Chapter 1: The Beginning
                A gentle mist softened the air as the newcomer strode down the street, his black hair glistening in the day’s last light. He paused at the entrance to the Crown pub for a moment and then abruptly turned in.
                He flicked tufted black ears to knock the water off of them and looked around the interior. “He’s here. I can smell him.”
                Good. I think we both are tired of chasing him around Scotland.
                The newcomer snorted quietly. “I feel like I’ve been chasing the little twerp his whole bloody life.”
                A few patrons of the bar looked at him curiously. His black eyes, black hair and almond skin proclaimed him to be from somewhere to the East. Not a common occurrence around here, but not too unusual these days. His wolf-like ears merely commented on a good healthy dose of pokegirl blood in his lineage, also not uncommon hereabouts.
                “There he is.” The newcomer had spotted a gleam of silver hair and traced it to its owner. Faelan Wolf. “He’s got company.” He looked more closely. “Pretty girl. I presume she’s a pokegirl of some kind, but it’s wisest not to jump to conclusions.” A brief smile flitted across his face. “I suppose a last drink for the condemned is in order before giving him the bad news of my presence.”
                He moved to the bar and slapped a handful of credits on the counter. “I want the best bottle of wine that this will purchase and three glasses.” The barman counted it and produced a dusty bottle and the requested glasses. After opening the bottle, he recorked it and handed it to the stranger.
                The stranger moved quietly across the room to the table where Faelan sat with the blonde and dropped into one of the empty chairs. “You’re dead,” he said in a flat voice. He grinned suddenly. “Or at least you would be if I were an enemy.”
                Faelan stared, thunderstruck. “Shikarou?”
                “Greetings, little brother.” Shikarou pulled the cork out of the bottle and filled the glasses before sliding one to a still shocked Faelan and another to Svetlana. “Long time, no see.” He sniffed the glass in front of him and shrugged. “Westerners still don’t know how to make good wine. I guess it’ll have to do.”
                Svetlana sipped her glass as she watched Faelan regain his composure. “And who might you be?”
                “I might be the king of the cosmos, but I’m not. I’m Shikarou and I’m Faelan’s half-brother.” He smirked at her expression.
                “But Faelan’s not…” she broke off suddenly with a wary look.
                “Not from around here? Yeah, I know. I’m from ‘there’ myself.” Shikarou made little quotation marks in the air with his fingers. “I take it you are one of his pokegirls?”
                She nodded as she took gulp of her wine. Faelan grinned broadly. “So dad got the portal calibrated?” Svetlana looked suddenly concerned.
                “He’s not even close.” Shikarou shrugged. “I came here on my own. Dad doesn’t even know I’m here.” Another shrug. “I’m trapped here just like you, until our father gets things sorted out.” He frowned. “You’re older than you should be. You’ve already got yokosuji.” He gestured to the black lines that adorned his own face. “Like me. You only get those when you turn twenty five. What happened?”
                Faelan shrugged. “Father sent me a scroll that let me go back in time twelve years so I could go to a magic school here.”
                Shikarou grunted. “It’s about time you learned some formal magic. Blood magic can often go very wrong.” He picked up the glass and sipped. “Ick. I know it’s better than the beer, but even so this is remarkably bad.” He drained the glass and refilled it. “I really hope it’s because I didn’t have a lot of money.”
                Faelan frowned. “Where did you get money? How long have you been here, anyway?”
                “I’ve been here for a day. I got the money from a nice person on the edge of town as I came in.”
                Faelan gave his brother a suspicious look. “You robbed him, didn’t you?” Svetlana gasped.
                “You just take a deep breath and relax, brother. He dropped a coin. I picked it up and duplicated it a couple of dozen times. No harm done. Didn’t pick his pocket or knock him on the head or even call him an unpleasant name.”
                Svetlana glared. “No harm done? You counterfeited League money. That’s a crime.”
                Shikarou looked at his brother. “What’s with the double X?”
                Svetlana purpled. “What did you call me?”
                “I called you a double X. You know, two X chromosomes? I thought it better than calling you a sphincter, which, by the way, is how you are behaving.”
                Faelan put a hand on Svetlana’s arm to forestall her response. She took a deep breath and filled her wineglass again before gulping it down. Her eyes glared at him over the glass.
                “Svetlana is a Megami-sama and she’s hardwired to be good.”
                “Oh. I only did it because I don’t have any money right now. As soon as I get some I won’t do it again. You also might be pleased to know that I only made a little and I’d only do it for things I need. And some wine.” Svetlana’s glare didn’t soften. “Ok, maybe not.”
                Shikarou turned to his brother. “Speaking of the redistribution of wealth, I noticed after falling into that little graveyard of yours that you hadn’t finished setting up your beacon, so I took care of the possession rights.”
                Faelan blinked. “Possession rights? Those belong to our father.”
                “No, while technically they belong to whomever explores the new world, in practice they belong to whomever claims them first.” Shikarou shrugged. “Father wanted them for himself, which only made sense. They are going to be worth a great deal of money, after all. However, now our sire is going to have to deal with us and we are going to get extraordinarily rich. He’ll just have to settle for very rich.”
                Faelan’s ears went flat. “And just how did you take care of the possession rights?” A low growl sounded.
                Shikarou reached out with both hands and pulled Faelan’s ears back up. “Be of good cheer, little brother, I gave you half. We each get fifty percent.”
                Faelan pulled his head away. “And just what do you think Father will have to say about it?”
                “Father respects cleverness. He’ll bluster a little bit, but deep down he’ll be proud that we screwed him over.” Shikarou grinned. “Look, the way it works is that we will offer him exclusivity. We sell our findings to him. We get the pure profit, or at least most of it. He turns around and sells the stuff to the rest of the clans and to the individuals who will be clamoring for it.” He glanced around the room. “The pokegirls should be a popular item, and they’ll be treated a damned sight better there than they are here.”
                Faelan’s ears slowly came back up. “I think Dad’s going to rip your lungs out.”
                Shikarou filled up his brother’s glass again. “So? They’ll grow back. Even if he does, he still has to abide by our law. We have first claim, at least as long as we live to see him open a new portal.”
                “Now, on to other business. I got the download from the beacon and was rather surprised. Pokegirls instead of pokemon. I hadn’t quite expected anything like this, but I had to get away from the rest of the family before I seriously hurt someone.”
                Faelan looked surprised. “What were they doing?” He looked at Svetlana. “Despite the fact that my brother here is, well, very annoying and sometimes free with the laws he finds inconvenient, Shikarou isn’t violent towards family.”
                “They started harping about Pallaius again. She hasn’t been dead that long and everyone has started in on how they want me to find someone new.” He grimaced. “That’s the main reason I’m here. I only hope that portal doesn’t get opened until you and Svetlana’s grandchildren have grown up.” Svetlana choked on her wine.
                “So, anyway, tomorrow I’m going to go to the pokecenter and become a beginning Tamer.”
                Svetlana looked at her Tamer. “Who is Pallaius?”
                Shikarou rubbed the bridge of his nose as Faelan suddenly looked uncomfortable. “She was my wife. She was killed about a year ago and my family, especially my mother, thinks I have mourned enough.” He drained his glass and refilled it. “I happen to disagree and I got tired of all of my sisters trooping over to see me and tell me about this girl or that girl. So I packed up my toys and came here.” He stared into his glass as he swirled the wine slowly. “If I’d known about the whole pokegirl thing I just might have gone somewhere else, but the damage is already done. I might as well bite the elemental round and get it over with.”
                Svetlana was looking at the bottle of wine with an odd expression. “Shouldn’t that thing be empty by now?”
                “I just refilled it.” Shikarou refilled her empty glass. “I know some magic too.” He grinned. “I’ll take the bottle with me and see just how drunk I can get tonight.” He carefully pushed the cork back into the bottle and scooped it up as he stood. “I wish you two a good night. Will I be seeing you in the morning, or am I on my own?”
                Svetlana smiled. “We’ll see you in the morning.” The smile died slowly. “I can let the wine pass, but I can’t let you use counterfeit money to get a room.” A challenge gleamed in her eye.
                “Pull in your claws, girlie. I’m going to be in a tree on the edge of town. A room is not a need.” He turned and walked out into the darkness.
                “You know, Faelan, we could get him a room.” Svetlana glanced at him. “He is your brother.”
                “He wants to be alone with his memories of Pallaius.” Faelan shrugged. “He can’t get drunk on human wine, so he won’t be a threat.” He drained his glass. “Let’s find some dinner and go to bed.”
                Shikarou was waiting outside the pokecenter when Faelan and Svetlana showed up, still wearing the same scruffy looking shirt and jeans, but now he had a scruffy looking backpack to go with it. He pushed away from the wall where he’d been leaning and waved.
                “I’ve got to ask this, but are you the guy who blew the front off of the local bank yesterday? Everyone is talking about that one.”
                Faelan grinned. “Yeah, that was me.”
                “While it has elements of style usually missing from your life, I must admit to being moderately impressed. Maybe you are my brother after all. Now why did you do it?”
                Faelan shrugged. “It seemed like the right thing to do at the time.”
                Shikarou clapped softly. “Did you get into any trouble?”
                “No, I work for a special organization that lets me do things like that and get away with them.”
                “Ah, this Planetary League Council your updates referred to. I have to admit I was a little surprised to find you working for them, I mean you can make a good living as a traveling Tamer, so why bend your knee to some group of wannabe kings?” His ears flicked. “Then I remembered that you always had to belong to something bigger than you are. Everyone has to walk their own path, I guess.” A sudden grin. “Later you can belong to my group. I’ll save you a place.”
                Faelan shook his head amusedly. “Thanks, brother. So when are you going to take your Tamer’s test?”
                “Already done. That wine really sucked so I ditched the bottle and ended up here around midnight. Since the place was open, I went in and took my test. The NurseJoy on duty was even nice enough to feed me breakfast after we spent most of the night chatting. Now I’m waiting for my starter pokegirl to arrive.”
                Svetlana gave him a suspicious look. “Did you tame her?”
                “Nosey, aren’t we?” He smiled gently. “I did.”
                Svetlana looked surprised. “That’s the shortest answer you’ve given since we met.”
                Shikarou gave her a level look. “Girlie, unless you are offering, my sex life has got to be one of the handful of subjects that is the least of your business. What happened between Candace and me is between Candace and me.” She stepped back from the anger in his gaze.
                Faelan blinked and touched his brother on the arm. “Relax, she didn’t mean any harm.”
                Shikarou shuddered and then placed his hands together and bowed. “Please accept my apologies. You aren’t one of my sisters and I overreacted.”
                Svetlana smiled. “I apologize as well.” She cocked her head. “May I ask you something else?”
                “Of course, not only are you cute, you are also one of my brother’s wives.”
                Svetlana favored him with a startled look. “When you seemed angry, your ears never moved.”
                “I grew up in a place where everyone was always looking for that little edge so they could take advantage of you. One of the first things you master is not letting your emotions show.” He smiled. “While my recent outburst might indicate otherwise, I am usually quite good at it when I want to be.”
                The door to the pokecenter opened and a NurseJoy poked her head out. She was dressed in the normal short outfit but her hair had been done up in an elaborate knot and pinned into place with what looked like chopsticks. “Shikarou, your stuff is ready.”
                Faelan stared at her hair. “Are you Candace?”
                She smiled cautiously. “Yes, I am. Oh, you must be Faelan. Your brother’s told me a little about you.” She looked at Svetlana. “So, you must be Svetlana. You are as pretty as Shikarou said.” She looked back at Shikarou. “I’ve got your gear together whenever you are ready.” She disappeared back inside.
                Svetlana gave Shikarou a curious look. “Do you have your brother’s problem about not being able to lie?”
                “I’m not sure I would categorize it as a problem. However, it’s a family condition, so the answer is yes.”
                “So you think I’m pretty?”
                “You are. In fact you are stunning.”
                Svetlana smiled and looked at Faelan. “You could take some lessons from him, you know.”          
                Shikarou sighed. “If you two are going to fight, I’ll be inside.” The closing of the door cut off Faelan’s response.
                Candace looked up from her computer. “I’ve got your equipment over here.” She started piling stuff on the counter. “Here’s your book and your pokedex. We don’t have the latest version of Taming for Dummies, but you can exchange this one for the updated book when you get to a larger town.”
                “I’m sure this copy will be fine.” He smiled. “I trust you wouldn’t give me substandard taming equipment.”
                She sighed. “No, I wouldn’t.”
                “What is the matter?”
                “I wish you could stay for a while.” She was staring at the countertop. “Do you know it’s been almost a month since someone asked me what my name was? It’s been even longer since someone didn’t shorten it to Candy. I hate that.”
                “Look at me.” Candace raised her eyes. “I can’t stay. Why don’t you come with me?”
                Candace stared at him for a second. “I couldn’t do that.”
                “Why not?”
                She shrugged her shoulders. “I’ve got commitments here. You know how it is.”
                “Indeed I do.” Shikarou leaned over the counter and kissed her gently. “I am sorry you can’t come with me. I’d really enjoy your company.”
                She chuckled quietly. “With an attitude like that, I’m sure you’ll quickly find a NurseJoy who isn’t as dedicated as me to join your harem.”
                Shikarou gave her a crooked smile. “I’m not looking for a NurseJoy for my harem. I just wanted you to come along with me.”
                A smile bloomed on her face. “That’s very nice of you to say.” Candace turned and took a pokeball from a shelf. “Now, here is your starter pokegirl. Like we discussed, I found you a Boobisaur.”
                “You are a delight.” Shikarou hefted the pokeball as the NurseJoy turned slightly pink.
                “You’ll need to tame her right away, so she’ll bond to you. I’ve already run her through a healing and cleaning cycle.”
                “Conscientious as well. Are you sure I couldn’t convince you to join me?”
                She smacked him on the arm lightly. “Stop that. I can’t go with you. Not right now.”
                “Not right now? Very well then, I’ll ask again later.” He gathered up the stuff on the counter. “Can I tame her here?”
                She grinned. “Not right here, but you can use one of the taming rooms down the hall.”
                Shikarou returned the grin. “Right here was good enough for you last night.”
                Candace smiled and rubbed her butt. “Yes and I’ve got the bruises to show for it. That counter is hard on the rump.”
                “You were the one that wouldn’t leave her post. Next time I’ll wait until you are off duty and we can do that right.” He winked at her. “It’ll have to wait until I get back to Wick, but trust me, I’ll be back.”
                She gave him a soft look. “I’ll be looking forward to that.” The look vanished and Candace became completely professional as Faelan and Svetlana came in the door. “Here is a key. You’ll use room three, just down that hall.”
                “Thank you very much.” He gave Faelan and Svetlana a wave. “I got a Boobisaur and I’m off to tame her.” Shikarou headed down the hall and went into room three. After locking the door behind him he dropped his backpack and settled down on some pillows.
                He pulled out his pokedex, booted it up for the first time, and spent the next fifteen minutes playing with the configuration until it was to his satisfaction. Then he read the entry on the Boobisaur and just to be thorough, its evolutionary forms.
                You are avoiding the fact that you have to tame your Boobisaur.
                “No, I’m trying to learn what I can about them before I screw this up.”
                If a fifteen year old can do this, how hard can it be?
                “When you put it that way, you have a very sad point.” He closed up the pokedex and pulled the pokeball from his belt.
                The Boobisaur appeared in a beam of red light and looked around slowly. Shikarou could appreciate her dappled green skin and dark green hair, even if her hair was shorter than he liked. She wasn’t very tall, probably a good thirty centimeters shorter than his 183cm height, but he could live with that too. She had an adorable face with big red eyes, high cheekbones and little bow of a mouth. Her bulb was an unusual color, a light blue instead of the normal green. Shikarou looked forward to finding out what color her flower would be when she evolved.
                He waved slowly to get her attention. “Hi.” He’d always liked that. A greeting in English, it was also an affirmation in Japanese, his native tongue. “My name is Shikarou and I am your Tamer.”
                She cocked her head. “I don’t have a name, master.”
                “I looked your file over and you were born and raised on Pokeranch, right? What did they call you there?”
                “I was called 12B. The people at the ranch told me that my master would name me when I went to him.”
                Shikarou kept his ears upright with difficulty at the idea of such a place and thought quickly. “Your name is now Misaki.”
                “Misaki,” the Boobisaur repeated. “Ok.” She frowned slightly. “Are you going to tame me here?”
                “You don’t like it?”
                She shrugged, her breasts bouncing slowly. “I’d rather be outside.” One hand gestured vaguely. “It doesn’t feel alive in here.”
                She started when Shikarou jumped to his feet. “Then let’s go outside and find someplace nice.”
                “Could you put me back in my pokeball? I don’t like crowds of people.”
                “Consider it done.” After returning Misaki to her pokeball, Shikarou grabbed his stuff and headed back to Candace’s desk.
                The NurseJoy gave him an amused look. “Finished already?” A smile flickered around her lips.
                “Not hardly. Misaki would rather be outside when I tame her, so that’s where I’m headed. I’ll probably continue on my journey after that so I wanted to say goodbye to you before I left and remind you that I’ll be back when I can to see you again.”
                She nodded with a sad look. “When will that be?”
                “As soon as possible. I take it you still won’t come with me?”
                Candace reached out and stroked his hand. “You really shouldn’t keep asking me that. They only have three NurseJoys on staff here, one to cover each shift, and they really couldn’t afford to lose me.” She gripped his hand hard before letting go and taking a deep breath. “Dammit, I can’t.”
                Shikarou gave her his crooked smile again. “You mean to say you won’t. This place got along before you came here and it will after you leave. That is the great power of institutions.”
                “Fine then, I won’t,” she snapped.
                “There’s nothing wrong with feeling responsible.” Shikarou nodded solemnly. “I can respect that, even though I would rather have you along with me.”
                “You’re my only friend here, you’re kind of fun, and I’m incredibly selfish. I’d cheerfully dump more work on the people in this obviously overworked facility just to have you to myself.” He looked around the empty waiting room to prove his point.
                Candace laughed. “That I can believe. Look, the sooner you come back the sooner you can continue trying to change my mind about leaving.” She drew idly on the countertop with a finger. “I can’t believe I’m even contemplating leaving here to go traipsing off with you. I’ve never met anyone like you before.”
                “That’s good. I happen to hold the copywrite on Shikarou and I’d hate to have to track someone down just to sue them over me.”
                The NurseJoy shook her head with a smile. “Come back soon.”
                “I will do my best.” He winked and headed outside. “Where is my lazy brother?”
                Faelan is waiting for you at the pub. He wants to talk to you.
                “Good, I’ve got some questions for him.”
                A short time later Faelan and Shikarou were sitting under tree near the edge of town. Faelan had brought a more expensive bottle of wine, one that Shikarou wasn’t quite so quick to mock.
                Shikarou handed his brother the bottle as he wiped his mouth. “We should pool resources, unless you are still pissed about the beacon. I’m willing to take a smaller share if you want; it’s really not that big a deal.”
                Faelan tilted his head back and drank from the bottle. “I thought about it last night and after quizzing Alice, I discovered you are right. Father was taking the pack leader’s share and I didn’t realize it could belong to me.” He passed the bottle back. “Learning that from you at half the profits was much cheaper than learning it from Dad; what with his ‘it’ll be a learning experience for you’ philosophy.” He grinned. “So I learned something he might not have wanted me to. He could have come here himself and gotten it all.”
                “You’ve grown. I’m glad to see that.” Shikarou idly watched a man come walking down the street towards them.
                “I’m almost thirty now. Twenty seven to be exact and I’ve been here for twelve years, on my own for the first time in my life. It tends to make you grow up.” He reached for the bottle again. “I’ve got Alice, who’s a tactical AI. I’ve also got some twee seeds but I’m not willing to share them. You can have access to Alice as long as you are in range, but she stays with me.” He looked thoughtful for a moment. “I invested my money as soon as I went back in time, so I’ve still got over eight million credits available. You can have half of them if you’d like, but I expect recompense.”
                Shikarou nodded. “Thanks for the offer of money, but I brought some gold with me and when I get to Lairg I’ll change it to the local currency.” His eyes followed the fellow as he stalked by, glancing at them incuriously.
                “Why wait until Lairg? You could do that here.”
                Shikarou replied in a dry voice. “Someone blew up the bank and it’s closed until repairs are complete. The estimate I got yesterday when I went there was that it would be a month or so before it opened.”
                “Oh, yeah.”
                “Bottle?” Faelan handed it back. “Thanks. My twee has had tactical upgrades, so I don’t carry a spare AI. I’ve got the gold and a small manufactory. I’ll need to know where you’ve put any bases as well.” Shikarou was still watching when the man went into a shop just past them.
                “I don’t have any. Why?”
                “I brought a base seed. I figured I’d put it on the other side of the planet from your base, but now I just need to find a good place for it. Any suggestions?”
                Faelan looked thoughtful for a moment. “Somewhere in the middle of the ocean would be good, if you can get there. The people here don’t use the seas for much, just fishing and most water pokegirls tend to stick to the coast. There aren’t any real deep water pokegirls except for some large Sharptits.” He shrugged. “However, that is according to the current research, and pokegirl research is spotty at best. The more adventurous researchers keep coming up dead for some reason.”
                “Dead? Natural or organized?”
                “While normally I tend to sneer at conspiracy theorists, I would have to say a little of both. There are a lot of groups out there that don’t want to be found and some of them, like the Limbec type pirate groups and the Mantis pokegirls, tend to be rather violent when discovered. They’re out there somewhere, though, so caution is called for. Then you’ve got the Sanctuary people, who are just as secretive and may be just as violent.”
                “May be?”
                “If they are, no one has gotten away to report it.” He shrugged. “My job with the Department of Special Affairs gives me a good security level, but anything about Sanctuary is at the ‘kill yourself before reading’ level. All that the field personnel know are sparse rumors and much of those are contradictory.”
                “So how about sticking the base here on the Blue continent?”
                “We’d need to make sure we claimed the land.”
                “Doesn’t having the land in our names kind of defeat the whole secret base concept?” Shikarou refilled the bottle with a quick spell and handed it back. “Then the land could be traced back to us.”
                Faelan grimaced. “We may have no choice. As long as the base remains hidden it won’t be an issue.”
                “I see. Well, if I travel around hitting the gyms, I can take a look at the landscape as I go. What about your Megami-sama? Is she likely to be a problem?”
                “Not as long as our work is helping more people than it hurts. I’m glad you didn’t come along right after I met Svetlana, though. It’s taken several years for her to mellow to this point.”
                “So I shouldn’t go looking for celestial pokegirls for my harem, should I?”
                Faelan smiled. “I wouldn’t recommend it. Svetlana is my alpha and I love her dearly, but in the beginning I might have been better off with normal pokegirls. As for you, brother, any of the celestial pokegirls would try to stop your shenanigans. For the same reason I wouldn’t recommend an OfficerJenny, either. They’re even worse and would turn you in if you won’t renounce any lawbreaking ways.”
                “I only break the stupid ones. Is it my fault that they are all stupid at some point?”
                “You might get away with breaking stupid laws with an angelic pokegirl, but I suspect you don’t bother waiting for them to become idiotic before you break them.” Shikarou’s only answer was a huge grin. “I thought not.”
                Faelan handed the bottle back for another refill. “It’s considered bad form to lose your first pokegirl quickly and since you’ve only got the Boobisaur and she’s not that powerful, how about I tag along with you to Lairg? We can go by the Harris Conservatory and I can introduce you to Poppet and the rest of the gang there. It’s a Pokeranch for rare pokegirls and maybe you can wheedle a second pokegirl out of her. If not, then we might be able to catch you a feral pokegirl on the trip.”
                “I thought the hard part was avoiding the ones you don’t want to catch.”
                “It is. Especially for us. My pheromones tend to bring them out of the woodwork and I suspect you are going to have the same problem.” Faelan smirked. “I’ll have to tell about how I met Josephine when we camp for the evening.”
                “Sounds good. Oh, I also brought a handful of comsats along with me. I hadn’t placed any yet since I didn’t know where you had some, but now I suspect you didn’t bring any, did you?”
                “No. I’m not sure you can place them at all. Space here is odd and the normal rules don’t apply once you leave the atmosphere.”
                Shikarou frowned. “Really? Well how about if I hang them right on the edge of the atmosphere? They’ll work there, we’ll just need more of them for full coverage. They’re not big, so it’s unlikely they’ll be noticed, and if anyone tries anything, I’ll program them to head for the surface and run away.” He thought for a moment. “I’ll put one of them in a polar orbit and we can use it to send each other messages if real-time contact proves unfeasible.” He nodded to himself. “That will work, and it’ll be able to build us an accurate map of the planet as it orbits.”
                Faelan nodded. “That should help a lot. If nothing else it’ll give us a message lag of only hours and will be totally secure. I like it.” He burped once and shifted around to get more comfortable. “Now we only need to wait for Svetlana and the twins to return.”
                “Where are they?”
                “They went to a market in Indigo that they really like to get some more supplies. They’ll be back in a couple of hours.”
                Shikarou handed the bottle to his brother and slid to his feet. “Then I’m going to go into the woods and tame Misaki.”
                “No, she wanted to be tamed out here instead of inside. So this will be the first time.”        
                “That’s considerate of you. What do you think of her so far?”
                “I haven’t known her that long yet, but I suspect that taciturn is going to turn out to be a good description of her.”
                Shikarou headed deep enough into the woods to be out sight of Wick, but remained close enough that hopefully feral pokegirls wouldn’t be an issue. He found a sunny clearing that looked perfect and carefully took a deep breath, sniffing to ensure that someone else didn’t also find it perfect. His ears rotated as he searched for sounds of occupancy.
                Finally satisfied that the clearing was actually empty, he pulled out her pokeball and released Misaki into the sunlight.
                She smiled as she coalesced. “This is nice.”
                Shikarou nodded. “I hoped you would like it.” He kicked off his boots. “I’m afraid we don’t have a whole lot of time for this.”
                Misaki smiled and stepped up to him, placing her hands on his belt and started undoing it. “Help?”
                He smiled. “I would like that, Misaki.” He pulled his shirt up and over his head as she quickly opened his pants. He was still peeling out of his shirt when her lips closed around his cock.
                Shikarou fell over backwards with a thump, still wrapped in his shirt. He heard Misaki giggle and drop to her knees next to him and felt her engulf his cock again.
                “You are a determined girl,” he muttered as he fought his way out of the shirt. Misaki giggled around his cock and sucked harder.
                Shikarou gave up and ripped the shirt apart. Misaki watched him, her mouth full of his cock and her eyes glittering with laughter. “Oh, you think this is funny, huh?” She nodded and nipped him with her teeth before taking him down her throat.
                His head fell backwards and audibly hit the ground. She giggled again. “You win,” he groaned.
                Misaki raised her head and smirked at him. “Good. Now lie still and let me play.”
                “You drive a hard bargain, but ok.” She giggled again as she went back to sucking him.
                “You know, normally I don’t care for giggling, but I think yours is kind of cute, considering the situation,” he muttered to himself.
                She nipped him again. “Hush and be still.”
                “Fine.” He lay still, enjoying her ministrations.
                After a while she lifted her head from his cock and crawled on top of him. Shikarou looked up at her. “Can I move now?”
                She grinned. “No.” She positioned herself over him and dropped, driving him deep inside her. She hissed as his cock disappeared into her body and then began riding him, her body rising and falling.
                She sped up until the clearing echoed with the sound of their bodies meeting. Misaki looked down at him, her face frantic. “Help me,” she moaned.
                Shikarou grabbed her hips and began meeting her thrusts as she rode him. Misaki’s eyes rolled back as she orgasmed. Her body convulsed as he thrust faster, feeling himself build.
                Misaki came again, shuddering. Shikarou was suddenly covered in tentacles as she went limp. He ground her down onto him and her eyes went wide as she felt his cock swell inside her and his heat spilled into her body. She thrashed on top of him as another orgasm ripped through her and slowly collapsed onto his chest.
                She sighed and nuzzled his chest. Shikarou ran his fingers up her back and stroked her bulb. Her eyes opened and she gave him a pert look as a tentacle wrapped around his wrist and pulled his hand away.
                He smiled. “Later, then.” Misaki nodded and returned her head to his chest.
                The sky was starting to turn a reddish gold as the sun started its descent to the ground. Dark clouds were bunched on the western horizon and the wind was full of the promise of rain.
                Faelan looked back at Shikarou. “We’ll need to make camp soon. Storms come quickly here and you can never predict how bad they will be, thanks to changes Sukebe made to the environment.” He waved to Svetlana, who ghosted in and landed.
                Shikarou nodded. “Sounds good.” He watched as Faelan pulled out a wand and muttered something. Suddenly a blazing campfire and tent appeared ahead of them. “Now that is a useful spell. Can I get you to teach it to me?”
                “Sure. I’m sure there are spells that you can teach me, so we’ll trade spell for spell.”
                “It’s a deal. I’d like to learn that one tonight if possible.”
                Faelan grinned. “It’ll take as long as it takes for you to learn it. If it takes more than one day, I get a new spell for each day it takes, like normal. We’ll get started after dinner. Why don’t you catch it for us tonight? There are a lot of rabbits but if you are too slow you can always catch fish.”
                Shikarou snorted. “Rabbit it is. I’m on it.” He tightened the straps on his backpack before slipping silently into the forest and disappeared.
                Svetlana frowned at Faelan as she watched him getting the cooking gear out of the tent. “He’s older than you, right?” He nodded. “So why is he taking your orders?”
                “Shikarou isn’t stupid. He realizes that I know more about this place than he does right now and so he’s willing to listen to me.” Faelan stroked his braid thoughtfully. “Don’t underestimate him. He’s extremely independent, and won’t take anything he doesn’t want to from people. I really hope that the two of you can be friends.”
                “Why? Is he that important to you?”
                “He is my brother, but you come first. It’s just that if he gets aggravated enough, he just might avoid us until you die of old age and we could probably use his help.”
                Svetlana gave him a startled look. “And if I don’t? Or if I do and then come back as some kind of ghost pokegirl or reincarnate.”
                “Right now you haven’t really made him mad. Let’s just keep it that way.”
                “Is he likely to do something that would cause me to jump all over him?” Svetlana gave him a curious look. “He already agreed not to counterfeit any more money unless it was vital. As long as he’s willing to be reasonable, we shouldn’t have any problems.”
                Faelan gave her an even look. “Blood and darkness. I’ll talk to him and see if he’ll try to be understanding about you.”
                Svetlana sighed. “So he’s not likely to be reasonable.” She frowned and got that far away look that warned Faelan that the cosmic awareness was back. “Your brother is being attacked by something.”
                Faelan nodded. “We can’t go barging in unless he asks for help, but I can’t think of any reason not to see what is going on.”
                They followed the sudden ring of metal on metal until they got to the battle site. While Faelan hadn’t really been expecting anything specific, what he did see was amusing.
                A long haired brunette with black bat wings was straddling some guy and riding him like her life depended on it amid the ruins of their clothing while Shikarou was holding a katana he’d never seen before and battling some pokegirl who was armed with a Western style sword. Misaki stood to one side, intently watching her master and the pokegirl as they fought.
                Svetlana hissed in anger and pointed at the brunette. “That’s a Succubus.” She started forward only to be stopped by her Tamer.
                “We don’t get involved unless Shikarou goes down or asks for our aid.” The Megami-sama glared and folded her arms. Faelan pointed his pokedex at the pokegirl fighting his brother.
                “Slicer, the swordswoman pokegirl. Slicer is proficient with any weapon she can wield.”
                Svetlana frowned. “Can your brother defeat a Slicer?”
                Faelan shrugged. “I don’t think it matters. Look.”
                Shikarou had slipped while backpedaling for some room and in a flash the Slicer was on him, only to jump away as Misaki slapped a razor leaf attack at her while her Tamer recovered. The Slicer screamed in anger and lunged at Misaki, only to pull short as she had to defend herself against Shikarou’s renewed assault.
                Misaki slid sideways toward the Succubus and the unknown human while still watching the fight between the Slicer and Shikarou. She shook suddenly, releasing a cloud of blue dust from her bulb that slid over the infernal pokegirl and her victim.
                Faelan quickly checked the wind direction to make sure they were clear. “That must be lust dust.”
                The Boobisaur hurled more razor leaves and this time scored on the Slicer, who bellowed in pain. It distracted her enough for Shikarou to knock the sword from her hands and flip it away. She frantically lunged after it, only to be slapped away from her prize with the flat of his blade.
                The Slicer growled and dodged another strike as she tried to reach her fallen weapon.
                Svetlana gasped. “What just happened?”
                Faelan followed her gaze to watch the Succubus collapse on top of her partner and slowly roll off of him, her wings folding up as she fell. The guy struggled out from under her unconscious form as Misaki clasped her hands over her head and did an impromptu victory dance. “I’m not sure, but whatever it is Misaki thinks she won it.”
                His attention was drawn back as the Slicer finally made it past Shikarou to jump for her sword. She screamed in pain as Shikarou whipped in a circle and caught her hard in the ass with the flat of his katana, catapulting her high over her fallen weapon and headfirst into some bushes. She threw herself to her feet with a cry of frustration as Shikarou once again put himself between her and her sword. His grin faded as she suddenly glowed like the sun.
                His voice echoed around the clearing. “Shit!” Shikarou stuck his katana point first into the ground and held his hands in front of himself, summoning a white ball of energy which erupted into a beam that smashed the still glowing pokegirl through the tree behind her. The glow died as she hit the ground amid a flurry of feathers and bits of falling tree.
                Faelan’s jaw dropped. “I know the spell he’s going to teach me, now.”
                Shikarou shook his head and looked around in time to notice the man slipping into the woods. “Misaki, get him.” She ran after the guy into the trees as Shikarou checked the former Slicer’s pulse and verified that she was still alive.
                Satisfied, he picked up the human’s fallen belt and pulled two pokeballs from it as a scream sounded from the forest. He started to lunge for the trees when a grinning Misaki appeared, dragging the guy by two tentacles. He was flailing and screaming as she pulled him through whatever was in the way.
                Shikarou hunted through the fragments of clothing until he found some strips long enough to bind up the man before returning the two pokegirls to their respective pokeballs.
                Faelan watched as his brother draped an arm over Misaki’s shoulder and hugged her to him. She hugged him back and said something. He grinned and nodded before recalling her to her pokeball.
                Shikarou pulled his katana from the dirt and wiped the blade. Then he held it in a ready position and said clearly, “Thank you.” The sword vanished as Svetlana watched in surprise. He picked up the Slicer’s weapon and sauntered over to the Megami-sama and Faelan.
                Shikarou suddenly looked tired. “Did you like the show?”
                Faelan shook his head. “I’ve seen better acting and the musical score needed work. What happened?”
                Shikarou took a deep breath and placed his hands in the small of his back as he stretched. “That was the Tamer who walked by us while we were talking this morning. Apparently he heard me talking about my gold and came along to lighten my load, so to speak. He came out of the woods and demanded that I give him my pack. I told him to go fuck himself and he attacked me with the two pokegirls you saw.”
                He rolled his head in a slow circle to stretch out his neck as he kept talking. “I got Misaki out before they reached me and the Succubus went after her while I was summoning my sword. I ordered Misaki to hit her with lust dust and follow it with leech seed and she got through with both attacks. She shows a lot of promise. The Succubus jumped our resident idiot for some taming and you two showed up not long after. I guess the leech seed took out the Succubus eventually.”
                “What was that spell you used to take out the Slicer,” Faelan asked eagerly.
                Shikarou sighed. “That was the Light of Heaven.” He eyed his brother warily. “It’s a really difficult spell to master.”
                “I don’t care. You are going to teach it to me.” He glanced at Svetlana. “And to her, if she can master it.”
                “I’ll teach it to you. What you do with it after that isn’t my problem.” He smiled at the outraged look which crossed the Megami-sama’s face. “Look, we didn’t get off on a good footing when we met, and trying to teach you a complex spell like this isn’t going to endear you to me any more, so I’d really like to teach it to Faelan and then let him work with you until you learn it.” He smiled slowly. “Besides, he’s going to teach me a new spell each day he tries to learn this one. What do you have to offer?”
                Svetlana turned bright red. “I am shocked at you. I happen to be your brother’s pokegirl and you know that!”
                Shikarou shrugged. “You are either property or a person. If you are property then I’m not going to teach you and if you are a person you will have to make your own deals with me for lessons or learn from Faelan.”
                Svetlana blinked and suddenly looked thoughtful.
                Faelan looked suddenly unsure. “You’d sleep with my alpha?”
                “I’d look at what she was willing to offer me and make any decisions at that point, just like I would anyone else.” He rubbed his eyes. “If Svetlana is a person then she can offer me many things, at least in theory. She could offer me sex, of course, but she could also offer to transport me around when I needed, or to help me find a pokegirl with teleport, or even do my laundry for a century or so, or the gods only know what. Whatever she decides to offer, if anything, I’ll evaluate it and decide.”
                Svetlana eyed Shikarou. “What are you going to do with him?” She gestured towards the prisoner.
                “I’ve recorded the entire event, so I was hoping you would take him back to Wick along with a copy and turn him over to the police. If not, I’ll cut his throat and leave the body. In any case, since it was an unprovoked assault, I’m keeping everything he’s got except one pair of pants, if he has any after the Succubus ripped his clothes off.”
                “Oh and before you ask, I am keeping both pokegirls.” He looked evenly at Svetlana. “If you have a problem with that, then we can part ways in the morning.”
                Faelan frowned and obviously changed the subject. “What did the Slicer evolve into?”
                “I’m not sure. Whatever it is has wings.” Shikarou pulled out the pokeball and his pokedex.
                “Valkyrie, the Northern swordmistress pokegirl. Valkyrie evolves from Slicer or Airmaiden due to the stress of battle.”
                “Well, that should be fun.” He glanced at Svetlana. “If you really have a problem with my Succubus, you could always help me evolve her to a Demon-Goddess.” He smiled. “I’m sure your cosmic awareness knows how that happens, right?”
                Svetlana nodded. “Yes, but I don’t know until I need it.”
                “Then perhaps you should work on needing it.”
                “It doesn’t work that way.”
                “Oh, have you ever tried?”
                “What an odd question. Of course I haven’t.”
                Shikarou’s crooked smile appeared. “Then how do you know it wouldn’t work? If this cosmic awareness can send you stuff, then perhaps you can request knowledge from it as well.” He ran his hand through his long hair. “Look, while you try to come up with a rejoinder to that, both Misaki and I need a bath before the taming I promised her, so if you two will excuse me?” He turned and headed towards camp.
                Svetlana watched him go. “You have finally introduced me to someone who may turn out to be more impossible than you.” Her eyes lingered on where Shikarou’d disappeared into the trees. “He asks the strangest questions.”
                “Makes one think, though, don’t they?” Faelan grinned at her surprised look. “He’s always challenging the status quo. Sometimes I think that is why his mother ran him out of her home. She doesn’t like disruptions.”
                He frowned. “So are you going to take our guest back to Wick?”
                “After I get a copy of the fight and make sure Shikarou is right about what happened. He was kidding about killing him, wasn’t he?”
                “Wouldn’t that be a lie?”
                “Oh. I better get that recording right away.”
                Three days later Faelan pointed down at a large grouping of buildings. “There lies the Harris Conservatory, one of the world’s best known breeding facilities of rare and valuable pokegirls. They lay claim to just about everything to the north along Loch Naver and the associated river as well. They’re also allied with the local ElfQueen and her band of lovelies. The Conservatory has been here for centuries and the whole time Poppet has run the place.”
                “I’m not paying for the guided tour.” Shikarou waved up at his Valkyrie. “Bonnie, get down here.”
                She banked and glided in to a landing, spattering him with leaves and twigs as she touched down. “Sorry.” She brushed the stuff off of him. “I’m still getting used to landing around you.”
                “It’s ok. You’ll get better with practice.” She smiled at his words and touched the gem on her breastplate, sending her wings back to wherever they went when she wasn’t using them.
                Faelan hitched up his pack and gave a short whistle. A purple head appeared out of the brush and disappeared as he waved one of the twin Eva forward. He turned to his brother. “Ready to go?”
                “Yeah.” They moved out.
                A short time later Shikarou and Faelan sat on a bench and sipped tea. Poppet brushed back her golden hair and leaned back as she picked up her tea. “I find it a little hard to believe that you are Faelan’s brother. You don’t look anything like him.”
                “We have the same father.” Shikarou smiled. “Dad has several wives and loads of children.”
                “I see. How did you come to be here? I was lead to believe that Faelan was here by himself.”
                “He was supposed to be. I’m here without our father’s knowledge, not that it matters to me.”
                Poppet nodded to herself. “Would you mind if I, um, helped myself in understanding? Your mental shields are quite good.”
                Shikarou looked at her evenly for a moment. Poppet smiled as she felt his wards drop. “Thank you.” She was quiet for a moment. “So you came here because your sisters and mother were trying to get you to remarry in what you considered an unseemly hurry.”
                “That’s right. I wasn’t expecting this, but I think everything will work out ok, as soon as I get rid of my Succubus.”
                “You have a Succubus?” She smiled slightly. “It just so happens that our last breeding Succubus has become a pokewoman, so now she gives us Youma. I think we might be able to work something out if you wanted to sell her to us.”
                “Fine, she’s yours.”
                Poppet’s brow creased slightly. “Aren’t you going to name a price?”
                “I don’t think you will cheat me.” Shikarou picked up a biscuit and nibbled it.
                Poppet frowned. “Are you, by chance, a telepath?”
                “No, I’m mostly a mage.” He smiled. “I used your carrier wave to skim through your mind, as you suspect. A complex spell, but one that has kept me healthy.”
                Her frown deepened. “You are very good. I never felt your presence.”
                “Magic doesn’t feel like a psychic intrusion. There wasn’t anything for you to notice.” Shikarou shrugged. “I hope you aren’t mad at me.” He brightened. “I know. I am like my brother in that I cannot lie. I promise you that I will never tell anyone what I learned unless you allow it.”
                She seemed to consider it. “I’m not sure if I could have you safely killed, so I suppose that will have to do.”  
                Faelan smiled at his brother. “Now you understand why Svetlana is in her pokeball right now.”
                Shikarou nodded. “She’d be frothing at the mouth right now, wouldn’t she?”
                Poppet smiled. “We can only hope. Are you as practical as your brother?”
                “I’m more practical than Faelan has ever dreamed of being, but then my upbringing was just a little different than his and I’m older than he is.”
                “Your Tamer record says you are twenty five. Faelan is older than that.”
                “I am twenty five.” He put his cup down. “I’m also older than that. No one ever bothers to ask if that is my maximum age. They just ask if I’m the indicated age.”
                Poppet smiled. “Ah, a verbal fencer. Just what is your maximum age?”
                “I’m halfway to my third century.” Shikarou smiled at her expression. “Faelan is still a babe in arms compared to me.”
                Poppet nodded. “Are the two of you staying the night?” She continued at Faelan’s nod. “Shikarou, may I ask a favor of you?”
                “I’m willing to hear what you want,” he replied pleasantly.
                “Would you stay the night with me, please?”
                Shikarou’s ears flicked and he glanced at Faelan, who looked surprised. “I’m very honored by your generous request, but I cannot in good conscience perform such a favor for you.” Poppet looked disappointed. “However, I would be more than happy to stay with you tonight without any obligations on either side, as long as you don’t try to keep any of my semen for your breeding projects.”
                Poppet slowly waggled a finger at him. “You did learn a lot earlier.” She shrugged. “I wouldn’t bother. Your brother’s sperm proved unviable with my pokewomen.” Faelan started in surprise.
                “That’s because our father sterilized him before he came here.” Shikarou nodded at his brother’s expression. “I suspected it since our kami traits breed true in humans and most likely with pokegirls, since they are human too.” He took a deep breath. “I can reverse it later brother, if it becomes an issue. I know the spell father used.” His gaze returned to Poppet. “I, however, am not sterile.” He got a thoughtful look. “Perhaps I should remedy that in case I run across any pokewomen or humans who want to sleep with me.” He fixed Poppet with a flat look. “Or who may want to collect my seed.”
                She smiled easily. “That might be a good idea, or I might not be able to keep my collection bottles out of the bedroom tonight.”
                Faelan finished his cup of tea. “I thought you were trying to get Devon more into your life.”
                “He’s been sent off to the Sunshine league and a girl has needs. I know Svetlana doesn’t like you and me being together, which is why we were only lovers for a brief time. And your brother is cute.”
                “What about Devon’s spy?”
                “Letitia? I don’t bother myself about her. She’s busy being pregnant anyway.” She smirked. “I don’t know if I’m jaded, but I grow a little weary of every female who’s pregnant for the first time carrying on like she discovered childbearing.”
                Shikarou snorted. “You aren’t jaded. It’s very annoying.”
                “See, your brother and I already have something in common.” She gave Shikarou a curious look. “Do you have children of your own?”
                “Four daughters. All grown and out of the house, thankfully long before Pallaius died.” Shikarou leaned back.
                “I thought so. You sounded like you’d been there.”
                He smiled. “I should hope to say I was there. I put my seed into her belly and I was there to deliver all of my children.”
                Poppet smiled back. “I like the fact that you were involved for the whole course.  I think you and I could get along quite well.” She put her cup down and rose. “If you two would be willing to wait here for a moment, I’ll see to having rooms made ready for you.” She glanced at Faelan. “I presume you will be wanting to use the guest house again?”
                “Yeah, it’ll help to keep Svetlana calm.”
                She looked at Shikarou. “What about you?”
                “I’m already calm.”
                Poppet laughed. “Then I’ll have a room prepared for you in the main building. You can freshen up there. I’ll send someone around to collect your pokegirls for a healing and cleaning cycle. Shikarou, will you want to say goodbye to your Succubus?”
                “Her name is Yvonne, and no. She’s been causing a great deal of trouble with my harem in the few days I’ve had her, so I’m just glad you’ll take her. You have the facilities to keep her under control.” He sighed. “I’d probably end up killing her before too long. My pokegirls are just too young to deal with her personality type and I’m not going to let them suffer because my Succubus is an unwelcome pain in the ass.”
                Poppet looked pleased. “I’m glad to hear that the welfare of your entire harem is important to you.”
                “Of course it is. Living with a pissed off woman who’s pissed off at someone else is worse than one’s who mad at you. You can’t make it right, you just have to live with her.” He pulled a pokeball from his belt. “In fact, you can take her right now.” He suddenly shook the pokeball very hard.
                Poppet stared. “What was that for?”
                Shikarou grinned. “I know it doesn’t work that way, but I like imagining that she’s really dizzy right now.” He offered the Unicorn the pokeball.
                “You are bizarre,” Poppet shook her head, “and slightly refreshing, in some odd way. Dinner will be in two hours, so I will leave you gentlemen to freshen up.”
                Shikarou ran his fingers through the blonde’s hair as he thought. Finally Poppet shifted her head on his chest just enough to peer at him with one blue eye. “Did you know you have been doing that for over three hours?”
                He frowned and checked his twee. “You are right. I hope I didn’t disturb you.”
                “No, it is very relaxing and keeps putting me back to sleep.” She yawned, sending a warm breath of air across his chest. “However, I needed to get up an hour ago.”
                “I never heard an alarm and no one knocked.”
                “I normally don’t need one and nobody would dare disturb me unless the Conservatory was under attack.” She stretched and propped herself up, smiling through a haze of gold hair. “So, are you afraid of morning breath?”
                Shikarou chuckled and kissed her. “No.”
                The Unicorn finally pulled away and picked up her com. “What do you want for breakfast?”
                “Whatever you are having will be fine.”
                “You want boiled oats?”
                He smiled slightly. “I’ve eaten gruel before.”
                “It’s oatmeal.” She stuck out her tongue at him.
                “A rose by any other name.” He sat up and stretched. “That was nice. It’s been a while since I’ve been with a woman who had a good idea of what she wanted and was willing to actually share the information.”
                Poppet raised an eyebrow. “Is that unusual?”
                “You have no idea.” Shikarou leaned back against the headboard. “Most either don’t know what they want or are afraid to tell. I want to pleasure them, so either case is frustrating. Then there are the ones that know and want you to find out. I’ve never understood why they got so uptight when during my voyage of grand discovery I did something they hated. How was I to know?”
                Poppet gave a throaty chuckle. “We’ve got a Dominatrix who’s like that. She likes to punish her partners for not knowing what to do.”
                Shikarou snorted. “While I understand that it takes all kinds to make the world work, she and I would get along as badly as I did with Yvonne.”
                “I did notice that Yvonne seemed happy to be out of your harem. Why is that?” Poppet picked up a hairbrush and started running it through her hair.
                “She attacked Misaki over something and I thrashed her soundly. She’d done it once before and I warned her about what would happen if she did it again, but she didn’t want to listen. She apparently thought I would just give up and knuckle under. It wouldn’t have been a problem if Misaki was self assured enough to take care of herself, but she’s only fifteen and just left the Pokeranch where she grew up.” Shikarou sighed. “When she healed up from that then she went after me and I beat her unconscious.” He reached over and pulled the brush from her grip. “Turn around.”
                She sighed as he brushed her hair out. “That’s nice. No one has done this for a long time.”
                “You’ve been alone too long.”
                Poppet turned to look at him and he carefully turned her back around so he could continue. “What do you mean? I’m not alone.”
                “I got some of your thoughts yesterday, remember. You have been alone since Jamie died. I recognize the signs.” Shikarou paused to carefully untangle a knot of hair. “Just like you, after Pallaius died, I pushed everyone away and buried myself in work.” He cocked his head and thumped her gently on the back with the brush. “Take a deep breath and relax. I’m not being critical, I’m just stating facts.” Poppet’s back muscles untensed.
                “I suspect that Jamie’s death made you aware of how few people shared your longevity and you responded by keeping the rest of your relationships superficial. I’ve seen it happen before.” He put the brush down and dug his fingers into the muscles of her shoulders. She sighed and leaned into the massage. “The problem here is that you are a member of the first generation of long lived people to occur on this planet and none of you have any elders to guide you, especially in dealings with short lived mortals.”
                Poppet turned her head to look at him over her shoulder. “How long do your people live?”
                He shrugged. “Barring accidents, as long as we need to. When we are ready to die, we just do.”
                “Are you immortal?” There was an odd tone to her voice.
                “No, nothing is truly immortal. Even the gods will eventually die. I like to think of myself as chronologically challenged.”
                “Well, our relationships with shorter lived races are difficult to say the least. They often up and die at the most inconvenient times.” Shikarou kept his voice deliberately light. “That’s why there are so many stories about immortal beings taking revenge on the descendants of someone who wronged them. By the time they get around to punishing the transgressor, often he’s died of old age. And you just don’t want to waste a good punishment.”
                “Was your wife short lived?”
                “No, she was murdered.”
                “Oh. I’m sorry.”
                Shikarou thumped her on the back. “Stop that. I’ve never understood this habit humans have of apologizing for something that they were not involved in.”
                “Can I apologize for apologizing?” Poppet gave him a slight smile.
                He laughed. “Sure.”
                “Did you get the murderer?”
                “Mother specifically ordered me not to.”
                “So he got away with it.”
                “She. While my mother specifically ordered me not to, that doesn’t mean I listened to her.” Shikarou moved to the middle of Poppet’s back and kept working.
                “So you did get revenge.”
                “I don’t think of it that way. Revenge is a useless, empty thing. What I did do was make sure she would never murder anyone again. That did mean she had to die, so I killed her.” He pulled her across the bed to rest against his chest. “Don’t think I didn’t notice when you changed the subject. We were talking about you, not me.”
                “Were we?” She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye and then leaned back against him. “People say that I’ve obsessed over Jamie’s death. Behind my back of course, but I find out.”
                “Did you?”
                Poppet settled herself more comfortably against him. “I suppose I did.” She ground her teeth audibly. “Dammit, I loved him and he left me.”
                “You don’t have to forget your loves. You just have to learn to live without them.” Shikarou sighed. “It’s not something you want to do, but your only other option is to die.” He wrapped his arms around her, just underneath her breasts. “You will never replace him. What you need to ask yourself is what would he have wanted for you?”
                “I don’t have to ask that. He told me before his death.” Poppet’s voice was bitter. “He wanted me to carry on and live my life.” She turned to look him fully in the face. “Why am I telling you this?”
                “You need a friend and I’m being friendly.” Shikarou nodded. “If not me, then someone. Frankly, I’m not a bad choice. I’m a great guy and fantastic lover. The best thing about me, at least for you, is that I don’t have a stake in your life. I don’t work here and you can’t affect my wellbeing or state of unemployment.” She smiled. “I’m also a good listener, even if I won’t let you change the subject. Oh, yeah, and I already promised not to tell anyone your secrets so you can speak freely to me.”
                Poppet gave him an odd look. “Do you think you could be my friend?”
                “That depends on what type of friend you want.”
                “Are there different types?”
                “Yes, there is the ‘oh my god you killed him but I’ll help you hide the body and lie to the police’ kind of friend and the ‘whatever, as long as it doesn’t inconvenience me’ kind of friend.”
                Poppet looked thoughtful for a minute. “I’d like a body hiding friend. I think I have several of the other kind already.”
                “Then you have to realize that if I think you are being an ass, I won’t hesitate to tell you.” Shikarou smiled to take the sting from his words.
                “I’m not used to that, so could you take it slowly?”
                “Nope, body hiding friends are all or nothing.”
                “All right, all it is.” Poppet looked up as there was a knock at the door. “That will be my oatmeal and your gruel.” She got up and headed towards the door. Shikarou admired the play of her muscles as she walked. Suddenly she paused. “Shikarou, can body hiding friends still be lovers?”
                “I don’t see why not.” He grinned.
Name:                                                    Shikarou                                                               
Age:                                                        250                                                                                        
Residence:                                            Wick, Blue Continent                                                        
Region:                                  Scotland                                                                                               
Status:                                                   Active                                                                                   
Rank:                                                     17                                                                                          
Security Clearance:                             Delta                                                                                     
                Tamer                                    Y                                                            
                Master Tamer                      N                                                            
                Researcher                            N                                                            
                Watcher                 N                                                            
                Breeder                  N                            
Active Harem
Species                   Name                                     Level                     
Boobisaur                             Misaki                                    15                          
Valkyrie                 Bonnie                                   21