Chapter 3: On the Road
                Shikarou was sitting on his bed and brushing his hair when Branwyn came in. “There you are. I’ve been looking for you.”
                He cocked his head. “I just got out of the bath. What do you want?”
                “You need to fill out this form.” She handed him her PDA. On the screen was an official looking document.
                Shikarou read through it carefully. “A BL1046, whatever that is. It looks ominous.”
                “It’s a waiver for the waiting period between your Tamer’s test and the Master Tamer test. You need to fill it out so you can start keeping extra pokegirls in storage. You did pick up four this evening.”
                His ears flicked. “Don’t remind me. That was an absolute fiasco.”
                Branwyn looked puzzled. “Why?”
                “Not one of the men lived. I was really looking forward to getting some video evidence that they had been sent by the sheriff. Now all I have is a pile of ashes, since I went ahead and cremated them.”
                “You know he sent them. Why do you want other evidence? You’re not going to be able to accuse him of anything no matter what you discover.”
                “True. However, video evidence would be nice for when I have to justify myself to Faelan and Svetlana.”
                “You were attacked and you defended yourself. What’s to justify?”
                Shikarou put the brush down and picked up some silk strips. “I’m going to kill the sheriff and I’d like to have a good justification for when I get around to it.”
                Branwyn gave him a cautious look. “When did you decide this?”
                “In Lairg. That man is a poster child for justifiable homicide. He laid his hands on me and more importantly he tried to steal you. Twice.”
                “What about Molly?”
                Shikarou gave her an even look. “What about her?”
                “I’m not sure you want to be hauling around her pups. They aren’t even ten yet and won’t go into pokeballs for years.” Branwyn smiled. “That’s the only reason Devon hasn’t done anything to him yet. Poppet, too, I suspect.”
                “So you are telling me that there is a queue to kill the sheriff?”
                “That is how it looks.”
                Shikarou groaned. “So whoever is willing to deal with Molly’s children gets him.” He looked thoughtful. “What if we gifted her and them to the next sheriff?”
                “No. It is very likely that he won’t be interested in her or them, and even if he is, are you sure you want to give the next sheriff someone who will very likely be a material witness to the previous sheriff’s murder. She goes everywhere with him.” Branwyn smoothed the legs of her jumpsuit. “So just fill out the form and I’ll get you the Master Tamer test. The sheriff will have to wait.”
                Shikarou handed back the PDA. “Here.”
                Branwyn sighed. “You really need to fill out…” She frowned at the display and then looked up at him. “How did you do that? You never touched the stylus and yet it’s all filled out and the completed test is attached.”
                “I have access to most things digital through my twee.” Shikarou finished tying up his hair. “It means I can fill out paperwork by thinking about it.”
                “Would it be possible for me to get that ability?”
                “Once I get the base established, I’ll be able to make twees, so yes. Before you ask, the base will take about six months to grow after I plant the seed and first I need to find some land to claim for it.” He shrugged. “I’ve got a couple of places I want to look at after we hit the gym that might be what I want.” His ears flicked. “Do you know how to file a claim for land out in the wilderness?”
                Branwyn laughed. “In fact, I do. I’ve been involved with the Conservatory’s land grabs for the last thirty years.” She leaned against him. “Just point out what you want and we’ll get it together.” She nuzzled his cheek. “Master.”
                He cocked an eyebrow at her. “Are you coming on to me or checking to see if I still smell like vomit?”
                She smiled primly. “It was the latter, but since I know you smell fine can I change it to the former?”
                “I suppose so.” Branwyn climbed into his lap. “Why do you keep doing that?”
                “I feel comfortable and warm and safe here.” She kissed his chin. “Even though I am Poppet’s daughter, I never really felt that way at the Conservatory.”
                He snorted. “Shouldn’t that be especially since you are Poppet’s daughter? I don’t think she tolerates potential rivals at all, much less well.”
                “You did learn a lot about her.” She eyed him speculatively. “Is that likely to cause trouble in the future?”
                “I don’t think so. I’ve been careful so far to make sure she likes me, and I’m going to keep doing that for at least as long as I’m in the Blue League.” He wrapped his arms around Branwyn. “Besides, she’s lonely and I can understand from experience how that feels. Because of that, I’m willing to be as much or as little a friend as she wants because I do understand it so much.”
                Branwyn snuggled close. “You loved Pallaius a lot didn’t you?”
                His arms tightened around her. “She was my center, my universe. Pallaius was the mother of my children and my best friend.” He sighed. “Her murder devastated me and after I destroyed her killer, I probably would have killed myself, except for my father. I didn’t care about anything then, and so it really didn’t matter when he put me to work. Sent me on these long, horrible assignments against the foulest monsters I’d ever seen. I thought at the time he was trying to wring some last value from my death. It was only later that I realized that he was making me save people and deal with their joy and gratitude in order to give me a reason to live.”
                “After almost a year I returned home and my mother told me that she’d started the negotiations for me to take a new wife.” A low growl trickled from his throat. “I’ve always known that she was only concerned about the universe that rotated around her, but that was just too much for me to stomach. I openly refused her, and that just isn’t done. So I went into seclusion and she started sending my sisters to visit, since she was not welcome. It only took a month or so of that to convince me to seek out Faelan and offer him my humble assistance.”
                Branwyn stirred slightly. “So you aren’t in any hurry to return to where you came from?”
                “For better or worse, this is my home now. I belong here.” He nuzzled her cheek. “With you. After all, we’re delta bonded, so while not exactly of one mind and one heart, you go where I go, until one of us dies.”
                “You could still go back. You’d just take me with you.”
                Shikarou nodded. “I could. But mother is still waiting. Like a dragon, she has infinite patience and will still be waiting until I return or time ends. On top of that, I suspect that she would be unwilling to see you as a proper replacement for Pallaius.”
                “What do you think?”
                He looked into her eyes. “No one could ever replace Pallaius in my heart. However, there is no reason why you couldn’t have a place of your own.”
                “I don’t yet, do I?”
                “No. I’ve only known you for a brief time. Very brief as people like us count the years. But barring an accident, we’ve got centuries together.” He smiled mysteriously. “Who knows what that kind of time will bring?”
                Early the next morning Shikarou reached across Branwyn and picked up his pokedex. She sighed and opened an eye. “When do you sleep?”
                He grinned and turned the unit on. “You wanted me to decide which pokegirls were worth keeping, remember. Want to help?”
                “Sure. I wish Misaki wasn’t in her pokeball though.” Branwyn sat up and leaned against him. “She makes good tea and I could really use a cup right now.”
                Shikarou leaned over and grabbed his backpack. Pulling out his wand, he pointed it at the bed carefully. A silver tray with a pot of tea, two cups and some bread and cheese appeared on the bed. He put the wand away as Branwyn helped herself to some tea. “We put everyone into their pokeballs last night because you thought it a good idea, remember?” Branwyn grunted her assent.
                “Wow, there’s even sugar cubes and milk.” She frowned suddenly. “Wait a minute, if you can do this, why did I spend C10000 on a cooking T2?”
                Shikarou smiled. “I seem to remember volunteering to cook until you came up to speed.”
                Her eyes narrowed. “I’m holding a cup of hot tea, Shikarou.”
                She just humphed and delicately picked up some bread. “Can I get some fruit as well?”
                “Next time.”
                “Can you create raw materials as well? Like potatoes and onions?”
                Branwyn grinned. “Outstanding. We’re going to eat much better.” She paused. “Do you create them out of thin air or do you get them from somewhere?”
                “They are created whole cloth. Why?”
                “Well, that means we can get fruits and vegetables out of season as well as items that are hard to get. In addition, if you really want to stay on Poppet’s good side, I know all of her favorite foods. And if we have to, we can always set up a quick market stall somewhere and sell produce to get by.”
                Shikarou winced. “I sincerely hope it never comes to that. I think I’d rather steal.”
                “I’m from a samurai family and we aren’t common merchants. That could be really insulting.”
                “Oh. If we only sold a small number of really expensive items, would that insult your honor?” Branwyn looked at him curiously.
                “That kind of business I could countenance.” Shikarou nodded. Branwyn relaxed slightly.
                The Unicorn gave him a hesitant look. “Would it be all right if I made up a list and gave it to you?”
                “I don’t see why not. Be sure and put some of your favorite foods on there as well and let the others know about this. If you go overboard on the list, we’ll work something out.” Shikarou waggled his pokedex. “Now, back to business?”
                Branwyn gave him a mischievous look. “Shikarou, if you can create a bag full of prime truffles or chocolate out of season, we are talking business. Good business.”
                “I see. How about we get on to other business then?”
                His alpha poured him a cup of tea and let her body rest against his as she handed it to him. “Command me and I obey, oh lord.”
                Wisely, Shikarou refused the bait and instead looked at his pokedex. “Now we picked up four new, uh, wait a minute.” He played with his pokedex for a minute. “That didn’t help.” Finally he looked up. “I think something may be wrong with my pokedex.”
                “Let me see.” Branwyn handed him her tea and took the pokedex as he juggled the two cups. He compromised by draining her cup and putting it on sheets next to her leg. “Wait. Oh, I understand. It looks like Bonnie did some scavenging last night. That has got to be where the three feral pokegirls came from.”
                Shikarou gave her a studied look. “That much I deduced on my own. What do you think about Bonnie?”
                “What do you mean?” She changed the display. “Damn. In her pokeball, too. That’s odd.” Branwyn looked up. “Well, no one knows what causes that particular evolution.”
                Shikarou sighed. “I was afraid it would be something like that. So now I have an Armsmistress instead of a Valkyrie. At least I won’t be getting any more surprise pokegirls again if it’s true.”
                “I suppose not. That is a pity, though.” Branwyn changed the display back. “Now we need to decide which of these you are going to keep.” She handed him back the pokedex.
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                                    16                          
Armsmistress                        Bonnie                                   23
Unicorn                  Branwyn                               41
Dark Elf                 Maggie                   26
Dark Kitsune                        Kit                                           35
Magic Battle Maiden          Camilla                  37
Tats                                        Lauren                                   30
Ladyba                                  Feral                                       19
Oni                                          Feral                                       22
A-Bra                                     Feral                                       17
Alpha                                     Branwyn
Beta                                       None
                Shikarou cocked an ear. “Do you think that they are aware that I’m over my allowed number of pokegirls?” He sounded amused.
                “They won’t know until you uplink again. Can you do that inside our tent?” Branwyn gave him a curious look.
                “Normally, no. However, I can if I want to.” He grinned. “On the other hand, no one will hear your cries for help.”
                “I always suspected as much.” She kissed his shoulder and frowned at her teacup for a moment before shooting him a quick glare as she picked it up and refilled it. “Which ones do you want to keep? I think we should keep all of them.”
                “I disagree.” Shikarou looked over everything again. “I think perhaps the Dark Kitsune, the Battle Maiden and the Ladyba.” He frowned. “I’d like to keep the Oni and the A-Bra, but we aren’t a cohesive harem yet and adding a whole group of ferals would be too much of a strain. We’ll get an electric and a psychic type later.” He looked up. “The rest we’ll offer to Poppet and any she doesn’t want we’ll sell. What do you think?”
                “I still think we could keep them all, but your choices seem sound. That gives you one plant, one poison, two steel, one fighting, two magic, one dark, one fire, one bug and one flying, although Bonnie will also be able to fly.” She frowned. “Are you going to want to evolve Bonnie to a Seraph?”
                “Not a chance in hell.”
                “That’s an interesting choice of words.” Branwyn smiled softly.
                “I need a celestial pokegirl like I need a psi-dyke in my harem. And I need a militant one even less.”
                “So, angel stones should be off of the shopping list?”
                “Absolutely correct.”
                Branwyn nodded. “All right.” She finished her tea. “I think we need to return to the Conservatory before we do anything else. We don’t want to get rid of the Tats or the Dark Elf anywhere near Lairg and mother will be able to send them far away.” She looked thoughtful. “Have you considered that the issue of you not having a last name is probably going to keep coming up? The Conservatory has the security access to update your record with a last name.”
                Shikarou sighed. “All right, let’s go give Poppet the chance to tell me she told me so.”
                Poppet looked up when a knock sounded at her door. She frowned and called out, “What is it?” The knock came again.
                The Unicorn reached out with her mind and scowled when she detected nothing. The knock came again, louder this time.
                “Whoever is playing games is going to be in a lot of trouble when I find out who is behind this little prank,” she muttered as she put down her book and pushed herself to her feet.
                She pulled open the door. “Whoever you are…” Her voice broke off as Shikarou grabbed the front of her dress and pushed her backwards quickly. He kicked the door shut behind him as he pinned her to the wall and covered her mouth with his.
                She tried to push him away as one of his hands pulled up her skirt and slipped underneath it. There was the sound of ripping fabric as his claws shredded her panties and then his hand cupped her mound and gently rubbed her clit.
                Poppet stopped fighting and returned his kiss as he opened his pants. His other hand grasped her ass and lifted and she wrapped her legs around his waist as he slowly forced his finger inside her, teasing her growing wetness out.
                Shikarou pulled his finger out and forced his cock inside her as she hissed and bit his throat. He stroked once to coat himself with her juices and then slammed his cock inside her fiercely again and again as Poppet howled until he exploded.
                Shikarou looked into her face and slowly licked the sweat off of her cheeks. “Hi.”
                She tried to glare and failed. “Hi, yourself. So how does this qualify as an emergency?”
                “It doesn’t. I just wanted to see you again.”
                She smiled. “See me? Is that what you call this?”
                “No, I call this a quickie.” He grinned.
                Poppet tightened her legs around him. “I have some bad news for you. You have seriously violated etiquette and now you are going to have to make amends.”
                Shikarou looked mildly concerned. “What do you mean?”
                “It’s after dark.” Poppet said it like it made all of the sense in the world. She smiled at his baffled expression. “Quickies are outlawed in the Blue Continent after sundown.”
                Comprehension dawned. “Ah. I beg your forgiveness. And what must I do in order to make this right?”
                She wrapped her arms around his neck and nuzzled his lips. “Well, first you have to carry me safely over to the bed. Then you have to put my bookmark properly where it belongs and then place my book on the shelf next to my bed. After that, you must help me to get undressed without destroying any more of my clothes. If you do all of these things and then make love to me all night long, I might be willing to call honor satisfied.”
                Shikarou ran his hands up the sides of her body. “Oh, really?” His claws extended and ripped downwards, carefully shredding the dress while only lightly scratching her. She shivered. He leered at her. “What do I have to do to make this right?” He grinned. “I know, how about I fuck you until you beg for mercy?”
                She flashed a mock look of fear and tried to twist away from him. Her legs, however, wrapped more tightly around him. “No, no matter how often you ravage my body, I will never yield.”
                Shikarou pulled her close and turned towards the bed. “My lovely, we’ll just see about that.”
                “So, you want to sell me the Oni, the Tats, the A-Bra and the Dark Elf.” Poppet looked thoughtful for a second as she settled behind her desk. “I can either use them here or find someone to take them. Now the Oni and the A-bra are feral, so you will only get half price for them. That’s the industry standard pricing requirement.” She looked up from her computer at Shikarou. “If you are willing to sell only to me, I can set you up with the transfer codes so you don’t have to waste time haggling with dealers every time you want to sell a pokegirl. You’ll be able to send them to me from any standard transporter. I can offer you the standard rates, and if you find something truly special that you still want to get rid of, we can always discuss her.” She frowned. “I’ve already got the infrastructure in place to move pokegirls to wherever they’ll bring the most value or be of the most use, so I’m not going to lose any money over this, and you’ll have the ease of quickly moving any unwanted stock.”
                “That sounds reasonable.” Shikarou sipped at his tea. “Are there any restrictions?”
                “Well, the Conservatory doesn’t deal in common pokegirls, but I can offer you the standard credit program that most ranches make available for wandering Tamers. I’ll give you a credit for half of the value of a common pokegirl and you can later use that credit towards up to two thirds of the purchase price of a pokegirl from the Conservatory or a Pokeranch that we have an agreement with and frankly that would be most of them. All Tamers are expected to pay for any pokegirls after their first one that they get from a ranch, so this program was set up to help defray the costs, both to the Tamer as well as to the ranch, who has to spend time and money domesticating the common pokegirls to the point that a beginning Tamer can handle them.” Poppet smiled. “What this program is designed to do is make a wider range of pokegirls available to beginning Tamers without ranches having to keep more breeding stock on hand.... It also encourages active Tamers to harvest the ferals in the wild and helps to keep their numbers down.”
                “Before this program existed, Tamers would often ignore common pokegirls in order to only chase the valuable ones or only the ones that they were interested in. This meant a whole bunch of feral pokegirls were being ignored. Tamers have been much more willing to collect feral common pokegirls since the program was instituted, since each one they catch puts them that much closer to being able to afford their dream pokegirl.”
                Shikarou nodded. “Is there an additional credit if I go ahead and tame them to start the domestication process?”
                “No. The results of Tamers working on pokegirl domestication are too varied to help a ranch produce a good starter pokegirl and we really don’t want to deal with having to remove the alpha bond. Sometimes they run away to be with their Tamer and getting them back can be such a trial. Your best bet, once they are caught, is to ship them here immediately so I can get started on them. In the long run it will save both of us a great deal of time.”
                “What about threshold cases?”
                She sighed. “Those are the hardest for me to deal with. In the case of a feral pokegirl, for over ninety percent of them, capture leads to a better life. For thresholds, the poor girl finds her previous life ending and a new, often terrifying one beginning. Those are the ones with the most psychological problems.” She met his gaze squarely. “I would be happier if you steered clear of thresholds if you could, unless you are rescuing them from a seriously abusive situation.”
                “I see. You may have a valid point about avoiding them.”
                Poppet nodded absently. “The issues that can develop when a pokegirl goes through threshold can haunt her for the rest of her life, especially if it is coupled with any sort of abuse from her family. I see that a lot. Fortunately, there are a handful of ranches that specialize in dealing with psychologically damaged threshold cases. Unfortunately, we need about thirty more of them.” She poked at her keyboard. “That only covers the Blue League. Once you get into places where women are more routinely oppressed, the mental damage can become even worse. There are many cases of threshold pokegirls, both here as well as elsewhere, being tamed by members of their own family. Genetically, the girl isn’t really related to them anymore, but psychologically, the trauma is incredible, especially in societies where there are strong taboos associated with incest. The men and occasionally women don’t feel that they are taming a family member, but the pokegirl feels she’s being raped by her father, brother, mother or sister.”
                She gave Shikarou a sad look. “Those girls are really screwed up. Since you are a kind person, stay far away from them unless you want to be taking care of them for the rest of their lives. They tend to become quite attached to anyone who shows them the slightest bit of kindness, if they haven’t already had their personalities completely shattered. Many times the only thing that can be done for them is a complete mindwipe. I hate that procedure, being a pokegirl myself, but in their case it is often the only peace we can give them.”
                Shikarou nodded. “I will definitely think twice before getting involved with a newly thresholded pokegirl.”
                Poppet looked relieved as she changed the subject. “So, are you going to teleport back to where you were attacked?”
                “No, I think it’ll be safer if we head northward from here and avoid Lairg and the O’Malley Institute entirely. We’ll then cut straight for the location of the ferry to Stornoway.”
                “Be warned that the ferry is based in Stornoway and only travels infrequently.” Poppet tapped her desk with a finger. “You may want to find alternate means of travel.” She cocked her head. “You could use the transporter here to send one of your teleporting pokegirls to Stornoway and then she could take you the rest of the way at any point in your journey.”
                “I don’t know. I’d have to trust the people on the other end with whomever I sent and that kind of trust is hard for me to place in complete strangers. I thought instead that I could have Bonnie fly across to the island with Branwyn or one of the other pokegirls who can teleport and then I could teleport across the ocean. Either that or I could have her just fly me across and skip that extra step. In any case, we’ll make it without too much delay. Another reason that I want to travel there is so I can make some money sending you pokegirls along the way.”
                Poppet nodded. “A laudable idea, just don’t forget that you could ride Branwyn to cut down on the travel time. I also suspect she might enjoy stretching her legs.” She smiled. “We like running when we can get the opportunity.”
                “It sounds like you miss it.” Poppet shrugged at his words. “I’ll make sure Branwyn gets enough exercise.”
                “Good. Now get cracking, and bring me more pokegirls.” She smiled.
                “Stop here.” Branwyn pulled to a halt at Shikarou’s order. He hopped off of her back and looked around carefully. “We’ve got a stream about a hundred meters behind us and this is a nice clearing.” He turned her. “Is there any reason that you know about that would preclude us camping here for a couple of days while I get to know my new harem members?”
                Branwyn cocked her head. “Not that I can think of. We’re a good thirty kilometers from the Conservatory and we’re probably still in the lands that are nominally claimed by Queen Xantha, however her court isn’t near here, so all we might get is an Elf or Avariel dropping by.”
                “Anyone likely to jump into a pokeball or demand to join my harem?”
                Branwyn grinned. “Nobody like that.”
                Shikarou nodded. “Excellent. We camp here.” He pulled out his wand and concentrated.
                Branwyn looked at the result critically. “Well, the fire is the right color now, but the tent is reddish-yellow.”
                Shikarou sighed. “Maybe I’ll be happy with blue fire. Would you go see where the bathroom is?”
                The Unicorn gave him an odd look. “Where might it have gone to? Never mind, I probably don’t want to hear the possible answers. I’ll be right back.” A minute later she came back out of the tent. “That was actually a very good question to ask. Where is our bathroom? It and the hot tub room appear to have wandered away.”
                Shikarou sighed and used his wand again. “What about now?”
                Branwyn disappeared into the tent again. “Everything is back and where it is supposed to be,” she called.
                He sighed and put his wand away. “Fine. I’ll work on it later.”
                Shikarou started into the tent but halted when his twee signaled. I have solved the encoding process used on the Cooking T2. While it will take the resources of a base to manufacture them, I can reprogram this one for whatever you want. If this one is similar in construction to the rest, I can reprogram any that we can get.
                “Outstanding. Reprogram this one for a comprehensive program of the English language. Can you do that?”
                Can I do that? Would you prefer a Russian or Jamaican accent?
                “I think a local Scottish accent will be sufficient. Can you keep the cooking instructions?”
                I could but it would be a waste of your brain’s storage capacity. I know how to cook better than this, and I don’t have hands.
                “Keep the basics anyway. Go ahead and update them if you want. Later, we’ll see how much the locals would pay for an upgraded cooking T2.” Shikarou had a thought. “How much information can you cram into one of these things?”
                Get me a couple more of them and I’ll take one and test it to destruction and then we both will know the answer to that question.
                “That sounds like a bargain.” Shikarou proceeded into the tent. “Branwyn?”
                She stuck her head out of the kitchen. “Yes?”
                “Can you get more T2s? I think I’ve discovered how to reprogram them for other things, but I need some more to work with to know for certain.”
                “I can, but they aren’t going to be cheap.” She cocked her head. “If you’ll make me some prime truffles, I know a place in Glasgow where I can unload them quickly and at a good price, especially since it’s now October. Daren will pay through the nose for truffles out of season.” She nodded. “From there, I can go to the pokecenter in Glasgow and see what they have. Does the kind matter?”
                “Not really, but get some good ones if you can find them. The higher quality ones may be programmed differently and I can store whatever they hold and return it to them for later use. I’ll also want some cheap ones as well, since I’m going to be testing a couple of them to death to ensure everything is safe.”
                Branwyn stared at him. “That has the potential to be very useful. I can get started on that later today, if I can get everything done before they close in a few hours. Now I’m glad we stopped early. Can I have Misaki to help? I know you want to talk to Bonnie first.”
                Shikarou released Misaki. “Would you please help Branwyn set things up? We stopped early today, so when she says you are done you can do some sunning outside.”
                Misaki smiled. “Ok. I’ll be glad to help her. I cook better than she does anyway.” She headed into the kitchen, sliding past the Unicorn, who watched her evenly.
                “While I am glad to see Misaki is developing a stronger sense of self, I may have to have a talk with her the next time she uses it to insult me.” Branwyn’s eyes narrowed. “On the other hand, I can possibly make her support my position against the newcomers if I encourage a little familiarity.” She glanced at Shikarou. “What do you think?”
                “I think that I chose my alpha, but letting her get the occasional dig in will help to cement the harem together without harming anyone. I also think you are thinking like a good alpha.”
                Branwyn’s eyes sparkled. “I’m glad to see you noticed.”
                Shikarou grinned. “I’m going outside. I’m going to start with Bonnie. Do you want to help me?”
                “Actually, yes I do. Bonnie is one of mine and I am her alpha. Can I have ten minutes?”
                “I’ll be chasing rabbits.”
                Branwyn gave him a mock glare. “Just rabbits, mind you. No Bunnygirls.”
                “I’ll see what’s out there.”
                Shikarou released Bonnie. The Armsmistress appeared with a frown. She pulled a hank of red hair around and glared at it. “I knew it. Occidental, again.” She turned to Shikarou and brightened with an effort. “Master.”
                “It appears that something is bothering you, Bonnie. Out with it.”
                She shrugged. “It doesn’t matter; nothing can be done about it. I’ll get used to the new me eventually.”
                Shikarou sighed and settled down crosslegged on the ground. “I can’t make you tell me what’s wrong, but I’d like to know. Perhaps I can help somehow.” His ears flicked. “Are you somehow dissatisfied with me?”
                Bonnie pursed her lips. “You are going to harass me until I tell you, aren’t you?”
                “I prefer the term pester. It’s more childish and suits me better.”
                She didn’t smile. “I’m unhappy with the way I look. I know that an Armsmistress is a powerful pokegirl and once I master my new abilities I’ll be stronger than I ever was, but I still look like a gaijin.”
                Shikarou’s eyes narrowed slightly. “Why don’t you tell me about yourself? Where were you born?”
                “In Edo, the city of Tomakomai, in the Hokkaido prefecture. I underwent threshold when I was thirteen. It was scary. When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see myself anymore. My family was very understanding, but rules were rules. Edo doesn’t consider pokegirls and women to be the same legally. I was supposed to be transferred to a pokeranch for reeducation and assignment to a Tamer, but instead my family sent me to my uncle’s shop in the mountains. I worked there until I was sixteen and then one day an official who’d come to the shop to pick up his commission checked my status with his pokedex.”
                She sighed. “He was going to claim me, but he didn’t have any pokegirls with him and my uncle chased him out of his shop. Then my uncle smuggled me out of Edo to Crescent Moon where a cousin of mine was living. I lived there for several months, working on a spice plantation as a guard. One day, my cousin sent me on an errand to buy some cheese and I got caught by a passing Tamer.” She looked up at him. “I passed through a couple of other Tamers before ending up with you.”
                “And you don’t like the way you look.” It wasn’t a question.
                “Of course not.” Her voice was bitter. “I’m ugly. I have this huge nose and everything else is wrong. When I was growing up, everyone talked about how pretty I was. Then, I became a Slicer and everything changed.”
                Shikarou nodded. “That happens to be something I think I can fix.”
                Bonnie looked startled. “You can?”
                “I think so. Let me get my wand and Branwyn and we’ll run a couple of tests, if you don’t mind.”
                “No. Not at all.” She suddenly gave him a shy look. “Can I be greedy in the number of miracles that I want to ask for?”
                “I don’t see why not. What is it?”
                “Can I have a proper name again? Bonnie is pretty silly.”
                “What did you have before?”
                “My name was Yushiko. I’d like to be me again.”
                Shikarou smiled. “I like it. I’ll update your record this evening.” He rolled to his feet. “Make yourself comfortable, Yushiko, I’ll be back in a minute.”
                The Armsmistress seemed slightly happier. “Yes, lord.”
                Shikarou ducked into the tent and stuck his head in the kitchen. Two pokegirls looked at him. “Ladies, I want to announce that I have changed Bonnie’s name to Yushiko. Use it. Branwyn, I need you outside for a little while.” He frowned. “You need to be there too, Misaki.”
                “All right.” Branwyn chivvied Misaki outside while Shikarou went into his bedroom.
                He dug through his pack and pulled out his wand. He stared at it for a moment and then nodded. “I’ve been using it often enough.” He pulled out his scabbard harness and stripped off his shirt before wriggling into it. Now his wand rested in its scabbard under his right arm, ready for quick retrieval. He changed into a red silk tunic that had been designed so that he could draw his wand without trouble, and after a few practice draws, headed back outside.
                His harem had settled down in a semi-circle and the ladies were talking when he appeared.
                Yushiko looked up and smiled. “That is a beautiful shirt. It makes you look more… more right. You look like you are from home now.”
                “Thank you.” Shikarou settled down. “You know, no matter how this turns out, you are going to need your armor. Is it true that you intrinsically know how to make it?”
                Yushiko considered. “Yes. I know how it is supposed to be made. I will need supplies, though.”
                “That’s not a problem. We’ll get them for you today. I was curious though, my information indicates that Armsmistresses can personalize their armor. Could you do that enough to make your armor look Japanese without sacrificing protection?”
                She closed her eyes and it quickly became was obvious that she was concentrating hard. “Yes, I can.” She smiled and opened her eyes. “It’s easy, once I think about it.”
                Branwyn heard his murmur. “So the cosmic awareness can give, if you ask. Interesting.” He pulled out his wand. “I thought I would demonstrate some spells before going any further. I learned these when I was younger. Obviously it has many applications for the juvenile.” He grinned and tapped the top of his head with his wand. His hair turned the color of saffron. He tapped his cheek and his skin turned neon green. He laughed at the expressions on the faces of his assembled pokegirls. “What? Is something wrong?”
                Misaki got up and came over, licking her thumb before rubbing it firmly against his forehead. She peered at her hand. “It doesn’t come off.” She giggled. “Can you make me different colors?” She held out her arm and he tapped it with his wand. She slowly became bright orange. The Boobisaur stared at her new color. “This is fun!”
                Shikarou smiled at Yushiko. “This version of the spell lasts for a couple of hours. The version I want to try on you is permanent. It actually will change your external form as well, so we need to get some ground rules established before I get started.”
                “I think that the easiest thing to do would be to make you look like a taller version of what you looked like before you went through threshold. Changing flesh and cartilage isn’t that hard, but altering the length of bone requires a very delicate touch and I’m not that proficient with this spell. Since I don’t know what you looked like, I wanted Branwyn here to help me. She can use her telepathy to access your memories and through our delta bond I can use them as a template to remake you.” He smiled. “It’ll be perfectly safe and if you don’t like the result we can keep trying until it’s what you want.”
                He felt curiosity along his bond with Branwyn and thought hard, knowing that while he could only get emotions from her at this point, she could actually listen to his thoughts. I realize that her memories won’t be completely accurate and will actually present an idealized image of what she looked like. It won’t hurt anything for her skin to be flawless or whatever she cleans up in her memories, and if she achieves her ideal form, maybe she’ll be happier. Branwyn nodded her understanding.
                “So Yushiko, are you ready to proceed?”
                “Yes, I am.” She looked faintly scared but determined.
                Branwyn moved to block Yushiko’s vision and placed a hand on her head. “I want you to think about how you want to look when this is all over. Think hard about it; focus your complete attention on it.” Slowly her eyes closed at the same time Yushiko’s did. A long moment passed and then the Unicorn raised her other hand in Shikarou’s direction.
                He took it gently and the images unfolded in his mind. He saw parts of Yushiko’s life flash by and finally a single image stabilized. Mentally he whistled at what her idealized image looked like, but he had agreed to remake her as she wanted. Shikarou focused his will and cast the spell.
                A blue glow slowly engulfed the Armsmistress. Branwyn pulled her hand from Yushiko’s head and edged towards Shikarou. The glow brightened and slowly faded away, revealing the extent of the changes.
                Yushiko still stood one hundred and eighty three centimeters tall, but the shoulder length red hair had been replaced by a lustrous full shock of black that fell to her knees. Her eyes were now slightly slanted and a deep brown that seemed to absorb the light.  Her skin gleamed the color of old ivory and her features were perfect. Her figure was slightly slimmer, the hips not quite so wide, but overall hadn’t changed.
                Shikarou nodded. So far so good. “Yushiko, I saw what you wanted, so let’s see if it worked. Summon your wings.”
                Yushiko nodded her head. “Yes, lord.” She made an abortive motion to her chest and then remembered that she no longer was a Valkyrie. She closed her eyes again and concentrated. Her wings shimmered into existence fully spread.
                Branwyn gasped. Yushiko’s wings were a brilliant red that seemed to glow in the sun. The color was so deep that at only a few meters the individual feathers couldn’t be picked out. Each wing had two oriental dragons on it, one picked out in a gleaming gold and the other in emerald. Shikarou knew that the figures were reproduced on the back of each of her wings as well.
                Shikarou created a mirror that was 3 meters on a side. “Yushiko, is this what you wanted?”
                Her eyes opened and she stared at her image. Her face went slack with surprise. “I…” Tears gleamed in the corners of the eyes. Abruptly she prostrated herself in front of Shikarou. “Thank you, honored lord.”
                “You are welcome, but all I did was make your dream a reality. It was your dream in the first place. Please get up.”
                Slowly she rose to her feet. She stared at Shikarou for an instant before bursting out in sobs of happiness as she threw herself at him. He wrapped her in his arms and held her close as she cried.
                Branwyn shook her head in disbelief. “So she’s not interested in taming right now?”
                “Not really. I’m sure she’d come with me if I insisted, but that goes against everything I believe in.” Shikarou motioned towards the corner of the room where he’d conjured a worktable and tools. Yushiko was happily working with the supplies he’d provided and was presumably making her armor. Shikarou knew nothing about armor smithing so he had to take her word for it. All he knew was that whatever she was doing was loud and he was grateful for the noise blocking spell he’d erected. “When you combine the reported low libido of the Armsmistress with her dislike of being outside of her armor, I guess I can’t compete.” He watched her for another moment with a slight smile before returning his attention to Branwyn’s notes. “It’s the happiest I’ve ever seen her, so I’m not hurt.”
                “So who are you going to work with next?”
                “I’m going to introduce myself to the Dark Kitsune. I’m still reprogramming the T2 and until it’s ready I don’t see a good reason to start dealing with the Ladyba. So I’ll work with the Kitsune and the Magic Battle Maiden first.”
                “What are you programming it to do?” Branwyn ran a nail over the table he’d made.
                “Right now I think that her having conversational English would be much better than the ability to toast bread.”
                “I see. Do you think I will need to pick up another cooking T2 on my shopping expedition?”
                “If it is cheap then go ahead, otherwise no.” Shikarou handed Branwyn back her PDA. “You’ve already got the spices to sell, so as soon as you collect Misaki, I guess you can be on your way.”
                “Should I get some raspberries for your Ladyba?”
                “No, I’ll take care of that.” He shrugged awkwardly. “She is a person, and while feral, I intend to treat her that way. Food rewards as a method of training are for children and animals, and I’m hoping she won’t be childish.”
                Branwyn pushed herself up from her floor pillow. “Good luck with that.”
                He smiled to himself as she left. “It’s worked so far with you.”
                Shikarou patted a floor pillow as the Dark Kitsune looked around slowly, taking in the main room. She watched Yushiko working for a moment before turning her attention to him. He smiled and patted the pillow again. “Please, sit down. I’ve got a tray of snacks if you are interested.”
                She slowly settled down, watching him intently. He slid the tray towards her. “Please.”
                Her ears flicked. “Mark never said please to me.”
                He shrugged. “I’m not Mark.”
                “Do I still belong to him?” She picked up a biscuit and bit into it.
                Shikarou shook his head. “No, I’m afraid Mark isn’t in a position to keep pokegirls anymore. You will belong to me, if you want to.”
                “If I want to? What an odd thing to say.” She smiled slightly. “I’m glad to hear Mark is in jail. He belongs there after he killed my mistress.”
                “Mark isn’t in jail.” Shikarou decided the pokegirl could handle more of the truth. “He’s dead.”
                The Dark Kitsune barked a laugh, spraying Shikarou with crumbs. “Even better.” Her ears folded submissively as she realized he was brushing crumbs out of his hair. “Please forgive me.”
                “Relax, I’m not like Mark. If I’m like anyone I’d like to be more like the mistress you mentioned, presuming that my hunch is correct and she’s the one that evolved you from a Nogitsune. If so, then you were delta bonded with her and her death must have been quite a blow.”
                “Yes, she was and it hurt a lot.” Her eyes darkened with memories.
                “I too have lost. My wife less than a year ago.” He smiled humorlessly. “Of course, I wasn’t then stuck having to provide sex to the one who killed her, probably starting while she was still warm, so I can’t understand what you went through.”
                His body quivered to the subsonic growl and then felt it die. “Did you kill him?”
                “No, one of my pokegirls did.”
                She blanched. “I’m sorry; I hope they killed her quickly.”        
                “Nobody killed her. I wouldn’t allow anything like that to happen.” Shikarou smiled. “There weren’t any surviving witnesses and I’m not going to tell anyone. Besides, he had it coming, just like his boss.”
                “You killed the sheriff?” Her voice was filled with amazement.
                He gave a predatory grin. “Not yet. But his death is a foregone conclusion. Would you like to help when the time comes?”
                Her ears went flat with rage and her muzzle wrinkled, baring her teeth. “Yes,” she hissed.
                “Well, to do that you are going to have to join my harem. I won’t tame you until you are ready for me to, no matter how long that takes. Before you disagree with me, I can’t lie, so I am telling the truth.”
                She smiled. “The truth? As you see it now, perhaps, but what about later when you change your mind and that becomes the truth then?”
                Shikarou grinned. “You are going to be fun to have around. I promise not to tame you until you tell me that you are ready or release me from my promise. However, if you seek taming from another I will presume you do not wish to remain in my harem and act accordingly.”
                Her eyes widened at his words. “What would be an appropriate action at that point?”
                “If you don’t want to stay in my harem I’d remove you from it. Since I don’t have any emotional ties to you right now, I’d send you on your way or trade you off.”
                “And if you did have emotional ties to me?”
                “I don’t deal in what if. I will address that situation if it occurs.” His voice was flat.
                The Dark Kitsune nodded slowly. “That sounds fair. Under those rules, I would like to join your harem.”
                “All right. What is your name?”
                “That prick named me Kit.” She sighed. “Before that I was Pamela.”
                “Do you want to be Pamela again?”
                “No, I don’t. That name is special to the memories of my mistress, and I don’t want to share those with you, maybe not ever.”
                “That I can understand.” Shikarou rested his chin on his fist as he thought. “How about I change your name to Kiyoko? It’s close enough to Kit to hopefully enable a smooth transition, but it is definitely not some kind of lame joke.”
                The pokegirl frowned. “My name is Kiyoko. Kiyoko.” She smiled. “I can accept that.”
                “Excellent. Just remember that I can’t approach you about taming you until you release me from my promise. Until then you are going to have to let me know.” He frowned. “You should inform Branwyn as well. She’s my alpha, and is possibly going to be cross with me for playing such havoc with whatever routine she’s trying to establish.”
                Kiyoko frowned. “What are you going to do about it?”
                “Nothing. It’s Branwyn’s right to be upset if I screw up her plans. It is, however, my right to mess them up in the first place.” Shikarou smiled. “Just remember not to go feral, please.”
                “I’ll try.” She frowned. “Did you keep any of the others?”
                “I’m going to talk to the Battle Maiden next.”
                Kiyoko frowned slightly. “You kept Camilla. You may have a problem with her.” She watched Shikarou until he nodded for her to proceed. “She likes what she is and was delta bonded to Kevin, her Tamer. If he wasn’t killed she’s going to try to escape and if he was, she’s probably going to be very angry.”
                “Since he did die, that’s good information for me to know. Thank you for telling me.”
                She shrugged. “Mark used to give me around for favors. Camilla would hold me down for the sheriff to tame because Molly wouldn’t and I wouldn’t lie still for that sleaze.” She met his gaze. “I thought you should know, since she and I don’t get along very well.”
                Shikarou’s face went blank. “Do you want to watch her die, or would you be satisfied if I just sold her.”
                “I would prefer her dead, but I’m willing to settle for gone.”
                Shikarou stood and offered her his hand. “Please come with me.” Kiyoko looked at it for a second before taking it and allowing him to pull her to her feet. He led her outside the tent.
                Kiyoko stopped to stare at the tent itself. “How does it…”
                He smiled. “Magic. Later if you’d like we can discuss extradimensional spaces and how they function in some detail.”
                “Oh, um, sure.”
                Shikarou smiled. “Or not, if you don’t want to.” He held out his left hand. “Sword.” It appeared.
                Kiyoko worked hard not to stare. “More magic?”
                Shikarou nodded as he pulled a pokeball from his belt. “Yes.”
                He activated it and the Battle Maiden appeared. She glared at him. “You killed my Tamer, you bastard.”
                Shikarou struck. Kiyoko gasped as Camilla’s head slid from her shoulders in a gout of blood and her body collapsed. “You didn’t give her a chance to defend herself,” she protested.
                “I know you were telling the truth and one does not give the victim a chance to fight back in an execution.” Shikarou whipped his sword in a short snapping motion and a line of blood whicked into the dirt from the blade. He smiled. “Thank you.” The sword vanished.
                Kiyoko was watching him closely. “You are not like any Tamer I’ve had before. She paused. “I think, however, that I still want to stay here.” She nodded towards the body. “What are you going to do with her?”
                “Do you want a trophy?”
                “No!” Kiyoko sounded appalled. “Of course not!”
                “There is no ‘of course’ at all to my question. If you want, I’ll keep her sword for you, so you can use it with your second power psi-blade attack. The rest I’ll cart off a kilometer or so to feed the wildlife.” Shikarou gave her a grim smile. “She helped others to rape you and rape is punished by death where I come from. I happen to like that particular law.”
                 He ripped off the Battle Maiden’s swordbelt and tossed it aside before lifting the body over his shoulder, ignoring the blood which immediately drained down over him. Shikarou picked up the head and looked back at Kiyoko. “I’ll be back in an hour or less. If I’m gone longer then that, please tell Yushiko to come looking for me. I’ll be heading north.”
                Kiyoko frowned. “No, I’m going to come with you to make sure you stay safe.”
                He grinned. “Then you’d better be faster then you were the other night.” He raced off into the forest. Kiyoko growled and gave chase.
                Branwyn slipped into the tent and put her bags down as Misaki carried hers past the Unicorn and into the kitchen. The alpha looked over at Yushiko, who was taking a break and drinking tea at the table. “Where is Shikarou?”
                “The honored lord is in the bath.”
                “Why do you call him that?”
                “Because he will let me.” With that enigmatic reply Yushiko put down her tea and headed back to her work.
                Branwyn made an exhasperated noise and headed into the bathroom. She paused when she realized that her Tamer was not alone. “Hello?”
                Shikarou’s voice came from behind the partition. “Come in.” He continued. “That is Branwyn, my alpha.”
                Branwyn slid the door open. Shikarou was in the bath while the Dark Kitsune was seated on its edge. “I wanted to let you know that we have returned with most of the stuff I left to get.”
                “Thank you. Branwyn, this is Kiyoko. She’s agreed to join the harem. The answer to your next question is no. I’m going to wait until she’s ready.”
                “I see.” Branwyn looked at the pokegirl. “Do you have any idea how long that might be?”
                Kiyoko shrugged. “I’m not sure, but after this afternoon, probably not very long.”
                Branwyn’s eyes narrowed. “Does this have to do with the blood outside?”
                Shikarou twisted his hair into a rope and draped it over his chest. “Yes it does. It appears that the Battle Maiden was a rapist, so I executed her.”
                The Unicorn blinked. “You say that so casually.”
                Kiyoko’s ears flicked. “He killed her about that casually, too. It was rather startling. He didn’t say anything, just lopped off her head.”
                Branwyn’s sighed loudly. “I begin to wonder if mother knew just how practical you could be when she offered me to you.” She shrugged. “I guess it’s too late now, but just for the record, while you are not a sociopath, you are sometimes very creepy.”
                “Like when I just suddenly kill people?”
                A slight smile appeared. “No, I didn’t have to watch that, although I would have been shocked. But remember what happened when I did watch you cleaning your own blood off your hand.”
                “I remember. I won’t do that again for a while.”
                “Good.” Branwyn left the room and slid the door shut behind her before going off to help Misaki put the supplies away.
                Shikarou watched as the Ladyba stirred. She was kind of cute when waking up, all four of her arms stretched out to make an X as she stretched. She lifted her head and turned in his direction as he reflected that you could never be sure where she was looking. She draped her head in his lap, looking up at him and smiled as she made a contented noise.
                You should try the newly programmed T2. I’ll apologize later if her brain implodes.
                He reached over and picked up the silvery orb. The Ladyba made a lazy grab for it with three of her hands. The fourth was scratching an itch on her hip.
                “I know that you really don’t understand me right now, but I also know that you have complete recall, so you will later be able to replay this with comprehension. This is a Technical Trainer or T2 and it is going to teach you to talk by synchronizing with your brainwaves and giving you a quick course in English.”
                He carefully pressed the T2 against the Ladyba’s forehead. Her mouth made a moue of surprise and her wing cases opened slightly and closed as her mental processes were temporarily subverted.
                It should be done by now. The entire treatment takes only 2.254 seconds.
                “My name is Shikarou and I am your Tamer. Your name is Niamh.”
                The Ladyba sat up slowly, staring at his face. “Shikarou.” She smiled and hugged him around the chest. “Shikarou. Tamer.”
                Next time catch a pokegirl without total recall. The results of this experiment will be inconclusive until she actually says a word that she hasn’t heard before.
                She pointed at him. “Shikarou. Tamer.” She then pointed at herself. “Niamh. Ladyba. Pokegirl.” She frowned and pointed at her mouth. “Hungry.”
                She appears to have reached the same level that a standard language T2 would have. Try something slightly more complex.
                “Did you teach her math?” Niamh watched him talk intently.
                I’m a doctor, Jim, not a miracle worker. The T2 only has so much capability, even with modern compression heuristics. I’ll reprogram it again later.
                Shikarou sighed and picked up his pokedex. Niamh grabbed it. “Pokedex,” she announced.
                Loading the visual referents was difficult, but appears to be worth it. This should give her a fighting chance to develop faster and overcome the disabilities inherent in being a feralborne pokegirl. For anything more you might as well get the base planted so you’ll have a couple of teachers available.
                Niamh was grabbing things and naming them. “Pillow. Sheet. Elbow.” She grabbed his cock. “Penis. Cock. Erection.” She grinned. “Erection. Taming. Good.”
                “I see you are starting to string words together. That is outstanding. Now let go of my penis.” She released him. Shikarou smiled. “Good.”
                She smiled back.
                Shikarou sat comfortably on the tree branch and listened to the darkness. Dawn wouldn’t come for hours and everyone else was fast asleep in the tent.
                He’d come up here to think, to face some unpleasant realizations. Night was good for that. It made one introspective. It also made one alert.
                He was a quarter of a millennium old as humans reckoned time. Over a century ago he’d been force to reckon with. A hunter without peer.
                Then he’d met Pallaius and his life had changed. He’d married and then settled down. Finally he’d become a father. He regretted none of it, and yet it had left its mark.
                He’d become soft. Just another kami making it in his mother’s shadow. A place where the fights were a well twisted word or innuendo.
                Before he’d settled down, that Dark Elf would never have touched him and he’d never have been pinned to the ground like a beast. Rookie mistakes.
                Here they would get him killed.
                Therefore they had to stop.
                When he executed the Battle Maiden a few days ago had been a good start. There hadn’t been a betraying flicker in his aura. More, however, was needed.            
                Most of the work would be his. He’d have to give up the times like now, when he’d been comfortably in bed while someone slept next to him. He wasn’t asleep, so it was time wasted in thought. Thought he could do while marching.
                His harem wouldn’t get out of all the work, however. He peered at the camp. The never-ending fire would have to go. He’d take care of that.
                A guard also needed to be posted. His harem would help him with this.
                They would also help by sparring with him. He needed to get used to dealing with pokegirl attacks and they needed the exercise. Their travel pace would slow down, but that would be an acceptable tradeoff. They weren’t on any particular timetable.
                And all of the feral pokegirls they ran across would be fought and captured. His ears twisted in shame at the memory of the first captures on the trip. A group of seven Hamtits. The pokedex indicated that they could be tricked and so he’d given it a try. He’d stood within site of their den entrance, whistling and juggling some imaginary balls. Sure enough the Hamtits had been curious enough to come out to see what he was doing and Branwyn had hit each of them with a pokeball.
                Tricking your enemy was all well and good, but first he needed to get back into fighting trim. His harem had never been there in the first place, so the experience was going to be an eye opener for them. They would probably complain a lot.
                So be it.
                Once the new rules had been instituted and firmly adhered to, Shikarou had seen almost immediate results. The complaining had begun right away. Branwyn and Yushiko had supported him enthusiastically, which had cut down rather dramatically on the goldbricking when he wasn’t around. Branwyn supported him because she was his alpha and she agreed with his philosophy. She also kept her bitching private.
                Shikarou sometimes worried about Yushiko, she seemed to merely be happy to train because he wanted her to. Niamh had also supported him, more because she hadn’t had time to get spoiled and because the new training regimen was still easier than living as a feral.
                Misaki had stopped complaining right after the fight where they’d captured the Sabretooth Tigress, when she evolved into an Ivywhore. Kiyoko was still coming around, but then her last Tamer hadn’t gone out of sight of the pub in Lairg more than three times a year, and two of those were so he could go home.
                He’d briefly considered keeping the Sabretooth, but after mentioning her to Faelan and seeing the look of pain on his brother’s face, decided that it would be for the best if he didn’t. 
                He’d also decided to institute a program of cooking lessons for the campfire, just in case a situation arose where the kitchen was unavailable and it had turned out he’d needed a refresher as well, as evidenced by the horrible mess he’d made when he managed to not only burn the rice, but actually set it on fire. Up to this point he’d resisted Branwyn’s nags about him teaching her magic, but after that he’d started her on cleaning spells. He’d promised to teach her combat and healing magic later, fortunately she hadn’t though to ask what later might mean.
                They’d had fun catching the pokegirls they’d run across since the Hamtits, with the exception of the Chickenlittle. Kiyoko just picked her up and carried her back for Shikarou to pokeball. The pair of Kitsune had led them on a merry chase while the Belle Awesome had put up a nasty little fight. There had also been a Tamale and a set of Geogals, but they hadn’t put up too much of a fight.
                He’d have kept one or more of the ones they’d caught, but all of them were feralborne and right now Niamh was proving to be more than enough of a handful.
                Last night was a case in point. Niamh had noticed that Misaki hadn’t yet eaten something from her plate and swiped it.  Misaki had seen the theft and responded like the pokegirl who’d been raised in a tough pokeranch that she happened to be. She’d stabbed Niamh with her knife in the arm and calmly retrieved the food with her fork at the same time.
                Shikarou might have called it a wash at that point and had a stern talk with both of them in private later except Niamh responded by using headbutt on Misaki and the fight was on. After separating them and cleaning up the resulting mess dinner had become, he’d been forced to take them outside and let them fight it out. Misaki had kept her cool during the fight and crushed the higher level Ladyba. Niamh was still sulking from her loss.
                Then the three of them had sat down for a very long and rather unhappy talk. Misaki was still sulking from that.
                He’d also finally banned forks completely. That gave everyone else something to grump about.
                Shikarou reflected wryly that he didn’t have to find another wife to have children here. He’d apparently already managed to acquire some.
                On a more positive note, the program had also started to show some benefits, minimal though they might be. All of the pokegirls had dropped a kilo or so and their battling had improved dramatically. Shikarou had dropped six kilograms and his appetite had doubled. He was also starting to get back the reflexes he’d taken for granted when he was adventuring. Of course, when he’d told Yushiko to hold nothing back, he’d gotten cut up pretty badly, but not as seriously as he would have a week before.
                They’d only had a day or two before they managed to make it to the ferry dock. Shikarou figured that once they were there, he’d take the captures back to the Conservatory and give his pokegirls a day off. It was unlikely that anything else would happen before then.
                Shikarou looked over the scene in front of him and cursed himself for actually thinking that nothing else could interrupt his journey. He should know better by now than to tempt the gods. They would almost always take the time to remind you that they cared. Not that you wanted their attention.
                The battlefield was littered with the dead. Actually littered. There wasn’t a complete body in sight. All but one of the corpses were identical, a reptilian form that would probably be over four meters from snout to tail tip. A single huge scimitar shaped claw graced the primary toe on each foot.
                Shikarou glared at the closest one and cocked an ear at Branwyn as he unlimbered his pokedex. “Do you have any idea what that is?”
                She shook her head and stomped all four of her feet. “No, I don’t.”
                “It’s a fucking velociraptor. Well, almost. Raptors don’t have tits. They aren’t mammals.” Shikarou aimed the pokedex at it and got a no data report for his pains.
                Interesting. Your pokedex is trying to uplink on its own.
                “Stop it, now!” Branwyn looked at him curiously. “My pokedex is going off on independent ops and is trying to uplink, which is odd because it’s out of range and really odd because it’s not supposed to be that smart.”
                It is trying to report to an old military satellite that is in geosynchronous orbit overhead. Hmm, the satellite is active. Your pokedex is trying to send out the equivalent to our priority one alerts and is trying to report the presence of a Dameosaur, whatever that is. I have made your pokedex think that it has already reported and received an acknowledgement.
                Shikarou frowned. “This is getting stranger. My pokedex identified this thing as a Dameosaur, but there is no entry in the pokedex itself and no records of a Dameosaur pokegirl.”
                Branwyn looked curious. “I’ve never heard of them.
                As soon as I get the time, I will explore every bit of software inside your pokedex. I apologize for the oversight.
                “Make the time, immediately and be sure and check any hard ROM. In fact presume that this thing has our tech capability and work from there.”               
                That would be a huge amount of overkill.
                “It’s already doing things I didn’t expect. Do it.”
                Very well, after all you may be correct in your concerns.
                “Honored Lord!” Yushiko was waving madly from about five hundred meters away. “Over here. This one is still alive.”
                Shikarou glanced at Bronwyn, who shrugged. He vaulted onto her back and grinned. “Hi-ho Silver, away.” Bronwyn bucked once before settling down into a run.
                “No comments from the passengers.” She slid to a halt near the Armsmistress.
                Shikarou swung off, giving his steed a fond pat as he did so. Branwyn seemed torn between smiling and glaring. “What is it?”
                “The Sphinx is still alive.”
                Shikarou gave her a look as he bent and the checked again. “She’s gone. No respiration, no heartbeat. She’s dead. I checked her when I found her, remember?”
                Yushiko shook her head stubbornly. “I can’t tell you how I know she’s alive but I do. She’s not dead, not yet. But she will be soon, unless you do something to save her, lord.” She grimaced. “I wasn’t a Valkyrie for very long, honored lord, but I could look at someone and tell immediately if they were dead or not. I can still do that, and she’s not dead. Please, save her.”
                “Is any of the lizard types alive?”
                “No, lord, they are all dead. But she isn’t and if you hurry, you can save her.”
                Shikarou sighed. “Let’s presume for a moment that you can still detect brain activity somehow. It doesn’t matter, she’s beyond medical help.”
                “Yes, lord. She’s beyond medical help, but not your help.” She took his hands carefully. “We both know that you can save her, if but the tiniest bit of life remains. Don’t let her die. Somehow she’s important.”
                Branwyn grabbed his shoulder. “What is she talking about?”
                Shikarou shook his head, still watching Yushiko’s eyes. “Somehow she knows about magic that I haven’t performed in two centuries.” His voice was low with shock. “Do you know what could happen to her if I do this?”
                Yushiko gripped his hands tighter. “What will happen is what must happen, my lord.”
                Branwyn shook his shoulder. “Answer me dammit. This Sphinx has been almost torn in half. She’s already dead.”
                Shikarou sighed and shook off the two pokegirls. He shrugged out of his pack before taking off his shirt. “Not according to Yushiko, and the fact that she knows I can revive the almost completely dead even though I haven’t performed that magic in two hundred and four years tells me that she may know about this as well.” He glanced at Branwyn and gave her a slight smile. “It also hints that all of my efforts to keep a celestial pokegirl out of my harem may have been for naught.”
                “Is there any danger to you?” Branwyn took the shirt and clutched it to her chest as she morphed back to her bipedal form.
                “There isn’t any physical danger to me.” Shikarou picked up the Sphinx and turned her onto her back.
                The Unicorn glared. “I asked if there was any danger to you. Is there?”
                He stopped and thought for a moment. “I don’t know. I have to use blood magic to revive her and it’s always unpredictable, which is why I don’t use it in spite of its power. You can never be quite sure of what might happen.”
                He raised his arm and stopped. “You might want to back away ten or so meters. I once had one get pretty feisty when I woke him up and he hurt a couple of people before he realized what was going on.”
                Branwyn sighed and picked up his pack as Yushiko took to the air. “I can’t talk you out of this can I?”
                “I really wish you could. This always seems to come around and take a chunk out of my leg.”
                “Ass. It always seems to come around and bite me in the ass.” Branwyn’s smile never reached her eyes. “Please be careful.”
                “I’ll do the best I can.”
                Shikarou held his arms up and sank his teeth into one of his wrists at a time, behind the thumb to sink his fangs into the radial artery that runs beneath the skin. Blood welled from the bites and curled up his arms to pool in his palms.
                Branwyn stared. His blood glowed brightly as it collected in his hands and none dripped to the ground.
                Shikarou kneeled next to the Sphinx’s head and the blood arced up and out of his palms to run in a glowing line into the pokegirl’s mouth and wend its way down her gullet. Her wounds began to glow and closed swiftly and her intestines crawled back into her torso which then sealed shut. The last of the blood ran into her mouth, leaving his palms unmarked and the blood on his arms began obeying the pull of gravity.
                The Sphinx suddenly took a deep shuddering breath and opened her eyes. She surged to her feet, her eyes wild as Shikarou took a slow step backwards. Her gaze locked on him. “Where am I, what happened?” She looked around wildly. “Where are the Dameosaurs?”
                “It’s going to be all right,” Shikarou spoke in a gentle tone. “You are here, with ones who may wish to be your friends and who wish you no ill. You are still badly injured and I would like to heal your injuries, but the fastest way will be to put you into a pokeball. I promise to release you afterward.” He smiled slowly. “I keep my promises and my alpha there will ensure that I do so even if I was not inclined to.”
                “The Dameosaurs are gone?” The Sphinx’s eyes were still wild.
                “The five that we have found are all dead. You nearly died. Let us help you.”
                Slowly the Sphinx relaxed, but she still seemed dazed. “Yes, I will let you help me.” She turned to face him. “Go ahead.”
                Shikarou pulled an empty pokeball from his belt and captured the Sphinx. He picked up the pokeball and trotted towards Branwyn, who was already pulling the PPHU from his pack and setting up the battery. He grinned tiredly. “Let’s get her healed and on her way before something else happens.” He sank to his knees slowly.
                Branwyn loaded the pokeball and started the healing cycle. “You look exhausted.”
                “My blood magic seems to use my life energy to heal others, which is why I am understandably cautious about using it. The last time I used it I almost died.”
                “Why didn’t you say something?”
                “I was a lot less powerful then. There was almost no chance of that happening again.” He frowned and cocked his head. “I’m already starting to feel better. I’m more worried about how she’s doing?”
                “What are you concerned about?”
                “She’s human. I’m not. There is no way to know if my energy will change her or in what way it might if it does.” He rubbed his ears and looked away. “I’ve never done this to a human before.”
                Yushiko circled to hover overhead. “Someone has appeared where the dead pokegirls are. I didn’t want to get to close in case they didn’t see me.”
                Shikarou glanced at her bright red wings. “Only if they are blind did they miss you.” He climbed to his feet and reached for his pokeballs. He grinned suddenly and scratched one. “Ah, that feels good.”
                Branwyn looked disgusted. “You are sick.”
                He shrugged. “Yeah, I know. Stay here and finish her cycle and then join me.” Misaki, Kiyoko and Niamh flashed into existence. “Brief them and bring them with you. I’ll try the ‘I come without pokegirls’ approach first.” He cast his communication spell on the group. “If I yell, come running.”
                Kiyoko turned a skeptical eye on Branwyn as Shikarou headed off at a quick walk. “If?”
                “He’s optimistic. Wrong, but optimistic. Watch him. When he gets into trouble, teleport in and bring him back here. We’ll be waiting and ready for the fight, just like we’ve been training to.”
                Misaki smiled. “You mean where we fight as a team and our leader doesn’t go wandering off on his own right before the battle starts?”
                “Exactly like that,” Branwyn replied in a dry tone.     
                Shikarou fell into a trot as Branwyn’s voice sounded in his ears. “You’ve spent too much time on teamwork to go charging off at the first sign of something new, so what is it?”
                “These newcomers may be looking for the dead Dameosaurs or the Sphinx. In either case, I’m going to buy you the time to finish her healing cycle. I’m the hardest to kill and the boss, so I elected myself. Keep listening in case they say something useful.”
                As he approached he began to make out details. Five more Dameosaurs and some very near human type pokegirl. Or maybe a real human female. He pointed his pokedex and came to a halt a good thirty meters from the group as the Dameosaurs started to spread out. A growl carried across to him.
                The pokedex just hit every alarm that I know exists and two I hadn’t found yet. It is demanding a priority one verification code that I don’t know to report a Sanctuary Goth incursion. What should I do?
                “Let the damned thing uplink and use the carrier to get to the satellite. Find out what is going on,” he muttered.         
                I’ll try. Don’t teleport or do anything like that until I tell you that I’m done.
                “No promises. My skin is much more valuable than that satellite.”
                The Sanctuary Goth waved to him. “Come here,” she demanded.
                Shikarou smiled. “That is precisely why I’m staying right here. Orders make my skin crawl.”
                He noticed that two of the Dameosaurs were heading to get on his flanks. They were much faster than he’d guessed they would be. Even at a trot he suspected they were faster than his dead run. It was a good thing running wasn’t on his agenda.
                The Goth glared at him. “I told you to come here, male. Don’t make me have one of my Dameosaurs fetch you.”
                Shikarou shook his head in puzzled manner. “Did you say Lameosaur or was that Dummyosaur?”
                The Dameosaur next to the Goth hissed in anger. “I eat your liver,” she growled.
                Shikarou grinned. “You’re so sweet. But I need it more than you do.” Her head lowered.
                “Where is the Sphinx?” The Sanctuary Goth put a calming hand on her pokegirl. “Hand her over and we’ll be on our way.” She smiled nastily. “And in case you were thinking of running, bad idea. You are surrounded and my girls here prefer their prey on the run.”
                “So she wants to eat my liver and you want to watch. A cannibalistic voyeur, now that is just sick.”
                The Goth smiled. “Have it your way.” Shikarou heard the Dameosaur to his rear left charge.
                Quickly he reviewed what he knew about velociraptors. The only question was would the attack be high or low. In any case the same defense was suggested.
                He looked puzzled, hoping to throw the Goth off, while intently listening to the charge. Suddenly he shifted two meters to his right in a blur as he called out, “Sword.” The Dameosaur entered the space he’d just left a heartbeat later. He struck.
                The Dameosaur had chosen the high attack and was descending with her ripping talons ready as her arms closed on empty air. His strike amputated her right leg and most of her tail instead of her head. “Damn, guessed wrong.”
                His strike was fast enough that everything kept moving in the same trajectory, so the Goth was unaware that he’d scored until the Dameosaur landed and things suddenly went in different directions.
                Shikarou took a step forward and removed the still falling Dameosaur’s head. A sort of startled tableau persisted until he smiled. “Never bring talons to a swordfight, ladies. Branwyn, pickup.”
                Branwyn’s voice sounded. “Kiyoko.”            
                Kiyoko appeared next to Shikarou as the four Dameosaurs charged and the Goth started sprinting forward. She vanished. Kiyoko grabbed Shikarou’s arm and teleported just as another hand grabbed his other arm. His sword went spinning away at the Goth’s jerk.
                There was a brief image of Branwyn, staring at the pokegirl on his other arm and a feeling of release as Kiyoko let him go and then jungle appeared. Shikarou extended his claws and ripped the Sanctuary Goth from throat to crotch.
                “Don’t touch the merchandise without permission,” Shikarou snarled.
                Branwyn appeared as Shikarou slashed the mortally wounded Goth again. “Thank the gods for the delta bond,” she muttered as she grabbed him and they teleported back.
                Shikarou looked around quickly. A Dameosaur was nearby, being held at a distance by Misaki’s vinewhip while Kiyoko tried unsuccessfully to hit her with a flamethrower attack. “Branwyn, hit her from the rear.”
                The Unicorn tossed him a pokeball and shifted to her quad form. “Our little troublemaker.” Shikarou looked for his other two pokegirls.
                Niamh and Yushiko were keeping in the air, one of the Dameosaurs was down and masturbating furiously. Shikarou understood as Niamh unleashed another lust dust attack which missed a swerving Dameosaur. Yushiko potted her with a lightning bolt that sent her skidding in the dirt. She rolled to her feet and disappeared under some low trees.
                Shikarou shrugged and released the Sphinx. She appeared and looked at him. “Thank you.”
                “Uh, sorry, but we’re rather busy, so you just get on your way.”
                She looked around. “Dameosaurs. I can help.”
                “Sure. Here.” Shikarou cast the communication spell on her. “Just speak and we’ll hear you. Say ladies before you say anything else, like this. Ladies, the Sphinx has decided to join the fray on our side.” He sighed. “Will you take my orders?”
                “Yes.” She nodded emphatically.
                He pointed. “That is Yushiko and Niamh. Help them to kill or immobilize the Dameosaur in those trees.”
                “Very well.” She shifted to her battle form and launched herself into the air. Shikarou headed for the masturbating pokegirl at a trot. “Sword.”
                Branwyn came up alongside him. “That one is finished.” Blood was running from a nasty bite across her side and she had some scratches.
                “Good, there are still three of them and I only know of two. Take Kiyoko and find the other. Leave Misaki with me.”
                “No can do. Misaki is in her pokeball and will be there until we can heal her. She got disemboweled right at the end of her fight.
                “Fine. I’ll take the Sphinx.” He raised his voice slightly. “Sphinx, this is Shikarou, uh, the man. Come back, you are going to be with me while we fight. I need a partner.”
                “Ok. I’m on my way.” Branwyn peeled off as the Sphinx turned in the air and flew back towards him.
                “What is your name?”
                “I’m Lorelei. To your right!”
                Shikarou jumped for the nearest tall tree, landing a good five meters up before bothering to look back. A Dameosaur watched from where he’d been standing. Her stance indicated frustration. He grinned and chattered at her like a monkey. She hissed and bellowed in anger.
                He finished the spell while she was still screaming and blue darts of light shot from his hand to slam into her torso, staggering her backwards. Suddenly white bolts of energy slammed into her from the side as Lorelei hammered her with feather shuriken. A second sleet of ki energy swept over the Dameosaur, this time red, indicating that Yushiko had entered the fight.
                Shikarou hit her with the missile spell again and she went down under a second barrage of white ki bolts. Yushiko went back to circling over the wood which held the last Dameosaur as Lorelei landed next to Dameosaur who had been masturbating and had since passed out. Casually she ripped the unconscious pokegirl’s head off before taking to the air again.
                Shikarou grinned. He could see the little wooded area from where he was. “Yushiko, Lorelei, Niamh, I’m going to give you an assist. Be ready.” He cast the spell and a dart of white light flashed into the woods where the Dameosaur lurked. There was a dull roar and fire exploded out of the trees. The Dameosaur fled, apparently right at Branwyn and Kiyoko as a flamethrower attack engulfed the luckless pokegirl.
Name:                                                    Urufu Shikarou                                                   
Age:                                                        250                                                                                        
Residence:                                            Wick, Blue Continent                                                        
Region:                                  Scotland                                                                                               
Status:                                                   Active                                                                                   
Rank:                                                     20                                                                                          
Security Clearance:                             Delta                                                                                     
                Tamer                                    Y                                                            
                Master Tamer                      Y                                                            
                Researcher                            N                                                            
                Watcher                 N                                                            
                Breeder                  N                            
Active Harem
Species                   Name                                                     Level     
Unicorn                  Branwyn                                               42
Dark Kitsune                        Kiyoko                                   36
Armsmistress                        Urufu Yushiko                     24
Ladyba                                  Niamh                                                    25
Ivywhore                               Misaki                                                    17                          
Alpha                                     Branwyn
Beta                                       None