Chapter 11: Sadie Pokens Fallout
                “Did you learn anything about magical volumes while you were at Vale?” Shikarou slammed a heavy tome down on the table and dropped into a chair with an exasperated scowl. “I’ve removed all of the traps on this damned thing but I can’t get it open.”
                Faelan looked at the book and up at his brother, but didn’t touch either. “What is it?”
                “The Grimoire of Danu. This is the book that we recovered from the asteroid base.” Shikarou snarled silently at the inoffensive tome. “Considering the trouble people are going to in order to take it from me, it’s got to have some importance, but I have no known idea as to what. I’m just about ready to find some gasoline and have a book burning party.”
                Faelan looked thoughtful. “Have you thought that perhaps the means to open the book is in the name?”
                “I’ve tried the name in various ways, but I’m not sure what you are getting at?”
                “Maybe you need Danu or one of her children to open the book.”
                “Could you explain that in a way that wasn’t completely vague?” Shikarou transferred his scowl from the book to Faelan.
                Faelan ignored the look. “What do you know about Danu?”
                “I know she’s a Celtic goddess. I couldn’t find much more about her.”
                “That would make sense, she hasn’t been worshipped by humans for a very long time and she isn’t really a part of the modern religions.” Faelan prodded the book with a finger carefully, and when nothing happened, pulled it across the table to himself. “First of all Danu is Irish or Celtic. The Welsh called her Don and depending on who you believe, Danu was either the goddess who created the Sidhe or the first of the Sidhe herself.” He shrugged. “Nobody is sure which the truth is. The archivists I had access to don’t agree amongst themselves and they are currently involved in a centuries-long dispute over who is correct.”
                “I don’t know much about the Sidhe.” Shikarou frowned. “Even though it’s in our family line, I never had much reason to be concerned about it.”
                “The Sidhe are the fey or fairies of the Blue Continent, before it ever was the Blue Continent. Back before the Romans came they existed. Supposedly living in fairy mounds they were the people of Faerie. They were more varied than the pokegirls, but there were two basic types: the Seelie or light elves and the Unseelie or dark elves. Our blood carries the Unseelie lines.”
                Shikarou shook his head. “Yours maybe. Not mine.”
                Faelan disagreed. “Father is half Sidhe, which makes you a quarter Sidhe, just as I am one fourth kami and three fourths Sidhe. The fact that you have never tried to access your gifts from our side of the family doesn’t change the fact that our blood flows through your veins.” He turned the book over and ran his hands along the spine. “This book is filled with the power of the Sidhe, I can feel it. Often the first safeguard to preventing others from using our magic is to make our magic only work for those of our blood and since you’ve never accepted your mixed heritage, perhaps it doesn’t recognize you.” He shrugged. “It could also be that only the creator of the book can open it. It really depends on just how paranoid the person who made the Grimoire was at the time.”
                Shikarou glared sourly at the book and then smiled suddenly. “I’ll need to remember if there is a next time to consult with you sooner. I can’t seem to wrap my head around the fact that you are a formally trained mage as well.”
                Faelan nodded proudly. “Thank you. However I must confess that I’m unsure if I can open it either. If you’d like, I’ll take a look at it.”
                “I would. Just don’t let others know you have it. The idiots in the cloaks have been chasing me, and if they want to keep doing that while you study the Grimoire, I’ll be happy to oblige them.”
                “Do you have a minute?”
                Shikarou looked up and smiled. “Good morning Svetlana, and yes, I’ve got time for you. What do you want?”
                The Megami-sama looked around the common room. “Can we go outside or do this somewhere else?”
                He looked thoughtfully at her for a few seconds. “Is my tent too private?”
                A look of surprise crossed her face. “Too private?”
                “I don’t know what you want or if you want to be somewhere where you can’t yell for help.”
                The surprise was replaced by confusion. “Shikarou, I’m not afraid to be alone with you.”
                “Then my tent would be best.” He rose gracefully. “Shall we?”
                Once in his tent, Svetlana headed for his room, but Shikarou stopped her. “Not there. Let’s go to the arena.”
                “I’m not afraid of your room Shikarou; you aren’t going to rape me.” She pulled the door open and stepped inside, only to freeze in the doorway. “Oh.”
                Helen was sprawled across the bed asleep and the room was heavy with the odors of sex. The Milktit opened her eyes and stretched languorously. “Hi, I’m Helen. I don’t think we’ve met.” She smiled slowly. “If you’re looking for our master, he’s already left. If you’re not, he did manage to drink me dry, but I’ve made more since then.” She pinched a nipple and a drop of milk appeared. “Would you like some?” She lifted the breast slightly.
                Svetlana swallowed convulsively. Finally she managed to tear her eyes away from the sight and turned, only to see Shikarou watching with a raised eyebrow. She flushed crimson and slammed the door shut. The Megami-sama leaned her head against the door for a moment before turning to face him again.
                A slight smile appeared on his face. “So, the arena?”
                “That would be great,” she whispered.
                A small frown appeared. “Why don’t you go find Faelan before we have this talk? I think you need some time with him.”
                Svetlana shivered at the word “need”. “I think that sounds like a wonderful idea. Can I call you when I’m ready to talk to you again?”
                “Sure,” Shikarou replied. The Megami-sama vanished as she teleported.
                The door to his bedroom cracked open and an eye peered through the opening. “Did I do something wrong?” Helen asked in a worried voice.
                Shikarou grinned and laughter bubbled in his voice. “Not in the slightest. That was absolutely perfect.”
                Shikarou was waiting outside his tent when Svetlana appeared. She frowned, but before she could speak he nodded. “Nobody can. I’ve set up a teleport ward to keep anyone out who doesn’t have the key and only my harem members have that key. Well and Ruiling, but I’m changing the key this afternoon. Everyone else gets shunted to the front of the tent.” He opened the door. “I think we were going to the arena.”
                “Oh, is Helen still in your room?” she asked snidely.
                He smiled softly. “Do you want to check for yourself?” Svetlana turned pink and swept past him.
                She opened the door to the arena, which was currently set up as a forest, and stepped inside. Svetlana stepped around the first set of trees and confronted a wolf. It stood a good meter at the shoulder and was covered with heavy black fur. It turned its head to look at her with bright blue eyes and its ears went back. Its muzzle wrinkled in a snarl and a heavy growl filled the air.
                Shikarou stepped through the trees. “So what did you want to talk about?” He broke off at the sight of the wolf.
                To Svetlana’s surprise he just blinked. “There you are.” The growl died away. “Branwyn is looking for you.” The wolf shook its head and whined. “Stop that. You sound childish and it’s not polite.”
                The wolf rippled and flesh flowed like water until Fumiko stood in front of them. She frowned at her Tamer. “It’s my free time and I don’t owe her anything.”
                He shook his head and motioned towards Svetlana. “We have a guest. Clothes?”
                The Titto’s skin rippled and formed a bikini. “I left them in the stands.”
                “Well go get them and see what Branwyn wants. Not only is she your alpha, but keeping her waiting is unwise.”
                Fumiko nodded. “If you think so then I’ll go find out what she wants.” Wings sprouted from her back and she launched herself heavily into the air.
                Shikarou smiled. “You can follow her if you’d like. I was planning on us sitting in the stands for our little talk.”
                “What about you?”
                “I won’t be far behind. Maybe you can give her some pointers. She’s still new at flying.”
                The Megami-sama nodded and summoned her wings before setting off after Fumiko. Shikarou watched with a wistful look for a moment before trotting quickly after them.
                The arena stands were of rock carved into stadium seating and extended around one side of the arena. When he came out of the woods, Fumiko was already shrugging into her shirt while Svetlana talked quietly to her. When they were through, the Titto gave him a quick kiss and disappeared into the underbrush. Shikarou watched until she vanished from sight before turning to his guest.
                Svetlana spoke first. “It’s nice to see that you do a lot of touching with your harem.”
                “Physical contact appears to be very important to all of them.” He settled down on a bench. “I like it too. Would you care for something to drink?”
                “No. Are you evil?”
                Shikarou’s ears flicked in surprise at her query. “That is a subjective question, and usually defined by those around a person. I can only answer for myself, but no, I am not evil. You might want to ask my enemies that question.”
                “Why your enemies?”
                “My friends would be prejudiced in my favor.”
                She decided to abandon this line of questioning. “What exactly did you do to Jiang Fang and the others?”
                Shikarou thought for a moment. “If you consider the body to be hardware then the mind and soul comprise the software, with the mind being the normal programs and the soul being the operating system. I rewrite a portion of the soul, which changes the behavior of my subject to reflect what I want.”
                The pokegirl blanched. “How can you do such a thing?”
                “I have to ask, are you asking how can I stomach the act or are you looking for the technical aspects involved in the process?”
                “Why would I ever want to know how to do such a horrible thing?” she yelled.
                Shikarou wasn’t impressed. “You are a Megami-sama, a magical creature. It is possible, although unlikely, that you could learn the technique or perhaps a member of your Celestial Alliance could master it.”
                “Whatever for?”
                “The act itself, although you may find it repulsive, isn’t evil. Used properly on high ranking government officials and other people in places of power, it could advance Parity by great bounds.”
                Svetlana blinked as something he’d said registered. “What makes you think there is some kind of alliance among the Celestials?”
                “Now you attempt to waste my time. I’m disappointed. I figured that whatever precipitated this discussion might have occurred while you and Faelan were in Dogpatch and when I discovered that he hadn’t encrypted the records of what happened there, I reviewed them.” He smiled. “I know all about the conversations you had with him there and I even know that you are the reason I have a Seraph in my harem now.”
                “Am I in danger from you?” Svetlana appeared calm, but Shikarou could smell the sudden surge of adrenaline.
                “No, you are not, and neither is the Seraph. No matter what you may believe, I do not kill casually. Easily perhaps, but not casually. Your convincing the Seraph to join my harem is annoying, but you are just doing what you think is best. As for her, she decided to join my harem of her free will and I will treat her with respect until she shows that she doesn’t deserve it.” His mouth firmed. “If she proves that she is unworthy to be in my harem, I will remove her, and if she insists on staying, well at that point things could get difficult.”
                Svetlana relaxed. “You are very protective of your harem.”
                “Yes, I am. After all, we live in an ‘us versus them’ society.”
                “What will you do about Ruiling?”
                “I’m not going to seek her out, if that’s what you are worried about. Should we meet again, I will deal with the situation as it unfolds.”
                “So if you are going to treat the Seraph with respect, where is she?”
                “I decided to meet the new additions to my harem one at a time and actually spend some time getting to know them as individuals as opposed to a group taming. Today is Helen’s day, tomorrow will be the Ria’s and the next day is the Seraph’s.”
                “Why is she last?”
                “I said I was going to treat her with the respect that she deserves and give her the chance to earn a place in my harem. I never said I wasn’t apprehensive about the whole thing. She is a Seraph after all and in all honesty I’m putting her off until the end in order to give me more time to think about how to do this.” He sighed and stood up. “However, I’m not going to keep her in long term storage any longer than that, it wouldn’t be fair to her. Now if you would excuse me, I’m supposed to rescue Helen from Branwyn about now.”
                “I don’t understand?”
                “Branwyn wanted to spend some time with Helen, explaining how things work, but she knows she has a tendency to go on forever, so we arranged for me to ‘rescue’ Helen from her lectures after an hour and a half.” He smiled. “Branwyn is going to insist that she get more time with Helen while I’ll tell her no and take Helen with me. It will help to reinforce to Helen that I am the true leader of this family as well as show her that I will not take umbrage at open displays of disagreement by my pokegirls, especially when they disagree with me.” The smile became a grin. “Even though she disagreed with me, later I’ll reward Branwyn by letting her help me tame Helen this evening, thus showing that I don’t hold grudges, in spite of what I suspect Branwyn will call me.”            
                Svetlana suddenly looked envious.
                Branwyn sighed as he released her nipple and leaned back. “That was nice, but what about later?”
                “We’ll work something out.”
                You know that this is your fault, right?”
                Shikarou snorted. “I invited you to help tame Helen. I also warned you what would happen if you drank her milk and yet you did so anyways. How is that my fault?”
                She smiled and started buttoning up her blouse. “You were enjoying it too much.”
                He just laughed. “I think you did it so you spend more time with me.”
                “Would I do that?” Branwyn gave him an innocent look, which was spoiled as her eyes sparkled with humor.
                “Go on, it’s time for me to start with the Ria.”
                “Would you like me to stay and help with her?”
                He looked thoughtful for a moment. “No, I think I’d rather meet her alone.” He raised an eyebrow. “Any complaints?”
                “Not about that.” His Unicorn gave him a sweet smile. “Other things can wait.”
                He sighed. “Woman, you are sometimes extraordinarily aggravating.”
                “And you love me.”
                That brought a smile. “More each day. I’ll see you later.”
                After a quick bath Shikarou pulled the Ria’s pokeball out of his backpack and released her. She was easily the smallest of his pokegirls, a good 50 cm shorter than his 185 cm. Although she was obviously muscular there was an undeniable softness to her voluptuous figure. All Ria were a golden brown, but instead of being a solid color, this one’s fur was dappled in all of the colors of honey. From a distance it would make remarkable camouflage. She watched him warily and her nose twitched as she sampled the air.
                Shikarou smiled. “Hello, I’m Shikarou.”
                The Ria smiled back. “Ria.” With incredible speed she dashed up to him and wrapped him up in her arms, rubbing her nose against his. She reached up and squeezed one of his ears, giggling. “Ria.”
                The smile stayed plastered on Shikarou’s face and one eyebrow went up. Circe.
                He received an image of her nibbling fruit. Yes, oh great and wise master?
                Would you check out this Ria. I think there may be something wrong here.
                The Ria was busy burrowing her hand into his pants, all the while muttering to herself. Shikarou grabbed her wrist and stopped her. She grinned and started twisting, trying to shove her hand deeper.
                I’m on the way. I’m not sure how you did it, but you have a feral Ria. Be careful.
                “So you are feral.” She blinked and looked up at him as he spoke. He kissed her. Stay outside the room. This may be under control, but I’ve been wrong before.
                The Ria blinked and pulled her hand out of his pants before jumping up and wrapping her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist. She kissed him back hungrily as she ground her groin against his.
                Shikarou ran his hands down her back and she arched beneath his touch. He squeezed her ass and she hissed and slid off of him. Watching him over her shoulder, she sauntered to the bed, ass swaying provocatively. She bent over, presenting herself to him and grinned. “Ria?”
                Shikarou started shedding clothes. “Damned right I want to.” She smirked at him and twitched her tail out of the way as he ran his hands over her rump.
                The Ria sank her claws and teeth into the mattress when he slid inside her. Fabric ripped as he thrust into her and she cried out into the mattress.
                Her tail whipped wildly and finally half-curled around his neck as he pounded into her. Her pussy clamped down on his cock when she came, and there were more ripping sounds as the Ria tore long gashes in the bed.
                Shikarou kept a firm grip on her hips as he thrust into her again and again. His orgasm seemed to start in his toes and surge up and out of him into her in a blast of pulsing heat. The Ria screamed into the mattress as he buried himself inside her and held her still.
                Afterwards he lifted her onto the bed and curled up with her. She snuggled against him and quickly her breathing slowed and evened out.
                Circe opened the door a fraction and whispered. “Is it safe to come in?”
                Shikarou spoke quietly. “She’s in taming shock, so yes.”
                The Alaka-Wham slipped into the room and perched on the edge of the bed. She touched his leg gently. “How is this possible?”
                “I’m not entirely sure. Can you find out while her mind is reformatting, or would it be better to wait?”
                Circe’s antenna twitched slightly. “I can find out.” She leaned back against him and winked before slowly closing her eyes. “Speaking of telepathy, I have a sister who would like to meet you. Would that be a problem?”
                “Is she important to you?”
                One of her eyes opened. “Yes, she’s one of my favorites.”
                “Does she want to join my harem?”
                “No, she just wants some company. Branwyn said that it would be all right with her if you agreed with it.”
                “That doesn’t sound like her.”
                “It does if you know that Stardust is a spy for my family and Branwyn doesn’t think her owing us a favor or three is a bad thing.”
                Shikarou nodded. “That sounds like her. Ok, I’m willing to meet her, but after that we’ll just have to see.”
                “That’s all I was asking for.” Her other eye opened. “I think I have the information you want.” A smile ghosted across her face. “It’s actually quite interesting.”
                He gave her an annoyed look. “Share, please.”
                Circe’s smile grew to a grin. “All right. She’s feralborne and you are her first Tamer.”
                “So how did she end up in my box at the Sadie Pokens festival?”
                “It turns out that she has lived on the fringes of society since she was a kit. She learned early on that if she looked tamed and acted like she was going somewhere with a purpose, people would leave her alone, so she lived right on the outskirts of town and ate out of rubbish bins. One of her favorite tricks was to walk nearby and slightly behind someone who was going the same way she was, so that others would think she belonged to them.” Circe shook her head. “Quite crafty, actually. She also learned how to use her enhanced speed to be a pickpocket. She never hit anyone with pokegirls out and if found out, her speed allowed her to escape.”
                “Cute.” Shikarou frowned. “I thought you needed a thunderstone to evolve a Peekabu to Ria.”
                “You do. She swiped one from someone’s backpack when they left it in a park and evolved.” Circe gave him a serious look. “She’s not young. I think she’s probably on the verge of becoming a pokewoman. She realized that someone had been following her and since she’d evolved there had been a couple of attempts to catch her.” Circe winked. “She also recently decided that she wanted a Tamer. Apparently when she evolved her libido jumped and she knows that she’ll be protected with a Tamer. She’ll eat better too.” She shrugged. “So when she was wandering around the Sadie Pokens event she saw you with Helen and thought you would make a good choice for a Tamer. So she followed me to your collection station. Every collection station has a small collection of empty pokeballs on hand just in case, and she deduced how they worked by watching me when I released Helen to make sure she was all right before I put her into your box.”
                Circe touched the Ria’s tail and the sleeping pokegirl burrowed into Shikarou’s side. “You’ve got a very smart pokegirl here. It will be interesting to see if she stays that way after she’s domesticated.” Her gaze returned to his. “Do you want me to get the speech T2?”
                “It’ll wait until later. It’s never been tested on a feral and I want to wait until her mind is done changing.” He squeezed Circe’s hand gently. “Thank you.”
                She smiled and lifted his hand to rub her cheek against it. “I live but to serve. So, have you decided on a name for your thief?”
                “Shikarou, my Mother would like to talk to you.”
                He looked up from pokedex and eyed Lorelei suspiciously. “What about?”
                “She didn’t say. She just said that it was important and we could be in danger.”
                His eyes met the Sphinx’s for a moment and he noted the worry in them. “All right.” He put away his pokedex and pulled out his com as he rose to his feet. “Branwyn, I have to take a little trip with Lorelei. If you don’t hear from me in eight hours, come find me and bring the others.” He listened briefly. “I’ll be as careful as I can.” He hung up.
                “Take me to her.”
                Lorelei grinned and grabbed his hand to pull him into a big hug. “Thank you.” He wheezed and she loosened her grip. “Sorry.” An amused smile flickered on her lips.
                “I don’t think you are.” Laughter filled his voice. “Naughty girl.”
                She laughed with him for a moment and then teleported.
                It was hot and the humidity was like a slap in the face as they came out. Shikarou looked around. They were standing in a small clearing in the middle of a stand of palm trees. He could smell the ocean and birds. “Where are we?”
                Shikarou froze for an instant. “I thought no one was allowed here? And once they came they could never leave.”
                “Those decisions are up to Mother, but I don’t think she’d ask me to bring you here to trap you. You might want to stay close to me though; the others don’t know you and will attack you if they find you alone.”
                “Good safety tip.”
                He realized that they were being watched and turned to see another Sphinx, her wings and arms folded. Two armed Cheetit stood nearby. One had a spear and the other an assault rifle hanging from a sling. It was pointed in his general direction. The Sphinx nodded once. “Mother is expecting you. This way.” The two tramped after her and the Cheetits took up rear guard and followed along behind them.
                They went along a winding path up a rocky slope to a large cave mouth and inside. Shikarou blinked. The cave continued on, but just inside there was a French café table, complete with awning and two chairs, and Sexmet sitting in one of them. She smiled. “Shikarou.”
                “Lady Sexmet.” He bowed deeply enough to acknowledge her rank.
                The legendary waved at the other chair. “Please, sit. Wine?”
                Shikarou settled carefully into the empty chair as Lorelei moved to stand behind him. He accepted the offered glass with a smile. “Thank you.” He sipped at it and looked briefly surprised. “Date wine? Not bad.”
                Sexmet winked. “There’s a place not too far away that makes it. I’ve just never gotten used to wine from grapes.”
                “I have to ask, am I going to be allowed to leave?”
                “Bringing you here would be a waste of my time otherwise.” She settled back in her chair. “You have a problem. Sanctuary knows that you were involved in the death of the Goth at the time you acquired Lorelei.”
                Shikarou kept his expression even. “I see,” he said slowly. “Do you know how they found out?”
                Sexmet smirked. “No matter what you are thinking, I didn’t tell them.” The smirk vanished. “I wouldn’t tell them if they were on fire, although I might throw more fuel on the blaze.” She shook her head. “No, apparently you told them, or at least you told the Blue League and someone there told Sanctuary.”
                “Well I didn’t tell them.”
                Your pokedex did an automatic uplink during the battle and your name was in the report.
                “Motherfucking son of a bitch.” Lorelei jumped at the fury in his voice.
                Sexmet look shocked. “What did you call me?” Her ears folded partially backwards as her temper flared.
                He looked apologetic. “Sorry, I wasn’t talking to you. I just realized how they knew it was me and was voicing my displeasure. Please accept my apology.”
                Sexmet nodded. “I’ll accept your apology if you’ll tell me how they knew.”
                “I’ve found out that pokedexes have supplementary software that almost everyone doesn’t know about. Among other things it allows a pokedex to make reports without the Tamer knowing about them, reporting pokegirls that he’s run across as well as the location. Mine reported the presence of a Sanctuary Goth in the Blue Continent.” I should have stopped it.
                I’ll take care of it.
                Sexmet dropped her wineglass in shock. “There are pokedexes here. My children’s Tamers have them.” Her eyes were wide with fear and anger.
                I am not detecting any terrestrial satellites above this location. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any, but any pokedexes wouldn’t know if one was there to report to.
                “There may not be anything that a pokedex could report to here.” Shikarou kept his voice soothing. “I can take a look at them and disable any hidden software they might have, if you would like.” He sent a querying thought at Aggie as he spoke.
                The software is actually purpose built ROM in hidden chips, but I can install a patch that will disable it whenever it loads into active memory. In addition it would be just as easy to put in software that reports to you.
                That would be interesting, but no, I won’t do that to her. She might have someone who could find it. When I have an actual surveillance net, I’ll consider planting some bugs.
                Sexmet slowly relaxed. “I would be very appreciative if you could do that for me.”
                Can I download the contents of the pokdexes? They will never know that it has happened.
                The legendary looked at the broken wineglass, shrugged and picked up the bottle. After a long drink she laid it back down. “Now that Sanctuary is your enemy too, why can’t we work together against them?”
                Shikarou drained his glass and reached for the bottle. “Are you asking me to work with you or for you?” He drank. “Last time you wanted me to work for you and I said no. The circumstances haven’t changed a great deal since then.”
                “Is there really a difference?” Sexmet plucked the bottle from his grip.
                “If I’m working with you, then you can ask me to go somewhere, but don’t go all pissy on me if I tell you no.”
                Sexmet looked at him evenly. “You know, I’m not used to being spoken to like this.”
                “If the way I am is going to be a problem, then you should let me see the pokedexes and go back to my home.” He snagged the bottle from her. She tightened her grip for a moment and then let it go.
                “You are not my equal.” Her nose wrinkled in amusement. “And you will never be.”
                “Of course not.” Shikarou handed the bottle back to her. “You have human blood.”
                Her eyes narrowed. “Are you implying that you are my superior?” Shikarou gave her an innocent look, eyes wide and ears up. Sexmet started chuckling. “I’m beginning to understand why Bastit finds you annoying.”
                Shikarou snorted. “She finds me annoying because, deep down, she’s a domestic cat. Wolves eat cats. The fact that she’s more powerful than me doesn’t register with that part that only listens to millions of years of evolution. It knows to be afraid of me.”
                Sexmet looked curious. “How do you feel about her?”
                “She’s ok. I suspect that if we spent some time working together, we would find out that we could stand each other, if only for short periods of time.”
                “Why aren’t you afraid of me?”
                “I served in the Imperial Guard of the goddess Amaterasu, ruler of the Japanese pantheon. During my service I met a lot of greater and lesser gods. I guess I’m a little blasé about powerful people and just treat them as they are.” His eyes went distant with memory. “I also learned many lessons there.” His eyes refocused. “Because of those lessons, I have no urge to serve another mistress, not even you.”
                Sexmet’s eyes filled with understanding. “How would we work together?”
                “What is it you are looking for?”
                “I need information on Sanctuary and its allies. I also want someone to find out if these allies can be either wooed away or warned away. Sometimes I may need some information passed along. I’ll also want any information on the presence of any Sphinxes that you might run across.”
                “I see.” Shikarou took the bottle back and refilled it with his wand. “Do you realize that I know almost nothing about Sanctuary?”
                Sexmet nodded. “Most people don’t. Sanctuary and its allies work very hard to keep it that way. I’ll arrange to have you briefed on what I know.”
                “What do I get?”
                Sexmet smiled. “What do you want?”
                Shikarou frowned. “I’m not sure. This whole meeting was just a tad bit sudden.”
                “Did I interrupt something?”
                “Sadie Pokens day just took place and I’ve still got to deal with my last acquisition, a Seraph.”
                Sexmet shook her head quietly. “A Seraph. You could pitch her pokeball out into the ocean.”
                “Does anyone like Seraphs?”
                “I’m not even sure that other Seraphs like Seraphs.” Sexmet took a long drink of the wine. “You don’t strike me as the type to volunteer to rescue people from some great danger unless it suits you.”
                Shikarou looked surprised. “You might be right.” He frowned. “I was a hero type, once upon a time. Maybe she’ll be a good influence for me, once I grind off some of that nice-nice goodness.”
                “Is that even possible?”
                “I won’t know until I try.”
                Sexmet nodded. “I’ll wait to find out what happens.” She pushed the bottle at him. “Lorelei has told me about your problems with the green cloaked men. I know someone who may be able to give you some information.”
                Shikarou looked interested. “That would be useful. Who?”
                “Macavity. She knows almost everything there is to know about the Blue Continent. I don’t know where she is right now, but I’ll put out the word for her to get in touch with me.”
                Shikarou was staring. “You want me to talk to Macavity? I do not want her within a thousand kilometers of my island.”
                “Why not?”
                “She’s got Monty Python’s disease.”
                Sexmet cocked her head. “What is that?”
                “Things around her have a tendency to burn down, fall over and sink into the swamp. Often there wasn’t a swamp there before all this happened, either.”
                “That’s just a little bit of an exaggeration.”
                Shikarou’s eyes narrowed. “So how about we meet here?”
                Sexmet blinked. “That really wouldn’t be wise,” she said hastily.
                “I’ll bet not. A swamp appearing in the middle of the ocean would be hard to miss.”
                “Look, I’ll set up a meeting someplace neutral,” Sexmet’s eyes were still a little wild at the thought of Macavity on her island.
                “All right.” Shikarou sighed. “If she can help, I’ll talk to her.”
                “Good. Can I come by Caomh Sith to visit?”
                “Uh, sure. Why would you want to go there?”
                “This island isn’t all that big and has no freshwater, except for some cisterns. We also have to import most of our food, except of course for fish. Sometimes we get a little tired of fish for every meal.”
                Shikarou nodded. “We’ve set up a rabbitry and a henhouse and later this year we’ll be putting in lots of gardens, so we can probably work something out to help keep your meals varied.”
                “You’re making me salivate.” Her eyes flared with hunger. He met her gaze with his own predatory look. She shivered slightly and suddenly looked surprised. “That’s interesting. Apparently I’ve got the part that you mentioned, the one that remembers millions of years of evolution. What do you think of that?”
                “I think that wolves are smart enough to know when the cat is too big to tangle with.” He smiled. “I wouldn’t think of crossing blades with you.”
                Sexmet gave him an odd look. “I don’t know, under the right circumstances you might be able to take me.”
                Shikarou blinked at her words and shot Lorelei a glance. She was busy watching some seabirds skimming by the entrance to the cave and didn’t notice the exchange. “Well, if those circumstances come to be, please make that sure I understand that fact.”
                “Oh, I will.” Sexmet looked amused. “You probably need to be getting back to your home. I would prefer it if only you and Lorelei knew how to get here, and if your Unicorn uses her delta bond to come here to rescue you, I won’t get what I want.”
                He nodded. “Well we can’t have that. If I find anything out, I’ll send Lorelei with the information as soon as practical.” Rising to his feet, he paused. “What about the pokedexes?”
                She nodded and motioned to the Cheetit with the assault rifle. “I’ll have them collected. Can you come back in a couple of hours?”
                “I suppose so. I’ll put off dealing with the Seraph for one more day.” He reached for Lorelei’s hand. “Until later, Lady Sexmet.”
                She gave him a lazy wave as they teleported.
                “You have news, Sir Randolph?”
                Sir Randolph bowed. “Sir Derrick, I believe I have found Urufu. It turns out that he’s a landlord under the auspices of the Blue League.”
                Sir Derrick leaned forward and interest sharpened his features. “Where are his holdings?”
                “He owns the island of Caomh Sith, sir. Up until recently it was called South Uist and is part of the Hebrides, an island chain northwest of Scotland.”
                “The home of peace? Interesting name. Why did it take so long to locate his holdings?”
                “Sir, up until very recently his records listed his home as Wick, which is on the easternmost coast of Scotland. Yesterday I went back to review all of his records and his Tamer entry had been changed to Caomh Sith. I’ve uploaded you a complete file on what we know.”
                “Keep up the good work, Sir Randolph.” Derrick turned to his computer and skimmed through the file, unmindful of Randolph hurrying out. He sat back and thought for several minutes and finally entered another string of commands.
                A few minutes later there was a knock at his door and his guard cracked it open. “Dame Mary, sir”
                “I’m expecting her.” The door opened and a statuesque brunette entered and bowed. “Sir Derrick, you sent for me?”
                “I want you to travel to Caomh Sith and find out everything you can about the place and its lord, Shikarou Urufu.” Derrick eyed her as he spoke. It was a shame that they had to rely on women, but there simply weren’t enough men in the world, at least for the moment. That would change soon enough.
                “As you command, my lord, so shall it be done.” Mary kept her anger from showing. A spying mission was normally the province of the common soldiers and the fact that it had been handed to her, a full knight, was yet another backhanded slap at the fact that she was a woman.
                “This Urufu has had encounters with us in the past, so you will proceed cautiously and use a disguise.”
                Mary nodded. “I understand. How is it that he survived the encounters?” Her anger spiked at this treatment. As if she’d march into someplace where she was to be gathering information with a parade and banners announcing what she was doing. Although I know a few who just might.
                Derrick made a dismissive motion. “Everything you need to know is in your information packet.” He frowned. “And don’t go off your mission parameters like you did in that debacle in Wales.”
                I didn’t cause that cock-up, I saved it, you sanctimonious bastard. “Yes, Sir Derrick. I will leave today.” She bowed again and left quickly.
                The red light coalesced into a beautiful platinum haired, violet eyed woman wearing a linen shift. Soft white wings rustled slightly behind her. The Seraph cocked her head. “Good morrow, my lord, art thou my new master?”
                “I am Shikarou.” He nodded to her. “And, for the moment, yes. What is your name?”
                Sadness passed through her expression. “I have none. When my master passed from this world he took my name with him. Thou must give me a new one.”
                “How many Tamers have you had?”
                “Two previous masters have fallen in battle at my side,” she said sadly. “But in truth there hath been four other masters, all who had proven unworthy to fight with me and sought to sunder the bonds that destiny had wrought between us. As soon as each of them found opportunity, to another was I given.”
                “Why did you choose me to be your Tamer?”
                “Destiny has brought me to thee, my lord.”
                “I thought her name was Svetlana.” The Seraph gaped at him. “Yes, I know you went to some Megami and they sent you to her and she brought you to me, in the hopes that you would be a spy for her.” He smiled. “That tells me that several other people wanted you here, but doesn’t explain why you agreed with them. Even a cursory look at my records would indicate that I’m not exactly what you are looking for.”
                “Thou must be in error, for I am sure, my lord, the noble Megami would have taken that into their consideration of my plight.”
                “The noble Megami, like almost everyone else, are human and therefore subject to human vagaries.”
                She frowned. “I do not understand what thou are saying, my lord.”
                “It doesn’t matter.” Shikarou sighed. “The real question is what am I to do with you?”
                “Thou will join me on my quest, my lord.”
                An ear twitched. “What quest is that?”
                “I must journey to the Indigo continent where I must resume my search for a band of evildoers who have been cruelly murdering and devouring innocent passersby.” Her eyes hooded. “It was they who killed my last master a few months ago.”
                Shikarou looked startled. “Were they by chance Mantises?”
                “Indeed, my lord, they were.” Excitement quickened in her voice. “Does thou know something of where they might be found?”
                He smiled slightly. “Yes, I do. They recently captured my brother and his harem and in return I exterminated them.”
                The Seraph’s mouth dropped, but to her credit she quickly recovered. “My lord, this is wondrous news. Was it a valiant battle?”
                His voice was flat. “It was an extermination. There is nothing valiant about war.”
                “But my lord, of course there is.”
                Shikarou sighed and settled down on the bed. “Come sit with me.” The Seraph turned pink. “No, not that, not yet.” She blinked in surprise at the acid in his tone. “We need to have a talk. Actually, I need to talk and you need to be quiet and listen.” He cocked his head. “Do you think you can do that?”
                She sat down gingerly on the edge of the bed, as far away from him as she could get. A frown crossed her face. “I will try, my lord, but I have been told that it is my nature to be impetuous and interruptive.”
                “At least you are honest about your limitations. Please try.” He took a deep breath. “I have a full harem. With you I have eleven pokegirls in my active harem, with several more in an inactive status. I was very hesitant about keeping you when I discovered you had placed yourself into my box, and after a fashion I’m still that way. I’m not sure that this is the right place for you to be.”
                The Seraph stirred but stayed silent and he smiled. “Thank you. I am not a hero, not anymore, and perhaps not even then. I did what had to be done, but I took no glory from it.”
                “I’ve read the documentation on Seraphs as a group, and while I suspect that the pokedex entry isn’t entirely accurate and I also know that individuals can vary widely, the truth of the matter is that I’m not sure that you would be happy here.”
                “I am a firm believer in the precise application of the minimum necessary force to any problem that requires force. I understand that Seraphs in general start out with minimum force and work their way up to whatever it takes to remove a problem. Not me. I want to apply the needed force right away, and if I’m not sure what that is, then a little excess force, as long as it gets the job done with minimal collateral damage, is perfectly acceptable to me.”
                “I’m training my harem to use teamwork, to follow my orders when I give them and to exercise individual initiative in completing the desired goal. However, I expect them to achieve that goal as soon as practicable and I don’t want them wandering off on little side jobs when they are supposed to be doing something else. Everyone dies eventually and while I’m willing to minimize civilian casualties as much as possible, we are not going to be able to save everyone and I’m not going to try to.”
                The Seraph blinked but otherwise remained silent.
                “I am also unaccustomed to arguing with my harem in the middle of a battle and I’m not going to start getting used to it at this point in time.”
                “You are looking for a hero; someone that would accompany you on your quests to fight major evils across the world. In my harem you would accompany me. If you found something that you believed needed doing and I disagreed and refused to be convinced otherwise, then it would not get done by us.”
                “For a time, while I was considering how to deal with you, I thought about trying to force you into a mold of my design. I have since realized that I wouldn’t be willing to do that to anyone else in my harem and that it wouldn’t be right of me to do it to you.”
                “Please understand that it’s not that I don’t like you, it’s that I don’t know you and therefore I cannot either like or dislike you at this point. However, I don’t think that I would be a good fit for what you are looking for, and you are unlikely to be able to change me.” He smiled slightly. “You are what, eighteen?”
                Her voice was quiet. “No, my lord, not for several months yet.”
                “I am well past my second century. It is unlikely that you will be able to make me into what you want in a Tamer, and I’m concerned that I might corrupt you.”
                “My lord, I am incorruptible.”
                “Perhaps corruption is the wrong word.” He smiled. “English isn’t my first or even second language. Perhaps idealism and conviction would be better. And before you try to tell me that your idealism couldn’t be harmed, I’m sure that’s what each and every Fallen Angel thought as well before she evolved.”
                “If, after my rambling little speech, you would like me to find someone who could fill your needs better than I could, I will. I’m not going to dump you on someone who also isn’t what you want a Tamer to be, so I’m not very sure how long the search would take.” He leaned back and tugged on an eartuft. “I guess that’s it.”
                The Seraph played with her long platinum braid while she thought. “What if I still want to stay with thee, my lord?”
                Shikarou looked surprised. “Although privately I might wonder at your sanity, in that case I would have to help you find a place in my harem.”
                “Then, my lord, it would be mine own desire to stay with thee and thine harem.”
                “And my rules?”
                “There is no doubt, my lord, that upon occasion I shall indeed chafe under them. However, thou has been most gracious in articulating them before conflict has arisen and I shall endeavor to follow them. Am I to understand that your alpha will also aid mine understanding and obedience to these rules?”
                “You are.”
                “Her help will be greatly appreciated,” she smiled, “if, upon occasion, I suspect, exceedingly unwelcome.” They shared a chuckle.
                “Very well. If you wish to stay, I will name you Dorothea.” He smiled gently. “It means gift of god and seems apt enough in your case.”
                “My lord, that is a wondrous choice for a name, and it pleases me greatly.”
                “I am glad to hear that. Of course, now that you are staying, a new difficulty has arisen.”
                Dorothea cocked her head curiously. “What would that be, my lord?”
                “What is the source of the issue with sex among the Seraph?” Dorothea reddened. “I know you find the question embarrassing, but it needs to be addressed. We are going to have sex.” His eyes met hers. “We are going to have it soon, and I happen to be looking forward to sharing with you.” Her flush deepened.
                “Sharing, my lord?”
                “Semantics. Where I come from the proper term for consenting, pleasurable sex between adults is called sharing, because you share yourself with your partner or partners and they with you.”
                “My lord, sex is a means to an end and that end is children. Otherwise it should only happen often enough to keep me from going feral, nothing more.” She nodded. “Like swordfighting, sex has a proper time and place, and should no be done just because.”
                “I see. Tell me, do you practice with your weapons and abilities off of the battlefield?”
                “Of course, my lord, proficiency must be attained before battle.”
                “Do you enjoy your weapon practices?”
                She smiled. “My lord, often they are the highlight of my day and I enjoy them a great deal.”
                “Do you appreciate being unable to meet your opponent on the battlefield?”
                She looked confused. “My lord, I am one of the premier warriors anywhere. There is no field of battle where I cannot meet any opponent and emerge triumphant.”
                “Yet sexbattles are a legitimate form of combat and you are completely unskilled in those techniques. You would lose any encounter.”
                Dorothea looked like she’d been hit in the head with a club. Valiantly she tried to regain her composure. “My lord, sex battles are not battles at all,” she began, only to be cut off by Shikarou.
                “They are recognized by the leagues as a legitimate form of combat and sex techniques are legal in non sex combat,” he said firmly. “So what you are telling me is that there is a whole series of combat techniques that not only do you not know, you are completely unprepared to defend against them.”
                The Seraph was speechless as she stared at him in absolute disbelief.
                He smiled softly. “Do you see what I mean about making you question your convictions and beliefs?”
                “My lord, if I may be so bold, thou ask some very disturbing questions.” She waited briefly before continuing. “I am going to have to give serious consideration to what thou have said this day before I would be willing to continue this conversation.”
                He nodded. “I understand, but know this: I ask questions that make my pokegirls think. I believe that if they are mentally flexible outside the arena, they will be better prepared inside the arena when the wheels come off, and eventually they will. I also have a habit of being unconventional, and if I can surprise my opponents, then I’ll do what I can to make it possible. It makes battles easier to win and I enjoy winning.”
                He leaned back and cocked his head. “Now I’d put aside the whole day to get to know you better, so how about we get some breakfast and then go for a walk. It’ll give us time to talk about each other, if we are so inclined. While I am going to tame you today in order to bring you into my harem, there is no reason we can’t spend some time out and about first.” He smiled. “A date, if you would.”
                “A date? Pokegirls don’t go on dates.”
                “Well I think it’s time for something new. We will go on a date today.” His smile widened. “Now I’ve never been on a date with a pokegirl before, so please be gentle.”
                Dorothea smiled shyly. “What is your alpha likely to say? I watched thee for a time before going to thy collection station and she seems the possessive type.”
                “She is, and she’s likely to insist on dates of her own, if she finds out we’re dating. Are you going to tell her? One of the peculiarities of my people is I cannot lie, however I don’t have to tell everything and I have no intention of telling Branwyn that we are dating.”
                “So this would be something special for the two of us?” She brightened at the thought. “I will not tell her either.” The Seraph looked down at herself. “I’ll need to put on more clothes if we are going out.”
                “I haven’t set up a room for you yet, so I’ll wait outside. Join me when you are ready.” A motion towards a door. “The bath is in there.”
                “Thank thee, my lord. I will be with thee presently.”
                He smiled. “Please make ‘presently’ as soon as possible.”
                She returned the smile. “I will, my lord. It would be unseemly to make thee wait and since I suspect that thee are popular, unwise as well.”
                Branwyn buttoned up her blouse and leaned against him to nuzzle his cheek. “So now that we have you back, what next?” She grabbed some toast and a jar of orange marmalade.
                “Back to Belfast?” Shikarou glanced at the Unicorn. “Karen has been asking when we are coming back to battle her.”
                Branwyn snorted. “If she was a pokegirl, she’d have found you on Sadie Pokens day. Did you know that she asked if we were going to spend it in Belfast? She wasn’t happy when I told her no.”
                Circe looked over her teacup at her. “Maybe she doesn’t find that many interesting men.”
                “Devon has been back for a while,” came the curt response. “Let her chase him for a while.” Branwyn began licking the marmalade off her toast. “Yum.”
                “Why don’t you use a spoon and just eat it out of the jar?”
                “Circe, are you the alpha? Then shut your trap.”
                The Alaka-Wham shook her head. “Give her a little power and it goes straight to her head.” She sounded amused.
                “They go on like this every morning.” Elizabeth settled down on Shikarou’s right side. “Good morning.” She took his arm and kissed his wrist. “Oh, I see Shikarou’s on the menu for breakfast.” A sideways glance in his direction. “You are just too good to me.” Teeth sank into his wrist and she drank.
                “It’s how friends show affection.” Shikarou kissed the Vampire on top of the head. “Good morning to you.” She mumbled something against his wrist and he chuckled. “I’m ok.”
                “You’d better be careful.” Branwyn nibbled her toast. “Fumiko is starting to wonder if she couldn’t drink your blood as well. I heard them talking about it.”
                Shikarou blinked. “Could she? I know she requires a liquid diet, but can her metabolism process blood?”
                Elizabeth licked his wrist clean and looked up. “We don’t know. I offered to help her find someone to try with, but she wants you.” Daintily she wiped her mouth with a napkin. “I like the fact that you heal so quick, it keeps me from drinking too much.”
                Dorothea shuddered. “I get chills whenever I watch thee feed on my lord.” She pushed her plate away. “My lord, how can thou do that? Doesn’t it hurt?”
                “First of all, I do it because Elizabeth needs to be fed and it’s my responsibility to make sure she does. I suppose I could ask my harem to feed her, but I don’t really mind. As for it hurting, she’s gotten a lot better and it doesn’t hurt much at all.”
                Elizabeth smirked. She’d read the pokedex entry and had been waiting for a chance to needle the Seraph. “If you want, you could feed me.” Her voice dropped. “Just understand that I find the act of feeding to be very, um, intimate.” She gave Shikarou a hot look. “That’s why I want to feed on him, since he’s my lover.”
                Dorothea flushed, but to her credit she didn’t look away. Her eyes met Shikarou’s and she raised an eyebrow. “I’m flattered for the offer, but in truth I’m not ready to be that intimate with thee, Elizabeth.” A slight smile appeared when everyone else at the table turned to stare at her, but she kept her eyes on Shikarou and brightened when he nodded his approval.
                Branwyn looked back and forth between the two of them and her eyes narrowed slightly.
                They appeared a kilometer outside of Belfast and Branwyn smiled as she reached around and took his other hand. “Do you want to explain that little exchange at breakfast between you and Dorothea?”
                “She’s trying to grow beyond her limitations and I think it’s a good idea.”
                The Unicorn gave him a helpless look and let his hands go. “Are you going to have one normal pokegirl in your harem?”
                “Aren’t you normal?”
                “No, I obsess remember?” She smiled.
                Shikarou returned the smile. “Then I suspect that the answer will be no.” He plucked at an ear. “Of course, I don’t exactly fit any definition of normal either.”
                “Are you normal for a kami?”
                “I willfully found a way around the Empress’s orders to kill my wife’s murderer. That isn’t the action of the sane, much less the normal.” He shrugged. “Oh, well, that’s that. I believe we have a gym badge to collect.”
                As they headed for town, Branwyn glanced at him. “You know, Devon picked up a laurel badge here. Are you going to try to duplicate his feat?”
                Shikarou gave her an amused look. “I’ve got a harem of eleven, there are several other pokegirls I’m taming on a regular basis back on Caomh Sith, I’m sleeping with Poppet and I suspect that Sexmet wants a trial run. A battle badge will be just fine.”
                Branwyn frowned. “Sexmet?”
                “Something she hinted at when I visited her a couple of days ago. I’m hoping I’m just being paranoid.”
                “And if you are not?”
                “I would just have to uphold the honor of the kami.” He bestowed her with a beatific smile. “That would be the polite thing to do.”
                “So you’re hoping you are wrong, but you’ll do it if she asks.” Branwyn gave him a mildly aggravated look. “Let me guess, you’ll have to pretend to be enthusiastic and you’ll have to do your best, for the kami of course.”
                “No, the enthusiasm won’t be feigned. She’s an attractive cat.” He sighed. “It’s just that there are only so many hours in the day and I’m not sure she’ll understand that since she doesn’t belong to my harem, she doesn’t get top priority.”
                Branwyn grimaced. “I can understand your worry. I doubt she’s used to playing second to anyone or anything.”
                Shikarou nodded. “That’s my concern too.” He squared his shoulders. “I can only deal with it when it becomes an issue. Until then, I’m not going to trouble myself about it.” He smiled. “Too much, at least.”
                He released Kebi. The Ria looked around. “Where?” Her ears and her muzzle quivered as she sniffed the air and she tugged at the gold skirt he’d made her put on.
                “We’re in Belfast and we’re going to challenge a gym.” Kebi gave him a curious look. “Fight.”
                She nodded. “Ah, fight. Good.”
                Branwyn gave her a suspicious look. “Please tell me that you are going to shift pokegirls around before we talk to the receptionist.”
                He nodded. “Aye, we are. I don’t want to lose any more than you do and I’m going to use our established team.” An eyebrow lifted. “Of course, if I lose the first day, Karen might not find me so interesting.”
                Branwyn sighed. “That’s it, give me conflicting desires. Do I want to win or make Karen lose interest in you? Damn, decisions, decisions.” She glanced at Kebi, who was playing with the waistband of her skirt. “How did you get her to keep that on? I tried for over an hour yesterday to do the same thing, with no success.”
                “I showed her that is has pockets. She likes pockets.”
                Kebi looked up. “Pockets good.” She grinned and plunged her hands into the aforementioned pockets.
                They stopped off at a pokegirl equipment shop on the way to the gym and Branwyn kept an eye on Kebi as Shikarou made a couple of purchases. Once back outside he turned to Kebi. “I have a present for you.” He held out a necklace that held a pretty silver ball on the end.
                Kebi’s eyes lit up. “For Kebi?” She snatched it from him and peered closely at it, eagerly examining it before handing it back. “Pretty.” She turned and lifted her hair out of the way of her neck. “Kebi want.”
                Shikarou clipped it around her neck and Kebi lifted the ball to examine it. “What is?”
                “It’s a light ball.” Branwyn raised an eyebrow. “It’ll make you stronger, Kebi.”
                She grinned and hugged him tightly. “Kebi like.”
                Branwyn glanced at him as they headed down the street. “You got her a present?” There was an unmistakable note of warning in her voice.
                “The necklace is engraved with my information on it and the offer of a reward for her safe return. The engraving is what took so long.” He smiled and pulled a box from his pocket. “Here’s your gift.”
                The Unicorn smiled. “Why thank you. You should have.” Shikarou chuckled as she opened it to reveal a fancier necklace with a small rod hanging from it. “It’s pretty, but what is it?”
                “It’s a focusing wand.” He sighed. “I wish the shop had more of them.”
                “I don’t.” Branwyn handed it to him and turned around, pulling her hair to the side. “Would you?”
                He kissed the back of her neck gently and fastened the necklace around her throat. She examined herself in the reflection of a store window. “It’s lovely.” Turning, she slipped her arm through his before kissing him. “Thank you very much.” She smiled. “Don’t worry, I’ll see about finding more of them for your other magic pokegirls.”
                “Don’t thank me yet.” She lifted her necklace slightly. “This is the only one that will be a gift from you. The rest of them will be tools to make your harem stronger. You’ll just have to find other gifts for them.”
                “Good. That’s what I wanted.” Branwyn looked surprised and then very pleased at his words.
                When they approached the gym Shikarou guided his pokegirls into an alley and turned to Kebi. He held out his hand. “The necklace I gave you is yours no matter what. However, as far as everything else is concerned, give.”
                The Ria’s eyes narrowed and her ears flattened. “Mine,” she snapped.
                “No, it’s not. If I think you deserve any of it, I’ll consider giving it to you, but first I need to see it.” Branwyn watched the exchange with confusion.
                She brightened. “Trade?”
                “No trade. Give.”
                “Want berry.”
                Shikarou sighed. “Fine.” Sticking out his tongue, he blew a loud raspberry at the Ria.
                Kebi giggled and touched his tongue. “Funny.” She stuck her hands in her pockets and started disgorging a flood of small items to drop into his hands. More came from inside her hair, and the last one from somewhere in her mouth.
                Branwyn stared at the pile of items in Shikarou’s hands. “What is all of this?”
                “My Ria is a thief and a pickpocket.” He smiled slightly. “This is what she’s collected on our trip through town.”
                Branwyn helped him catalog the items. There were some rings, a leather wallet with a credit card and someone’s ID inside it, three tie-tacks, a jeweled bracelet, two mismatched earrings and a small statue the Unicorn remembered Kebi admiring in the shop where Shikarou had bought their gifts.
                “My word, she’s a busy little thing.” She cocked her head and gave her Tamer a questioning look. “What do you want to do with her?”
                Shikarou tossed the wallet on the ground. “If you will pick that up, I can honestly claim that we found it on the ground in this alley and we’ll give it to the receptionist at the gym.” He handed the statue back to Kebi and slipped the rest into his pocket. “We’ll get rid of this stuff in some other town.”
                Kebi grinned at the statue and carefully tucked it into one of her pockets. “Pockets good.”
                Branwyn sighed. “You are going to put a halt to her thievery, aren’t you?”
                “I wasn’t planning on it. It’s cute, kind of like you and the marmalade. If she steals anything important, like the wallet, I’ll make sure it gets returned.”
                “What if I told Svetlana about this?”
                “I’ll make you stay with me when she talks to me about it.”
                The Unicorn winced. “You would, too.”
                Shikarou returned Kebi and shuffled pokeballs around before he was satisfied.  “Ok, I’ve got you, Circe, Yushiko, Pythia, Kebi and Lorelei. Karen got to scan my listing before, so the only surprise is Kebi, but with the light ball to double her strength, she has the potential to be very promising against flying types.”
                “Sounds like a solid group, unless Kebi has to work with someone else.”
                “If that happens I’ll supervise her and her partner will be on independent ops.”
                Branwyn nodded slowly. “That sounds like it should work. So let’s go kick some butt.”
                There was a line at the gym entrance and a crowd of unhappy looking people, mostly Tamers, standing nearby and glaring at the line. Shikarou frowned. “Any idea what’s going on?”
                “No.” She considered briefly. “However, you have a personal invitation from Karen and I’m sure she’d want you to report as soon as you got here.” She shrugged. “It justifies jumping the line.”
                Shikarou had been watching the line with an irritated look. “Sounds better than what I was thinking.” His ears were half folded back.
                They were almost at the door when one of the Tamers decided he was offended. “Hey, you with the ears!”
                Shikarou turned to face him. “Yes?” His voice was deceptively quiet.
                “What the fuck do you think you are doing?” He gestured behind him. “The line is there. Join it.”
                Shikarou smiled. Branwyn touched his hand gently. “He’s not worth it.”
                He glanced at her. “Relax.” He turned back to the Tamer. “Sir, you do not know who I am or if I have the right to ignore you, which, by the by, I do. Now if the gym personnel decide for some reason that I should go to the end of the line, I’m sure that they can do that for themselves.”
                The Tamer was staring at Branwyn. “That’s a Unicorn. I challenge you for her.”
                Shikarou sighed. “I refuse your challenge.” His hands twitched and claw tips appeared.
                “I figured you were a coward.”
                Branwyn grabbed Shikarou’s arm as he started to step forward. “Please don’t,” she whispered. “He’s a jackass and not worth it.”
                Shikarou looked at her for a long moment before slowly relaxing. “You are right. Let’s go inside.”
                Rows of benches had been placed in the entranceway and all of them were filled with Tamers of varying ages and varying degrees of experience.
                As they walked past the first series of benches, the receptionist looked up and over the benches. “Tamer McWilliams? Tamer Jennifer McWilliams?”
                A pudgy blonde popped to her feet. “That’s me.”
                The receptionist motioned to the doorway that led to the arenas, where a Belle Awesome waited. “Please follow Belle and she’ll take you to arena four. You’ll be facing GA Hernandez.” She smiled. “Good luck.” A glance at Shikarou. “I’ll be with you in just a moment, sir.” She pushed a button on her desk and a soft chime sounded. The door opened and the Tamer who’d been at the head of the line outside hurried in and over to the desk. “Pokedex, please.”
                The receptionist is an Ingenue.
                Thank you for the update, Aggie, Shikarou replied mentally.
                The Ingenue took the offered pokedex and scanned it with the computer. “Ah, Tamer Reynolds, I’ve got your information. When your turn comes up I’ll let you know. If you are not present by the time I’ve called your name for the third time you forfeit your place in the line. Please have a seat.” Her professional smile never wavered as she turned to Shikarou. “If you are here to challenge the gym, I’m going to have to ask you join the line outside, otherwise, how may I help you?”
                Shikarou read her nametag. “Well, Cammie, the last time I was here I got arrested before Karen and I could have a bout, and she told me to come back for a match as soon as I could.”
                Cammie’s smile never changed, but her eyes widened. “You would be Shikarou, then? May I see your pokedex, just for verification sir?” She scanned it and her smile changed from professional to friendly. “I’ll inform Karen that you are here just as soon as I can. Unfortunately she’s in a battle right now but should be done in the next fifteen minutes. Would you mind waiting for her?”
                Shikarou smiled back. “Not at all.” He glanced around. “May I inquire as to what is going on?”
                “It’s what we like to call the spring flood.” Cammie winked. “The Blue League county finals are next month and these are all Tamers who realized that they don’t have enough badges to compete. It’ll be like this from open to close until March 10th.”
                “What happens then?”
                “Karen closes the gym. It gives our gym assistants time to rest in case they want to compete on the fifteenth.”
                “Is anyone planning?”
                “Oh, this year all six of our GAs are going to enter the finals and Karen’s going to be a judge.” She smiled. “I’m entering too. The pie competition, not the pokebattling.”
                “I hope you do well.”
                “Thank you, sir.” The Ingenue practically beamed. “I think my mincemeat pie will give me a good go at the ribbon.” Her smile faded and changed back to professional as the front door opened and she looked past him. “Excuse me, back to work.”
                Shikarou moved away and settled against a wall. Branwyn leaned against him. “You do realize that she may not be able to battle you today, right?”
                He nodded. “Yes, I do.” He frowned slightly. “Should we be planning to enter the county finals?”
                Branwyn shrugged. “If you don’t no one will be representing Caomh Sith, and it would be a good way to get the island some publicity. However, you are two badges short of the five needed. You’ve already met your requirement for three from Scotland, so the others can come from anywhere in the Blue League, but you’ve got less than a month in which to get them. If all of the gyms close on the tenth, you’ve only got nineteen days.”
                “Do you think we could take the championship?”
                She frowned. “I doubt it. Your harem just isn’t strong enough, but we might make it to the regionals, if we get lucky. I’d be shocked if we didn’t advance to the semi-regionals at the least.”
                “So where would be a good place to try for a fifth badge, presuming I’m successful here?”
                Branwyn pulled out her handheld computer. “Most Tamers will be flocking to the closest gyms so the more populated areas won’t be all that good. The best choice might be the Magikunt Village gym in Wales.”
                “Where is that?”
                It was rebuilt on the site of the town of Fishguard after it was destroyed in 112 AS by two Widows acting in concert.
                Branwyn was unaware of Aggie’s report. “It’s in southwestern Wales, on the coast and is just about the most remote place you can go and still be in Wales. It’s usually fairly quiet.”
                He nodded. “Let’s keep it in mind.”
                “Mr. Urufu?” asked someone quietly.
                Shikarou turned with a smile. “I was wondering if you’d try that again.”
                Karen grinned. “Just checking.” She frowned slightly. “Took you long enough to get back to me.”
                “Long story. Got time?” He looked pointedly around the entranceway.
                “Not really, but I need a break. Come on.” She led them down the hall to a small break room and waved them to chairs. “Drink?” She opened a refrigerator and pulled out a soda.
                “Soda, please.” Branwyn nodded.
                “I’d like a water.”
                Karen dropped heavily into a chair and handed out the drinks. “So, what happened when you got arrested?”
                “It turns out that I was arrested because some Planetary League Council flunky wanted to talk to me.” Shikarou shrugged. “He wanted to let me know that they managed to lose my brother.”
                Karen blinked. “You have a brother? And they lost him? Just how do you lose someone?”
                “I’m not sure, but I had to go find him and afterwards he needed some time to recuperate. As soon as things calmed down, I came back.”
                Branwyn leaned forward and stared at him. “You can’t tell a story, can you?”
                Karen chuckled as Shikarou raised his eyebrows. “Can you tell a better one?”
                “Kebi could tell it better, and she only talks in two word sentences.” She turned to Karen. “I’m presuming that you would like a little more detail then that.”
                “Of course I would.” Karen smiled over her soda. “But are you sure you want to tell me all about how wonderful he is?”
                Branwyn shook her head. “You need to know the whole story.” She glanced at Shikarou. “I’m not sure it’ll paint him in a better light.”
                “Do tell.” Karen leaned back in her chair, balancing it on two legs.
                “First understand that I am beginning to think he has something like the Interesting Times bloodcurse. Anyway…” Over the next half hour Branwyn told the whole story of Faelan’s rescue, changing only a little. In her version, Hunger and Rage were enspelled.
                Karen seemed suitably impressed. “So you took on a nest of ten Mantises and won? I’m surprised I haven’t heard about it.”
                “It happened near the Ice Preserve, and they try to keep a low profile,” Branwyn replied. “They work very hard to make sure that nothing interesting happens up there, and even when it does they don’t make a big deal about it.”
                “I see.” Karen “What did you say his brother’s name is?”
                “Faelan. Faelan Wolf.”
                “Oh. The Blue League is looking for him.” She smiled at Shikarou. “Your brother impressed the Blue League with his work for the PLC and they want to offer him a job doing similar work for them.”
                Shikarou snorted quietly. “I’m sure they do. However, his Megami-sama has other plans, ones involving children and no life-threatening danger more serious than a stinky diaper. He seems to be accepting the idea, but if you catch him at just the right time, who knows what he may decide.”
                Karen nodded. “Is it ok if I let the officials know where he is?”
                “Sure. They’ll find out eventually no matter what I try to do.”
                “So, are you here for a battle? Or was it the offer of dinner?”
                Shikarou smiled. “Both sound nice, but it looks like it would be better if we rescheduled dinner for sometime in April, considering you are going to be busy here until the tenth of March and then you’ll be judging the county finals.”
                Karen nodded. “That’s the truth. Well, I’m booked up for the rest of the day and the line outside is for tomorrow.” She cocked her head. “However, if you can promise you’ll try to give me the best battle you can, holding nothing back, how about tomorrow morning, say 0500? Afterwards we should have time for breakfast. I’ll buy.”
                Shikarou looked thoughtful while Branwyn whispered into his mind. It’s the best offer we’re going to get, unless you want to wait several days.
                “I’ll be here.” Shikarou smiled. “Please be gentle.”
                Karen tossed her soda can across the room and into a bin. “Not a chance. I haven’t had a good fight in quite some time and I’m tired of going easy on Tamers so someone has a badge from here.” She smiled wolfishly. “So bring your best game, because I’m going to kick your arse if you give me the slightest opening.”
                Shikarou nodded. “So be it. I’ll see you in the morning.”
                “I’m looking forward to it. Belle will see you out.” Karen vanished down the hall as the Belle Awesome smiled and gestured.
                Shikarou stopped in the entranceway to talk briefly to the receptionist. “I’m supposed to be back tomorrow at 0500 and I wanted to check to see if I needed a special pass or something.”
                “No, just ring the bell at the back entrance. Nobody will be up here, except for the Tamers outside.” She smiled. “Thanks for letting me know. I’ll be sure to be where I can hear the bell.”
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                                    Dorothea                               42                                           
Ria                                          Kebi                                        39                                           
Milktit                                    Helen                                      53                                           
Alpha                                     Branwyn
Beta                                        None
Badges: Scotland: Stornoway, Rum Island, Glasgow