Chapter 9: The Whirlwind
                You are within ten horizontal meters of the infrared source according to the last sat download three minutes ago.
                “Good.” Shikarou twisted in Ruiling’s arms to look at her. “Look sharp, ladies, the infrared source is somewhere nearby. You can put me down right over there,” he indicated a spot a nice safe distance from where the heat source was supposed to be.
                “Very well, let’s keep you safe,” Ruiling replied as she changed direction and lost altitude. Pythia began a slow circle above the area.
                “Whatever it is shouldn’t be too hard to see,” the G-Spliced muttered. She was right; the island was only a couple of kilometers across and was nothing but rocks and some unhappy seabirds.
                Ruiling pulled into a hover a handful of meters up from a large grouping of rock. “Be safe.” She let him drop into the open area in the center of the rocks and accelerated hard back towards where their target was hiding.
                Deep Hunger had come up to the surface to get away from having to watch others with what she couldn’t have. She watched with surprise as the two flying pokegirls come into view and had smiled to herself when she realized that the yellow haired one was carrying a human. Finally, a good meal and maybe some sex.
                She was low enough in the nest’s hierarchy that she hadn’t been allowed to feed much from their latest male and her stomach rumbled as she salivated.
                The yellow haired pokegirl changed direction suddenly and moved a distance from the first. Deep Hunger watched with interest as she hovered and dropped the human before dashing back. She slowly lifted her sickle arms into a ready attack position.
                It’s a him. Tasty. And she dropped him. Right in front of me.
                The male landed easily and Deep Hunger lunged as she dropped her camouflage. Her hands grabbed the male and jerked him off the ground to press him face first against her while one of her scythe arms jabbed at his neck. She looked past him to the two pokegirls as the blue furred fox suddenly whirled in midair.
                “Land and surrender or I’ll kill your Tamer,” the Mantis hissed. The yellow haired pokegirl gaped at her in shock. “Thanks for the hostage.”
                The man fumbled at her, trying to push away, but had no chance against her superior strength. Deep Hunger felt a tightening in her groin as one of his hands groped her breast in his attempt to escape. This one will be fun and once I put his pokegirls in their pokeballs, I’m not going to share him for a while, other than with Rage.
                She sliced her spare sickle arm down his back, ripping his shirt open. “I said land and surrender or I will kill him.”
                Sudden pain lanced through her body and her world went black.
                Shikarou pulled his hand out of the Mantis’s chest. “Put me down.”
                The Mantis dropped him. “Yes master.”
                Pythia immediately snatched him away, heading upwards with Ruiling close behind.
                “Stop!” Shikarou twisted in her arms. “She’s mine now and harmless to us.”
                Pythia went into a hover. “You enslaved her?”
                “Exactly. When she pulled me to her, it was the perfect opportunity.” A smile. “I’m getting faster, but I’m still not as quick as I used to be. Oh, well, practice makes perfect.”
                “I do not think Branwyn will want her in the harem.”
                He snorted. “Put us down. I’ll never have a slave in my harem. Never.” A tiny smile appeared and vanished. “No matter how entertaining it would be to pull her out of a pokeball in the middle of a gym battle and watch people run in terror.” The G-Spliced landed a safe distance from the Mantis. “Besides, that’s a pretty ugly pokegirl.
                Ruiling glared at the enslaved pokegirl. “I thought you said she was over there.” She sounded insulted.
                “Apparently she moved. Living creatures do that.” Shikarou stripped off the remnants of his shirt and reached for his pokeballs. “Let’s get everyone out since I only want to have to explain this once.”
                He released Gwyneth, Yushiko, Branwyn and Circe in one bunch. “Don’t anyone panic, the Mantis belongs to me.”
                Branwyn shifted to her quad form and immediately grabbed him, trying to pull him out of the way as Circe lifted him to safety with her telekinesis. Yushiko drew her sword and stepped between him and the Mantis while Gwyneth pulled a leaf from her hair and grew it into a rose whip as she moved to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Armsmistress.
                The result of all of this was that Shikarou almost had his arms pulled from their sockets as Branwyn was lifted with him. Deep Hunger just laughed quietly.
                “Put me the fuck down right now!” Shikarou’s voice was loud enough to startle his pokegirls, without quite being a bellow.
                “Master, you must be quieter or the others will hear you.” Deep Hunger looked slightly worried. “I cannot protect you from all of them and these,” she gave his pokegirls a contemptuous look, “can’t protect you from anyone.”
                “Everybody stand down and you,” he pointed at the Mantis, “shut up.”
                The Mantis blinked and nodded, her mouth snapping shut as everyone else stared at her.
                Branwyn put her hands on her hips. Or her equine shoulders, depending on how you looked at things. Shikarou suppressed a smile as she glared at him. “How come every time I let you out of my sight something seriously fucked up happens to you?”
                “This time was an accident. Apparently the Mantis was the infrared source and she moved between downloads. Ruiling and I both thought I was being dropped well out of the line of fire and it turned out that instead I landed in front of her.”
                Branwyn gave him a disbelieving look. “Are you saying the other times were deliberate?”
                Shikarou gave his Unicorn an annoyed look and glanced at the motionless Mantis. “You have a name?”
                “Deep Hunger.”
                “Ick. Anyway, Deep Hunger grabbed me and used me as a threat to get Pythia and Ruiling to surrender. I grabbed her soul and enslaved her.” He shrugged. “All I lost was my shirt. Didn’t even get a scratch. By the bye, this isn’t the time or place for an extended argument.”
                Branwyn sighed. “Fine.” She turned to the Mantis. “Is Faelan Wolf here?”
                “I do not answer your questions, food.”
                Shikarou shook his head slowly. “Deep Hunger, this is Branwyn, my alpha. Unless she directly contradicts an order I have given you, she speaks with my voice.”
                “I understand, master.” She gave Branwyn an unfriendly look. “Faelan Wolf is here and is our prisoner. He is still alive, as are most of his pokegirls.”
                I am reprocessing your twee’s inputs to enhance any incoming signals. Yes, there is a faint signal from Faelan Wolf. He is critically injured but stable. I cannot boost your twee’s transmission strength to request detailed data without equipment that you do not possess. As soon as the situation improves I will gather the desired data. There is no signal from Svetlana.
                “Very well.” Shikarou cut off whatever Branwyn was about to ask. “What is the personnel composition of this base?”
                “Our nest has, including myself, ten Mantises.” Deep Hunger answered calmly. “Of course, now I serve you and no longer belong to the nest.”
                Shikarou looked thoughtful. “Can you get another Mantis to come up here with you, but only one? More than one would lead to a fight I’m not quite ready for.” He didn’t bother to look at Branwyn. He knew what she was doing. “Don’t look at me that way. I have a plan.”
                “Yes, my lover, Seething Rage. She will come up here, especially if I tell her about you and say that you are my prisoner and that we will share your meat and sex.” Branwyn looked slightly ill as she realized what the Mantis’s words insinuated.
                “Excellent.” Shikarou summoned his sword and handed it to Deep Hunger. “Draw your nest in detail. We need to know everything we can before we begin the hunt.”
                “This way, Rage. I have him hidden over here.” Hunger’s voice carried perfectly to Shikarou’s enhanced hearing and he could hear the rocks crunching beneath their feet as they approached.
                “How did you find him here?” Seething Rage sounded excited. “There isn’t anything up here but rock.”
                “I’ll explain everything after we’ve had him a time or two.” Hunger laughed. “Or would you like to take the time for an explanation and chance someone else finding him? You know they won’t share.”
                He heard the footsteps speed up. “You are so right, my love. Feeding and fucking first.”
                The two Mantises paused when they found Shikarou standing and waiting for them. Rage grinned. “He’s free. Wonderful, we can hunt him too. This is perfect!” She surged forward only to come to a sudden halt as Deep Hunger grabbed her from behind, pinning all of her arms as Shikarou lunged forward.
                All six of his pokegirls appeared as his hand sank into Seething Rage’s chest, Branwyn teleporting in with Yushiko on her back and Circe carrying Gwyneth. They watched quietly as the Mantis went stiff for several seconds before Shikarou pulled his hand back out.
                “All right, Hunger, let her go.” The Mantis released Seething Rage, who stood patiently.
                Circe looked at him critically. “Are you getting faster at that?”
                “Yes I am. Practice, you know.” He smiled. “At one time I could enslave a soul in two seconds. I used to hit a sentry, enslave it and be gone before anyone else knew I was in the area, leaving my new spy behind.”
                “You must have been a very successful predator.”
                “At one time, my name struck fear into the monsters.” He said it simply, without pride or regret. “They considered me one of their greatest foes.” He flicked an ear, dismissing this particular line of conversation. “Now, the nest is one primary cavern with a few smaller caverns branching off from it. The primary cavern is where the Mantises live, eat and tame. The smaller caverns are used for food storage and Faelan is in one of them.”
                “The assault will focus on the primary cavern. Once we take out the Mantises in the main area, we’ll sweep the side caves. Pythia will lead team one, which will be Pythia, Ruiling, and Yushiko. They will be the heavy assault team. Circe will command Branwyn and Gwyneth. Your job is to protect team one’s flank and roll up any leakers. You will also provide fire support.” He looked around. “Rage and Hunger will compose team three and their job will be to get behind the defending force and hit them from the rear. I’ll be your eyes and ears and I’ll use spellcasting to support anyone who needs it.”
                He summoned his sword and held it out to Yushiko. “Here. You know several two-sword styles so take it. I’m going to stay in the back, as befits my non-pokegirl and relatively vulnerable status.”
                The Armsmistress gave him a pleased and surprised smile as she accepted the weapon. “Yes, my lord. I will make you proud.”
                Branwyn looked surprised. “Sense? From you?”
                “Whether you believe it or not, I didn’t live to be as old as I am by taking stupid chances. If I didn’t have you and if they didn’t have Faelan, I’d take the next lunar month to destroy this nest, picking them off one by one, and by the time I was done they’d think there was some kind of insanity going through them. It would be unlikely that they would ever know I was here, until the very end.”
                “Rage, Hunger, as I said before, I want you two to get behind the other Mantises quickly and hit them from behind. Assassinate the strongest fighters among the nest.” He gave them an even look. “Your survival is immaterial to the success of your mission. For everyone else, that means you don’t hold back an area attack if you are going to catch Rage or Hunger in its effect.” A glance around. “That does not apply to my harem. Don’t do anything stupid. We can pull back and hit them again if necessary, and the PPHU gives us a nice rapid repair ability they lack. If necessary we can swamp them with wave attacks to wear them down.”
                Rage nodded. “It will be as you command.” She smiled happily. “I’ve always hated Red Fury and I’m going to enjoy eating her afterwards.”
                “Fine. Now everyone gather around close. Yushiko, your swords.”
                The Armsmistress raised her weapons as Shikarou nicked an artery on his arm. He anointed the swords with his blood, intoning, “Strength, accuracy and sharpness shall be yours, until the day is reborn.” Both swords glowed with a sapphire blue light for an instant.
                Then he cast a spell which surrounded everyone with a shimmering field that slowly faded away. “That was a haste spell, so be careful.” He looked around slowly. “Team three, you are up front. Act like we’ve chased you into the nest and stay just ahead of team one, but don’t start yelling a warning until one of the other Mantises sees you. Slow down just before entering the area where the other Mantises are gathered, Branwyn, Circe and I are going to open the assault with fireballs. Team two, stay close on the heels of team one and then drop back once we enter the cave. I’ll be behind you. My ladies, I bid you all good luck. Execute.”
                Gwyneth swung up onto Branwyn’s back and Circe picked up Shikarou as the groups shook themselves into a loose formation and moved out.
                Inside the cave entrance it opened out rapidly into a cavern almost twenty meters across. Visible were seven Mantises, a group of four sitting together, another group of two, and a singleton who was coming out of one of the small entrances on the back wall, licking her sickles clean as she did.
                There. Circe chose the target for the magic attacks as Hunger and Rage started yelling for help. Three fireballs went off almost as one on the group of four Mantises, followed quickly by a volley of bamboo spears as Gwyneth used lance. Two of the Mantises survived the flurry of attacks, and one of those took a feather shuriken from Yushiko that splattered the hapless pokegirl against the back wall of the cave.
                I have established contact with Faelan’s twee and Aggie and I are compiling a detailed report of his injuries. Still no contact with Svetlana.
                “Later,” Shikarou muttered as the wounded Mantis leapt, easily clearing team one and heading straight at him. Circe’s telekinesis caught her in mid air and pulled her limbs off before dropping the body.
                Yushiko glowed as she employed focus energy and swept towards the two Mantises. They readied themselves, but the Armsmistress went through them like a buzzsaw, her hasted multiple focused double slash attacks combined with the enchantments on the swords resulting in pieces of Mantis flying for meters as she actually cut them to bits.
                Pythia and Ruiling were trading blows with the remaining Mantis, her sickles deflecting their energy blades until Yushiko matched blades with her. Once again the Armsmistress was in her element and quickly chopped the Mantis down.
                “What you did to Yushiko, that technique you need to remember,” Branwyn observed clinically.
                “I don’t think they’d appreciate it in a gym battle. It’s a tad messy.”
                “No, but I will. You really need to get her a second sword to use all of the time.”
                “Maybe you’re right.”
                Hunger and Rage had engaged the single Mantis and finished her, although Rage was severely injured in the fight.
                That was when the last Mantis came out of one of the small caves, taking Rage from behind and crushing her torso as she charged Hunger, screeching in anger. “Traitor!” She ignored the other pokegirls and Shikarou in her fury.
                That cost her as Gwyneth hit her with lance at the same time as Yushiko slashed her with feather shuriken. The Mantis was blasted sideways and off of her feet. She bounced back up and began to glow as she prepared to use zanmato on the invaders.
                Branwyn smashed into her using mach breaker, the sonic boom driving Shikarou to his knees as she blurred from his side. The Mantis was thrown flying, the glow surrounding her dying as her focus was lost.
                Then Yushiko waded in. Her first cuts removed the Mantis’s sickles and the second series sliced into her body, opening up the Mantis’s chest in a spray of red.
                Before her body hit the ground, Shikarou was giving out new orders. “Team one start on the leftmost cave. Team two takes the rightmost. Find Faelan.” Tell me.
                He listened to his twee’s report on his brother’s status as the teams searched. Hunger remained near him, waiting patiently.
                Branwyn appeared at the entrance of one of the caves, her face stricken. “Shikarou, we found him. He’s not well.”
                Faelan was in what looked like a food storage area. Considering his injuries, it was a mercy that he was unconscious. His legs and arms had been chewed off where they joined the trunk of his body and it looked like someone had burrowed into his abdominal cavity to feed on his organs, bits and pieces of soft tissue were scattered around him. His groin was a gaping red wound.
                Shikarou looked at Pythia. “Get Candace.” She nodded and vanished. He knelt and examined Faelan closely before looking up at Branwyn, who was watching him, her face pale. “Other than possible psychiatric issues, he’ll recover fully.”
                She looked stunned. “But his wounds, and his stomach?”
                “Will grow back, given time. Everything physical will heal.” Shikarou glanced around, his face bleak. “I’m more concerned about that.” He pointed with his chin at two identical pink heads, one resting on top of the other. “The twins. Spread out and see if you can find any pokeballs or other bodies.”
                There were many other parts of corpses scattered around the room in various states of decay, but no one knew who they were. Faelan’s other pokeballs were found in a bag in the same cave he occupied and after a pokedex scan verified that they were occupied, Shikarou ordered them run through the PPHU before he’d even consider opening them.
                While the search was still going on, Candace showed up and after getting one look at him, insisted that Faelan be immediately taken to the clinic on Caomh Sith. Shikarou released Lorelei to take him while Pythia carried the NurseJoy back.
                Then Shikarou released Svetlana. Her eyes went wide and she practically crawled into his arms. “Shikarou. Does this mean that everything is all right now?” She whispered against the skin of his chest.
                “Faelan will be ok.” Shikarou held the Megami-sama for a moment before she pushed away from him.
                “You said Faelan. What about the others?”
                “The twins are dead and I don’t know about Midori. Your other two harem sisters are still in their pokeballs but they’ve been run through a healing cycle like you were.”
                She nodded, her face grave. “Midori will be trapped where Faelan was taken. She used up all of her energy and she’ll be stuck there until either someone feeds her or she passes on.”
                “Even with his recuperative powers, Faelan won’t be up for a month or so.” Shikarou sighed. “Would Midori feed off of me?” Branwyn’s eyes widened at his question.
                Svetlana nodded thoughtfully. “She knows you, and if I tell her it’s ok, then yes.”
                “Then let’s go. Circe, you are in charge until we get back. Branwyn, follow us.” The Unicorn nodded briskly, her eyes bright. She vanished as Svetlana took Shikarou to where Faelan had been captured.
                It was a mountain pass where the icy wind tried to flay the meat from your bones and the snow was waist deep. Shikarou absently cast a warmth spell on Svetlana as he looked around. She gave him a grateful smile.
                Branwyn appeared and immediately floundered in the snow. “Damn!” She looked around and then pointed. “There.”
                A black shapeless mass hung motionless in the air near an overhang of rock and ice, hidden from Shikarou and Svetlana by a large snowdrift.
                Shikarou bounded through the snow, vanishing once when he hit a spot deeper than he was tall. He reappeared again in an explosion of snow as he jumped out of it, landing near the inky shadow, which immediately surged over him. He shivered for the first time. “Blood but she’s cold.”
                Midori began to assume her true shape as she drained energy from Shikarou and finally stepped away from him to bow deeply. “Thank you, master Shikarou. I know you saved my lord and now you have saved his servant. I will not forget this.” With another bow, she vanished.
                Svetlana watched the episode with alert eyes. After Midori left, she shook her head. “Faelan once confided in me that he was worried that you appeared to be backsliding and that you might take Midori away from him. I’m glad to see that he was wrong.”
                Branwyn looked puzzled as Shikarou gave a slim smile. “Midori chooses to serve my brother. I would never presume to take that choice away from her.” A sad look crossed his eyes and vanished. “For most of them, it’s all the dead have left.”
                Svetlana touched his shoulder. “Maybe you aren’t so bad after all.” She smiled brightly. “Now, I’m off to see my Tamer. I’ve got the rest of his harem and on his behalf, I thank you.”
                Shikarou nodded. “Perhaps you could do me the favor of trying to convince Faelan that he’s given enough to the PLC. I’d rather he works for me and I won’t send him after nests of Mantises without adequate backup.”
                “I’ll give it my best try.” She vanished.
                Branwyn took his hand and lifted him onto her back. “Well, you’ve managed to make Svetlana like you, at least a little. Will wonders never cease?”
                “That will end just as soon as she finds out I can steal souls.” Shikarou gave a bitter laugh. “At that point, I’ll be even more horrible than before.”
                They returned to the main cavern as Branwyn looked at him. “Who’s going to tell her?”
                “Won’t she find out when she asks what happened here? I can’t lie to her, and we know she’s going to ask.”
                The Unicorn gave him level look. “I have no qualms about lying to her. You just send her to me. And I’ll explain to the harem not to say a word.”
                “Thanks, I think.” He sighed. “Let’s clean up. We’ve got a lot of salvage to collect. The pokedexes will help to identify some of the dead and we’ll gather up everything else we can.”
                “What about Hunger? What are you going to do with her?” Branwyn looked at the Mantis where she stood.
                “Oh, yeah. Hunger,” he called. The Mantis looked up. “I command you to kill yourself.” The Mantis drove her scimitars into her torso and ripped sideways. “There.”
                “Shikarou, next time please warn me.” Branwyn’s voice was unsteady. “I didn’t know you could do that.”
                “I can order my slaves to do anything and they will.” He looked around at the dead pokegirls scattered around the main chamber. “You know, I’m glad we rescued my brother, and for more reasons than I originally thought.”
                Branwyn gave him a suspicious look. “What is it?”
                “Ten dead Mantises. That’s forty million credits. That will go a long way towards paying for all of the improvements for the island.” He smiled. “I suspect we only need the heads.”
                “We are here to remember our dead. We are here to remember our living. We are here to remember that all of us are family.” The words rolled easily off of Shikarou’s tongue. While technically it was Faelan’s job to remember his harem, he’d only gotten out of the clinic this afternoon and was still recovering from having to regrow major portions of his anatomy. Also, Shikarou knew that Faelan hadn’t ever had to attend a remembrance, much less speak at one. Sadly, it was far from his older brother’s first.
                The harem concept and bonding complicated matters. Family custom was ironclad on the fact that only current family could attend a remembrance. Neither previous nor future family was allowed to attend, even if they had children who were family. There were no exceptions, and interlopers would be treated poorly, to say the least. So where did a Tamer’s family end? With his harem? But Shikarou was bonded to several pokegirls on the island who technically were not in his harem.
                In the end he’d decided to play it by ear. Both he and Faelan had brought their harems and Faelan had also included Midori. Shikarou had included Lynn (to Gwyneth’s disgust), Molly, Candace and Alice.
                He’d also thought about leaving the Penance, whom he had named Zorione, out of this, but at the last minute changed his mind. If she was going to be family then she needed to start right away.
                As he wound the speech down, he glanced at Pythia. Are you sure you’re up to this?
                She’s fine. It was Branwyn. Stop pestering her. We all agreed, including Svetlana that this would be for the best. Faelan agreed as well. 
                Shikarou just gave her a glance. Fine. He finished up and nodded to Svetlana, who used hypnotize to put everyone, including herself, to sleep and Pythia then took everyone into dream time.
                An hour passed and Shikarou opened his eyes. A minute more passed before Pythia stirred and quickly the others awakened.
                Faelan was more relaxed. The tension lines around his eyes had eased. Shikarou flicked an ear. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
                Faelan nodded. “She and I get along well.”
                Shikarou nodded and turned to look at Zorione. “And you?” She nodded slowly. “Very well.” Shikarou pulled Zorione’s pokeball from his collection and gave it carefully to Faelan. “I know you’ll take good care of her.”
                Faelan grabbed his brother’s hand. “I want to thank you for what you did. All of it.”
                “It was no less than what you would do for me.” Shikarou smiled broadly. “Just don’t get so badly hurt again, ok. I’m not sure how long it will take me to get the Megami-sama essence off, but I’m sure it’ll be longer than I want.”
                Svetlana managed to look amused and offended at the same time.
                Faelan looked amused. “I’ll be sure and remind my captors next time not to hurt me so badly that I can’t tame my harem. I’m sure their torture of me will come to a complete halt at that point.”
                “Of course it will,” Shikarou replied in a droll voice. “Hysterical laughter has that effect on people.” He shook his head. “Let’s get you back to the inn. I suppose I need to set up a residence for us eventually, but there are just so many other things that need to happen too.”
                Svetlana touched his shoulder. “That you don’t believe that your wants should come first speaks well of you.”
                Faelan blinked. “You just said something nice about my brother. Who are you and what did you do with my Svetlana?”
                Shikarou stood up and looked at Branwyn. “Let’s get everyone back to town. We’ve still got a lot of work to do before we can get back on the road.”
                Branwyn laughed quietly. “I don’t suppose that we could find work enough to enable us to stay here until spring?”
                “Nice try, but if nothing else we have to get Fumiko in a couple of days.”
                “Edo’s warm. We could go there early and let the two of you get acquainted. Just to make sure that someone else doesn’t come along and snatch her away.” Branwyn sounded hopeful.
                “You know, that is an excuse I can accept.” Branwyn gaped. “Plan on us leaving in two days.”
                Shikarou winced as the bright sunlight pounded his eyes. “Sorry. I forgot about the time difference.” Predawn at Caomh Sith was afternoon in Edo and he’d been looking almost directly at the sun when they appeared.
                Branwyn chuckled, one hand covering her eyes. “I didn’t.”
                “The fact that you were so quick to remind me is yet another item to add to the list of reasons to replace you with a wooden rocking horse.”
                She glanced at him. “Pro or con?”
                “I’m not sure yet.” He released Yushiko. “Why don’t you go say hai while we find a place to put camp?”
                “Yes, lord.” She rushed inside happily.
                “You aren’t ever that happy when we go to the Conservatory.” Shikarou commented idly as they started exploring for a suitable campsite.
                “Her family is glad to see her.”
                “Poppet’s not happy to see you?”
                Branwyn shrugged. “She’s never been overly fond of us and I’m beginning to think that the more time she spends with you, the less happy she is to see me.”
                “Do you think she’s going to become a problem?”
                The Unicorn gave him a look. “Does it matter? You were quite clear about not ending your relationship with Poppet.”
                “I said I wouldn’t end it because you didn’t like it.” He reached out and took her hand. “Your life is irretrievably entwined with mine and any relationship I have with anyone else is going to have to accommodate that fact. If Poppet doesn’t like that then she is free to find someone else to spend time with.”
                Branwyn pulled her hand free and slipped her arm around his waist. “Sometimes you say exactly the right thing.” She rested her head on his shoulder. “Sometimes.”
                Shikarou nibbled her ear. The Unicorn tilted her head to give him better access before suddenly pushing away. “We don’t have time for that. The Yoshiharas are expecting us.”
                “Not even for a quickie?” His ears hung sideways sadly.
                She smiled and shook her head. “I swear your libido is going from high to extreme. Your idea of a quickie is taking longer and longer, not that I’m complaining, mind you, but we have some obligations to meet first.” She backed away as he moved towards her. “Stop that.”
                Shikarou sighed. “All right. Camp first, then the Yoshihara business and then Unicorn.”
                Fumiko looked around the tent eagerly, her eyes bright. “This is wonderful.”
                There had been some changes. Since he’d been increasing the membership in his harem, Shikarou had remodeled the interior to reflect the additions. The doors to the individual rooms had been replaced with three hallways leading off from the main area. The first hallway lead to the kitchen and a new storage area for supplies. Going down the second hall one would find the doors to the individual harem member’s bedrooms along with a bath and the hot tub. The last hall held Shikarou’s room and a small arena for battle practice as well as a workroom for equipment maintenance.
                The entrance door to the tent had been replaced with a much more substantial one that even Yushiko had a hard time battering through when they tested it. It was also fireproof as was the entire tent. Shikarou had also redone the magic of the tent itself so that even if someone cut their way in, they would only find themselves under the awning, staring at the front door while the cut magically sealed itself.
                The Titto watched him warily. “You know that my birthday isn’t for over two weeks, right?”
                “Yes, I do. Branwyn suggested that we come here ostensibly so I could spend some time get to know you, but she really was just looking for an excuse to get out of Scotland and go someplace warm. We’ve had an unusual cold snap and the snow’s a meter deep. It didn’t matter to me; we can and will train anywhere.”
                He smiled. “I thought that talking to you would be nice. I’ve really only talked to Yushiko and your sister Junko. In addition, with everything that’s been going on, I never took the opportunity to see if you wanted to join me.”
                Fumiko gave him a blank look. “Why would what I want matter? Grandfather, father and mother want me to go with you.”
                “I’m not implying that you aren’t a dutiful daughter.” Shikarou held up a protective hand. “In my harem, my family, pokegirls have rights too, and I expect them to exercise those rights in public, not just in private. The life I lead can be fraught with danger and will be filled with lots of hardship, especially when compared against living in a nice shop with a loving family. If it’s not something you want to experience, then I’ll take you with me, but we’ll find you someplace where you’ll be happy and someone you’ll be happy with.”
                Fumiko had been listening silently. “Yushiko warned me that you were odd.” She frowned. “I have had a great time growing up here, but as you know, I’ll be fifteen soon. Some kind of magical transformation takes place at that point and suddenly I become a woman.” A smile appeared. “Everyone has been kind of vague on what that transformation entails and frankly I was terrified for years that the night before, I’d spin a cocoon and transform into something else entirely.”
                “Then there was the whole business with my evolving suddenly. If I’d been caught, I would probably been sent to a pokegirl ranch, if I didn’t end up in some official or Yakuza boss’s harem. That happens you know.”
                “I’ve heard.”
                “Yes, but you don’t know that a Yakuza boss knows what I am, and he just happens to be coming by on the ninth, to pick up a tanto that father finished up for him over a month ago. Curious timing.”
                “Indeed,” Shikarou murmured.
                “Yushiko has told me about the battling, which I’ve never done before and the tamings with you, something else I don’t know about. I’ve tamed with pokegirls from town, but father was worried I’d bond to any men, and I was legally too young.”
                She gestured at herself. “I know I’m not much to look at, what with my flat chest and no hips, but I’m hopeful that I’ll fill out as I get older. You don’t find me repulsive, do you?” She looked suddenly worried.
                “No I don’t and yes, you will fill out.” He smiled suddenly. “You don’t know much about being a Titto, do you?”
                Fumiko gave him a suspicious look. “No, I’ve read the pokedex entry on it, but my parents forbade me to practice my powers. Why?”
                “Transform can be used outside of battle for a whole host of things, but one of them is you can turn into other individuals or parts of them.” He looked thoughtful. “It means that you can make your body more adult, or copy someone else’s body. If you wanted a bust the size of Circe’s, you could have it.”
                “I will encourage you to use your abilities creatively and to use them often. With my PPHU, you don’t have to worry about running out of strength so you can practice transform whenever you want.”
                The Titto stared at him for a moment and then her eyes narrowed and her face tightened in concentration. Her ears moved up on her head and became larger and wolflike and green lines appeared over her cheeks as the line of her jaw changed slightly. The shape of her eyes changed and their color went to amber.
                She blinked slowly, her ears twisting. “Everything is so, so different.” Her jaw moved as she ran her tongue around the inside of her mouth. “My teeth are strange now.”
                “Be careful. You can easily bite off the end of your tongue now, if you are careless.”
                She sniffed the air. “What smells so good?” She move towards him and sniffed his arm. “It’s you.” She licked it and made a happy noise.
                “You’d better change back right now.” Shikarou’s voice was firm. Fumiko blinked and returned to her previous form.
                “What did I do?”
                “You were becoming aroused, and we’re supposed to wait.” He smiled to let her know he wasn’t angry. “I think that you might want to save copying me until you’ve had practice with some others.”
                “Ok. When can I start on the others?” Fumiko asked excitedly.
                “Just as soon as you join the harem.”
                Her mouth formed a straight line. “That was mean.”
                Shikarou looked puzzled. “What was?”
                “You showed me how much fun I’m going to be able to have and then told me I have to wait. Very mean. You are not a nice man.”
                Shikarou couldn’t help it, he laughed at her, which didn’t help her mood. Finally he got his laughter under control. “You are right. I’m not a nice man.” He gave her a measuring look. “You of all people on this world will have the chance to find out just how not a man I am.”
                She thought hard for a moment. “Is that why things were so strange?”
                “I wouldn’t know, but if I were to hazard a guess, I’d have to say probably.”
                Fumiko gave him a suspicious look. “Why wouldn’t you know? You are what I was copying.”
                “Yes, but I’ve never been human, so I don’t know what the differences could be like.”
                “Oh.” Fumiko looked surprised for an instant. “I’d never considered it that way.”
                “Few people do.”
                “I’ve made up my mind. I want to be in your harem and journey with you. I think it will be fun and I’ll learn a whole lot.”
                “Thank you.”
                The Titto looked surprised. “Why are you thanking me?”
                “I like you. While it goes against my philosophies of life to try and unduly influence your decision, you made the one I’d hoped you would.”
                “Even if I look like a Tomboy?”
                “You don’t look like a Tomboy. You are young and will fill out. Besides you have a very pretty smile.”
                She smiled and it lit up the room.
                “We’ve located him. He’s in Edo, staying at the residence of some merchant.”
                “Sir Kenneth, our orders are clear. Retrieve the Grimoire and the Unicorn. We must have that book.”
                “Yes sir. I’ll see to this myself. I’ll take Sir Louis with me.”
                “Very well. Do not fail as Sir Marcus did. Our leader will not tolerate that kind of pathetic behavior again.”
                “Sir Duncan, you may count on me.”
                Even in the evening, Tomakomai was seething with people and it made Shikarou a little nervous as Fumiko pulled him along, with Branwyn trailing along behind them. The Titto’d wanted to go into town and do some shopping for gifts for her family to remember her by and Shikarou had been ganged up on by the Yoshihara women and Branwyn until he’d agreed to take her.
                Yushiko had stayed at the Yoshihara residence with her family, where she was testing all of the swords in the shop to find a second one for her. At Fumiko’s advice, Shikarou was openly wearing his sword in an attempt to scare off troublemakers. So far it had worked.
                “Shikarou Urufu, may I have a moment of your time?” Shikarou came to a halt as Branwyn moved protectively up next to him and Fumiko looked puzzled. The man who’d asked the question was tall and muscular with a bright red shock of hair peeking out from under his bonnet. A green cloak graced his shoulders and was pulled closely around him. A second green cloaked man stood nearby, watching them and the crowd.
                “I suppose so, but you have me at a disadvantage.”
                The redhead smiled. “I am Louis. I would like to talk to you about purchasing the Grimoire of Danu. It is of no use to you and I would like to add it to my collection of rare books.” An ingratiating smile appeared. “I would of course, pay you handsomely for it.”
                Shikarou nodded. “Grimoire of Danu, huh? Thank you very much.”
                “What for?” The man looked genuinely puzzled.
                “I’ve suspected that the name of the book was required as part of the procedure to open it and thanks for telling me what it is. I probably wouldn’t have been able to find out otherwise.”
                Louis’s eyes narrowed. “I see. Would that mean you are not willing to entertain offers to purchase the Grimoire?”
                “That would be correct. It has sentimental value.”
                Louis looked astonished. “That is absurd.”
                “No, it’s a memento of the first time someone in a green cloak tried to kill me.” Shikarou smiled. “Will this be the second?”
                Louis sighed. “I am afraid so, if you aren’t willing to be reasonable.” He swept his cloak back, revealing a broadsword in its hanger. “I challenge you to single combat, winner take all.” He gave Shikarou a grim smile. “I see no reason to hide behind pokegirls and I notice you wear the symbol of a gentleman.” He gestured at Shikarou’s scabbard.
                “Winner takes all? I thought you were only interested in the book?”
                “No, I also collect magic pokegirls and that Unicorn would make a fine addition to my collection.”
                “What about your friend?”
                Louis smiled thinly. “I’m afraid that if you survive me, you will have to make your own arrangement with Kenneth.”
                “I see. Have you compiled an inventory of your assets, in the case that I win?”
                Louis nodded and tapped his belt pouch. “It is in here. And you?”
                “Branwyn knows my assets and the access codes.”
                An OfficerJenny shouldered her way through the crowd that had formed a circle around them at the sight of Louis’s sword and the obvious challenge. “What is going on here? 
                Louis turned to the Jenny. “I have challenged this man to a duel, to be fought immediately, here in the street. Under Edo law, I formally request your assistance in preparing the dueling area.”
                The OfficerJenny scowled. “Very well.” She looked at Shikarou. “Do you feel that you were coerced into this duel?”
                “Actually officer, I haven’t accepted yet.” Shikarou turned to Branwyn. “How do you feel about this?”
                She gave him a fierce look. “That man makes me feel slimy for some reason. ‘I collect magical pokegirls’ indeed. Take him down.” Give me your pokeballs. I want the rest of the harem close at hand in case his friend Kenneth interferes.
                “Sounds good. Here, take my pokeballs so I won’t be tempted.” Shikarou handed them over. He lowered his voice. “Fumiko, stay with Branwyn. If I should lose this fight, you get home as quickly as you can. You aren’t part of my harem and aren’t bound by my agreement.”
                She nodded; a frightened but determined look on her face. “I’m going to stay until the fight is over.”
                “Ok, but be careful. Go to the OfficerJenny if it looks like there will be any trouble for you and be sure and remind her that you are underage.” Shikarou turned back to Louis, ignoring the flare of red behind him as Branwyn released his harem.
                “I accept your challenge for a single battle, winner takes all.”
                The OfficerJenny bustled about briefly, but she had little to do, the crowd, eager to witness the duel, had instinctively formed a cleared space about ten meters across.
                Louis drew his sword with a steely slither. “You will lose, Mr. Urufu.” He reached into a pocket and pulled out a wand. “I have resources you can’t even begin to imagine.”
                Shikarou shrugged. “I doubt that, and I’m not afraid of a little stick.” A little ignorance couldn’t hurt to put his opponent off guard.
                “Oh, but you will be.” Louis aimed the wand at Shikarou and released a long streamer of fire which he used like a whip and snapped at his target.
                Shikarou had already shifted quickly to the side and watched as the fire whipped through where he had been standing. “I’m still not frightened,” he announced in a contemptuous voice.
                Louis frowned and snapped at Shikarou again, who dodged again. “I am afraid, sir, that you are going to have to actually hit me to have the slightest chance of impressing me with your legerdemain.”
                Louis growled and dismissed the flame whip. “You won’t dodge this one.” The magic missile slammed into Shikarou like a hammer, knocking him a step backwards and leaving a smoldering patch on his shirt.
                “I’m getting too rough on my clothing,” Shikarou muttered. Louis’s eyes narrowed and then widened as Shikarou pointed his hand at his foe. Lightning smashed into Louis, who was spun into the air by the blast.
                Kenneth lurched forward, his hand going to his pocket, only to find he couldn’t move as Circe grabbed him with her telekinesis. “You just be a good boy and you’ll get your turn.”  He glared at her and she just smiled back. “You misbehave and I’ll twist your head off like I’m unscrewing a cheap bottle of wine.”
                Louis pulled himself to his feet. “So you can do magic.”
                “I know a little.”
                “Well, here’s one you may not know.” Louis cast an imitate spell and shot an identical lightning bolt at Shikarou, who almost instantly drew his sword, drove it into the pavement and crouched behind it, letting the sword ground out the stroke. Louis hissed beneath his breath.
                Shikarou smiled. “Let’s see if I learned it.” He repeated the spell perfectly and a magic missile hit Louis, lifting him off his feet. This time Shikarou noticed that the spell was absorbed by a badge on Louis’s chest.
                Louis rolled to his feet and pointed his wand at Shikarou. Lightning cracked again, this time smashing Shikarou backwards. He rolled to his feet and grinned. Let’s see just how versatile this spell is.
                Louis was casting a fireball when Shikarou finished the imitate spell and used the telekinesis that Circe had just employed to pick Louis up into the air and smash him to the ground. Interesting, it will copy pokegirl attacks. Louis went white when Shikarou used telekinesis to then pluck the badge from his clothing.
                Shikarou hit Louis with lightning again. Louis’s torso bulged as the water in his body cavity flashed to steam. He went down and didn’t move.
                Shikarou turned and looked at Kenneth, who glared back. “Do you have anything to say to me, sir?”
                Kenneth settled his cloak closely around himself as Circe released him. “I will see you again, Shikarou Urufu, you may count on that.” There was an implosion of air as he vanished.
                The OfficerJenny bustled up. “You will have to come to the station with me to fill out a report.” She didn’t look happy. “And there will be a fine for littering unless you make arrangements to dispose of the body.”
                Shikarou nodded. “Pythia, will you see to it?” Loot it and dump it in the ocean off of the Ice Preserve.
                “As you command.” Pythia picked up the body and teleported away.
                I will arrange to deplete any bank accounts Louis possessed and transfer the title of any property he owned to you as soon as Pythia returns with his inventory.
                After nodding to the OfficerJenny to lead the way, Shikarou turned to Fumiko, who looked shaken. “Are you ok?”
                “That’s the first person I’ve seen killed.” She watched his face, sucking on her lower lip. “Was it easy for you to do?”
                He watched the Jenny leading them down the street for a moment. “Yes.” He blinked and looked back at her. “I am, however, trying to avoid situations where I or the members of my harem have to kill. Unfortunately, right now that doesn’t seem to be working.”
                Fumiko was quiet for a while as she thought about his words. Then her hand slipped into his. “I don’t think you wanted to kill him, he forced you to with his challenge.” She glanced up at him, her eyes shining with the reflected streetlights. “These are things I need to understand. You’ll do.”
(01/28/99 1420 BC)
                “Sir Duncan, I bring grave news.”
                “I am already aware that you failed to retrieve the Grimoire, Sir Kenneth, what news could be graver than that?”
                “Sir Duncan, I did not attempt to retrieve the Grimoire. Once I saw how badly Sir Louis failed, I returned here immediately. If I attempted to retrieve the Grimoire and failed, you would be unaware of the facts that have been revealed. If my life be forfeit because of my diligence, then so be it.”
                Sir Duncan leaned back in his chair with an air of curiosity. “What is more important than retrieving the Grimoire?”
                “Nothing, Sir Duncan, but the one who has it, Shikarou Urufu, is a powerful spellcaster in his own right and had already determined how the Grimoire could be opened. If he can open it, he may be of use to us as well as to our lord.”
                Sir Duncan didn’t move but the air suddenly seemed to vibrate with the intensity of the gaze he held Sir Kenneth with. “Why do you say this?”
                “He told Sir Louis that he had already determined that the name of the Grimoire was needed to open it and as far as I know, only a handful of people are aware of that fact.” His head ducked. “Sir Louis told Urufu the true name of the Grimoire, so he now possesses that key.”
                “I see.” Sir Duncan’s tone hinted that it was fortunate that Sir Louis was already dead. “Is there anything else?”
                “Sir Louis used imitate against Urufu to return a lightning attack and Urufu learned it by watching him. He used it to return an attack that Sir Louis had used against him earlier. Sir Duncan, there is another thing. Urufu survived magical attacks that would have killed a normal human. He appears to have a constitution more in line with a pokegirl’s and that should be taken into consideration in future attempts to recover the Grimoire.”
                Sir Kenneth kneeled. “I returned because this is knowledge that you need to possess and I do not believe that I could defeat him. I believe that the Templar may have to be employed to deal with him.”
                Sir Duncan steepled his fingers as he considered Kenneth’s words. Finally he nodded. “I will speak to our lord of this, Sir Kenneth, and you are relieved of any responsibility for Sir Louis’s failure.”
                “Yes, Sir Duncan. What would you have of me?” Kenneth rose to his feet smoothly.
                “You will investigate this Shikarou Urufu further. He knows you, so you will coordinate our intelligence evaluation of him rather than go back into the field yourself.” Sir Duncan smiled. “We have many resources throughout the Blue League and more abroad. Use them all to find out everything that there is to be known about Shikarou Urufu.”
                “As you command, Sir Duncan, so shall it be done.”
                “So, how did that cocoon spinning go last night?”
                Fumiko looked up from her breakfast and smiled around a spoonful of pureed rice. “Once I got the silk started coming out my butt, fine. Can’t you see the difference?”
                Shikarou just winked and settled down at the table. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
                “For the last time, yes.” She gave him a wry smile. “It’s too late for me to change my mind anyway; Yumi has already moved my stuff out of our room. She started when I went to the bathroom.” She looked up at him again. “Would you be upset if I cursed sometimes?”
                “I do it, so I can hardly complain. I will though, if I think you are overdoing it.”
                “Ok. My sister’s a bitch.” She blinked. “There, I said it. Felt good too.”
                “I’ll bet.” Shikarou looked slightly uncomfortable. “Look, about what’s going to happen today.” He broke off.
                “It’s ok. I talked with Circe and she let me feel what it’s going to be like, and it’s not that bad. So after I eat breakfast you pokeball me and later this evening you ball me again.”
                “All right, I wanted to talk with you about this so early so we could get things taken care of in case this Yakuza boss comes by and tries to catch you today. For all we know he might try to catch you at school.”
                She looked startled. “I’d forgotten all about him. I guess I was too caught up in anticipating being with you.”
                “I thought you might be. Besides, one of the things we do is cover for each other.”
                “That’s nice.” She finished her breakfast and put her bowl down. “Then shall we get the capture out of the way?”
                Shikarou pulled a pokeball out of his pocket and held it out for her inspection. Carefully, without touching it, she looked it over. “Why don’t you personalize them?”
                “Actually, the leagues forbid it. You can’t make any changes to pokeballs that might make them more distinctive. It keeps things fair in a random salvage battle, otherwise people would put the pokegirls they wanted to keep least in the prettiest pokeballs and then deliberately lose a battle to get rid of them.”
                He chuckled. “Branwyn and I are trying to personalize my harem, instead. We’re looking at uniform designs, but it’s hard to find one that everyone likes. I may have to just decide and live with the unhappiness.” A sigh. “Other problems arise from possible complaints of unfairness. It’s ok for a pokegirl to have body armor if she comes with it or makes it herself, but if I supply it for her, then I become an asshole to other Tamers.”
                “No, that is only important if I happen to care about their opinions, but it turns out that I’m supposed to. Apparently some Tamers feel that supplying pokegirls with equipment that they don’t come with doesn’t help to keep a level playing field.” He made a face that caused Fumiko to giggle.
                “Of course, if someone has a level 90 Umbrea, it’s perfectly fine to challenge some git with a level ten A-Bra, as long as the Umbrea doesn’t wear armor. It’s not very sporting, but to professional collectors or competitors, sporting isn’t important.”
                Fumiko looked curiously at him. “So what are you going to do?”
                “I’m going to supply my pokegirls with body armor,” he replied. “I don’t give bloody damn about what other Tamers think of me and so far the vast majority of the battles we’ve been in wouldn’t be legal anyways. I just want to keep you safe.”
                The Titto reached out, her hand hovering over the pokeball. “I’m scared, a little.”
                “That’s ok, so am I.”
                “You are?”
                “Of course. I’m bringing an unknown person into my family. You and I seem to get along together, but when a relationship reaches the moving in stage, things always change. What if you snore really loudly, or have really bad morning breath?” His voice softened. “Or can’t get along with the rest of my harem? That’s what I really worry about. Not to mention you are all so damned young.”
                Fumiko patted his arm. “Only physically. Pokegirls aren’t really allowed to have a childhood, so we aren’t children. Even in my family. I went to school because I could hide what I am, but everyone knows when my birthday is and when I don’t show at school tomorrow, they’re going to know the truth. My records will be removed from the school and sent to my family. At school the teachers will never mention me again. It will be like I was never there.”
                “And my friends,” she sighed. “If they do call it will be to commiserate with me for the horrible thing that happened to me.” Fumiko looked up at him. “I’m glad I’ll be gone and I won’t have to deal with their fake sympathy. Almost all they will actually be saying is that ‘I’m glad it wasn’t me’ or something very close to that. Most of them won’t even try to get in touch with me.”
                “Hey.” Fumiko looked up at his tone. “I want you. I want you in my harem and I want you in my life.”
                Tears glittered in her eyes as she whispered, “I am so glad to hear that.” Shikarou dropped the pokeball on the table and gathered Fumiko into his arms while she cried.
                Fumiko stepped in the door of the tent and plopped her books down with a note of finality.
                “So how was school?” Shikarou smiled slightly as she jumped.
                She looked at him for a minute, frowning. “It was weird. My last day, but nobody knew it but me.” She grinned briefly. “I’m glad it’s over.  They’re going to have a major test next week and I’m going to miss it.”
                “Your education isn’t over. You will still be learning, and not all of it is going to be battling or taming,” Shikarou warned.
                “I know. Branwyn has already explained to me that I’m still in school, just with a larger variety of subjects.” She looked down at herself. “Will I still have to wear the uniform?”
                “I don’t know, you look pretty cute.”
                Fumiko looked surprised and then dimpled. “You think so?” She twirled in place. “What part do you think looks best?”
                “You have great legs. They are nice and muscular and very shapely.”
                Fumiko felt a tingle in her belly as she realized how intently he was watching her. “Oh.” Her Tamer. The tingle increased as she remembered just what a Tamer did. “I’m too skinny.”
                He smiled, a predatory smile, and Fumiko felt her belly flutter. “While I haven’t seen all of you, from what I can see, I would disagree. You’ve still got some filling out to do, but too skinny? No.”
                She hesitantly touched the top button of her blouse. “Do you want me to undress so you can see?”
                His smile widened. “Not right now.” Fumiko felt a stab of disappointment. “Don’t worry, I am going to tame you today, and I will see all of you.” He patted the floor next to him. “Come, sit.”
                Fumiko’s stomach fluttered again. She settled down next to him slowly. Shikarou smiled softly at her. “I’ve been thinking about you on and off ever since you went to school.”
                Her voice quavered slightly. “You have?” She could smell him. He smelled good, like he did before.
                “Yes. I wondered many things about you.” He turned to face her. Reaching out, he gathered up one of her hands in both of his and leaned down to rub his cheek against the back of it. His eyes flicked up to her before returning to his examination of her hand. “How many boys have you kissed?”
                She flushed and her hand twitched. “Mother would never allow such a thing.”
                “So, are you saying you haven’t kissed any boys?” His eyes laughed up at her as his lips brushed the back of her hand. She shivered. “Remember I’m kami and I’ll know if you lie.”
                “No,” she finally said in a small voice. Shikarou brushed his lips against the back of her hand again and she closed her eyes for an instant.
                “No, you haven’t kissed any boys or no you aren’t saying that you haven’t kissed any boys?” Shikarou turned her hand over gently.
                “I’ve kissed a boy,” she almost whispered. Her eyes closed in mortification at the admission.
                “And how was it?” Shikarou pressed his lips over the pulse in her wrist and Fumiko’s breath caught in her throat.
                She tried to concentrate on the conversation. “At first it was ok, but then he tried to stick his tongue in my mouth. Then it was just wet. It was before I was sent to a pokegirl to get tamed for the first time and I didn’t know what he was trying to do.”
                Shikarou grinned against her wrist. When he knew he wasn’t going to laugh out loud he continued, sucking gently on her wrist. Fumiko whimpered.
                “Did I hurt you?”
                “No.” Once again she whispered to him. “It feels good.” He felt her pulse speed up.
                “That’s how it’s supposed to feel.” Shikarou ran the tip of his tongue from her wrist up her arm to the inside of her elbow. She trembled in his hands. He gently kissed the hollow there and Fumiko gasped. “This is always supposed to feel good, so if I do something that doesn’t feel good, I want you to let me know.” He lifted his head slightly to look up at her again. Her gaze was slightly unfocused as she concentrated on what he was doing. “If there is something that you want me to do, something that feels good to you, I want you to tell me what it is.”
                Fumiko nodded unconsciously. “That’s what Kimiko said. She told me that if I was very lucky I’d get a Tamer who cared about what I liked.” She reached up with her free hand and stroked one of his ears. “I was jealous of Yushiko when I first saw you. I hoped that I would get a Tamer who might be like you. I never dreamed that you would be mine.”
                Shikarou lifted his head and Fumiko leaned forward to meet him as their lips touched. Fumiko’s lips parted when he brushed them with his tongue and the kiss deepened. She was never sure how long that first kiss lasted, but she was breathless when he pulled away.
                Her eyes opened slightly and watched his mouth form a smile. “You stopped off for some kind of fruit drink on the way home.”
                She smiled back. “A cherry fizz.”
                “I can taste it in you.” He kissed her again and she sighed, leaning into it. He let her taste some of the hunger that sang in his blood and she moaned quietly against him. Her hands crept up and around his neck to wrap in his hair as she kissed back.
                She shivered when he slid his hands under her and lifted, the skin on her legs burning at his touch. They continued to kiss as he carried her down the hall and into his room, sliding the door shut with his foot.
                Shikarou sat her gently on the edge of the bed and broke the kiss, sliding down to the floor in front of Fumiko. Her eyes opened and she watched him lazily as he untied and removed her shoes and socks.
                His eyes met hers as he lifted her foot and licked her instep. She jerked. “That tickles.” He smiled and kissed her ankle. Fumiko gasped. She trembled as he kissed his way up her leg to her knee and moaned softly when he twisted to kiss the hollow behind it. Her skin burned as Shikarou ran his tongue in a line up the inside of her thigh to where her skirt brushed his face. He lifted it with his nose and peeked. He raised an eyebrow and flicked an ear. “Pink?”
                She laughed breathlessly. “I like pink.” He smiled and crawled onto the bed next to her, moving with an animal grace that made her knees go weak.
                “Lie back.” She settled backwards on the bed slowly, unwilling to break her gaze with him. His eyes burned into hers as he pulled her blouse out of her skirt
                Fumiko gasped when he rubbed his cheek against the smooth flesh of her stomach, twisting to rub his face against her over and over, his breath hot on her skin. Her skin burned when his tongue began licking her stomach with long, broad strokes and she jumped when his fingers undid the bottommost button on her blouse, giving him greater access to her. The air was heavy with her scent and she trembled nonstop as he worked his way up her body, one button at a time, until the last one came undone. Carefully he slid her blouse to the sides, draping it around her like a nest. He smiled as her bra was revealed. “Pink again. They match.” His breath made her skin quiver and although her mouth moved, no words came.
                Shikarou cocked his head. “It fastens in the back. Too bad.” His lips kissed her skin where the cups of her bra met and Fumiko lifted her head curiously when he took it in his mouth. His head twisted slightly, moving the bra to the side of his jaw, and when he closed his mouth there was a crunch and the halves of the bra sprang sideways to fall at her sides. He smiled again. “That’s better.”
                Fumiko’s head spun and she suddenly remembered to breathe. She closed her eyes and took a deep, shuddering breath. When she opened them, Shikarou was removing his shirt. She watched the play of his muscles with awe, and a little tremor of fear.
                Her fingers clenched the sheets as Shikarou dropped his head down to her stomach and licked his way back up towards her breasts. He raised his eyes to hers and blew gently on one of her nipples. She hissed, which became a loud moan when his lips closed over it and he sucked gently. Her blood boiled as he nursed at her breast.
                Fumiko pressed her thighs together and twisted, moaning as she tried vainly to quench the fire in her loins as Shikarou suckled first one nipple and then the other. The moment seemed suspended in time and yet ended all too quickly when he lifted his head and kissed her hungrily, once again drawing the breath from her lungs.
                She made an unhappy noise and lifted her head to follow his lips and he chuckled quietly. Fumiko dropped back to the bed when he kissed her nipples again and began kissing his way down her abdomen.
                Her skin burned beneath his touch as he slid his hands behind her and undid the fastenings of her skirt and slid it down over her hips and off her legs to lie in a heap on the floor. Shikarou rested his head on her thigh and looked up at her. “Take off your blouse.” Fumiko slid it and the remains of her bra off and tossed them away.
                Shikarou took a deep breath, taking her scent deep into his lungs, and Fumiko’s thighs fell open when he exhaled warm air over them. She shivered again and the sheets creaked in her grip. He lifted and turned her, pulling her fully onto the bed and his blue eyes filled with heat as he hooked his thumbs in the waistband of her panties and eased them over her hips, moving with them as he slid them down her legs and dropped them on the floor.
                He eased her legs apart and crawled between them, kissing her knees and then slowly licking his way up her thighs. He paused, and looked up at her as he closed his mouth over her wetness. Fumiko gasped and moaned when she felt his tongue seeking out her hidden places. She cried out to the heavens, the gods and mostly to her kami until her body tightened and convulsed and Fumiko screamed at her release.
                When she was aware again, Shikarou was looking down at her with concern. “Are you all right?”
                She gave him a shaky smile and replied in a quavering voice, “I’ve never gone so hard before.”
                He smiled. “I’m glad, but we’re not done quite yet.” Fumiko bit her lip as she felt his cock nestle into her opening, spreading her petals as he slowly forced his way inside. Pleasure and pain mingled together until he was fully inside her and then the pain slowly faded away and the pleasure grew until it threatened to engulf her as her Tamer slowly stroked himself into her. Fumiko began to moan in time to his thrusts and her hips rose to meet him. With each thrust the pleasure grew higher, its promise to swallow her up becoming ever closer to fulfillment.
                She felt something change, he swelled even larger inside her and increased the speed of his thrusts and her legs rose to drape over his hips and encourage him to even greater speed.
                Sudden liquid heat spilled into her from him and the pleasure roared over her like a tsunami.
                When she opened her eyes again, it was with a contented smile when she looked into his satisfied gaze. She opened her mouth and he pressed a finger against her lips. “You don’t want to try to talk. From your eyes you’ve entered taming shock and I don’t want you to get frustrated when all you can say is tit.”
                Fumiko nodded, frowned slightly and touched a large bruise on his collar. She made an inquiring noise.
                Shikarou kissed her on gently. “You happened, that’s what. That, my dear, is where you bit me.” Her eyes widened in surprise. “Yes, you did it.” She touched it again and her smile broadened. “I’m glad you’re pleased,” he replied in an amused tone. She nodded as her eyes danced with laughter.
                Shikarou slid off of her and gathered his Titto into his arms. “Now rest, we’ve got about a half hour before Branwyn comes looking for us. Your family will want to spend some time with you tonight, and I don’t think they want to watch us bond more.”
                Fumiko giggled.
                “Oh, and Fumiko?” She looked at him curiously. “You are not too skinny.” Her eyes lit up and she hugged him tight.
                Shikarou glanced up as Branwyn folded up her com. He was currently playing Go with Fumiko, and considering she was beating him handily, any distraction was a good one.
                It was nice to be back at Caomh Sith, he mused, even as he listened to the rain pounding the inn and watched it run over the windows of the taproom. The temperature had finally risen above freezing and rain was washing away the snow.
                The Unicorn noticed him watching and smiled. “That was Poppet.”
                He grunted. “So how much are we charging her this time?” Fumiko stopped eying the board and watched the two of them intently. She was always trying to be aware of what was happening around her, something Shikarou heartily approved of. It kept you alive.
                “C50000. I know it’s not much, but it’s the standard fee. She needs me to do an inspection of a pokegirl ranch. It’s required as part of the reciprocal agreements between the leagues, each one periodically inspects ranches in other leagues.” She shrugged. “We also sometimes inspect ranches in other regions in the Blue League. That’s what this is all about.”
                “I’m the only qualified inspector nearby. The only other one we have is Ming Die and she’s currently not working at the Conservatory.”
                “Neither are you.”
                Branwyn nodded. “I know, but Poppet’s in a bind, the Conservatory has to do this inspection and she’s never gotten certified.”
                “So she gets another freebie.” It wasn’t a question. “The money really isn’t that important, but it’s often the only way to remind others that our time is valuable too.” He cocked his head, thinking. “From now on, all personal requests like that have to go through me. Poppet knows I would have balked so she went around me to you and played on your sense of responsibility.” He shook his head. “Well, it’s done. So where is this ranch?”
                “It’s in the England. The Shurcliff Ranch. It’s down by Falmouth.” She smiled as Shikarou looked blank. “I didn’t expect you to have heard of it.”
                “Well, you’re right.” His voice was uninflected. “I’ll do some reading before we get there. So, when do we leave?”
                “I’ll need to call and schedule the inspection. Are we doing anything for the next couple of days?”
                “No. Set up what you need to and I’ll let Lynn know we’ll be leaving again soon.”
                Branwyn nodded. “We may be there for a couple of days, so it’s likely we’ll end up visiting Falmouth for Sadie Pokens Day.”
                “Do you think I should I be impressed or worried that you make it sound like I should know what you are talking about, and yet I don’t?”
                Branwyn smiled. “Well in part you don’t know what I’m talking about because Lynn decided not to have a celebration here, at least this year. She talked to everyone here, and they’re happy where they are. When the community gets big enough, we’ll have to have one, but I think we are going to need some unusual rules, and we’ll discuss it later.”
                “Sadie Pokens day is a get away free card for pokegirls. On this day, all pokegirls in an area where it’s celebrated are released at sunrise and are free to choose new Tamers, if they so desire, with no recriminations or strings. They have until sunset, and then all of the unattached pokegirls are eligible to be captured by whoever wants. It’s first thrown, first caught as soon as the sun goes down and anyone who can go into a pokeball is fair game.”
                Shikarou’s eyes narrowed dangerously and his ears snapped flat. “Not around here they’re not.” His voice rumbled.
                “Of course not.” Branwyn watched him carefully. His anger was unexpected. Welcome, but unexpected. “We don’t have the money to get the equipment that disables the pokeballs and the bonding circuitry, and when we do, we’ll designate an area for the festivities. Your unofficial pokegirls will be safe. Lynn also intends to discuss with you the possibility of having your unofficial harem given anti capture chips.” She gave him an even look. “I think you should just take them officially into your harem and be done with it.”
                Shikarou still looked unhappy. “If hoping that they stay safe and taking them into my harem are my options, I like your way the best.”
                Branwyn nodded. “I’ll start the paperwork on your Breeder’s license today. It shouldn’t take more than a day or so to get your approval.”
                “Isn’t there a two year wait?”
                “Normally, yes, but like in all things, it’s who you know.”
                “Then expedite it as much as possible.” Shikarou glared at nothing in particular, his eyes filled with blue fire. “I went to a lot of trouble to set this place up and if some baka unko thinks he’s going to pokeball the people who make this place work, I’ll tear his kidneys out of his torso and eat them in front of him before I let that happen.”
                “Down boy.” Faelan looked sternly at his brother from the doorway. “If you aren’t careful, Svetlana will hear you talking like that, and then she’ll make my life hell, at the very least.” He settled down at a nearby table and gestured to the Elf at the bar. “Cerveza, por favor.” She gave him a blank look. “A pint, please.” Comprehension flared in her eyes and she grabbed a mug off of the rack.
                “I think your alpha is right. If you bring the pokegirls you are taming on a regular basis into your harem officially, you won’t have to worry quite so much.” He accepted the beer from the Elf. “Thanks, dear. Besides, it’s not really fair to Molly and the others to leave them hanging.”
                “I’ve already agreed to make them part of my harem.” Shikarou glanced at the Go board and made a move. “Or did you miss that part?”
                “No, I just wanted to hear you say it specifically. That will reduce the number of kidneys you’ll be tempted to scarf down.” He made a face. “Gods but that sounds bizarre.  You don’t really want to eat human organs do you?” Shikarou gave him a flat look. “That’s good. Sometimes I wonder about you kami.”
                “I understand you have a shrine of your own, brother.”
                Faelan made a face. “Yeah, but I hear you’ve already outstripped me in popularity. You’re even granting prayers.” He nodded at Fumiko. “Your sister, Yushiko’s mother, is a good example.”
                Fumiko smiled. “Yes, she prayed for a child and now she’s pregnant. I prayed for a kind Tamer and now I have my kami as my Tamer.” Shikarou looked very uncomfortable at her words. Now that she had him off balance, she placed a new stone on the board and assured her victory.
                Faelan grinned at his brother’s discomfiture. “Let’s see, Misaki and Niamh are already in your harem, so you would add whom? Right, Molly, Candace, Lynn and Alice.” He nodded to nobody in particular. “I was thinking about claiming Amy, your police Cheshire. Now that I’m leaving the PLC and staying here full time, I’ll probably want to fill my harem to capacity.”
                Fumiko frowned. “I thought Amy was with Fang.”
                “Puhlease.” Faelan gave his brother a flat look. “I know exactly what Fang is, and you won’t let him complain, now will you? Fortunately for you, Svetlana hasn’t figured out what you did, and it’s probably for the best that she have no idea you can do that.”
                Shikarou shrugged. “You mean fortunately for her. Besides, he’s not dead, so he’s still able to help tame and eventually he’ll probably be one of the donors of genetic material when the pokegirls start breeding.” He smiled slyly. “Just like you.”
                Faelan glared. “Don’t go there. Svetlana is already planning our new home, and it’s got a huge nursery. I’m not sure if it’s a large home or a small pokegirl ranch that she’s designing.” He shuddered. “I’m not ready for this.”
                “You never are.” Shikarou had a far away look in his eyes. “When Pallaius told me she was pregnant the first time, I caught myself planning escape routes.”
                “Did she ever know?”
                Shikarou shook his head. “No. It wasn’t any of her business and I got over it once our first daughter was born. Just remember one thing, no matter what Svetlana might think and no matter what she might insist; children aren’t nearly as fragile as she’s going to think her first one is. She’ll know better by the time the second one comes around, and by the fifth, she’ll be tossing them to you to deal with without looking to see if you catch the little darlings.”
                Faelan choked. “Fifth? Ye gods, how many children do you think I’m going to have?”
                “With a full harem, and an empty town,” Shikarou looked thoughtful for a moment. “Say three kids per pokegirl, maybe a lot more with Svetlana, she’s got that look, oh, twenty, at least while this group is fertile. Later you’ll have more.”
                The pint shattered in Faelan’s grip.
Name:                                                     Urufu Shikarou                                                    
Age:                                                       250                                                                                         
Residence:                                             Caomh Sith, Blue Continent                                                              
Region:                                  Scotland                                                                                               
Status:                                                    Active                                                                                   
Rank:                                                      55                                                                                           
Security Clearance:                              Delta                                                                                      
                Tamer                                     Y                                                            
                Master Tamer                       Y                                                            
                Researcher                            N                                                            
                Watcher                 N                                                            
                Breeder                  Y                            
Active Harem
Species                  Name                                      Level                     
Alaka-Wham                         Circe                                       57                                           
Unicorn                  Branwyn                                47                                           
ElfQueen                                Gwyneth                                42                                           
Neo Iczel                                Ruiling                   33                                           
Armsmistress                        Urufu Yushiko      34                                           
G-Spliced                               Pythia                                     28                                           
Active Harem – Storage
Sphinx                                    Lorelei                                   35                                           
Vampire                  Elizabeth                                22                                           
Titto                                       Fumiko                   15                                           
Alpha                                     Branwyn
Beta                                        Lynn
Badges: Scotland: Stornoway, Rum Island, Glasgow
Inactive Harem – Caomh Sith
ElfQueen                Lynn                                       33
Denmother            Molly                                     49
NurseJoy               Candace                 45
OfficerJenny         Alice                                       35
Ladyien Niamh                                     28

Venuswhore          Misaki                                    20