Chapter 10: Sadie Pokens in the Eye
                Pythia appeared in front of Shikarou, her tongue lolling out in a grin as she held out her arms. “Your chariot awaits, master.” Shikarou stepped into her arms with a smile and she lifted off, her arms wrapping tightly enough around him to make his ribs creak. She chuckled when he raised an eyebrow. “Just making sure you are secure. Branwyn would do nasty things to me if I dropped you.” The view jumped like a bad splice in a movie. “And here we go,” she commented as they started to descend. “The Shurcliff Pokegirl Ranch.”
                Once they landed, Shikarou looked around as he started releasing pokegirls. Compared to the Conservatory, the place was huge, with large buildings set on a rough lawn stretching in several directions. He knew that the Conservatory was actually much larger, only ninety percent of the Conservatory’s facilities were underground, a side benefit of being built at the end of the worst war in history.
                Pythia had landed just outside the main gate and by the time Shikarou had released his girls, a man in a small electric cart was headed towards them from the main building.
                Shikarou chuckled. “That looks like a golf cart.”
                Branwyn gave him an odd look. “That’s because it is a golf cart.”
                “They still play golf?”
                “Of course they do. If one Scot made it through the end of the world, you can rest assured that golf survived as well.”
                Something in her tone caught his attention and he gave her a suspicious look. “Do you play golf?”
                She smiled sweetly. “Of course I do.”
                “I hate golf.”
                Her mouth thinned into a line. “I see,” she said in a lofty tone. “I knew you were a barbarian, but I never suspected you were that uncivilized.” She shook her head. “Well, it’s a good thing your brother plays. He was already planning to set up a course on the island.” She patted him on the cheek. “It’s ok; you’ll come to enjoy it.” The look she got in return suggested she had a lot of work ahead of her. “Hate golf,” she muttered. “The next thing you’ll be telling me is that you don’t like curling, either.”
                Shikarou kept his mouth shut.
                The man in the golf cart drove up and got out, looking around at the assembled pokegirls carefully and finally focusing on Shikarou. “Welcome to the Shurcliff Pokegirl Ranch. I’m Geoffrey Ames, the owner, and from what I can see, you wouldn’t be wanting any of my pokegirls.”
                “Thank you, Mr. Ames. I’m Shikarou and this is my alpha, Branwyn.”
                “How do you do, Branwyn?”
                “I’m well, Mr. Ames. I’m from the Harris Conservatory; I believe you were aware you were going to be inspected?”
                “Aye, that I was. Will all of you be inspecting my place?”
                Branwyn smiled. “No, my Tamer and the rest of my harem will find a place to set up camp and then they’ll find someplace quiet and train, if that’s all right with you.”
                Ames nodded. “Would you mind if I let some of my kits watch? Most of them haven’t seen a real battle before, much less training.”
                Branwyn gave Shikarou a questioning look, but he was already nodding. “That would be perfectly acceptable, Mr. Ames. I’m always willing to help out with children.”
                “Thank you sir, you are doing me a kindness.” Ames gestured the cart. “If you would, Branwyn?” She got gracefully into the cart and was whisked away.
                Shikarou looked at his pokegirls. “Ladies, let us get this started, Gwyneth, you are the odd lady out and get to protect me.” He glanced around. “Don’t forget we’re going to have a group of pokegirls coming out to watch us train, so let’s try to put on a good show for them and not hurt anyone at the same time.”
                Gwyneth pointed. “Is that them?” She sounded surprised.
                Shikarou looked. His ears flicked sideways. “Oh.” A quick estimate put the number of pokegirls pouring towards them somewhere between fifty and a hundred. They ranged in age from five or six all the way to their teens, probably already of an age to go to beginning Tamers. A handful of older looking pokegirls were trying to ride herd on them and it appeared to his educated eye that they were fighting a losing battle.
                He made a quick decision. “Circe, get some saplings and mark out a large area for them all to sit in. Yushiko, Pythia, Fumiko start queuing them up. We’ll do this in an orderly fashion and get them all settled down before we start our demonstration. That’s right, it appears that training isn’t going to happen, and instead it looks like we’re the day’s entertainment.”
                Gwyneth looked curious. “What do you want me to do?”
                “You get to run interference for me. Intercept any pokegirl who wants to talk to me. I don’t have room in my harem and I’m not interested in hearing the instructors apologize for the fact their girls are usually so well behaved. Hop to it, ladies.”
                With Shikarou supervising, the entire evolution went smoothly and soon the show started.
                The pokegirls were treated to displays of power that they could only dream of someday having. There were some one on one “battles”, but they were never full bore combats and Shikarou picked the winner by listening to the children’s cheering, although he was careful to make sure that every member of his harem won at least one of these bouts.
                He was surprised at how involved the members of his harem quickly became, there were some silly speeches and posturing during the “battles” and all in all he was very pleased at how the whole thing had turned out, he mused as he watched the last kid being shepherded off. Autographs had been signed and there had been about a fifteen minute question and answer session that went smoothly once Shikarou had been firm about ignoring any questions about openings in the harem.
                It had been a little disheartening to see the educational level of the pokegirls here, most of them could only do what he called money math. That meant that they could make change from small denominations of money. As far as he could tell, none of them, including the euphemistically termed teachers, could read. It wasn’t Ames fault; he was following Blue League policy to the letter, which only emphasized to Shikarou where the true fault lay.
                It was a waste of potential, one that he would not tolerate on Caomh Sith, and the Blue League could fuck off and die if it thought that it could mandate otherwise. While he hadn’t considered it very much before this point, he now knew that there would be a topnotch educational system on the island for anyone who wanted to go and damn the consequences.
                That evening, after rounding up the strays that “just happened” to wander down to the camp, Branwyn and the others got a good laugh out of watching portions of the recording of the days events.
                After dinner, Shikarou noticed a sudden lack of pokegirl in his life and went looking for the source. He found all of them, including the girls who were supposed to be in stasis, gathered in Branwyn’s room, clustered around the Unicorn while she worked on her computer. She blanked the screen hastily as he poked his head into the room and gave him a hesitant smile. “Can I help you?” Everyone else, with the exception of Pythia, looked nervous. The G-Spliced looked bored.
                “Just wondering what was going on. Something seems different this evening and I suddenly realized I was alone.”
                “We’re updating your Tamerdex entry.” Pythia looked amused.
                “My what?”
                Branwyn smiled. “So you didn’t know. That would explain why you haven’t set up an entry. Don’t worry, I took care of it.”
                “You see, on there is a database of Tamers and it’s called the Tamerdex. It’s a way to track victories, battle strategies, and so on. It also allows individual Tamers talk about themselves, mostly to impress other Tamers, but it’s also for talking up pokegirls in reference to Sadie Pokens, to try and get more pokegirls to join their harems. Your pokedex Tamer rank is averaged with the scores from your latest Megami scan as well as your last psychic evaluation and is used to compile a total taming rank or TTR. Ranks are used to compare yourself against other Tamers all over the world.”
                “And you set up an entry for me?” Shikarou gave her a hesitant look when she nodded. “Uh, thanks. Sorry to intrude.” He closed the door behind him as he left and went to his room, pulling out his pokedex as he went.
                “Aggie, access my entry and let me see it.”
                Very well. Here it is.
                He read through it quickly. “Well, it says I don’t have a TTR since I haven’t been evaluated by a Megami and psychic pokegirl, but it will happen the first time I attend a Sadie Pokens event. My entry is pretty sparse as well, but that’s fine by me.” He stretched and leaned back against his pillows. “Do a search and see if you can find anything else about me.”
                Give me a minute. Time passed. Interesting. It turns out that there is a second layer to the Tamerdex and the encryption is fairly sophisticated.
                “Can you defeat it?”
                Already done. I said sophisticated, not difficult. Not for me, anyway. Just a moment, there’s a lot of data here. It’s another database linked to the individual Tamer entries. Apparently only pokegirls can access it. It won’t show up on a Tamer’s pokedex at all and no Tamer would be using a pokegirl’s computers.
                “What do pokegirls need an exclusive section for?”
                The entries are very explicit and quite a few are not flattering at all. All of then seem to be done by pokegirls who have interacted on some significant level with the Tamer that they are writing about. There is also a rating system in use here, and numbers sometimes show a large difference from that of the official Tamer rankings.
                “So what does it say about me?” Shikarou couldn’t help it.
                Your rankings are positive and you are solidly in the high eighty percent approval ranking, your TTR is 87.59 out of a possible one hundred. Apparently you have been scanned by Svetlana and Branwyn, and an unofficial scan is accepted here.
                “I don’t think I want to know any more right now.”
                Faelan looked around carefully. Yeah, it was built in the center of an impact crater of some kind, and the idiots didn’t have the sense to level the ground, but essentially Dogpatch wasn’t any different from the many small towns he’d passed through in the last twelve years. Which of course, still left him wondering why Svetlana had insisted that they come here for Sadie Pokens day. Usually they passed the holiday in a WAPL league, so as to keep up his accreditation. Well, you only had to spend every other year there if you were outside the league full time, so his was still safe.
                Right now Dogpatch was heavily decorated with bunting and banners hanging everywhere that one could be stuck. He thought it looked like someone had dropped a circus from about a kilometer above and what he was left examining was the wreckage of the crash.
                Svetlana covered her mouth as she gave a huge yawn. Her eyes watched him over her hand. “You know, sometimes you are so annoying. You don’t look the slightest bit tired.”
                He cocked his head. “Right. After twelve years you don’t know that I don’t sleep and I don’t get tired like you mortals do. I just need a couple of hours of meditation and I’m fine.”
                She sighed. “Is your brother like that?”
                “Worse, I suspect. As we get older we seem to need less rest.”
                “Lovely.” She glanced around. “Well tomorrow is the big day. Did you get the sensor array set up like I asked?”
                “Yes. Everything is focused around that area over there. There isn’t anything there, but I did what you wanted. Care to explain?”
                Svetlana looked up. “Oh, there she is. Be right back.” She hurried off.
                Faelan watched her leave. “I didn’t think so.” He straightened up when Svetlana stopped to talk to a pokegirl with beautiful white wings and long platinum blonde hair. She practically oozed Celestialness. “Now what?” He pulled out his wand and cast an eavesdropping spell. He never put much stock in the rumors of a conspiracy involving the Celestials as a group, but it never hurt to gather more information. Knowledge is power, blah blah blah ad nauseum.
                The winged pokegirl was talking. “In truth, mine Tamer was lost during the ensuing battle. Mine heart is rent, but needs must I continue mine quest. So I have come unto you to beseech your aid in attaining a powerful and daring Tamer to stand at mine side during mine journey.”
                Faelan winced and lifted his pokedex in their general direction. Seraph. From the conversation, he figured as much. Ugh.
                Svetlana was responding. “Well, no matter what you’ve heard, my Tamer doesn’t do that anymore. We’re retired. In fact we’re going to be raising a family soon.” (Faelan winced again.)
                “Wondrous news indeed. Canst thou direct me to another? Thine sisters guided me to thee, claiming that thou wouldst be able to give mine life direction.”
                “What the hell?” Faelan listened harder. Perhaps this conspiracy theory needs reevaluation.
                “Yes, I do. He’s perfect for your needs, sister, and you can help us. We’ve been trying to get eyes into his harem, and he’d like you, I think. At least, if you play your cards right, he won’t be able to justify trading you away.”
                The Seraph snorted. “What the gods hast decreed, no mortal shall deny. If his understanding be lessened, then his eyes I shall open.”
                “Excellent. That’s a good attitude to take.” Svetlana chuckled. “And later you can help to get his blood into our lines.”
                Even from where he was, Faelan could see the Seraph blush. “Svetlana! As thou knowest, there art certain topics that art not ever for proper discourse.” She looked around eagerly. “Prithee, tell me, where art my new Tamer?”
                “Oh, he’s not here. I couldn’t allow that. Especially not now. It’s the prophecy.”
                “Truly great is it if that blessed time hast finally arrived! And yet, curiosity drives me to inquire as to how mine new Tamer couldst cause discord with thee and thy sister’s ordained plans?”
                “He’s a magnet for trouble. We couldn’t take a chance on others disrupting what’s going to happen tomorrow, and if he was here, something would happen. Something bad.”
                “Indeed, a wonderful choice is he.” The Seraph’s eyes glowed. “So where might this great hero be, that I might join him forthwith?”               
                “I’ll take you to the gym in Plymouth and from there it’s not a long flight to Falmouth. He’ll be there and you can join him tomorrow during the celebration.”
                “Then let our journey to him begin without delay”
                Faelan watched Svetlana take the Seraph’s hand and disappear. “Why do I suspect that this does not bode well?” he asked no one in particular. “Well, I warned him about garnering attention.” He snickered. “Listening to her talk should be fun. ‘Master, mine heart art indeed filled with true longing for thy mighty weapon. Fucketh me with all dispatch.’”
                Others looked at him curiously as he dissolved in laughter, slowly collapsing to the ground as he howled with glee.
                “What is so funny?” It was Svetlana, she was back and she looked cross.
                Faelan sucked air and fought the giggles that tried to escape. “I think I peed myself.” He patted his crotch. “Oh, good, I was wrong.”
                “I asked what was so funny.”
                “I’m not sure that you would find it funny.” He took a deep breath and climbed to his feet. “Why are you trying to stick a Seraph in Shikarou’s harem?”
                She glared. “No one will talk to me about why there are three Yakuza working on the island. Hopefully she will find out.” Her eyes narrowed. “Do you know?”
                Faelan grinned. “I know that they aren’t Yakuza anymore.” His smile widened. “You’re hoping that she’ll be able to keep him on what you think is the straight and narrow, don’t you? How old is she?”
                “She’s nearly seventeen. A grown adult. She can handle him.”
                “Shikarou is over two and a half centuries old. She doesn’t stand a chance.” He snickered.
                “What?” Svetlana snapped.
                “I’m trying to imagine what a Seraph will look like when Shikarou gets through corrupting her. Perhaps she’ll evolve. I know, she’ll become a K-Sera-Sera.” He grinned. “The Get Along Pokegirl.” He made a sound suspiciously like a snicker.
                “There’s no such thing. Never happen. I’d bet anything that Shikarou won’t be able to corrupt her.”
                “I’ll take some of that.”
                Svetlana looked startled. “You only bet on sure things.”
                He gave her a serene smile. “That’s right. So what kind of odds are you giving and what do I get when you lose.”
                Shikarou rolled out of bed, giving Elizabeth a fond nuzzle as he did so. She opened her eyes sleepily and smiled. “Do I need to get up?”
                He shook his head as he slipped on a robe. “No. Not for another hour or so.”
                “Ok.” She yawned and pulled the covers over her head.
                Shikarou headed out into the common area just as Branwyn appeared. “How do you do that?”
                He smiled. “The delta bond lets me know when you are awake.” He watched her critically as she used her wand to create tea and biscuits. “You’re improving quickly.” He eyed the tray. “Cubes. I don’t understand the Blue Continent obsession with sugar cubes.”
                Branwyn shrugged as she poured him a cup. “Habit. Kind of like your taste for sake.” She gave him a glance. “To me, hot or cold it tastes bad.”
                He nodded. “You’re probably right about it being a habit. So what’s the plan for today?”
                “I’ll finish the inspection. It should only take about half the day. Then we can move on to Falmouth. Are you going to put on another show?”
                “No. I’ll work with Pythia and Circe on spells and I’m going to test Fumiko’s magic capabilities today. Hopefully she won’t be like Yushiko. She tested so high, it’s been frustrating that she can’t learn any spells.” He shook his head slowly. “I’m hesitant about doing anything significant until after Sadie Pokens Day and I find out how many pokegirls elect to leave my harem.”
                “Don’t forget the pokegirls who may join you.”
                He snorted. “Doubtful. I’m not a well known Tamer and my scores are mediocre. Hell, I don’t even have a TTR yet.” Shikarou lifted an eyebrow. “Here I was busy poking fun at sugar cubes and I completely missed your love of acronyms.” He returned to business. “Of course I’m going to get my first formal scan, and the responses of the scanners should be fun. I’m hoping for panic.”
                “That’s not very nice.”
                “No, but it would be funny and I’m going for the fun part, not the catching pokegirls part.”
                “I see. And what about the frantic rush to catch pokegirls at the end of the day? Will you participate in that?”
                “I’m not planning on it. So, my alpha, would you have me reconsider that decision?”
                She gave him an amused look. “And have my time with you cut back even further? Ha!” Branwyn got up and moved around to where he was sitting and pulled up her skirt before settling into his lap. She kissed him gently. “I resent the time I have to give up now, why would I want to give up even more?”
                Shikarou slipped his arms around her and she made a contented noise as she settled back against him. Then she frowned.
                “What is it?”
                “I left my tea over there.” Shikarou handed her his cup. “Thanks. Um, how much sugar did you put in yours?”
                “Can I have three lumps please?”
                Shikarou finished the spell and held out his hand as Fumiko peered intently at it. “Tell me what you see, if anything, in as much detail as you can.”
                The Titto cocked her head. “It’s some kind of animal. I think it’s a wolf.” Her eyes widened. “It’s looking at me. It sees me!” She glanced back up at Shikarou, who nodded encouragingly. “Now it’s wagging its tail.”
                “Ok, that’s enough.” Shikarou dismissed the spell. “You have a great deal of magical talent. That’s not always enough; you have to have the drive to cast spells as well.”
                “Where did you learn magic?”
                “I was apprenticed to a powerful mage just as soon as I was old enough. She taught me a great deal of the magic I know. The rest I picked up while traveling and while I was serving the Empress, I had time to continue my studies.”
                “Am I going to learn as much as you know?”
                Shikarou considered. “Well, there are a couple of you who have the necessary talent, but while we are on the road I won’t be able to give you the kind of teaching you need. Maybe after we settle down I’ll be able to teach full time. I’d have to recreate my books, though. I didn’t bring them with me. It might be easier to learn another style myself and teach that to you, but in the meantime I’ll try to keep teaching as much as circumstances allow.”
                “Does everyone have the talent?”
                “No. The spell I just used tests for raw magical talent. The more you see, and greater the detail you see it in, the greater your potential. Those with no potential won’t see anything at all.”
                Fumiko stared at the floor for a moment before looking directly into his eyes. “Ruiling is considering leaving the harem.”
                Shikarou didn’t look surprised. “I thought she might. Is anyone else?”
                “Not that I’m aware of. Ruiling talks to me more than she talks to the others. She thinks that since we both come from Edo, then we have something in common. She doesn’t understand that she’s just as much gaijin as Branwyn.” She muttered quietly under her breath. “Only Branwyn’s not an overbearing bitch.”
                Fumiko looked startled at his voice. “I’m sorry; I didn’t realize that you could still hear me.”
                Shikarou smiled gently. “Considering that I have to tell the truth, I have no intention of getting angry when you speak your mind. As for Ruiling, she is a bitch to those she feels are beneath her, which in one form or another includes everyone else in the harem. The only reason she doesn’t lump me in with you is because other than the first time, every time we cross blades, I win.”
                He sighed. “It doesn’t help that the one time she defeated me, I was winning. She only won because I surrendered, and she knows it. It eats at her every time she thinks about it, which considering her personality, is quite often.”
                “What are you going to do?”
                “She is free to leave on Sadie Pokens. There is nothing I can do. Perhaps she will be happier with another Tamer, one who is more malleable.” He sighed. “I was hoping she’d be like the Neo Iczel in Devon’s harem, Paulette. Apparently she works well with most of the others, with occasional exception of Hatsumi.”
                And with her current behavior, I’ll probably be happier to be rid of her, too.
                “Now, let’s get back to the topic. Magic.” He began to give Fumiko the standard introductory lecture that he’d given to each of the others that he’d started to teach. Fumiko paid close attention as he spoke.
                Faelan shook his head sadly. The festivities were already gearing up and smoke was starting to hover over the town from all of the different cooking units that were starting to produce victuals. It made sense from a practical viewpoint, the Tamers and pokegirls got free food all day long and everyone knew that Tamer’s had bottomless stomachs, so you wanted to start cooking early. Even he was looking forward to the promised smorgasbord.
                His problem was with the appearance. Earlier he’d thought that the place looked like a circus that had crash landed. Now the wreckage had caught fire.
                He was glad that he hadn’t brought any of the other members of his harem. Derdekea and Tetsuyo had both told him that they weren’t interested in leaving his harem and only the truly insane would have even considered bringing Zorione here. The Penance wouldn’t have stopped running until May. He recalled sadly that the twins had often left him while they were still alive; they loved escaping from their new Tamers and returning to him. Ah, well, not this year.
                He still didn’t know why Svetlana had insisted that they come here. Idly he watched another group of Tamer’s enter the village. They glanced at him as they passed by. A tall Asian boy with black hair in a short tight braid, another young man, smaller and weaker looking, with a red ballcap and jacket, and another boy. His nose twitched and informed him that the third boy wasn’t. He was a she. And a he?
                More out of habit than anything else, Faelan queried their pokedexes with one of the extra programs the PLC had loaded onto his when he joined their ranks. They’d deleted them when he retired, but his AI had recreated them with little difficulty. Ranma Saotome, Ash Sexum-Saotome and Ukyo Kuonji. Kuonji was the girl. His pokedex flickered and displayed additional data. Kuonji was a pokegirl. A Titto.
                Well that explained the problem his nose was having.
                She was also registered as a Tamer. Great, another one of those. He pushed away from the wall he was leaning against and stopped. He no longer worked for the PLC and didn’t care if a Titto was masquerading as a human. Shikarou was right, if they could get away with it, then so much the better for everyone else.
                Faelan decided to return to the camp and roust out Svetlana. The festivities would start in a couple of hours, and since he didn’t know why they were here, he’d better make sure they didn’t miss whatever it was because his Megami-sama decided to sleep in again.
                He glanced back as he moved off and noticed that the Tamers were headed for the pokecenter. Made sense to him, but he’d keep an eye on them anyway, if only for old times sake.
                Branwyn looked around at the assembled harem. Everyone looked excited and a little anxious. “Now remember, you can always find us by using the communication spell I’ve cast. It’s got voice communication and will allow you to vector in on me and I’m not leaving Shikarou’s side. It’ll last for eight hours, and before it expires at 1300 I’ll call out to let you know to come and have it renewed.”
                “Shikarou is going to give each of you your pokeball after we eat breakfast. Lunch and dinner will be out in the Falmouth community. There’s supposed to be lots of activities and almost any kind of food you can think of, or so they advertise. This is THE Sadie Pokens event for this part of the Blue League, so attendance is expected to be heavy and there will be plenty of Tamers for you to evaluate if you desire to leave. If you want out of the harem, Shikarou has promised that there will be no hard feelings. I’m sure that he’ll repeat that to everyone before we break up.”
                She smiled. “I have a little something to add to that. If you want to leave the harem, fine. Go.” Her eyes narrowed. “But don’t expect to come crawling back if your new Tamer turns out to be not what you expected. I’m sure Shikarou would be willing to let you back, he’s soft that way, but if I see you first, you won’t ever make it to talk to him.”
                “He’s still unhappy about what Kiyoko did, and I know everyone of you has heard her story. No one is going to hurt him like that and come back to watch him suffer.” She gave Ruiling a level look. “No one.” Ruiling’s eyes narrowed and her mouth thinned, but she remained quiet.” Branwyn watched her for another few seconds before continuing.
                “For those who elect to remain in the harem, I want to warn you to be careful and come when I call. It’s still winter, no matter what the calendar says, and darkness comes quickly. If you get caught by someone after sundown, there is nothing Shikarou can legally do, and I really don’t want one of us to be the reason he has to kill someone else. Don’t misunderstand me. He will come for you if he believes you were illegally captured. However, after we get you back, I will be investigating and if you got caught because you were being stupid, I will make you pay for it.”
                “I think that’s it. Remember to check your watches, and worst case, flee to the pokegirl center. It’s off limits. Now according to my watch, it’s 0505. Sundown is at 1724 sharp. Other than that, let’s have fun. There’s free food and whatever else they can think up. If you drink a lot, remember it may cost you at 1724.”
                The Unicorn produced some business cards and handed one to each pokegirl. “Should you leave the harem, under whatever circumstances, I would like to hear from you, if only to know that you are all right. This has my com number and email addy on it, along with Shikarou’s and Molly’s back on Caomh Sith. Please get in touch with one of us as soon as you can so we know how you are doing.”
                “Now, let’s get breakfast ready for Shikarou. Fumiko, you have setup and Pythia, you and I are in the kitchen. Everyone else, breakfast is 0530 sharp.”
                Svetlana pointed excitedly. “There he is!”
                Faelan looked, expecting to see a star of one of the shows she’d become addicted to since they retired. “Where?”
                “There!” She pointed again.
                Faelan looked again. Maybe whatever she was so excited about was on the other side of the small group of Tamers. He recognized them as the group he’d seen this morning. “I really don’t see anything except those Tamers.”
                “Yes! In the Tamers! That’s him!”
                “Who, Saotome?”
                Svetlana whirled to stare accusingly at him. “You know him? But that’s impossible.”
                “I saw him, Sexum-Saotome and Kuonji when they entered town this morning.”
                She relaxed visibly. “Oh. That’s ok then.” She returned to watching the Tamers. “He’s special, you know. They call him “the Stallion”.
                “Sounds corny to me.”
                “That’s not why he’s so special. He’s like you and your brother, from another world. He’s also touched by fate. That’s why he’s here.” She smiled. “I shouldn’t be telling you this, but it’s too late for Shikarou to interfere.”
                “What do you have against him?”
                “There’s something not quite right about him. I don’t think he’s supposed to be here.”
                “Pythia says she brought him here.”
                “That’s impossible. No one can do that.”
                Faelan smirked. “What about fate? I remember a conversation about how it brought me here to fight a Giantess.”
                She frowned. “That’s not funny. Pythia can’t be a servant of fate. She’s not the right sort.”
                Faelan gave her an odd look. “Shikarou was a god once. Maybe she unknowingly serves him.”
                “You can’t be a god and then give it up. That’s even more absurd than Pythia being one of us.”
                “Us? What us are you talking about?”
                Svetlana flushed. “Just forget I said that.”
                “That’s not going to happen and you know it.” He shook his head. “Magnet for trouble or not, he is my brother and you are not going to conspire against him.” He met her gaze squarely. “I will not stand for it.”
                He suddenly looked vaguely sad. “If the rumored Megami coalition sets itself against my brother, then I will stand with him. With or without you.” Svetlana turned white. “And before you waste our time with denials, you have treated him like a convicted criminal since you met. Oh, you occasionally give him damning praise, but don’t be surprised if he recognizes it for what it is. He hasn’t done anything wrong. In fact, quite the opposite. He’s gone out of his way to help when we needed it, and without him, we would all be dead.” His ears flattened and rose. “So what is your problem with him?”
                Svetlana was staring at Faelan like she’d never seen him before. “Is he that important to you?”
                “Of course he is. He’s my brother. I would lay down my life for him and he for me.” He frowned. “I’m not sure how to explain the ties of blood. How many family members do you have?”
                Svetlana looked uncomfortable. “I can’t tell you.”
                “I see. You know, Shikarou will tell me anything that I ask him. If I don’t ask, then he might not think it important for me to know, but he won’t deny me the answer to a question that I ask him. You claim to love me and want to have my children, and yet your true loyalties lie elsewhere.” He stepped away from her. “What kind of life can we have together if you continue to treat me like this?” Faelan picked up his backpack. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed that once again you changed the subject instead of answering another question. So what is your problem with Shikarou? Which us are you talking about? And yesterday I asked you why you wanted the sensor array set up where it is and once again you changed the subject.”
                Svetlana’s eyes narrowed. “Do you know what Shikarou did to the three Yakuza on Caomh Sith?”
                “You’ve been with me for twelve years and you still don’t know how to ask a question. I’ve already told you that they are not Yakuza anymore. If you always ask the wrong question, then Shikarou is never going to answer your questions because you always give him a way out. And to answer the question you actually wanted to ask, yes, I do. You won’t like it.”
                The Megami-sama took a deep breath. “Will you tell me what Shikarou did to the three people that were Yakuza?”
                Svetlana waited. “Well?”
                “I answered your question.”
                She almost hissed. “What did he do to them?”
                “He pulled out their souls and reshaped that which makes them what they are to make them loyal to him.”
                Svetlana’s jaw dropped. “That’s impossible. How did he do that?” She had a wild look around her eyes.
                “I don’t know. I can’t do it. You’ll have to ask him. What is your problem with Shikarou?”
                “He’s dangerous and he doesn’t have any ties to keep him under control.”
                “He’s got ties to his harem and he owns land in the Blue Continent. Isn’t that enough?”
                “No. There are dangerous probabilities that spin around him like a tornado and Branwyn and Circe would never try to stop him.”
                “Well, your Seraph won’t be able to either. If he doesn’t love her and she gets in his way, he might kill her.”
                “You tell me he’s good with one breath and tell me he might murder a Celestial pokegirl in the next breath. Which is it?”
                “I never said he was good or evil and neither has he. If he has no emotional attachment to someone and they get in his way, he’ll kill if he thinks it’s necessary. That’s what he does.”
                “Why does he have to kill?”
                “You are still asking the wrong question. I’ve already told you that he only kills if he thinks it’s needed. He won’t otherwise.” He sighed at her obvious growing irritation. “You have to think while questioning Shikarou or you’re going to walk away from a conversation with him wondering if you were run over by a Snorlass. Ask me why killing is what he does. Ask me any question you want, but ask the right one if you expect to get the answers you seek.”
                Svetlana took a deep breath and thought. “Why does he kill so easily?”
                “Shikarou was a monster slayer, a hunter of oni and renegade humans. He was only sent for when there was no negotiating, no misunderstanding, and no other options. When he came in, something was going to die. He was very good and eventually if all you have is a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail.”
                “He might have become oni himself if he hadn’t met Pallaius.”
                “You said he was a god once. What kind? I mean what was he worshipped for?”
                “He was a god of death, of course.” Faelan smiled. “It’s kind of funny, at least to me, that now he’s being worshipped as someone who helps women get pregnant and helps pokegirls find the Tamer that will be best for them.”         
                “How did he stop being a god?”
                “I have no idea. I’ve never been one and I have no idea of where he stood in the god rankings. I never got a subscription to the newsletter. I suspect he was a minor god, most death gods are since death isn’t popular in Japan.”
                “Why hasn’t he been killing a lot more here? I would appreciate speculation if you don’t know.”
                “He doesn’t like killing. He never has, he’s just very, very good at it.”
                “How can I keep him from becoming a danger to everyone?”
                Faelan shrugged. “He’s going to kill those who get in his way. As for keeping him from becoming a general danger to the populace, you might want to stop acting like he already is one. If you don’t you could very well create that which you claim to want to prevent.”
                “All right, ladies, it’s Sadie Pokens day and if you want, this is your opportunity to look for a Tamer that you think you will do better with than me.” Shikarou looked around at the nine pokegirls who were watching him speak. Everyone looked nervous and excited, except for Elizabeth, who was hidden within the cloak he’d enchanted to protect her from the sun.
                They were just outside the sign proclaiming the city limits of Falmouth and the place was garish with ribbons and bunting strewn on anything that wasn’t moving. The air was rich with the scents of cooking food and already a huge crowd was starting to gather.
                “Each one of you has been given your pokeball and I believe Branwyn has explained the rules to you.” There was a murmured assent. “Then be careful out there, you would all make wonderful additions to anyone’s harem and I know that you will be courted for the rest of the day. Have fun and I hope you find the Tamer you want, even if it’s not me.”
                The group broke up quickly. Ruiling lifted off and flew over the crowd to a chorus of ahs from the new Tamers and Lorelei headed off with her pokeball clutched in one hand. Yushiko caught Shikarou before he could disappear. “Here, my lord.” She handed him her pokeball. “I am where I want to be.”
                “Thank you.” He accepted it solemnly.
                Behind Yushiko was Fumiko. The Titto smiled. “I am in my kami’s harem, what more would I dare to dream of?” He smiled and quietly took the offered pokeball. The two pokegirls disappeared into the crowd.
                Gwyneth looked at Circe and plucked the pokeball from the Alaka-Wham’s hand. She put it with her own before turning and offering both of them to Shikarou with a smile. “Why did you even bother to give these to us?”
                “You have to decide what you want to do for yourselves.” He tucked the pokeballs into his belt. “Have fun.”
                Gwyneth looked at Branwyn and jerked her head at their Tamer. “Who’s keeping him out of trouble?”
                The Unicorn gave Shikarou a sly look. “Pythia and I are. We both have investments to protect. She wants to make sure he’s available to defeat this threat and I want to make sure he stays available. You two go have fun. We’ll take care of him.”
                “I’m not leaving him either,” Elizabeth commented as she slipped her arm through his. “Not only is he my Tamer and my lover, but he’s also lunch and dinner.” Her eyes appeared in the hood. “Also any snacks that I want and dessert too, right? I get to drink my fill?”
                “Yes, today you can.” He shook his head gently and gave Branwyn an amused look. “It’s a good thing I’m going to have chaperones, apparently I’m going to need to stay hydrated.”
                Pythia took his other arm. “We will make sure you are pampered.” She smiled. “We’ve already taken care of your pokeball collection station and Branwyn has verified that you now have a Total Taming Rank. I understand that it isn’t all that impressive, but you have been underestimated before.” A toothy grin. “Louis underestimated you in Edo and I’m sure he wouldn’t think you quite so common, if he were alive.”
                Shikarou smothered a smile and then rethought and let it appear. “Very well. Ladies, what shall we try first?”
                “Would you like something to eat?”
                Svetlana nodded. “That would be nice.” They both had that brittle politeness that follows a fight between lovers. She glanced at him. “Are you still mad at me?”
                “I was exasperated, not mad and no, I’m not anymore.” He got into a line for some Italian food. Svetlana loved lasagna. “What now? If you don’t want to stay I can pick up the sensor heads and recordings later.”
                “I have to stay.”
                Svetlana started to speak and then stopped. She gave him a speculative look and nodded to herself before answering. “There is something that is supposed to happen tonight and it will take the combined power of several Megami and Megami-sama to make it happen.”
                “This involves Saotome, doesn’t it?”
                “Do you have to be so damned perceptive?” Svetlana flared.
                “Yes, I do.” The line finally made it to where he could pick up a couple of biodegradable plates and fill them with lasagna, after sticking two sets of cutlery in his pocket. He grabbed some garlic bread and balanced everything on a two glasses of iced lemonade as he made his way back.
                A quick juggling act and both of them had one of everything. Faelan calmly booted a couple of young Tamers off of a nearby bench and they settled down to eat.
                Svetlana made a halfhearted protest. “You didn’t have to do that.”
                “They know how the world works. The young Tamers move or they get stomped.” He smiled. “If I was nice that would send conflicting messages to them and they are confused enough.”
                Svetlana tried not to laugh, but didn’t have much success. “Are you going to ask why I’m so interested in Ranma?”
                “Didn’t think it was any of my business.”
                “Why is this now not your business?”
                “Earlier you asked me to do work for you. I deserve an explanation or the next time I might just tell you no. I’ve done it before. So, would you like to tell me why you are so interested in Saotome? He doesn’t seem to be your type.”
                “What is wrong with him?”
                “He’s not hero material. If he becomes a hero it’ll be by accident. You like your heroes deliberate.” He frowned. “I’ll bet that is one of the things about Shikarou that sets your teeth on edge; he’s hero material but doesn’t care at all about your vaunted battle between good and evil.”
                “I never considered it that way, but you may be right.” She took another forkful of food and chewed thoughtfully. “My sisters would be upset if they knew I talked to you about this.”
                Faelan nodded. “If that is overridingly important, then you shouldn’t.”
                “Oh, now you become understanding?”
                “No, now you have to decide where what is important to you. I’ve already said that Saotome isn’t important to me, if he were to drop dead right now it wouldn’t affect me one whit. However, apparently you may want to tell me why he’s so important to you. The question is, will you?”
                Svetlana was quiet for a moment. “Have you heard of parity?”
                “You mean the ‘we’re all going to someday realize just how cruel we’ve been and hold hands and sing songs and everyone will be the same’ silliness parity? I suppose I have.”
                “Why are you mocking parity?” Her voice was flat and it was obvious another fight loomed on the horizon.
                “I’m sorry. That was my knee jerk response to anything that is supposed to ‘just happen’. Parity is a great ideal, but the only way we’re going to get there is by hard work and blood.” He frowned. “Caomh Sith is a step in the right direction, with pokegirls doing jobs normally restricted to the noble humans. However, we’ll never be completely the same, humans like to discriminate and frankly that ‘humans’ includes pokegirls. While absolute equality would be a very nice thing, it’s not just going to happen.”
                “Tonight, Ranma Saotome will help others to see the steps that can be taken,” Svetlana replied. “It will take the help of several of the Celestial pokegirls, including me, maybe because you are right, he’s an accidental hero.”
                “So why the hi-def recording setup?”
                “Getting his actions for posterity wouldn’t hurt.”
                “Actions? What, is he going to do some improvised dance or something like that?”
                “No one is really sure what is going to happen.”
                “All right. So how do you want to spend the rest of the day? I don’t want to spend it fighting.”
                Svetlana smiled softly. “Me either.”
                It was suddenly raining pokegirls. Ok, it was one pokegirl and she was dropped from a handful of meters up rather than falling from the clouds, but when she landed right in front of Shikarou the effect was just as startling.
                He rushed forward and checked her over as she curled up and sobbed. She’d been beaten pretty badly, she sported bruises and contusions in profusion and it looked like her arm was broken.
                Shikarou shrugged off his pack and quickly pulled out some potions and began spraying. The girl’s injuries quickly mended, except for the bruises. The damage actually did heal, however only time would allow her body to reabsorb the blood the broken vessels had deposited in the muscle tissue.
                She was a Milktit. Apparently she was about halfway between the extremes of the species, she had a cow-like face and strong curving horns, but her muzzle was shorter and more rounded than that of a true bovine. She had a light coat of fur that was a dappled chocolate and the tuft on her tail was black. The ragged remnants of a blue skirt were still belted around her waist.
                She was still sobbing and Shikarou pulled off his shirt and used it to wipe her face of tears and mucus. The Milktit curled up in his arms as he gave Branwyn a helpless look. She shrugged in reply.
                A voice yelled from above. “Now we are even and I don’t owe you shit!”
                Shikarou looked up. It was Ruiling, hovering with her arms folded. He turned back to the Milktit. “Are you better?”
                Her sobs were starting to trail off and she nodded in response to his question as she burrowed deeper into his arms.
                “I’m talking to you, Shikarou. You’d better answer me, you bastard!”
                Branwyn blinked as for an instant Shikarou’s face was ugly with fury and then it blanked and a small smile appeared. He raised his voice, still cradling the Milktit. “I suppose I must thank you, Ruiling. I was planning on trading up from you, but was unsure if I could find anyone stupid enough to take you off my hands. This Milktit is a definite improvement.”
                The crowd, which had started assembling when the Milktit fell to the ground, scattered quickly as Ruiling growled in rage and drifted forward.
                Shikarou continued paying attention to the Milktit and didn’t look up. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you. I would at least think very carefully before proceeding.”
                Ruiling stopped drifting. “Why should I listen to you?” Her voice was thick with anger.
                “You are not in the harem right now and don’t enjoy its protections.”
                “You can’t beat me!” The Neo Iczel was almost frothing with rage. “No one beats me!”
                Shikarou murmured to the Milktit. “I have to let you go, but only for a minute.” She clung to him for an instant before relaxing and letting herself be slowly released. She propped herself up on her elbows to watch him as he turned to face Ruiling for the first time.
                “Today, Ruiling, I will not fight you.” His voice was even and calm. “If you come any closer, I will enslave you.” The Neo Iczel flinched backwards, her face paling with fear, as he continued. “You have chosen to abuse another pokegirl in the hopes that somehow it will prove your superiority to me. All it proves is that Fang was a good choice for you as a Tamer and my kindness to you was a waste of time. Baka wa shinanakya naoranai. Apparently only death will cure your stupidity. Now go. If you show yourself to me again this day I will make you mine forever.”
                He turned back to the Milktit and took her into his arms as Ruiling fled. He glanced up at Branwyn and Circe. “You know that someday soon it is very likely that she will be back. She doesn’t fight fair and we’ll need to be ready.”
                Circe nodded. “We will.”
                Elizabeth peeked out of her hood. “Are you going to keep her?” She glanced at the bright sun and retreated again.
                “Today of all days I think she gets to make that decision.” Branwyn kneeled and looked at the Milktit. “I’m Branwyn and this is Shikarou. I’m his alpha.”
                The Milktit looked her up and down. “I’m Helen. Can I stay?”
                “Of course you can.” Branwyn smiled. “Where is your pokeball?”
                Helen blew her nose loudly on Shikarou’s shirt. “Todd broke it. He did it as a dramatic gesture to show that we were finished.” Her mouth thinned. “He’s always doing things like that.” She glanced at Shikarou. “This is a nice shirt. I’m sorry I ruined it.”
                “I seem to remember giving it to you.” Shikarou smiled. “And it’s not as important as you are.”
                Helen gave him an appraising look. “That was very nice. I think I’m going to like this harem.”
                Circe frowned. “Why are you still traveling? Pokewomen don’t usually travel with Tamers.” A slight smile appeared when Helen looked surprised. “I read it in your mind.”
                “Oh. I’m afraid I don’t have a lot of experience with psychic pokegirls.” Helen’s mouth twisted. “Todd had to have a Milktit and I was the only one around. My owner traded me to Todd for a pokegirl.” Her face smoothed. “That’s just the way life is sometimes.”
                “Do you have any children?”
                The Milktit smiled. “No. Neither my owner nor Todd were interested in kids.”
                “Do you want them?”
                “I do.” She gave Branwyn a calculating look. “I understand that a Tamer’s life has no room for them, however.”
                “Well, you may be able to have them before too long.” Branwyn looked amused at the surprised look on Helen’s face. “Shikarou isn’t your typical Tamer. He already has a home and when he’s ready, you’ll go to live there.” She turned to look at him. “How long?”
                “I gave Faelan a deadline of two years, and I guess it’s only fair if I do the same thing for myself. So in two years I’ll become fertile.”
                Helen clapped her hands together. “That’s wonderful!”
                “However, for now,” Shikarou pulled out an empty pokeball, “we need to get you full healing. Are you ready?”
                “Yes.” Helen went quietly into the pokeball and Shikarou handed it to Circe, who’d already set up the PPHU.
                “When she’s healed I’ll go ahead and put her into your collection station.” The Alaka-Wham smiled. “That way at the end of the day you’ll have at least one new pokegirl.” Her smile widened. “And speaking for the members of your harem that aren’t Unicorns, we are happy to see Ruiling gone. We are more than willing to train harder to make up for Helen being in the harem. Your Unicorn, on the other hand, is probably mourning the loss of her punching bag.” Everyone shared a laugh.
                In the swirling of the crowd, no one noticed the Seraph watching them intently. She quietly followed Circe as the Alaka-Wham headed for Shikarou’s collection station.
                “That was a nice speech.” Faelan leaned back against Svetlana, who wrapped her arms around him.
                “Nice, that was wonderful,” his Megami-sama disagreed.
                “Whatever.” Faelan watched the crowd mobbing Saotome. “Poor guy. He’s got a Megami and an Angel. That man is doomed.”
                “You have the same thing.”
                “I have a Fallen Angel,” he replied loftily. “All the difference in the world.”
                “That’s right. You have a winged psychopath while he has a champion of good.” Svetlana nuzzled his neck. “Shall we go see what you collected in your pack?”
                Faelan grinned. “I suspect it’s the same as every year, nothing.” He glanced over his shoulder at her. “I don’t know how you do it, but I suspect you are responsible for that little mystery. I don’t think you want to share me.” He went back to watching the crowd. “As soon as that breaks up a bit, I’ll collect the sensor heads. I checked while he was speaking and the image is everything you asked for.”
                “Excellent. We’ll get them and head back to Caomh Sith.”
                Branwyn watched as Shikarou returned Fumiko and Yushiko to their pokeballs. He glanced at her. “Except for Lorelei, that’s the last of them.”
                A shadow swept overhead and the Sphinx almost crash landed on him. “Sorry I’m late,” Lorelei gasped as she tossed him her pokeball. “I had a run-in with some idiot Tamer who had his Cheshire steal my pokeball from me.”
                “Actually that sounds kind of crafty. Is everything all right?”
                She nodded as she sucked air. “Yeah. I know I can’t just run around attacking humans, so I grabbed him and started yelling for the police. When they showed up I explained what had happened and they hauled him and his Cheshire off to jail.”
                Shikarou nodded and activated the capture field. He tucked the pokeball away and looked at Branwyn. “You’re it.”
                She sighed. “While it would be amusing as hell to stand here and watch Tamers trying to catch me, I suppose it wouldn’t be fair to you.”
                “You’re right. Besides, I already have plenty of empty pokeballs.”
                She nodded. “You are going to have to start filling them again or the annual review of your Breeder accreditation might be tricky.” She dissolved into red light.
                Shikarou hopped up onto a nearby rooftop and made himself comfortable so he could watch the sundown capture frenzy. It was mildly impressive, but in his opinion the Tamers were silly. If he’d been planning to involve himself in this, he’d have been spending the last fifteen minutes stalking his prey instead of standing around babbling, which was what he’d seen a lot of the Tamers doing.
                He’d also have a better idea of what to do. Apparently many Tamers had bad target discrimination capabilities; he saw several humans, both male and female, get hit with pokeballs and even had to pluck one out of the air that some idiot had thrown at him. He glared at the Tamer and crushed the pokeball before bouncing it off the guy’s head. Apparently he’d thrown it a bit harder than he’d intended, he reflected as he watched the guy get knocked sprawling and blood ran down into the dirt. “Oops.”
                He waited a solid hour to make sure that the Tamers were done catching pokegirls and the local gendarme was finished explaining to the last Tamer that it was way past sundown before dropping back down to the ground.
                He released Branwyn, Circe and Elizabeth, the Vampire sighing with relief and shedding the cloak. He turned to his alpha as Elizabeth carefully folded it up and slipped it into her own backpack. “It looks like everything is over.”
                Their surroundings came into view as Branwyn created a hovering globe of light that took up a slow orbit around her. “Let’s get to the collection station and see what you’ve got. They shut them down at midnight and while any pokegirls get loaded into storage for you it looks bad if you don’t pick them up yourself.”
                The pokeball collection stations were metal boxes that were welded together in groups of eight. The groups were then scattered around the fairground. Each station had its own closed padlock that had been sealed with wax and marked with the stamp of Falmouth to ensure that it hadn’t been opened during the day’s festivities. Different groups of boxes were of different sizes, Tamers with higher TTRs being give bigger boxes to accommodate the presumably larger number of pokegirls who would want to join their harems. Compared to theirs, his was definitely on the small size, but that was only appropriate, considering his low total taming rank.
                Each box was labeled with the Tamer’s name and had a transparent window on it. In each window was a printout that held a picture of the Tamer and his TTR, broken down into three categories, his psych eval, his Megami score, and his Tamer rank. Each category had both his numerical score and a graphic representation for pokegirls who couldn’t read; one happy face for each ten percent in his score.
                Shikarou pulled the key he’d been issued out of his pocket and broke the seal before unlocking the box and opening it. Since he’d been forced to buy the lock, he dropped it and the key into his pocket as Branwyn peered inside the box.
                “There are three pokeballs in here,” she announced as she fished them out. “Not a bad haul for your first Sadie Pokens.”
                He scanned the pokeballs and handed the pokedex to his Unicorn as he slipped his backpack off his shoulders. She chuckled. “Well, you’ve got a Milktit, no surprises there. You’ve also picked up a Ria and a Seraph.” She blinked. “A Seraph? I’m not so sure that’s a good thing.”
                Shikarou shrugged. “I would tend to agree with you, but I don’t think we can leave her here, can we?”
                The Unicorn smiled. “There are a couple of boxes that haven’t been opened yet and I could pop her into one of them.” She gave him a hopeful look.
                He sighed and rubbed his eyes. “She decided that she wanted to be with me. Are we going to treat that decision like she’s property or like she’s a person?”
                Branwyn grimaced and handed him the pokeballs. “All right, when you put it that way, I guess she stays.”
                “I’m not sure I’m happy about this either, but if she doesn’t mesh then she goes.” Shikarou touched his alpha’s cheek. “We have to give her a chance, even if she’s a Celestial. Perhaps especially since she’s a Celestial and I’m prejudiced against them.” He straightened up. “However, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to be cautious around her. Circe, I want her to get as deep a scan as you can stand doing. Branwyn, you get to check Circe after she gets done to make sure she’s ok, and I don’t want the Seraph to be alone for a while. Also under no circumstances is she to be alone with Elizabeth.” He glanced at all three of his pokegirls. “I’m going to give her the same trust I give everyone who first joins my harem, but we can still keep a close eye on her.”
                Circe chuckled. “I’ve heard rumors about a conspiracy among the Celestials, and you just gave me permission to find out for myself. Thank you.”
                “Don’t burn out her mind in your search for the truth, ok.”
                Faelan listened to the night birds calling as he sat on a large rock a kilometer from town. The moon occasionally peeked out from behind the scudding clouds, bathing the area in silver.
                “You wanted to talk to me?” Shikarou appeared silently from the darkness.
                Faelan jumped. “How do you do that? I never heard a thing.”
                “Lots of practice. What did you want?”
                Faelan looked behind his brother. “You’re alone, right. No bodyguards following you on your walk?”
                “Them you would have heard. No, I’m alone.”
                “So how was your first Sadie Pokens day?”
                “I’ll presume that this is leading up to something.” Shikarou gave Faelan a hard look. “It was acceptable. I lost Ruiling and picked up three pokegirls, a Milktit, a Ria and a Seraph. I’m not too sure about having a Celestial pokegirl in my harem, but she did choose me. Besides, I sometimes wonder if Yushiko isn’t part Celestial herself.”
                “You’re being set up.”
                Shikarou closed his eyes as he sighed. “Explain.”
                “No, it’s not your harem, it’s Svetlana. She steered the Seraph to you. Apparently she wants a spy in your harem.”
                Shikarou turned puzzled eyes on his brother. “Why in hell am I that important to her?” He hopped onto a rock and settled down.
                “She thinks you are some kind of major threat. She’s hinted that she’s going to question you about it, but as far as I know she hasn’t.”
                “You’re right; she hasn’t come to talk to me.” Shikarou leaned back and watched the sky. “Do you have any idea why she might think that?”
                “I don’t. We did talk about your past, but her concern predates that.”
                “What did you tell her?”
                “I told her about your career as a monster slayer and we talked briefly about how one stops being a god.”
                “I was a tiny god. Miniscule. Barely rated on the god meter.” He frowned. “How did you know anything about that? That all happened centuries before you were born.”
                “Father’s journals mentioned your progress.”
                “I never knew that. Damn.”
                “So how did you quit being a god?”
                “Gods stop gaining power when they no longer have worshippers and Her Majesty didn’t like the idea that I cared for my worshipper’s wellbeing and was concerned that I might be off taking care of them while off duty. She sent some members of the Imperial Guard and they massacred my worshipers and leveled my shrine.” He sighed. “They were quite thorough; so far as I know nothing grows on that ground today.”
                “Why didn’t you do something about it?”
                “I’d already taken my vows when it happened and so I had no recourse but to follow her dictates.”
                “I thought she ordered you not to take revenge on Pallaius’s killer, but you did that. You’re inconsistent.”
                “No, I’m not. I was told to ‘not take any actions in regards to the destruction of my shrine and my worshippers’ and I didn’t. I was later told ‘you will not take revenge on Taidaria for killing Pallaius’. I didn’t. I got her to insult me and killed her for that.”
                “Not really. It didn’t bring my wife back or make me hurt any less.” He sighed. “I’d have given my soul for the ability to bring the dead back to life just one time.”
                Faelan grimaced. “Sorry. Are you going to get all morose on me?”
                Shikarou snorted. “No. I’m not.”
                “What are you going to do about the Seraph?”
                “While your news isn’t good, I’d already taken precautions. I guess I’ll see if she can be useful to me. If she can’t then she’s gone.”
                “What if she insists on staying? Seraphs can have that kind of personality.”
                “I can be pretty insistent myself.”
Name:                                                     Urufu Shikarou                                                    
Age:                                                       250                                                                                         
Residence:                                             Caomh Sith, Blue Continent                                                              
Region:                                  Scotland                                                                                               
Status:                                                    Active                                                                                   
Rank:                                                      55                                                                                           
Security Clearance:                              Epsilon                                                                  
                Tamer                                     Y                                                            
                Master Tamer                       Y                                                            
                Researcher                            N                                                            
                Watcher                 N                                                            
                Breeder                  Y                            
Active Harem
Species                  Name                                      Level                     
Alaka-Wham                         Circe                                       59                                           
Unicorn                  Branwyn                                50                                           
ElfQueen                                Gwyneth                                44                                           
Armsmistress                        Urufu Yushiko      34                                           
G-Spliced                               Pythia                                     31                                           
Titto                                       Fumiko                   17                                           
Active Harem – Storage
Sphinx                                    Lorelei                                    37                                           
Vampire                  Elizabeth                                27                                           
Seraph                                    ?                                              42                                           
Ria                                          ?                                              39                                           
Milktit                                    Helen                                      53                                           
Alpha                                     Branwyn
Beta                                        None
Badges: Scotland: Stornoway, Rum Island, Glasgow