced. “Ah. Iain is stupid today. I don’t think it’s an emergency and I can come back tomorrow.”

Misery raised an eyebrow as Kasumi and Giselle arrived, followed by Nishiko and Ayame. “But you’re not sure.”

“I’d say it was an emergency,” Eve said firmly. “But it’s Iain’s opinion that’s important.”

“But you’d say it was an emergency? Good.” Misery gave them an evil grin. “Kerrik’s on his way.” She lifted off to hover in front of them. “I’ll see you in two days when you come back and then I can hunt you down.” She turned and flew upwards to disappear into the darkness.

Iain shook his head. “It’s always nice to see a woman who enjoys her work, even if that work is pretending to kill me.”

Kerrik came outside, wearing jeans and pulling on a T-shirt with a John Deere logo on it. “Evening, Iain. What’s wrong?”

“I’d like to point out that I told Misery that I wasn’t sure if it was a magical emergency and I was willing to come back tomorrow.”

Kerrik’s ears flicked. “That doesn’t matter to me.”

“He was saying it for my benefit,” Raven said as she stepped around Kerrik. “So I’ll be pissed off at the person who actually deserves it instead of him.” She was wearing one of Kerrik’s T-shirts that stopped at her upper thighs and nothing else, but the anger in her eyes as she looked around kept her from being the slightest bit sexual in Iain’s opinion. “So where is the long eared pincushion?”

“She flew off,” Iain said. He nodded to the west. “She went that way but if she has the tiniest clue she should have changed direction as soon as she was out of sight.”

Raven snorted. “She should be that smart, but sometimes it’s hard to tell.” She closed her eyes and suddenly grinned. “I have her on the sensors.” She shot into the air and was gone.

“Well, now that I’ve stripped you of your guards I guess I can messily murder you,” Iain noted.

Kerrik chuckled. “I think I’m still safe from you, but I’m glad I don’t have around the clock security like you do. Besides, Misery deliberately provoked this confrontation and so she deserves almost anything Raven can do to her.”

“You realize that Misery probably has some kind of plan,” Eve said.

“I do. Raven doesn’t have a counter plan, but she’s good at improvisation.” Kerrik shrugged. “And I have been requested to stay out of inter harem politics as much as I can.” He summoned a table and some chairs. “Everyone grab a seat. Good evening Kasumi.”

“Good evening, Kerrik.” She smiled as she sat. “It feels strange. You are not my father in law any longer, but I still call you that in my mind.”

Kerrik smiled back at her. “I could adopt Iain so that I will be again, but that could make going from Shikarou to him feel kind of creepy.”

She nodded. “It would. Please do not.”

He just winked at her and turned to Iain. “What’s going on?”

“First you get some history.” Iain leaned back in his chair. “Soun and Mizuho both possessed the blood of spirit folk in their veins, although it wasn’t strong enough for them to become kami.” Kerrik blinked but remained silent as Iain continued. “Mizuho was descended from Toyotama-hime and through her, Watatsumi. Even though her blood wasn’t strong enough to make her awaken as a spirit folk, it was strong enough to recognize what Shikarou was and because of it and her desire for children, it drew Kasumi to him.”

Kerrik frowned. “Is this bloodline true for every Kasumi Tendo?”

Iain shrugged. “The answer to that is, obviously no, but any Kasumi that either of us has already met or is likely to meet will be from that bloodline.”

“I see,” Kerrik said in a thoughtful tone. His gaze sharpened on Iain. “Continue.”

“As we both know, that attraction is normal when a breeding age and receptive fertile female spirit folk gets around a fertile male spirit folk.”

“Unless she’s already in a relationship,” Kerrik said. “Even if she’s not, she can easily resist the attraction.”

“True. However, as you also know, I am human which meant that Kasumi’s attraction to me is unusual.”

Kerrik’s ears flicked. “Is it the same kind of attraction?”

“It is,” Kasumi replied, “and yet what I feel for him is stronger for him than it was for Shikarou. It doesn’t define our relationship, but it was a mystery and those exist to be solved.”

“You said was, which implies you’ve solved it,” Kerrik noted.

“Curious if this attraction was something that other kami would feel towards me, we decided to visit Kasumi’s grandmother and ask.”

Kerrik blinked again. “Her grandmother? Isn’t she dead?”

“On this world she is not. Her name is Yuko and she lives on some property I own in Nippon. She’s actually Kasumi’s great-great grandmother or would be if Kasumi had been born on this world. Still, she and Kasumi have met and she adopted Kasumi as her granddaughter as they share the same bloodline.”

Kerrik snickered. “And people say my life is complicated. When they do that again I’m going to start telling them about you.”

“Anyway we asked Yuko if she felt a similar attraction to me and she admitted that she did. She also investigated and confirmed that I am completely human. Then she decided to trace my aura.”

Kerrik’s ears stilled. “She is indeed powerful if she can do something like that. That ability is very rare among the kami and only a strong one can master it. I take it she discovered something unusual.”

“According to her, I have the aura of a doragon.” Iain’s voice was level. “Not that I have draconic elements in my aura, that I have the aura and therefore the spirit of a dragon and yet I am human.”

Kerrik frowned. “That’s unlikely.” He made a motion with a hand and blinked. “And yet she’s right.” His frown deepened. “You know I’m considered widely traveled.”

Iain nodded. “I do.”

“I have never seen that dragon before.”

“Yuko says only a god could have done this to me.”

Kerrik smiled slightly. “She would. Considering the power levels of the spirit folk it would take what she would consider a godlike one to do this to someone. Still, no run of the mill spell user would be able to do this to anyone or most of them would have turned themselves into some powerful creature. Are you aware of what this means?”

“That one day I’m going to become big, scaly and probably have wings?” Kerrik nodded. “I am. I was hoping you would be nice enough to fix it so I won’t.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Look, just return my human spirit and everything should be fine.”

Kerrik shook his head. “I just said I can’t do that. Yes, I could reshape your spirit to that of a human, but it would be a generic human. The way your spirit feels is the way it has always felt to me, which means that whoever did this to you, they did it before we met. It means I have no reference of what your spirit was before it was changed to turn you into what you are now.”

“Well, shit,” Iain said.

“What does that mean,” Vanessa asked.

“It means that while I could keep Iain from becoming a dragon, by changing his spirit I would be changing him. Eventually he would stop being Iain and would become someone else. The self reflects the spirit because the spirit radiates the self. Change the spirit and the self must change too.” Kerrik’s ears flicked. “It’s a good thing you didn’t take me up on my offer to become a hybrid. It would have probably triggered your transformation into a dragon.”

“Does that mean,” Eve asked with an edge of fear in her voice, “that someday Iain is going to become a dragon and stop being Iain?”

Kerrik shook his head. “No, he is already the dragon and the dragon is already him and he has been since before we met. It could easily be that this change happened before he came into your life and it is very likely that his personality won’t change at all. The only thing, and what is strange, is that for some reason he hasn’t taken on the form of the dragon that his spirit shows he is. I would suspect it means that the dragon species he will become can change its shape. However, when that does happen for the first time, his DNA will be rewritten. A dragon in any form has draconic elements to its DNA.”

Iain just closed his eyes and leaned forward to press his forehead against the coolness of the tabletop. He spoke without lifting his head. “What does this mean for us?”

“It depends on the dragon species. Many of them are cross fertile with humans when they are in their human form but many are not. I’d say that roughly sixty percent of the ones I’ve encountered are. Because of the magic of pokegirls, even if you are not cross fertile with humans you may be fertile with the more magical members of your family.” Kerrik’s eyes lighted on Kasumi’s worried face. “And if you have a human form you will be fertile with both Kasumi and Ygerna.”

The spot on the table had grown warm so Iain shifted his head sideways to find another cool spot. “Can you see the dragon I’ll become?”

“I can. Do you want to see it?”

“I would. Private, please.”

Eve opened her mouth to protest and paused. “Will you show us later, Iain?”

“I will.” In his mind Iain could see the creature Kerrik’d seen in his aura and he felt the blood drain from his face. Eve’s gasp suggested she could see how white he’d suddenly become. “I’m as all right as can be expected,” he said to the tabletop, his breath fogging the wood.

“Is it that bad,” she almost whispered.

Iain slowly lifted his head as his twee forced blood back into his face. He smiled slightly. “Kerrik is right. This species is a shape shifter and I’ll be able to take my human form whenever I want and for however long I want. It is also cross fertile with humans. Due to its magic, it’s cross fertile with almost anything.”

“You know what that dragon species is.” Kerrik wasn’t asking a question.

“I have seen it in the notes in my head,” Iain replied. “I have never seen one in its dragon form and if I saw one in its human form and didn’t know that it was one of them, how could I tell?”

Kerrik’s ears canted forward eagerly. “What is its name?”

“Honestly, Kerrik, I never named it.” He frowned and looked at Eve. “And I would really appreciate it if it didn’t suddenly become the Grey dragon.”

She gave him a halfhearted smile back. “I’ll see that it doesn’t, but you haven’t become a big lizard yet.”

Kerrik suddenly snickered. “Oh, I hope you have different sizes for your primary dragon form.”

Ganieda cocked her head curiously. “Why?”

“Because I got the impression that it’s at least as big as an adult gold dragon from some of the universes I’ve visited.”

“Why is that important?”

Kerrik smiled widely. “It has wings. I foresee huge craters and lots of smashed trees as Iain tries to learn to land.”

Iain smiled thinly. “I have to learn to take off first.”

“That’s easy,” Kerrik said. “Spread your wings and throw yourself off of a cliff. With the steep learning curve involved, you’ll either figure out how to fly quickly or go straight to trying to land at a steep descent and at high speed.” He grinned. “After the first crash you’ll decide that flying is better. Flying doesn’t normally break bones.”

“The fuck he will!” Everyone turned to look at Eve, who was now standing with a hand protectively on Iain’s shoulder. “He is not going to throw himself off of anything.”

“I’m not a dragon yet,” Iain said loudly, “even if I didn’t really like the lizard comment and wanted to smack you for it.”

Kerrik chuckled at Eve’s suddenly confused look. “If you called a sentient dragon a lizard to her face she would likely turn you into confetti and then use her breath weapon on the confetti. Touchy beasts, dragons are, and they don’t like being called anything except a dragon.”

“I don’t know,” Iain said. “They like being called sir or madam depending on their gender and Your Excellency seems to please all of them no end.”

“That’s true enough.” Kerrik rose to his feet. “I can’t do anything for you right now, Iain, and I probably need to make sure that I still have as many harem members as I had an hour ago.”

“How fast is this transformation likely to be,” Iain asked.

“I really don’t know. I can’t tell what the trigger is or how fast things will happen. It could take days or it could happen in an instant.”

“Damn,” Iain grumbled as he pushed his chair back. “Well, I suppose I should thank you for verifying what Yuko saw, even if it scares me silly.”

“That is a perfectly normal response,” Kerrik said as he paused. He glanced at the others and held up one hand, claws up. “I was terrified.” He grimaced and put his hand down. “I know what you’re really worried about and the truth is that no matter how fast this happens, if you do end up on top of someone in your family, they all have twee and can call for help. You might hurt someone if the transformation happens in a bad place or at a bad time, but the odds are very low that you’ll kill them.” Kerrik’s face was grave. “Not everyone’s transformation is that way and you know it. And if they don’t die, they will forgive you long before you will forgive yourself.” He nodded to them and vanished.

Iain sighed and looked up at Eve. “Can I stand?”

She smiled and let his shoulder go. “Sorry.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s a lie,” he said as he got up.

“Yes it is. No throwing yourself off of cliffs, all right?”

“No throwing myself off of cliffs,” he agreed.

“What’s next on the agenda,” Ganieda asked.

“Kasumi said she was going to go back and spend time with her grandmother and I want to walk the property and see how I want to arrange things. I think the koi pond that was at the Tendo dojo was a nice touch and wouldn’t look out of place so we’ll go searching for a good spot to put something similar.” He smiled. “And after that I want to find a place to put a garden and the thing I think is iconic of traditional Nipponese architecture.”

Kasumi raised an eyebrow. “What is that?”

“It’s the sozu. I’ve always loved the sound.”

Ganieda frowned. “What is that?”

Kasumi smiled at her. “It’s a bamboo tube that slowly fills with water until it falls over and strikes a rock. It’s used to scare away deer and other animals who might be trying to feed on the plants in the garden where the sozu is. It’s actually quite a peaceful sound that I associate with temples and parks.”

Iain took Eve’s hand. “So let’s go back to Tokyo.”

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

Geradine - Human

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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